AIG — The “True” Shape of Noah’s Ark

At last, months after we posted Hey, Hambo — Noah’s Ark Was Round!, we have a response from the creation scientists at Answers in Genesis, the on-line ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the ayatollah of Appalachia.

AIG’s amazing article is Was Noah’s Ark Round? We don’t see any author’s name attached to it, so we’ll graciously attribute the thing to Hambo himself. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us. He begins with a small quote from what he claims to be:

a recent Associated Press article about the discovery of a reportedly 4,000-year-old clay tablet from ancient Mesopotamia. This tablet pre-dates the famous Epic of Gilgamesh and goes on to describe the Ark as a round boat and two-thirds the size of a modern soccer field — something akin to a coracle, a primitive vessel that plied rivers in ancient Iraq.

We’re surprised that we had to wait so long for AIG to get around to this topic, because it presents stupendous problems for them. Maybe it’s taken them this long to recover from the shock. As we said in this post:

The Babylonian text describes the ark as a round 220-ft diameter coracle with walls 20-ft high. Besides being the “wrong” shape, the tablet is a chronological disaster, because as [AIG] says in this article: Timeline for the Flood, based on the Ussher chronology, the Flood began in the year 2,348 BC.

If the Babylonian tablet is 3,700 years old, it was written around 1,686 BC, a mere 662 years after the Flood, and around 700 years before Genesis was written. The tablet is far too old. Also, it doesn’t mention Noah. The ark-builder in the tablet was a Sumerian king named Atram-Hasis. That’s a strange detail to get wrong in an account written so soon after the Flood.

Let’s see how AIG handles this geometric and chronological disaster:

Coracles were well known in ancient Mesopotamia, and it’s easy to see how the author of the clay tablet would latch onto such a vessel to describe a real event passed down to him from earlier times. A coracle, however, was a flimsy ship made of interwoven sticks and animal skins, and covered in tar;2 hardly something that would survive the raging waters of the global Flood.

Why would the tablet’s author “latch onto” the idea of a coracle, when the actual event would have still been fresh in everyone’s memory? The tablet was written only 662 years after Hambo’s date for the flood. That many years before our own time would be the year 1,352. Wikipedia has a nice list of events that happened in 1352. People don’t forget things that quickly — certainly not important things.

Will AIG deal with this problem? The next item in their article is an illustration of the ark they’re planning to build, and it has this strange caption:

Nobody knows the true shape of Noah’s Ark. Genesis 6:15, however, does give us the Ark’s proportions: “”The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.”” These figures certainly show that it was not the round shape described in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Hey, Hambo — we already know that your concept of the ark isn’t anything like the one described in that ancient tablet. The question before us is: Was it circular? The earliest account says that it was. So why do you say that “Nobody knows the true shape of Noah’s Ark”? We continue:

The book of Genesis records the same global Flood event, but the ship that saved Noah and his family was a massive structure, expertly engineered to ride out the pounding waves of the earth-changing, worldwide Flood that destroyed all mankind and millions of animals except for those on the Ark.

Ah, it was “expertly engineered.” How do you know, Hambo? Were you there?

Then AIG asks:

Which of the two Noah’s Arks sounds most plausible?

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Hey, Hambo — why are you asking our opinion? You’re supposed to the the expert on this stuff. If you want to rely on Genesis, which was written 700 years after the tablet that describes the thing as a coracle, that’s up to you. But don’t preach to us that your far later text is the “most plausible” one. It was written after thousands of oral retellings by illiterate nomads who somehow heard about the earlier tale recorded on that tablet.

Just before a plea for funds to build AIG’s “full-scale Noah’s Ark,” the article ends with this:

The Flood was a real event etched into the memories of our ancestors. Over 270 cultures retain some version of the account, but only the Bible preserves an accurate telling of it.

Yes, Hambo. Lots of cultures have flood stories. And stories about tempests, droughts, and other disasters. But they’re not all about the same flood, or tempest, or drought. How come only your story, possibly the most recent one, remembers the name of Noah? Ah well, like they say in Burger King, where the most successful of your followers are employed: Have it your way.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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25 responses to “AIG — The “True” Shape of Noah’s Ark

  1. How can they talk about “plausible” Arks when it has already been shown that a wooden ship that size, no matter the design, simply isn’t sea worthy, much less 40 days of constant typhoons worthy.

  2. Charles Deetz ;)

    270 accounts and the Bible is right?? Got a grid of data to help us believe you Hambo? Didn’t think so.

  3. Ceteris Paribus

    Hmm. Hambo named his project the “ArkEncounter”. And the term “encounter” is found in some flavors of psychological therapy. So the following hypothesis is only a speculation, and you would need to check with a competent professional in the field before accepting it.

    1. Ham is adamant that his Ark must be made rectangular in shape, so animals in his rectangualr Ark could float across water.
    2. A bathtub is also rectangular in shape, and a Rubber Duckie, if placed in a rectangular bathtub, will also float across water.
    3. Therefore Ham’s ArkEncounter project represents a grown man’s subconscious attempt to return to some deeply suppressed encounter he had with a Rubber Duckie in a bathtub, when he was a mere child.

    Let’s all just hope that Ham is able to work thru his personal angst, forget the ArkEncounter, and maybe just put in a nifty water slide for the kiddies visiting his museum. It would be a lot safer for the entire family, unlike the infamous Disney Land “It’s a Small World” ride that caused many parents to abandon their children in the tunnel, and hitch-hike to the woods of Oregon or some other remote place.

  4. docbill1351

    Therefore Ham’s ArkEncounter project represents a grown man’s subconscious attempt to return to some deeply suppressed encounter he had with a Rubber Duckie in a bathtub, when he was a mere child.

    That explains Bubbles From the Deep.

  5. docbill1351

    You’ll notice how AIG is fond of throwing out all sorts of facts and figures with no consistency whatsoever. The tablet was dated around 3700 BCE and maybe that’s plus or minus 100 years. (I don’t know if it’s more accurate than that or not. No matter.) Then AIG uses the Ussher chronology to accurately place its writing at exactly 662 years after the flood. (That would be plus or minus 1 year, if they’re now being that precise.) and then about 700 years before the writing of Genesis. Again, plus or minus what?

    So, they have all these dates and a written description of a great flood that predates Genesis by quite a lot of years, but they blow it all away as if none of that data existed.

    That’s how AIG rolls. They present data but in the end, every time, simply blow off the facts and conclude Rives-style that the heavens declare the glory of whatever.

  6. Charles Deetz 😉 says: “270 accounts and the Bible is right?? Got a grid of data to help us believe you Hambo? Didn’t think so.”

    ICR once posted a bunch of data about that. See ICR: Even More Proof of the Flood.

  7. Ceteris Paribus

    @docbill Thanks for pointing that out. AIG has a real problem with rounding off. On their web page listing the price of tickets for admission, “Adults” are priced at $29.95.

    But the creepy rounding thing is that “Adults” includes the age range “13 – 59″. Well, it is in the state of Kentucky, after all.

  8. docbill1351 says: “You’ll notice how AIG is fond of throwing out all sorts of facts and figures with no consistency whatsoever.”

    To be fair to ol’ Hambo, only the date of the Flood is his. The other figures are my own, but they follow from his. I don’t recall where I got the date when Genesis was written. It could have come from Hambo.

  9. How can one determine which ark story is more plausible when both of the two choices are equally so implausible that only a simpleton could believe they are actually describing a real event?

    I think the main purpose of this article was to make another plea for donations. It appears that they are still about $15 million dollars short of what they need to actually build the thing. It is supposed to open in less than two years but I doubt they will make it. Construction was scheduled to begin in April but from what can be gleaned from the AiG website, they are still in the process of selecting contractors.

  10. A coracle, however, was a flimsy ship made of interwoven sticks and animal skins, and covered in tar;2 hardly something that would survive the raging waters of the global Flood.

    Ham should build his ark in this manner: 1) it would be far easier and cheaper to build, 2) it would use less resources, and 3) he could pocket the bulk of the money not spent on his original endeavor (if he’s not already working on that at the present time).

  11. waldteufel

    Dr. Kennedy observes: “. . .they are still in the process of selecting contractors.”

    Can you imagine Hambo’s dilemma? He has to select contractors who are smart enough to build a big wooden pretend boat, but dumb enough to sign the AiG “statement of faith.”

  12. It seems to me that the idea that there are greater than 200 cultures with accounts of some great flood indicates that not all humans were wiped out by it except the dudes on the alleged ark. Hambone better be careful: that’s admitting that the old testament account isn’t accurate. That won’t please some of his followers.

  13. Burger King is also home of the Whopper, so it is indeed the best fast food franchise to relate to Hambo’s teachings.

  14. Who we can, and should, only assume is Ken Ham tells us that “the Flood was a real event etched into the memories of our ancestors.”

    Not to pick nits, Ken, but the flood was a real event etched into the memories of eight of our ancestors. Nobody else got to pass their flood stories along. They don’t give you pencils and steno pads at the lake of fire.

    Anyway, I’m sure by that before he died, 950-year old Noah was all “Kids these days, they have no respect for the real events etched in my memory. Bah!”

  15. “Over 270 cultures retain some version of the account”

    Oh. So if we assume one of those stories is true, then the odds of any given Flood story being true is 1 in 270. Or less if all of them are false.

    “but only the Bible preserves an accurate telling of it.”

    Wha wha wha what!? So your evidence that the Genesis Story is true is your assumption that the Genesis story is true.

  16. Historical records show that during the time it rained forty days and forty nights in the Holy Land, Texas got about three-eights.

  17. You sometimes see fundamentalists insisting that the Ark dimensions given in the Good Book are SO plausible and well-engineered, and that the resulting vessel would be wonderfully seaworthy. In contrast, the older Meopotiamian stories are far less plausible (cube-shaped ark, round ark etc.) So they will say that the Hebrew account must be the true one, given to Moses by divine inspiration. The other stories, even though they are older, must represent garbled traditions.

    Well. The Mesopotamians lived far from the sea. The Hebrews lived BY the sea, and knew how a vessel had to proportioned to be sea-worthy. So the Hebrew ark came to be a larger-than-life, “science fiction” version of a real ship. Thousands of years later we have the likes of Ham testing tiny models and finding that this shape is, indeed, pretty seaworthy.

    Yes, thanks to the insights of the ancient ship-builders of Tyre and Joppa, I should say.

  18. David Evans

    Ham’s Ark may be a seaworthy shape. But there’s no rudder or steering oar and no motive power. Ham should ask himself how long a ship typically lasts in rough weather with no power or steering. In those conditions it might as well be round, for greater structural strength.

  19. I just did a little surfing and found that there has been an ocean wave measured at 90 feet in height. This is on an ocean which is nowhere as violent as to carve a Grand Canyon. What would that do to an Ark?

  20. TomS, you’re forgetting about their ace in the hole. The Noah story has to be true because Jebus and magic.

  21. {Do to satellite problems this post is a day old but just now successfully getting through. So others may have already made these points.}

    “How can they talk about “plausible” Arks when it has already been shown that a wooden ship that size, no matter the design, simply isn’t sea worthy, much less 40 days of constant typhoons worthy.”

    Instead of taking what Hambo & Co. say for granted, I like to start with what the Hebrew text tells us. (Of course, I wish I could work from whatever text might have preceded it and who knows how many generations and languages of oral retelling the account may have passed through on its way into the Torah.)

    And in that Hebrew text we notice that the ark is NOT a “ship” at all. It is basically a floating warehouse. It has no means of propulsion. And there’s no mention of a steering mechanism. All the ark has to do is float and stay reasonably stable.

    It is also worth mentioning that the Hebrew word behind “ark” is simply a “box” or “chest”. That Hebrew word for “ark” is TEEBAH, not just any box but especially a box used for safekeeping of valued articles. It is probably based on an Egyptian loan-word, which usually referred to a “chest” or “coffin”. But before we assume that such connotations require a “box shape” with rectangular sides, consider this: The same word is used for the basket in which the infant Moses floated in the Nile until rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. So a reed basket, which probably had a curved sides, is another kind of ark so we probably shouldn’t try to read to much into the “box” concept. “Container” might be less misleading, now that in our day the English word “ark” is archaic if not obsolete.

    Oddly enough, the Ark of the Covenant was also a box with extremely important contents, but it was an entirely different Hebrew word! So it provides no help in determining the shape of Noah’s ark.

    Now as to “40 day of constant typhoons worthy”, how do we know that the ark encountered continuous hurricane conditions? The Genesis text doesn’t explicitly saying anything of that sort. So if we think about it, this is another instance where our interpretations of Genesis have been greatly influenced by the Hollywood depictions, complete with huge waves! But the Genesis text speaks of a lot of rain and not a lot else. Plus, let’s face it, once the door to the miraculous is open—how hard would it be for the God who creates EX NIHILO to keep the ark perfectly positioned in the gentle eye of a hurricane? Right? After all, for an omnipotent deity, no problem is really a problem!

    So, going back to the design issue, could Noah have built a floating warehouse? If it floats and it remains in one piece, it will do the job. It doesn’t make ark construction a trivial job—but it ain’t the Queen Mary either.

    Yet, the main reason I provided this excursus was to make just one point: What the Biblical text says and what most people THINK it says are often very different things. Tradition is a powerful force, not only on “true believers” but for society in general when these periscopes are the basis of our shared cultural heritage. No doubt it has always been that way, but once children’s picture books and Hollywood movies came along, our own imaginations were further cultivated by the imaginations of artists, illustrators, screenwriters, preachers, and you name ’em.

    The power of tradition complicates our interpretation of all of the origins texts of Genesis. And whenever I provide commentary like the above on Genesis 1 or Genesis 2, I get major objections from both Christians and non-Christians, because I dare to shoot down those long cherished traditions which have drawn pictures in our collective minds and we don’t want to part from them. Even atheists often get angry with me when I show them that the Hebrew text of Genesis describes a regional/local flood. I suppose that goes to show that even many of those who strongly reject the Biblical text want me to treat it “traditionally”. Of course, when Ken Ham and his fans read my exegesis, they got ballistic and call me “an evilutionist atheist.”

    It’s not easy being a prophet. (And unlike the Ken Ham kind, I make no profit from it.)

    Any questions? Yes, all of this will be on the exam. Any other questions?

  22. Yikes. I wish WordPress had a post-comment edit function! My fingers are faster than the spellchecker in my brain. In my case, it is not fully evolved.

    [*Voice from above*] Relax, I think your comment has been fixed. If not, just say what you meant and a better fix will be made.

  23. “Even atheists often get angry with me when I show them that the Hebrew text of Genesis describes a regional/local flood.”
    Eh? This is established science.

    http://www.livius.org/fa-fn/flood/flood1.html

    That little picture left above isn’t Ol’Hambo’s fake thingy, but the real Dutch thing.

    http://www.arkvannoach.com/

  24. Since the whole ark thing is a myth, this is really a moot point. But just for the sake of discussion —

    Since the ark was rudderless and without propulsion (no sails, no oars), it would have had only one way to keep its bow pointed into the waves, and that would be the use a sea anchor, a kind of underwater parachute tethered to the bow. It’s vitally important for an oblong ship to stay pointed into the waves, because if it is adrift the tendency is for the waves to turn it broadside, and the ship or boat will capsize. So… the best shape for a rudderless, propulsion less boat is circular.

  25. Ceteris Paribus

    retiredsciguy notes: So… the best shape for a rudderless, propulsion less boat is circular.

    Ah, rudderless, propulsion less, and circular. That then would also explain why Dante’s Inferno, cathedrals, and legislative capitol buildings also adopted that same geometry.