by Mike Kruger
The Scriptural account of the Flood is the ultimate basis of our understanding of that event. Some today claim that the Scriptural word “all” doesn’t necessarily support a global interpretation, but it is absolutely clear that when the linguistic context is examined that argument is hermeneutically flawed. Instead, the abundant use of the word “all” in Genesis 6–9, God’s reason for sending the Flood, the ‘re-creation’ intention of the Genesis 9 account, and God’s post-Flood covenant all shed light on the Flood’s global extent. Coupled with all the other available arguments and evidences there can then be absolutely no doubt that the Scriptures teach a geographically global Flood.
In the ongoing debate over the extent of Noah’s Flood many people have argued that since the word “all” doesn’t always mean “all without exception”, we therefore have exegetical warrant to posit a local Flood. They suggest that when the text says “all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered” (Genesis 7:19), that it doesn’t really mean every single mountain on the whole Earth, but is simply referring to the mountains in the region of Mesopotamia. To support this, they often cite other passages in Scripture where “all” has a restricted meaning.1
How should one respond to an argument such as this one? Does this mean that Noah’s Flood may have been local after all? Many people find this line of reasoning very convincing. However, in this brief paper I hope to demonstrate that this argument has a fundamental hermeneutical flaw and therefore cannot be used to promote a local Flood.
The hermeneutical flaw
The term “hermeneutics” is a theological word referring to one’s method of interpretation. In other words, it reveals what principles or processes a theologian uses to understand and interpret the Bible. In this section, I intend to demonstrate that the argument cited above has a fatal hermeneutical flaw and therefore is not valid.
One of the most fundamental of all hermeneutical principles is that we are to interpret a particular passage in light of its context. This principle is simply derived from an understanding of how language works, that is, linguistics. Language doesn’t operate on the basis of individual, isolated words (such as “all”), but rather if one desires to understand a particular passage he must understand the words in light of the surrounding sentences, the sentences in light of the surrounding paragraphs, and the paragraphs in light of the surrounding larger sections. In other words, the meaning of individual words or propositions is determined by their context….
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