In late May 2023, former head of the Australian Christian Lobby, Martyn Iles announced his new job, working with Ken Ham’s US organisation, Answers in Genesis

As part of its promotion of creationism and literal interpretation of the book of Genesis, the organisation built a life size Noah’s ark. Ken Ham has also previously claimed that dinosaurs were on board the boat. 

Where the ark could be now and how Noah managed to put two of each animal are but two of the fascinating things about the Genesis account, however these only deal with the story on a literal level that misses much of what really makes it fascinating.  

As Eric H Cline observed, if the ark existed, it would likely have no remains now. Being made of wood, it is unlikely to have remains.  

Beyond the petty issues in whether dinosaurs were on board, or where the ark might (not) be found, the Noah’s Ark story brings up important issues in the story’s similarities to another, older story.  
Dating back to the ancient kingdom of Babylon, The Odyssey of Gilgamesh is a myth that has remarkable overlap with the Genesis narrative.  

United Theological College’s Dr Anthony Rees is an Old Testament scholar. He told Insights that it appears that the Noah’s ark account is a repurposing of other material to make certain theological claims.  

“The final version of the story draws on multiple sources, suggesting it is a widespread story,” Dr Rees said. “The similarities to Gilgamesh and other flood myths help confirm this idea.”  
“What appears to be going on in the biblical account is the repurposing of a well-known story to make a couple of other claims: God won’t destroy the earth again, the presence of the rainbow being the sign. It also claims God as the creator of the universe who uses the flood for the purpose of judgement.” 

Two stories? 

Another observation biblical scholars have made about the Noah’s Ark story is that it is not a singular narrative. In other words, the story that features in Genesis appears to be not one, but multiple accounts placed together.  
This kind of placement is not unheard of in the Bible. Staying with Genesis for another example, scholars have long noted that the Bible currently contains two creation accounts (Genesis 1 and 2).  

In the case of Noah’s Ark, scholars have noted that the book appears to contain two distinct depictions of God. One of these uses the divide name for God, ‘elohim. Passages that use this name for God present Him as a deity who is transcendent and who systematically carries out the flood.  
On the other hand, other passages use the Hebrew name YHWH while depicting God as a figure involved in the action. YHWH grieves over human wrongdoing (Genesis 6:6), regrets having made humankind (Genesis 6:7), personally closes the ark as the inundation begins (Genesis 7:16) and takes pleasure in Noah’s sacrifice following the flood (Genesis 8:21). 

As might be expected, the merging of two accounts means that the Noah story contains some internal contradictions when taken as one story. Some of these are how long the flood lasts (“40 days” in Genesis 7:17 versus “150 days” in Genesis 7:24), how many animals board the ark (“two of each” in Genesis 6:19 against “seven pairs of clean” and “one pair of unclean” in Genesis 7:2), and the birds sent to find dry land  (“a raven” in  Genesis 8:7 or “a dove” three times in Genesis 8:8-12).  

As Jeffrey Geoghan argues, the joining together of these two narratives provides a deeper look into the character of God.  

“..[I]t is only in bringing these varying traditions together, these differing perspectives of the divine as both powerful and personal, as both awe-inspiring and intimate, that an ultimately richer and more nuanced understanding of Israel’s God emerges,” he writes. 
“An understanding that has informed the lives and faiths of countless individuals and communities throughout history.” 


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