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According to Genesis the Ark was built of gopher wood. The meaning of "gopher" is not clear, as this is the only occurrence of the word in the Bible. It has been suggested that it is related to the Hebrew word kopher (pitch), or was at one time kopher but miscopied. If so, it would mean that the Ark was made of wood treated with pitch, of an unspecified type of tree. Some modern translations of the bible replace the word gopher with cypress, but there is little evidence to support this identification.
It was covered with pitch, 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. However, the actual size of the ark cannot be determined because the biblical account does not specify the type of cubit. If the Egyptian cubit was used, the Ark's dimensions could range from 129 metres long, 21.5 metres wide and 12.9 metres high to 165 metres long by 27 metres wide and 16.5 metres high. If the Sumerian cubit was used, the metric equivalents would approximate 155.2 metres in length, 25.9 metres in width and 15.5 metres in height. This proportion of length to width (6 to 1) is used by modern naval architects and is a very stable shape, unlike the cube-shaped ark of the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Traditional pictures of the ark typically show something shaped like a boat, though the Hebrew tebah, meaning "box", may suggest the actual shape of the ark, which would seem more practical for stability and volume as consistent with the narrative, considering the nature of the deluge.
The directions given by God appear to be for an oblong three-storey structure, with a door in the side and a window in the roof. Though, just what the window was, is debated, as there is only one dimension given to the window. The Hebrew word for window, "tsohar", merely indicates a "light aperture", giving no indication of its size or shape. God gave him the direction to "complete it to the extent of a cubit upward". The use of the words "extent" and "upward" seem to indicate much work and raising rather than building the window, which suggest the possibility that the window may have extended around the whole of the roof, which would act as an exhaust and make fresh air more available to the family and animals aboard. There is also no mention of a cover or door for the window.
In preparation for the flood, Noah, his wife, his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth and their wives entered the ark. They took seven pairs of each kind of clean animal, two pairs of each kind of unclean animal and seven pairs of each kind of bird into the ark. Then God sealed the door.
The Genesis narrative states that on the seventeenth day of the second month of the 600th year of Noah's life, the "fountains of the great deep" and "windows of heaven" broke open, bringing on the deluge both from forty days of rain and a subterranean water source.
Genesis gives specific dates for the major events of the flood. The flood was sent in the 600th year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month. On the seventeenth day of the seventh month, the Ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. On the first day of the tenth month, the tops of the mountains were seen. On the first day of the first month of the 601st year of Noah's life, Noah lifted the cover of the ark to see that the face of the Earth was dry. On the twenty-seventh day of the second month, the Earth was dry, and Noah, his wife, sons, their wives, and all the animals left the ark.
After the flood
After several months, water began to subside, and the Ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat (Genesis 8:4). After waiting another forty days, Noah sent out a dove to see if there was dry land for it to land on, but it returned. He waited seven more days, and sent it out again, and it returned with an olive leaf. After another week, he sent it out yet again, but this time it did not return. He knew then that the time had come to disembark.
God commanded Noah to take his family and all the animals out of the ark and concluded a covenant with him, in which he promised never to flood the Earth again, and imposed a basic set of laws on humanity. God symbolized his promise with a rainbow, to remind his people after each storm that there would never again be a storm as big as the one that he had caused.
The historicity of the flood
Other flood accounts
Nearly every culture in every religion, time, and place has a global flood story, including European, African, Native American, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and Aboriginal societies.
Noah has a counterpart in Greek mythology, Deucalion. In Indian scriptures, a terrible flood was supposed to have left only one survivor - a saint named Manu, who was saved by God as Vishnu in the form of a fish. The most notable, next to Genesis, is the Sumerian story of Utnapishtim (found in the Epic of Gilgamesh) which has broadly the same structure and plot as Noah’s Ark.
All the stories claim that the flood was global, that it was sent by a deity or deities due to the problems of the previous civilization, and that only a few people were saved from the flood and left to repopulate the whole Earth.
Some suggest that the similarity indicates that the Biblical depiction has drawn influence from the archaeologically older Sumerian account.
Others suggest that the near-universality of the story in all cultures and times makes it much more likely that it originated in an actual, historical event. They suggest that the fact that all the stories claim the flood was universal and that only a few were left to repopulate the whole Earth makes it unlikely that the flood was regional. Of all the available accounts of the flood, they argue that the Biblical account is the most historically accurate account available, due to its good ship proportions (300x50x30), realistic scale (unlike Gilgamesh), a signifiantly greater level of detail (including dates for events and extensive genealogies for the people on the Ark), very concrete, historical, and non-mythological style (unlike the Indian story), and a more logical story progression. They argue that the other stories are accounts of the same historical event which were distorted into mythology over time, and that the Genesis account is the most historically accurate account available today.
Flood geology holds that a global flood actually occurred, as recorded in Genesis, and that many geological phenomena of today, such as submarine river canyon extensions, layered fossil fuel deposits, fossilization, and layered sedimentary strata are best explained in terms of a global flood in the recent past.
Critics of the account suggest that the flood was (if there truly was one), though quite large, simply a local flood that affected the Persian Gulf region. The breaching of the sill at the Strait of Hormuz is proposed as the cause: as sea level rose from glacial melt following the Ice Age, and the lower Tigris-Euphrates valley was flooded to form the Persian Gulf. There is also the explanation of the breakthrough that formed the Black Sea, which possibly ties the Turkish Ağrı Dağı (Ararat) with the biblical account.
The Genealogies of Genesis make it clear that people lived between 700 and 900 years before the flood, but that the lifespans quickly dropped immediately following the flood to approximately 100 years by the time of Abraham. Some creationists have inferred that this drop in lifespans was due to the negative effects of inbreeding and a less hospitable environment following the flood.
Creation biology holds that the animals on the ark were representatives of the created kinds, not representative of every species known to modern taxonomy. These 'kinds' had significantly more genetic information and a significantly superior genetic structure than the animals of today, and that speciation from these 'kinds' followed the flood as a result of reproductive isolation and loss of genetic information. Although it is unknown exactly how animal 'kinds' relate to modern taxonomic classifications, the creation narrative in Genesis indicates that a 'kind' is a category that was reproductively isolated from other 'kinds'. For example, some creationists have argued that Felidae may have been a "kind," and the various subtaxa of felines speciated due to reproductive isolation and inbreeding in the years following the flood. On this basis creationists argue that there would have been about 16,000 individual creatures on board the ark.
Evolutionists argue that there is little chance that so few humans and animals would have survived for long. With such a small genepool, they would have become extinct soon because of the negative effects of inbreeding. Even if they had survived, the genes of all extant species would show the effects of a severe population bottleneck—which is not in evidence.
Skeptical biologists claim several impossibilities in the tale of Noah’s ark:
- It would not be possible to hold all the world’s species in an ark with the dimension specified above. There are possibly up to 100 million animals species alone!
- It would not be possible to feed these millions of animals, both during the flood and shortly afterwards. This is a particular issue for carnivore species.
- How did specific species and classes of animals become trapped on different continents?, for example most marsupials are only found in Australia, If Noah’s ark was true, they argue then we should expect a more homogenous converge of species.
- Many aquatic ecosystems would have died off from a massive change in salinity.
- Many modern plants would not have survived.
The depth of the floodwaters
Flood geologists hold that the antediluvian mountains were significantly lower than present ranges, that present mountain ranges were formed only after radical geological activity during and after flood, and that the sea-floor dropped during and after the flood to draw the extra water off the continents. They point to submarine river canyon extensions on the Ganges, Congo, Hudson, and Amazon as evidence that sealevels were much lower at one time, and that the canyons were formed as the flood-waters receded from the continents.
Genesis 1:9 refers to God commanding the water to gather to one place, implying a single large ocean and single large continent (which was a factor leading Antonio Snider in 1859 to suggest that the continents had separated during the Flood, although it was not until the 1960s that the idea of continental movement was widely accepted). Genesis 10:25 says that "the earth was divided" during the days of Peleg, after the flood, although it is not certain whether or not this refers to the division of the continents, but it would explain how animal and plant life had time to spread between continents. Psalm 104 says that after the waters covered the mountains, the mountains rose and the valleys sank. All of this suggests that (a) the flood did not need to cover the modern-day mountains, and (b) the subterranean water added to the seas during the flood is now stored in the rearranged and deeper-than-before oceans.
Ancient Chinese characters
Creationists hold that the word for "boat" in Chinese characters (which survived the 1950s and 1960s character simplification) appears to be composed of the symbols for "vessel," "eight," and "person" (literally "mouth," and sometimes translated as "family member"). According to Chinese tradition, the characters were developed by the historian Cangjie at the order of the Yellow Emperor during the 3rd millenium BC, and in many cases used combinations of pictograms to represent more abstract ideas. They argue that Cangjie based his character for "boat" on his historical knowledge of the eight people saved on a ship through the flood (Kang & Nelson, 1979) . The components for "eight" and "person" have been reduced to merely phonetic significance in Chinese today.
Sinologists assert that most Chinese characters cannot actually be interpreted by their graphic elements alone . They argue that the vast majority of Chinese characters are actually radical-phonetic compounds, in which the radical indicates the meaning while the phonetic indicates the pronunciation (usually based on the pronunciation of Ancient Chinese) (DeFrancis, 1984). In the case of the character for "boat," 船, the left-side radical is 舟 (meaning "boat" or "vessel"), while the right-side phonetic 㕣 is shared with other characters that have similar pronunciations. For instance, in Cantonese Chinese, which preserves many of the rimes of Ancient Chinese, the characters 船 ("boat"), 沿 ("along"), and 鉛 ("lead metal"), all of which feature the same phonetic, are pronounced syůhn, yůhn, and yůhn, respectively. The 㕣 phonetic used in 船 does not actually signify "eight persons" but rather only the pronunciation. In addition, the 八 in the phonetic originally meant "to divide," not "eight," which is the modern meaning. Finally, they argue that the interpretation also falls short due to the fact that the oracle script (the type of Chinese writing that was used when Cangjie supposedly developed Chinese writing) for the character 船 is not known to exist .
The Biblical account asserts that God sent the flood because mankind had become completely corrupt, and the heart of mankind was full of sin, so God regretted having made mankind, and decided to wipe it out, saving only Noah and his household, because he found Noah to be a just and righteous man. (Genesis 6:6). This raises a number of theological issues regarding the nature of God.
Skeptics of the story find the idea of an all-good, all-powerful God destroying humanity and all other life on the planet (except Noah, his family and the animals on the Ark of course) simply because He was displeased with them highly questionable and immoral if it were true.
Christians, Muslims, and Jews who believe God to be omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipotent believe that the flood was part of God's divine plan for the Earth and mankind, which though it may appear harsh to us, was just and good in His eyes.
Those ascribing to Open Theism believe that God created Mankind hoping they would remain good and walk with Him, but that God was surprised and disappointed to find mankind become completely corrupt and violent. This led God to regret having created mankind, and to choose to wipe them out and start fresh.
The tradition that Mount Ararat itself was the resting place of Noah's Ark is widely known, but not supported by the biblical account. (The Book of Genesis states only that it came to rest "upon the mountains of Ararat.") This concept can be traced back to a hoax in 1933. In a Russian-language article from the early 1930’s, in a White Russian refugee publication called 'Mech Gedeona' (Sword of Gideon), there were pictures of what looked like a giant boat on a mountainside, said to be Mount Ararat. It was then discovered that the author of Mech Gedeona had taken the story from another refugee publication called Rubez. And Rubez had gotten the story from the German newspaper, the ‘Koelnische Illustrierte Zeitung’, which published the story on April 1, 1933. On April 8, 1933, the newspaper confessed that the article was an April Fools Day hoax. This however has not deterred expeditions from searching for the Ark on Mt. Ararat.
The three most popular locations for the Ark are the Ethiopian highlands, somewhere in the mountains of Ararat and most specifically Mount Judi (Cudi Dağı in Turkish) in the Ararat range both of which are in eastern Turkey. Ethiopia is also known as the country where the Ark of the Covenant can allegedly be found, in the care of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Whether insightful or misguided, the only archaeologist to have claimed to have possibly located the Ark's final resting place was Ron Wyatt . Although rejected by many Christians as misguided or a fraud, since his death he has been heroized by many Bible-believers; a plethora of sites coming into existence concerning him, many fabricating information about him and his discoveries.
An Italian archaeological group named La Narkas is the most recent of numerous groups claiming to have pinpointed the location of Noah's Ark close to the top of Mount Ararat, which straddles the border of Turkey and Armenia. Photographs of this alleged discovery are available on their website .
In 2004, yet another expedition went to Mount Ararat in Turkey to try to locate the Ark. Samples from Turkey tested by Geological and Nuclear Sciences, a New Zealand government research institute, were found to be volcanic rock rather than petrified wood.
In Western culture, the image of Noah's Ark with its many animals has taken on the symbolism of the effort to preserve wildlife. The story also represents the natural cataclysm, which causes a bottleneck among the human population—reducing a large number of people to just a few.
Noah's Ark toys with dozens of pairs of animal figures, usually set up in a long two-abreast line leading to the toy ark, were popular among middle-class children in the 19th century.
A "space ark " is a common plot element in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic science fiction, with species of all life on Earth preserved in space in case of some terrestrial disaster, usually a world-wide nuclear war.
- Between pages 4 and 5 is a fine illustration what they claim was the ancient Hebrews' view of the world and cosmology.
- Ballard, Robert D.; McConnell, Malcolm (2001). Adventures in Ocean Exploration: From the Discovery of the Titanic to the Search for Noah's Flood. National Geographic. ISBN 0-7922-7992-1.
- DeFrancis, John (1984). The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-1068-6.
- Kang, C.H.; Nelson, Ethel R. (1979). The Discovery of Genesis: How the Truths of Genesis Were Found Hidden in the Chinese Language. Concordia Publishing House. ISBN 0-570-03792-1.
- Woodmorappe, John (1996). Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study. San Diego, CA: Institute for Creation Research. ISBN 0-932766-41-2.
- Bible version
- Noah's Ark specialist site
- Noah's Ark Search
- Slide show
- The Babylonian version of the flood myth
- Noah’s Flood and the Gilgamesh Epic
- An atheist's point of view
- Noah's Ark and the Ziusudra Epic
- The Brick Testament - the illustrated biblical story of Noah and the Ark
- Noah's Ark - A Christian Perspective.
- Safety investigation of Noah’s Ark in a seaway
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