There are three keys words in the Old Testament that surround the flood story of Noah. The three words are: kol, erets, and tebel. The word kol can be translated to mean "all." Erets can be translated to mean "earth," "land," "country," or "gound." So, taken together (kol erets) as found in the flood story seems to indicate a global catastropic flood. Kol erets are the two Hebrew words that are used exclusively when the flood story of Noah is told in the book of Genesis.
The catch is kol erets are used elsewhere to describe an area of ground that does not mean the entire earth. For example, In Genesis 2:13 kol erets is used to describe the Gihon river, which clearly does not encompass the entire planet. Both words are also used in conjunction in Genesis 41:57 when describing all of the earth's inhabitants coming to buy grain in Egypt. One again, this is a clear example where kol erets can not apply to the entire earth. If this were to be translated literally to mean all people of the earth, then how did they all get to Egypt from the six inhabited continents?
The New Testament, which was written in Greek also has some examples where the terminology of "all" can not be taken in a literal sense. In Acts 15:21, in making reference to Moses, Luke states that Moses had preached in every city. In Colossians 1:23, Paul comments that the gospel has been proclaimed to every creature under the heaven. Again, the word "every" can not mean every single person on the face of the earth. There are clear examples in both Testaments to confirm that "all" or "whole" are not to be taken in a global view.
Next time we will look at the significance of the Hebrew word tebel and how it relates to the flood of Noah.