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Believers In The Lost Ark (Noah's)
The Guardian (UK) ^ | 8-9-2003 | Karen Armstrong

Posted on 08/08/2003 6:56:40 PM PDT by blam

Believers in the lost Ark

Treating myth as fact misunderstands the meaning of religion

Karen Armstrong
Saturday August 9, 2003
The Guardian (UK)

The explorer who discovered the Titanic beneath the Atlantic in 1985 is setting out on another underwater expedition to document Noah's flood. The Black Sea was originally a freshwater lake that in ancient times became inundated by the salty Mediterranean. Robert Ballard believes that this was a cataclysmic event that occurred about 7,500 years ago, and was possibly the deluge described in the Bible. Ballard's critics are sceptical: they argue that the infiltration of the Black Sea was a gradual process that occurred much earlier and over a long period of time. They accuse Ballard of using Noah to sex up his material for maximum publicity.

Christian fundamentalists will expect great things of Ballard's expedition. American creationists, who believe that the book of Genesis gives a scientifically accurate account of the origins of life, have long discussed Noah's flood. Some have even led archaeological expeditions to Mount Ararat in Turkey, in the hope of unearthing the Ark, and proving the literal truth of scripture once and for all.

Other creationists are more cautious, pointing out that the Ark is unlikely to have survived the ravages of time. But all Christian fundamentalists are passionately convinced that the Bible describes a historical deluge that destroyed all life on earth. Noah's flood was not a local event, as some suggest; it was universal, and even covered the US, creating the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls.

The creationists claim to study the physical effects of Noah's flood in order to disprove the theory of evolution, using carbon dating methods and modern geological data, and insist on their constitutional right to teach "creation science" in the public schools.

Most importantly, the creationists argue that fossils are simply relics of the flood. After the waters had subsided, exposing millions of rotting carcasses, God caused a powerful wind to blow, which buried them under a mound of trees and earth that later solidified and became rocks, oil and coal. The flood had killed the smallest creatures before the larger animals, which had congregated on hilltops and were buried at a later stage of the storm, so the fossil record does not reveal a truly temporal evolution. Noah saved a pair of each species, just as the Bible records, even though to accommodate them all, the Ark must have been as large as eight goods trains with 65 livestock trucks apiece.

Needless to say, Ballard does not subscribe to these ideas. Yet by mentioning Noah in the context of a serious scientific expedition, he is unwittingly helping to perpetuate a widespread but erroneous understanding of the nature of religious truth. The search for Noah's flood is as irrelevant as an attempt to find the "real" Middlemarch or Cranford. Like George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell, the authors of Genesis are not writing history, but are engaged in an imaginative investigation of the human predicament.

Flooding was a frequent and destructive occurrence in ancient Mesopotamia and a common metaphor for political and social dissolution. In Babylonia, the poems Atrahasis and The Epic of Gilgamesh (around 1300 BC) were part of a long-established epic tradition, which saw a massive deluge as marking the transition from the primordial age, when the gods had intimate relationships with human beings, to the present day, when the divine had become a distant, shadowy reality. Noah's flood cannot be understood outside this literary genre.

Genesis has preserved two accounts of the flood, which were combined by a later redactor to form the extant text: the so-called Yahwist epic (around the ninth century) and the sixth century priestly source. Neither of our authors is interested in giving an accurate description of a historical flood. Both use an old story to explore the same theological problems as the Babylonians, though they arrive at slightly different conclusions.

Thus in the Babylonian epics the deluge was caused by the irresponsible behaviour of the gods, who were appalled when they saw the extent of the devastation, and decided that henceforth they would withdraw from human affairs. Genesis, however, exonerates God and put the blame squarely on human wickedness.

But even so, unlike some Christians today, the Yahwist has no easy answers and like the Babylonians his story shows a new separation from the sacred. In the old days, God had been a frequent, friendly visitor to the Garden of Eden, but now the divine can seem cruel, arbitrary and incomprehensible.

The priestly author was writing for Jews who had lost their homeland and had been taken into exile. He makes the flood story foreshadow his story of the Israelites' 40 years in the wilderness in Exodus and Numbers. He is not interested in giving us information about the time of either Noah or Moses, but is addressing a problem of his own time. Like the flood and the wilderness years, the exile of the Jews is a period of transition. It is true that the old world has been destroyed, but there is still hope. A new order, a new world will emerge.

Both authors, in their different ways, are looking into the heart of darkness. Religious truth does not stand or fall by the historicity of its scriptural narratives. It will survive only if it enables people to find meaning and value when they are overwhelmed by the despair that is an inescapable part of the human condition. When we are discussing the meaning of life and the death of meaning, the historicity of the flood becomes an irrelevant distraction from the main issue. We are dealing not with history or science but with myth.

Today in popular parlance, a myth is something that did not happen, so to claim that a biblical story is mythical is to deny its truth. But before the advent of our scientific modernity, myth recounted an event that had - in some sense - happened once, but which also happened all the time. It was never possible to interpret a myth in terms of objective reason.

There were two ways of arriving at truth, which Plato called mythos and logos (reason). They complemented each other and were of equal stature; both were essential. Unlike myth, logos had to relate accurately to the external world: from the very earliest days, we used it to create effective weapons and to run our societies efficiently.

But humans are also meaning-seeking creatures, who fall very easily into despair. When faced with tragedy, reason is silent and has nothing to say. It was mythology and its accompanying rituals that showed people how to acquire the strength to go on.

As a result of our scientific revolution, however, logos achieved such spectacular results in the west that myth was discredited. By the 19th century, believers and sceptics alike began to read the biblical myths as though they were logoi.

But the biblical writers would have been astonished to hear about a scientific expedition to find the "real" flood. In the premodern perspective, mythos and logos each had its own sphere of competence. If you confused them, you had bad science - like that of the creationists. You also had bad religion. Until we recover a sense of the mythical, our scriptures will remain opaque, and our faith - as well as our unbelief - will be misplaced.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: ancientnavigation; ark; believers; blacksea; blackseaflood; catastrophism; godsgravesglyphs; grandcanyon; greatflood; lost; nauticalarchaeology; noah; noahsark; noahsflood; robertballard
"Ballard's critics are sceptical: they argue that the infiltration of the Black Sea was a gradual process that occurred much earlier and over a long period of time. "

This idea has been pretty well de-bunked in Ryan & Pittman's book, Noah's Flood
If it had been a slow process, there would be numerous 'shore lines' as the water slowly rose. Instead, there is only one about 500 feet underwater.

1 posted on 08/08/2003 6:56:40 PM PDT by blam
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To: farmfriend
Ping.
2 posted on 08/08/2003 6:58:04 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam
So. That settles it then. Karen Armstrong has spoken, pontifically. All the thoughts worth thinking on this matter have now been assembled and delineated. That is good to know.
3 posted on 08/08/2003 7:08:24 PM PDT by Migraine (my grain is pretty straight today)
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To: blam
It was never possible to interpret a myth in terms of objective reason.

Sister Benidict that taught me 9th grade biology said it is not a myth but it might be a parable, just as how Christ taught.

4 posted on 08/08/2003 7:21:09 PM PDT by lizma
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To: Migraine
Ballard And The Black Sea (In Search Of Noah's Flood)
5 posted on 08/08/2003 7:21:55 PM PDT by blam
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To: Quix
PING!
6 posted on 08/08/2003 7:25:16 PM PDT by WorkingClassFilth (Defund NPR, PBS and the LSC.)
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To: blam
Wasn't Noah's Ark found on Mount Ararat?
7 posted on 08/08/2003 7:29:11 PM PDT by rdb3 (Nerve-racking since 0413hrs on XII-XXII-MCMLXXI)
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To: blam
They accuse Ballard of using Noah to sex up his material....

Noah = sexy? Uhhh...right.

8 posted on 08/08/2003 7:33:30 PM PDT by Genesis defender ("Free Republic, a hotbed of Christian Zionist opinionating.")
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To: rdb3
Wasn't Noah's Ark found on Mount Ararat?

I visited Ararat. The only thing found near the summit was a sliver of wood. It was inscribed in an an ancient language. It was later translated to read..42...it was signed...Slartibartfast.

9 posted on 08/08/2003 7:34:46 PM PDT by Focault's Pendulum
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To: blam
This is the same hermeneutic (higher criticism in a post modern context) that the Episcopal bishops used to justify their election of an apostate (dare I say non-true believer) to the office of chief pastor of the Episcopalian flock in New Hampshire.

In other words, without a shred of proof or any evidence, this writer draws on the pseudo-scholarship of the Graf-Welhausen school of biblical interpretation, and decides for us that there is no truth in the historical narratives of the Old Testament. Like the Episcopalians, she looks for a story behind (or above) the story.

What makes her so smart? She goes so far as attributing motive to the writers, motive which is pure speculation.

I don't buy it. There is too much evidence to the contrary.

10 posted on 08/08/2003 7:48:55 PM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: Genesis defender
Noah = sexy? Uhhh...right.

Well, after all, Noah, his wife, and his sons and daughters, and their wives and husbands did repopulate the earth.

11 posted on 08/08/2003 7:58:17 PM PDT by Just another Joe (FReeping can be addictive and helpful to your mental health)
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To: rdb3
Wasn't Noah's Ark found on Mount Ararat?

A piece of wood was found, but was dated to mid-AD. Long after the Biblical stories went to press.

12 posted on 08/08/2003 8:03:14 PM PDT by jlogajan
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To: Migraine
So. That settles it then. Karen Armstrong has spoken, pontifically. All the thoughts worth thinking on this matter have now been assembled and delineated. That is good to know.

Well, in one little article she assembles more historical facts than a gaggle of fundies could scrape together in 20 centuries.

13 posted on 08/08/2003 8:04:56 PM PDT by jlogajan
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To: blam
What I find most interesting is that in New Testament Greek, in John1:1, Christ is called the "Logos", the greek word for "word".
I wonder how this psuedo-academic gets around reason being equal with Christ?
I'm sure it must be a twisted path.

"In the beginning was the Logos,
and the Logos was with God,
and God was the Logos." John 1:1
14 posted on 08/08/2003 8:19:15 PM PDT by TruthConquers
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To: jlogajan
she assembles more historical facts

Read it twice and didn't come across a single "historic fact" and neither can you.
15 posted on 08/08/2003 8:59:35 PM PDT by gusopol3
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To: TruthConquers; blam
See the following paragraph from

http://engr.oregonstate.edu/~funkk/Personal/logos.html

"Perhaps the most extensive accounting of The Logos was by Philo of Alexandria, a Hellenistic Jew who lived around the time of Christ. Philo wrote allegories of Old Testament books authored by Moses, interpreting them in the light of Greek philosophy. He used the term, logos,refer more than 1300 times in his writings, in many varied ways. Of particular note are his references to The Logos as the Divine Reason, by participation in which humans are rational; the model of the universe; the superintendent or governor of the universe; and the first-born son of God. Although there is no direct evidence that John ever even read Philo, it seems clear that the concepts he articulated were firmly in the mind of the evangelist when he wrote his gospel."
16 posted on 08/08/2003 9:07:32 PM PDT by Lessismore
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To: blam
THANKS.

I don't think this is a good area for such a search at all.

There's far, far too much evidence it's on Ararat where The Bible says it came to rest.
17 posted on 08/08/2003 9:08:13 PM PDT by Quix (PLEASE SHARE THE TRUTH RE BILLDO AND SHRILLERY FAR AND WIDE)
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To: jlogajan
Long after the Biblical stories went to press.

These "stories" were written in two languages well before there was such a thing as a printing press. I already know that you are extremely hostile to my faith, but still. . .

18 posted on 08/09/2003 2:33:31 AM PDT by rdb3 (Nerve-racking since 0413hrs on XII-XXII-MCMLXXI)
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To: jlogajan
Well, in one little article she assembles more historical facts than a gaggle of fundies could scrape together in 20 centuries Needless to say, Ballard does not subscribe to these ideas.
Why "needless to say"? I think it needed saying. Otherwise, she must be implying that, since Ballard is a scientist, and has been on National Geographic Explorer, he can't possibly be a believer. What drivel! The search for Noah's flood is as irrelevant as an attempt to find the "real" Middlemarch or Cranford. Like George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell, the authors of Genesis are not writing history, but are engaged in an imaginative investigation of the human predicament.
This is not historical fact -- this is an editorial favoring humanism over Jewish and Chrisian scriptures. If the Bible is not the Word of God, then I don't even care about it. What would be the point of even analyzing it every week in a major newspaper? But, if it IS the Word of God, then it is far more than an "imaginative investigation into the human predicament". What a condescending, patronizing comment. mythos and logos each had its own sphere of competence. If you confused them, you had bad science - like that of the creationists
Like evolutionists, creationists are trying to have GOOD science. The fact that there are flaws in each ought not to outright denigrate either. For instance -- creationists have a scientific problem in that they adduce the supernatural. "God forbid"! say the evolutionists; but they have a scientific problem with the violation of the second law of thermodynamics. Fact is, more geologists are coming around to the cataclysmic model of earth's major sedimentary formations that creationists have been asserting all along. Genesis, however, exonerates God and put the blame squarely on human wickedness.
Well, it is good to know that God has been exonerated by someone. Good grief! I cannot even fathom the stupidity of that comment. If God is God (and He is), it is not possible to exonerate Him. If He were the defendant, then He is also the Judge, the Jury, the Prosecution and the defense. Where does that leave the writer.
19 posted on 08/09/2003 4:47:52 PM PDT by Migraine (my grain is pretty straight today)
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20 posted on 01/24/2007 8:06:59 AM PST by SunkenCiv ("In theory, theory and practice are the same, but in practice, they're not." -- John Rummel)
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21 posted on 01/24/2007 8:07:23 AM PST by SunkenCiv ("In theory, theory and practice are the same, but in practice, they're not." -- John Rummel)
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To: blam
Since I haven't seen it mentioned yet,

Maybe there are several events connected - MY HYPOTHESIS STATES -

The Black Sea was created about 7500BC in and area that would have been very lush and and a heck of a great place to live.

The North Sea was created about the same time and would have been a lush landscape full of rivers and trees - heck of a place to live. Then there's the giant boulders found on the bottom of it with large deposits made from an enormous amount of water flowing into the Ocean. Supposedly,England was once a peninsula of land jutting out into the Atlantic and was carved out due to a 'biblical' sized flood.

I think these are related - Due to the retreat of the ice from the North of Europe, the weight was taken off of the north end of the Eurasian plates and caused some sort of elevation change that shifted water elsewhere.

It's possible that it was a chain-reaction of earthquakes, and as many of you know there were several meteor strikes in and around this same time frame, as well as several large volcanic eruptions. The meteorite strikes could have helped make the other events bigger and more powerful, even if they didn't happen immediately one after the other.The volcanoes and the meteorite strikes both happened in the vicinity of the Mediterranean.

One other VERY interesting scenario is this - http://www.creationscience.com/onlinebook/FrozenMammoths6.html EVERYONE SHOULD TAKE THE TIME TO READ THIS ENTIRE ARTICLE. The author may or may not be right in his hypothesis, but one thing is ABSOLUTE - this is some form of major, recurring, earth event. It takes awhile to read all of it, so be prepared.

My point is this - these events seem to me to be linked, and this guy isn't just going there to see about 'Noah'. It isn't about 'Noah', it's about how and why these cataclysmic events happened to our ancestors. Something like this could happen again, and probably will.

I wish I was on that ship with them right now. This fellow and his crew are pioneers into uncharted archaeological and paleoclimatological waters. They get to see things that won't find room on the pages of 'Scientific American' or Archaeology

What an awesome job to have. How are the rest of you out there going to write or rewrite history? Started yet?
22 posted on 01/25/2007 4:14:58 AM PST by DavemeisterP (It's never too late to be what you might have been....George Elliot)
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To: DavemeisterP
"The Black Sea was created about 7500BC in and area that would have been very lush and and a heck of a great place to live."

The rising waters from the Ice Age melt flooded the fresh water Black Sea with salt water which drove the farmers there up the river valleys into Europe, introducing farming to a whole new area.

23 posted on 01/25/2007 6:53:56 AM PST by blam
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To: blam
Yeah, sorry, Black sea, not North Sea, hadn't drank my morning coffee yet. What I was getting at is that between the end of the last ice age and about 7500BC there are many events that occurred that are similar in occurrence and, to me anyway, are related. There IS a connection, and time will show whether or not I'm right or wrong about it. The specifics are close to discovery, which fills me full of envy for those in the field around the world right now. History is truly in the making and most folks don't spend one waking moment a week thinking about it.
24 posted on 01/25/2007 3:39:27 PM PST by DavemeisterP (It's never too late to be what you might have been....George Elliot)
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25 posted on 03/18/2008 10:40:56 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/______________________Profile updated Saturday, March 1, 2008)
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