Surviving in Noah’s Ark

Answers in Genesis, the Christian organization that owns the Creation Museum in Kentucky, has developed a theme park called Ark Encounter in which they have built a life-sized reconstruction of Noah’s Ark.

Noah's Ark in Kentucky

Noah’s Ark in Kentucky

The appeal of Answers in Genesis is that they take a literal interpretation of the story of Noah’s Ark and try to present a literal recreation of what they believe happened with Noah and his family.

In an article published in The Atlantic titled “The Obsession With Biblical Literalism,” Carmine Grimaldi, the writer of the article, tells how Creation in Genesis used biblical literalism and creative fiction in order to recreate Noah’s Ark.

Below is a brief excerpt from the article in which Answers in Genesis describes how Noah and his family survived in the Ark:

In over 100 exhibits on the ship, visitors learn how each difficulty might have been surmounted: How could eight people feed so many animals? Through an elaborate system of drains and chutes, as illustrated by an interactive video. And what about the stench? Solved easily enough-Noah just needed a ventilation system powered by the tides.

And the daily tons of animal waste? Noah could dispose of that with a treadmill-cum-conveyor belt powered by elephants. But how did he fit elephants on the ship? And all those dinosaurs? They were babies at the time.

And if visitors doubted that a wooden ship carrying all this cargo could withstand an apocalyptic flood, a placard explains that the ship’s dimensions, as specified in Genesis, has been proven by naval engineers to be the perfect compromise between comfort, stability, and strength. In one video, entitled “Sink or Swim,” visitors can watch animated simulations of ships from other diluvial myths being tossed in rough water. They all sink, often to the sound of terrified screams.

As for the creative fiction used to tell Noah’s story, take this description of the family’s living quarters as promoters believed it existed in the Ark:

For self-proclaimed literalists, the ark includes a striking amount of fabrications and fictionalizations. Consider, for example, one of the most popular exhibits, where visitors can walk through the family’s living quarters. At the entrance are two placards, one entitled “Artistic License,” and the other “Why Are the Living Quarters So Nice?” In each of the following rooms, visitors can see mannequin renderings of the family and read short bios. Take Ham’s wife Kezia, who likes “dressing up and looking her best, although the Ark’s busy schedule provides few opportunities for this.” But none of these details appear in the Bible. Genesis never takes a charming detour through the family’s hobbies. It never even reveals the names of the women on the ship. And yet these details are integral to the experience of Ark Encounter. It enlivens and stabilizes the text with the incontrovertible hardness of sets, props, and mannequins.

Some people believe this recreation of Noah and the Ark proves the biblical story, but I have my doubts about the value of this fictionalized retelling of the biblical story. I believe this attempt to provide a literal/fictionalized interpretation to Noah’s story gives a false interpretation of what really happened and detracts from the main purpose of the biblical story: God’s love for humanity and his desire to save people from destruction.

Claude F. Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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