by Terri Kammerzell
Truth of Genesis Ministry Partner
This last week was “Vesuvius Day,” marking the 1942nd anniversary of the recorded date of the historical burial of the city of Pompeii. According to History.com, an estimated 13,000 or more people were killed in this catastrophic event, rated 8th in the deadliest volcanic eruptions measured in history. Although it’s hard to know with great certainty, some historians and paleontologists estimate that at the time of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, there were about 195 million people on the earth. While 13,000 is a large number of lives to have lost, that’s just 0.0067 percent of the earth’s population. But it was tragic. And certainly catastrophic. A regional catastrophe.
In comparison, the deadliest recorded volcanic eruption was Indonesia’s Mt. Tambora in 1815. The devastation was so terrible that 1815 became known as “the year without summer,” and it caused a great famine. All told, some people estimate the death toll (from the eruption and its consequences) to be as high as a quarter of a million people. Given the world’s population at the time of that eruption, that meant about 0.024 percent of the earth’s population were victims of that tragic and catastrophic event. It was another regional catastrophe.
But long before either of those catastrophes, there was another event that wiped out almost 100% of the life on earth. Of humans, only eight remained. Of animals, only two of each kind. I am speaking of the global flood of Noah’s day, recorded in Genesis chapters 6-9. Four times in the New Testament, that flood is referred to using the Greek word kataklusmos. This is the origin of our word “cataclysm.” Which brings me to this week’s Fun Fact:
What is the definition of cataclysm?
Cataclysm is a sudden, violent change or disaster.
Although, to be fair, this fact certainly isn’t “fun.” But it is definitely fundamental. Many people (even some professed Christians) argue that the flood of Noah’s day was not a global event and that it did not wipe out almost 100% of the earth’s population. Some say it was a local or regional event. But, from a Scriptural perspective, there are at least two problems with that idea.
First, that idea contradicts the account of Genesis 7:19-23, which describe the flood waters as prevailing “exceedingly on the earth” and the earth as “all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered.” About life on the earth, verse 23 says, “So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive” (NKJV). That doesn’t sound like a regional catastrophe to me. That’s the description of a global cataclysm.
Second, that idea contradicts the covenant God made with Noah in Genesis 9:1-17. He set His rainbow in the cloud and told Noah that every time the rainbow is seen in the clouds, He will remember His covenant: “the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh” (v. 15). If the flood of Noah’s day had been a regional event, then God would have broken His promise over and over again since then because there have been many catastrophic and fatal regional floods since that time.
Additionally, as scientists continue to study both observational (current) science and historical (past) science, they have discovered that the flood of Noah was, indeed, a cataclysmic event. The whole earth was in upheaval. In fact, the engineering department at Liberty University is working on building a simulation model of what may have taken place during the Great Flood. They speculate that “the thousands of miles’ worth of seafloor spreading responsible for today’s igneous ocean crust must also have unfolded during the Flood cataclysm,” and that the “Genesis Flood . . . also included rapid and large-scale plate motions that produced thousands of miles of continental displacement.”
Words have meaning. They are important in communication. And equally important is understanding the differences between them, especially when their origin is in the Bible, and used to communicate something very specific. Our word cataclysm comes from the Greek kataklusmos, which is a word so special it was specifically reserved only for mentioning Noah’s flood. This was no ordinary event. This was no regional catastrophe. It was a global cataclysm.
Most importantly, the flood of Noah was used in the gospel to reveal the omnipotence of God, as well as both His judgment and mercy. God was merciful to spare Noah and his family and to let the inhabitants of earth have a second chance. God continues to demonstrate that same mercy to us each day by forgiving our sins and patiently waiting for us to turn to Him. But a day will come when we will once again see the wrath of God. A day when, as Paul describes, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). Make sure you’re ready for that judgment day. If you need help, visit this website.
Don’t just take my word for it! Visit YouFormedMe.com/theories/cataclysm.html to read, watch, and listen to supporting research and commentary from scientists, doctors, theologians, and more!
This blog is from a special series of “Creation Fun Facts” by Terri Kammerzell, starting from June 10, 2020. Read the introduction at TruthOfGenesis.com/blogs/building-a-biblical-defense-of-creation.
 Matthew 24:38-39; Luke 17:27; 2 Peter 2:5