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The antediluvian (or pre-diluvian - both meaning "before the deluge") period is that period in Biblical history between the Creation of the earth and the Deluge. The story takes up chapters 1-6 (excluding the Flood narrative) of Genesis.
The antediluvian period
In Christian theology, the antediluvian period begins with the Creation and ends with the destruction of all life on the earth except those saved with Noah in the Ark 1,656 years later. The elements of the narrative include some of the best-known stories in the bible - the Creation itself, Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel - followed by the genealogies tracing the descendants of Cain and Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve. (These genealogies provide the framework for the biblical chronology, in the form A begat B in his Xth year).
The Bible speaks of this era as being a time of great wickedness. There were Gibborim (giants) in the earth in those days as well as Nephilim; some translations identify the two as one and the same. The Gibborim were unusually powerful; Genesis calls them "heroes of old, men of renown;" (Enoshi Ha Shem). The antediluvian period ended when God sent the Flood to wipe out all life except Noah, his family, and the animals they took with them. Nevertheless, the Nephilim (literally meaning 'fallen ones', from the Hebrew root n-f-l 'to fall') reappear much later in the Biblical narrative, in Numbers 13:31-33 (where the spies sent forth by Moses report that there were Nephilim or "giants" in the Promised Land).
- People lived much longer than people today, typically between 700-950 years, as reported in the genealogies of Genesis;
- The Earth contained many more people than the Earth contained in 1696. Whiston calculated that as many as 500 million humans may have been born in the antediluvian period, based on assumptions about lifespans and fertility rates;
- There were no clouds or rain. Instead, the Earth was watered by mists which rose from the Earth. (Another interpretation is that the Earth was covered completely by a global cloud layer; the upper waters mentioned in the Creation. This is commonly called the Canopy theory).
- "Antediluvian" is sometimes used figuratively to refer to anything of great age and/or outmoded; H. P. Lovecraft was particularly fond of the term, using it frequently in his horror stories.
- Atlantis: The Antediluvian World is a 1882 book by Ignatius L. Donnelly that attempted to establish that all known ancient civilizations were descended from Atlantis. Many theories mentioned in the book are the source of modern-day concepts about Atlantis.
- In Charles Stross's Saturns' Children the religious order who believe in evolution reference the antedeluvian period as the time in which man lived alongside Tyrannosaurs.