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Sunday, 6 April 2014

Noah, The Movie

Ever since I became a Christian believer in 1973, one of the most inspiring parts of the Bible that took hold of me in a big way was the early chapters of Genesis. Before reading these chapters, I was a staunch Darwinian, who took the Theory of Evolution as serious historical fact. Then one evening of that year, when I was alone in the house (I still lived with my parents back then) and while there was a thunderstorm outside, I wanted to see for myself how the Bible began, so I turned to Genesis chapter one, and began reading. By the time I got to chapter three, I began to tense, as one would when reading a novel, and I thought, "No, don't eat the fruit of that tree!" But Eve gave way to temptation, she gave the fruit to her husband to bite a piece off, and my own heart dropped!

So this begins the chronicling of the first world which ended with the Flood of Noah. After reading these chapters, I was no longer believing in Evolution, and became a Young-Earth Creationist. It was an all-out conversion, and I apologised to God for accepting Evolution as history, and began to embrace Creationism as historical fact, despite entering a way of life which would involve being ridiculed, even by my own father, for believing in what they thought was a moral-based fancy story.
Because I wanted to learn more about this revelation, I bought books on the subject, including the highly academic volume, The Genesis Flood, co-authored by John Whitcomb and the late Henry Morris, which gave me a good insight into the science of the Flood and of historical geology, both from the uniformitarianist and from the creationist points of view, along with the history of Uniformitarianism, which involved names such as Charles Lyell, William Buckland, Georges Cuvier, Fred Hoyle, John Pye Smith, Jean Baptiste Lamarck, the better known Charles Robert Darwin, and others.  
This insight also gave me a perception on how antediluvian mankind lived alongside dinosaurs, giants such as the Brontosaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex, along with flying creatures with massive wingspans, such as the pterosaurs. I have received taunts from secularists, even mockery on this blogging page for upholding such an idea of dinosaurs of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods actually co-existing with mankind, which were not meant to come into existence until the Late Quaternary period - some 25,000 years ago - which was supposed to be some 69,975,000 years after the death of the last dinosaur! Yet the Bible hints at such a co-existence, and I found no problem with this, even when I visited the London Geological Museum in South Kensington, where there was a display of fossils arranged in chronological order - with the Cambrian group looking much, much older than the bones or shells embedded in the comparatively recent Pleistocene period. The Cambrian variety certainly looked old and tattily preserved, although the very idea that all were fossilised at the same time at a very recent epoch does not seem far-fetched, according to how I saw them. And many noted scientists of a not-so-distant past would have fully agreed with me. For example, author Charles Gillispie of Cambridge University, wrote Genesis and Geology, fully supporting the Biblical narrative, and it was published by the Harvard University Press as recently as 1951.

The Genesis narrative of  the Noachian Deluge has always been at the forefront of my mind ever since I first read the Biblical account. As I go out to work each morning, I sometimes wonder how this very spot I'm standing on would have looked before the Flood. Would it have been a tropical jungle, with dinosaur giants roaming about? Or would it be covered by the shallow waters of a tropical sea? Or even deeper waters of a primeval ocean? Or for that matter, be snack-dab in the middle of a Cain-built city? What was the sky like? Was it forever blue throughout the day? Or the cloudless sky even possibly have been red at daytime, due to a higher moisture content in the upper atmosphere? If the daytime sky was red, was there a possibility that the colours of all creation were brighter, more intense? It was a world I find so fascinating, that I'm hoping to watch a heavenly video of it in the next life, if God will let me. Or at least have a chat with Enoch, Noah or one of his sons who were alive before the Deluge.
And it was this fascination of this "world that once was" which drew me to the cinema with my wife Alex to watch the movie Noah, written and directed by Darren Aronofsky. We picked a Saturday morning showing, as my wife being in a wheelchair, we did not particularly want to be in a theatre packed with viewers. We got what we desired. There were only three or four other people in otherwise an empty auditorium, and I have wondered whether this movie will be a box-office disaster.
I have seen quite a number of Bible-based movies in my lifetime, including The Ten Commandments, Samsom and Delilah, King David, Jesus of Nazareth, The Passion of the Christ, and even Ben Hur, which was based at the time of the Crucifixion, were as true to the Bible as they could have been. Unfortunately, Noah fell short of the Biblical narrative in quite a few details. For example, the very plot in the film differed from the Biblical narrative in a way that while the Bible insists that the Flood was to preserve the Messianic Line from Adam to Jesus while destroying a corrupt race which posed a threat to the bloodline, in the film, Noah was given the task by God to preserve all animal life, but then allow all mankind to become extinct in order to prevent the repeat of the anthropological disaster which blighted the first world. In other words, the movie adaption of the Deluge was to re-create the lost paradise for the animal and plant kingdoms, never again to be destroyed by human wickedness and greed.

The effects of this was quite startling. Only Noah's eldest son Shem had a wife, and she was a young girl rescued by Noah himself after being found abandoned and wounded in a ravine containing bodies of the slain. As this girl grew up into a beautiful woman, it was discovered that the wound she had received as a child took away her fertility. Later, while the Ark was under construction, she was blessed by Methuselah who himself was drowned in the Flood, and while on board the floating Ark, she gave birth to twin girls, whom grandfather Noah believed that God told him to slay them. The result was a non-Biblical drama of screaming hostility from all of Noah's family as he attempted to kill the two infants. Fortunately, while he stood over the two infants held by their mother, Noah looked up to heaven and reluctantly declared that he did not have the heart to fulfil his duty, and by sparing the infants' lives, felt as if he betrayed God by having failed in his task.

Other departures from the Bible included the idea that Noah and his family were the only descendants left of the line of Seth, the second son of Adam, while the whole world was from Adam's firstborn, Cain. Even the king of the earth, Tubal-Cain, successfully stowed away in the floating Ark, and after a fight with Noah, he was stabbed to death by Ham, who himself had no wife. The film included a scene of Ham's girlfriend left to die by Noah as he escorted his son to board the Ark. The movie portrayed Noah as heartless to the screams of Ham's abandoned girlfriend. It was these scenes which spoilt the Biblical narrative.

The Bible was clear that Noah's family was by no means the sole survivors of Seth before the Flood. In the Bible, Noah's father was Lamech, who himself had other sons and daughters. Lamech's father Methuselah also had other sons and daughters (Genesis 5:26-30). This gave Noah a full family of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins. This might have played on the emotions of the Biblical Noah, and why he got drunk after the flood waters had receded. The death of his family because of unbelief must have been very distressing for Noah, and most likely for his wife too. Although the narrative is silent on this, there is no reason why Noah's wife, along with the wives of his sons, didn't have any unbelieving brothers or sisters, aunts, uncles, or even in their case, parents, who banged on the hull of the vessel after the door was shut. It is this sort of situation affecting many believers at present, who have family members who don't know the Lord. With myself in this situation, I can understand how Noah and his immediate family must have felt.

Noah's upbringing in the Bible was quite different from the Noah of Darren Aronofsky. In the Bible, Lamech, Noah's father, died five years before the flood. Therefore, nearly all but the last five years of Noah's 600 years of his life were spent in close intimacy with his Dad. His grandfather, Methuselah, actually outlived his own son by five years, and according to Genesis 7:4, Methuselah died of old age - just one week before the floods came, which demonstrates the omniscience of God, as the name Methuselah means When I die the waters will arrive. In the film, Lamech died many years before the Flood, while Methuselah was drowned while hunting for berries. This goes to show what a tremendous impact the flood must have had on the Biblical Noah and his family, and the terrible loneliness he must have felt after disembarkation. Right up to the moment he boarded the vessel, he had his good old grandpa to lean on, and might well have received support from his in-laws. Now, as the head of the entire human race, his emotions called for alcohol.

It goes to show the wonderful mercy and the omniscience of God calling for Once Saved Always Saved, especially in the light of today's believers in Probational Salvation. They teach that salvation can be lost if a believer in Jesus Christ indulges in wanton drunkenness. But with Noah, we see no sign of him losing his salvation. Instead we read of his humanity, his infection with sin, yet the grace of God's love which was guaranteed his name in the Hebrews Faith Hall of Fame (Hebrews 11:7.)

And this is why I don't believe that Aronofsky's Noah should be the basis to establish the truth of God. What I have seen was that the Creator, as he was always referred to in the film, was perceived as a cruel, vindictive deity who wanted to eradicate a race of corrupt men without the protection of the Messianic bloodline through Seth, Noah, and his son Shem. Instead, the Creator inspired Noah to let Ham's potential girlfriend to be trodden to death by Tubal-Cain's men, and then what I thought to be the most emotional moment - the birth of twin girls from Shem's wife, and Noah's commission to slay them in order to prevent the earth from re-population.

I came away feeling that the Creator in the film reflected Aronofsky's faith. He was born of Jewish parentage and although I read elsewhere that he could be an atheist, nevertheless, his principle was salvation by works, and that entirely without the Messiah's intervention. And this is what I believe many who would watch this film will come away with. Or simply not believe in God at all. And for Christian believers who, like us, who went to see the film, we should not base any theological analysis on the film, nor from it, define doctrine.

Darren Aronofsky's Noah was an enjoyable film to watch, I certainly liked it, and maybe, when the DVD version comes out, I may well purchase it. But for me, and I recommend every true believer who goes out for the evening to watch it, it must be categorised exactly for what it is - entertainment.


  1. Dear Frank,
    I have read that Aronofsky is a self-proclaimed atheist. I enjoyed your account of the movie. The errors and departures from the Bible account, which I have also heard from other believers who saw the film, sound quite serious and even deliberately misleading. My husband and I, while curious, therefore decided not to see it.
    On the other hand, we did see God Is Not Dead, which proved to be a very well-done, albeit low budget, Christian film. There were many very positive aspects to the movie, including a good portrayal of different reasons why people reject God, and how many different Christians participate in different ways to bring nonbelievers to the truth. Sadly, however, there was no clear portrayal of the Gospel message. As you say, we certainly can't depend on Hollywood for our theology. The best commentary on God's Word is God's Word itself, comparing various passages with other passages to come to a knowledge of the truth under Holy Spirit inspiration.
    Thanks as always for the interesting, informative & well written post.
    God bless,

  2. Great thoughts Frank! I would have to say, the most disturbing scene in the movie (for me at least) was when Noah left that poor girl to die. I felt sick after that. I am so thankful that God is not really like that-he wants to save everyone and would never leave a sinner behind no matter the cost to himself.


  3. I haven't seen the movie, but like you i believe we need to realize most movies are made to make money as entertainment, not to present the truth. As a result they tend to take a lot of liberties with the basic story, sometimes changing it so much it can't even be recognized except by the name. Thanks for pointing out that it is meant for entertainment, not for doctrinal teaching.