The likelihood that all the animals went to Noah

  • Question from KK, USA

    Did Noah’s Ark actually occur, as described in the Bible? For instance, if there were two kangaroos on the Ark, how did they hop from Mt. Ararat all the way to Australia, especially considering that after the flood the surface of the earth would be nothing more than caked mud? What did they eat along the way? Also, how did two penguins get from Mt. Ararat to Antarctica? How did insects such as the mayfly, that have adult life-spans of around 24 hours, get from Mt. Ararat to say the Mississippi River Valley? It seems far-fetched, doesn’t it?

    The short answer is: ‘Yes it does.’

    For some reason Noah’s Ark keeps coming up as a question on freelance theology. It seems to be the one story in the Bible that causes the most problems for people. There are of course several creationist theories relating to this exact problem, which, while interesting, tend to raise as many new questions as they answer.

    A few pointers:

    1) While our English translations of the Bible say the ‘whole world’ was flooded, the Hebrew word translated as ‘earth’ in Genesis chapter 6 verse 17 is usually translated as ‘land’ or ‘country’ in chapter 10 verse 10. There is archaeological evidence for wide-ranging flooding in the Mesopotamian area (modern day Iraq) that roughly fits into the possible time-frame for when Noah’s flood occurred.

    2) Kangaroos and other exotic animals are not mentioned in the story at all. There is no textual evidence of migrations from polar regions, the antipodes or the Western hemisphere to Mesopotamia, and then back from Mt. Ararat, although such things are often depicted by Bible illustrators who like drawing animals.

    3) Comparative accounts that closely parallel the Noah story have been found in Babylonian legends, and in other middle-eastern cultures, but without the spiritual message found in Genesis relating to God’s wrath at human sin. There are also parallels in South American legends and, of course, the drowning of Atlantis due to the anger of the gods follows a similar theme. Traversing the sea was a forbidding challenge to early societies (it’s still tricky now!) and often ‘the sea’ was used to describe evil and chaos in primitive myths. The thought of waters rising over the land would have been exceptionally frightening in these cultures.

    4) As has been said on freelance theology before, there is a danger when looking at these Biblical stories that in getting wrapped up in the ‘how’, people can easily lose focus on the ‘why’. This story has been included in Genesis to tell us about God’s character and the fact that God does not tolerate human sin. The story in Genesis chapter 9 verses 18-29 about Noah’s drunkenness shows that the ‘warning’ of the flood did not restore the right relationship between humans and God. That would take covenants with Abraham and Moses, the revelation of God’s Law and, ultimately, the Incarnation. And even now, it is theologically legitimate to say that until the final return of Jesus Christ, God’s plan to sort the world out is still in progress.

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