From my exposure to Bible stories as a child, I recall there being debate between scientists and religious folks about the science of many of the stories in Genesis. Creation, of course.
Creation is the big hitter, but it’s just too big of a topic for me to dive into. I personally believe in the big bang and evolution. But in my mind, I can’t completely rule out some sort of higher power (be it God, the universe, multiple gods or whatever) being involved in how we came to be.
The other story that draws together science and the Bile is Noah’s Ark, the story of the great flood. So I’ve done some research on the story as it’s told in the Bible, and the evidence (or lack thereof) of a great flood.
I’m by no means an expert, and I’m not claiming to be. I’ve simply poked around the internet and obviously read the source text of Genesis. So read this for what it’s worth, which is nothing, unless you want to support me by becoming a Patron. Wink, wink.
As a kid, I always assumed the story of Noah’s Ark was metaphorical. It didn’t even dawn on me that others interpreted it as historical fact until college when a friend posted an article on Facebook with a title along the lines of, “Remains of Noah’s Ark Found in <some mountain range that I can’t remember>.”
I thought it was just assumed that a story about two of each animal (and I know now from reading Genesis that it was actually 14 of some animals, 2 of others) being kept on a wooden boat for 150 days was hyperbole. But not everyone sees it that way.
The Great Flood in Many Religions
Many religions and cultures tell stories of a great flood.
The Bible includes the story of Noah, obviously.
A great flood is portrayed in the Epic of Gilgamesh, a poem from ancient Mesopotamia, which had a handful of religious beliefs and long predated Christianity. The flood is used to mark periods in history: pre-flood and post-flood.
Hindu texts also tell the story of a deity warning man of an impending flood and instructing him to build a boat.
Plato, the Greek philosopher, tells the story of Zeus flooding all of Greece because he was angry.
So the story of a flood, purposefully caused by a deity or not, isn’t uncommon in historical texts, literature, and religious texts. To me, the stories with flooding in a particular area (i.e., Greece) rather than the whole world (as presented in the Bible) are more realistic to me.
With the vast number of references to it, it seems as though a major flooding event likely has happened at least once.
In Genesis, the ark, as instructed by God, was built at 450 × 75 × 45 ft.
(I’m curious about the size translations from old-timey measurements to feet…I’ve seen other references to cubits, which was an ancient measure of length).
Noah, his wife, his sons, and his son’s wives were all saved via the ark. As were two of every animal on earth and 14 of all sacred animals. How did they all fit? Arguments for a literal interpretation of the story say there was plenty of room on the ark for everything and everyone. Arguments against literal interpretation, of course, argue the opposite—that it would be impossible to house the amount of people and animals described on the boat described. The answer to this question depends on where you look for your answer.
Possibly the most important question: What happened to all the poop? It’s funny, and I’m kind of joking, but it’s mostly a serious question. 150 days, 8 people, tens of thousands of animals. That’s a lot of poo…disease-ridden poo, most likely.
After basic research, I still have so many questions. I can see why researchers can spend their entire lives studying something that takes up just a few hundred words in the Bible. My project is focused on breadth, not depth, so I still have a lot of remaining questions that I just can’t answer:
- Seriously, though, the poop thing
- Was the flood global? The Bible indicates yes, but back when this story was documented, how much of the earth did the authors really know about? Maybe it was “global” for them but didn’t literally encompass the whole earth.
- What happened when an animal died on board?
- What about animals from different parts of the world? For example, kangaroos and polar bears.
- If we interpret Noah’s Ark literally, then we likely would interpret the 6,000-year earth age literally. How could 4 couples repopulate to our earth in that time with the racial and genetic diversity we currently have?
Again, take this for what it’s worth. I’m just a chick with tangential exposure to religion reading the Bible.
Do I think the whole world flooded, a single family was spared, and two (or 14) of each animal were kept on a boat for 150 days? No. I don’t interpret this story literally. I see it as a story, a metaphor used to teach a lesson (a parable, if you will).
Regardless of whether the story depicted really happened or not, I still struggle with the vengeance the story presents. God killed all humans except 8. He made us in his image, and yet he gets frustrated and just kills 99.9% of us all off? I just have a fundamental problem with that. I thought the positive parts of religion and God were things like forgiveness and love. I know I’ll get to that stuff later in the Bible, but at this point, it’s really easy for me to understand why younger Megan saw the red flags in stories like Noah’s Ark.
I know I haven’t provided any “answers” here. In fact, we might all be walking away from this with more questions than when we started. That’s going to be the theme of this project, I’m afraid. I’m not here to prove anything or find definitive answers. It would be silly of me to set out with that goal. I’m here to open my mind, learn some stuff, and write some stuff. I don’t want people telling me what to believe or think, and I’m sure not going to do that to others. So I’ll continue to provide reflections and references and a few opinions here and there.
For views against the literalism of the story of Noah’s Ark, check out, “The Impossible Voyage of Noah’s Ark” by Robert A. Moore. You can view an archived version here.
For the argument that Noah’s Ark was a historical event, read, “Was There Really a Noah’s Ark & Flood?” by Ken Ham and Tim Lovett. You can view it on Answers in Genesis. Shout out to Blake for the resource!
Whichever camp you land in (I know it’s not black and white, but I need to stop somewhere), I recommend reading through both views. I’m doing this project to broaden my horizons and expose myself to views outside of my own. Try doing the same without bias. It’s a fun challenge.
This post is brought to you by Syntha-6 protein bars. I’m always hesitant to try new protein bars because I don’t like most of them. But these ones are delicious. Picture a Rice Krispy Bar…but chocolate. Yum. I use them any time I need an on-the-go meal.
They’re not low in carbs—quite the opposite, actually—but they’re a great meal replacement option with a balance of protein, fat, and carbs. I can usually go 4-5 hours on one of these, and I tend to need to eat every few hours.