Posted by richard on April 27th, 2012
to answer that question we have to understand the context of gen 1-11 and the role genealogies are playing in tying the chapters together.
these are the generations of: the toledoth lists.
what is their big point?
it is the Hebrews way of answering “who we are”, like ancestry’s tv show “who do you think you are?”, gen 1-11 locate the 8thC Davidic kingdom in time and space by telling the stories of their ancestors.
the flood is a sumerian story. the hebrews know and use it to locate noah into God’s chain of events that shape being a Hebrew. was it world wide? of course not, that would be readable in the book of nature and it is not there. is it local? maybe. is it historical that a family built a big boat and gathered animals? not in the way we think of history. more in the way family stories get passed down to successive generations, they might have a germ of truth but it gets diluted and mangled in each generation’s retelling.
it is the generations relationship to the stories that counts, not the “real” content of those stories, but the history of how they use the stories to give meaning to their collective existence that is really the big point.
racial memories, specific neuro circuits, oral histories and themes of the Bible.
When we ask questions about the extent of the Genesis Noahic flood, the Enuma Elish pops up along with collected flood myths around the globe.
But there are lots more themes in Scripture like this:
the nephilim-giants of old from unique breeding,
hiding your relationship of your wife by calling her your sister to avoid the powerful from killing you to get her(twice in Gen),
the division of an innocent into multiple pieces and sent around to incite people to help you revenge them.