Question: Does the flood account contradict itself?

Does the flood account in Genesis contradict itself?

Another article on this website delineates the evidence that there are two different creation accounts in Genesis 1-2. It turns out that a careful reading of the flood account produces two separate narratives that have been ingeniously woven together. There remains, however, some friction between the two accounts leading to contradictory details. Joseph Blekinsopp writes:
The arguments which have led scholars to postulate a combination of sources are fairly straightforward and have never been refuted. There are inconsistencies with respect to what was brought into the ark, the chronology, and perhaps the manner in which the deluge was brought about. We hear of one pair, male and female, of each species (6:19-20; 7:14-16), but also of seven pairs of clean and one pair of unclean animals (7:2-3, 8-9). We are told that the flood lasted 40 days (7:4, 12, 17; 8:6), or sixty-one, counting every day until the ground dried out (8:6-12), but we also hear of a duration of one hundred and fifty days (7:24; 8:3), a figure compatible with the five months from the beginning to the gorunding of the ark on Ararat (8:4). While the description of the disaster as a downpour of rain (7:4, 12; 8:2) is not necessarily incompatible with the more mythological language of the bursting forth of the fountains of the great deep (7:11; 8:2) it is more natural to think of the latter as providing a quite distinctive perspective, especially if read in the larger context of Genesis 1-11.

We have often been reminded that repetition is not in itself an indication of the composite nature of a narrative . . . and with this we may readily agree. But the situation is rather different when we encounter parallel versions of episodes in which the parallels consistenty exhibit distinctive characteristics. So, for example, Noah is told to board the ark with family members and specifically designated livestock. He does so, and then the command is repeated with the same people and differenly designated livestock, and he does so again (6:18b-21, 22; 7:1-5). In such cases it is unreasonable to exclude editorial activity carried out according to canons somewhat different from those we would follow today." [The Pentateuch, pp 77-78]
This view is extremely widespread in scholarship today. Commentary after commentary points this out. Bill Arnold writes:
For over two centuries, scholars have recognized this portion of Genesis as the best example of the composite nature of the book. Despite the editorial unity of the passage overall, it is composed of a least two independent and preexisting sources or traditions. The history of these traditions and the way in which they have been intertwined has been an irresistible topic of interest over the years, and in fact, the flood story has been the locus classicus for understanding the characteristics of these traditions. So scholars have routinely reconstructed a J source (Yahwistic) and a P source (Priestly, see introduction on these sources) behind the existing text of Gen 6:9-9:29, although today it is more common to speak simply of priestly and non-priestly strands, allowing also for editorial extrapolations.

For the purposes of this commentary, a summary of a few of the differences between the underlying traditions may help the reader of the NRSV text understand why the account as it now stands contains obviously contradictory statements. First, a cursory reading of the account reveals perplexing commands to take "two of every kind" of animal into the ark (6:19-20; 7:15-16a) and then to take "seven pairs" of all clean animals and a single pair of unclean animals into the ark (7:2-3). Second, the chronology of the flood is specifically given in two distinct methods. On the one hand, the water rose for one hundred fifty days and receded another one hundred fifty days (7:24; 8:3), and together with a drying period, the flood lasted just over a year, measured according to Noah's age (7:11; 8:13-14). On the other hand, the flood consisted of "forty days and forty nights" of rain after seven days of waiting (7:4). Combined with a large number of other indicators of tradition transmission, scholars have identified the "two-by-two" arrangement of the animals as priestly, together with the year-long chronology of the flood. The "seven pairs" of clean animals and one pair of unclean is non-priestly (or simply J), along with the forty days and forty nights of rain chronology. There are of course many other indications of this analysis, but this simplification gives the reader an idea of the nature of the sources behind the present text. While it may seem odd to us at first that an editor retained such discrepancies, we may assume that the sources or traditions underlying the whole had already attained authoritative status, and the editor valued the traditions enough to retain the inconsistencies, which were not problematic in ancient literature." [Genesis Baker Exegetical Commentary, 96-97]
To this it should be noted that Genesis 6:19 and 7:2 used different Hebrew words for make and female. Genesis 6:19 uses the same words as the priestly author (P) in Genesis 1:27 and also in 7:3, 7:9 and 7:16. Just as we find with the two creation accounts in Genesis 1-2, the Biblical deluge itself is a combination of at least two separate narratives. While there is some uncertainty to be had and potentially some missing material and editorial redactions, Gerhard Von Rad breaks the two stories down as follows:

(J) Chs. 7.1-5, 7, I6b, 8-10, 12, I7b, 22-23; 8.6a, 2b, 3a, 6b, 8-12, I3b, 20
(P) Chs. 6.9-22; 7.6, II , I3-16a, 17a, 18-21, 24; 8.1-2a, 3b, 4-5, 7, 13a, 15-19

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