I highly recommend the short, 4 minute video produced by Islam Critiqued, where he makes a strong case that the Qur’anic detail that the Flood included boiling water (Q 11:40, 23:37) derives from rather dubious Jewish exegesis in the Babylonian Talmud Rosh Hashanah 12a. I won’t repeat the argument, go and check out the video.
The reason I flag this for the attention of my viewers is that the same possible Muslim response could be raised to this issue as to the issue of my last blog post, Q 5:32, the Mishnah and possible explanations. The same issue also arises with Abraham coming out of Ur of the Chaldees (from 13:20 onwards). The response could be that the event truly happened, God truly did use boiling water in the flood, and that Jewish oral tradition and memory preserved this, but that for some reason neither the Old Testament nor any Jewish text until centuries after Jesus mentioned it.
The problem with this, other than the centuries of silence, is that as with my previous blog post and as with the Abraham being thrown into the fire (13:20 onwards), the issue seems to be exegetically derived. If you watch the video, Islam Critiqued highlights how the notion of hot water is derived exegetically in Babylonian Talmud Rosh Hashanah 12a. If the Qur’an in mentioning the boiling water is treating it historically (a topic for a future blog post), then the Qur’an lands itself in some hot water, by not seeming to be aware that what it takes for granted as history is nothing of the sort.
It could be argued that the boiling waters of the flood was a historical reality, which the Rabbis sought to explain by finding linguistic evidence for this in the text, something similar to a false etymology. I discussed this possibility in my previous blog post. My response is that (a) if this detail were historical, why was it not mentioned for so long, despite our possession of earlier Jewish texts? (b) to someone familiar with Jewish exegetical methods, one is often suspicious of the validity of its results, and (c) if this detail were historical, what would be the chances that there are also the linguistic features that could provide the basis for the kind of exegetical argument used in the Talmud?