Thursday, March 20, 2014

Deluge by Daniel Diehl: Spotlight



How Big is a Flood?  Why Does it Matter?

            Throughout this book I tried to stay true to the story of Noah and the Flood as it is laid down in the Book of Genesis and also adhere to archaeologically proven, historical truths. 

            The fact that there is a divide between biblical legend and scientific and historical fact is indisputable, but that divide is seldom as wide or as insurmountable as many people would like you to believe it is.  This being said, let me explain how I came to construct this imaginary account of events which is both historically and scientifically factual, and also adheres to a revered legend from three of the world’s major religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

       Virtually every major culture on planet earth has a legend concerning a great, all-engulfing flood that took place at some point in the distant past.  Mezzo-American, Chinese, Indian, Hebrew, Egyptian, Sumerian, Akkadian, Chaldean, Greek and Babylonian mythology each tells its own version of this story.  It is widely believed by historians that the versions of this story that originated in the Middle East - including those of Sumeria, Akkadia, Chaldea and Babylon are based on the same actual, historical event described in the biblical Book of Genesis. 

            The physical reality - as opposed to the legend - of the Great Flood, takes us into one of those areas where modern science stands firmly in support of scripture.  For some years now, historians, geologists and archaeologists have believed that at some time in the past there was, indeed, one or more great floods that engulfed much of the Middle East. 

            Current thinking holds that there have been two great floods which may have begun as volcanic eruptions which then led to earthquakes, or as earthquakes which, in turn, caused volcanos to erupt.  In either case, if the earthquake took place beneath a great body of water such as the Mediterranean or the Red Sea, it would undoubtedly have caused a massive tidal wave. 

            In purely scientific terms, it is generally accepted that around the year 5,600 BC just such an earthquake caused a huge section of land, located in what is now the strait separating Greece and Turkey, to subside, thus causing a portion of the surrounding land to drop below sea level and allow the waters of the Mediterranean to flood north across the land in a great tidal wave resulting in the creation of what is now the Black Sea.  Additionally, although not yet proven, a similar event is believed to have occurred in the northern reaches of the Red Sea, flooding what is now Israel and creating the Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea.  Certainly such an event would account for the extraordinarily heavy saline content of the Dead Sea. 

            In conjunction with such a tectonic slip (or earthquake), a massive volcanic eruption may have spewed masses of ash and gas into the atmosphere, causing unprecedented amounts of rain to fall on this normally semi-arid region.  The possibility of some kind of geological disaster is attested to in the Book of Noah fragment in chapter 67:6 and 67:11 where he tells us that the air is filled with the smell of sulfur and that the hot springs had begun to run cold; both occurrences could well be caused by tectonic plate shift ahead of volcanic activity. 

       In this same Noah fragment, the narrator tells us in chapter 65:11 that the earth had ‘shifted’.  While many historians believe this indicates a polar shift, it could also refer to the type of land movement commonly preceding massive earthquakes.  Such rising and dropping of the earth’s surface could have resulted in a land subsidence that allowed the Red Sea to rush northward across the landscape and inundate a low-lying area.  If, indeed, the Dead Sea was created through this type of cataclysm, this theory would explain how such a huge expanse of salt-water – lacking either ingress or egress - came into existence.  Such a hypothesis is supported by the fact that oceanographers and archaeologists have discovered the ruined remains of prehistoric towns lying at the bottom of this vast lake of salt-water.

       If you have been thinking ‘but the Bible doesn’t mention a tidal wave’, refer to Genesis 7:11 where it says “…the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of the heaven were opened.”  The phrase “the fountains of the great deep” can easily be taken as an accurate, if rather poetic, description of a tidal wave and undoubtedly indicates that a rising sea accompanied the falling rain. If you doubt the ability of such a localized, natural phenomenon to cause a deluge on the scale described in the Bible, think back to the 2004 Christmas tsunami in the Indian Ocean. 

            Even so, it begs the question: could such a flood cover the entire world?  Here, the answer is a resounding no.  However, it is essential to understand that in the ancient Hebrew language (the language in which the Noah story was first written down sometime around 600 BC) there was only a single word to describe any given amount of land: a handful of dirt, the area covered by a farmstead, a town, a kingdom or the whole world would have been described with the same word.  Consequently, it is impossible to determine whether the ancient legends were meant to describe a localized flood, a flood that engulfed a larger geographic area, or one that covered the entire planet.  Consequently, the only thing we can be certain of is that there really was a flood, and at least for those living in the area that is now Israel, Jordan, the Sinai Peninsula, Syria, Iraq and Turkey, it was nothing short of world destroying.  


Noah’s wife and sons knew he was old but they assumed his claim of being over 600 years old was a joke. But when he begins hearing a disembodied voice claiming to be an unknown God who was about to destroy the world, they begin fearing for his sanity. When Noah insists on building a huge ship to save his family they are certain that advancing age is destroying his mind – at least that’s what they think until the mysterious strangers appear out of the desert and claim they have been sent to help Noah build his great ship. Finally accepting this strange situation, Noah’s sons agree to help build the ship, but as construction progresses relations between Noah’s family and their neighbors deteriorate into ugly confrontations and threats of violence. Then, as the ship nears completion, it begins to rain…and then the real problems start.

For more than three decades Daniel Diehl has been involved in writing for publication and documentary television production.His canon of work includes 20 non-fiction books (which have been translated into eleven foreign languages) scripts for more than 170 hours of documentary television for A&E, History Channel, BBC, Biography and Discovery.
Mr. Diehl’s work has won awards from the Houston Film Festival, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (US) and the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Arts Foundation. He is currently short-
listed for the 2014 Crompton Crook Award for Best New SiFi/ Fantasy Novel.

 In addition to his boos and scripts Diehl has
served as  historical consultant on such films as The Color Purple (Amblin Entertainment, 1986), Darrow (PBS Television Theatre, 1991) and Baskin’s Run (Finnegan’s Wake Productions, 1994).

He has written for such periodicals as Victorian Homes, Gilded Age, Old House Journal, Voice of Russia, MAXIM, Country Victorian, FLAIR, Tournaments Illuminated, Popular Woodworking and Conde Nast  Traveler.
He frequently lectures and has been interviewed for television, radio and podcasts in both the US and UK. 
When not otherwise scheduled, he will have a table for book signing and conversation about the many & varied topics on which he has written and lectured.


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