Question 117:

You accuse Allah [The God of the Qur’an and of the Islamic faith] to be without mercy. How can you explain Noah’s flood in the Christian faith? Did your loving God kill the people with loving rain?


Answer: In the beginning of the answer to the previous question we quoted the official statements of the Second Vatican Council, in which the Catholic Church solemnly expresses its respect of the faith of Muslims in a merciful God. It is therefore not true to say that the Catholic Church accuses the God of the Qur’an and of Islam to be without mercy.

According to the author of the book of Genesis, the deluge as described there (Genesis 6:5 – 9:17) was not simply a natural disaster. He employs the ancient, and at that time common, mode of narrative as a vehicle to express a fundamental issue of faith of the peoples of Israel: God’s judgment in and through the events of history. If we compare the description of events in the book of Genesis with the epic of Gilgamesh or with other old versions of the story of a legendary flood, we immediately notice important differences between those stories and the biblical narrative. Certainly, there are naïve anthropomorphic details, such as the statement that Yahweh closed the door of the arc (7:16b), or that He smelt the pleasant smells of Noah’s sacrifice (9:21). But these details – which were taken over from the popular tradition which the author employed, do not darken the central view that Yahweh, the One God (in contrast to the many gods of Babylon), acted on the stage of human history and eventually realized His purpose (in contrast to the capriciousness of the Babylonian gods).

Furthermore, God’s judgment is influenced by his concern for humankind. The story of the garden of Eden already showed this, when following Yahweh’s curse there is the clothing of Adam and Eve with coats made of fur (3:21), und where the telling of the judgment of Cain is softened by the protective sign placed on Cain’s forehead. (4:15). In the same vein, in the story of the deluge, Noah finds mercy before God. The boat, into which he takes his family and the animal pairs, was a sign from Yahweh’s intention of rescuing the remainder, which He will use to make a new beginning in history. The story ends with the comment that, although "the desires of man's heart are evil from the start", Yahweh will never again curse the world with such a tough judgment. The laws of nature – "seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night" – become signs of the faithfulness of His covenant. (8:20-22).


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