Have they Found Noah's Ark?

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Last week, there was a story on the news that archeologists from Turkey and China claim to have found Noah’s Ark. They found it on Mount Ararat, which squares with the Biblical narrative. Carbon dating—which has its own skeptics—of what they found indicates that it’s from about 4800 BC, which would put it in the right time frame for Noah. It was also WAY up on the mountain, which is another point in its favor.

There are, of course, skeptics. So far, we have only the word (and video) of the discoverers. There are calls for independent corroboration, which the discoverers say is forthcoming, having already petitioned for the necessary permits and all.

I am fascinated with all this and will follow the story closely, but I also know it’s not the first time—even in my lifetime—that such a claim has been made. From NASA astronauts to self-financed amateur archeologists, several people have claimed to have found definite proof of Noah’s ark on Mount Ararat. Some have been disproved and some never have (but are still met with extreme skepticism).

So I read this latest news story with great interest. The first article I saw was on-line last Tuesday and it had the obligatory “Comments” section following the text. I read some of the comments even though I should know better. Comments that follow on-line articles seem to generally fall into four categories: 30% kneejerk agreement with whatever has been written; 30% kneejerk disagreement with whatever has been written; 30% profanity-laced vitriol that or may not have anything to do with the article in question; and 10% reasoned comments.

Following the first article I read about the find on Ararat, there were the usual responses, but the one that caught my eye was this one: “The ark of Noah will never be found because, after landing, Noah and his sons used the wood from the ark to build shelters.”

It’s a good theory, and it might well explain why the ark hasn’t been definitively discovered in several millennia of looking, but it has no basis in Biblical fact. Here’s what the Bible actually says: “The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed. Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.” (Genesis 9:18-21, English Standard Version)

As I say: the idea that Noah used the boards of the ark for shelter (or firewood for the sacrifice he makes in chapter 8, verse 20) is a reasonable assumption, but to make it the absolute explanation for the current difficulty in finding an ark on Mount Ararat is to jump to a conclusion the Bible neither supports nor rejects.

I bring this up because I see it a lot. I’m guessing that most (if not all) of the people reading this article are Christians, so I’m going to speak/write to my brothers and sisters for a moment here: when writing or speaking about Biblical things, we would be wise to not add details the Bible doesn’t support.

I heard a sermon several years ago that focused on the moment in the garden when one of Jesus’s disciples uses his sword and cuts off the ear of the servant of the high priest. The preacher then went into a moving description of how Jesus gingerly picked up the ear, dusted it off, and lovingly reattached it to the man’s head. It was a beautiful piece of oratorical work and left not a dry eye in the place. The only problem is that the Bible doesn’t say that. All the Bible says Jesus did was, “touched his ear and healed him.” (Luke 22:51) Maybe he put the ear back on, maybe he formed a new ear for the man, or maybe he just stopped the bleeding. My point is that the Bible doesn’t say (in fact, Mark mentions the servant’s ear getting lopped off but makes no mention of Jesus healing him) and for us to give details which Scripture doesn’t reveal is pure conjecture.

It’s also harmful to our message because our conjecture gets repeated somewhere else as fact. Then the hearer of these “facts” goes and looks it up in his Bible and finds that he’s been misled. Then he starts wondering what else Christians have misled him about. Before you know it, he may not trust any of us—even on the things we agree about.