Okay, now on to Noah and the great flood. There are flood myths throughout the world, and it's possible that the ones in the Middle East have some basis in reality. The flood that's most commonly regarded as the source for the story is that of the Black Sea around 5600 BC, but I think I've heard of other floods proposed as possibilities as well. Obviously such a flood wouldn't have submerged the entire world, but it might well have seemed like it did to the people of the time. As with other Bible stories, literalists basically paint themselves into a corner by saying that the story of Noah is entirely true. The ark that God tells Noah to build is too big to be seaworthy, and too small to fit every kind of animal on the planet. Don't forget that, while the general conception involves just two of each animal on board, God actually tells Noah in Genesis 7:2, "Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female." The kosher laws don't address whether a lot of known species are clean or unclean (most likely because the writers didn't know about them, but that would presumably be an unacceptable idea to someone who thinks God was the true author), which raises questions about how many of certain animals there were. Are elephants, for instance, clean or unclean? If the former, don't forget that there are three current species of elephant, so if a "kind" is the same as a species, that would mean twenty-one of them. I'm not sure even Barnum & Bailey have that many! And even if they're unclean, that would mean six elephants. As cute as the image of elephants and giraffes looking over the edge of the boat might be, it's unlikely that the writers of the myth even thought about such animals. Some fundamentalists nowadays are even proposing that there were dinosaurs on the ark, which might make for an appealing children's toy, but isn't very realistic.
You'll get some fundamentalists insisting that all of the animals were able to fit in the ark and survive for all that time without killing each other (not to mention all the water drying up afterwards with no actual place to go, and the land being safe for growing plants after that) due to some miracles on God's part. While this would be within the power of an omnipotent being (because ANYTHING would be), why bother with all that when He could have just made all the animals reappear after the flood with no ark necessary, or any number of other simpler miracles? Really, I get the impression from the story that there wasn't supposed to be anything supernatural about the ark itself. I'd say it was an example of human ingenuity if Noah had done anything other than obey God's instructions.
It's reported that the only humans on board the boat were Noah, his wife (who has been given many names over the years, but definitely wasn't Joan of Arc, whatever Bill and Ted might have thought), his three sons, and their wives. If all humans are descended from these eight (and probably just the latter six, as I don't think Noah was reported to have had any more children after the flood), that means much more sex between cousins. Why were the mythologists so eager to make everyone on Earth a product of incest? Anyway, the names of Noah's three sons were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Some of their descendants will be discussed in my next Biblical post.
After the flood waters subside, Noah leaves the ark and sacrifices one of every clean animal, which means he basically wasted time and resources in taking them on the ark. Then God says that people are allowed to eat animals, as long as they don't ingest any of the blood, which is a weird rule to make right after most of the animals on the planet are supposed to have died. And what happened to Noah after the flood? Well, like a lot of other washed-up celebrities, he turned to alcoholism. According to Genesis 9, Noah got drunk on homemade wine, lay around naked in his tent, and his son Ham "saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without." For this, Noah curses Ham and his son Canaan, which presumably provided a mythological basis for the subjugation of the Canaanites by the Israelites. But what did Ham actually DO? Some scholars suspect that he raped or castrated his father, but the Biblical account is missing some key details. Maybe Noah just cursed Ham because his name wasn't kosher. :P
Topics that I include to address next week include Nimrod and the Tower of Babel.