What would you do to check the story out further?
Year 7 have an expert geologist visiting the class today.
Which of the questions below would be a good one to ask her?
Did God really talk to Noah?
How many children did Noah have to help him?
Has it ever rained so much that it flooded the world?
How many feet do two tigers have between them?
Watch the video below and find out which one they chose.
The story of Noah’s ark describes a terrifying flood and the way that a good family survived by building a fantastic ship.
Whether or not you accept that everything happened just as the text describes, are there other reasons to take the story seriously?
Take a read of the version below. What messages does the story contain?
According to the religious text:
Not far into Biblical history, God despairs of the people of Earth. They have become so violent and corrupt that God announces He will wipe out the entire population and begin afresh. One man, however, stands out as honest and blameless. God decides that Noah and his family will be saved. He instructs Noah to build an ark, a huge vessel that can hold two of every sort of animal.
It takes a year, but at last the ark is finished. The animals are still climbing aboard as the rains begin to fall. Never before and never again has so much rain fallen from the sky. By the time it stops, the land is flooded and even the mountain tops are covered. It takes months for the flood water to drain away, but at last, Noah removes the covering of the ark and sees that the land is dry.
Noah presents a sacrifice to God and God tells him that from then on, he and his descendants can kill animals to eat meat but must drain the meat of blood. God promises that He will never again destroy the Earth by water. The covenant is marked with a rainbow.
The story of Noah’s ark has been interpreted in many ways by many people. A Wikipedia article explains that until 200 or so years ago, most people saw it as a historical account. But today, in the light of what science has been able to find out, most religious scholars say that the story has been exaggerated – perhaps to make sure we remember it.
This raises the question, what are we meant to remember? Surely the point of the story isn’t just that a clever farmer managed to escape from a flood by loading himself, his family and thousands of animals onto a ship … surely there’s more to it than that?
What does it mean?
Understanding religious texts that were written long ago is no easy task. Sometimes the message seems so obvious to us that we miss it. We forget that back in those days, people needed to be told things that are obvious now.
Look at the story again, and see what answers it gives to these questions:
If you were a child, long ago, and an adult told you this story, what would you learn about how God wants us to behave?
One person is rescued in the story, what does this tell us about how well God knows each of us (in the story)?
How powerful is God in this story, over nature for example?
What does God tell us about how we should behave towards animals in the story? Are we to care for them?
At the end of the story, God says he has decided to change how He deals with people. What change does He say he’s making?
It’s possible to answer these questions whether or not you believe in God. You can say what points the story is making and you can highlight the parts of the story that support your answers. You can do this whether or not you believe each point yourself.
But what about the BIG questions then: Did God really do the things that we read about in the story? Does God exist? Did He talk to a farmer called Noah and help him to escape from a flood? Did God create the flood or did He just know it was coming?
You already know these questions will be trickier. Are they science questions? No, they’re obviously not!
Then how do we decide?
Here’s a tip from the scientist, Ard Louis (you met him a few pages back). He says he starts by finding out as much as he can using science, but after a while, science can’t help.
So then, he tries putting all the ideas he believes so far into a picture in which God exists, to see if everything seems to make sense. After that he tries imagining how everything looks in a world that has no God to see if that makes more sense.
And in Ard’s view (as you probably remember) it all seems to make more sense in the version with God.
But that’s just one person’s view and each of us can decide for ourselves.
Further reading: Article by geologist, Denise Balmer, “The Old Testament – Myth, Legend or Reality?” [downloads in Word]
How did Noah’s Ark float? New species cram aboard, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL0811445020080515
Could Noah’s Ark really hold all the animals that were supposed to be preserved from Flood? http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-c013.html