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Not Finding Noah

A review of the film Finding Noah: An Adventure of Faith

by and

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.

Positive elements

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.

Concerns

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.

Is the Ark still on Ararat? Extracts from The Genesis Account by

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.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. “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.
  3. 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.
  4. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 1(3):5–6. Return to text.
  5. 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.
  6. See Wieland, C., The ‘Hong Kong ark’ fiasco: an overview to date, 10 May 2012; creation.com/hk-ark. Return to text.