The Global Existence of the Flood Story
The existence of the story of a world engulfing flood that wiped out all but a few is found in almost every culture in the world. It is particularly prominent among the various indigenous peoples, such as in the Americas and China. While the knowledge of what the Bible would call the one true God varied from tribe to tribe and people to people, in some groups and places the peoples, knowledge of Creation, God and the flood was probably equal to that of the ancient Hebrews. In some far flung places missionaries have been astonished to discover, after months of language study and work, that the people group they were trying to reach already had almost as much knowledge of the Biblical God as they did.
In fact, an entire theory of the evolution of religion by a man named Tylor, had to be discarded because of the reams of reports coming in from around the world. Reports from countless anthropologists proved that almost all the primitive people had the knowledge of single Creator God, often called the “Sky God”. Tylor’s theory had proposed that primitive man started out worshiping rocks and trees and multiple deities and then slowly advanced to the idea of the existence of an invisible all powerful god. But almost every tribe visited, no matter how primitive, had knowledge of a single all powerful creator god. When asked why they didn’t have an idol to the “Sky God”, they would usually answer, “Oh, don’t you know? You are not supposed to make an image of the creator God.”
However, easily the most prevalent legend held in common among the worlds ancient peoples is the flood story. They have found the story written on clay tablets of long lost societies, such as Sumer, Babylon, and in India. In China, among the nationals, the flood survivor is known as Fuhi, and the account is found in the ancient Hi-King. Among the indigenous Chinese like the Miao, his name was “Nuah”. In 1847 Congress commissioned a comprehensive study of the American Indian tribes and their folk stories and beliefs. H.R. Schoolcraft reported, “There is one particular in which the tribes identified themselves with the general traditions of mankind. It is in relation to the general deluge by which races of men were destroyed. The event is variously related by an Algonquin, an Iroquois, a Cherokee, a Muskogee, or a Chickasaw, but all coincide in a general cataclysm, and that a few persons were saved.” (1)
Here is a remarkably biblical flood story from the indigenous Miao people of China;
So it poured forty days in sheets and in torrents.
Then fifty-five days of misting and drizzle.
The waters surmounted the mountains and ranges.
The deluge ascending leapt valley and hollow.
An earth with no earth upon which to take refuge!
A world with no foothold where one might subsist!
The people were baffled, impotent and ruined,
Despairing, horror stricken, diminished and finished.
But the Patriarch Nuah was righteous.
The Matriarch Gaw Bo-lu-en upright.
Built a boat very wide.
Made a ship very vast.
Their household entire got aboard and were floated,
The family complete rode the deluge in safety.
The animals with him were female and male.
The birds went along and were mated in pairs.
When the time was fulfilled, God commanded the waters.
The day had arrived, the flood waters receded.
Then Nuah liberated a dove from their refuge,
Sent a bird to go forth and bring again tidings.
The flood had gone down into lake and to ocean;
The mud was confined to the pools and the hollows.
There was land once again where a man might reside;
There was a place in the earth now to rear habitations.
Buffalo then were brought, an oblation to God,
Fatter cattle became sacrifice to the Mighty.
The Divine One then gave them His blessing;
Their God then bestowed His good graces.
Cite this article: Truax, E. A. 1991. Genesis According to the Miao People. Acts & Facts. 20 (4)
Here is the Pawnee flood story from Buffalo Bill Cody’s autobiography;
“While we were in the hills scouting the Niobrara country, the Pawnees brought in some very large bones, one of which the surgeon of the expedition (it was a college funded expedition for fossils) said was the thigh bone of a human being. The Indians said the bones were those of a race of people who long ago had lived in that country…These giants, they said, denied the existence of the Great Spirit. When they heard thunder or lightening they laughed and declared themselves to be greater than either. This so displeased the Great Spirit that he caused a deluge. The water rose higher and higher till it drove these proud giants from the low lands to the hills and thence to the mountains. At last even the mountain tops were submerged and the mammoth men were drowned…This story has been handed down among the Pawnees for generations.”
Geronimo, the Apache said;
“As a babe I rolled on the dirt floor of my father’s tepee, hung in my tsoch (cradle) at my mother’s back or suspended from a bough of a tree. I was warmed by the sun, rocked by the winds, and sheltered by the trees as other Indian babies.When a child my mother taught me the legends of our people; taught me of the sun and sky, the moon and stars, the clouds and storms. She also taught me to kneel and pray to Usen (God, the Great Spirit) for strength, health, wisdom and protection.” (Geronimo, S. M. Barret; a story of Geronimo translated from the Apache language as told by the chief himself”)
The following is an ancient Osage Indian creation story in which man is formed from a snail who became stuck in the mud after a flood; (from the works of H.R. Schoolcraft)
“There was a snail living on the banks of the river Missouri, where he found plenty of food, and wanted nothing. But at length the waters began to rise and overflow its banks, and although the little animal clung to a log, the flood carried them both away: they floated along for many days. When the water fell, the poor snail was left in the mud and slime, on shore. The heat of the sun came out so strong, that he was soon fixed in the slime and could not stir. He could no longer get any nourishment. He became oppressed with heat and drought. He resigned himself to his fate and prepared to die. But all at once, he felt a renewed vigour. His shell burst open, and he began to rise. His head gradually rose above the ground, he felt his lower extremities assuming the character of feet and legs. Arms extended from his sides. He felt their extremities divide into fingers. In fine he rose, under the influence of one day’s sun, into a tall and noble man. For a while he remained in a dull and stupid state. He had but little activity, and no clear thoughts. These all came by degrees, and when his recollections returned, he resolved to travel back to his native land. But he was naked and ignorant. The first want he felt was hunger. He saw beasts and birds, as he walked along, but he knew not how to kill them. He wished himself again a snail, for he knew how, in _that_ form, to get his food. At length he became so weak, by walking and fasting, that he laid himself down, on a grassy bank, to die. He had not laid long, when he heard a voice calling him by name. “Was-bas-has,” exclaimed the voice. He looked up, and beheld the Great Spirit sitting on a white horse. His eyes glistened like stars. The hair of his head shone like the sun. He could not bear to look upon him. He trembled from head to foot. Again the voice spoke to him in a mild tone “Was-bas-has! Why do you look terrified?” “I tremble,” he replied, “because I stand before Him who raised me from the ground. I am faint and hungry,–I have eaten nothing since the floods left me upon the shore–a little shell. The Great Spirit here lifted up his hands and displaying a bow and arrows, told him to look at him. At a distance sat a bird on a tree. He put an arrow to the string, and pulling it with force, brought down the beautiful object. At this moment a deer came in sight. He placed another arrow to the string, and pierced it through and through. “These” said he, “are your food, and these are your arms,” handing him the bow and arrows. He then instructed him how to remove the skin of the deer, and prepare it for a garment. “You are naked,” said he, “and must be clothed; it is now warm, but the skies will change, and bring rains, and snow, and cold winds.” Having said this, he also imparted the gift of fire, and instructed him how to roast the flesh. He then placed a collar of wampum around his neck. “This,” said he, “is your authority over all beasts. Having done this, both horse and rider rose up, and vanished from his sight.”
When I was a kid, some of these stories were still in the public school text books, but apparently have been removed in more recent times. This wide spread knowledge of the flood among all the peoples of the world is a perfect fit for the biblical world view, but hardly a prediction of Darwin.
(1) Schoolcraft, H.R., History of the Indian Tribes of the United States, 1857, p.571