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1. NOAH'S ARK, FACT OR FICTION?
In many senses, the Biblical story of Noah is a new Genesis.
OK, here's the detail on my contention:
Among the questions we have to answer are these: Did Noah exist, did the ark exist as described , and did the Flood take place as depicted?
If we want to understand the sources of the Biblical Noah, and how accurate that story is, we have to first understand that a number of flood/ark stories existed in other cultures. The scholarship is pretty tight on this.
There is also some dating that has been done by scholars which shows some of these flood stories predate the Hebraic flood story of Noah.
This can be misleading, however, because what scholars are really talking about are the creation dates of the written versions of these stories. In other words what they are saying is that the written creation date of one preceded the written creation date of the other, but this has nothing to do with how old each of these oral myths actually was.
This is because we also know that these stories existed as oral story poems for hundreds if not thousands of years before they were eventually transcribed into alphabetic writing somewhere around 1200 B.C., which is the approximate point in time that humans discovered alphabetic writing, although some like the Sumerians and Egyptians had a hieroglyphic written language as early as 3200 B.C.
At any rate, the oral story poem about Noah was most probably transcribed into early archaic Hebraic writing around 1200 BC, where it existed in "manuscript" form for about 400 years until it was entered into the Hebraic Bible around 700 B.C., which is the time when the Book of Moses was formalized out of hundreds of transcribed oral poems. How long it existed in oral form is anyone's guess.
So we now have the story, but what few scholars (and alternative thinkers) don't see to understand is the extent to which a preliterate oral story poem can be trusted.
The answer is this: they can be highly accurate on a few matters and highly untrustworthy on most others.
First of all there is the problem of the story changing over great periods of time. 350 years is the time gap between the Trojan war and the birth of Homer, the great oral poet who created the epic poem ( Illiad) about that war.
The Noah time gap between the flood and the first Hebraic written version of it is even larger. Some Biblical scholars give the date of the Flood as 2300 B.C., which is about the time when the pyramids were being built in Egypt.
This date is disputed by scientists, who place the Flood at several earlier dates. Nevertheless, even using the unscientific date of 2300 B.C. , this is a huge amount of time (2300 B.C. minus 1200 B.C. = 1100 years) for any culture to maintain a detailed, accurate oral story. It is not impossible, but as 350 years (the Illiad transcription) is the one proven time span we know, we have to be cautious.
This leads me to believe that most probably the written Noah story we see in the Bible was adopted orally by preliterate Pre-Hebraic tribes from the oral flood story of another semitic culture. The Pre-Hebraic tribes then expanded it over many generations until it relected the spiritual concerns of their culture.
I want to take you in a different direction now. Without going into the detailed thinking backing up my statements on how much oral poems can be trusted (which can be seen in my books listed at the end of this section) the answer is as follows for the Biblical Noah:
1) Here's the main rule that is never violated: all oral story poems are based on real physical or psychic events.
They were never imaginary fables, which are modern, literate inventions.
An actual massive flood event did take place somewhere in the middle eastern preliterate world. That can be taken as a fact.
Exactly, when and where is problematic, but there are several well-documented scientific theories about the occurrence of great floods in the eastern Mediterranean and I believe more will appear in time as we uncover instances of meteor collisions in the seas in the middle East.
2) A man named Noah (or a name with a similar linguistic root) did exist and he did fashion some kind of craft to save his family, his belongings and some animals.
Here is some scholarship on the meaning of Noah.
(The name Noah () comes from the verb (nuah 1323) meaning rest, settle down. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament reports that this root 'signifies not only absence of movement but being settled in a particular place  with overtones of finality.)
Here an interesting situation arises. If we assume that the Hebrew root "nuah" preceded the date of the flood
a) the man Noah was given this name at his birth in prophetic recognition of the fact he would bring the human race to a "place of final rest".
b) the man who built the craft accepted (or adopted) the name in honor of the fact that he had brought humanity to a "place of final rest".
In either case, the name Noah would have been rigidly honored after the Flood.
The names of heroes are one of the few things in oral story poems that are always correct, because in oral cultures, honoring a hero meant repeating his name in song correctly and endlessly. Honor, which to us is expendable, was the highest virtue in an oral culture. It would be unthinkable to change the hero's name.
4. The general theme of an oral story poem always reflects the world-vision of that culture.
Like the hero's name, it never changes, nor is it arbitrary because it emerges from the collective unconscious of that culture via the creative act of poetry.
The general theme of the Noah story is not unique. It occurs over and over in many preliterate cultures. In its simplest form it is this: The gods will destroy disobedient humans.
But the Noah story is a variation on that general theme. Tese variations also occur in many other cultures.
The variation in the case of the Pre-Hebraic tribes is one of divine punishment by Water, which is of immense psychic importance because death by drowning, in the case of the these preliterate Pre-Hebraic tribes, implies a return to the "darkness of the waters" and thus sets the stage for a new Creation.
It is water's implied ability to create life as well as destroy it that gives the Noah story much of its unconscious power.
Let me put it this way: fire or comets or raging monsters would not have done the trick.
Such powerful story poems emerge when powerful events occur at a point in time when the collective unconscious of a culture has been searching for a way to express a yet to be born cultural truth.
It is an automatic, unconscious cultural response, which is the nature of these great preliterate story poems. This is why the name Noah and the central theme of the Flood are not arbitrary. It is out of the question because both are dictated by the power of the cultural, collective unconscious, which again, is always rooted in an actual psychic or physical event.
4) Here is something else that is never arbitrary : the nature or character of the hero.
Achilles is always courageous, Odysseus is always wily. It is no accident that Noah is depicted as obedient, a drunk , and not a deep thinker, i.e., he is a man driven by his instincts, his unconscious mind. In other words. he is driven by theunknowable forces within him.
In this, Noah is a stand-in for God, the ultimate "unknowable" power, in the re-seeding of the earth. There is also an echo of Homer's mysterious, brooding, psychically-rooted "wine-dark sea" in the drunken Noah.
5) Everything else in the story is subject to change. Everything.
Oral story poems were never consciously fashioned, as our TV dramas are. They emerged from the unconscious of individual poets in hundreds of songs that ebbed and flowed over hundreds of years. Like dreams they needed no prompting from the conscious mind, because they reflected unconscious cultural truths that needed to be sung of over and over.
So here's the run down on the Biblical Flood:
1) A flood event existed and triggered the initial story poem that was adopted (or perhaps created) by the Pre-Hebraic tribes .
2) Noah existed. His psychological nature and name as well as the theme of the Flood were orally preserved over hundreds if not thousands of years until they were transcribed into writing.
3.) The theme of Noah's Flood was a cultural vision of destruction and redemption that remained intact over hundreds of years until it was transcribed into writing.
4) Here's the kicker: everything else was subject to change, usually through exaggeration. Colors, dimensions, times, minor characters, costume, habits, etc.
Tall tales were not invented by Paul Bunyan. Thus the dimensions of the craft, the number and type of animals, the family members, the duration of the flood, where it finally grounded, etc., were all subject to exaggeration and change.
It happened organically out of the poet's unconscious. and the collective unconscious of the culture. It's the nature of oral story poems to grow in this manner over hundreds of years.
Don't forget, there are no written records, none. A change that took place in a retelling may not even have been noticed. Or if it was, it was easily accepted because the culture was ready to hear it.
For instance, the 40 day period of the flood before it receded most probably does not reflect any actual duration. If it was a flash flood it may have lasted for a few days or if by glacial melting, a very long time.
Forty days is a highly spiritual number: it signifies the time period most preliterate cultures held as the time between death and the body's decomposition, which was always seen as the time when the soul departed from the physical world into the Other World. Most probably the 40 days fit a cultural/spiritual need, in that it signified the time between death (The Flood) and the entry of the Pre-Hebraic tribes into a new world.
One last note. As I mentioned earlier, we don't know whether the Pre-Hebraic tribes adopted the Flood story from earlier cultures so as to flesh out their own "punishment /redemption" story poems, or if it originated out of their own flood experience is anyone's guess. Here's why:
We have to remember that the preliterate Pre-Hebraic tribes were polytheistic wanderers, most probably herders and perhaps craftsmen. Here is some scholarship that indicates that:
The term Hebrew means "to cross over a boundary". (ISBE, revised, Hebrew) Included in this thought is that a "Hebrew" would be one "who crossed over" or one who went from place to place, a nomad, a wanderer, an alien.
It is only after the time of Moses (1500 B.C.) that they became Jaweh's chosen people, the mono-theistic Hebrews and had an early heiroglphic written langusge.
Thus, while the final transcribed written versions of the various Flood stories have originating dates as to their written publication, the question as to when the stories originated orally, and where, is essentially unanswerable. Even members of those ancient cultures would have no idea.
An oral world has few artistic boundaries, because oral story poems existed on the wind as poets and listeners came and went across vast areas.
It could be that one of the great oral flood stories originated with the Hebrews, or it could be they adopted one that described their cultural vision of destruction and redemption.
That adoption, however, would soon be forgotten. It would become theirs, because it expressed an unconscious cultural truth that needed expressing.
The written transcriptions of those great oral poems are sometimes all we have of those ancient times, because outside of the art work and stone structures that have survived, there are no permanent records of what those preliterate cultures were like.
We must never forget that in oral cultures, there is only the foggy past (many moons), the immediate present, and the great oral story poems that came and went on the wind.
Some of those great story poems, because of their spiritual and cultural truths, were retold over hundreds and perhaps even thousands of years until they were thrown upon the shores of literacy and transcribed into writing.
We must always remember, however, that they were subject to the kind of changes I have been indicating.
Let the buyer beware.
So anyone who is looking for a 500 foot, 3-story boat capable of carrying every animal known to man should think twice before setting out on an expedition.
This is why it pays to understand that the so called "document" you're relying on for facts is not a physical description like you'd find in Popular Science, but a (hopefully) somewhat accurately transcribed (and translated) Hebrew metaphor for the Divine destruction and re-creation/ redemption of the Hebrews.
In short, it is a work of art. It is as much about the interior world than the exterior world of the Hebrews.
An interesting note: this is a replica of the biblical Ark, built by Dutchman Johan Huibers as a testament to his faith in the literal truth of the Bible. Johan got the idea to build the ark after having a dream about the Netherlands being flooded. He plans to set sail and travel to other parts of the country and eventually to major cities in Belgium and Germany.
Don't confuse this remarkable feat, however, with the preliterate myth of Noah.
They are two different things, created by different eruptions of the imagination.
No one will be reading or thinking about Johan 3000 years from now, in the same way as we have been reading and thinking about Noah for the past 3000 years.
Think about it
I welcome your comments on anything in this blog or in my videos .
HERE ARE TWO OF MY BOOKS THAT WILL HELP YOU UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF ORAL MYTHS LIKE NOAH'S ARK.
ALICE HICKEY: Between Worlds is a must read for anyone interested in the psychic world and the very early Mother Goddess cultures.
CLICK HERE to download and read a free copy of Alice Hickey
No ancient legend or myth can be correctly understood without understanding how and why these great story poems were created.
To download and read a free copy of this book, CLICK HERE