A few days ago on my Facebook page, I declared,
“Steven Greydanus has written *the* must-read article on the ‘controversy’ over Darren Aronofsky’s NOAH.”
And I linked to the article itself: “Everybody Chill Out About the Noah Movie.”
Steven, who has a website of his own at DecentFilms.com, and who is currently writing about movies for The National Catholic Register, has been my favorite film reviewer for almost as long as we’ve been friends — several years now. But what he’s written here is far more important than a review of Darren Aronofky’s Noah. It’s an essential piece on “How to Understand the Story of Noah’s Ark.”
And it should help readers prepare themselves for whatever director Darren Aronofosky has in store for us.
Steven’s piece is sure to rub some Christian readers the wrong way, but I wholeheartedly support the way he encourages us to understand the way that Genesis was written, and the way that it was meant to be read.
And I’m thrilled for him that he earned some attention from Aronofsky himself, as well as from the movie’s star, Russell Crowe.
It has been recognized for some time that the early chapters of Genesis, i.e., Genesis 1–11 (the pre-Abrahamic primeval history), represent a literary form quite different from later, historical texts.
In fact, Pope Pius XII in Humani Generis characterizes these chapters as “not conforming to the historical method” as practiced by ancient as well as modern writers, calling them instead “a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people” in “simple and metaphorical language.”
This is not to say that Adam and Eve or Noah and the flood are only metaphors for something that never happened. The pope adds that these early chapters still “pertain to history in a true sense” (to be “further studied and determined by exegetes”). But clearly the accounts of creation, Adam and Eve and Noah and the flood are not historiography in the same sense as, say, the Gospels. That is, they are not a record of human experiences in living memory, based directly on eyewitness testimony, interviews with eyewitnesses, and so forth.
… we should be able to say that it is not beyond the pale of Christian orthodoxy, and defined Catholic teaching in particular, to classify the Flood narrative in Genesis as divinely inspired mythology. Again, this is not to say that there was no flood or no Noah. It is simply to say that the writer of Genesis (again, unlike the Evangelists) did not have the kind of historically verifiable access to the events he was writing about that pertains to the historical method, even in ancient times.
Read the whole thing.
Let’s not waste time bickering about whether or not Aronofsky, imagining his way into a story that comes to him in a rather simple description, is representing “what really happened.” Let’s see what he does with it creatively, and talk about how it can be interpreted.
I admire some of Aronofsky’s films more than others. But I find his imagination, his interests, and his impulses fascinating. (I had the privilege of interviewing him on two different occasions, once in-person and once over the phone, when The Fountain was released. You can read about that here.) I can’t wait to see what he does with the story of the deluge and a very complicated character.