Not Finding Noah
A review of the film Finding Noah: An Adventure of Faith
Published: 13 October 2015 (GMT+10)
Throughout history, people claim to have seen Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat. Despite claims to the contrary, no one has ever brought back conclusive evidence that the vessel that carried Noah, his family, and a pair of every kind of animals is actually on the mountain.
Finding Noah documents various expeditions by different groups and individuals to Mount Ararat to try to find Noah’s Ark, supposedly buried in the glacier ice on the mountain. It begins with a long list of people who have claimed to see the Ark there, and how several of the stories match up. The film is narrated by the famous actor Gary Sinise, but there was relatively little narration.
The documentary was candid that two of the most popular ‘Ark’ finds were not genuine. The supposed Ark remains popularized by the late Ron Wyatt were correctly identified as an interesting geological formation that had no chance of being the remains of the Ark (as CMI has stated for over 20 years). They also covered the Ark hoax promoted by NAMI four years ago. CMI was the first major creation organization to travel to Hong Kong and personally meet with NAMI to examine their claims. See Noah’s Ark…or what? for a record of ongoing CMI investigation of the NAMI claims starting in June 2010, and our Position Statement on the NAMI claims released in 2011.
Furthermore, the team portrayed in the film seemed concerned with honesty and scientific accuracy regarding their search for Noah’s Ark. While hype was built up about possibly significant finds during the documentary, they were honest that none of these turned out to be relevant to the Ark search.
Unfortunately, this movie did not live up to its title, and there were several concerning elements. The Qur’anic flood story was given equal credence with the Genesis Flood account. However, the Qur’an was not written until the 7thcentury AD, and it is clearly dependent on the Genesis Flood account, so should not have held the same weight as even the other cultures’ ancient flood accounts because it’s late and derivative.
The flawed Gilgamesh Epic also had a mention as we would expect. To its credit, the documentary pointed out that Flood legends are worldwide, and most also mention the Ark and animals, and a number even state that only eight people survived.
One participant in the expedition wondered whether it was a waste of time and risking life and limb to go and not find anything of significance. Given the massive needs in the church today, one might indeed wonder whether the time and resources needed for the expedition and film release might have been better used for something more Gospel-oriented—or even more apologetically oriented.
Several times an ‘expert’ claimed that the pitch for the Ark was ‘bituminous’. However, petroleum products were likely formed by the Flood’s burial of organic matters (although there is some dispute). So pitch has historically been made by boiling pine resin and charcoal. This would not only have made the Ark waterproof but may have also greatly increased impact resistance. Later, ‘resin’ was mentioned but so briefly that many would have missed it.
In fact, a lack of a biblical presentation or any Gospel at all was a glaring omission in the documentary. While a couple of the participants were pastors, and there was a moment with one of the participants praying with his family before embarking on the climb, there was no presentation of the Gospel. Given that the movie was probably meant to appeal to unbelievers, the lack of any presentation of Jesus at all was a major error. It seemed especially incongruous, given the movie’s subtitle, and because a number of the expeditioners talked about getting closer to God, and some were sure that God wanted them to keep looking. If the film is going to be so up front about the religious motivations for many (although not all) the explorers, then why not go the whole way?
Experts and ‘experts’
The film interviewed a number of people. Some of them have genuinely sound qualifications. E.g. there was a brief interview with Prof. Andy McIntosh, a sound biblical creationist who is eminent in his own scientific fields, and fights valiantly and well against ‘vanishing flood models’. Actually we are somewhat surprised that someone of his calibre would agree to be part of a frankly not very good film.
There were small parts from genuine geologists and biblical scholars. Another genuine scholar who featured more was Dr Randall Price, Distinguished Research Professor and the Executive Director of the Center for Judaic Studies at Liberty University, one of the best creationist universities around.
However, there were also some Islamic scholars, and a number of people that the film’s website calls ‘Arkeologists’, clearly they were enthusiasts rather than scholars. And not surprisingly Carl Baugh made an appearance; we advise against using his material in our important ‘Don’t Use’ page. Still another interviewee was a ‘Mr X’; we fail to see how this helped the cause in the slightest.
Another curious addition was the well-known hater of biblical creation, geologist Dr David Montgomery, whose claims have been thoroughly refuted by CMI geologist Dr Tas Walker. However, Montgomery’s antagonism against the biblical account was low-key in the film. Most irritatingly, the film showed further interview footage with him after the credits, when most of the audience had left the cinema.
Will we find Noah’s Ark?
Probably the most disappointing aspects of the movie for many faithful followers is that they found absolutely nothing, despite the hyping throughout the movie. For example, satellite photos and surface radar was alleged to find evidence of some Ark-like structure under the ice. However, to our eyes it seemed more a case of pareidolia, where people perceive patterns that don’t exist, such as the ‘face on Mars’ in the region called Cydonia. And sure enough, drilling in those regions found zilch, nada.
However, it was not a surprise to us, except perhaps that the film ended up admitting this honestly. As we have long pointed out (see for example the extract from our new Genesis 1–11 commentary The Genesis Account, below). There are a number of factors that make it unlikely that we will ever find Noah’s Ark. First, wood is organic and is subject to decaying. Even if the pitch coating lengthened the lifespan of the ark, its wood would have been desirable as a recycled building material immediately after the Flood while mature trees were in short supply.
If the Ark remained on the mountains of Ararat intact, it would have been impacted by geological forces during the Ice Age and beyond. As the documentary explains, Mount Ararat is a volcano, meaning much of the mountain was built up long after Noah’s Ark came to rest. If it landed on that particular mountain, it would have been destroyed not only by ice but by volcanic activity.
There is a slight possibility that Noah’s Ark might be discovered at some point in the future, and that would be cause for celebration by biblical creationists. But it would be a mistake to hope that such a find would result in mass conversions to Christianity. Even the Resurrection did not convince the Jewish leadership of Jesus’ day of the truth of the Gospel—showing how stubborn fallen mankind can be even when faced with what should be undeniable evidence.
Instead of focusing on whether or not Noah’s Ark exists on some remote mountaintop, Christians should be engaged in sharing the Gospel and defending their faith—including the real account of the Flood and Ark—in a hostile culture.
Location of the Ark’s landing spot
Many people think that the Ark landed on ‘Mt Ararat’. This is a dormant volcano with two peaks: Greater Ararat (5,137 m, 16,854 ft elevation) and Lesser Ararat (3,896 m, 12,782 ft). In modern geographic terms, it is in the country of Turkey; in geological terms, on the Armenian Plateau. The Turkish name is Ağrı Dağı (Mountain of Ağrı), and in Armenian it is Masis (plural Masik, sometimes referring to both peaks). Since the Armenian plateau extends into Iran, there is also a Persian word, which is notable: Kuh-e-Nuh (Noah’s Mountain).1
However, the biblical account uses the plural form, ‘mountains of Ararat’ (Hebrew hārei ‘ărārāt, אררט הרי). Also, in the Bible, Ararat is a country or region (2 Kings 19:37, Isaiah 37:38; Jeremiah 51:27). In modern geological terms, the Ararat massif2 is about 40 km in diameter. Thus the Ark may not have landed around the peaks of Mt Ararat, but it would likely have landed somewhere on the massif.
However, this may be looking in the wrong place completely. Mt Ararat is possibly a post-Flood volcano, which would mean that it was pushed up after the waters had already receded and eroded. If so, it could not have been the mountain on which the Ark rested when the waters still covered the whole globe. A proposed alternative landing place is the Zagros Mountains,3 a range 1,500 km long on Iran’s western border. Its highest peak is Dena, 4,409 m (14,465 ft) elevation. However, while the case for the Zagros Mountains is plausible, it’s the Mountains of Ararat region that has thousands of years of tradition behind it as the Ark’s landing site.
Is the Ark still there?
Josephus certainly thought so in his time. In his Antiquities, he wrote:
[T]he ark rested on the top of a certain mountain in Armenia. However, the Armenians call this place, αποβατηριον [apobatērion] ‘The Place of Descent’; for the ark being saved in that place, its remains are shown there by the inhabitants to this day. Now all the writers of barbarian histories make mention of this flood, and of this ark; among whom is Berossus. For when he is describing the circumstances of the flood, he goes on thus: “It is said there is still some part of this ship in Armenia, at the mountain of the Cordyaeans; and that some people carry off pieces of the bitumen, which they take away, and use chiefly as amulets for the averting of mischiefs.” Hieronymus the Egyptian also, who wrote the Phoenician Antiquities, and Mnaseas, and a great many more, make mention of the same. Nay, Nicolaus of Damascus, in his ninety-sixth book, hath a particular relation about them; where he speaks thus: “There is a great mountain in Armenia, over Minyas, called Baris, upon which it is reported that many who fled at the time of the Deluge were saved; and that one who was carried in an ark came on shore upon the top of it; and that the remains of the timber were a great while preserved. This might be the man about whom Moses the legislator of the Jews wrote.”4
Actually, there should be some skepticism about such Ark sightings, both then and now.5,6 As stated previously, it may never have landed in what we now call Ararat. Also, there is no reason to believe that it still exists. After all, the post-Flood forests would have taken some time to re-grow. So the only practical source for lumber and firewood would have been the Ark’s building materials, having outlived their other usefulness.
From an apologetics perspective, finding the Ark is unnecessary, especially since the biblical and geological evidence for the Flood is so plain (2 Peter 3:3–8). Also, would God really want a relic that might become a substitute for Him? This happened with the bronze serpent that God commanded Moses to make (Numbers 21:8–9) and lift up (John 3:14). Originally, people would look at this if they were bitten by a snake, and God would heal them. But centuries later, people worshipped the serpent itself, so godly King Hezekiah broke it into pieces (2 Kings 18:1–6).
Finally, the absence of the Ark proves nothing about the reality of the Flood. For example, if we never find the Mayflower, would it prove that the Pilgrim voyage to America never happened in 1620? Actually, it’s likely that her timbers were recycled to build a barn in Buckinghamshire, similar to the likely fate of the Ark timbers.
- There is also a small city called ‘Ararat’ in the Australian state of Victoria, which happens to be my birthplace [JS]. It was named when Australian politician Horatio Wills (1811–1861) stopped there in 1841, and wrote in his diary “Like the Ark we rested”, and named a nearby hill ‘Mt Ararat’. The town eventually got its name from this hill, so is indirectly named after the biblical mountain. Return to text.
- “A topographically high part of the earth’s crust that is bounded by faults and may be shifted by tectonic movements”—thefreedictionary.com/massif. Return to text.
- Humphreys, D.Russell, Where is Noah’s Ark?—a closer look at the biblical clues, J. Creation 25(3):6–8, 2011; creation.com/ark-location. Return to text.
- Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 1(3):5–6. Return to text.
- Snelling, A.A., Special report: Amazing ‘Ark’ exposé: Spectacular claims, a misleading video, people misquoted and misrepresented … it’s no wonder many have asked the question … could this be Noah’s ark? Creation 14(4):26–38, 1992; creation.com/arkfraud. Return to text.
- See Wieland, C., The ‘Hong Kong ark’ fiasco: an overview to date, 10 May 2012; creation.com/hk-ark. Return to text.
Another thing to think about is that the ark didn't necessarily land on TOP of a mountain. It could have landed much closer to the bottom and still be on the mountain.
Firstly, it is highly likely that Noah and other post flood generations would have scavenged the Ark for all sorts of valuable resources (including timber). Secondly, mankind has a tendency to idolatry, including the revering of so-called "holy relics", such as a certain 'shroud' and various pieces of the cross of Golgotha, bones and so on. I don't think our Lord would want the Ark found, even if it survived 4500 years of scavenging and weathering, as it would inevitably become another object of idolatry. IMHO.
People who talk about the Ark being recycled have never done actual moving themselves. For all those in favour of this theory I would suggest an actual experiment – get on top of a 5 km tall mountain and see how much wood can you carry down and how many trips per week can you make. Had it been true, given the enormousness of the Ark, they wouldn’t be done with it till today. It took a pre-flood human strength and endurance just to get down their household necessities.
Jan, Ararat is an active volcano and we know historically that much of the height of Ararat is a result of post-Flood volcanic activity. The mountain would not have been as high. Yes, it still may not have been easy to get wood down, but if resources were scarce it is a possibility--and recall that's all we have ever claimed it is.
I haven't got any references handy but in the Bible we have the story of Sennacherib who worshipped his god "Nisroch". Apparently this was "the plank" which came from the remains of the ark which he visited and decided to worship. He of course did not visit Mt Ararat but Mount Cudi...
This theory comes from Jewish midrash, so isn't inspired. It is interesting, however.
There has already been several archaeological findings which confirm Scripture, and sure, they may remove stumbling blocks with some people. I'm not sure, but I don't think there has been any mass-convertion from any of those. In the same way, even if the Ark was found it would be downplayed by the skeptics.
CMI in your bookstore you offer under the "Untold Secrets of Planet Earth" series, the book by Vance Nelson "Flood FOSSILS". Excellent book, it cites live witnesses to seeing the ARK. I bought several copies.
A man who regularly heckled me and my faith in my office at work in the Navy asked me, "Do you hope they find an ark? If they find an ark, I bet many people will start to believe like you do." My quick response was a no-brainer - quoting Jesus, "Even should a man be raised from the dead, they will still not believe."
As one serving as a researcher with the American team featured in the Finding Noah film, I thought this review was generally fair. Honesty was indeed a prime consideration, so I was quite glad this was noted. Though I can vouch for the Christian commitment of the individuals on the climbing team, the producer of the movie decided what to include or leave out. This can explain the inclusion of Islamic references and the lack of a clear Gospel presentation.
I also agree that finding the Ark will not cause mass conversions to Christ. This should not minimize the apologetic value of locating remains of the Ark, however. Dr. Sarfati's analysis of Josephus' citation did not address how the mention of "Baris" by Nicolaus of Damascus gives us strong confidence that Mt. Ararat is the right place to look. In cuneiform characters, the symbol for the syllable "bar" is virtually indistinguishable from the symbol for "mas"; the only difference is a very slight lengthening of a cross-stroke, easy for a translator to overlook. This is what we believe happened with Nicolaus; he mistranslated a cuneiform record containing the unique Armenian name for Mt. Ararat, "Masis," as "Baris." The Associates for Biblical Research website has a detailed article I wrote about this.
True, the Finding Noah team did not find the Ark, but it did rule out one of the few remaining locations on the mountain. The history and the testimonies still strongly point to Mt. Ararat, so we move on to the next candidate spot and trust God for the results in His time. I expect that if He removes the current political hindrances, those remains will be found. Satellite imagery encourages us to believe this.
First off, full disclosure, I'm one of those "true believers" who thinks that the Ark is probably still on the mountain called Ararat. I'll agree that it might not be there but no one knows for sure so I’ll take the word of people like George Hagopian. When someone takes core samples of Ararat and proves it arose AFTER the Flood then I’ll change my mind.
The argument that they would have dismantled the Ark for building material is what I want to take issue with. First, if Noah had any brains at all he would have thought about the lack of a place to live when it was over and would have found a way to bring wood with him. I would have constructed living quarters and cages with that in mind, i.e. that if need be, parts of the interior could be salvaged. But I would think that wouldn't even be necessary because there would have been tremendous amounts of floating trees ripped up from the land which would probably have littered the landscape.
Trees can certainly withstand being in the water. I know of several large Christmas Tree growers who cut their trees 2 months or more before they sell them and submerge them in cold water lakes to preserve them. I'm sure there are many examples of trees such as mangroves which are very resistant to water and would remain very viable after 9 months or so in the Flood waters. So there really should have been ample wood available. Besides, you can grow a tree in 20 or 30 years, about the time Noah's grandchildren would be starting their own families. So I don't think it's a good argument to say they would have dismantled the Ark for building materials. I think most people would have been very loathe to do that and would want to preserve the thing they took many years to build and which saved their lives.
Doug, of course we don't know for sure what happened to the Ark after it landed on the mountains of Ararat. Being dismantled for building material was only one possibility. I will note that post-Flood, it may have been a situation where Noah and his family would have had to use what was at hand. People in the ancient world seem to have been far less sentimental about such things--i.e. the pyramids, amazing feats of engineering and tributes to their dead pharaohs, were stripped of their outer stones, which were recycled in other buildings.
I do not think that the discovery of Noah's Ark would be pleasing to God because Hebrews 11:6 indicates that 'without faith (belief) it is impossible to please God and that such must believe that He is and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him' Discovery of the vessel would merely give proof that would obviate the requirement of God's divine character throughout the ages that He requires humans to come to faith in Him, His Word and His Son. So guess what, the world's obsession with Noah's Ark is characteristic of it but faith in God would indicate that it will not be found.
Thank you for reviewing this film. I went to go see it, as I have met Aaron Judkins (I actually went on a week-long dinosaur dig with him back in 2012), one of the main explorers in the film, and was eager to see what, if anything, had been found. Dr. Judkins works in Glen Rose, TX, alongside Dr. Carl Baugh, and is certainly a young-earth creationist, although I agree that Dr. Baugh's arguments aren't credible and shouldn't be used. Personally, I think they included David Montgomery and the Islamic scholars in order to highlight the importance of the Ark, not necessarily because they agree with them or hold the Qu'ran on the same level as Scripture. In short, I thought the ending was disappointing, but I was happy to see a more credible and well-documented attempt to find the Ark, although I agree that the Ark either didn't land on Greater Ararat or it did but was destroyed by volcanism or used for building materials. I don't think we need it either--there's already so much evidence that the Ark and the Flood really happened, and yet so many people still reject it!
I think it is a very good article and points to a very important issue. The fact that this kind of movies deliberately alters the text makes little valuable, but in addition it generates damage in those who don't know the true story.