Monday, August 28, 2006

I Agree With Karen Lillis

According to the Bible, Noah's Ark was a massive vessel built at God's command to save Noah, his family, and a core stock of the world's animals from the Great Flood. The story is contained in the Hebrew Bible's book of Genesis, chapters 6 to 9.

According to the predominant view in postmodern textual criticism—the documentary hypothesis—the Ark story told in Genesis is based on two originally quasi-independent sources, and did not reach its present form until the 5th century BC. According to this hypothesis, the process of composition over many centuries helps to explain apparent confusion and repetition in the text. Many Orthodox Jews, and traditional Christians and Muslims reject this analysis, holding that the Ark story is true, that it has a single author, and that any perceived inadequacies can be explained rationally.

The Ark story told in Genesis has parallels in the Sumerian myth of Ziusudra, which tells how a carpenter was warned by God to build a vessel in which to escape a flood sent by Him. Less exact parallels are found in other cultures from around the world. Indeed, the deluge story is one of the most common topics across the globe, leading both skeptics and believers to see this trend as proof of their position.

The Ark story has been subject to extensive elaborations in the various Abrahamic traditions, mingling theoretical solutions to practical problems (e.g. how Noah might have disposed of animal waste) with allegorical interpretations (e.g. the Ark as a precursor of the Church, offering salvation to mankind).

By the beginning of the 18th century, the growth of geology and biogeography as sciences meant that few natural historians felt able to justify a literal interpretation of the Ark story. Nevertheless, Biblical literalists continue to explore the region of the mountains of Ararat, in northeastern Turkey (formerly Armenia), where the Bible says Noah's Ark came to rest.


1 Narrative

2 The documentary hypothesis and the Flood

3 Biblical literalism and the Ark

4 Other flood accounts
4.1 Mesopotamian flood stories

4.2 Other flood stories

5 The Ark in later Abrahamic tradition
5.1 In Rabbinic tradition

5.2 In Christian tradition

5.3 In Islamic tradition

6 The Ark under scrutiny

7 The search for Noah's Ark

8 See also

9 Notes

10 References

11 External links



Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Deluge, Sistine Chapel, the Vatican.

The story of Noah's Ark, according to chapters 6 to 9 in the Book of Genesis, begins with God observing man's evil behavior and deciding to flood the earth and destroy all life. However, God found one good man, Noah, "a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time", and decided that he would carry forth the lineage of man. God told Noah to make an ark, and to bring with him his wife, and his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives. Additionally, he was to bring pairs of all living creatures, male and female, and in order to provide sustenance, he was told to bring and store food.[1]

When Noah completed the Ark, he and his family and the animals entered, and "the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened, and the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights." There is no mention of rain anywhere on earth prior to this event mentioned in the Bible. There is conjecture that the "windows of heaven" refer to the collapse of an entire firmament of water above the expanse of sky in Genesis 1. The mention of "the fountains of the great deep broken up" suggests massive continuous seismic activity. When geological formations are submerged and affected by massive seismic activity, large-scale changes in geological features have been observed. .[2] The flood covered even the highest mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet, and all creatures on Earth died; only Noah and those with him on the Ark were left alive.[3]

Finally, after about 220 days, the Ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat, and the waters receded for another forty days until the mountaintops emerged. Then Noah sent out a raven which "went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth". Next, Noah sent a dove out, but it returned having found nowhere to land. After a further seven days, Noah again sent out the dove, and it returned with an olive leaf in its beak, and he knew that the waters had subsided. Noah waited seven days more and sent out the dove once more, and this time it did not return. Then he and his family and all the animals left the Ark, and Noah made a sacrifice to God, and God resolved that he would never again curse the ground because of man, and never again would He destroy all life on it in this manner.[4]

In order to remember this promise, God put a rainbow in the clouds, saying, “Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."[5]


The documentary hypothesis and the Flood

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Torah scroll, open to Exodus: British Library Add. MS. 4,707

The 87 verses of the Ark narrative leave an impression of occasional confusion: why does the story state twice over that mankind had grown corrupt but that Noah was to be saved (Gen 6:5–8; 6:11–13)? Was Noah commanded to take one pair of each clean animal into the Ark (Gen 6:19–20) or seven pairs (Gen 7:2–3)? Did the flood last forty days (Gen. 7:17) or a hundred and fifty days? (Gen 7:24)? What happened to the raven that was sent out from the Ark at the same time as the dove and "went to and fro until the waters had subsided from the face of the earth" some two to three weeks later (Gen 8:7)? Why does the narrative appear to have two logical end-points (Gen 8:20–22 and 9:1–17)? Questions such as these are not unique to the Ark narrative, or to Genesis, and the attempt to find a solution has led to the emergence of what is currently the dominant school of thought on the textual analysis of the first five books of the Bible, the documentary hypothesis.

According to the hypothesis, the five books of the Pentateuch—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—were edited together in the 5th century BC from four independent sources. The Ark narrative is believed to be made up of material from two of these, the Priestly source and the Jahwist. The Jahwist[6] is the earlier of the two, composed in the kingdom of Judah from even earlier texts and traditions soon after the separation of Judah and Israel c. 920 BC. The Jahwist narrative is rather simpler than the Priestly story: God sends his flood (for forty days), Noah and his family and the animals are saved (seven pairs or perhaps just seven of each clean animal, the Hebrew text is ambiguous), Noah builds an altar and makes sacrifices, and God resolves never again to destroy the earth with a flood. The Jahwist source makes no mention of a covenant between God and Noah.

The Priestly text[7] is believed to have been composed at some point between the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC and the fall of the southern kingdom of Judah around 586 BC. The material from the Priestly source contains far more detail than the Jahwist—for example, the instructions for the building of the Ark, and the detailed chronology—and also provides the vital theological core of the story, the covenant between God and Noah at Gen 9:1–17, which introduces the peculiarly Jewish method of ritual slaughter, and which forms the quid pro quo for God's promise not to destroy the world again. It is the Priestly source which gives us the raven (the Jahwist has the dove) and the rainbow, and which introduces the windows of heaven and the fountains of the deep (the Jahwist simply says that it rained). Like the Jahwist source, the author of the Priestly text would have had access to earlier texts and traditions which are now lost.

The Ark story's theme of God's anger at man's wickedness, his decision to embark on a terrible vengeance, and his later regret, are typical of the Jahwist author or authors, who treat God as a humanlike figure who appears in person in the biblical narrative. The Priestly source, by contrast, normally presents God as distant and unapproachable except through the Aaronite priesthood. Thus, for example, the Jahwist source requires seven of each clean animal to allow for Noah's sacrifices, while the Priestly source reduces this to a single pair, as no sacrifices can be made under priestly rules until the first priest (Aaron) is created in the time of the Exodus.


Biblical literalism and the Ark

John Everett Millais: The Return of the Dove to the Ark (1851)

Many Orthodox Jews and conservative Christians are believers in Biblical inerrancy, the concept that the Bible, as the word of God, is without error, but must be interpreted using the historical-grammatical method in order to be understood correctly whenever there is no clear reason for any other reading. They also tend to trust in traditions regarding the composition of the Bible. Those who follow these biblical hermeneutical methods, therefore, generally accept the traditional Jewish belief that the Ark narrative in Genesis was written by Moses. There is less agreement on when Moses lived, and thus on when the Ark story was written—various dates have been proposed ranging from the 16th century BC to the late 13th century BC.

For the date of the Flood, literalists rely on interpretation of the genealogies contained in Gen 5 and 11. Archbishop Ussher, using this method in the 17th century, arrived at 2349 BC, and this date still has acceptance among many. A more recent Christian fundamentalist scholar, Gerhard F. Hasel, however, summarising the current state of thought in the light of the various Biblical manuscripts (the Masoretic text in Hebrew, various manuscripts of the Greek Septuagint), and differences of opinion over their correct interpretation, demonstrated that this method of analysis can date the flood only within a range between 3402 and 2462 BC.[8] Other opinions, based on other sources and methodologies, lead to dates outside even this bracket—the deuterocanonical Book of Jubilees, for example, providing a date equivalent to 2309 BC.

Literalists explain apparent contradiction in the Ark narrative as the result of the stylist conventions adopted by an ancient text: thus the confusion over whether Noah took seven pairs or only one pair of each clean animal into the Ark is explained as resulting from the author (Moses) first introducing the subject in general terms—seven pairs of clean animals—and then later, with much repetition, specifying that these animals entered the Ark in twos. Literalists see nothing puzzling in the reference to a raven—why should Noah not release a raven?—nor do they see any sign of alternative endings.

Apart from questions of date, authorship, and textual integrity, literalists devote much attention to technical matters such as the identity of "gopher wood" and details of the Ark's construction. The following sets out some of the more commonly discussed topics:

Gopher wood: Gen 6:14 states that Noah built the Ark of גפר (gofer, more commonly gopher) wood, a word not otherwise known in the Bible or in Hebrew. The Jewish Encyclopedia believes it was most likely a translation of the Babylonian "gushure iş erini" (cedar-beams), or the Assyrian "giparu" (reed).[9] The Greek Septuagint (3rd–1st centuries BC) translated it as ξύλων τετραγώνων ("xylon tetragonon"), "squared timber".[10] Similarly, the Latin Vulgate (5th century AD) rendered it as "lignis levigatis", or "smoothed (possibly planed) wood". Older English translations, including the King James Version (17th century), simply leave it untranslated. Many modern translations tend to favour cypress (although the word for "cypress" in Biblical Hebrew is erez), on the basis of a misapplied etymology based on phonetic similarities, while others favor pine or cedar. Recent suggestions have included a lamination process, or a now-lost type of tree, or a mistaken transcription of the word kopher (pitch), but there is no consensus.[11]

Seaworthiness: The Ark is described as 300 cubits long, the cubit being a unit of measurement from elbow to outstretched fingertip. Many different cubits were in use in the ancient world, but all were essentially similar, and literalist websites seem to agree that the Ark was approximately 450 feet (137 m) in length. This is considerably longer than the largest wooden vessels ever built in historical times: according to certain sources, the early 15th-century Chinese admiral Zheng He may have used junks 400 feet (122 m) long, but the schooner Wyoming, launched in 1909 and the largest documented wooden-hulled cargo ship ever built, measured only 350 feet (107 m) and needed iron cross-bracing to counter warping and a steam pump to handle a serious leak problem.[12] "The construction and use histories of these [late 19th-century wooden European] ships indicated that they were already pushing or had exceeded the practical limits for the size of wooden ships." [13] Literalist scholars who accept these objections—not all do[14]—believe that Noah must have built the Ark using advanced post-19th century techniques such as space frame construction.[15]

Capacity and logistics: The Ark had a gross volume of about 1.5 million cubic feet (40,000 m³), a displacement a little less than half that of the Titanic at about 22,000 tons, and total floor space of around 100,000 square feet (9,300 m²).[16] The question of whether it could have carried two (or more) specimens of the various species (including those now extinct), plus food and fresh water, is a matter of much debate, even bitter dispute, between literalists and their opponents. While some literalists hold that the Ark could have held all known species, a more common position today is that the Ark contained "kinds" rather than species—for instance, a male and female of the cat "kind" rather than representatives of tigers, lions, cougars, etc. The many associated questions include whether eight humans could have cared for the animals while also sailing the Ark, how the special dietary needs of some of the more exotic animals could have been catered for, questions of lighting, ventilation, and temperature control, hibernation, the survival and germination of seeds, the position of freshwater and saltwater fish, the question of what the animals would have eaten immediately after leaving the Ark, and how they could have travelled to their present habitats. The numerous literalist websites, while agreeing that none of these problems is insurmountable, give varying answers on how to resolve them.[17]


Other flood accounts

Main article: Flood (mythology)

The Deluge tablet of the Gilgamesh epic in Akkadian


Mesopotamian flood stories

The majority of modern Biblical scholars accept the thesis that the Biblical flood story is linked to a cycle of Assyro-Babylonian mythology with which it shares many features. However, no other stories cite occurrences of flood waters from sources quite so supernatural (eg first historical mention of rain, heavenly firmament collapsing, secondary source of flood waters from the deep, etc). The Chaldean Flood Tablets from the city of Ur in what is now Southern Iraq, describe how the Bablylonian God Ea had decided to eliminate humans and other land animals with a great flood which was to become "the end of all flesh". He selected Ut-Napishtim, to build an ark to save a few humans, and samples of other animals. Either: Genesis was copied from an earlier Babylonian story, or The Gilgamesh myth was copied from an earlier Hebrew story, or Both were copied from a common source that predates them both.

The Babylonian text "The Epic of Gilgamesh" 1,8 and the Hebrew story have many parallels with about 20 major points in common. Their origins are obviously linked in some way.

The oldest known copy of the epic of Atrahasis can be dated by colophon (scribal identification) to the reign of Hammurabi's great-grandson, Ammi-Saduqa (1646–1626 BC), and it continued to be copied into the first millennium; the Ziusudra story can be dated from its script to the late 17th century BC; and the story of Utnapishtim, known from first millennium copies, is probably derived from Atrahasis.[18] The Mesopotamian flood-myth had a very long currency—the last known retelling dates from the 3rd century BC. A substantial number of the original Sumerian, Akkadian and Assyrian texts, written in cuneiform, have been recovered by archaeologists, but the task of recovering more tablets continues, as does the translation of extant tablets.

The Atrahasis Epic, in Akkadian (the language of ancient Babylon), tells how the god Enki warns the hero Atrahasis ("Extremely Wise") of Shuruppak to dismantle his house (which is made of reeds) and build a boat to escape a flood with which the god Enlil, angered by the noise of the cities, plans to wipe out mankind. The boat is to have a roof "like Apsu" (the underworld ocean of freshwater of which Enki is lord), upper and lower decks, and must be sealed with bitumen. Atrahasis boards the boat with his family and animals and seals the door. The storm and flood begin. Even the gods are afraid. "Bodies clog the river like dragonflies" which identifies the flood as a river flood. After seven days the flood ends and Atrahasis offers sacrifices. Enlil is furious, but Enki defies him, "I made sure life was preserved," and eventually Enki and Enlil agree on other measures for controlling the human population. The story also exists in a later Assyrian version.[19]

The story of Ziusudra is told in the Sumerian language in the fragmentary Eridu Genesis. It tells how Enki warns Ziusudra (meaning "he saw life", in reference to the gift of immortality given him by the gods), king of Shuruppak, of the gods' decision to destroy mankind with a flood—the passage describing why the gods have decided this is lost. Enki instructs Ziusudra to build a large boat—the text describing the instructions is also lost. After a flood of seven days, Ziusudra makes appropriate sacrifices and prostrations to An (sky-god) and Enlil (chief of the gods), and is given eternal life in Dilmun, the Sumerian Eden.[20]

The Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh tells of Utnapishtim (a translation of "Ziusudra" into Akkadian) of Shuruppak. Ellil, (the equivalent of Enlil), chief of the gods, wishes to destroy mankind with a flood. Utnapishtim is warned by the god Ea (equivalent to Enki) to tear down his reed house and use the materials to build an ark and load it with gold, silver, and the seed of all living creatures and all his craftsmen. After a storm lasting seven days, and a further twelve days on the waters, the ship grounds on Mount Nizir; after seven more days Utnapishtim sends out a dove, which returns, then a swallow, which also returns, and finally a raven, which does not come back. Utnapishtim then makes offerings (by sevens) to the gods, and the gods smell the roasting meat and gather "like flies." Ellil is angry that any human has escaped, but Ea upbraids him, saying, "How couldst thou without thought send a deluge? On the sinner let his sin rest, on the wrongdoer rest his misdeed. Forbear, let it not be done, have mercy, [That men perish not]." Utnapishtim and his wife are then given the gift of immortality and sent to dwell "afar off at the mouth of the rivers".[21]

In the 3rd century BC Berossus, a high priest of the temple of Marduk in Babylon, wrote a history of Mesopotamia in Greek for Antiochus Soter (323–261 BC). Berossus's Babyloniaka has not survived, but the 3rd/4th century Christian historian Eusebius retells from it the legend of Xisuthrus, the Greek version of Ziusudra, and essentially the same story. Eusebius concludes that the vessel was still to be seen "in the Corcyræan Mountains of Armenia; and the people scrape off the bitumen, with which it had been outwardly coated, and make use of it by way of an alexipharmic and amulet."[22]


Other flood stories

Flood stories are widespread in world mythology, with examples available from practically every society. Noah's counterpart in Greek mythology was Deucalion, in Indian texts a terrible flood was supposed to have left only one survivor, a saint named Manu who was saved by Vishnu in the form of a fish, and the story of Yima in Zoroastrian mythology contains a very similar account, although in this case it is ice, not water, that threatens life. Flood stories have been found also in the mythologies of many preliterate peoples, from areas distant from Mesopotamia and the Eurasian continent; the Chippewa Indians legend is one example.[23] Biblical literalists point to these stories as evidence that the biblical deluge, and the Ark, represent real history; ethnologists and mythologists suggest that legends such as the Chippewa have to be treated with great caution due to the possibility of contamination from contact with Christianity (and the desire to shape traditional material to fit the newly adopted religion), as well as a common need to explain natural disasters over which early societies had no control.


The Ark in later Abrahamic tradition

Ibn Battuta, 1304–1377, the Moroccan world-traveller who passed by the mountain of al-Judi, near Mosul, resting place of the Ark in Islamic tradition.


In Rabbinic tradition

The story of Noah and the Ark was subject to much discussion in later Jewish rabbinic literature. Noah's failure to warn others of the coming flood was widely seen as casting doubt on his righteousness—was he perhaps only righteous by the lights of his own evil generation? According to one tradition, he had in fact passed on God's warning, planting cedars one hundred and twenty years before the Deluge so that the sinful could see and be urged to amend their ways. In order to protect Noah and his family, God placed lions and other ferocious animals to guard them from the wicked who mocked them and offered them violence. According to one midrash it was God, or the angels, who gathered the animals to the Ark, together with their food. As there had been no need to distinguish between clean and unclean animals before this time, the clean animals made themselves known by kneeling before Noah as they entered the Ark. A differing opinion said that the Ark itself distinguished clean from unclean, admitting seven of the first and two of the second.

Noah was engaged both day and night in feeding and caring for the animals, and did not sleep for the entire year aboard the Ark. The animals were the best of their species, and so behaved with utmost goodness. They abstained from procreation, so that the number of creatures that disembarked was exactly equal to the number that embarked. Yet Noah was lamed by the lion, rendering him unfit for priestly duties, and the sacrifice at the end of the voyage was therefore carried out by his son Shem. The raven created problems, refusing to go out of the Ark when Noah sent it forth and accusing the Patriarch of wishing to destroy its race. Nevertheless, as the commentators pointed out, God wished to save the raven, for its descendants were destined to feed the prophet Elijah.

Refuse was stored on the lowest of the Ark's three decks, humans and clean beasts on the second, and the unclean animals and birds on the top. A differing opinion placed the refuse in the upmost story, from where it was shovelled into the sea through a trapdoor. Precious stones, bright as midday, provided light, and God ensured that food was kept fresh. The giant Og, king of Bashan, was among those saved—as he must have been, as his descendents are mentioned in later books of the Torah—but owing to his size had to remain outside, Noah passing him food through a hole cut into the wall of the Ark.[24]


In Christian tradition

Early Christian writers created elaborate allegorical meanings for Noah and the Ark.

The first of these is in the New Testament itself (1 Peter 3:20-21), which states that the people on the ark being saved through water prefigures the Christian being saved through baptism (repentance of sins).

St Augustine of Hippo (354–430), in City of God, demonstrated that the dimensions of the Ark corresponded to the dimensions of the human body, which is the body of Christ, which is the Church.[25]

St Jerome (c. 347–420) called the raven, which was sent forth and did not return, the "foul bird of wickedness" expelled by baptism;[26] more enduringly, the dove and olive branch came to symbolise the Holy Spirit and the hope of salvation and, eventually, peace.

On a more practical plane, Origen (c. 182–251), responding to a critic who doubted that the Ark could contain all the animals in the world, countered with a learned argument about cubits, holding that Moses, the traditional author of the book of Genesis, had been brought up in Egypt and would therefore have used the larger Egyptian cubit; he also fixed the shape of the Ark as a truncated pyramid, rectangular rather than square at its base, and tapering to a square peak one cubit on a side.[27] It was not until the 12th century that it came to be thought of as a rectangular box with a sloping roof.

The equation of Ark and Church is still found in the Anglican rite of baptism, which asks God, "who of thy great mercy dids't save Noah," to receive into the Church the infant about to be baptised.


In Islamic tradition

Noah (Nuh) is one of the five principal prophets of Islam, generally mentioned in connection with the fate of those who refuse to listen to the Word. References are scattered through the Qur'an, with the fullest account at surah 11:27–51, entitled "Hud".

In contrast to the Jewish tradition, which uses a term which can be translated as a "box" or "chest" to describe the Ark, surah 29:14 refers to it as a safina, an ordinary ship, and surah 54:14 as "a thing of boards and nails". Surah 11:44 says it settled on Mount Judi, identified by tradition with a hill near the town of Jazirat ibn Umar on the east bank of the Tigris in the province of Mosul in northern Iraq, and Abd al-Hasan Ali ibn al-Husayn Masudi (d. 956) says that the spot where it came to rest could be seen in his time. Masudi also says that the Ark began its voyage at Kufa in central Iraq and sailed to Mekka, where it circled the Kaaba, before finally travelling to Judi. Sura 11:43 says: "And he said, 'Ride ye in it; in the Name of God it moves and stays!'" Abdallah ibn 'Umar al-Baidawi, writing in the 13th century, takes this to mean that Noah said, "In the Name of God!" when he wished the Ark to move, and the same when he wished it to stand still.

The flood was sent by Allah in answer to Noah's prayer that this evil generation should be destroyed; yet as Noah was righteous he continued to preach, and seventy idolators were converted and entered the Ark with him, bringing the total aboard to 78 humans (these seventy plus the eight members of Noah's own family). The seventy had no offspring, and all of post-flood humanity is descended from Noah's three sons. A fourth son (or a grandson, according to some) named Canaan was among the idolators, and was drowned.

Baidawi gives the dimensions of the Ark as 300 cubits by 50 by 30, and explains that in the first of the three levels wild and domesticated animals were lodged, in the second the human beings, and in the third the birds. On every plank was the name of a prophet. Three missing planks, symbolising three prophets, were brought from Egypt by Og, son of Anak, the only one of the giants permitted to survive the Flood. The body of Adam was carried in the middle to divide the men from the women.

Noah was five or six months aboard the Ark, at the end of which he sent out a raven. But the raven stopped to feast on carrion, and so Noah cursed it and sent out the dove, which has been known ever since as the friend of mankind. Masudi writes that God commanded the earth to absorb the water, and certain portions which were slow in obeying received salt water in punishment and so became dry and arid. The water which was not absorbed formed the seas, so that the waters of the flood still exist.

Noah left the Ark on the tenth day of Muharram, and he and his family and companions built a town at the foot of Mount Judi named, Thamanin ("eighty"), from their number. Noah then locked the Ark and entrusted the keys to Shem. Yaqut al-Hamawi (1179–1229) mentions a mosque built by Noah which could be seen in his day, and Ibn Batutta passed the mountain on his travels in the 14th century. Modern Muslims, although not generally active in searching for the Ark, believe that it still exists on the high slopes of the mountain.[28]


The Ark under scrutiny

The Renaissance saw a continued speculation that might have seemed familiar to Origen and Augustine: what of the Phoenix, which is unique, how could it come in as a pair? (A popular solution was that it contained male and female in itself); and might the Sirens, which by their nature lure sailors to their doom, have been permitted on board? (The answer was no; they swam outside); and the bird of paradise, which has no feet—did it therefore fly endlessly inside the Ark? Yet at the same time, a new class of scholarship arose, one which, while never questioning the literal truth of the Ark story, began to speculate on the practical workings of Noah's vessel from within a purely naturalistic framework. Thus in the 15th century, Alfonso Tostada gave a detailed account of the logistics of the Ark, down to arrangements for the disposal of dung and the circulation of fresh air, and the noted 16th century geometrician Johannes Buteo calculated the ship's internal dimensions, allowing room for Noah's grinding mills and smokeless ovens, a model widely adopted by other commentators.[29]

By the 17th century it was becoming necessary to reconcile the exploration of the New World and increased awareness of the global distribution of species with the older belief that all life had sprung from a single point of origin on the slopes of Mount Ararat. The obvious answer was that man had spread over the continents following the destruction of the Tower of Babel and taken animals with him, yet some of the results seemed peculiar: why had the natives of North America taken rattlesnakes, but not horses, wondered Sir Thomas Browne in 1646? "How America abounded with Beasts of prey and noxious Animals, yet contained not in that necessary Creature, a Horse, is very strange."[30]

Browne, who was among the first to question the notion of spontaneous generation, was a medical doctor and amateur scientist making this observation in passing. Biblical scholars of the time such as Justus Lipsius (1547–1606) and Athanasius Kircher (c.1601–1680) were also beginning to subject the Ark story to rigorous scrutiny as they attempted to harmonise the biblical account with natural historical knowledge. The resulting hypotheses were an important impetus to the study of the geographical distribution of plants and animals, and indirectly spurred the emergence of biogeography in the 18th century. Natural historians began to draw connections between climates and the animals and plants adapted to them. One influential theory held that the biblical Ararat was striped with varying climactic zones, and as climate changed, the associated animals moved as well, eventually spreading to repopulate the globe. There was also the problem of an ever-expanding number of known species: for Kircher and earlier natural historians, there was little problem finding room for all known animals in the Ark, but by the time John Ray (1627–1705) was working, just several decades after Kircher, the number of known animals had expanded beyond biblical proportions. Incorporating the full range of animal diversity into the Ark story was becoming increasingly difficult, and by 1700 few natural historians could justify a literal interpretation of the Noah's Ark narrative.[31]


The search for Noah's Ark

Main article: Searches for Noah's Ark

For centuries, Mount Ararat (pictured here) has been searched for remains of Noah's ark. Now, Mount Sabalan, over 300 km (200 miles) away, is under investigation.

The prospect of finding the location of Noah's Ark in the "Mountains of Ararat" has held fascination since Ancient times. This effort became more widespread in the early 19th century, and claims have been made on a number of occasions, usually turning out to be hoaxes.

Dr. Bob Cornuke of the fundamentalist Christian Bible Archeology Search and Exploration Institute (BASE Institute) has suggested Mount Sabalan in Iran as the ark's final resting place. Cornuke led expeditions to Mount Sabalan, but found nothing. In June of 2006, Cornuke claimed to have found a massive structure made of what appears to be wood. Samples have been sent to Texas and Florida for analysis. BASE Institute members hiked for seven hours, climbing 13,000 feet before making the reported discovery on Mount Suleiman in the Alborz mountains, near Takht-i-Suleiman northwest of Tehran. Several pictures of a section of the alleged ark have been made public[32].


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