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Friday, April 30, 2010

Regarding that story about Noah's Ark being found...

E-mails have flooded (pun shamefully intended) into my box since early Tuesday morning asking "Have you heard about Noah's ark being discovered on Mount Ararat?!"

I've been following this story from the time it first broke. And I've been pondering it a lot, wondering what exactly to make of it, before adding my own two cents into the discussion at large...

In case you've missed it, a group of Chinese and Turkish researchers are claiming to have found a massive artificial wooden structure on the slopes of Mount Ararat in Turkey: the place which depending on how you translate the original texts, was the place where the ark of Noah landed after the worldwide deluge recorded in the Book of Genesis (some argue that it should translate into the "mountains of Ararat", making the possible location of the Ark anywhere between Turkey and Iran).

Now, people have been looking for Noah's Ark for literally hundreds of years. Reports of sightings have been documented throughout antiquity. Even during the twentieth century there have been stories about it being spotted from afar (and not a few who said they walked on its top decks), including some admittedly very curious aerial photographs. But so far, nobody has come up with solid physical evidence of the ark being there.

I've heard 'em all over the years. So when I first read about Noah's Ark Ministries International out of Hong Kong, you could have immediately colored me skeptical.

Except that these guys arrived with something that to the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever produced before. Namely, photographs, wood samples, and full-color video.

Mash here for the English section of Noah's Ark Ministries International, which has many photographs of what the group is saying it's "99.9%" certain is Noah's Ark. And behold the video that they've released...

Interesting. VERY interesting.

Here's the problem I have with it however: as well-meaning as Noah's Ark Ministries International likely is, they should not have full-bore declared with little uncertainty that they have found the biblical boat. It would have been much more professional and scholarly if they had announced to the international community that they had discovered strong evidence of a man-made wooden structure on Mount Ararat, and then proceeded to allow their findings to withstand rigorous academic scrutiny.

Which leads to my next point: we don't know where exactly these photographs and video footage were made. However, I definitely could understand if the group wants to keep it under wraps for the time being, lest the site become contaminated (or worse, vandalized). But at some point they must be prepared to come forward with the location, and open it up to further study: both organized and independent. That isn't being mistrustful of the explorers' claim at all. I like to think that it's trying to validate it.

So that said, I'll make this commentary for the time being: assuming that Noah's Ark Ministries International has (a) located something that is indeed on Mount Ararat, (b) it can be determined that the site and its evidence has not been planted, (c) operating without the pre-conceived notion that this must be Noah's Ark...

...what then is it that they have found?

Because if the group is being absolutely honest with us, they have discovered something on Mount Ararat. Whether or not it is Noah's Ark or not, it will still be an amazing archaeological find!

And even if it isn't the ark of Noah, it won't alter the matter of my own beliefs one way or another. The historical witness and far more than that has already in my estimation more than confirmed the greatest and most central tenet of my faith: that God so loved the world, that He sent His only Son to free us from the burdens of sin and legalism. Our faith is founded on things yet unseen, not those things which we can behold with our eyes.

But that said: I'm still gonna be keeping my eye on this story :-)