The story of Noah's Ark has always captured my imagination just like it has millions of children and adults around the world. The idea that a massive flood destroyed all life on the planet save for those who were warned by God of the coming catastrophe sparks the imaginations and faiths of people in all walks of life. It's a story of strength, character and trust that has endured for millennia.The story also transcends many cultures which have their own versions of the flood tale.
The Biblical version describes a world where sin is rampant and morality is at an all-time low.In the midst of this despair and corruption, God or Yahweh calls upon his servant Noah to build a vessel to preserve humanity and the animal kingdom because he is set to unleash a cataclysmic flood on the Earth. He gives Noah instructions on building the vessel and then guides his hand and his sons in the construction of the boat. This ship is being built on arid land amongst a people who spend decades harassing and belittling this faithful man.
The day comes when the ship is finished and the animals begin to arrive in pairs to take their place on this boat.After Noah and his family load them, they too join the animals in the safety of the ship and according to the Bible; God's "hand" shuts them inside sealing the ark. Then it starts to rain.In the Bible, supposedly those who chose not to be saved begin to see the error of their ways, but it is too late.The door is shut and they soon succumb to the rising flood waters leaving Noah and his family alone on the ship, the sole survivors of the human race.
After forty days and nights of rain according to the tale, the Earth remained covered with water for 150 days and then the waters receded over the course of almost another year.Toward the end of this year, Noah released a dove and a raven and the dove returns. He waits a week and then sends out the dove again and when it returns with an olive branch, Noah takes it as a sign the flooding is ending.
At the conclusion of a third week, he dispatches the dove and this time it does not return which Noah interprets as a sign that the time to leave the ark has come.At this point Noah and his family build an altar to give thanks to God for watching over them and to worship Him. As a sign of the this covenant to be faithful, He places a rainbow in the sky as a reminder of His promise not to flood the Earth again.
Scholars and the faithful have debated and argued this story for centuries. Did Noah exist? Did he not exist? Was the flood real or was it a fable or allegory?Does the ark exist?
Several times scientists have pointed to evidence that either proves or disproves the story. Much of the evidence - in my opinion - is intriguing.
The latest entry in the flood mythos was released in an Associated Press story this week when Irving Finkel, the British Museum's assistant keeper of the Middle East revealed in his book "The Ark Before Noah" that an ancient Mesopotamian text that predates the Bible discusses the Great Flood and details for a boat that is round and not the traditional long boat style ship that most of us believed the ark to be.
This idea that the ark may have been a round boat did not surprise Finkel.Such boats have existed since ancient Rome and are called coracles. These lightweight boats are used by fishermen and resemble half of a walnut shell. They are particularly designed to bob and handle swift moving streams and currents which he believes makes for an ideal shape for a boat involved in a large flood such as the ark. He pointed out that such boats don't sink and are portable but the ark obviously would have been much more bulky and large.
The 4,000 year old table was translated by Finkel and describes the flood story giving detailed instructions for building the ark in the form of a coracle. One if the exciting links according to him between Noah and the tablet is the text also describes the instruction to load the animals "two by two" into the vessel.
While this discovery is exciting, Finkel said engineers are going to study these directions to determine if the ship in the tablet's story is seaworthy and could survive the flood, but either way the story provides an incredible insight to the origin of the flood story and Noah.
This is the latest in centuries of research and speculation, but its ramifications could be staggering considering most people believe the ark to be a large more traditionally shaped ship.This vessel which is alleged to have landed on Mount Ararat has been the subject of a search by some of the best explorers in the world over the centuries.There have been satellite photos and television specials and movies about the hunt for the ark so obviously if the boat was constructed based on the directions in this tablet these explorations for a more conventional ark could be considered a wild goose chase.
It will be interesting to see if engineers can construct this boat and if it is seaworthy, but even if it is, it does not necessarily mean it was used as the actual ark. It may have just been a possible design. Who knows and in the end, the shape of the ark is not as important as the message of the story.
Til Next time…