With Darren Aronofsky’s Noah very much in the news, Biblical Archaeology Society joins the conversation by re-publishing an 11-year old article on Noah’s Flood written by Ronald Hendel.
Aronofsky’s Noah, featuring Russell Crowe as Noah and Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah, regards the Flood as a global cataclysm. The film has a number of extra-biblical elements, which tend to distort the Genesis account, putting too little emphasis on the Bible text.
The film’s environmental agenda is obvious. It does not depict Noah as a righteous man, and its description of Methuselah and some other characters borders on the bizarre.
In contrast, Genesis states unambiguously that God, the Sovereign Creatorof the universe, sent the Flood because of human sin and that exactly eight people and two animals of each kind survived it.
Hendel sticks even less closely to the biblical text than Aronofsky’s Noah. He calls the Genesis account “the legend of Noah’s Flood,” suggesting:
“Biblical scholars will tell you that the Flood Story in Genesis 6–9 derives most directly not from an actual event, but from earlier stories. The earlier stories are from ancient Mesopotamia, best known from the Gilgamesh Epic (Standard Babylonian version, c. 1100 B.C.E.) and the Atrahasis Epic (Old Babylonian, c. 1700 B.C.E.).”
I happen to be a Bible scholar who wrote my master’s thesis on Genesis but I do not subscribe to Hendel’s interpretation. He seems to rely too much on the dubious documentary theory that is mostly based on speculation instead of facts and sees Genesis as a later work.
The details in Genesis support the view that it was the original account and that like other flood legends, the Gilgamesh Epic is a distortion of it.
The ark in Genesis was a huge 150-metre (450 feet) long very seaworthy vessel that could have endured over 30 metre (90 feet) high waves. In contrast, the Gilgamesh ark was cube-formed. It would have capsized on the very first day of the Flood.