Noah's Flood and the pre-flood civilization: what do we know?
Left: a scene from after
Introduction: the flood as an eye witness account
If we accept that Noah was a real prophet, and he recorded what he saw, the great flood become fully supported by science. Even the idea that "the earth was baptized" is scientifically acceptable, as long as we remember what a baptism is. In fact, all the so-called problems disappear as long as we stick to what the prophets actually said.
Occam's razor: the greatest scientific tool of them all
Often (actually, always) with questions of truth there are many possibilities. This is especially true for questions where much remains unknown - for example, Noah's Ark. What do we do when faced with so many unknowns? Scientists and theologians use a simple yet powerful tool: "Occam's razor."
Occam's razor is the principle of shaving away all but the simplest and most essential elements of any explanation. The principle is named after William of Occam (1285-1349), a theologian and Franciscan monk. He got the rule from Durant de Saint pourcain (1270-1334), a theologian and bishop. The rule is useful for choosing between theological arguments, and it is a basic tenet of modern science. It states: "non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitem," or,"entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity."
Put simply, if there are two equally possible explanations for something, then we should take the simpler option. This may lead to conclusions that are not what the reader expects. Please note that this does not guarantee to get the correct answer, but most scientists and theologians agree it will lead to the best answer we can hope for, given the available information.
|What the prophets say|
Genesis: what is "all the earth?"
Genesis has commonly been quoted as saying that "all the earth" was covered with water during Noah's flood. Which earth?
Moses 1:27, 29: "And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God. ... And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof."
In the Bible, terms like "all the earth" and "all the world" are relative. See Exodus 10:15 (Egypt is "the whole earth"), Jeremiah 15:10 (the "whole earth" knows Jeremiah), Jeremiah 50:23 (Babylon is "the hammer of the whole earth"), Luke 2:1 (Caesar caused that "all the world should be taxed").
"The earth" is only as defined by the person in question. For example, if a modern scientist says "the earth" he probably includes the atmosphere. After all, if someone is in an airplane, he has not really left the planet. Also, if the earth is said to be polluted, we mean the atmosphere is polluted. In a spiritual sense, some of the sins of the earth are pornography (via the TV and Internet) and warfare. These rely on satellite communications. So the earth today extends thousands of miles into space! To cleanse the earth, a modern day flood would need to be very deep indeed.
The world known to previous generations was somewhat smaller than it is today. In recent centuries, we used to refer to "the Old World" and "the New World" because, apart from occasional contact, east and west could be treated as separate worlds. There is no reason to suppose that Noah's "whole world" meant anything more than "everything he knew of."
The baptism of the earth
The flood has sometimes been referred to as the baptism of the earth. This may be scriptural, or it may just be a helpful analogy. If it is literally true, what does it mean?
Two worlds, joined yet separate:
What if the "whole world" just means that apart of the planet that was known to Noah? One world could be completely baptized while the other was not. This would be rather like baptizing a Siamese twin. What would you do if one Siamese twin wanted to be baptized into the church and the other did not? It could happen. If the unbelieving twin insisted, it would surely be possible to baptize one and not the other.
Complete immersion means...?
What counts as a complete baptism? Simply that the complete surface must be covered with water. The earth would still be baptized if the flood waters were rushing down the sides of mountains, as long as a reasonable depth of water covered every part at one instance. In this scenario, all the people could be killed if they all lived within a thousand miles or so of each other, but animals on the opposite side of the world would just be temporarily flooded, and many would survive.
Was the Canaanite land baptized?
The pre-flood Canaanites pose an interesting question. The Sethites had the gospel, but were told not to preach to the Canaanites (Moses 7:12). The Canaanites at the time of the flood therefore lived and died without gospel knowledge. So their ability to sin was much reduced. (Doctrine and Covenants 45:54; 76:72) Did their lands need to be baptized?
Mormon 8:22 "For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing."
This might explain why Peter specifically refers to those who have waited since the days of Noah to be taught the gospel. Did some of the Canaanites escape when "all" the people of Noah's world were drowned? If the Canaanites were exempt from the threat of total extermination, this would parallel the case with the Lamanites and Nephites in the Book of Mormon. God preserved the Lamanites when the Nephites were destroyed, even though the Lamanites were just as wicked, because the Lamanites were not the covenant people.
If some Canaanites did survive, it would explain why Enoch was promised that his seed would survive. As Nibley said (in "Before Adam"): "Speaking of Noah, God promised Enoch 'that he [God] would call upon the children of Noah; and he sent forth an unalterable decree, that a remnant of his seed [Enoch's through Noah] should always be found among all nations, while the earth should stand; and the Lord said: Blessed is he through whose seed Messiah shall come.' (Moses 7:51- 53.) Methuselah boasted about his line as something special. (Moses 8:2-3.) Why special if it included the whole human race? These blessings have no meaning if all the people of the earth and all the nations are the seed of Noah and Enoch. What other line could the Messiah come through? Well, there were humans who were not invited by Enoch's preaching--not included among the residue of people not entering Enoch's city. They were 'the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain. . . had not place among them.' (Moses 7:32.)"
If one or more groups of people "had no place among them" they were perhaps not included when the prophets refer to "every soul" being drowned. All this of course is pure speculation. But it may be of interest.
Dividing the world in the days of Peleg
Genesis 10:25: "And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother's name was Joktan."
Some prophets have made clear that the dividing was not just a dividing between nations, it was a dividing of the world as we see it now. But this may not be as dramatic as we think. This could have referred to the completion of a long process (see below).
Modern prophets have been careful not to say that the continents were divided all at once: "Whether in geologic convulsion or in geologic gradualism, God once parted the continents and oceans (see Genesis 10:25; D&C 133:24)" - Neal A. Maxwell, Men and Women of Christ, p.88
According to the scientists, when did the map of the globe settle down to look as it does now? Answer: After the last ice age. Although the continents were in pretty much the positions they are now, lower sea levels helped to unite many islands for a time. When did the sea levels finally arrive at close to their present levels? Not straight away - the ice would have taken some time to fully melt. The last lands to be permanently separated by water could easily have been in the times of Peleg (circa 2000 - 3000 BC). Ironically, this could be the long term effects of a rising water level (due to the ending of the ice age) and not the relatively local effects of what was to Noah a "world wide" flood.
Another possibility is that "dividing" simply means the dividing of the world between the different nations. As some these nations then became physically divided (e.g. Peleg's people in the east, Joktan's people in the west) this alone might justify us in referring to this as a physical "dividing of the lands" and not just a political carving up of one land.
However, there is one more possibility that deserves special attention.
Peleg's day: dividing Asia from the Americas?
One of the most significant changes after the last ice age was the breaking of the land bridge that once joined the Americas with Asia. The Bering sea bed between America and Asia is now over 200 feet under water. But global sea levels were even lower during the last ice age (huge quantities of water were locked up as ice). When the ice receded northward the Bering Strait would have been dry land for a few thousand years until the water levels rose enough to divide the lands.
But when did the final division occur? Note that, if humans had grown accustomed to walking across, they would not have stopped as soon as the first water appeared. They would probably continue to make the journey with small boats for a while. So, the humans would not consider the continents properly divided until later when they stopped making the journey.
When did humans stop traveling across the Bering Strait? According to the website "The Sequence of Cultures in the Arctic," this is what happened and when:
So, the scientific evidence suggests that, before Peleg, people made use of the still relatively low water levels to take the easy route from Asia to America. After Peleg, anyone who wanted to go from Asia to America had to be an expert with a boat. So, based on the above information, it appears that in the days of Peleg, the earth was indeed physically divided.
The final closing of the bridge between Asia and America would come at the end of the process of separating the landmasses (which might have taken 100 years or 100 million years - it is all the same to God) and would have been a final symbolic act. Thus, the lands were divided finally and conclusively in a simple yet significant way.
It should also be remembered that Peleg's brother was Joktan. As was discussed elsewhere, Joktan was probably the ancestor of the Book of Mormon people of Ether. So, not only were the lands divided physically, but also the covenant people were divided at the same time. One half went to the Old World, one half went to the New World.
The highway in the great deep
The Doctrine and Covenants is sometimes used as evidence that the earth was one landmass before the days of Peleg (with no space between Africa and America). This idea is based on the following, from section 133:19-25
"Wherefore, prepare ye for the coming of the Bridegroom [Christ] ... He shall command the great deep, and it shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land; And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided."
This seems to be referring to the dividing that was completed in the days of Peleg. But the dividing could have started long before. It might have taken millions of years to divide, even though it will be reunited in a much shorter time.
A prophecy of another ice age?
Scientists tell us that the earth has gone through a series of ice ages, and we are due to enter another one soon. During the ice age, much of the earth's water is tied up in the poles (north and south). The sea level drops and some landmasses became joined once again. With this in mind, let us look again at the famous and unusual prophecy in Doctrine and Covenants 133:23-29
|"He shall command the great deep, and it shall be driven back into the north countries,||[the northern ice cap?]|
|and the islands shall become one land,||[Asia and America linked once more?]|
|And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place||[at the center of the eastern and western extremes of the reunited landmass]|
|and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided. And the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh.|
|And they who are in the north countries||[which are now much colder]|
|shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves||[their populations need to migrate south]|
|and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.|
|And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep.||[Between Asia and America]|
|Their enemies shall become a prey unto them, And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land."||[The deserts of the middle east and Africa will bloom again, as they did in the last ice age]|
In this context, the prophets' warnings to have a food store become more urgent. The need to store food is often compared with the time of Noah. If we are heading for a rapid ice age, it starts to make a great deal of sense.
This is of course all speculation - judge for yourself.
What the scientists say
The ice ages
Orthodox science is in agreement that much of the world has been covered in ice at various times - the last ice age is supposed to have ended around 10 000 BC. It is possible that much of the evidence for an ice age could also be taken as evidence for a massive flood. Indeed, some suggest that if the ice had melted rapidly (for example,after a meteor impact) then this itself would have caused a great flood. Of course, these do not agree with the date of 3000 BC, and they would not have been enough to cover the entire planet.
The idea of a "cave man" is a false myth. There simply were not enough caves! The famous caves with paintings were probably not lived in as regular homes. Bones tend to be preserved in caves simply because bones outside of caves do not last very long. It is worth noting that people have used caves right up until modern times. Ancient man, like modern man, built his own houses or tents. (See "The myth of the cave man" - New Scientist, 1st Feb 1992, p.56)
Also, there is no reason to suppose that mankind a few thousand years ago was less intelligent than we are today. Evolutionary theory, for example, does not predict "progress" (it has nothing to say about the concept) but rather, that individuals evolve to be more suited to their environment. So, in terms of the environment where they lived, ancient man was if anything more advanced than we are.
Finally, do not be misled by the fact that some "primitive" peoples now live simple hunter-gatherer existences. Mankind can go backwards as well as forwards.
"Forest people who lead "primitive" lives hunting and gathering to survive are not the relics of the Stone Age they are believed to be. Many of their habits and behaviors are a legacy from sophisticated ancestors who were forced to abandon their way of life and revert to hunting and gathering. Anthropologists should not look to these people as models of prehistoric mankind, warns Anna Roosevelt of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago."
Regarding the most famous South American "Stone Age" tribes: "The biggest change in the way the Indians lived followed the Spanish Conquest at the end of the 15th century." Before that, they lived in cities and on their farms. But they had to flee to the jungles to survive. The article gives examples of behavior that looks like it evolved over thousands of years, but actually started just a few years ago. The article concludes: " 'So if you wish to draw evolutionary conclusions about people you need to know where they have been and where they are going,' says Roosevelt." (See "Modern hunter-gatherers no guide to Stone Age past" - New Scientist, 20 Feb 1993, p.8. N.B. This web site often refers to New Scientist magazine, simply because it is the magazine all the scientists read in Britain, where I live. See for yourself at NewScientist.com)
Evidence of great floods
There is plenty of evidence that areas of the world covering many thousands of square miles have been flooded in the few thousand years BC including (perhaps at different times) large areas of the fertile Crescent, and the area around the Black Sea. For this reason, many scientists who do not believe the Bible are quite happy to accept that Noah's Ark can be traced to a great flood that destroyed the whole world as seen by someone who lived in that area at the time. If the whole of humanity lived in such an area, then of course the whole of humanity would have been destroyed in the flood.
It should be noted that such floods do not disappear overnight. It is quite reasonable to expect huge lakes to survive for many months after the edges of the waters start to recede. This could easily explain why Noah was in the Ark for around a year. (Remember too that "the mountains of Ararat" is plural, and could have included foothills.)
The dividing of the continents
The idea of continental rift is fairly recent (it was not generally accepted until the 1950s) and some have seen it as proof that the continents were indeed divided after the flood. America and Africa, on a globe of the world, seem to fit together nicely. However, the dating schemes are wildly different. Continental drift supposedly takes many millions of years, whereas the Biblical dividing of the lands (which actually took place in Peleg's time, a few years after the flood) took place only a few thousand years ago.
Of course, the dating schemes could be wrong, but this adds in a whole load of new questions. So, taking Occam's razor to the present evidence, we must take a more limited view of what Genesis meant by "dividing."
Some really wild ideas...
I have heard it suggested that the flood was far more than just a flood - that it cleaned off the surface of the earth in a far more dramatic way . I have to reject these theories for the sake of Occam's razor (because they make things far more complicated than they need be) but that does not mean they cannot possibly be true. For the sake of stirring things up a little, consider the following possibility...
"The earth is expanding and we don't know why" - that was the title of an article published in New Scientist on 22nd November 1984 (p.27). It is well known that the continents have drifted apart - the coastlines fit together quite remarkably. However, for a perfect fit, the earth must have been only 60% of its present diameter. Of course, this means the models must get rid of some ocean crust as well. But when we look at the ocean crust that should not have been there 200 million years ago, sure enough it turns out to be much younger rocks. It is as if the earth has been expanding by creating new material at the beds of the oceans.
But what if the date of 200 million years was totally wrong? These dating schemes rely on measuring the decay in radioisotopes. Now, if God changed the world in a short time, he presumably did so by making countless individual atoms obey his will. Nothing mankind can do will change rate at which an atom decays (which is why they are used for reliably measuring time) but we cannot assume that this is true for when God causes an atom to move, and it obeys. We would, after all, expect a vastly superior being to have very precise control over the element, in ways that we can scarcely imagine. And if the atom's properties changed in the process, the dating methods that rely on those properties would give a misleading result.
So, if the dating scheme is wrong, what if the earth expanded just a few thousand years ago (perhaps over a couple of hundred years so the change was not so obvious?) Why would the earth expand? Perhaps to absorb the vast quantities of water that were needed to cover the mountains. Then, new ocean crust was created at the bottom of the oceans where the water went. In the process the continents were separated, and it was all concluded in the days of Peleg.
This is, of course, wild speculation. It is not necessary if we accept the Bible as an eye witness account. It also raises many new questions. So, according to Occam's razor, the idea should be rejected. Still, it is an intriguing possibility...
|What the documents say|
Most ancient societies have flood legends. This could be the common memory of a single deluge. Or it could be memories of different floods. Or it could be memories of the end of the ice age. Or it could be stories brought by the descendants of Noah who intermarried with all races. There are many possibilities.
The only thing we can say with certainty from these documents is that the Biblical flood story is probably based on literal truth. The flood happened. It just remains to tidy up the details.
Probably nobody has had a better knowledge of both the modern prophets and the ancient prophets than Hugh Nibley, legendary professor of ancient scripture at BYU. If anyone has read it all and understands what it means, it is Nibley. This is what he has to say, in his essay entitled "Before Adam" (Reprinted in "Old Testament and Related Studies," Volume One of the Collected Works, available from FARMS). The entire essay is highly recommended.
"The earliest Abraham books are supposed to be autobiographies, and the story told from his point of view makes perfectly good sense. So with Noah in the ark. From where he was, 'the whole earth' (Genesis 8:9) was covered with water as far as he could see; after things had quieted down for 150 days and the ark ground to a halt, it was still three months before he could see any mountaintops. But what were conditions in other parts of the world? If Noah knew that, he would not have sent forth messenger birds to explore. The flood as he described it is what he saw of it. 'He sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground.' (Genesis 8:8.) Couldn't he see for himself? Not where the dove went. It was not until seven days later that he sent it out again; and after flying all day, the bird came back with a green leaf fetched from afar; 'so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.' (Genesis 8:11.) Still he waited another seven days. When the dove did not return, Noah had his answer. In some distant place, trees were bearing and there was bird-food to be found. But not where Noah was. All that time he had not dared to open up."
"Note that the author does not fall into the literary trap of telling where the birds went and what they saw. That became a standard theme of early Oriental literature, faithfully reflected in the classical stories of the sea-eagle and the hoopoe. All Noah tells us is what he saw of the birds and the flood. The rain continued at least in spots, for there was that magnificent rainbow. Why do Christians insist on calling it the first rainbow, just because it is the first mentioned? Who says that water drops did not refract light until that day? Well, my old Sunday School teacher, for one, used to say it. The rainbow, like the sunrise, is strictly the product of a point of view, for which the beholder must stand in a particular place while it is raining in another particular place and the sun is in a third particular place, if he is to see it at all. It is a lesson in relativity."
|How advanced was the civilization?
And how advanced are we?
The simple answer is we do not know. But perhaps there are clues?
The first question to ask is "How successful was the church before the flood?" If the prophet (Adam, Seth, Enos. Etc.) was rejected most of the time, we cannot expect the world to have benefited much from the gospel. This may be the case - the two prophets we now best, Enoch and Noah, had tremendous problems with unrighteous people. But on the other hand, if we assume that between these times there was a fair percentage of righteous people (perhaps even ten per cent would be enough) we might expect great things, given that they had over a thousand years to develop their society.
Did Adam run a worldwide church?
It is possible that the church before the flood was only in a relatively small area. After all, with efficient organization, several billion people can fit within just a few thousand miles of each other But let us assume that the prophet had to deal with an entire continent. Perhaps Adam lived at the center of the landmass and there were church members for five thousand miles in any direction.
Would this imply the need for high technology to allow communication between the outposts of the church? No, because the church is designed to run itself at a local level. "I teach the correct principles, and they govern themselves", as Joseph Smith put it. Clearly there would need to be some contact between the center and the outlying areas, but if we allow for the invention of the wheel, that is not difficult. Even if we do not have wheels, a rider on horseback could easily cover 50 miles in a day. (A good runner could do more than that on foot, but not for weeks at a time.) So our hypothetical 5000 mile journey could be covered in 100 days. This means that even the most remote outposts could be visited each year, and a report brought back for an annual conference.
So communication does not demand the need for mechanical technology.
Did they have advanced knowledge?
Ancient texts (Biblical Egyptian Assyrian etc.) talk as if angelic visitors were almost commonplace. This has led some to speculate abut the Egyptian gods being spacemen (see below for the theory and its rebuttal). If this kind of direct revelation from God was an important part of the society's knowledge base, we would expect them to have some extremely advanced knowledge, far beyond anything modern man has developed.
There are clues that ancient societies did have advanced knowledge - for example, as David Wills pointed out, "The ancient Hindu texts dealing with cosmology, have a term called kalpa, or The Day of Brahma, a period of 4.32 billion years. In another Hindu text, the Bihath Sathaka, there is reference to a term called kashta, the equivalent of 0.000000003 of a second. Modern Sanskrit scholars have no clue why such huge and such miniscule time divisions were used in the past, but they are obliged to preserve them by their tradition. A discrete, nominated timespan, implies very heavily that something was measured using it."
Did ancient peoples gain ideas from experimentation, or did they claim direct revelation from God? Clearly, all societies experiment in a disorganized way. New ideas are adopted when they work better than old ideas. But was this the primary and systematic way of obtaining knowledge? Probably not. As Nibley has pointed out, ancient societies considered their greatest tools - writing, fire, or a knowledge of the stars, for example - to be gifts from God. The Book of Abraham is an example of a prophet being taught deep cosmological principles, yet Abraham had probably never even seen a telescope.
We should be very careful not to impose our own prejudices. Our own idea of "advanced" may not be God's idea of "advanced." It may be that some ancient societies were more advanced than ours, yet never had or needed mechanical technology such as motor cars or computers.
Does advanced knowledge imply mechanical technology?
Modern man is very proud of his cars, rockets, computers and telephones. But all of these things are temporary. They have only appeared in the last hundred years or so, and no invention lasts very long before being replaced by a better one. Where is technology heading? The obvious answer is to look at where we want to be.
Technology is a means to an end. As any technophobe will tell you, a computer, on its own, is useless. You cannot eat it. It does not automatically make you happy. It is only a means to an end. What is the purpose of technology?
What technology tries to provide
A more advanced solution
Know what we want and make sensible plans for it.
|Ease and comfort||
|Communication (1): number crunching||
||Get just the right information.|
|Communication (2): over vast distances||
Organize society so that more needs can be met locally.
Global communication is possible, just slower.
Inequality. For every "have" there is at least one "have not." For example, while America's standard of living has shot up in the last two decades, Africa's has gone down. Yet in theory they both have access to technology. (Incidentally, Americans now consider themselves further than ever from having enough goods to make themselves happy.) Source - United Nations Development report for 1998.
|Equal opportunities to access appropriate technology|
||Locally produced participative entertainment|
|High-tech medicine||Produces only small benefits compared with low-tech medicine and hygiene||Clean water, healthy lifestyle etc.|
|Promotes a human-based approach to problem solving||Avoids the potential benefits of revelation||Information from a higher source, healing, etc.|
|Rapid change and development||
||Slower, more sustainable development.|
|Military technology||Destruction on a massive scale - threatens all life on earth||Learn how to get along together.|
|Quick, large scale response to crises||Causes as many (or more) crises than it solves.||Local solutions built into the structure of society.|
|Space travel||Relatively slow (due to vast distances) and very costly||Find out how the angels do it.|
|Pure science||Increasingly complex and always developing||Learn God's point of view - which ideas really matter?|
Mechanical technology is, at best, only a step to something else. If the pre-flood society was truly advanced, it could use revelation to skip the mechanical stage completely. Thus, we should not expect to dig up televisions and rockets from before the flood.
What can we learn from the ancient history of mechanical technology?
Comments on selected passages from Funk and Wagnall's encyclopedia article, "Technology"
|"Technology has been a dialectical and cumulative process at the center of human experience."||[In contrast, learning from others s a process of cooperation, where knowledge is accumulated by the individual for eternity.]|
|"It is perhaps best understood in a historical context that traces the evolution of early humans from a period of very simple tools to the complex, large-scale networks that influence most of contemporary human life."||[In contrast, ideas of how to organize society can go backwards as well as forwards.]|
|[Technological development often happened by accidental discovery, then was adopted simply because it was better. Even in the "Dark Ages," technological advances were made.]||[So even if technology is not pursued for its own sake, it will still develop, albeit more slowly.]|
|"Human technology also began to manifest another of its effects: major alteration of the environment. Water management has already been mentioned, but other practices effected greater changes. For example, the demand for firewood led to deforestation, and the overgrazing of sheep and cattle caused fewer new trees to grow in the thin soils of the region. Thus, animal domestication, single-crop agriculture, deforestation, and periodic floods brought about the gradual appearance of desert areas."||[Technology is not a pure "good" for its own sake. Log term it may destroy the planet.]|
After about 4000 BC , one of the most complex creations of humankind appeared: the city (q.v.) . From this point forward, technology cannot be described only in terms of simple tools, agricultural advancements, and technical processes such as metallurgy, because the city itself is a technological system."
|[4000 BC was when Adam "fell." It seems that all the important discoveries - such as city life - are gifts from the gods.]|
|"The Persians and Greeks also introduced a new caste into the division of labor: slavery."||[It is often assumed that technology caused the freeing of slaves. In fact, the opposite is true. Slavery came about because technological systems made it possible. The greatest advances in technology - e.g. involving artificial power - only came about as a result of labor being no longer free or cheap.]|
|"Nevertheless, the technological advances of the Greeks were not on a par with their contributions to theoretical knowledge and their wide-ranging speculations."||[Pure knowledge has the most lasting benefits]|
The secrets of the pyramids?
Why should an LDS reader care?
The Book of Abraham contains the interesting statement that, when Egypt was first settled after the Flood, it was under water (see Abraham 1:24). Then why was it treated as a country at all? When you see land under water, you would normally say "there is the sea bed" or "there is the bottom of a lake." What did the discoverer see that made her think she had discovered a land? The obvious guess is that she saw signs of earlier life - perhaps even submerged pyramids. So the LDS reader might be tempted to see Egypt as a definite link with before the flood.
Add to this the fact that modern revelation describes God is a physical way, and it is possible to think of God as a being from another planet - almost as a spaceman. So LDS readers will naturally be interested in any claims that the old Egyptian gods were really spacemen who visited this world thousands of years before Christ. (Zecharaiah Sitchin has a series of books arguing a similar case - that the spacemen were associated with ancient Sumeria, but that is another story).
Anyone who thinks about it will quickly realize that any advanced being is likely to be so much more advanced than us that he would certainly not look or act like a spaceman, and all these theories owe more to science fiction than to revelation. See the pages on proof about God and alien life for details. But before we dismiss the evidence out of hand, let us look a little closer.
If the Egyptians were active before the flood, they are likely to be part of the pre-flood civilization. They can give us an idea of how advanced the civilization was in terms of technology. Did they have advanced technical knowledge?
The usual evidence for an ancient, advanced civilization
Many authors claim to have found specific evidence for an advanced civilization, many thousands of years ago. This tends to crystallize around the story of Atlantis and of the pyramids. Authors such as Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval and Robert Temple have published numerous books on the subject. The consensus is that a technologically advanced civilization existed around 10,500 BC. This was allegedly wiped out in some kind of global catastrophe, and this is where we get the legends of Atlantis. There are many variations on this, but insofar as any evidence has been claimed, this is where the claims tend to lead.
Of course, a Bible believer might say this is irrelevant, since we are looking for a pre-flood civilization much later, at around 3000 BC. But this illustrates the problem. Claims are one thing, but sooner or later we need to look for physical evidence. Those who have spent years looking for an ancient advanced civilization say the strongest evidence is for much earlier. But does even that stand up to scrutiny?
For the latest "discoveries," and links to other sites and books, visit the "Daily Grail" newsletter at DailyGrail.com Typical evidences include:
The case against an ancient advanced race
It is up to the reader to draw his or her own conclusions, but be warned - there are powerful arguments against each piece of evidence. For example:
The case against a high-tech ancient Egypt is summed up in two books:
What else do we know about the pre-flood civilization?
Sethites and Cainites
In the Book of Genesis (and in the expanded Book of Moses) we read of two principle groups before the flood: the descendants of Seth, and the descendants of Cain. Cain, you will recall, killed Abel, and Seth was born afterward and given the birthright. The prophets (Enoch, Noah, etc.) were descended from Seth and can be called "Sethites." The other group went to live elsewhere, and can be called "Cainites."
We usually think of the two groups in crude terms - Sethites were "good" and Cainites were "bad." But that is not what the scriptures say.
What do the scriptures really say?
What do we know abut the Cainites? We tend to focus on two individuals - Cain, and his descendent Lamech - because they both killed people. But what about all the other evidence? And how do the Cainites compare with the descendants of Seth (the lineage with the priesthood)?
All we know about the Sethites is that:
If their behavior was so bad, it must have included murders. So, both the Cainites and the Sethites included murderers. So why single out Cain and Lamech? It appears to be because Cain and Lamech murdered in a calculated way, as part of a strategic plan. When both were evil, the Cainites were more sophisticated than the Sethites. Let us look at what else we know about the Cainites.
The Cainites were thinkers, the Sethites were followers.
This is of course a simplification, but it appears to be highly significant. The Sethites had a leader-follower mentality (they had the prophets, and they kept the flocks). The Cainites had a thinking-creating mentality. Just look at what the Cainites were doing while the Sethites were watching their sheep (see Genesis 4:1-2,16-22):
Look at what is happening! The Cainites developed agriculture, city life, the arts, and industry. The Sethites, though they later adopted these things, are content to be followers. When Sethites become evil, they kill people with no thought behind it. But when the Cainites become evil, they make killing an exact science, and develop a sophisticated political scheme - what the Book of Mormon calls the "secret combination."
Put bluntly, the Cainites were dangerous because they were quicker to think for themselves. The Sethites were quicker to listen to God. At their best, the Cainites made all the technological progress. But at their worst (as when Cain thought his offering was just as good as Abel's), their reliance on their own ideas was their downfall.
A helpful analogy may be between men and women. Men - full of testosterone - tend to be the individualists, always looking for some new challenge. But they also commit the most crime. Women, on the other hand, tend to be more willing to work as a group, and have always formed the backbone of any society. It appears that the Sethites were a little more in touch with their feminine side, and the Cainites were less ready to be part of a church.
It seems that mankind today is in the same position. The distinction is no longer about race or skin color - there has been too much cultural exchange and intermarriage for that to be meaningful. But the distinction is still between those who think the best use of intelligence is in listening to someone who knows more (which could be God), and those who think that the best use of intelligence means independent creativity (even if it leads to planetary destruction).
The bottom line
Noah's flood happened. The people before the flood were much like the people today. We have been warned!