Tuesday morning! Time to move back over to the Pentateuch. In church Sunday morning, we ran down the basic outline of Old Testament history. Your first four points on the outline are: Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. We’re at the point of reading through Noah’s story.
An important aside is about that word, “story,” which we sometimes hesitate to apply to Biblical texts. After all, Cinderella is a “story,” and it’s not entirely true, is it? So we want to be clear that Bible “stories” are not like other “stories” where there’s a nugget of truth buried in there somewhere. In many books, we’ll see the term “narrative” applied, because that’s a grammatical term that doesn’t carry any baggage. The catch?
It basically means “story.” So, if you can learn “narrative,” you can learn that “story” does not mean true or false, but simply means the retelling of events from a perspective.
Now, onto the perspective: Genesis 6, 7, and 8, give us the Flood. This is God’s judgment on the world for an excessive sinfulness that cannot be ignored. While we somehow turn it into a cute children’s story with animals on the boat, it’s actually a fairly gruesome moment. Consider just how much death is involved here, folks. We tend to minimize the numbers because the Bible is focusing down onto one small group of people, but statistical estimates range sometimes into the billions. Sin isn’t cute. Never has been.
Now, the other claim that is out there is that the Flood narratives are a hodge-podge, drawn from multiple other ancient sources. There’s a unity of thought, here, though, that undercuts the “it’s multiple stories mushed together” viewpoint. Also, two can play the “source” game: how do we know that Noah’s story didn’t morph into Gilgamesh’s? Or any of several others?
Quite frankly, a lot of that research comes back to preconceptions when you approach the text. I’m not particularly open-minded, being a Bible-believing preacher. I naturally assume the best of the Scriptural text. However, there are others who come to the text assuming it must be false—that’s as much of a bias as my assumption it must be true. Keep this in mind: it is not any more “academic” or “educated” to start with the assumption God has lied than it is to start with the assumption God has been truthful.
Now, that is not to say that there is not a common story at the back of most of the flood tales around the world. Just that, if we’re going to assume that one story is true and the rest derivative, where does the evidence fall? It might fall more toward Noah than to anywhere else.
Then, there’s one last thought about this passage: Noah takes some of the clean animals that have survived…and sacrifices them. If sheep had feelings, that would hurt. I find it kind of funny…