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The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate

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“The flood continued forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth . . . and the ark floated on the face of the waters” (Gen 6:17-18 NRSV).

In modern times the Genesis flood account has been probed and analyzed for answers to scientific, apologetic, and historical questions. It is a text that has called forth “flood geology,” fueled searches for remnants of the ark on Mount Ararat, and inspired a full-size replica of Noah’s ark in a theme park. Some claim that the very veracity of Scripture hinges on a particular reading of the flood narrative. But do we understand what we are reading?

Longman and Walton urge us to ask what the biblical author might have been saying to his ancient audience. Our quest to rediscover the biblical flood requires that we set aside our own cultural and interpretive assumptions and visit the distant world of the ancient Near East. Responsible interpretation calls for the patient examination of the text within its ancient context of language, literature, and thought. And as we return from that lost world to our own, we will need to ask whether geological science supports the notion of flood geology.

To read Longman and Walton is to put our feet on firmer interpretive ground. Without attempting to answer all of our questions, they lift the fog of modernity and allow the sunlight to reveal the true contours of the text. As with other books in the Lost World series, The Lost World of the Flood is an informative and enlightening journey toward a more responsible reading of a timeless biblical narrative.

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Key Features

  • Considers the flood story from the original text and audience of Genesis
  • Explores the full ancient Near East context of the book of Genesis
  • Encourages readers to set aside personal assumptions to better understand the flood story


Part I: Method: Perspectives on Interpretation

  • Proposition 1: Genesis Is an Ancient Document
  • Proposition 2: Genesis 1–11 Makes Claims About Real Events
  • Proposition 3: Genesis Uses Rhetorical Devices
  • Proposition 4: The Bible Uses Hyperbole to Describe Historical Events
  • Proposition 5: Genesis Appropriately Presents a Hyperbolic Account of the Flood
  • Proposition 6: Genesis Depicts the Flood as a Global Event

Part II: Background: Ancient Near Eastern Texts

  • Proposition 7: Ancient Mesopotamia Also Has Stories of a Worldwide Flood
  • Proposition 8: The Biblical Flood Story Shares Similarities and Differences with Ancient Near Eastern Flood Accounts

Part III: Text: Understanding the Biblical Text Literarily and Theologically

  • Proposition 9: A Local Cataclysmic Flood Is Intentionally Described as a Global Flood for Rhetorical Purposes
  • Proposition 10: The Flood Account Is Part of a Sequence of Sin and Judgment Serving as Backstory for the Covenant
  • Proposition 11: The Theological History Is Focused on the Issue of Divine Presence, the Establishment of Order, and How Order Is Undermined
  • Proposition 12: The “Sons of God” Episode Is Not Only a Prelude to the Flood; It Is the Narrative Sequel to Cain and Abel
  • Proposition 13: The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) Is an Appropriate Conclusion to the Primeval Narrative

Part IV: The World: Thinking About Evidence for the Flood

  • Proposition 14: The Flood Story Has a Real Event Behind It
  • Proposition 15: Geology Does Not Support a Worldwide Flood (Steve Moshier)
  • Proposition 16: Flood Stories from Around the World Do Not Prove a Worldwide Flood
  • Proposition 17: “Science Can Purify Our Religion; Religion Can Purify Science from Idolatry and False Absolutes”

Top Highlights

“The accounts in Genesis 1–11 can be affirmed as having real events as their referents, but the events themselves (yes, they happened) find their significance in the interpretation that they are given in the biblical text. That significance is not founded in their historicity but in their theology; not in what happened (or even that something did happen) but in why it happened. What was God doing? That is where the significance is to be found.” (Page 17)

“The text has no interest in trying to prove the events took place. They assume they did, as do we. Instead they are offering an interpretation that constitutes the divine-human message that carries the authority of the text. Events are not authoritative; the interpretation of the narrator is.” (Page 18)

“First, we expect that the flood story is rooted in an actual event, and, second, we expect that that historical event would be described using figurative language, showing more interest in the theological significance of that event than in giving us the information we need to reconstruct the historical event itself.” (Page 37)

“We contend that employing universalistic rhetoric to portray the impact and significance of the flood as a cosmic cataclysm does not mean that the ancient Israelites or the author considered the physical scope or geographical range to be universal.” (Page 36)

“But in the ancient world, they did not consider what we call their mythology to be not real. To the contrary, they believed their mythology to represent the most important reality—deep reality, which transcends what could be reported in terms of events that have transpired in the strictly human realm.” (Page 17)

Praise for the Print Edition

The Lost World of the Flood lays before serious Bible readers a consistent examination of the text itself, an honesty about hyperbole in the flood narrative, a splendid locating and explaining of the flood story in the context of the ancient Near East, a profound grasp of the theological value of the text, and a noble example of how to read the Bible as the Word of God. A brave and sound accomplishment.

Scot McKnight, Julius R. Mantey Professor, Northern Seminary

A ‘plain sense’ reading of the biblical flood account has been under siege since the inception of ‘flood geology’ nearly a century ago. In an effort to uphold the truth of Scripture, many well-intentioned Christians have instead ravaged both the biblical text and the field of geology. In The Lost World of the Flood, Longman and Walton make great strides in retrieving biblical authority from interpretations of Genesis 6 through 9 founded upon poor exegesis and equally poor science. With a firm but gentle hand the authors lead their readers into the world of ancient Israel, offering an interpretation of the biblical flood narrative that honors the authority of Scripture and respects the scientific consensus on geological matters.

—Kyle Greenwood, associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Colorado Christian University

Two scholars of the ancient Near East and the Bible join a geologist to address a vexing question from Genesis: what was the nature and extent of the biblical flood? With clarity and logic, they present a position counter to traditional evangelical ‘orthodoxy’ but which, if seeking to be rebutted, will need to be addressed with equal clarity and logic.

David W. Baker, professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages, Ashland Theological Seminary

Product Details

About Tremper Longman

Tremper Longman III (PhD, Yale University) is Distinguished Scholar of Biblical Studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He is also visiting professor of Old Testament at Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and adjunct of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. He lectures regularly at Regent College in Vancouver and the Canadian Theological Seminary in Calgary.

Longman is the author or coauthor of over twenty books, including How to Read Genesis, How to Read the Psalms, How to Read Proverbs, Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation, Old Testament Essentials, and coeditor of A Complete Literary Guide to the Bible. He and Dan Allender have coauthored Bold Love, Cry of the Soul, Intimate Allies, The Intimate Mystery, and the Intimate Marriage Bible studies.

About John H. Walton

John H. Walton (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School. Previously he was professor of Old Testament at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for twenty years.

Some of Walton’s books include The Lost World of Adam and Eve, The Lost World of Scripture, The Lost World of Genesis One, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, The Essential Bible Companion, The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis, and The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (with Victor Matthews and Mark Chavalas).

Walton’s ministry experience includes church classes for all age groups, high school Bible studies, and adult Sunday school classes, as well as serving as a teacher for “The Bible in 90 Days.” John and his wife, Kim, live in Wheaton, Illinois, and have three adult children.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition


3 ratings

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  1. Adrian Bouknight
  2. David Anfinrud
    I am on the fence with this book. Because there are Geologist who show how a World Flood took place and the evidence of such an event. Not a local event as many want to believe
  3. Gordon Jones

    Gordon Jones


  4. Wild Eagle

    Wild Eagle



Print list price: $20.00
Save $7.01 (35%)