Jack and Deanne visited Iceland in January 2017; here is what Jack saw.

By Jack Hoehn

“Reek” now means a strong or disagreeable smell, but it comes from what the Germans mean by Rauch or smoke, and in the past has meant a fume, vapor, or smoke. So when the ancient Norwegians in their Viking boats coming to the new land they called Iceland saw a bay (vik in Norse) with steam plumes arising from geothermal hot springs about the bay, they called it “smoke-y-bay” or Reyk-ja-vik.

As early as 871 AD they colonized this island and built Viking longhouses of stones and sod in what is now Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik. About five blocks from the SDA Adventkirkjan in downtown Reykjavik the foundations of that ancient Viking house have been carefully excavated and are now a wonderful on-site museum with fascinating explanations of the building outlined before your eyes, now several meters below present-day street levels.

Dating the Ruins

Of course, most archeological ruins don’t come with ready-made tags on them indicating the date of the ruins (unless you find a dated lost coin in the ruins), so it is interesting how they know the date of this structure accurately enough to call the Exhibition “Reykjavik 871 (+/-2).”

The answer is a thin layer of light-colored soil just above the foundations of the sod wall about the house. This distinctive layer is volcanic ash from one of Iceland’s many volcanic eruptions. Each volcano often has different molten magma in it, so the ash from Mount St. Helens, is different from the ash of Krakatoa, or Vesuvius eruptions, and different from that now happening in Hawaii. Gulf stream trade winds carried this ash west from Iceland across Greenland’s ice fields 760 miles (1256 km) away.  Above this distinctive ash layer in cores drilled from Greenland’s ice shield are 1146 annual rings of spring/summer pollens plus or minus 2 years from today, showing how long ago this structure was being made  (2017 – 1146 = AD 871 +/-2)

Radiocarbon dating of ashes in the fire pit of the house show arctic birch wood of a similar age was once burnt there. And historical sagas written in the 12th century[1] confirm a similar date for the Norwegian settlement of Iceland by Vikings unhappy with the politics and a new king consolidating power in Norway.

When written records, radiocarbon dating, and tephrochronology[2] using Greenland’s annual ice layers agree on a single point in history, you have a confirmation of both the date and the relative accuracy of all three methods.

No Granite in Iceland

Iceland is a mid-Atlantic island second only to Britain in size, entirely constructed of volcanic soils. It is on the mid-Atlantic ridge between the continents of North America to the west, and Europe/Asia to the east. Continental drift is moving the Eurasian continent eastward and the North American continent westward, leaving a gap between them that allows molten magma from the center of the earth to rise to the surface as volcanoes here and further south in the Canary Islands, for example. In Iceland this drift can be measured, as cracks or fissures in the country pull apart at a measured rate of nearly an inch every year (2.5 cm). The most recent lava here in Thingevellir has been pulled apart 70 meters, which would suggest that about 2,800 years have passed since that recent volcanic lava flow finished.  But that lava is on top of older flows on top of older flows, and  the Thingevellir valley itself is about 7 Kilometers across which could be  280,000 years.  And the entire Iceland from one coast to the other is about 375 km which leads to millions (16-18 Mya according to Wickipedia and its sources) of years since the island appeared.  (These figures are a correction of my original estimate which had a calculation error corrected by a mathematically astute reader.)



Iceland has had many volcanoes in historical times. I still remember the creation of the new island of Surtsey over 50 years ago[4] off Iceland’s coast. In 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcano[5] put enough ash into the air that it shut down international air traffic for several weeks. Laki volcano in 1783 put enough ash into the air that it cooled down Europe, led to crop failures and starvation that triggered the French Revolution when starving French farmers had neither bread nor cake to eat, while their nobility lived in luxury.

Iceland’s volcanic composition shows at least six different chemical compositions showing multiple different volcanos over time, not just one creation event. Furthermore, when molten lava comes to the surface and cools in ocean water or under glaciers or in contact with air, it solidifies with its metallic components aligned with magnetic polarity of the earth. Recent flows all point to the North Pole, but ancient flows shift from north to south and back again over time, suggesting that the magnetic poles of earth have shifted over ancient ages. Historic lava is over ancient lava, over even older lavas.  None of this could have possibly happened in 24 hours during a literal six-day creation week of 144 hours’ duration.

Creationists who study and understand geology believe God’s third-day command to “Let the dry land appear” has been fulfilled many times in the long geologic history of earth, just not once a few thousand years ago, although there was an age of continental formation before land plants and animals appeared, reflected in God’s third great creation day.

No Dinosaurs in Iceland

Beyond that, there are almost no fossils in Iceland. A Noah’s flood that might be postulated to have buried the abundant fossils found all over the earth from Oregon’s John Day to Alberta’s Badlands, to the Jura Mountains in Europe, to China–appears to have skipped Iceland.

No trace of giant land animals like mammoths, rhinos, saber-toothed anythings, or even little dinosaurs has ever been found. You can find a few leaf prints, pollen grains, and a few insects. So if Noah’s flood covered Iceland, there was nothing there to bury, even though the few plant fossils do suggest it was much warmer before the later long ice ages (remnants of which still cover parts of Iceland and all of Greenland). And if all the fossils in all the world are the result of God’s cleansing the world of wicked dinosaurs and wicked humans, why are they buried everywhere except Iceland?

The answer is that Iceland, although obviously thousands and thousands of years old, has been untouched by a Noah’s flood, with billions of dead animals to be deposited in nooks and crannies as fossils. The same chronological methods we can test to events in 1964, 1783, 871 and back and back and back into prehistory, cannot be fitted into a recent planet-wide Noah’s flood.

Those of us who believe in a historical Noah and a real flood, understand that it was Noah’s world that was covered, not the planet Earth that Noah knew nothing about. We have learned that the biblical stories do not require us to understand the story in ways that are impossible based on the evidence we see in the earth.

We do not give up the Bible; we give up our previous misunderstanding of the Bible.

We accept Noah and his flood destroying his world. We accept that Jesus says when He comes again, it will be like Noah’s flood when all in Noah’s world were surprised by that event. But we also see that it could not have happened as recently as 4,000 years ago, and it is very unlikely that it covered the planet. Noah’s dove flew over “all the face of the earth” and then came back to the ark. The flood was as big as and likely much bigger than a dove could fly over in one day.[6]  But even that sized giant of a 40-day flood cannot reach to Iceland, and it didn’t.

Adventists in Iceland

I went to church recently on a Sabbath in Reykjavik. 10 or so elderly friendly Icelanders were in Sabbath School, joined by two African young women from Malawi and Uganda studying in Iceland on international scholarships, two young people visiting from New Jersey, another Asian family on vacation and our little group from Walla Walla.  It appeared that visitors made up at least half the congregation.  I saw no young Icelanders except the organist. An Adventist school in Iceland was closed quite a few years ago. I have met lovely Icelandic Adventists serving in other countries.

But I was as angry as an Icelandic geyser about to boil over, that narrow-minded theologians counting the jots and tittles of their Biblical languages, restrained by the 19th-century science of Ellen White, and the 16th-century speculations of a Bishop Ussher have dared to elevate impossible-to-believe opinions on geology and debatable “opinions” on Creation as “doctrines” into a creed for Adventism!

“In the beginning” is not a date for creation. God creating “in six days” can be God’s days, which may not be the same as our little days. “There was evening and there was morning” can mean there was a greater controversy period of darkness (“evening”) and God then progressively created, making what was not good enough, better (“morning”), progressive step by progressive step. It doesn’t have to mean that, but it could mean that.

Genesis can be an outline of what God did, not a scientific explanation of how He did it, or when. Your Bible tells you what God did during six of His days (Steps, Stages, Ages, Eras). Science can suggest possible answers to the  “when and how” questions. The Sabbath and its literal week of our days can be a Memorial of creation, without being a chronological copy of creation or the measure of its duration.

Just Asking for a Thaw

I don’t care if some Adventists wish to still believe that Iceland was created on one 24-hour day with the rest of the continents, about 6,000 years ago. I don’t care if some Adventists wish to make up a possible reason why Iceland appears to have been untouched by a supposed planet-wide Noah’s flood just 4,000 years ago.

I just don’t want them to tell me or my children we have to agree with these difficult-to-accept opinions as doctrines or we can’t be Seventh-day Adventists.

If they love Jesus and are Christ-like in character; if they realize that life had to be Intelligently Designed and intentionally created for us; if they understand that our only hope for the future lies in faith in God’s gracious plan for our salvation and resurrection; then I’m okay that 10 elderly Adventists with last-century interpretations can still come together for comfort from the icy winds of an Icelandic winter in an Icelandic Adventkirkja.

But I am as hot as the molten lava under the hot springs of Smokey-Bay, the Blue Lagoon, or brooding volcano Grimsvötn, that those of us who wish to be Adventists and to study geology, tephrochronology, and continental drift; those who see the Bible as introducing truth, not restricting or restraining truth; those who believe Creation is progressive and understandable, not instantaneous and magical, are threatened to be denied entrance and full fellowship into that warm little Church.

There is an estimated shrinking flock of under 500 Adventists in Iceland. If we could become a progressive Advent Movement again, a 21st-century church of today and tomorrow instead of a 19th-century footnote, there should be 10 times that many.

There is so much beautiful about worshiping the Creator on the Sabbath, with freedom to follow all truth wherever it leads, why can’t we open wide our warm church doors again to all interested 21st-century young people and their thoughtful elders? Welcome to all who believe that God is the creator and that the weekly Sabbath is a wonderful memorial of that fact no matter when and how that happened. That could thaw even the coldest glaciers of Iceland and many other places too.


[1] Íslendingabók is an Icelandic History written by a priest named Ari Thorgilsson (Ari, son of Thorgil) early in the 12th century, of which copies exist today from the 17th century.

[2] Tephrochrolology, dating by presence of volcanic ash layers in a sediment.

[3] See https://apl.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=df5f94c0050b4075adfbba54fb13eaeb for source of this picture of Thingvellir in Iceland and much more information on continental drift.

[4] 1963-1967 eruption of Surtsey.

[5] A funny T-shirt sold in Iceland today says, “NOW JUST WHAT PART OF Eyjafjallajökull DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?

Eyjafjallajökull is an active volcano covered by a smallish glacier, the Icelandic name means, “Mountain of the Islands Ice Cap.”

[6] See Jack Hoehn, https://atoday.org/does-noah-s-flood-explain-everything/  (Jack would rewrite the paragraph on a possible DNA bottleneck at the flood today, but his opinion of the size of the flood based on the story in Genesis is still his opinion as the best estimation  of the size of Noah’s world.)


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