Essay:Great Flood: an astronomical date

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This essay is an original work by TerryH. Please comment only on the talk page.

A range of astronomical dates for the Great Flood is now available. This range derives from a statistical back-step analysis of the retrograde-projected periods of the two comets with the most clock-like orbits. It is the most likely year, with a standard tolerance, for these two comets to be at perihelion, and closely associated with earth, at the same time. The actual date of the Great Flood would be several months in the future from this common perihelion. On that date, the fountains of the great deep literally launched the water, rock and mud that escaped into space and persist today as comets, asteroids, meteoroids, and Trans-Neptunian Objects.

The implications of this find should stagger the imagination of all who consider them. Obviously this vindicates the Hydroplate Theory of the Great Flood – and further to the point, it vindicates the Great Flood itself. And it therefore vindicates all the rest of Genesis chh. 1-11.

But by so doing, this date of the Flood forces a resolution of at least one long-simmering dispute about the chronology of the Bible, and gives strong support to solutions of three other similar disputes. Some of these disputes have raged for centuries, even millennia. This paper will try to explain the key points of dispute and how this new astronomical date range for the Great Flood helps resolve them.

What is the date of the Great Flood?

The range of dates for the Great Flood comes from a recent calculation by Walter T. Brown, Jr., PhD, originator of the Hydroplate Theory. He examined two comets for which enough observations were available to establish reliable orbital elements. Computer simulations are available for each to determine their periods far into the distant past. Furthermore, these periods did not change very much from one orbit to the next, to the present time.

The earth at creation

Key elements of the Hydroplate Theory will help any reader understand why comets, and their orbits, could date the Great Flood. To review: when God created the heavens and the earth, He created two compartments of water on the earth. One compartment became the early seas. The other became a subcrustal ocean.

The Apostle Peter makes this abundantly clear, but only if you correctly read the original. The New American Standard Bible (copyright: the Lockman Foundation) renders that verse thus:

They willfully ignore this fact: that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water.

Or, if you read the original Greek words and know their roots, it should read in part:

The earth formed itself standing-together out of the water.

Standing. On what? On pillars that held up the dry land. Underneath that land: water. Or to be more specific, a subcrustal ocean.

Tidal pumping and supercritical water

In the centuries that followed the Fall of Man, the moon would pull on the land, and let it fall, a little slower than once a day. This tidal pumping heated the subcrustal ocean to a supercritical temperature. And because the crust confined it, this water was also under supercritical pressure. This condition creates a supercritical fluid – liquid and vapor dissolving one another.


“In the six hundredth year of the life of Noah, in the second month, in the seventeenth day of the month,” the crust failed. (Genesis 7:11) That failure happened where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge now stands. The failure began as a hairline crack. This crack rapidly widened and lengthened, until it ran the full length of the present Mid-Oceanic Ridge system. All that water came rushing out of its subcrustal chamber, at hypersonic speed. It eroded the land mass for about 800 miles to either side. Beneath it, the floor of the chamber buckled up, now that all the weight pressing on it abruptly lifted. The two parts of the land mass slid down the slope that thus formed. North and South America fell away to the west, and Antarctica to the south. Europe and Africa crashed into Asia and raised up the Himalayan chain. (Note: Mount Everest did not rear itself up until after the Great Flood began. So we have no reason to suppose that the Flood waters covered Mount Everest as Mount Everest.)

And some of the water, rock and mud that came rushing out of that chamber did not fall back to earth. A large amount, about one percent of the total mass of the earth, is still in space. It escaped from orbit around the earth, moved beyond earth’s gravitational influence, and then accreted to form several objects. These objects persist as the comets, asteroids, and meteoroids of today.

How to back-trace the comets to their common launch date

In theory, if comets never changed their orbits, one could easily back-trace them all to a common launch point – and launch date. But as Dr. Brown explains, no comet escapes gravitational influences. Every gas giant planet a comet passes, and indeed every object of any size, will change that comet’s orbit The changes are slight but they do add up. Furthermore, the Sun itself will remove a portion of the comet’s substance (as the tail) with every perihelion.

Computer simulations can account for this, but only up to 3,000 years before the present. The kind of computing power one would need to extrapolate a comet’s orbit further back in time, does not yet exist. (And might not exist before the Second Coming of Christ.)

Instead, one can predict the most likely date for the perihelia of all examined comets to coincide. To do this, one need only algebraically subtract the average period of any comet from the date of the last recorded observation (or reliable simulation), and account for the cumulative standard deviation. This cumulative error has a known analytical solution for a set of mutually dependent observations or simulations.

At issue here are osculating orbital elements. In astronomy, an osculating orbit (literally, a “kissing orbit”) is that orbit that an object is on, assuming nothing perturbs it in any way. Obviously, no celestial body ever follows an osculating orbit. Planets (especially gas giants) come close, but comets never can.

But: the mean change in the osculating period of a comet will be zero over a large number of observations. This follows from orbital physics and the Law of Averages. This does not make those changes negligible. But it does allow for a “clean” analytical solution.

Records and methods

Dr. Brown set these rules to selecting comets for his extrapolation:* Long orbital periods (seventy years or longer)

  • High inclinations to the plane of the ecliptic, so the gas giants would not disturb them as often.
  • Records of apparitions going back at least two thousand years.
  • Hundreds of perihelia, either simulated or (preferably) as recorded apparitions.

Brown used two comets, satisfying all these rules, from the 2008 Catalogue of Cometary Orbits:

Comet Earliest known perihelion: q i Earliest known period N Expected error, as σ, to predict:
Recorded Simulated Next Period Launch Date
Halley 239 BC 1403.80 BC[1] 0.586 AU 162.3° 69.86 years 27 1.56 years 130 years
Swift-Tuttle 68 BC 702.30 BC[2] 0.9595 AU 113.45° 129.33 years 20 2.98 years 159 years

Here, q is the perihelion distance, i is the inclination with respect to the ecliptic (the orbit of the earth around the sun), and N is the number of periods from the earliest recorded or simulated period, back to the eventual launch date.

These two comets (Halley and Swift-Tuttle) move in retrograde orbits. That is why they have inclinations greater than ninety degrees. The earliest known perihelia for those two comets come from two powerful computer simulations published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Dr. Brown points out, in this table, that retrograde comets, and the high inclinations for most of the comets in this sample, are deal-killers for two popular theories of comet origin: “volcanic” eruptions from the gas giants, and capture from interstellar space. The Revised Oort Cloud Theory has no problem with such findings but does have an insurmountable problem with another finding: the perihelia for these comets vary from 0.586 to 0.9595 AU and are part of a surprisingly tight cluster of perihelia in the range 0.5 to 3 AU.


The most-likely date for a “cluster of perihelia” is 3290 BC, with a standard deviation (σ) of 100 years. This, of course, is a perihelion date for these comets. They would have launched about halfway through autumn in the year of the Great Flood. The annalists of the Great Flood year (Shem, Ham, and Japheth, sons of Noah) state that the Great Flood broke out “in the second month, in the seventeenth day of the month.” Noah and his sons, in those days, used a calendar with a 360-day year and a 30-day month, with the first month beginning with the autumnal equinox. (Moses would receive a Divine directive to reckon the year from the first full moon past the vernal equinox in the year of the Exodus.)

Thus these comets, and all other comets, launched in autumn of the year 3290 BC, give or take 100 years. This, then, is a good astronomical date range for the Great Flood.

What now remains was to examine all possible dates for the Great Flood from Biblical chronology, and identify those that fall within this range.

The Biblical chronology matrix

Separately from Dr. Brown’s efforts, Dr. Terry A. Hurlbut prepared a matrix of twenty-four pairs of years, associating each with a particular patriarch, king, or epoch in Biblical history. The anchor point having the best scholarly agreement is actually 562 BC, the year of the death of Nebuchadnezzar II. That is the end of the captivity of Jeconiah (a/k/a Jehoiachin), the next-to-last of the Kings of Judah. (Zedekiah, the last king, was executed by traumatic blinding in the year that Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the first Temple.)

Almost at once, Biblical chronology diverges into twenty-four different pathways, as follows:

  1. Edwin R. Thiele, PhD, sought to synchronize the history of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the Assyrian Empire. Specifically, he sought to synchronize Kings Ahab and Jehu of Israel with Shalmaneser III – and, of course, King Hoshea of Israel with Shalmaneser V. But in the process, he telescoped out forty-five years of the combined history of the Hebrew kings. In contrast, James Ussher synchronized the king lists of Israel and Judah without regard to any synchrony with Assyria – because no Assyrian records were then available. Since the publication of Thiele’s Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, an often bitter dispute has raged between followers of these two competing views of the histories of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
  2. How long did the Sojourn in Egypt last? A strict reading of Exodus 12:40 suggests that 430 years passed from the entry of Jacob into Egypt until the Exodus. But Paul of Tarsus (Galatians 3:17) said the law came 430 years after a promise made to Abraham. Did this refer to the day that God gave the Abrahamic Covenant to Abraham himself? Or did it refer to God’s assurances to Jacob, assurances He gave 215 years later, that the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant still held? Note that Stephen, the head of the first-ever Board of Deacons, repeated a warning to Abraham about a 400-plus-year affliction in Egypt in his defense before the Sanhedrin.
  3. How old was Terah, father of Abraham, when Abraham was born? Abraham was 75 years old when he entered the Land of Canaan for the first time. But Genesis 11 tells us: “when Terah was 70 years old, he began Abram, Nahor, and Haran.” Yet the chapter ends thus: “The years of the life of Terah were 205 years, and he died in Haran.” And then Abraham takes his departure. Or does he depart sixty years sooner? (Stephen the Deacon, in his trial before the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem, said not. See Acts 7:4.)
  4. At least three different textual authorities (four, if one counts the Book of Jubilees) exist for the ages-at-birth-of-named-son of the Patriarchs of Genesis chapters 5 and 11. Of the two, only Genesis chapter 11 is relevant to dating the Great Flood. The three texts are, of course, the Masoretic Text (MT), the Septuagint (LXX), and the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP). (See Sewell C, "Biblical Chronology and Dating of the Early Bible," on Lambert Dolphin's site, for tabulated raw data from those three authorities.) Each has its defenders and its detractors. And often the dispute among the three camps is as heated as is the dispute between the Ussher and Thiele loyalists (see above).

Of the twenty-four calculated dates, five fall within the astronomical range of 3290 BC ± 100 years. All five are consistent only with the Long Sojourn in Egypt. Four are consistent with the LXX, three are consistent with the Late Birth of Abraham, and three (not all the same three) are consistent with Ussher’s chronology of the Hebrew Kings. The one calculated date that matches all four of these assumptions is 3343 BC. This is well within the expected 100-year error.

Dr. Brown also points out that the ages of the Patriarchs when they had their sons, show too many ages ending in zero or five to be coincidental. All the authorities show such numbers. This suggests that some scribes have rounded off the numbers. That rounding introduces a cumulative error of twenty years. Thus the two dates for the Great Flood are well within that margin of error – and all other proposed dates for the Great Flood lie outside this range, with no overlap of their tolerances.

Thus the statistical date validates the four assumptions behind the calculated date.

Can these dates be coincidental?

The short answer: No. And furthermore, Drs. Hurlbut and Brown worked each independently of the other to arrive at the respective dates. Moreover, Dr. Brown ran two sets of calculations nine years apart. He then invited a challenge from anyone willing to check his math. Two correspondents accepted that challenge. Dr. Brown lists the details on how to calculate the convergence date here.

What does this imply?

Validating the Great Flood

To begin with, that a statistical prediction of a cometary launch date could arrive within a hundred years of a calculated date for a Biblical event, and with better than ninety-nine percent confidence, can scarcely be coincidental. The lack of a definite astronomical “fix” for any of the dates of the Bible has been the greatest weakness in Biblical scholarship – and in convincing skeptics that the Bible is a Factual Historical Record. (Capitalized on account of What the Bible is, not on what any reader might think It is.) All higher criticism of the Bible necessarily falls to the ground, on the incontrovertible observation that the greatest catastrophe (cataclysm) that the world has ever known, left a definite astronomical sign.

This finding also validates the Hydroplate Theory. That Theory alone predicted that large amounts of water, mud and rock might have escaped the gravity of the earth and persist in space. The Hydroplate Theory also predicted the mass launch of the material that formed all the comets, asteroids, and meteoroids that exist today and have ever existed.

Validating the Hebrew Kings

The Ussher and Thiele systems of synchrony of the Hebrew kings differs by only forty-five years. Compared to the spread between the conventional Early Date and Late Date of the Exodus, this seems of little consequence. But the consequence becomes very great indeed when one tries to synchronize not one but two king lists, with one another and with the lists of other kingdoms and empires with whom both were at war at one time or another. As above, three out of five dates that fall within the predicted range from astronomy, vindicate the Ussher system.

This does not mean that Thiele was wrong to synchronize King Ahab of Israel with Shalmaneser III, as some have charged. (Thiele’s synchrony of King Jehu with Shalmaneser III was a mistake; the correct king is King Jehoram, grandson of Omri.) Instead, one must understand that Thiele forgot an important part of the evidence. At least forty-five years of the Assyrian Eponym Canon are missing. Martin Anstey (1901) showed that the Assyrian records, from the 14th year of Amaziah to the 35th year of Uzziah, simply did not exist.

Assyria was overtaken by some disaster, and the [missing] names were either lost by accident, or destroyed by design...For in [the reign of Adad-nirari III] we find the Assyrians taking tribute from the whole region of the Mediterranean, Judah alone excepted, whilst at the end of the blank period, in the reign of Asshur-daan III, we find that their power over this region had been lost, and that they were now engaged in a desperate struggle to regain it.

The winner of that struggle: Tiglath-Pileser III, who struck those forty-five names, from the records. Tiglath-Pileser did this to erase all memory of a predecessor of his who, by his lights, committed apostasy against the Assyrian state religion. That predecessor was that King Pul who very likely accepted the dire warning of the Prophet Jonah on the latter’s visit to Nineveh, the Assyrian capital.

The Ussher system is far easier to accept, for two important reasons:# The Ussher system follows the plain sense of the chronology as it appears in I and II Kings and I and II Chronicles.

  1. The Thiele system contains some absurd assumptions about viceroyalties and co-rex relationships to which the Bible never attests – and in one case, it assumes that one king, Ahaziah (Uzziah) of Judah, became viceroy to his father Amaziah eight years before he was born.

By this reckoning, the date of the Exodus from Egypt is 1491 BC – not 1446 BC as Edwin R. Thiele calculated.

Validating a Long Sojourn

Ussher assumed that the 430 years of Exodus 12:40 took place, half in Egypt, and half in the land of Canaan before Jacob entered Egypt. After so assuming, he calculated four generations between Levi and his supposed great-grandson Moses. Indeed, Exodus mentions only two intervening names: Kohath and Amram.

Yet even Exodus mentions six generations between Judah and Elisheba, wife of Aaron, brother of Moses. And that does not include another ancestor, named “Admin,” that Doctor Luke mentions in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

Paul J. Ray Jr. has a solution: there were two Amrams. One was the grandson of Levi; the other was the father of Moses. Amram the Younger was at least the grandson, if not the great-grandson, of Amram the Elder. (And Jochebed was simply Amram’s aunt; that is all the Hebrew text says. She is also a daughter of Levi, and that need not be literal, either.) More generally, the expression “son of” or “daughter of” need not signify one actually born in the other’s household, but merely a direct lineal descendant of any degree, including grandsons and great-grandsons and so forth.

In addition, let the reader consider this::* Seventy "souls" in direct line-of-descent from Jacob entered Egypt during the Famine. (Exodus 1:1-8)

  • On the day of the Exodus, the nation of Israel had six hundred thousand men of military age, in addition to children. (Exodus 12:39) A nation having this many men of military age surely numbered at least two million altogether, and very likely five million.

If one assumes that each of those original “seventy souls” who entered Egypt had a fifty-member household (including family retainers), then the number of people who entered Egypt might have been 3500. To reach five million people requires the population to double at least ten times, and possibly eleven times.

Typically, a fast-growing population might double every twenty-five years. This means that at least two hundred fifty or two hundred seventy-five years must have passed between entry and Exodus. Thus a mere 215-year stay in Egypt falls short. A 430-year stay offers ample time and allows the population to double less frequently than once every twenty-five years.

In addition to which, many named characters in the Bible have as many as ten named generations—far too many to have occurred in 215 years.

Validating the Late Birth of Abraham

The Seder Olam assumed that Abraham was born when his father was seventy years of age. But this contradicts Terah being 205 years old when he died, and Abraham being seventy-five years old when he left Haran. Some scholars insist that Terah “died spiritually” when Abraham followed the command of God and Terah didn’t. But the Bible never once so states. In any event, one needs all sixty years to arrive at a date for the Great Flood to correspond with the launching of the comets.

The Vorlage Text

The last section of the chronological chain are the ages of nine Patriarchs, from Shem to Nahor the Elder, when each man had a son.

Every available manuscript of the Bible says that Arpachshad (or Arphaxad), son of Shem, was born two years after the Great Flood. But the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint differ by a total of 720 years in how many years passed between the birth of Arpachshad and the birth of Terah, son of Nahor the Elder. (Nahor the Younger was Abram’s younger brother.).

The LXX has its basis in the Vorlage Text, the text available to Ptolemy Philadelphos and his Seventy Translators at the Great Library of Alexandria. Sadly, that text is lost. But the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and Paul of Tarsus and other Apostles, quoted extensively from this text in their respective writings.

The Vorlage-LXX includes one name that the MT and SP both leave off: Cainan the Younger, son of Arpachshad and father of Shelah. Tellingly, the Evangelist Dr. Luke attests to him, as he traces the genealogy of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, back to Adam. His identity, or his conflation with another Patriarch, has long puzzled Biblical chronologists.

The chief criticism of the LXX is that it seems to “pad” the lifetimes of these Patriarchs to show a gradual, nearly linear decline in human longevity, not the precipitous exponential decline that the MT shows. But defenders of the LXX accuse the authors of the MT of understating the ages at time of siring for the Patriarchs, typically for 100 years at a time. Who is telling the truth?

That question is impossible to settle by scholarship alone. Nothing short of an independent and verifiable date can settle this particular dispute.

Recall the astronomical range: 3290 ± 100 years. Of the twenty-four proposed dates for the Great Flood in the Hurlbut matrix, only five dates fall within this range. Of these, four agree with the Vorlage-LXX. These four include the oldest date anyone can calculate for the Great Flood.

And as it happens, the astronomical range has further support. This support is not astronomical, but biological – in the form of a living organism that cannot have begun life as recently as any of the MT dates would demand.

Biological evidence: the oldest tree in the world

Meet Pinus longaeva, the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine. This tree lives longer than any other non-clonal organism known to man. (Some biologists claim longer continuous lives for various clonal colonies.) Recently, Tom Harlan, following up on a find by the late Edmund Schulman, claimed to have found a still-living specimen growing in the White Mountains of California. (Harlan refuses to say exactly where this tree stands, because he does not want anyone to damage it.) Harlan says this tree was 5,062 years old during the 2012 growing season. This tree now holds the record on this list of the oldest trees in the world. Harlan found this age through crossdating, which seeks to assign groups of tree rings to the specific epochs that alone could have produced them.

If this claim is correct, then this tree (which no one has yet named) first sprouted in 3051 BC. That would be consistent with almost any date using the Vorlage-LXX numbers, and even a few SP numbers, but never with any date from MT numbers only. As it is, this allows 293 years after the Great Flood for this Methuselah stand to start, and for a particular bristlecone to fall to the ground, sprout, and give rise to this incredibly old tree we see today.

Though Mr. Harlan would probably never agree to this, we can suggest a name for this tree: the Witness Tree. Has it not borne witness to the earliest recovery of the world from the true Extinction-Level Event it suffered 293 years before this tree sprouted?


We now have a two-hundred-year range of dates for the Great Flood. This range by itself validates the most comprehensive (and comprehensible) model anyone has yet invented for the Great Flood. But it also carries weighty implications for many other disciplines, including without limitation:* Human biology, and especially human longevity.

  • The cosmogenic poisoning of the atmosphere with carbon-14.
  • The burial of a large fraction of the carbon inventory that existed before the Flood. (Any time anyone has radiometrically “dated” coal or petroleum, the apparent age has been “infinite.”)
  • History of ancient Mesopotamia, including Chaldean, Aramean (ancient Syrian), and Babylonian history.
  • Egyptology.
  • Assyriology.
  • History of Judaism.

This new astronomical range will force many scholars to lay aside many of their most cherished positions. It will do this by giving the strongest piece of direct evidence not only that the Great Flood happened, but when. And when many other events occurred as well.

The Holy Bible, subject to the proper choice of manuscripts, now stands as the Gold-standard Historical Record. All other historical records must stand (or fall) on their synchrony (or lack of it) with the Bible.

Copyright © 2013 Creation Science Hall of Fame, Inc. Used by permission.

Revised 4 August 2013


  1. Yeomans, D. K. & Kiang, T., "The long-term motion of comet Halley," Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 197, Nov. 1981, p. 633-646. <>
  2. Yau, K., Yeomans, D., & Weissman, P., "The past and future motion of Comet P/Swift-Tuttle," Royal Astronomical Society. Monthly Notices, vol. 266, 305-316. Article. <>

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