The concept of a supercontinent, consisting of all the present-day continents joined together in one massive landmass, is well established in modern science. This hypothetical supercontinent is known as Pangaea or Pangea. But what does the Bible have to say about Pangaea? While the Bible does not directly mention Pangaea by name, a close examination of the biblical texts reveals some intriguing clues that resonate with the scientific concept of a unified primordial continent.
The Creation Account
The creation account in Genesis 1 describes how God created the heavens, the earth, and everything in them in six days. On the third day, God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear” (Genesis 1:9). This implies that initially the earth was covered with water, until God gathered the waters together and exposed the dry land.
Later in Genesis it describes how water came forth from the earth and watered the ground (Genesis 2:6). Taken together, these verses convey a picture of the early earth as covered in water, with dry land eventually emerging as the waters receded into underground reservoirs and bodies of water. This aligns with the scientific understanding of Pangaea as a supercontinent surrounded completely by ocean waters.
A United Landmass
Though Genesis does not explicitly mention Pangaea, it presents the earth as a united landmass initially. Genesis 1:9 refers to the gathering of waters “under the heavens,” implying a unified expanse of land. The dry ground that emerged is described as a single entity, not yet divided into continents and islands as we know them today.
Later, the Garden of Eden is presented as the source of four headwaters (Genesis 2:10-14). If taken as a literal geographic description, this depicts rivers flowing out from a centralized location to water the entire earth. Such a scenario fits well with the Pangaea model in which all land was joined.
While the Bible does not use the term “continental drift,” it contains passages that could describe the breakup of a unified landmass. In Genesis 10:25, in reference to the division of the earth among Noah’s descendants, it states: “the earth was divided.” This language echoes Pangaea’s eventual fragmentation into today’s continents.
Additionally, some Young Earth Creationists have interpreted Psalm 104:5-9 as describing the processes behind continental drift. Verses such as “the mountains rose, the valleys sank down” and references to establishing boundaries for the seas have been seen as alluding to tectonic plate activity forcing land masses apart over time.
A Dramatic Topographical Shift
The most explicit biblical mention of a dramatic shift in topography is found in Psalm 104:6-9. This passage describes a time when the mountains rose up and the valleys sank down to their pre-assigned places, as God rebuked the waters and established boundaries for the seas. This description evokes upheaval and change consistent with the breakup of unified continents and landmasses.
Some scholars posit this topographical overhaul happened during the biblical Flood or subsequent to it. If so, it may connect back to Genesis 10:25’s reference to the earth being “divided” around the time of Peleg, Noah’s descendant. Peleg’s name means “division,” which could signify the splitting of continents.
Possibility of a Water-Covered Early Earth
As mentioned earlier, Genesis 1:2 describes the Spirit of God hovering over the surface of the deep waters prior to the formation of dry land on Day 3. Some Young Earth Creationists argue this points to a completely water-covered early earth, aligned with scientific models showing early Pangaea surrounded by ocean.
2 Peter 3:5 also notes that “the earth was formed out of water and through water.” This lends credence to significant water coverage in the primordial era, before dry land emerged from the receding waters.
A Single Supercontinent an Intriguing Implication
While the Bible does not explicitly describe Pangaea, the concept of an original unified landmass is an intriguing implication that arises from reflection on certain biblical texts. The creation account’s presentation of a single expanse of dry land aligns with scientific models. References to a subsequent dividing and separation of the earth also resonate with Pangaea’s eventual breakup.
Of course, due to factors like the Flood and the general uncertainty around reconstructing primordial earth history, any continuity between biblical creation texts and modern plate tectonics must be tentative. Nevertheless, the resonances and hints of a unified early landmass remain thought-provoking.
Challenges to Definitively Correlating the Bible and Pangaea
While tantalizing clues exist, there are also challenges to definitively correlating the biblical account with Pangaea:
- The Bible does not explicitly mention Pangaea or continental drift.
- Passages potentially describing a single landmass or its breakup are poetic rather than historical narrative.
- The Bible focuses on redemptive history rather than scientific details.
- Catastrophic events like the Flood complicate reconstructing early earth geography.
- Some young-earth creationists propose catastrophic plate tectonics during the Flood, differing from conventional science.
- The pre-Flood world may have functioned by different natural laws than today.
- Orthodox Christianity has historically allowed room for diverse scientific perspectives on earth’s natural history.
These factors counsel caution against dogmatically proclaiming biblical proof for or against Pangaea as understood by mainstream science. The textual clues remain suggestive rather than definitive.
Pangea and the Flood
Some young-earth creationists argue that the breakup of Pangea occurred rapidly through catastrophic plate tectonics associated with Noah’s Flood. While mainstream science says Pangea separated over millions of years, these flood geologists assert its fragmentation happened violently over months or years.
Key verses related to this view include:
- Genesis 7:11 – rupture of fountains of the deep connected to onset of Flood
- Genesis 10:25 – earth divided in Peleg’s day, soon after the Flood
- Psalm 104:5-9 – mountains rose, valleys sank, waters fled at God’s rebuke
While intriguing, this model involves much biblical speculation and remains outside scientific consensus. It illustrates tensions between conventional plate tectonics theories and some young-earth Flood geology.
Ancient Near East Cosmologies’ Connections to Pangaea
Concepts analogous to Pangaea existed in other Ancient Near East cosmologies contemporary with the Old Testament writers. The primordial waters, single land mass, and description of the earth “folding” or shaking into its current shape resemble Mesopotamian and Egyptian creation accounts.
Examples include the Babylonian Enuma Elish referring to a time when all was “one heap,” and the Egyptian god Ptah shaking the primordial mound to form the earth’s features. The biblical authors were aware of these ideas circulating in their cultural context.
In conclusion, while the Bible does not definitively prove or disprove the modern scientific theory of Pangaea, tantalizing clues suggest the concept of an original unified landmass is compatible with the biblical account. Direct references are limited, but intimations of a single continent surrounded by water align with scientific reconstructions of early Pangaea.
Descriptions of the earth subsequently being “divided” find correlation in Pangaea’s eventual fragmentation into today’s continents. Of course, due to factors like the Flood, poetic expression, and the Bible’s redemptive focus, correlations with conventional plate tectonics must remain tentative.
Nevertheless, the resonances between certain biblical texts and current geological understanding remain fascinating. They present opportunities for ongoing dialogue and reflection, as people integrate God’s Word with His world. While not mandating the Pangaea model, the Bible leaves room for it as one proposal for understanding the development of the earth’s geography and topography.