Catastrophe described in the Bible (Genesis 6; 7; 8).
The deluge is referred to in several passages of Scripture as a historical fact; the writings of the Fathers consider the event in the same light; and this view is confirmed by the tradition existing in all places and at all times as to occurrence of a similar catastrophe.
Early geologists considered the biblical deluge identical with the diluvium at the beginning of the quaternary period, but recent authors distinguish the two.
Till about the 17th century it was commonly held that the entire globe was submerged in the deluge, but this opinion is now rarely held for the following reasons:
Hence, while most modern expositors deny the geographical universality of the flood, many defend at least its ethnographical universality; others hold that the flood did not extend to the entire human race but is limited by the Bible itself (Genesis 4 and 5) to the descendants of Cain and Seth.
To corroborate this opinion they adduce arguments from ethnology, languages, and ancient traditions.
It is impossible to fix the time of the deluge, since the dates mentioned in the three available texts of Scripture disagree both as to the year from Adam and as to the year before Christ that it occurred.
The earliest year before Christ mentioned in the texts and ancient traditions is 3100, but scientists demand for many reasons that the deluge be placed at a much earlier time.
- The sources of the water mentioned in the Bible are not sufficient to cover the entire globe.
- Aquatic animals would have been killed by the mixture of sea and fresh water.
- The collecting, housing in the ark, and feeding of such an enormous number of animals seems impossible.
- The text does not necessarily imply such a flood, since the words arez and adamah may just as well be translated by "region" and "land."
Universal expressions in the Bible are frequently taken in a relatively universal sense.
- The biblical narrative was written by an eyewitness, or by some one writing not long after the event, and must be understood, not according to our ideas, but according to his, who wrote of things in as far as known to him.
New Catholic Dictionary