Some Old Articles about Noah in Anticipation of the New Movie about Noah

In honor of the nationwide premier of Darren Aronofsky’s new Noah movie, I’m reposting some pieces I’ve written in the past about the subject.

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I’ll actually be providing a review of the movie for ASOR sometime in the next few weeks.

For the time being, allow me a few introductory remarks about some of the reactions we’re beginning to see about the movie.

Religious conservatives always freak out whenever anyone messes with their ancient myths. Well, allow me to clarify: as long as you retell the myth as it is preserved in the Bible, you’re praised as a good and faithful servant and an excellent producer/director/actor.

But should you explain the origins of the myth, or offer your own mythological interpretation of the ancient biblical myth, or vary it in any way, well then you’re a heretic destined for burning flames of hell and the movie is immediately dismissed as the fanciful ravings of a godless atheist.

Remember, a worldwide flood has been disproved time and again. It’s a myth preserved in the Bible, which was based upon much earlier flood myths that were incorporated into the biblical narrative.

So why can’t a modern director offer his own interpretation of the ancient myth? When Baz Luhrmann reinterprets the Descent of Orpheus myth as “Moulin Rouge!“, or the Coen brothers reinterpret Homer’s Odyssey as “O Brother, Where Art Thou?“, everyone cheers (including conservative Christians). But when Darren Aronofsky retells the biblical flood myth as “Noah”, religious conservatives weep and gnash their teeth. And why are biblical myths so sacrosanct?

Because many religious fundamentalists still believe the account of the Flood in the Bible is historical. They believe it really happened, regardless of what science says. The myth is to be believed over science, but only when the myth is preserved in the Bible. If it’s a myth of another religious tradition, then it’s OK to accept science, and even to use science to disprove the myth. But if the myth is in the Bible, science suddenly sucks.

Look, they are myths. And this is modern motion picture art reinterpreting ancient literary art. So relax and enjoy the movie. And trust me, there will be plenty of scholars pointing out the places where the movie deviates from the biblical text and takes artistic liberties. Just please don’t confuse those of us who do this with the religious fundamentalists who criticize the movie because they believe the worldwide flood actually happened.

Cheers.

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7 Responses

  1. Great post, reminds me of a few things in my own life. On any number of topics when I griped about historical or science inaccuracies my wife has chided me ” it’s just a movie! “, or “it’s not a documentary!”. I got the same after remarking I wondered how many of the cast really believed the story.

    Net is I’m amused on several counts, one is this pudgy old atheist is just as guilty of failing to accept ‘artistic liberties’ as any religious conservative, LOL.

    Regards
    j

  2. Robert,
    Of course the story with the Ark was just a myth but why did a biblical scribe go to so much trouble to retell a fairy tale that would become a nursery story? It was also accompanied by the first numerical riddle in the Bible where it said that Shem became a father when he was 100 years old, which was two years after the flood. Again the fairy tale with those incredible ages but why the anomaly with the two years? The scribe (the priest P) went into great calendar detail by stating the exact dates when events occurred and giving the timing in days between events. Therein lies another anomaly for it stated that the flood started on the 17th day of the second month and the waters rose for 150 days until the ark was fifteen cubits above the earth. Yet on the 17th day of the seventh month the ark rested on a mountain. But that was immediately at the end of the 150 days that the waters rose and no time was allowed for the waters to recede so there was a major flaw in the sequence of events for the maiden voyage of the ark that was as big as an iceberg.
    The priest who planned out all those dates and times had a major message to convey than the story of a mythological floating zoo. Would you like to read a possible solution to the numerical puzzle?
    Michael

  3. Michael,

    Of course the authors (and redactors) wrote into the story morals and precedents for laws and yes, numerological hints on occasion. I agree with James Barr on this: the stories may have been completely unhistorical/fictional, but their redactors believed they were real. And of course, they tried to glean additional info from the story (and often times, add details to the story) so that it possesses numerous layers of meaning to the community of believers that revere the text as sacred. No one is questioning that the people believed these stories, and crafted interpretations that in turn shaped their communities. But this does not mean that the stories are historical. Truth and identity and morals can be conveyed in and through material falsehoods and fictions.

    And you’re welcome to try your hand at numerology should you like.

  4. So what about the latest find of the rough diamond with water in it, said to have originated within a vast inner earth transition zone that could hold more water than the oceans? Maybe the Quran was right?http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/mar/12/rough-diamond-water-earth-wet-zone

  5. Robert, I have sent the article as an attachment to your E mail address because it would have been futile to paste it on the web page as it contains numbers and computations. Numerical data tends to topple all over the pages when pasted and then subject is difficult enough to explain without such jigsaw handicaps. Michael

  6. Per the Book of Genesis . . .

    Noah was 500 years old when he fathered his 3 sons (Genesis, ch. 5, verse 32) and was 600 years old when he and his three, 100-year-old sons finished the Ark.

    A 500-year-old man becoming a father ? NO

    A 600-year-old man swinging a hammer ? NO

    . . . but this is what the Bible claims “happened”.

  7. […] his blog posts on his own site: Some Old Articles about Noah in Anticipation of the New Movie about Noah and Review of Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’ by Robert Cargill on ‘Friends of ASOR’ […]

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