Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/659

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THE LIGHTS OF THE CHURCH AND OF SCIENCE.

the substitution of the adjective partial for universal will save the credit of the Pentateuch, and permit them, after all, without too many blushes, to declare that the progress of modern science only strengthens the authority of Moses. Nowhere have I found the case of the advocates of this method of escaping from the difficulties of the actual position better put than in the lecture of Prof. Diestel to which I have referred. After frankly admitting that the old doctrine of universality involves physical impossibilities, he continues:

All these difficulties fall away as soon as we give up the universality of the deluge, and imagine a partial flooding of the earth, say in western Asia. But have we a right to do so? The narrative speaks of "the whole earth." But what is the meaning of this expression? Surely not the whole surface of the earth according to the ideas of modern geographers, but, at most, according to the conceptions of the biblical author. This very simple conclusion, however, is never drawn by too many readers of the Bible. But one need only cast one's eyes over the tenth chapter of Genesis in order to become acquainted with the geographical horizon of the Jews. In the north it was bounded by the Black Sea and the mountains of Armenia; extended toward the east very little beyond the Tigris; hardly reached the apex of the Persian Gulf; passed, then, through the middle of Arabia and the Red Sea; went southward through Abyssinia, and then turned westward by the frontiers of Egypt, and inclosed the easternmost islands of the Mediterranean (p. 11).

The justice of this observation must be admitted, no less than the further remark that, in still earlier times, the pastoral Hebrews very probably had yet more restricted notions of what constituted "the whole earth." Moreover, I, for one, fully agree with Prof. Diestel that the motive, or generative incident, of the whole story is to be sought in the occasionally excessive and desolating floods of the Euphrates and Tigris.

Let us, provisionally, accept the theory of a partial deluge, and try to form a clear mental picture of the occurrence. Let us suppose that, for forty days and forty nights, such a vast quantity of water was poured upon the ground that the whole surface of Mesopotamia was covered by water to a depth certainly greater, probably much greater, than fifteen cubits, or twenty feet (Gen. vii, 20). The inundation prevails upon the earth for one hundred and fifty days; and then the flood gradually decreases, until, on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark, which had previously floated on its surface, grounds upon the "mountains of Ararat"[1] (Gen. viii, 34). Then, as Diestel has acutely pointed out (Sintflut, p. 13), we are to imagine the further subsidence of the flood to take place so gradually that it was not until nearly two months and a half after this time (that is to say,


  1. It is very doubtful if this means the region of the Armenian Ararat. More probably it designates some part, either of the Kurdish range or of its southeastern continuation.