Larry Stone, author of Noah: The Real Story appeared on Fox News recently to set the record straight. Did you know there is a Noah expert? I did not know you could have a Noah expert. I did not know you could need a Noah expert.
After all, the entire story – the sum total of everything written about Noah that you are supposed to read (an important disclaimer) – is contained in chapters 6-9 of Genesis in the Old Testament. If you made a movie, using only what is given in the Bible, the film would be about five minutes long. And that is even if you use both flood stories from Genesis. If you exclude the contradictory information, your film will be much shorter (you can see for yourself here).
It is difficult to imagine anybody bothering to do that. Sure we can talk about the Sumerian flood story that inspired the Noah story, or we can talk about the science. But fundamentalists don’t want to do that.
So the move makers used other material as filler and they didn’t just make it up, as fundamentalists would have you believe. According to Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, writing at Haaretz,
Many of the gap fillers are borrowed directly from Midrashic literature firmly anchored in the Jewish tradition. Other plot elements not found in scripture are adapted from the Midrash, other sections of the Bible, and fairly well known Jewish mysticism. The strangest addition to the cinematic story is a lifted directly from “The Book of Enoch,” an ancient Jewish text.
The film is, concludes Fink, “a very Jewish retelling of the story.”
That seems fitting, since the oldest version of the story of Noah and the Ark is found in the Jewish Bible. How, you might wonder, did fundamentalist Christians end up owning the story?
Really, I don’t think fundamentalists ought to complain. The sheer complexity of the task set out for Noah beggars the imagination. And it could be a lot worse than Russell Crowe. Check out my favorite version below:
Really, think about it: this stuff is important. These videos are hilarious, but at the same time, they make a striking point, that all these various logistical details had to be dealt with for the whole ark scheme to work. The few verses covering the flood story in Genesis certainly don’t provide any clue as to how Noah worked the required magic.
Fundamentalists are so concerned with finding the ark that they don’t think about the actual logistics of making it work. What happens when a giraffe steps on a cockroach? Who carries within them the various things we’d all like to do without, like ringworm? All these things and more have to be considered. We are supposed to believe that animals from Australia and South America, that nobody in Noah’s time had ever heard of, found their way into the Ark. It’s difficult to believe the biblical writers didn’t find a verse or two for the Kangaroo! And then, having made its way to the Middle East, the intrepid pair of Kangaroos had to somehow make it back to Australia.
If the Religious Right has a right to be upset at a film about Noah (and I won’t even get into Muslim objections here) then the rest of us have a right to be upset that they want us to become suddenly stupid enough to take their objections seriously.
The whole brouhaha is just another example of how one-directional is the Religious Right’s conception of free speech.
The solution seems easy enough: don’t like the movie? Don’t see it. Some Heathens got bent out of shape by Marvel’s Thor and I don’t understand that either. It’s a movie; it’s entertainment. It’s not meant to be religion. I don’t get my religion in a theater any more than I get my history.
I knew a lawyer once who was very excited about the film Gladiator – until he saw it. His sense of Roman history was violated by the story. Again, it’s entertainment. Being entertained calls for suspending reality for a couple of hours. Stay out of the theater if you can’t do that. And don’t, like so many fundamentalists have done, complain about a movie you not only have not seen yet but don’t plan on seeing. That’s just dishonest.
As for Thor, the story has the essence of Thor down: he is the defender of Earth. In the poem Völuspá, Thor is said to be the “warder of Earth” and he is quite vocal about this duty in the films. That’s good enough for me.
As for Noah, he saved the human race (forget about the resultant incest) and he saved every species known to us today, at least according to the Bible. He does the same thing in the film. Are the details really that important, especially when there are so few of them?
In the end, as James Tabor writes on his blog, Bashers of the Noah Film Should Re-Read Their Bibles. It would be time better spent than complaining about a movie they have never seen not being true to a story they have never read.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.