Could the world have repopulated from 3 or 4 woman as is implied in the most literal way of reading the Noah’s ark story?

I got a confession to make: I started the calculations below with the assumption: “Genesis should in some places be read figuratively. Now what objective way can I proof that to other Christians? I know! I’ll show them how it is mathematically impossible for the earth to repopulate quickly enough after Noah!” Oops. When I finished the sums, the result did nothing to prove my stated objective. Here are my calculations:

Why these calculations will be inadequate:

a) Many believers hold that the flood in Genesis could be correctly understood as a local, instead of global flood. As such, it may not have been needed to repopulate the world from the few women on the ark.

b) The geneaologies of Genesis mentions very long life spans, and men who apparently still fathered children for a long part of those centuries. It don’t mention women’s ages in those geneaologies. It is very likely to assume, though, that if men in those times literally stayed reproductive for centuries, that women could have done the same. That means that each of them could have concieved many more children than in the calculations below.

c) Some Bible scholars also believe that the Hebrew word for “son” could also mean “grandson,” “great-grandson,” etc. In that case, the earth had even more generations to repopulate before the Tower of Babel or before Abraham encountered other nations.

However, here are calculations using my modern assumptions on how long woman can stay fertile, and assuming the fewest number of generations: These two assumptions are as strict as can be. If I assumed longer fertility times (argument b), or more generations (argument c), I would have made the job of proving the Genesis account a lot easier.

(It may seem strange to assume that a woman can have, on average, 3 or 3,5 daughters in a lifetime – thus 6 or 7 children. But in the times before birth control it was not rare for woman to have much larger families than that. One of my grandmothers married at 28, the other at age 30 – yet they each gave birth 6 times.)

The numbers below only represent the girls and women of the new generation. You could assume that there are still older woman too, and about as many men and boys as woman and girls.

SCENARIO 1: Each woman has, on average, 3 daughters who reach adulthood, and gets her girls on average at age 25

From the ark comes 3 woman of child-bearing age =3

25 years later: 3×3 young woman/ girls of next generation.

50 years later: 3x3x3

100 years later: 3 to the power of 5

200 years later: 3 to the power of 9 =19 683

350 years later: 3 to the power of 15 =14 348 907
500 years later: 3 to the power of 21= 10 460 353 203 (More young woman and girls than there are people in the world now.)

SCENARIO 2: Each woman has, on average, 3,5 daughters who reach adulthood, and get her girls on average at age 25 (Rounded off to whole numbers.)

From the ark comes 3 woman of child-bearing age =3

25 years later: 3×3,5 young woman/ girls of next generation =10 or 11

50 years later: 3×3,5×3,5 = 37

100 yr.: 3x(3,5 to the power of 4) =450

200 yr.: 3x(3,5 to the power of 8 ) =67 556

350 yr.: 3x(3,5 to the power of 14) =124 186 354

450 yr.: 3x(3,5 to the power of 18) =18 635 714 698
(More than double as many young woman and girls than there are people in the world now.)

The bible first mentions contact with other nations again, after the flood, at a time when Abram was older than 75 years. (Before that, it mentions nations in 2 ways: Mostly in the sense of “So-and-so was the forefather of this nation.” Secondly in the story “the tower of Babel,” an explanation why the one group split up into nations.)

Since the exact ages of Abraham’s forefathers are mentioned when they became fathers, it could be calculated that more than 367 years have expired from the ark until the date Abraham gets into contact with other nations. By either of my scenarios, there could have been more enough people on earth for different nations to exist.

The descendants of Noah could well have splattered into several large nations by the time Abram encounters other nations.

Conclusion: It is mathematically possible to believe that the earth could have repopulated from a 3 woman in a few centuries. It may not be necessary to assume that it happened (other options are mentioned in the “Why these calculations will be inadequate” paragraph), but it is possible.


45 thoughts on “Could the world have repopulated from 3 or 4 woman as is implied in the most literal way of reading the Noah’s ark story?

  1. Ben says:

    Due to high mortality rates, the population did not grow exponentially until the mid 18th century. If you count the digits in scenario 1 and 2 the world population after 650 years would be 15 trillion and 3 quadrillion respectively.

    However, mathematically showing that the population could theoretically grow at a sufficient rate will only serve to allow the possibility that we all descended from 3 women 5000 years ago. It does not prove or disprove anything.

    What interests me more is this: where did all the diversity (Asians, Africans, Caucasians) come from if we all descended from one family?

    • Elaina says:

      Yes. That was exactly my question. How did the diversity of races occur? Therefore, it does seem more logical that the flood was somewhat localized and not entirely global.

  2. Retha says:

    Thanks for replying, Ben! That is a truly interesting question. I do not know much genetics (I have an interest in science, but no qualifications.) But genetics apparently confirm that we all descended from one woman. They call her mitochondrial Eve. “Eve,” after you-know-which Bible character.

    (If I spelled mitochondrial wrong, I plead that English is my second language.)

  3. Retha says:

    Oh, Ben, I wrote this post after reading – and believing for some time – that repopulating the earth after Noah would be impossible, even theoretically. My sums simply did not confirm what I heard.

  4. Jscott1 says:

    Mathematically possible and consistent with observed facts are two totally different things.

    A handful of women cannot possibly produce a world that we observe today with all the ethnic diversity. Instead there would be a huge mortality rate due to all the inbreeding and genetic defects. And it’s unlikely that there would exist an incest taboo in nearly every culture if the whole basis of the human race required incest to re-populate.

    It’s far simpler to consider that the Noah story is a myth.

    • Retha says:

      Tell me, J Scott, is marrying a first cousin (what Noah’s grandchildren would have done, if the Noah story is literal and global) regarded as incest in your country? It is legal in mine.

      And if you believe that incest, if taboo for us, would have been taboo for all our ancestors – both evolutionists and most creationists believe that our ancestors would not always have found incest taboo.

      It seems “simpler” to you to consider the story a myth, but the simpler explanation is not necessarily true. You probably do not believe in a mitochondrial Eve or a Y-chromosome Adam either? Because a gene pool so small that everybody have the same mother’s, mother’s, mother’s, etc. …, mother, and more recently the same father’s, father’s, father’s, etc. …, father, would mean that incest was probably rife in the times of mitochondrial Eve/ Y-chromosome Adam. By your reasoning, genetic defects would also be rife with that base for humanity. Yet geneticists confirm that we all do share the same female and (more recently) the same male ancestors. In fact, some global flood supporters even claim that mitochondrial Eve lies further into the past than Y-chromosome Adam, because our shared female ancestor is really the Biblical Eve, while the shared male ancestor is Noah- much more recent than Adam and Eve. And your ‘simpler” explanation have not even considered a local flood, with Noah’s descendants marrying people from outside the region either.

      Personally, I calculated this as a local flood supporter who wanted to show people that the simplest reading of the Bible (global, in this case) is not always right. I challenge you, too: look beyond what is the simplest, in order for you to understand more. Look at all the possibilities. Be willing to allow the Bible to change your pre-concieved notions if the facts warrant it!

      • Reality says:

        Wow.. you ethered him… I doubt he has the mind, heart, or will to respond… good comeback. It’s people like him who confuse others with bogus opinions on the internet…

      • Nelson Hernandez says:

        I will respond back to show how messed up your logic is.

        ” By your reasoning, genetic defects would also be rife with that base for humanity. Yet geneticists confirm that we all do share the same female and (more recently) the same male ancestors. In fact, some global flood supporters even claim that mitochondrial Eve lies further into the past than Y-chromosome Adam, because our shared female ancestor is really the Biblical Eve, while the shared male ancestor is Noah- much more recent than Adam and Eve. And your ‘simpler” explanation have not even considered a local flood, with Noah’s descendants marrying people from outside the region either.”

        This is where your argument falls apart.

        Why would we have Y Chromosome ONLY from Noah, if Noah received his from his father and his father and so on until you reach Adam?

        That answer is, you wouldn’t. Adams genetic code will still be there; in Noah.

        “When the overall population size does not change (as is likely to have happened for long periods of human history), men have, on average, just one son. In this case, evolutionary theory predicts that for any given man there is a high probability that his paternal line will eventually come to an end. All of his male descendants will then have inherited Y chromosomes from other men. In fact, it is highly probable that at some point in the past, all men except one possessed Y chromosomes that by now are extinct. All men living now, then, would have a Y chromosome descended from that one man — identified as Y-chromosome Adam. (The biblical reference is a bit of a misnomer because this Adam was by no means the only man alive at his time.)”

        Also, you forgot to mention the DNA from Neanderthals (which we have found to still exist in Homo Sapien Sapien which proves that we did indeed interbreed with them. Or Homo Denisova, which we have found in Asia and verified via genetics to be a whole other branch of Human.

        So here we have….

        Homo Erectus
        Cro Magnum
        Homo Neanderthalas
        Homo Desovian

        Now, please oh please explain how the three brothers of Noah were able to procreate at such a rate as to produce (from what we know) 4 different types of Human?

      • Retha says:

        Who’se “reasoning falls apart”, Nelson? The words was ” some global flood supporters even claim that mitochondrial Eve lies further … because.” You cannot call these “some global flood supporters” the word “you”, as they are not here to talk with. And researchers never suggested that y-chromosome Adam did not have a father!

  5. morp says:

    Not to burst your buble, but the bible is in no way ever been proven to contain any factual data that can be quantified today. The practice of using it as a basis of “fact” is flawed from the very beginning.

    Lets take the easiest thing to point out… wait for it…. The bible isnt even an original document! You disagree? then examine Osiris, which was old before the myth of the bible was even formed. Or rather…..

    Who was called “Lord of Lords”, “King of Kings”, “God of Gods”, “Resurrection and the Life”, “Good Shepherd”, “Eternity and Everlastingness”, and the god who “made men and women to be “born again”
    His birth was announced by Three Wise Men:
    the three stars Mintaka, Anilam, and Alnitak in the belt of Orion
    Had a star in the east, Sirius, that signified his birth
    Had a Eucharist ceremony of sorts, in which his flesh was eaten in the form of communion cakes of wheat
    Taught much of the same material as Jesus; many teachings are identically the same, word for word
    Was killed and later resurrected, providing hope to all that they may do likewise and become eternal

    Would you recognize this religious figure? Sound like someone you know? Well, of course, we are describing the figure of Osiris!! What, did you think we were talking about Jesus? It sure sounds like Jesus doesn’t it? Would it shake your faith to discover that Osiris was a mythological Egyptian god who riled over the earth shortly after its creation?

    Have an blissfully ignorant day, lol

    • Paulus of Asia says:


      Beautiful. How about citing those bogus websites that make fools even dumber by making them “gullible fools”?

      I see how you did not put ANY (which means, even in your own little world, ANY) citation of said mixtures of consonants and vowels you just spewed out of your brain. It’s like intelligent ape told what to type by getting bashed in the head.

      Please, do not try this again– you will get laughed at by “intelligent” atheists themselves.

    • Ang3l says:

      Haha I hope as time went on you discovered that nobody matches up to Jesus Christ.Zeigiest , the religion part , got debunked and is very sad how many people fell for that

      • Ang3l says:

        I wasn’t saying so what to you ! I was repeating what nelson hernandez childIshly said in response. I agree with , so far , everything that you put up ! A lot of people have fell back due to ziegiest !! You definitely shown you’ve got some roots

      • Retha says:

        Ang3l – I am sorry. I responded at a place when my comments displayed wrong, where it was not visible that you commented on him not the main post.

  6. Retha says:

    Not to burst your buble, but the bible is in no way ever been proven to contain any factual data that can be quantified today. The practice of using it as a basis of “fact” is flawed from the very beginning.

    The Bible contain no factual historical or archeological data? The existence of David or Herod or Egypt or Jerusalem in Bible times is not a fact? You are simply not worth arguing with untill you go learn something.

    The bible isnt even an original document!

    The Bible isn’t a document, you fool. It is 66 documents. As for not original, I don’t expect you to be able to mention where even one of the 66 books pre-existed in another non-biblical book that contains at least one tenth the data in said Bible book. (A much more biblically literate person than you may point to the hypothetical Q document -the sayings of Jesus allegedly written down shortly after He said it. But that itself will be no evidence against Jesus.)

    Your Osiris argument goes like this:
    Premise: A lot of things said about Jesus was said about Osiris too.
    Conclusion: Jesus was not God
    Firstly, you gave no historic evidence for your premise. That’s no surprise, as I assume you gullibly and without checking facts put up here what you heard about Osiris on an Atheist site. Morp, morp, when will you learn some skepticism?
    Countless great scholars will tell you that your premise is utterly false. The above things are not ascribed to Osiris. Likewise all other copycat saviour myths.
    Two, even if your premise was correct, why would it lead to that conclusion, and that one alone?
    (Here are a few other possible conclusions, from that premise:
    * Osiris, even though mentioned prior to the actual, evidentially existing historical character Jesus, had extra things ascribed to him after those things were said about Jesus.
    * Jesus and Osiris were both manifestations of the same deity
    *Jesus and Osiris were both Gods
    *God put His truths into the hearts of the Egyptians, to prophesy certain things about what God will be when He come. But instead of telling it purely, they mixed it up with their own concept of gods. Still, when Jesus came, people could see that what was said about Osiris actually pointed to him.)

    Have an blissfully ignorant day, lol

    Of course, I don’t have to wish ignorance on you. But you can ask yourself this: “Do I, Morph, want to stay as ignorant as I am for the rest of my life? Or do I want to change?”

    • Nelson Hernandez says:

      Word games I love it!!

      Yes the bible contains some details of people and places. So what? Does the existence of New York City mean Spiderman is Real?

      And what I think morph means, which I am sure you are quite aware of Retha, is that the information on those “original” pieces of paper or not original, they derive from oral traditions and this mysterious, never found “Q” document.

      But I’m glad you brought it up.

      • Retha says:

        I was responding to a comment that the Bible contain “no factual data.” That, of course, was nonsense. I do not believe the four gospels are from “oral traditions”.(The gospels are the central texts of the Bible in subject, as Jesus is the central character of Christianity) I think they are either eyewitness accounts themselves, or -in the case of Luke – written by collaborating with many eyewitnesses. The first readers (perhaps not of the gospel of eyewitness John who apparently wrote as an old man but the other 3) included eyewitnesses who could have objected to untruth in it, if it was untrue.

    • Ang3l says:

      Very good response; these other deities that people want to match up Jesus Christ with dont understand and possibly can’t comprehend . Obviously Jesus was spoken about before he came and demons/idols tried to mimic , that’s why there’s several with intentions of deceiving. And even all of them added up doesn’t match Jesus perfectly.
      Jesus disciples didn’t figure it out until the resurrection , demons and the devil had no idea or even comprehended what Jesus accomplished on the cross until it was fulfilled. It’s amazing how Jesus was trying to keep it quite and never allowed demons to speak or for his disciples to mention who he was.
      I believed Jesus revealed a lot after he resurrected and preached for the 40 days . It’s amazing , well God Bless!

  7. GaryS says:

    One important thing to mention. Christians believe God created Adam and Eve. They would’ve been genetically perfect. Their offspring would have been so genetically pure as to rival their parents. This genetic perfection would have carried on for many many generations, but especially so for certain people who remained loyal to God: eating what He said to eat, marrying as He said to marry, living as He said to live. God would’ve protected the line to Noah, knowing the events which were to come.

    Scoffers are quick to assume that the old world was primitive, but there is no proof of this. Christians understand that the earliest humans were the ones closest to God, therefore closest to His secrets and His knowledge and wisdom. Modern humans think gadgetry and pageantry is equivalent to intelligence and advancement. I say it is the complete opposite. By relying on gadgets we have become foolish and ignorant. “U got dat lol?”

    The Old Testament mentions the lifespan was shortened to 120 at some point, then lowered again to 70-80. This reflects the further decline of man, his sinful lifestyle and the further fall from truth. What is the lifespan today? My dad died of heart attack at 59. My mother died at 67 from cancer and heart disease. I work at a church and I can see first hand that the lifespan is again DECREASING! not increasing. Also… America’s infant mortality rate is 34th in the world and nearing all time lows.

    • Retha says:

      Gary, you are right about those who think the early OT writers knew nothing. The following comment is not against you, it is a side note to those who overvalue the patriarchs at the cost of Christian (New Testament) wisdom.

      I have also heard that truth – don’t underestimate the early people who lived close to God long ago – misapplied. (Not by GaryS, though.)

      For example, some people think we should follow the example of Abraham and the patriarchs rather than the example of Jesus and the disciples. But the disciples were Christians, and Abraham did not have Christ. Abraham did not even have the law, and Christians today have the Holy Spirit!
      The worst mis-application was someone who quoted: “People were marrying and giving in marriage in the days of Noah” as evidence that parents would be wise to dictate who their children should marry! People in the days of Noah were destroyed for their wickedness. They were not the epitome of God-given wisdom.

  8. Ronny Arvelo says:

    Hi all, well about Osiris and all that stuff it is well known that new religions have their foundation over old popular ones (Egyptians and christianism or Catholicism) to absorb people; however is not that the bible isn’t an historical book, many things were learned about the civilization and its people, yet again it is also known that is not a book of facts, not to defend anyone but maybe that’s what morp tried to say although he should try to be more polite. I think that the book is to be interpreted and to learn from it, in a way that we can all be better persons not to be taken as an historical resource of facts.

    Also am not trying to say which religion is fake or whatever, i think that as long as your beliefs take you through the path of rightness is all OK.

    ps: sorry if my english is not that good

  9. Steve meyers says:

    The problem with the question and the answers are that people are looking at the bible as a piece of literature. If you do that a couple of things happen. The book becomes something that makes no sense. Gid us living, but he kills all the people. God is perfect, but the people he creates are imperfect, so how can someone perfect not create perfect. God us all knowing, but cant find adam and eve until they reveal themselves to him. There are tons if things that make no sense. However thats nit the way to look at the book. You have to belueve what it says without question. Noahs people repopulated the wirld. Fine, I believe that uif thats what the book says. All the tower people started new nations. Hiw did they do this, who cares, the book says they did. The wirld was created in 7 dats. How long was a day? Who cares. It says 7 days. Now the purpise if thw book is to learn about gid and jesus and how to luve and what is the rught thing and its spuritual and all kibds if things to assist ine about luving. I was told as a young boy to take it as it says abd dont question. If you do that abd stop interjecting human thought which ruins the nessage, the book works uts magic.

    • Ang3l says:

      I’m sorry but you was taught very wrong! Peter says” that when someone has questions , be ready with answers”
      Paul speaks about that certain things shouldn’t be done around new comers such as speaking in tongues, so not to overwealm. Even back then they were spoon feeding new comers as they were sensitive as well . Everything in the Bible can be explained and if somebody tells you don’t question, your probably in a cult

    • Retha says:

      A literalist will answer that with: “The Bible never say God made only them. He made others too.”

      A not-so-literal Bible reader will answer with something like: “The Adam and Eve story is a symbolical story to establish that God made humans, and they sinned. Adam and Eve are symbolic for the first humans.”

  10. Jon Williams (@JonKletusKasady) says:

    if you blindly follow and don’t think about it too hard the book will work its magic. the problem with the bible is its outdated and humans have grown and come to an understanding about the universe that trumps the idea of a god. In all honesty i believe Aliens have a stronger foothold in our society than the idea of a god

    • Ang3l says:

      The reason for that is because everything on tv and in the movies has to do with aliens. I believe they’re desensitizing us , there’s a guy you should check out LA Marzulli he speaks about the alien agenda.

  11. Retha says:

    Jon, who here blindly follows the book and do not think about it? It cannot be me, who mathematically work out if repopulating after the flood is possible?
    As for aliens having a stronger foothold in our society – what society are you from? By and large, the overwhelming majority of people on this planet believe in God or a god or gods, and only some in aliens, so the idea of a G/god has a very strong foothold in society. But your society may be an exception.
    (It is interesting that you spell Aliens with a capital letter, but both “god” and “i” without.)

  12. Mark Heartwell says:

    Hi all merry Christmas ..Every where you go,the love of god as in the heavenly father… reveals his creation wow ….every where we go, our love of the father is revealed wow too….
    And so it is, this stirring the pot the creator is brewing.. we go for the ride ,round and round ……if we don’t blend with the cook.. and…. get self centered in our stew we fall down near the bottom closer to the fires…gets pretty hot this preparation of a last supper… if we rise up closer to the stirrer we can see having revelations kind of and are lifted up and eventually consumed …first come first served as they say… its a rapture and when god is full of his children he leaves the rest but forgets to turn off the stove.. wait a second you say… god never forgets “oh my god” isn’t love grand …mind you what goes round comes round.choise ,free will, karma,predestination,what’s next I am sure some one will give me directions as how to be cool.

    • David Jones says:

      Mark, you are an uneducated ignoramus. If there were a God, he would be ashamed at your poor grammar and even poorer analogies.

  13. steven waters says:

    then how do we explain indigenous people. if we assume at the time of Noah people were civilized and had fairly modern ways why would some then go off into far away lands and become natives. not only natives but several different featured peoples who had distinct cave man like features ie flat noses big jaws short foreheads. to look at them you can see similar features to cave men type skulls that have been found. why would they also give up their modern ways and go back to primitive ways which were harder and less productive. some are Asian, some are tall negro, some are small aboriginal, some are American Indian, some are Eskimo, some are south east Asian, some are Chinese or Japanese. where did all theses variations come from with different heights, sizes, skin colors and features.

    another question is that the pyramids were there before the flood yet everything was covered with water. there is no damage of silt or no water marks at all to indicate they were flooded.

    • Retha says:

      You raise good points. I said it is mathematically possible, not that I find it to be the best explanation.

      After all, from my opening paragraph – and points a and c in the part on why the calculations will be inadequate – you would know I do not hold the view that everything in the Bible should be taken by their literal English meaning.

    • Retha says:

      I happen to visit here again due to Nelson Hernandez comments. Steven, another interesting point – I will not judge the truth of it and I know his views are not mainstream – is that geologist Robert M. Schoch believes – and can give reasons why – that the sphinx shows mainly water erosion.

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