To the ancient Greeks, he was known as Deucalion, the son of Prometheus. The Hindu call him by the name King Manu as found in the Chronicle of Matsya Purana. The Quran labeled him as “The true messenger of God”. And of course, the Mesopotamians capture a detailed and all but familiar version of him in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Yes, this man is known by many names but the most common and familiar has yet to be said. You most likely know him simply as Noah.
Who was Noah? Did he really build an ark? What about the flood?
If you have spent any time in a Sunday School classroom as a child, you have heard the story of Noah. Brave, crafty, and obedient, his story echos the ideals of trusting God above one’s own cunning and how following the persuasion of the crowd is never a wise substitute for Godly obedience. To give one’s life to a cause, no matter how crazy it sounds, all in the name of the Lord is inspirational at worst, and a life-altering at best. There is not a more noble cause.
But you see, the story of Noah reaches far deeper than we are comfortable exploring. Just as the depths of the waters the ark floated upon hid wonders of creation and crafted new landscapes below, so too did this man’s tale shape our current world; not just on a physical level, but on a philosophical level as well. And if we are honest with ourselves, I’m sure we would all agree that there is a lot more to Noah than the 5 chapters the Bible has allotted him. So let’s set sail across the vast unknown and see what we can trudge up about the legendary man who saved the human race from a watery grave.
This is, Itinerant. Presented by The Reckless Pursuit and I’m Cody Johnston.
According to Genesis, Noah was born to a man by the name of Lamech, the son of Methuselah – the oldest man to ever live. It states that Noah had other brothers and sisters but stops short of sharing any other details about them.
Noah was a man who had favor in the eyes of the Lord. In these days, God was upset with His creation, maybe in part because they were having sex with angels among other not so moral intentions. Just a guess. The sons of the Nephilim, The “Mighty Men” born of old were the offspring of these affairs. The Genesis account stops short just before giving out all the details about the affairs of angel and mankind but to completely understand the story of Noah, we need to dig a little bit deeper into who these creatures were.
In the Genesis Apocrypha, also known as the Tales of the Patriarchs, one of the seven dead sea scrolls, it is mentioned that Noah’s father, Lamech was actually concerned that he was not, in fact, Noah’s father at all. No, he was actually concerned that Noah had been born of the Watchers An alien-like angelic presence similar to that of the Nephilim. According to the scrolls, Lamech confronted his wife, who unlike Genesis, reveals her name as Batentosh. He pleads with her to swear that Noah was, in fact, his son and not that of an angelic being from the heavens or that walks on the earth and after a bit of back and forth, Batentosh finally gathers her emotions and declares “I swear to you by the Great Holy One, by the Ruler of Hea[ven] that this seed is yours, that this pregnancy is from you, that from you is the planting of [this] fruit [and that it is] not from any alien, or from any of the Watchers, or from any heavenly bein[g. Why has the appearance] of your face changed like this upon you? And (why) is it disfigured, and your spirit dejected like this? [ … for I] tell you (this) truthfully”.
Upon hearing the news, Lamech brought this news to his father, Methuselah so that they might visit Lamech’s grandfather, Enoch – a man whom Genesis says “Walked with God”. In case that name sounds familiar, Enoch was the one taken to heaven in a tornado. Yea, I guess there really is no place like home toto. This is where things seem to get a bit weird. You see, the dead sea scrolls are worn and incomplete. From what I can make of it, there seemed to be an exchange between God and the Patriarchs over the child, Noah. My best interpretation is this: God came down as a light and foretold about the corruption of humanity and the importance of the child. I know that’s vague, but there’s not much to work with there truth be told.
Genesis seems to enjoy cutting to the chase. Not much is said about Noah’s life growing up other than he was righteous and blameless in the eyes of God, but the Genesis Apocrypha seems to fill in the gaps at least in part. It is said that Noah swelled within his mother’s womb to do the Holy one’s righteous bidding. Now, I’m not convinced this is a literal telling of the story straight from the horse’s mouth, but to make it clear, this is written in the first person so take it as you will.
Noah conducted himself in righteousness and obedience well into his adulthood and soon took for himself a wife, Amara. It is then said that he took the daughters of his brother as wives for his sons and gave his daughters over to his brother’s sons in accordance with “eternal law” and his family was complete. I can only imagine he had just begun to settle into his nice, complete and comfortable life when the heavens cracked open and he was given a new instruction to undertake a feat that would consume every waking hour of his life and make him the fool of the century in the eyes of those around him. Bit by bit, board by board, Noah and his family crafted a ship, covered in pitch, vast enough to contain enough creatures to restart creation. And at the ripe, young age of 600, the rain began to fall enslaving Noah and his family to their wooden sanctuary.
It is said that to enter into Christ one must be born of water and of the spirit. It seems that even the earth herself is subject to these laws, just in reverse: Once born of God’s commanding spirit, now she was being formed again in the churning waters that sprung forth from her womb.
For forty days and nights, the earth’s relentless deluge consumed all living things. Mankind had been given a hard reset. Once the rain stopped, it took an additional 150 days for the earth to soak back up her tears and allow land to break the surface of the waters once again. Now, a new world had been birthed. One of the mountains, valleys, and climates. And when the ark landed on Ararat, humanity began to grow once more. Just as a seed planted in the earth yields a crop, the ark landed and roots sprung forth for mankind to rule the earth once again.
In the 1912 publication titled “The Origin of Continents”, Alfred Wagner proposed the scientific theory for Pangea – That is, the belief that the entire world was once one large supercontinent. Through the shifting of tectonic plates, the earth, once a thriving singular landmass would be plunged into chaos as the earth began to fold in on itself like a complex version of those paper fans we made in grade school. The resulting shift would send fathoms of water crashing inland in a way that would make a modern disaster film cringe in horror.
Genesis has a bit to say about this as well. Early on in the book, we see references to a perfect sub-tropical climate. It is said that Adam walked with God in the cool of the day. Men and women were adequated to such an environment without extremes and life flourished. But when the flood took place it busted apart the earth like a small child kicking down a tower of blocks. The earth was scattered and whatever was left behind was sooner or later forced to adapt or die.
Luckily, Noah had a promise from God that humanity would indeed flourish once more. We all know the symbolism the rainbow held and soon thereafter man began to work the grounds and life once again sprung out of the soil. We know this in part, due to Noah’s discovery of wine and how grapes under the right circumstances can lead you a bit… well, naked and afraid. Maybe there’s a bit of symbolism to Adam and the fall as Noah lie naked in his drunkenness or maybe I am just looking a bit too deep into it, I don’t know.
But then the story goes blank. We know that Noah’s three sons go on to be divided at the tower of Babel and life on the earth begins it’s spread outward. But the accounts of Noah run dry – A fitting end for a man who’s life is immortalized in the imagery of an all-consuming water I suppose.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh it is said that the Noah-like character, Utnapishtim spent the remainder of his days at the mouth of the rivers: most likely the Tigris and Euphrates. Which would make sense considering the birth of Abraham is known to have taken place in Ur, which was a territory nestled – you guessed it, in Mesopotamia between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. I’d like to think Noah lived happily ever after in his last 350 years of life before he passed away at the age of 950.
Noah was the end of an entire existence and the birth of a brand new one. It was by his obedience that we are here today – or at least, that’s how the story goes. But as I said at the beginning of this story, the tale of Noah isn’t the only version of Noah we see. There are at least 34 other flood narratives I myself was able to find. Each one depicting a flood vast enough to consume a world and a select group willing to preserve their existence on it. So how does that fair for Noah? What makes his story so different?
It’s easy to throw quick answers around. Common Christianize responses go something like “Well because the bible is the word of God!” but truthfully, this is yet another story, albeit quite a beautifully crafted story, passed down from generation to generation picking up influences along the way. The story of Utnapishtim, a commonly believed inspiration for Noah was first recorded on clay tablets as early as the seventh century, BC but many other flood narratives can be traced back, at least in part to the 19th century BC. The story of the flood is almost as old as humanity itself, much before religion had ever been established. Think about it. According to our bible, this was still in a time of men living almost a millennium. A time when angels walked among the earth in bodily form and laid with humans. A time before sacrifice and atonement.
These were primitive times in every aspect of the word. Not to mention the feat it would’ve been to acquire enough animals to repopulate the earth. The sheer number of species alone just doesn’t seem to add up when you think about the size of the ark. Or how just eight people had to tend to literally every animal left alive. Evolution would almost certainly have to be real in some regard to account for the diversity we have today. Then there’s the lack of erosion on many of our mountains, the intact fossil layers, carbon dating contradictions, detailed sediment layers, and many other hard proofs that seem to lean against a global flood.
Of course, just as there are arguments against a global flood, there are also arguments in favor of it. There’s the theory of a centralized ecosystem that removed the need for a gathering of animals from all corners of the globe and then the creation of climates upon the separation of the land after the floodwaters receded. Remember Pangea? And then there’s the idea that the flood wasn’t global at all, but more centralized the “known world” – that is, the only parts of the earth where humanity had yet existed. And then there’s the daunting number of accounts throughout civilizations spanning the entire globe that detail a similar story. How could so many people make up the same story? Sure, they put their own spin on it to allow it room to fit into their mythology, but at the heart of it it’s still a story about great waters, a boat, and a human race saved at the efforts of a crazy loon who built that wooden seed waiting to be planted at the return of land. But all of that merely describes a flood, not a man named Noah. Who’s account is correct? What details are true from which stories? Which details are merely influenced by that specific culture? How are we to know our story is, in fact, the correct story after all?
If the Bible is correct and Noah and his family were the last humans left alive, then maybe it’s possible that the story is true. In the forthcoming tale of the tower of Babel when God scattered humans too and fro, it would seem to make sense that other versions of a flood story would, in fact, begin to spring up across the globe. But that still doesn’t account for the stories that predated the telling of Noah or the similarities it holds to those stories. Maybe Noah is the factual story after all or maybe it’s a rehashing of an ancient account passed down through the generations, crafted and molded to fit our narrative and to teach us a valuable lesson.
But in the end, does it really matter? No book I’ve seen has received scorn for telling a story to teach us a nugget of wisdom to carry through life. Jesus himself did this over and over again. Honestly, most of the Bible is in fact stories to help us grow as humans in an effort to be better, wiser, nobler works of creation. So whether Noah was, in fact, a factual account, an influenced tale passed down, or even just a story to inspire us, it doesn’t really change a thing does it? Noah is as real to us as he could ever be, living or not and his willingness, faithfulness, and determination still inspire us to this day. It’s a story of redemption and grace… And it gives up hope: It’s the tip of a mountain busting through the surface of our murky depths to reassure us that though the storms may rage around us there is a promised place we can come to rest upon. A place to put down roots.
Western Shores by Philipp Weigl is licensed under an Attribution License.
I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor by Chris Zabriskie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) Source: http://chriszabriskie.com/honor/ Artist: http://chriszabriskie.com/
Clean Soul – Calming by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) Source: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1300033 Artist: http://incompetech.com/
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