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Noah's Ark

By Richard Gunther


  When I first read the story of Noah’s Ark I was a child, and the account seemed peculiarly archaic. I think I was ambivalent about it – the story might be true and it might not. The reason for my ambivalence was the fact that it seemed totally irrelevant to my Christian life. After all, an event which may or may not have happened thousands of years ago should have very little bearing on my life in the present? Other momentous things had happened in the past which had equally little to do with me – the American war of Independence, the sinking of the Titanic, the first atomic bomb, and so on. All very interesting to some but quite irrelevant to me.


   Over the years I came across the story of the Ark in various books and on television shows. It dawned on me eventually that there was a great divide, between those who believed the story to be true history, and those who believed it to be myth, or allegory. And because there is such a wide gap between myth and truth it must therefore be important which side you take, because both sides are like roads which lead to quite different points.


   The mythical or allegorical view leads us away from the Bible and into the mass of ancient folklore, myths, legends, sagas and so on which abound throughout the world. He more mythical the Ark story is assumed to be, the less historical it must be, and once this road is taken, it tends to draw all sorts of things along with it – like a traveller who links arms with his companions. As the Ark recedes down the road, the story of Abraham, and Babel, and Creation are all dragged along with it, until the bulk of Genesis is far away and out of reach of all historians.


   On the other hand, the historical approach leads into the Bible and arrives, eventually, at the Gates of Heaven. It may be, therefore, a moral decision which motivates the followers of the myth, since no sinner wants to be taken down the road to the home of God. However, if one accepts the Ark as true history, one has to make a number of hypotheses:


   If the Ark was true history, we should find evidence for:

·        a global flood in the geology of the planet,

·        certain evidences in the animal and plant kingdoms

·        a consistency throughout the Bible whenever the Flood is mentioned

·        historical evidence in the form of  parallel stories


   Other writers have done a very thorough job of dealing with these points so I will not do more than summarise some of the main points.


   If, on the other hand, the Ark was a myth, there is no way we can examine the story, except through psychology or perhaps simply by comparing the myths, and the result will be a foregone conclusion. The Ark was not historical therefore it will never be established as history because we have already assumed that it is not history.


   Looking at the hypothesis, we do in fact find evidence which supports these four points.

·        We find the geology of the planet to be perfectly consistent with a global flood. The sedimentary rock which covers the bulk of the Earth’s land surface was formed by water action.


   But more than that, sedimentary rock commonly contains fossils – the remains of plants and animals which were buried quickly, and sealed from decomposition by sediments layered over the top. There are billions of fossils in the sedimentary rocks of the world, and also huge deposits of ‘fossil fuels’ which comprise mainly coal and oil. These huge deposits were formed by the rapid burial of mainly plant material – something which a global flood could do with ease.

   River-mouth shingle and silt fans are quite small, considering the supposed age of the Earth. They should be much larger, unless of course they began to form about 4300 years ago – at about the time of the Flood.


·        Certain evidence in the plant and animal kingdoms are arrived at mainly my deduction. The fact that there are no living trees on the planet older than 4300 years indicates that trees began to populate the Earth from about that time – the time of the end of the Flood.


   There are many more evidences like this. (See my ‘How Young is the Earth?’ and ‘Truth’)


·        Biblical consistency is easy to find. Jesus and Peter both understood the Flood to be literal and historical and there are no passages in Scripture which even remotely suggest that the Ark was not a literal ship.


·         historical evidence in the form of  parallel stories. There are many stories, from nations all over the world, which confirm the Bible story. The Babylonians, for example, have a story about a flood, but the Ark in their story is a cube, which is hardly sea-worthy. The very fact that other nations have so many absurd and obviously mythical stories indicates that there may be something true in the Bible account.


   Other accounts include those of Persia, India, Burma, Indonesia, Sarawak, New Guinea, Tahiti, Hawaii, China, Japan, Siberia, Australian aborigines, New Zealand Maori, Alaskan Eskimos, North American Indians, South America, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, Congo, South Africa, Greece, Lithuania, Finland, Lapland, Wales and Ireland.


   This illustrates the difference between myth and history. The Babylonian and other stories are ornamented versions, passed from person to person and then woven into the superstitions of the time, whereas the Bible story was written down as real history. The dimensions of the Ark testify to this because they are eminently reasonable, considering the purpose of the Ark. The Babylonian ship is not seaworthy, and the story is rather pointless, compared to the Bible story.


   The Ark itself, if we follow the Bible, was very large. It was about 322 feet long by 51 feet high and 32 feet wide. If we make a fair estimate of the numbers of different species of mammal, reptile and bird before the Flood and then decide on an average size, we come to that of a sheep. In which case the Ark could have held 125,280 sheep, which is more than three times the size required for the job. (‘The Genesis Flood’ by J Whitcomb and H. Morris, estimates that the number of animals in the Ark would have been about 35,200)


   I was in a Christian book shop one day when a children’s Bible stories book caught my eye. The cover was beautifully painted, and it depicted a small, tugboat Ark, with a number of cute little animals standing on the deck. Noah was there too, looking suitably magnanimous. It then occurred to me that perhaps this sort of illustration is one of the reasons why Christians and sceptics alike do not believe the Bible story. If, as they assume, the Ark was very small, then it must have been impossible to get all the animals on to it. Well of course that’s true, if the assumption is correct, but it is a groundless assumption. Any amount of things can be conjured up if we start with wrong assumptions.


    But if the Ark were to be built today, and Christians could climb the broad, massive gangplank and explore the vast caverns, and survey the thousands of pens set into the different levels, and walk the length of its deck, they would be struck by its enormous dimensions. It was, after all, longer than a football field, and higher than a three story building. If the real Ark, as described in the Bible, was presented, then perhaps a few more people would believe in it, and who better to tell the truth than the Church? We can hardly expect the world to promote the Bible!


   As I look back over the path I have travelled in regard to the Ark, I can see now that at every step of the way God met me with good, solid evidences for the story.


   Was it a local flood?

   Why should Noah build such a colossal boat when all he needed to do was walk a few miles to higher ground.

   We know that it was a global flood because we find the remains of plants and animals in the fossil record, all jumbled together, and these remains represent many different geographically separated environments. For example, in many caves of America and Europe we find wolverine and grizzly bear, tapirs, antelope, beaver and musk rat. (The Cumberland Bone Cave, Maryland, USA)


   How did Noah round up all the animals?

   The Bible says God brought them to him. Noah did not need to find or catch a single creature.


   How did the dinosaurs fit on to the Ark?

   It is quite reasonable to suppose that very young dinosaurs were brought on board. Besides, most dinosaurs were very small anyway, so even full grown specimens of most of them could have been shipped. Only the very largest would have been rather too large so infants would have  been sufficient.


   How did Noah feed all the animals?

   We are not told all the details, but perhaps there were a few miracles. Perhaps some animals hibernated for the year on board. Perhaps God sustained many with a small amount – this sort of thing has happened in other times in the Bible (1Kings 19:8)


   How did the animals get from the Ark to remote parts of the world?

   By travelling along land-bridges, or hitching a ride on other things, as animals and plants still do today. For example White Island was quickly populated by sea and air-borne migrants. Also, because of degeneration in the genes, many plants and animals lost information after they arrived – for example the kiwi may have flown to New Zealand and then lost the use of its wings. There is plenty of evidence to show that genetic information can be lost, but no evidence that it can be increased.




   Two things I have learned in regard to the Ark: I can accept the Bible account by faith, and not have any need for evidence to support it. If God tells me that there was a man called Noah who lived at a certain time and escaped a global flood by means of a huge ship, that is all I need to know. I have learned to trust God’s Word, regardless of my reason. But the other thing I have learned is that there is a wealth of corroborative evidence which can be called in to support the Bible story.  And this is what we would expect, if something so large and devastating should have happened. The story has been passed down by other nations, descendants of Noah’s family, in a garbled form. The geology of the Earth testifies to a Flood. And the rest of the Bible confirms and supports the story, referring to it as a warning of a final judgment to come, in which God will use fire, not water, to cleanse the world of sin.


   And just as the people of Noah’s day had at least 120 years to repent, this world has had about 2000 years since Jesus came, to repent. The door of the Ark remained open to the people of Noah’s day, and any who entered into that Ark would have been saved from destruction, and today the door of opportunity remains open to all the world, to come to Jesus and trust in him alone for salvation.


   After seven days the door of the Ark shut. God shut Noah in and spared him with his family. Today the door is on the point of shutting. God calls to the world to come to His Son and be saved.


   Will you heed that call?

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