Sunday, March 05, 2006

Noah’s Ark: Fact Or Fiction

People want to believe that Noah’s ark and the flood happened. However, two programs shown on TLC and produced by the Discovery Channel and BBC show that the Biblical account of the ark and the flood could not have happened.

The Mysteries Of Noah And The Flood

In June 1949, the CIA flew over Mt. Ararat during missions. They took photographs of the mountain and mentioned an interest of a rectangular anomaly. It was kept secret until 1995 when it was declassified.

There have been several claims of discovery of an ark in 275 BC by Berossus and by Marco Polo in 13th century. People are looking for the holy grail, the holy cross and they want something tangible to have. A German professor, Dr. Friedrich Parrot, claimed that monks from a monastery at the base of Mt. Ararat showed him wood, manuscripts and artifacts from the ark. In 1955, Fernand Navarra found a 5 foot cut ancient wood in a fault of the ice on the mountain. But, the wood was carbon dated to 4 or 5 century AD and was found 1000 feet below the anomaly. Astronaut James Irwin was so convinced that God showed him a rock on the moon that he went on expeditions to find the ark.

Upon getting five photographs, experts concluded that it was hard to tell what the anomaly is because the photos were of poor quality. A satellite took photos of Mt. Ararat in October 1999 and August and September 2000. Experts say it could be a shadow, rock or a man-made feature but third is option is highly unlikely, Only rocks or wood would be in the glacier. It is unlikely that something would be against the ridge and that it should be further down the mountain due to glacier movement.

In the 19th century, archaeologists found tablets in what is now Iraq describing a massive flood. In 1853, they discovered Babylonian tablets that were written around 1700 BC George Smith, assistant of the British Museum, translated the tablets that told the Epic of Gilgamesh. A Sumerian and Atrahasis versions were also discovered among the tablets and both were older than the Biblical account. Although they are flood stories in many cultures, rare in Africa, there are similarities among the four that are found in what was Mesopotamia. They have Noah figure, animals, boat resting a mountain and birds being sent out.

Sir Leonard Woolley dug near Ur and found a thick layer of sterile soil that could only be explained by water deposits. He and his wife theorized that Noah’s flood happened there. He informed the Times of London and sold boxes of sand and silt to finance future excavations. However, there are similar layers that can be found elsewhere to show a worldwide flood.

In 1997, scientists discovered that the Mediterranean Sea had risen 7500 years ago causing the breach of the strait to the Black Sea and flooded the area around the Black Sea to rise. It rose 6 inches per day and, to locals, would have seen it as an act of God. The fresh water turned salty and forced residents to leave the area going to Europe, Asia or Middle East and taking the story with them. Scientists found former beach and coastlines in the Black Sea that suggest a massive flood happened.

Scholars believe the stories may be the source of Noah and that the writers were making a theological point. They say that a flood that covered the world means it happened in only their world. To date, there are no conclusive proof that an ark exists on Mt. Ararat nor a worldwide flood.

Noah’s Ark: The True Story

Noah’s ark story was set in the Middle East. The ark is described as big as a super tanker and nearly as big as Titanic and made out of wood. But even 19th century boats could not have a wood frame without a steel one. According to ancient boat expert, Tom Vosmer, the ark would leak at its hull and sank. With 30 million species currently listed, it would have taken Noah 50 pairs per second or 30 years to load the ark. Scholars believe that Genesis refers to only animals in the area, 7 pairs of clean animals of 10 species (140), one pair of unclean of at least 30 species (60) and 7 pairs of clean birds. This is a total of 260 animals.

There is no evidence of a worldwide flood that should have left uniform marine sediments across the world. There would need to be five times the volume of water as rain to cover the Himalayas. Deep springs and geysers are ruled out because it would change the atmosphere making it hard to breathe. Comets could not be the source since the temperature would rise to 12000 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than the surface of the sun.

In the 1950s, a French expedition found a piece of wood 12,000 feet on Mt. Ararat in a glacier but it was dated to 8 century AD. The photos of the anomaly from the CIA were poor quality and satellite photos show retreating and advancing ice. This leads Plimer to conclude that the ark should be further down the mountain.

Bailey says that searchers say that there is a boat on Mt. Ararat, yet they cannot found photos and news articles to rationalize it.

According to Biblical scholars, Jewish priests, in 6 century BC, were exiled to Babylon where they found about the Babylonian story of flood. In 1851, Sir Henry Layard found tablets and sent them to the British Museum where George Smith translated them. The tablets were dated to 5000 years ago. Millard say that the Hebrew word for land, country and earth are the same. Woolley’s find of a massive layer shows that a flood happened which hit three towns.

It is concluded that the story happened in Sumeria starting at the city of Shuruppak. This is where writing, the wheel and accounting were invented. Noah was a Sumerian businessman who wore eye makeup, a kilt and had a shaved head. He had a boat or barge that would carry grain, beer and animals and may have been the king of the city. He used the Euphrates river to transport his goods and his boat may have been divided into sections as described in Gilgamesh. A flood could have happened when snow melted from the mountains in July and a freak storm such as a hurricane or tropical storm occurred at the same time. 6000 years ago, the area was warmer and wetter and the Babylonian story suggests a storm occurred. Also, the Babylonian story says the storm lasted seven days and that the river became salty as the barge was swept into the Persian Gulf. It says they looked up the sea and saw nothing for miles. The people and the animals on the boat would drink the beer for their thirst as it was sterile and had nutrients.

In the Babylonian story, the Noah figure was expelled after merchants searched for their payments. Under the law, anyone who did not pay their debts were forced into slavery. It is believed that the Sumerian Noah ended up going to Dilmun, what is now Bahrain, and may be buried in the Sumerian burial mounds.

Scholars believe that these stories were told generation to generation and Jewish priests read about them and added their own spin to it.

These two shows show that the literal interpretation of Noah and the ark is not plausible. There is no conclusive evidence of a boat on Mount Ararat. If we find nothing at the mountain’s anomaly, believers will say the ark is somewhere else on the mountain. There could have not been a worldwide flood but the story of the small boat and a local flood may be true. AiG’s attempt to build an ark to 30% scale may be well-intentioned to prove that Biblical story to be true, but, if they fail, they will cause people to lose their faith.

Interviewed for The Mysteries Of Noah And The Flood

Porcher L. Taylor, Ass. Prof. - University of Richmond
Dr. Michael Harrison, Ass. Prof. of Geography & Environment Studies - University of Richmond
Dr. Farouk El-Baz, Director Center for Remote Sensing - Boston University
Dr. Bruce Zuckerman, Ass Prof. School of Religion - University of Southern California
Dr. David Vanderhooft, Ass. Prof of Hebrew Scripture - Boston College
Dr. Peter Machinist, Prof. Of hebrew and Other Oriental Languages - Harvard Divinty School
Dr. Steve Tinney, Ass. Curator - Unversity of Pennsylvania Museum
Dr. Richard L. Zettler, Ass. Curator Unversity of Pennsylvania Museum

Interviewed for Noah’s Ark: The True Story

Tom Vosmer - Marine Archaeologist
Ian Plimer - Geologist
Lloyd Bailey - Biblical Scholar
Irving Finkel - British Museum
Alan Millard - Biblical Historian

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