Dismantling the Noah Story

Noah's ArkWe’ve explored “Noah” the movie. Now let’s turn to Genesis to see what the Noah story actually says:

Yahweh saw that mankind had become wicked, and he regretted his creation. “It grieved him to his heart.” He resolved to wipe man from the face of the earth, plus all the animals, “for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Noah was the one righteous exception, so God told him to take his family into an ark. God also commanded that he take seven pairs of all clean animals plus one pair of all other animals. After a week to get everything on board, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. Water covered even the highest mountains, drowning everything—animals, birds, and humans.

After 40 days [this is presumably an additional 40 rain-free days, though the text is unclear], Noah sent out a dove to scout for dry land, but it returned. After a week, he tried again, and the dove returned with an olive leaf, showing that some land was dry. He sent out the dove again a week later, and it didn’t return.

Noah stepped out on top of the ark and saw that the land was dry. He left the ark and built an altar and sacrificed one of every clean animal to Yahweh. Yahweh was pleased, and he thought: I will never again destroy life on earth, because man is inherently evil. While the earth exists, I will preserve it.

Another version

Does that sound familiar? See what you think about this version:

Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Noah was righteous, but the earth was corrupt, and man was violent. Elohim decided to flood the earth and kill everything, and he gave Noah instructions for building an ark. It had to be 300 × 50 cubits in area, and 30 cubits tall. It needed three decks, with a door in the side and a roof on top, and it must be covered in pitch.

Noah, his family, and a pair of every living thing would be safe in the ark. They must bring provisions for them and the animals.

When Noah was 600 years old, on the 17th day of the 2nd month [I’ll abbreviate this as 2/17], “the fountains of the great deep burst forth and the windows of the heavens were opened.” Noah, his family, and the chosen animals boarded the ark. Everything else—animals and human—drowned.

The water covered the earth for 150 days, but Elohim hadn’t forgotten Noah. He made a wind blow, and the water receded. The sources of the water closed. On 7/17, the ark rested in the mountains of Ararat. By 10/1, the tops of the mountains were visible.

Noah sent out a raven to see when the land was dry.

By 1/1, the ground was dry [presumably just the nearby land], and by 2/27, the earth was dry. Noah, his family, and the animals left the ark, and Elohim told them to “be fruitful and multiply.”

Contrast the two accounts

Both versions are in Genesis. The first version was from the J source (J because this source refers to God as “Jehovah,” which is another way of saying “Yahweh”). The second version was from the P (“Priestly”) source. They are interleaved to make Genesis chapters 6–8. (I used Richard Friedman’s The Bible with Sources Revealed and Who Wrote the Bible? to identify the two sources.)

Note the differences in our Noah accounts.

  • God has different names: Yahweh in J and Elohim in P.
  • Yahweh acts like a human—he regrets and grieves—while Elohim doesn’t.
  • In the J account, the flood comes from rain. In the P account, water poured in from the two great sources—the fresh water underneath and the salt water in the dome above: “the fountains of the great deep burst forth and the windows of the heavens were opened.” This cosmology comes from the Sumerian creation myth, which we see in Genesis 1, which is also from the P source:

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.”

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. (Gen. 1:6–10)

  • J uses a dove, and P uses a raven.
  • J demands seven pairs of clean animals, but P demands only one pair. This is because only J has a sacrifice at the end, and you can’t sacrifice animals if they’re the only ones of their species.
  • P gives details of the ark’s construction and detailed dates (Noah was 600 years old, plus the precise dating of milestones), while J has none of this.
  • In J, the rain lasts for only 40 days, and the entire ordeal takes less than 100 days. In P, 150 days is mentioned, and Noah’s family is on the ark for over a year.

Note also what is the same. Both stories have an introduction that explains that the world was wicked but Noah was good. In the interleaved story, this appears redundant, but this is an additional clue that they were originally independent stories that needed their introductions.

(I’ve written about the illogic of the Noah flood story here.)

Documentary Hypothesis

The theory explaining many of the duplications and different perspectives jumbled throughout the Pentateuch is called the Documentary Hypothesis. It hypothesizes four different sources, with J and P being two of them. There are other doublets besides the two Noah stories: two creation stories, two Goliath stories, two stories of Abraham lying about his wife Sarah to a king, and so on.

60% of Americans insist that the Noah’s ark story is literally, word-for-word true. What explains the text far better is that it is a composite of several sources of Mesopotamian mythology.

The man who prays is the one who thinks
that god has arranged matters all wrong,
but who also thinks that he can instruct god
how to put them right.
— Christopher Hitchens, Mortality

Photo credit: father tymme

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Jason

    The variations of the flood myth in the Bible are of course just two of many versions from the near east. The other most famous ones come from the epic of Gilgamesh. Forgive me, Bob, if you have discussed this elsewhere. In case others aren’t familiar, I thought I would share this link about a new flood tablet. It is now our oldest physical version of the flood story and probably predates the two versions in the Bible.
    http://www.kvue.com/news/242103481.html

    • Pofarmer

      We have known about older versions of the myth for some time. I think that Robert Ingersoll even talked about them. Doesn’t seem to change the mind of the faithful. Facts are irrelevant. It’s all about Faith.

      • Jason

        Prior to the discovery of the flood text I mentioned, I don’t think we had physical copies of flood myths even close to this old. The standard version of the epic of Gilgamesh goes back to the 7th cent. BCE. While this predates any physical copies of the Noah story, it probably doesn’t predate the earlier versions of what we find in the Bible (esp if there was an oral tradition). Although I do research on the ancient world, I’m not a specialist in near eastern studies and I’m speaking off the top of my head, so if someone knows better, please correct me. My point is that in the past Christians could argue that it was only biased conjecture that the flood stories outside of the Bible go back before 1000BCE. In other words, there was still room for them to say that the Noah story was the original and the others stemmed from it. This discovery of a a flood tablet from closer to 2000 BCE pretty much makes that impossible. There’s not even evidence of the names YHWH and Elohim going back that far.

        • avalpert

          The Epic of Atrahasis – which the flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh was likely based on – has been found in tablets that can be dated to the 17th century bc as can the likely older Sumerian creation/flood story known as Eridu Genesis.

          Christians can argue whatever they want and claim anything is biased conjecture but the notion that the flood story in Genesis isn’t inspired by earlier Mesopotamian works is nothing but wishful fantasy. The smart Christian would instead argue that the existence of those earlier stories proves the truth of the flood – sure they would have to ignore geology, archaeology and biology but at least they could have some basis in history.

        • Pofarmer

          Thanks

    • MNb

      I have given this link before, but this site is so popular these days it wouldn’t surprise me if some folks have missed it:

      http://www.livius.org/fa-fn/flood/flood1.html

  • RichardSRussell

    you can’t sacrifice animals if they’re the only ones of their species.

    Well, maybe you and I wouldn’t do it, but it seems like a pretty minor consideration for an asshole who’s just wiped out 99.99999999999999% of the living creatures on Earth because of a fit of pique at a single species.

    • Pofarmer

      When you put it like that, well, uhm, yeah, uhm.

    • MNb

      “you can’t sacrifice animals if they’re the only ones of their species.”
      Of course you can. If the Bible says so you can. That’s where evolution comes in. Just not Darwinistic Evolution. Evolution is OK, as long it’s not Darwinistic Evolution. Because the Bible.

  • ElderMusician

    I’ve sometimes wondered if the God of the OT wasn’t a bit bipolar. First he kills off all the “bad” people and all the animals, except those on the ark. Then has Noah sacrifice the “good” animal. So, being a bad person gets you exterminated. But being a good animal gets you sacrificed. A real psychopath ….. g

    • avalpert

      Is that any different than a pacifist who eats meat? I think it is clear that the god of the bible treats humans and animals as different categories but that doesn’t seem like it would make the top 100 oddities of his behavior.

  • Pofarmer

    If you want to see otherwise intelligent people “debate” this, take a look at this forum Thread. It’s not too long. Keep in mind a lot of these guys are probably worth 7-8 figures.

    http://talk.newagtalk.com/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=465411&mid=3783539#M3783539

    • wtfwjtd

      You’re a brave one to wade into that morass Pofarmer. What kind of responses did you get?

      • Pofarmer

        Same ole, same ole. I’ll let it die, but the ignorance on display is really quite painful. Apparently, I’ve been led astray by Satan.

        • Kodie

          I’m still reading the first cascade and I have to say, that JR guy is this close.

        • wtfwjtd

          I got about halfway through, and couldn’t take any more. I felt my IQ starting to drop and quit reading as an act of self-preservation.

        • Kodie

          He’s politely questioning an OEC’s liberal interpretation of the length of days to allow for evolution. He’s, like, I get what you’re saying, but it doesn’t match up with what it actually says in the bible. http://talk.newagtalk.com/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=465411&mid=3783980#M3783980

          Farther in, he’s falling for cheap parlor tricks and archaeological evidence for a flood, and hey, smartypants, where do you think water comes from, eh?, and IF the world was a perfect sphere 5000 years ago, water could totally cover the earth!

          I kind of don’t get it – if people believe every word of the bible is true, why even try to prove it with pseudo-science? You know, the “how do you explain this?” “how do you explain that?” There are things he can’t deny and that’s because he doesn’t need to. It makes perfect sense that IF the bible says the earth is this young, AND there was a great flood that covered the entire earth at one point, THAT would explain the drastic change in topography and THAT would prove that the flood must have happened.

          I don’t need to go over the whole thing, I guess, it’s just that when Christians say things that are maybe one or two steps away from making that logical connection, I want them to listen to themselves and then shut up and let it dawn on them.

        • Pofarmer

          I think most of them are too emotionally invested in their belief system to ever let reality sink in. Gary Lyon there, has talked in other threads(he’s Catholic) about living a “sacrificial life”. I hear people say that, and I don’t know how to make heads or tails of what it is supposed to actually mean. These are people who function perfectly fine in day to day society, but are completely delusional, IMHO.

        • wtfwjtd

          I get the feeling from a lot of the religious, they believe because it *has* to be true, regardless of evidence or lack thereof. Like we’ve said here many, many times, they just don’t, or won’t, think these things through. They have this emotional investment, and when challenged on their faith’s veracity the instinct is to double down. It’s truly a sad sight to behold.

        • wtfwjtd

          I know what you mean, why question it if you already know the answer? I guess maybe there is some doubt, but the story is accepted no matter what regardless.

        • Kodie

          I guess I never really thought about it this way, but Creationist science is interpretive. They are sifting through science findings to interpret the clues that lead to support the bible literally. So, here we have the JR guy getting into it with what I assume is an atheist (not pofarmer), and twisting it like, “that sounds an awful lot like my version,” and accusing science of taking Creationism to begin with, and all that Creationist scientists have discovered. As in, we’re finding the same evidence, and instead of matching it or forcing it to match the bible, we’re just denying the bible concurs with science. Like, why are there seashell fossils up in mountains and far from the actual sea? Well, it was underwater at some point in the vast eons of geological history… Aha! So you are saying the earth was flooded but you just can’t admit that the bible totally called it!

        • Pofarmer

          Here’s one that scares me.

          “Dr. Walt Brown is the foremost thinker of our time in regards to the
          earth. He backs it up with predictions based on his theory. Every
          other theory, old earth or young earth falls woefully short of this
          explanation.

          I like to open up google news and look at the science
          stories and ask the question: which earth science theory best explain
          this story. I would be scratching my head a lot if I wasn’t aware of
          the Hydroplate theory.

          Read and enjoy.’

          http://talk.newagtalk.com/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=465411&mid=3788307#M3788307

          These people think they are ENLIGHTENED. I try to talk actual biblical scholarship their from time to time. Ya know, stuff like what the Gospels are, when they were written. Archeology, stuff like that. It normally doesn’t go well. I normally let that stuff go until it just gets so silly I can’t take it any more. Kinda like Jenna that posted here. Not uninformed but willfully misinformed.

        • wtfwjtd

          Trying to engage those people sounds like a lost cause most of the time. I’d say some of these people do a lot of reading, but they only read that which already conforms to their view points and dismiss the rest as unimportant. I’ve also noticed a pattern, when some of them jump over here and post, they generally only will stay with a conversation if they think it’s going their way. When they get backed into a corner, they disappear and sometimes even scrub their posts. That’s their idea of “discussing and defending” their faith with “reason and precision”, I guess.

        • wtfwjtd

          Christianity is definitely the ultimate unfalsifiable hypothesis. No matter what science or archaeology comes up with, it can be picked over and twisted and contorted to fit the Christian’s worldview, and there are plenty who are stubborn enough to do so. And then, in an display of shameless hypocrisy, once the modern world thoroughly disproves their cherished nonsense and moves on, they’ll morph to adopt the consensus view and claim that’s what they believed all along.

        • Pofarmer

          No, no, no. You have it all wrong. If you show them where scripture contradicts itself, or point out different versions of the same story, then you are “twisting” scripture. And the worst think you can do is twist scripture, because Heaven forbid you would make something written in an Archaic language that is no longer spoken or directly interpreted mean something that it might not have originally meant. Or something.

        • wtfwjtd

          Is that what it means to “twist” scripture? Pointing out the contradictions and unethical behavior? Now, why am I not surprised by this?

        • $26708516

          Yes, believers should always stick with, “it’s a miracle, I don’t understand it”. Where is the sense in trying to avoid invoking magical water by inventing a magical alternate Earth and thinking you are getting somewhere? The urge to explain to no purpose isn’t helping them.

  • Greg G.

    IIRC, the P story pretty much eliminates all direct interactions between humans and God, including all sacrifices not performed by priests. That would explain why P only needed a pair of each kind.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Friedman says, “there are no sacrifices in the story until the establishment of the Tabernacle in Ex. 40, so 2 of each animal are sufficient.”

      It’s a pretty sweet gig when God commands that everyone give your tribe/profession money. No wonder priests wrote such a thing.

      • Greg G.

        They also insisted that all the workers get a day off so they can bring them food sacrifices to YHWH. And old or sick animals you can keep. Priests need prime beef and lamb.

        • Pofarmer

          You are such a cynic. What would the original”remember the sabbath and keep it holy, have amounted to?

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, nothing keeps YHWH happy like the smell of burning flesh!

        • Greg G.

          Does that make the smell of burning flesh objectively good?

        • wtfwjtd

          And further is it objectively good whether anyone believes it or not?

        • Ron

          God: Smell that? You smell that?

          Jesus: What?

          God: Burnt offerings, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that.

          [kneels]

          God: I love the smell of burnt offerings in the morning. The smell—you know that seared flesh smell? The whole hill. smells like [sniffing, pondering] … victory.

        • avalpert

          If anything int he world is objectively good it is the smell of good barbecue.

        • Greg G.

          True dat! Dog meat is on the menu in Vietnam, mostly in Catholic or Cambodian Buddhist areas. I walked through the smoke of barbecued dog once. The first thing that went through my mind was how good it smelled and the second thing was “OMG, that’s thit cho!” I felt bad that I thought it smelled good.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          God likes his meat very, very well done. Or maybe he just gets off on depriving you of having any.

        • Kodie
        • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

          Yep, the Catholic Church complained about workers not getting Sundays off after the Industrial Revolution for the same reason, as they couldn’t go to mass and give money at collection time.

        • wtfwjtd

          God needs your money! For some odd reason…

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          He wasn’t paying attention in home ec. class. Budgeting isn’t his strong suit.

        • Kodie

          I came up with an idea it was to finance the mansions, and there’s no gold in heaven, god has to pay his gold guy.

        • wtfwjtd

          But but but,…in heaven, don’t they pave the streets with the stuff?

        • Kodie

          It’s mined on earth, but it’s not free, even for the Big Guy.

        • Greg G.

          Sometimes they accidentally do good things for the wrong reasons.

        • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

          Well, to be fair the Church seems to support at least some basic workers rights and social welfare. Of course, that doesn’t make up for the other stuff.

  • http://pleonast.com/users/closetatheist Mr. Two

    I wasn’t even aware of this until a few months ago. My wife and I were in the car on a 3-hour drive and she was reading it, and noticed the repetition and the contradictions! Hopefully that seed will bear fruit some day.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’m impressed whenever anyone discovers the anomalies without being forewarned. I had to have it pointed out to me before I noticed.

      • wtfwjtd

        Some of us have had the advantage of studying this book for much of our lives–if you call that an advantage. Like Greg said, looking at it theologically is one thing, but when you go back and look at it critically things start clicking, and I’ve started noticing things that are out-of-place and not congruent that I hadn’t seen before. It makes the study now a lot more fun and interesting!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve heard people say that, as a Christian, they’d read the entire Bible a dozen times. But only with a skeptical perspective could they go through it again and have the genocide, slavery, and other craziness be apparent to them.

    • MNb

      Same for me as for BobS. I’m not nearly smart enough to find such contradictions on my own. When I’ve read a piece of modern literature, I like it and find a website commenting on it I’m always struck how much I missed.

    • Greg G.

      When I was a believer, I read the Bible for inspiration, not for comprehension. I was taught to concentrate on what God was saying to me through the Bible instead of what the Bible actually said. Now that I read it for comprehension, I know it better and I see connections all the time and catch contradictions occasionally.

      • Pofarmer

        My wife used to do a similar thing. I think they started her doing it in a group/thing she was in. But she would open up to a random page and read a few passages, and you were supposed to reflect on that and try to see the deeper meaning in it, or something. I can’t think of a worse way to actually understand the bible than that.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m trying to think of parallels to that kind of incantation magic. Does voodoo have anything like this? Or Wicca?

          I don’t know other religions well enough, but you’d think that it’d be easy to parallel this kind of Christian magic with something far less respected to help show that it makes no more sense within Christianity.

        • Pofarmer

          I’m not real well versed on other religions either. The thing is, you hit one thing, and there are 4 more crazy things to deal with.

        • Greg G.

          Theology is a live Whack-a-Mole game. The stakes are 10% of your income until you whack enough moles to escape.

        • wtfwjtd

          It’s kinda like smoking, you’d think it would be easy to quit, but sometimes…

        • Ron

          Quiting smoking is super easy. It’s the staying quit part that requires fortitude.

        • avalpert

          There are practices in Tibetan Buddhism (and possibly other strains) that have them meditate over specific writings or paintings to aid in envisioning a particular deity, their abode or qualities.

          Not sure if it is a perfect parallel but it seems close.

        • Greg G.

          It seems a little different. Christian is more freestyle with revelations that might be original. Buddhist meditation on art is directed at becoming a Buddha.

          The artwork of a person with many hands would be an example. Each hand holds an object or the position which suggest various facets of the mind and they meditate on that one trait or how the combination implies the whole.

          Meditating on the sound of one hand clapping is another example. It’s an exercise at understanding that clapping implies a second hand plus arms plus a body grown from food grown by the sun which is part of the universe.

          But I expect there are other ponderables that might lead to more freestyle meditations.

        • Greg G.

          I have a friend who travels 3000 miles round trip, usually driving, at least once a year to have a Buddha Master tell his fortune. He still must interpret what the master said to fit his own situation.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          My recommendation: fortune cookies. Much less travel required, and you get a nice meal as well.

        • Ron

          …and they have a proven track record.

        • Greg G.

          Don’t forget to put “in bed” at the end of the fortune.

        • wtfwjtd

          Well, there IS a worse way, I think, believe it or not. Until the printing press came along about 500 or so years ago, common rabble just had to go to their local church and have the bible read and explained to them by the clergy, who of course were and are “experts.” In fact, I think that a non-clergy member owning a bible was illegal, and probably punishable by death(like everything else related to religion it seems).
          Doesn’t Catholicism still claim that only the clergy can interpret scripture, or something? I thought one of those guys in the thread you linked to made a reference to this.

        • Pofarmer

          There is kind of Catholic bible study, but I am pretty sure that it is always overseen by the Priest or a Deacon.

  • wtfwjtd

    In taking a closer look at this, it’s amazing what you can figure out. We are told that man is guilty of “wickedness, and the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time”, but this is never really defined. Then in in v 11, we are told that “the earth was corrupt,” whatever that means, and then the real zinger: “it was full of violence”. So, what’s a compassionate god to do? Why , genocide, of course! Take that, you violent people! I’ll kill the lot of you! Men, women, children, babies, pregnant women…ALL of them. What a just and loving creator…

    • Pofarmer

      God loves us so much, sometimes he has to kill us.

      • wtfwjtd

        Yep, I guess God’s a big believer in “you gotta be cruel to be kind”…

    • Kodie

      It makes sense to me, in the way that you’d exterminate a pest. EXCEPT, you don’t pick out your favorite cockroach or flea, warn him to save his family, and give him instruction how to survive so they can carry on the populations after.

      Noah is supposed to be, as far as I ever understood it, in relation to the Fall, but inadvertently, it brings up a lot of questions. If he can make people and animals from scratch, why doesn’t he just do that instead of give one man’s family salvation and task them with rescuing mating pairs of animals? If he can flood the earth just like that, he can start over completely. If man is wicked, why does he think Noah’s family can change that in the future generations? Why didn’t he just carbon monoxide the planet and make something else out of it? God is really bad at his job, that’s why. He hasn’t had a good idea since the beginning. All of his solutions to problems he created are really weird for an omnipotent deity, and don’t seem to fix anything.

      • wtfwjtd

        The only thing I can figure is, he must enjoy watching people suffering. Otherwise, like you said, he’d just snap his fingers and make ’em disappear, rather than torturing them first. His solutions seem to cause more problems than they solve. Ah well, the Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways…

      • Pofarmer

        Are you saying that impregnating himself into a young woman and giving birth to himself to make a sacrifice of himself to himself might not be the best way to get the point across that people should be nicer to one another?

        • Kodie

          I think it’s the stupidest thing I ever heard.

          And just to get a little deeper with it, I am not a big fan of people myself. I try to think like god about this:

          1) EVERYONE in the world is wicked – I don’t care if they suffer, so I will make it a painful and global extermination. Eh, but this one guy, he’s ok. And I kind of like animals. Not enough to care that they drown, but just enough to save some for repopulating.

          2) It’s super-important that I stick with this “people” idea. Having determined that every single one of them is a total waste of my time and energy, except one guy, it’s really super-important to keep trying until I get it right.

          3) Why goddammit won’t they just behave! Like I asked! Why are they determined to behave like selfish and opportunistic animals of their own accord instead of mine?

          ::lightbulb::

          4) Builds heaven (a super-exclusive club).

          5) Builds hell (a disposal pit for everybody else).

          6) Travels to earth in the form of a birthed infant.

          7) Grows up, is hip, attracts a crowd. Starts marketing this ‘heaven’ place.

          8) Gets himself killed, tragically, at a young age, thereby avoiding the trap of the former teen idol who gets old and the kids ask “who’s that?”

          9) Fame.

          10) Leaves earth and waits for these unmanageable assholes to sort themselves out.

        • wtfwjtd

          God’s slogan: People–can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em”.

        • avalpert
        • busterggi

          Can always kill some more though.

        • busterggi

          11) Leaves conflicting accounts of how he wants those assholes to behave then wonders why they don’t know what is right.

        • Kodie

          I started to think he left it that way on purpose. “Look at all those shitty people who are certain they’re getting into heaven! Ha ha ha!” And that there is one right way, but he lets people fix on the wrong guesses. Earth is like his own private airing of Candid Camera.

        • busterggi

          OMGless! The AntiChrist is his Durwood Kirby!

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        In God’s world, he’s in middle school, and our universe is a class project. Unfortunately, he’s an apathetic student.

        Maybe D+/C– work?

        • Jim Jones

          > In God’s world, he’s in middle school

          … He’s Bart Simpson, always behind his younger sister!

        • busterggi

          I hates creationist science projects!

      • busterggi

        “you don’t pick out your favorite cockroach”

        e. e. cummings did.

  • MNb

    “Now let’s turn to Genesis to see what the Noah story actually says”
    That takes considerably less time than watching the movie.

    • wtfwjtd

      Yes, but the movie’s got the fundies so worked up, I may have to go see what the fuss is about!

  • rg57

    “God has different names”

    Sure. But are they THESE names? God calls himself “Jealous” (Exodus 34:14)

    Christians assume that Jehovah and Elohim (aka Yahweh and El) are the same, in the Noah story. I suspect Mormons take the text at face value, with Jehovah and Elohim as two different things. I think they say Jehovah is Jesus, and Elohim is Heavenly Father (God).

    • busterggi

      Actually no, Mormons teach that Yahweh is Jehovah is Elohim and Jesus is the archangel Michael, though I can’t see where they cribbed that from.

  • Nemo

    Speaking of which, Bob, do you think you might do a review of Ray Comfort’s Noah movie? I’m watching it now, and many of his arguments are so bad that I feel that I could answer most of them. Still, thousands of people are going to watch this movie and use the arguments, so dismantling it now will save some headaches later on.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I noted Ray’s Top Ten Signs of the End. I haven’t read the cited verses thoroughly yet, but I was thinking of rebutting them. Thanks for the suggestion.

      Ray did another movie, this one against abortion. I critiqued that one here. It also had his familiar “So, by your own admission, you’re a lying, stealing, blasphemer. What do you think God should do to you on Judgment Day?” theme.

      • busterggi

        Mr. Comfort is a lying, stealing blasphemer by his own admission. Why should I trust anything he says, even about bananas?

  • Pofarmer

    Religion poisons everything.

  • Roger Hull

    The real lesson of the Noah story is that if God destroyed everyone but you and me because we were righteous, it wouldn’t take long for things to end up the way they were before the destruction. When we think we are better than “those ________” (fill in the blank) and we get rid of them, it wouldn’t make a difference in the long run.

    • Kodie

      That’s an excellent point. People seem to know that it’s not possible to pass values genetically and they have to be taught and exemplified. These people isolate themselves and want to change their environment to only include people they agree with or have control over, and then everything will be great forever. The problem is they have no idea where thoughts come from. If they think it and it is good, it must have come from god. If we think it, and it is bad, it is because we’re all sinners, but must be strictly taught to fight against bad thoughts and urges (that disagree with or question doctrine).

      We “inherited” this unfortunate ability from Adam, a story about how people were made to be and how their purity of thought was destroyed by eating a particular fruit. This makes us easily distracted by demons’ thoughts, i.e. a focus on the negatives of god’s character. They believe they are chosen and called upon to live amongst us and try to change us so they can better cope. They know they have to change people from the outside in – god can’t implant their thoughts with praise for him, they have to be approached by people and programmed, generation after generation. If we can’t control over them, they will just keep coming, and crowding out the good godly people. And once a Christian, always a Christian. They don’t allow that their ideas can wear off (only that we’re not born with them), and be questioned by the person who has them. That’s the sin reappearing, they weren’t thoroughly programmed to ward it off.

      So you take a good man like Noah, and I don’t know about his family. Are they good because Noah is good, or are they good because Noah must have taught them to be good, or are they just Noah’s family, and Noah is good and doesn’t deserve to lose his family? Seems like a precarious arrangement. The maintenance of Christianity takes a lot of monitoring and programming effort from all the Christian people and none from god. God only “opens them up” to it, if he feels like it, i.e., humans also inherited an ability to be easily manipulated and persuaded, to have an ego that can be appealed to, and to want comforting answers to life’s difficult realities. That’s how god “opens them up”.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        In the movie, Noah is good because he’s from the line of Shem (Adam’s third son) rather than Cain (son #1). So it’s a racial thing.

        Of course, that makes one wonder why his wife is good, since she presumably came from those dang Cain-ites.

  • ChRiSt ThE OtHeR WhiTe MeAt

    Here is a link to a excellent comprehensive article labeled the impossible voyage of Noah’s Ark… http://ncse.com/cej/4/1/impossible-voyage-noahs-ark#Building the Ark… Critical Thinking is non existent among the followers of the world’s religions… and it is declining exponentially… Now you have the religious wing nuts in politics and funding political campaigns… so it is inevitable that this trend will continue and America will soon become similar to Iran if the christians have things their way…

  • SmilingAtheist

    I know all about the Ark…. It was a ‘fairy tale’ my parents told me about 65 years ago,

    • Sophia Sadek

      It is good that you put “fairy tale” in quotes. After all, there are no fairies in the fable of the Flood.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        True, but there are giant rock monsters!

        (Oh no–wait. I’m thinking about the movie.)

  • Sophia Sadek

    The Flood story appears in the work of Berossus, the Babylonian, and in the Epic of Gilgamesh. It does not surprise me that the Jewish version is a conflation of distinct versions. Jewish culture has its roots in the Mesopotamian milieu that spawned the original fable.

    Assyrian literature that appears to date back to the time of the Assyrian conquest contains allusions to the same story. The Assyrians had the capacity to interpret the story allegorically. A literal reading of the story indicates the lack of allegorical insight. It demonstrates what one might consider a manifestation of ignorance. Fables are more than simply fantastic tales, they are encrypted messages for those initiated into the basics of literary interpretation.

  • Walter Mattfeld

    While for over 100 years Liberal PhD scholars have proposed Noah’s Flood is a recast of the Flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh and Atrakhasis Epic, not so well known is that Greek Flood Myths have been also preserved in Genesis’ account. How so?
    Some scholars have determined that Noah’s son Japheth (Ge 9.18) is probably a recasting of the Greek mythical Titan called Iapetos (Japethus) associated with the Greek version of the Flood of Deucalion, set in Greece. However, the Flood hero who builds the boat, Deucalion (the equivalent of Noah), is the grandson of Iapetos, not the father of Japethus. The Greek poet Pindar (6th century BC) mentions the descendants of Iapetos who survive the Deucalion Flood, to repopulate the earth. Apparently the Jews assumed the Deucalion flood was but a version of their flood source (Gilgamesh and Atrakhasis) and admitted Iapetos as Japheth. When was Genesis written? Most likely in the Babylonian Exile, circa 562-560 BC. How so? Genesis-2 Kings is seen as a history of the world, starting with Eden and ending with the Babylonian Exile, the last datable comment being a mention of the Babylonian king Evil-Merodach (2 Kings 25:27), Babylonian Amel-Marduk, who reigned 562-560 BC when he was assassinated according to Babylonian records. Greek pottery exist in Judah circa the 8th-6th centuries BC, and perhaps via Jewish exposure to Greek merchants, they learned of Iapetos and Duecalion’s flood, shortly before they went into exile in Babylon. Google Mattfeld, Japheth.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      Thanks for the information about the Greek flood epic. I’d heard that on the Bible Geek podcast but this is helpful.

      When was Genesis written? Most likely in the Babylonian Exile, circa 562-560 BC.

      You’re familiar with the documentary hypothesis? It argues for four sources, the oldest going back to about 900 BCE. Your date sounds more like the date of editing of the version that we have.

      I explore the two sources in the Noah story here.

      • Walter Mattfeld

        Have you read the different Mesopotamian accounts of why the flood (Gilgamesh and Atrakhasis), and the Mesopotamian morals drawn? The Hebrew account point for point disputes and repudiates the Mesopotamian versions. The gods made man to be an agricultural slave to toil in their city-gardens of Edin to alleviate themselves of such toil. Man’s noise, objecting to the backbreaking toil in Edin’s gardens, disturbs the gods’ rest by day and sleep by night. To end the noise a flood is resorted to. At the end of a 600 year cycle the gods send the flood, recast as Noah’s being 600 years old when it arrives. The principal instigator of the flood, the god Enlil/Ellil of Nippur is castigated by Inanna/Ishtar the goddess of Uruk and Enki/Ea the god of Eridu for committing an evil deed, attempting to wipe out all of mankind. They argue that Enlil’s punishment was unfair, and they implore him never again to send a flood to destroy man. Enlil grudgingly relents, and agrees he has over-reacted and will not do so again. So the god who instigated the flood was found guilty of resorting to a extreme punishment not warranted by the crime, man’s noise disturbing the gods’ rest. In the bible (Exodus 31.15), men who dare violate god’s rest day are to be killed, just like the Mesopotamian account.
        God rest day is a seventh day of creation, in the Mesopotamian account of man’s creation (Atrakhasis), all the gods rest on a seventh day too, the seventh day of the destruction of the earth by their flood, to obtain rest from man’s noise. So Atrakhasis explains (1) man’s creation to give the gods rest from physical toil in their gardens of edin, growing food to eat, and (2) the gods’ wanting in addition from a rest from physical toil, a rest from man’s noise so they can rest by dat and sleep by night. In other words Yahweh’s seventh day of rest or Sabbath/Shabbat is a recast of the gods’ rest on the seventh day of the Atrakhasis flood. Google Mattfeld Sabbath Origins for details.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          I summarized some of the precedent myths here and here.

          One point I didn’t pick up on was that the gods’ rest (and keeping the people quiet) was an issue both for Absu/Ellil and for Yahweh. Interesting parallel.

  • Walter Mattfeld

    I am familiar with the Documentary theory of four sources for Genesis but after having read scholarly criticisms of that theory, I opted for one author, in the Exile, putting together Genesis-2 Kings, as it made more sense. He certainly used earlier sources, but putting a date on them is at best dubious. See my website http://www.bibleorigins.net for more info. I began my bible research as a devout believer (1970) and ended up an atheist (1990) when I realized archaeology and bible criticism didn’t support the bible. My website (2000-2014) is devoted to exposing the bible as a pious fraud. I also have You Tube videos on the same subject under my name Walter R. Mattfeld.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      The documentary hypothesis resolves so many questions that, to me, it makes a lot of sense. Can you summarize your objections to it? Feel free to add a URL to a page at your site if that would help.

      • Walter Mattfeld

        The following urls

  • Walter Mattfeld

    The following urls explain why I do _not_ embrace the Documentary Hypothesis, for further info click on the urls embedded as links to further articles.

    http://www.bibleorigins.net/PrimaryHistory562BCE.html

    http://www.bibleorigins.net/oneauthorprimaryhistory.html


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