Noah Facts #1: Sunday School Was Wrong!

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noah_movie_poster_1With all the talk surrounding the upcoming movie Noah, I thought I would add some positive elements to the conversation with some factoids and research about the Biblical Noah so you can be prepared to watch the movie with wisdom and discernment.

I’ve written a Biblical fantasy series of novels called Chronicles of the Nephilim that begins with Noah Primeval. Yep, you guessed it, a novel about Noah. But Noah actually is a character who lives rather long so he shows up in several of the novels. I’ve researched this topic extensively for the novels, Noah Primeval has been a category bestseller on Amazon for the past three years. I wanted to share some of the fascinating things I’ve discovered. The following is taken from the preface to the novel Noah Primeval.

Buy the novel Noah Primeval, here on Amazon.com in Kindle or paperback. The website www.ChroniclesOfTheNephilim.com has tons of way cool free videos, scholarly articles about Watchers and Nephilim Giants, artwork for the series, as well as a sign-up for updates and special deals.

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It’s Okay to Use Fictional Embellishment when Retelling the Story of Noah. The Point is to Stay True to the Original Meaning.

Since my blog post critiquing the worldview of the early script of Noah went viral, certain misunderstandings have inevitably occurred.

First off, EARTH TO CYNICS: I WAS NOT COMMENTING ON A MOVIE I HAVE NOT SEEN. I WAS CRITIQUING A SCRIPT I HAD READ. Big difference. As I said, oftentimes, the story can change from script to screen. So I was careful to make that distinction. I wish that readers would have been as careful in reading it distinctly. As a scriptwriter I can tell you that the arrogant claim by directors and producers that a script is only a blueprint for a movie and therefore not worthy of treatment as literature, is a half-truth. Which is to say that it is a half-lie. Yes, it is a work in progress. But it is a story embodied in a written form that certainly does express character, theme, message, drama. And all that is WORTHY as a written form of story in and of itself, to appreciate and critique.

Secondly, I have little patience for fundamentalists and hyper-literalists who demand absolute reproduction of every jot and tittle of THEIR INTERPRETATION of Biblical facts or a movie is heresy. They think the application of fantasy elements and creative license is an abomination. They simply don’t know their Bibles that are full of mythopoeic imagery, fantasy, and imaginative embellishments. I write all about that stuff here and here. DO NOT thrown me into that camp. I write about movies all the time whose worldview I may detest, but nonetheless appreciate some truth in them wherever it is found. We live in a messy world, people. No movie is perfect. There is good and bad in every movie. Heck, I even saw some good in The Da Vinci Code. It was uh, it was…. Uh…. good acting…. by that one character who played that hotel clerk… Okay, sometimes the bad does outweigh the good.

I can tell you right now that the trailers I saw for Noah were awesome and visually captured the notion of what the Flood may have been like. After I see the movie, I will be discussing all the good elements, not just what I don’t like. Just like I always do. Of course, I also know that trailers were cut precisely not to offend the Christian audience and to draw them in, so trailers are not the best guide to what a movie actually is all about.

I wrote VERY CLEARLY in that post that the fantasy elements of the script that I read, and for that matter of what we are hearing about now, is not inherently the problem. I will explain below that I have used fantasy and mythopoeic elements in my own novel, Noah Primeval.

What matters is not the use of fantasy in and of itself. What matters is the worldview or sacred story being told. The MEANING of the story.

But even then, too many people are extremist and unthinking in their reactions when they disagree with a post. They just jump to all kinds of ridiculous conclusions. So they think that if you critique a script then you hate it. Same goes for movies. It’s like they never read the good parts you pointed out. This is a mentality in the Christian camp that spends too much time damning everything and pointing out what’s wrong with everything. The only thing worse are those who bless everything and follow the zeitgeist of the era like lemmings right into the sea.

Let me say it again: What matters is not the use of fantasy in and of itself. What matters is the worldview or sacred story being told. The MEANING of the story.

My novel Noah Primeval is the result of Biblical and historical research about Noah’s flood and the ancient Near Eastern (ANE) context of the book of Genesis. While I engage in significant creative license and speculation, all of it is rooted in an affirmation of what I believe is the theological and spiritual intent of the Bible. For those who are leery of such a “novel” approach, let them consider that the traditional Sunday school image of Noah as a little old white-bearded farmer building the ark alone with his sons is itself a speculative cultural bias. The Bible actually says very little about Noah. We don’t know what he did for a living before the Flood or even where he lived. How do we know whether he was just a simple farmer or a tribal warrior? Genesis 9:2 says Noah “began to be a man of the soil” after the Flood, not before it. If the world before the flood was full of wickedness and violence, then would not a righteous man fight such wickedness as Joshua or David would? Noah would not have been that different from Abraham, who farmed, did business and led his family and servants in war against kings.

We know very little about primeval history, but we do learn from archeological evidence that humanity was clearly tribal during the early ages when this story takes place. Yet, nothing is written about Noah’s tribe in the Bible. It would be modern individualistic prejudice to assume that Noah was a loner when everyone in that Biblical context was communal. Noah surely had a tribe.

There is really no agreement as to the actual time and location of the event of the Flood. Some say it was global, some say it was in upper Mesopotamia, some say lower Mesopotamia, some say the Black Sea, some say the earth was so changed by the flood that we would not know where it happened. Since Genesis has some references that seem to match Early Bronze Age Mesopotamian contexts I have gone with that basic interpretation.

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The Bible also says Noah built the ark. Are we to believe that Noah built it all by himself? It doesn’t say. With his sons’ help? It doesn’t say. But that very same book does say earlier that Cain “built a city” (some scholars believe it was Cain’s son Enoch) Are we to assume that he built an entire city by himself? Ridiculous. Cain or Enoch presided as a leader over the building of a city by a group of people, just as Noah probably did with his ark.

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One of the only things Genesis says about Noah’s actual character is that he was “a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). The New Testament clarifies this meaning by noting Noah as an “heir” and “herald” of righteousness by faith (Heb. 11:7; 2Pet. 2:5). The popular interpretation of this notion of “righteousness” is to understand Noah as a virtually sinless man too holy for his time, and always communing with God in perfect obedience. But is this really Biblical? Would Noah have never sinned? Never had an argument with God? Never had to repent? As a matter of fact, the term “righteous” in the Old and New Testaments was not a mere description of a person who did good deeds and avoided bad deeds. Righteousness was a Hebrew legal concept that meant, “right standing before God” as in a court of law. It carried the picture of two positions in a lawsuit, one “not in the right,” and the other, “in the right” or “righteous” before God. It was primarily a relational term. Not only that, but in both Testaments, the righteous man is the man who is said to “live by faith,” not by perfect good deeds (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17). So righteousness does not mean “moral perfection” but “being in the right with God because of faith.”

What’s more, being a man of faith doesn’t mean a life of perfect consistency either. Look at David, the “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), yet he was a murderer and adulterer and more than once avoided obeying God’s will. But that doesn’t stop him from being declared as “doing all God’s will” by the apostle Paul. Or consider Abraham, the father of the Faith, who along with Sarah believed that God would provide them with a son (Heb. 11:8-11). Yet, that biblically honored faith was not perfect, as they both laughed in derision at God’s promise at first (Gen. 17:17; 18:12). Later, Abraham argued with God over his scorched earth policy at Sodom (Gen. 18). Moses was famous for his testy debates with God (Ex. 4; Num. 14:11-24). King David’s Psalms were sometimes complaints to his Maker (Psa. 13; Psa. 69). The very name Israel means “to struggle with God.”

All the heroes in the Hebrews Hall of Faith (Heb. 11) had sinful moments, lapses of obedience and even periods of running from God’s call or struggling with their Creator. It would not be heresy to suggest that Noah may have had his own journey with God that began in fear and ended in faith. In fact, to say otherwise is to present a life inconsistent with the reality of every human being in history. To say one is a righteous person of faith is to say that the completed picture of his life is one of finishing the race set before him, not of having a perfect run without injuries or failures.

Some scholars have even noted that the phrase “blameless in his generation” is an unusual one, reserved for unblemished sacrifices in the temple. This physical purity takes on new meaning when understood in the genetic context of the verses before it that speak of “sons of God” or bene ha elohim leaving their proper abode in heaven and violating the separation of angelic and human flesh (Gen. 6:1-4; Jude 5-7). I will post more on this, later.

Noah Primeval seeks to remain true to the sparse facts presented in Genesis (with admittedly significant embellishments) interwoven with theological images and metaphors come to life. Where I engage in flights of fancy, such as a journey into Sheol, I seek to use figurative imagery from the Bible, such as “a bed of maggots and worms” (Isa. 14:11) and “the appetite of Sheol” (Isa. 5:14) and bring them to life by literalizing them into the flesh-eating living-dead animated by maggots and worms.

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Another player that shows up in the story is Leviathan. While I have provided another appendix explaining the theological motif of Leviathan as a metaphor in the Bible for chaos and disorder, I have embodied the sea dragon in this story for the purpose of incarnating that chaos as well. I have also literalized the Mesopotamian cosmology of a three-tiered universe with a solid vault in the heavens, and a flat disc earth supported on the pillars of the underworld, the realm of the dead. This appears to be the model assumed by the Biblical writers in many locations (Phil. 2:10; Job 22:14; 37:18; Psa. 104:5; 148:4; Isa. 40:22), so I thought it would be fascinating to tell that story within that worldview unknown to most modern westerners. The purpose of the Bible is not to support scientific theories or models of the universe, but to tell the story of God through ancient writers. Those writers were people of their times just as we are.

I have also woven together Sumerian and other Mesopotamian mythology in with the Biblical story, but with this caveat: Like C.S. Lewis, I believe the primary purpose of mythology is to embody the worldview and values of a culture. But all myths carry slivers of the truth and reflect some distorted vision of what really happened. Sumer’s Noah was Ziusudra, Babylon’s Noah was Utnapishtim, and Akkad’s was Atrahasis. The Bible’s Noah is my standard. So my goal was to incorporate real examples of ANE history and myth in subjection to that standard in such a way that we see their “true origin.” Thus my speculation that the gods of the ancient world may have been real beings (namely fallen “sons of God”) with supernatural powers. The Bible itself makes this suggestion in several places (Deut. 32:17; Psa. 106:34), and it also talks of the sons of God as “gods” or supernatural beings from God’s divine council (Psa. 82:1; 58:1; Ezek. 28:2).

In short, I am not writing Scripture. I am simply engaging in a time-honored tradition of the ancient Hebrew culture: I am retelling a biblical story in a new way to underscore the original theological truths within it. The biblical theology that this story is founded upon is provided in several appendices at the back of the book for those who are interested in going deeper.

Buy the novel Noah Primeval, here on Amazon.com in Kindle or paperback. The website www.ChroniclesOfTheNephilim.com has tons of way cool free videos, scholarly articles about Watchers and Nephilim Giants, artwork for the series, as well as a sign-up for updates and special deals.

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