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THE STRUCTURE OF THE DELUGE

The fundamentalist interpreters must be given credit for having stressed the numerical data in the narrative of the Deluge. Unwittingly, they came to realize that the numerical data were the frame around which the narrative was constructed. If the text is interpreted in mathematical terms, it does not appear as intricate as most critical interpreters make it to appear. For the sake of analysis it can be divided into four sections:

A. 7:11-23
B. 7:24-8:5
C. 8: 6-12
D. 8:13,14

For the sake of clarity I anticipate what I will demonstrate later, by explaining that we are dealing with the following five versions of the chronology:

(i) An original version, presented in sections A and C, according to which the staying in the Ark lasted 40 + 7 days. The flooding was the result of a rainpour that lasted 40 days.

Sections A and C form a continuous narrative. For linguistic and stylistic reasons they can be assigned to the Yahwistic stratum of the Pentateuch, if one applies the documentary theory. But I do not intend to exclude the possibility that they may contain some elements from the Elohistic stratum. In any case, if one wants to apply the documentary method of analysis, this part is at least as old as the formation of the combined J-E document. What can be stated with certainty is that sections A and C have the characteristics of the oldest strata of the book of Genesis.

(ii) A second version, presented by the addition of the four verses 7:24-8:3, and the first part of verse 13. Section B was inserted into the body of the original narrative because it intended to present a different interpretation of the mathematical premises of the original version. This version did not deal with the other elements of the narrative, but was merely intended to calculate the height of the water according to a different system. This is the reason why section B was fitted into the basic narrative frame provided by section A and C. It was understood that section C did not need to be changed and could be read as a continuation of section B. The main point of Section B is that the water rose gradually for 150 days and ebbed gradually for 150 days, so that the staying in the Ark lasted 150 + 150 + 7 days. Since the Deluge began on the 17th day of the second month, the authors of Section B concluded that the Deluge occupied the balance of a lunar year of 354 days. For this reason they were able to specify that Noah left the Ark on the first day of the second year (8:13a).

(iii) The preceding two versions reckoned by a lunar year of 354 days (months of 30 and 29 days), the usual year of Hebrew and Mesopotamian reckonings. A third hand, for reasons that I shall explain, thought that one should reckon by a solar year of 365 days divided into 12 months of 30 days plus 5 epagomenal days, as in the calendar of Egypt. It therefore added verses 8:4,5 in section B. The same hand also added some words to Section C in order to extend the duration of the staying in the Ark from 7 to 18 days (150 + 150 + 7 to 150 + 150 + 18); the addition of 11 days corresponds to the difference between the lunar year and the solar year.

(iv) Subsequently, at a very late date there were added two lines, verses 8:13b, 14, in an effort to reconcile the versions mentioned up to now. According to this version the staying in the Ark lasted 375 days, that is, a solar year plus 10 days.

(v) A final modification in which verses 7:11b and 12 were added. This modification was conceived in terms of the so-called Calendar of the Jubilees, a modified solar calendar which consisted of 364 days divided into 4 seasons of 91 days. According to the very last version, the staying in the Ark lasted 375 days, that is, a Jewish solar year of 364 days plus 11 days.

Altogether one can identify the work of at least five different hands. But the basic structure of the text can be recognized and the interpretation of the several elements of the narrative is not as complicated as it seems. There is a basic and fundamental narrative (sections A and C), at the middle of which there was inserted a major modification (section B and 18:13a). Then there were some later editorial touches.


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