I’ve read some articles and blogs on the movie Noah.
What some of the critics don’t
mention is that for director Darren Aranofsky, the story of Noah is about
justice and mercy. Aronofsky used part of the story of Noah and the ark as a
vehicle to explore what evil is; how meting
out justice for those who do evil hurts the innocent; what it means to follow God’s will when you
aren’t sure what it is; and how to
explain Noah’s rejection of his son Ham.
He also threw in the legends found
in The Book of Enoch, a Jewish book
written in Ethiopic, with fragments of Greek and Latin. Some Orthodox Christian
and Jewish communities that are ethnically Ethiopian, the Book of Enoch, didn’t make the Jewish or the Christian Bible. That’s
why the stories of the fallen ones / watchers seem unfamiliar to us.
Genesis 6:4 says “The Nephilim were on the earth in those
days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went in to the daughters of
humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old,
warriors of renown.” Nephilim is a Hebrew word that can mean something like
“fallen ones.” The Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew
Bible, uses the Greek word for ‘giants’ to translate Nephilim. The King James
Version translates ‘nephilim’ as ‘giants in the earth.’
The people of the Bible, Jews and Christians,
have questions about what this text means. To help me interpret texts, I like researching what ancient near eastern
writers have said about the same subject, and what archeology, botany, geology,
farmers, cookbook writers and gardeners have had to say.
other people find meaning in writing stories about what the Bible leaves out. We
have the Catholic legend of Veronica, who wiped Jesus’ face on his way to the
cross, leaving his bloody faceprint on her cloth. We have the Jewish legend of
Lilith, Adam’s first wife. Moviemakers also
fill in the blanks of a Bible story. Noah’s
makers turned it into disaster movie.
The Passion of the Christ was a conservative
Catholic interpretation on Jesus death. Some Christians find spiritual succor
in the great suffering Jesus endured. The more he suffered, the more we are
saved. So the movie showed in bloody detail how Jesus suffered to emphasize how
great is our salvation. The movie advertised itself as showing what actually
happened. The problem with that is the four gospel accounts of the crucifixion
don’t agree with each other about what actually happened. For the moviemakers
to claim that is presumptuous.
So I was
glad to hear that Noah’s director
said that his movie was an interpretation.
The moviemakers aren’t pretending this is the one true story of Noah.
They filled in gaps in the Noah story with what would make a good movie. Movies
can do violence well—surround sound, CGI, and big screens give moviegoers a
visceral experience. Violence is cheaper than dialog—you don’t have to pay
screenwriters to write it, actors to say it nor camera operators to film it
take after take. And violence doesn’t need any translating for the overseas
market. So there’s violence in the movie Noah
that isn’t in the Biblical story.
appreciated the way they didn’t skip over the wicked people left behind in the
flood—that’s the question most of us have about Noah—was Noah and his family
really the only group that was innocent? What about the children? The characters
wrestled with that.
Aside from the unnecessary
violence, and the plot change, I was bothered that the cast was only white
people. It is, after all, a Semitic story, and Ham is to be the father of
Canaan, the ancestor of the people of Ethiopia and Sudan (Cush), Libya (Put),
I wasn’t surprised they skipped the
story where God commanded Noah to bring in
seven pairs of clean animals and one pair each of unclean animals (Genesis
A lot of
what we think we know about the Bible is from movies, books, paintings and
legends. Before we complain about how other people are interpreting the Bible,
it’s always a good idea for us to read it for ourselves. For me, it’s a tale of how the people of the
earth began. It’s a story about how
Mesopotamia was peopled, since to the writers of Genesis, Mesopotamia was the
whole earth. Archeological evidence shows that a severe flood covered
Mesopotamia in 3000 bce.
For me, the Biblical story isn’t about
the details of constructing an ark and how God decided who was good. It is
about God’s decision never again to wipe out humanity. The symbol of it is a
bow in the clouds. The bow is upside down, to show it’s hung up and won’t be
used anymore. For us, perhaps it would be like locking away an AK-47. God is
not going to commit violence anymore.
For evangelical Christians, the
story is about Jesus—all the stories in the Hebrew Bible are about Jesus. For me, the stories in the Hebrew bible are
best understood if we look at them in their own context. The writers of the newer
testament referenced those stories, quoted (and misquoted) from them. We can’t understand
the newer testament until we read the Hebrew Bible, the Bible Jesus knew.