R. David Holzer, in his recent book The Rav Thinking Aloud on the Parsha: Sefer Bereishis, devotes a long footnote (p. 173 n. 340) to calling an article by Dr. Joel B. Wolowelsky in Tradition heretical. According to R. Holzer, Dr. Wolowelsky accepts the “biblical criticism view” that the Flood story “never occurred” but instead “is a literary allusion to a distorted version of the Gilgamesh Epic, which was used to deal with the Israelites’ interest in an ancient fable.” R. Holzer is upset that “the editors of Tradition apparently found no need to offer any retraction.”
The reason, I believe, that the editors of Tradition did not offer a retraction to the article is because it does not, in reality, fit the categorization that R. Holzer mistakenly attributed to it (you can read the original article here: link). Had R. Holzer consulted with Dr. Wolowelsky before condemning his article, as I did, he would have learned that Dr. Wolowelsky never denied the historical veracity of the Flood (link). But even private correspondence was unnecessary because Dr. Wolowelsky responded to a polite letter in the journal (link). How much more clear can he be than this (link – subscription required)?
His quote from Chesterton seems to suggest that he thought I was saying that there was no pre-historic flood calamity. I thought I was very clear on this point when I wrote:
Needless to say, this approach no more suggests that there was no catastrophic flood than does the position that God has no physical limb claim that “He took us out with a mighty arm” is false and that we were never taken out of Egyptian slavery. It has no relevance to the secular debate on the historicity of the Bible. We are not talking about whether the Flood happened but the literary devices the Torah used to describe it.
Indeed, I was writing against Prof. Spero’s suggestion that the Biblical Flood story was an allegory.
I am unsure why R. Holzer continued to repeat his mistaken understanding of the article.