According to Answers in Genesis, the flood happened in approximately 2348 BC, which means it would've happened about 4360 years ago. Wikipedia has a list of the oldest individual trees known, of which three are older than 4360 years (one that was cut down was [at least] 4,844 years old).

The Flood clearly should've killed all of the trees that were around at the time. Yet, these trees were definitely around before the Flood happened. So, how do Bible Literalists deal with this issue? How do they explain the fact that we have trees older than the Flood?

Note: this is indirectly related to Young Earth Creationism as the calculated age of the Earth (about 6,016 years) depends on the date of creation.

  • 2
    I doubt that it has been proven anywhere that a global deluge would completely kill all the trees that it submerges. Some trees may well be resilient enough to start sprouting again once the waters have receded. I would think that the "fresh olive-leaf" that the dove brought back to the ark (Genesis 8:11, Byington) would be an example of this.
    – coderworks
    Aug 13 '17 at 18:52
  • @coderworks: The Flood wasn't exactly a flash flood though; the whole world was entirely submerged for at least 150 days. I seriously doubt any tree could have survived that long. The fresh olive leaf could have come from a seed that floated on the waters. Aug 13 '17 at 21:05
  • Since we only have approximate biblical dates, I would say a few centuries' discrepancy is one of the less tricky problems trying to reconcile a literal bible reading with history and science.
    – Mr. Boy
    Feb 12 at 15:39

If it is a scientific certainty that a tree create one and only one ring per year, then this would be problematic. However, as you can read on Wikipedia, this is not always the case:

Alternating poor and favorable conditions, such as mid summer droughts, can result in several rings forming in a given year. Wikipedia

So, it would only take conditions to produce two rings in less than 1 out of 9 years to make up for the "missing" 500 years. So, the 4,844 rings (not years) appears to be within a reasonable variation to place the actual germination of the tree to be just after the flood.

  • 14
    It is the same faulty reasoning with the ice rings in the Arctic. People who do not know what actually causes the ice rings will say that one ring is one year, therefore, the Arctic ice is 300 something thousand years old. The fact is that one thaw and one freeze creates an ice ring. During the spring and fall you can get multiple freezes and thaws per day.
    – fгedsbend
    Apr 2 '13 at 17:45
  • 7
    @fredsbend Yes. It's interesting that no one finds trees that are 10,000 years old or 50,000 years old. They are all approximately 4400 years old...
    – Narnian
    Jun 3 '13 at 13:29
  • Someone should tell this to those people who do this for a job @fгedsbend, since they would not agree with your assertion.
    – Mr. Boy
    Feb 12 at 15:41

Assuming your date for creation and delta to the flood are correct, one way is to say the tree was not uprooted or killed by the flood. Perhaps it went dormant, as in winter. (If that fails, there's always supernatural preservation.)

After all, the dove brought back the olive branch as the sign that things were growing again shortly after the flood. So there is at least one tree that was not destroyed.

  • 3
    Or that tree grew after the waters receded. That seems more likely.
    – fгedsbend
    Apr 2 '13 at 17:44
  • Olive trees are notable for how slowly they grow, though. Some trees can definitely stand being submerged but most of those we have around today cannot.
    – Mr. Boy
    Feb 12 at 15:43

There are alternative Bible theories which answer the question of the age of trees and other seemingly disagreeable facts without discounting the fact itself.

Gen 7:19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.

Gen 13:9 Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.

Gen 13:17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.

These scriptures all use the same Hebrew word for land and earth to describe the events during the lives of Noah first then Abraham. Its obvious by the text that while Abraham did walk the entire earth according to the text he did not cover the entire planet. Likewise while the flood did cover the entire earth it may not have covered the entire planet and at least one literal theory says it didn't. There are many other instances of the phrase "whole earth" predominantly being used in reference to the known earth rather than the entire planet in both Old Testament and New Testament.

In short while the word literally says "whole earth" concerning Noah and that must be true from the literal perspective. However we are allowed to question which "whole earth" is being referred to in order to have an understanding of what is literally written.

  • 3
    The argument that the flood is global isn't based solely on the word 'earth'. The fundamental argument is that it must be a judgement on all human life, or else the covenant doesn't work.
    – curiousdannii
    May 19 '14 at 21:18

People presume all living things died in the flood. But the Bible does not say that!

Consider the following:

Before the flood came God said: "And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein [is] the breath of life, from under heaven; [and] every thing that [is] in the earth shall die" (Gen 6:17)

And talking about the aftermath of the flood, the Bible says:"And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils [was] the breath of life, of all that [was] in the dry [land], died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained [alive], and they that [were] with him in the ark." (Genesis 7:21-23)

Bible says:

  1. All flesh which had the breath of life was destroyed
  2. It further specifies four distinct groups which perished: man, cattle, creeping things, fowl of heaven

From this we can presume:

  1. Many of the creatures that breathe water (in whose nostrils the breath of life is not, though they have flesh) survived the flood
  2. Trees which have neither "flesh" nor "nostrils" might have survived (probably should have survived)

Furthermore speaking about the trees, the Bible says:

Job 14:7 "For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease."

So it's highly likely that many trees survived the flood just like the creatures that live in the water

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.