Interest in Noah reached new heights recently as a new film bearing the prophet’s name burst into theaters with a $77.6 million opening worldwide.
According to the New York Times, the director, Darren Aronofsky, a self-described atheist, described the movie as “the least biblical film ever made.”
Now, engulfed in its own flood of criticism from religious groups about its loose interpretation of a familiar Bible account that is respected by Jews, Christians and Muslims, Paramount pictures took the unusual step of issuing an explanatory message that the film is “inspired by the story of Noah” and “artistic license has been taken.”
Supporters of the film point out that the cinematic version of Noah is not a sermon, nor was it produced to encourage religious conversion or to disrespect a prophet. Instead, at a cost of $125 million, it is intended to entertain, inspire and make a profit. Critics of the film point to its lack of integrity to its source, the Bible, with new interpretations, additions and surprising embellishments.
For example, the decision to portray the Creator’s communication as being exclusively with Noah and in strange visions is contrary to Genesis 9:1: “So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” — New King James Version.
God’s communication continues in verses 2-17, where He gives Noah’s family new instructions about their relationship with animals, what humans could eat, the consequences of shedding blood and a new covenant that reassured them all life on earth would never be destroyed again (see Genesis 8:21).
Boston Globe film critic Ty Purr commented on the film’s decision to depict fallen angels as materialized rock creatures who “assist Noah in his Ark-building as if they were sentient construction cranes.” This portrayal contradicts the Bible’s view at 1Peter 3:19-20, that, contrary to acting as friendly coworkers, wicked spirits were “disobedient” in the days of Noah and contributed to the violence.
Taking its “artistic license” from Genesis 9:20-22 about Noah’s drunkenness, the film presents an exhausted survivor who feels tremendous guilt over being saved. But instead of agonizing over why he and his family were spared destruction as depicted in the film, Genesis 7:1 tell us God explained to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me.” — New King James Version.
So if God praised Noah for being “righteous” — how likely would Noah have felt unworthy of survival, seeing that he “walked with God” and condemned that violent world as “a preacher of righteousness,” according to Genesis 6:9 and 2Peter 2:5.
While most people still believe only two of each animal entered the ark, the Bible gives us a surprising distinction between certain kinds of animals at Genesis 7:2. Here God said, “You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female.” — New King James Version. Did you know that clean animals went into the ark in groups of seven?
The story of a worldwide flood in which human and animal life were saved from extinction by a man who built a vessel has been documented all around the world — in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Syria, Greece, Europe, India, Australia, Central America, North America, South America and beyond.
Some experts estimate more than 500 Flood legends have been told in different civilizations around the world, adding weight to the belief that such a catastrophic event must have happened. The oldest written account, the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, is calculated to have been written between 1900–1700 B.C.
While Noah, as an eyewitness, no doubt recorded his original account before the Epic of Gilgamesh, it was some 850 years after the flood that Moses put the global deluge into writing. Unlike most flood legends, however, the Bible’s account of the Deluge is rich with the kind of details that would matter to a historian, not a fantasy writer.
For the record, there is no indication in the Bible that fallen angels helped Noah build the ark, that Noah was morally confused or felt any guilt for surviving the flood, that Noah was the only one to hear the Voice of God or that Noah engaged in violent confrontations with his contemporaries.
At Matthew 24:37-39, Jesus Christ used the flood of Noah’s day to warn Christians that the vast majority would again be caught off guard when the Son of Man arrives to bring lasting peace on earth. Should this concern you?
Is it possible that by diluting the real impact of the global flood in a sweeping film production, people will question the importance of obedience to God as a key to survival? If so, be very careful. Someone is rocking your boat — hoping you’ll go under.