Once again, I am sorry for the delay in this post. I had prepping for VBS, followed by VBS, followed by a week of the crud. Getting back into a normal schedule now, so posting should be much more regular.
A small update on my wife, Gay, and her problem with headaches. While we were on vacation in Florida, a friend paid for her to visit a different kind of Chiropractor. The therapy she tried was able to eliminate the two migraine headaches as long as Gay stays in alignment. She still has the cluster, which is the worst of the three, but there is hope that, over time, this therapy may help the cluster as well. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.
But, back to the story of Noah. As I write this, I don’t know how long this post is going to be. Why? Because I don’t like this story at all. For some, that may sound funny. After all, we decorate children’s room with Noah’s ark. But, I want you think about it for a moment. The story of Noah’s ark, if we are completely honest is a horror story. Every person and every animal, except those who are in the Ark, dies. Imagine the sights and sounds inside of the ark that would have lasted at least a few days after the rains began. To say it would have been terrible is an understatement.
I also don’t like the image of God we get out of this story. Where is the God of love? Where is the God of grace that we find in John 3:16, the God that so loved all of creation that he gave his only son? Just a few chapters earlier, God said creation was very good, but now he wants to destroy everything up to and including the “creeping things” and “birds of the air.” This passage and the Passover are two of the passages that contribute to the early Christian heresy called Gnosticism. It would take me too long here to describe all of the Gnostic beliefs, but one of them was that the God of the New Testament, the God that is Love could not be the same God we find in the Old Testament. So, the God described in the Old Testament is actually a lesser heavenly being, one of the “us” in, “let us create man in our image.” In addition, that lesser God actually made a mistake when he created the physical world, which is completely evil, as this passage describes. And that salvation is really all about obtaining the knowledge, or “gnosis” about how to escape this world, which is what Jesus came to give us. Now, the interesting thing about that is what it does to the character of the serpent in the creation story. To a gnostic, the serpent in the creation story is Jesus. (At this point I want you to remember that Gnosticism was rejected by the early church. I am in no way advocating for this position, I am simply describing it.) The serpent is Jesus because it wants to get Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of “knowledge” to give them the “gnosis” to escape from the evil of the physical creation. We will definitely talk more about Gnosticism when we get to the New Testament.
So, I don’t like this passage very much. I think, perhaps, the best thing for me to do is to say a few things about it, and then just open the floor for questions. Doing a full study of the flood would require much more space and time than we have here, because it would require a study of the history, the literature, theology, etc. of the entire book of Genesis. In divinity school, we probably spent more time on the book of Genesis than other other book with the possible exception of the Psalms. I would be typing my fingers off if I tried to do that. So, ask questions and I will do my best to answer.
Let’s start off with some fun facts. First, we do not know what gopher wood is. “Gopher” is the Hebrew word used here, and it is the only place it is used. As a result, we do not know what kind of wood the ark was made of.
Secondly, before the Noah story, everyone was a vegetarian. God gives Noah permission to eat meat in Genesis 9:2-4:
The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.
First, the existence of flood stories in other cultures in the Middle East means that there is good reason to believe that a flood did indeed happen. So, most scholars agree that the Noah story is something called an Etiology. And etiology is a story that attempts to explain why something happened or why things are the way they are. That means that at least part of the reason for the Noah story is to explain why the flood happened. Another example of an etiology would be the Tower of Babel story which explains why people speak so many different languages. Remember how I talked about the fact that ancient writers were more concerned with the “why” of story than the “how”? This is a good example of that. The Noah story is also an etiology why a rainbow appears in the sky after it rains. When you think about it, an ancient person would have no idea of the science behind the rainbow, an to them it would seem like magic.
Without going into a literary analysis of Genesis too much, I can tell you that one of the emphases of Genesis is the breaking of the order of creation, and then what we, in the modern world, would call a re-boot. On the second day of creation, God created an order separating the waters above from the waters below. Rain broke this order, returning creation to chaos. In doing this God is, to use a modern term, rebooting creation. Noah is the new Adam, as he is given the same command to be fruitful and multiply.
I always try to find the good news in a text. So, here is how I look at the flood story. The Bible is the story of God’s relationship with his creation. It is a love story that moves from God being directly involved in creation to working through angels (Passover), to the incarnation (Jesus), and concluding with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. As the relationship progresses it moves from a relationship based on power to a relationship based on love. We move from a cycle of sin and judgment to grace and forgiveness. We don’t deserve it. We deserve the flood. I don’t think I need to convince most of you of that. I can’t explain why or how those changes happen, but I am certainly glad they do.