A few days ago, while doing research on an unrelated topic, I came across the name of Gertrude Bell (1868-1926), an English woman educated at Oxford who loved archaeology and loved to travel.
On a site dedicated to preserve her papers, her biographical information says that she developed an interest in the Arab culture. She learned Arabic in order to visit and study archaeological sites. She became Honorary Director of Antiquities in Iraq and established the Iraq Museum in Baghdad.
In one of her letters, dated Friday, May 14, 1909 she made a reference to visiting the site where Noah’s Ark rested and of personally having seen the Ark. She wrote:
So yesterday we set off at 4 and climbed through the oak woods for 2 hours and then we came out onto the mountain tops where the snow was still lying in great wreaths and the high mountain flowers were in bloom. There were few of the real alpines – perhaps I wasn’t high enough up for them – but the great beauty was the bulbs. Pale blue hyacinths and pale blue scillas, and a new asphodel (new to me I mean) and at the very top the scarlet tulips were still all in bloom just below the – but I forgot to tell you what it was I came out to see – I wasn’t just taking the air in the mountains, I went up to look at – the Ark. There is a large body of opinion in favour of this having been the place where it alighted and I also belong to this school of thought partly because, you see, I have seen the Ark there and partly because, since the Flood legends are Babylonian, it’s far more likely that they chose for their mountain the first high mountain that they knew (which is this Judi Dagh) rather than a place far away in remote Armenia. We got up to the Ark about 9 – it was a most wonderful place from which you could see the whole world, though I must confess there isn’t much of the Ark left.
Her statement, “I have seen the Ark,” is very intriguing because according to Bell, Noah’s Ark was located on Mountain Judi (the word “Dagh” means “mountain”), and not on Mount Ararat. Her view on the location of the Ark is based on the fact that the flood took place in Babylon. She wrote:
I have seen the Ark there and partly because, since the Flood legends are Babylonian, it’s far more likely that they chose for their mountain the first high mountain that they knew (which is this Judi Dagh) rather than a place far away in remote Armenia.
Mountain Judi (or Judi Dagh) was the place where, according to the Koran, Noah’s Ark rested. The view is based on the assumption that the statement in Genesis 8:4, that “the ark came to rest on the mountains of RRT,” does not refer to “Ararat” but to “Urartu.”
Urartu was the name of a kingdom located in Anatolia (see Jeremiah 51:27), in an area known today as the Armenian Highlands. Many people believe that Urartu was the place mentioned in Genesis which became associated with Noah’s Ark.
I do not believe that Gertrude Bell saw the remains of Noah’s Ark. She is one of the many people who have either seen, touched, been inside, or possessed a piece of the Ark.
Recently, I wrote a post, In Search of Noah’s Ark, describing the new effort to find Noah’s Ark. As with all past efforts, this one also will not find anything on Mount Ararat.
All this preoccupation with finding Noah’s Ark has one, and one purpose only: to show to an unbelieving world that the Bible is the word of God. The Bible is the word of God, whether the Ark is on Mount Ararat, on Mount Judi, or on another mountain. And the Bible is still the word of God even if the Ark is not there.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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