Last week, in the blog series entitled “Tough Questions,” we looked at why God placed that tree in the garden. This week we’re going to venture a little further into Genesis to the Noah’s Ark story and the great flood.
One question that often arises with the ark story is how to know which ancient document that describes a great flood is actually true.
A possible implication behind this question is that since all of them can’t be true (because of marked differences) that none of them are true. Another equally possible implication is that later documents are all copied from the older documents.
Honestly, I’m grateful for this and other tough questions. I even welcome them.
Because it forces me to delve into God’s Word for the answers. It stretches my faith and my desire to help others find truth.
And those tough questions are also why I write these posts. I know there are others out there who want answers, and I pray my humble attempts to write down my findings are helpful.
Which Ark Story Is True? First Things First.
Before we get into the meat of this post, I think it wise to discuss why proof of the true ark story is necessary. As believers, we automatically subscribe to the accuracy of God’s Word as the absolute truth.
But not everyone believes the same way we do.
There seems to me to be three lines of thought when it comes to evidence for the accuracy of the Biblical account of Noah’s ark.
Most Believers Don’t Need Proof
I’ve noticed during my research that typically believers don’t need proof that the Biblical record of Noah’s ark is absolutely true. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stay up to speed on evidence that supports the Biblical record.
I don’t think it’s coincidental that many events and places in the Bible have been proved to be historically and geographically correct. Not all religious texts can make that claim. Those searching for truth often want and need that evidence to reach an eventual place of faith in God.
Without faith it is impossible to please God.
Lest we jump into a place of judgment against these who seek proof, let’s remember the story of the disciple Thomas in John 20:24-29. Jesus was willing to give him evidence of who He was (though He also pronounced blessings on those who accept Him by faith alone). Jude, in his book/letter to God’s people, said to “Be merciful to those who doubt…”, indicating that even believers struggle with doubt.
Those Who Refuse Proof
Another group of folks seem just as determined to refuse any proof at all. They are so focused in on their opposition of all things related to faith in Jehovah God that — in a very personal and antagonistic way — they belittle all evidence that supports the Bible’s view.
Though it’s difficult to respond to those who are hostile, I’m not convinced that means we should write them off as a lost cause. Saul/Paul honestly thought he was doing God a favor by ridding the earth of members of The Way. But an encounter with Jesus turned him around.
Lastly, but most importantly, are those who eagerly seek to find the truth, even if it means letting go of preconceived notions. How I pray that we are prepared to help these people in whatever way we can! So many have bought into the lies of Satan. Once that happens, everything becomes cloudy and confused. It’s hard to know where to turn.
I recently watched a very moving and inspiring video testimony made by Anchored North, a Christian media ministry. In the video, a young man named Phil describes how in his youth he was told that truth is whatever you want it to be. This video is all about how he found his way out of the lies of the relative truth movement to find the Absolute Truth of Jesus. Here’s the link if you’d like to watch it (and better understand why I’m committed to this Tough Questions blog series):
Now on to the question of which great flood is actually true.
- TOUGH QUESTIONS: Why Did God Put That Tree in the Garden?
- GIVEAWAY: Christian Fiction Bestseller (Signed Copy)
Other Ark Story Documents
Did you know that around 250 separate flood accounts exist around the world? No wonder there is so much confusion!
The main similarity of each account is that of a great flood, a cataclysmic event also supported by much geological and archaeological evidence. So it stands to reason that based on these multiple accounts and the other evidence that the great flood is an actual historical event.
Truth Found in the Differences
But beyond that primary similarity between all the flood accounts lies a host of distinct differences. Most of these differences can be summed up in the mythological flavor of all the accounts except the Bible. That one account is both simple and unique, with specific details (e.g. measurements and time frames), told in a matter-of-fact way, making the Biblical account the most historically believable.
Common Critiques of the Biblical Account
The main critique leveled at the Biblical account of the flood is that it copied earlier flood accounts. But just because there are older documents doesn’t mean they are accurate or original. All it proves is that they were older.
Some even go so far to suggest that the Bible must also be myth since it deals with the same event as the earlier accounts. But since the mythological messages and story lines of the prior accounts are not mentioned in the Genesis account, this criticism is without merit.
And honestly, most of us can recognize the difference between fiction and a factual telling of an event. We don’t easily confuse mythology with a true story. Why? Because they don’t read the same. A myth is almost like modern day sci-fi. It’s fantastical and unrealistic.
The Most Believable Explanation
Genesis 11:1-9 gives an even better explanation of the differences between the documents. The descendants of Noah remained in the same general location until God confused their languages at Babel. At that point they were scattered to different locations. As these new tribes of people spread around the world, they shared the story of the great flood. Like a big fish story, it grew more embellished and distorted.
In sharp contrast, the Bible’s telling of the flood reads more like a factual account.
Don’t Overlook Military Strategy
From our Christian worldview, we also recognize the obvious conflict in the world between the Lord and Satan. Doesn’t it make sense that the enemy of human souls (proved in Genesis 3) would want the true story distorted to suit his agenda? What better way to discredit the truth than by mixing it with falsehood to cause mass confusion?
Widely-Known Flood Myths
Below is a bullet-point list of the most widely-known flood stories other than the Biblical account. I’ve also included a Wikipedia link for these, just in case you want to check out the mythological flavor of each. (Let me just say that I don’t find Wikipedia to be an entirely reliable source, but I think it will give you the idea for the purpose of recognizing the myth-like quality of each story.)
- Enumah Elish – According to this myth story, the flood was for the purpose of ridding the earth of noisy humans who disturbed the sleep of the gods. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/En%C3%BBma_Eli%C5%A1
- Atra-hasis Epic – In this myth, the purpose of the flood was the gods’ effort to control the human population. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atra-Hasis
- Gilgamesh Epic – In this poem about the great flood, the main character, Utnapishtim, is granted immortality by the gods. Interestingly enough, he took only seven days to build a cube-shaped boat of 197 feet. (Try surviving a cataclysmic worldwide flood in that!) In contrast, Noah’s Ark was long and rectangular, much like our modern-day seaworthy vessels. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgamesh_flood_myth
An Interesting Fact About Each of These Myths
Each of these myths came from the area of Mesopotamia, the Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. This area and its people became the Babylonians (notice the resemblance to Babel?).
The chief deity of these peoples was Marduk, and much of the mythological story lines deal with lifting Marduk to the position of the supreme deity of the Babylonian pantheon of false little-g gods.
In the Bible, Babylon was not only a city-state and world power, but also a symbol of a worldly system headed by Satan that had its beginnings at Babel. See especially Isaiah, chapters 13-14, and 47 (written a hundred years before Babylon rose to a position of world power); Jeremiah 50-51; and most notably in regard to future events in Revelation 17-18.
For those of you familiar with Old Testament history, you might better recognize Marduk as Baal (Bel), his Hebrew name. For the story of the prophet Elijah’s sound denunciation and God’s defeat of Baal and his prophets, see 1 Kings 18:20-40 (links to Bible Gateway, NASB).
When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.”
1 Kings 18:39
Critical Differences in the Genesis Account
The Genesis account is commonly attributed to Moses circa 1500-1400 B.C., along with the rest of the first five books of the Bible (AKA the books of the law; see Exodus 17:14; 24:4, 7; 34:27; Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 31:9; Daniel 9:11-13; Mark 12:19; Luke 20:28; John 1:45).
No Myth-Like Qualities
Genesis 6-9 reads very much like a historical fact-based book and unlike a myth or epic poem.
Spiritually Significant for Mankind
Unlike the petty purposes of the gods in other versions, the Biblical account reveals a high moral motivation for the flood.
Our holy and righteous God was grieved by the evil and corruption He saw in His creation. With the flood God judged wickedness and also purified the earth.
An Ordinary Man and the Grace of God
In contrast to the mythological accounts, Noah is shown to be a normal ordinary human being. Though Noah was obedient to God, his life and the lives of his family were spared only because of God’s grace.
God’s Blessing & Promise
Another key difference in the Genesis account is that the one and only God once again pronounced blessing on His creation and made a covenant promise with them, as revealed through His rainbow in the sky, that He would never again completely destroy the earth through a flood.
Points to Future Deliverance Through Jesus
Most importantly, the ark points to God’s gracious deliverance through Jesus, who is our salvation!
By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
True Ark Story Wrap-Up
I hope this comparison of multiple ark stories will help end the confusion. All the stories point to the historical accuracy of a great flood. Of that there is no doubt.
But beyond that is nothing but a comparison of fiction and fact. My prayer is that those who have believed the lies surrounding the ark story will earnestly seek the truth. I also pray that those of us who know the truth will gently, respectfully, and with great love share that truth.
In closing, I want to mention a few points for all of us to consider:
- Story similarities confirm the flood, but it is in the differences of the accounts where we can logically separate the true story from the myths.
- Remember that myths tend to get more embellished and unrealistic over time, much like the game of Gossip. In contrast, truth is simple, yet detailed and focused. More importantly, that truth does not change based on the whims of men.
- Be wary of those who confuse scientific theory with scientific fact. Science doesn’t always get it right, and has been proved wrong in the past. But also pay special attention to scientific evidence that points to the accuracy of the Biblical account of the flood. For example, the layers of sediment deposited from something as cataclysmic as the great flood perfectly lines up with the fossils embedded in sedimentary rock. And much of that sedimentary rock is in mountainous areas that can only be explained by the Biblical account of the flood!
- Compare the spiritual significance of each of the great flood accounts. Only one — the Genesis account — carries significant spiritual meaning for humanity. And note that the spiritual meaning of the Genesis account reveals unthinkable consequences for those who reject God and live any way they want, but salvation and deliverance for those who obediently accept Him, His ways, and His gift of grace. Please remember the point I made in the first post of this blog series: God is the King of the universe. Our dislike or disapproval of what He chooses to do won’t change His sovereignty!
- All military strategists recognize the importance of understanding the enemy in order to be victorious over him. The enemy of all humanity is a known liar (Genesis 3), whose purpose is to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). The most believable lies are those which mix truth with untruths. That’s how Satan operated in the garden, and that’s how he operates today. He has copycat versions — truth intertwined with lies — everywhere. Our job is to counteract his lies with God’s truth in an effort to bring others into relationship with the Lord.
To finish out, I want to share some resources about the great flood and Noah’s ark that bear further exploration and contemplation. I hope you find these helpful!
- The Great Deluge video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=V9-H4j-iYz4
Wyatt Archaeological Research (multiple articles on the discovery of an area in the Ararat mountains that could be the remains of Noah’s Ark): http://wyattmuseum.com/discovering/noahs-ark
EXCERPT FROM LIFE MAGAZINE, September 1960:
“While routinely examining aerial photos of his country, a Turkish army captain suddenly gaped at the picture shown above. There, on a mountain 20 miles south of Mt. Ararat, the biblical landfall of Noah’s Ark, was a boat-shaped form about 500 feet long. The captain passed on the word. Soon an expedition including American scientists set out for the site.
At 7,000 feet, in the midst of crevasses and landslide debris, the explorers found a clear, grassy area shaped like a ship and rimmed with steep, packed-earth sides. Its dimensions are close to those given in Genesis: ‘The length of the ark shall be 300 cubits, the breadth of it 50 cubits, and the height of it 30 cubits,’ that is, 450x75x45 feet. A quick two-day survey revealed no sign that the object was man made. Yet a scientist in the group says nothing in nature could create such a symmetrical shape. A thorough excavation may be made another year to solve the mystery.”
- 14 Cold Hard Facts About Noah’s Ark That You Probably Don’t Know (article)
- The Real Noah’s Ark Found in Turkey (video)
- Noah’s Ark Ron Wyatt Archaeology (video)
- Ark Encounter (website)
“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”