It astonishes me how easily we can take an idea we have and misappropriate the citing of scriptures to support it. For instance, in this week’s Watchtower in paragraph 18 we have this statement [notice the bible citations].
“With God’s help, we can be like courageous Noah, an intrepid “preacher of righteousness” to “a world of ungodly people” about to perish in a global deluge.” (w12 01/15 p. 11, par. 18)
It has long been our contention that Noah preached to the world of his time, so that they would have been duly warned about the destruction coming upon them. This door-to-door work of Noah prefigured the work we do today. If you were reading this paragraph without looking up the citation and giving it careful thought, would you not get the idea that Noah preached to the world of ungodly people of his day?
However, a different picture emerges when you read the cited passage of 2 Pet. 2:4,5. The relevant part reads, “…and he did not hold back from punishing an ancient world, but kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others when he brought a deluge upon a world of ungodly people…”
Yes, he preached righteousness, but not to the world of his day. I’m sure he used every opportunity that was presented to him while he continued to run his farm to keep his family alive and build the ark, a monumental undertaking. But to think that he went about in the world preaching as we do is simply not realistic. Humans had been around for 1,600 years by that time. Given the long lifetimes and the likelihood that women remained fertile far longer than in our day, it is easy math to come up with a worldwide population in the hundreds of millions, even billions. Even if they all lived only 70 or 80 years and women were only fertile for 30 of those years—as is the case today—one can still arrive at a population of hundreds of millions. True, we don’t know what went on back then. One thousand six hundred years of human history is covered in only six short chapters of the Bible. Perhaps there were many wars and millions were killed. Still, there is evidence for the existence of humans in North America in pre-flood times. Pre-flood, there would have been land bridges, so that scenario is very likely.
However, even if we ignore all that as pure speculation, there still remains the fact that the Bible does not teach that Noah preached to the world of his day, only that when he did preach, he preached righteousness. So why do we layout our Bible citations in such a way as to encourage an erroneous conclusion?
[…] has already partially explored this subject in his article Misappropriating Scripture, but did not touch on the passage under […]
Personally, I have never interpreted that scripture about Noah being a preacher of righteousness, as meaning that Noah deliberately and formally set out in field service as we do today. I picture Noah being a preacher of righteousness in more of an incidental preaching manner and by his lifestyle. He would have no doubt spoken about Jehovah and his righteous requirements to others because of feeling grieved at the wickedness around and when conversation was conducive to such subjects. He would have preached in a very natural, incidental manner when his heart moved him to, rather than deliberately setting out… Read more »
Good points Meleti. We say that Noah was given a “preaching commission”. This phrase has been so commonly used that it appears to be taken for granted now. The scripture says that Noah was a preacher of righteousness, and for this reason he was saved. As you rightly point out in your article the description merely conveys what kind of man Noah was among his contemporaries. His inclination to speak out for what was right in a godless world was presumably already evident prior to God’s decision to bring a flood. There is nothing in scripture that says otherwise. Noah… Read more »