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“Watering down” the Genesis Flood

Noah’s Ark was not circular as British Museum “expert” claims


The Bible specifies Noah’s Ark as 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high, a huge, stable, seaworthy vessel.
The Bible specifies Noah’s Ark as 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high, a huge, stable, seaworthy vessel.

A newly discovered Babylonian story about “Noah’s Ark” recently riveted the world’s media.1 It has all the elements for “good copy”. An amateur relic collector, years of neglect and, finally, the dramatic translation of a cuneiform tablet that (again) “proves” that the Genesis Flood is just a plagiarised copy of an original Babylonian flood story.

The punch line was a new angle on the Ark’s geometry. Actually, this version of the Ark was devoid of angles due to it being circular in shape. It was constructed of reeds, was coated in bitumen and had a caulked door that sealed the human and animal occupants inside. In other words it contains some similarities to the biblical flood account.

The adept translator was Irving Finkel, a British Museum cuneiform expert. Perhaps stepping outside his area of expertise, he also pronounced his belief that the Genesis Flood account was cobbled together from Babylonian stories by the Jewish exiles in Babylon. That’s a bit novel but hey, it doesn’t really matter, just so long as the historicity of the Genesis account is denied. Obviously such denial is not an option for Christians, so let’s just ask a couple of questions about this Babylonian/Genesis standoff.

First question: which account best outlines an historical event?

Even many liberal scholars accept that the Genesis account follows the format of realistic historical narrative. In contrast to this the Babylonian flood stories major in fantastic and unrealistic elements. For example, whereas the Genesis account describes a vessel of appropriate size and construction materials for its task (and an immensely stable shape), Babylonian stories include a cubic Ark (Gilgamesh) that would have just kept tumbling—and now this fanciful circular “reed ark”. They are best explained as early examples of an interesting genre—that of the worldwide phenomenon of flood stories retained in the traditions of hundreds of tribal groups right around the world.2 Although these accounts often have some unrealistic aspects, like the ark shapes described above, they do contain enough common elements to defy explanation in the absence of an underlying historical event. And it is that event that the inspired Book of Genesis accurately records.

Second question: does our godless society have a motive for denying the Genesis Flood?

This is a bit of a no-brainer. The sober Genesis record of a fearful worldwide judgement by the Creator God is a bit too close to the bone. Such “stories” must be sanitised, by treating Noah’s Ark as maybe an “Aesop”-type fable, or even better—just a quaint children’s fairy story. However, underlying these “coping mechanisms” society shows a steely determination to, at all costs, avoid any serious consideration that the Flood really occurred.

Stop the world, I want to get off!

The Bible says that “the whole world lies under the power of the evil one”.3 In other words, Satan manipulates society to try to eliminate “close encounters” with our Creator God. Yet paradoxically, individuals retain “God awareness”.4 For example, this “circular Ark” article quotes Douglas Simmons, the son of the relic collector:

“It is the most extraordinary thing,” Simmons said of the tablet. “You hold it in your hand, and you instantly get a feeling that you are directly connected to a very ancient past—and it gives you a shiver down your spine.”

Right here is an example of “God awareness” sadly misdirected to a Babylonian myth. I suppose that part of our task as Christians is to warn individuals to apply such “God awareness” not to myths, but to God’s Word—especially to pertinent passages like 2 Peter 3 verses 5 to 7:

But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s Word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgement and destruction of ungodly men.”
Published: 9 February 2010


  1. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jan/01/noahs-ark-was-circular> Return to text.
  2. Flood! Return to text.
  3. 1 John 5:19 Return to text.
  4. Romans 1:20 Return to text.

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