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Noah’s Ark — How Language & Culture Explain The Story

Updated: May 10

Nearly everyone has heard the story of Noah’s ark, a story in the Bible about how a boat was built to save two of each kind of every animal on the planet, as well as Noah’s family, after rainfall for 40 days and 40 nights caused a flood.


Noah's Ark - How Language And Culture Explain The Story
Noah's Ark by Domenico Morelli

Genesis 7, verse 2 reads,

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the same day were all the fountains of the deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened”. A clear statement in the story that the great Flood had really begun.

Then, in Genesis 8, verse 13, we read,

And it came to pass in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth and Noah removed the covering of the Ark and looked, and, behold, the face of the earth was dry”. Life then emerged from the Ark.

Noah acts as a priest, making amends for the sins of the world, by offering a sacrifice. Now when the story is told to children, it has a happy tone, and rightly so. Of course, however, if someone has thought about this story properly, then they will realize that it is not a nice story at all. It results in the destruction of the world by water, which would have killed approximately millions of people. I say approximately because it depends on how much of the world Noah was aware of, which would mean that a “Global Flood” in his eyes, would not necessarily be a Global Flood in our eyes. This story must have been inspired by the earlier Babylonian and Sumerian myths, which means it isn’t even Judeo-Christian in origin.


Part of the Gilgamesh Flood story is supported by a flood clay tablet discovered by Assyriologist George Smith in 1872, now in the British Museum. According to research done by Dr. Martin Worthington, a Fellow of St John's College, University of Cambridge, "the tablet contains nine lines of text that can be understood in different ways. One meaning is a promise that food will rain from the sky if the people help build an ark, the other meaning is a warning that a flood will come. The lines are a verbal trick that can be understood in different ways, but phonetically, they are identical, meaning the words sound the same." This research is also described on page 24 of "Gilgamesh: A Reader" by John Maier, Professor of English at State University of New York College at Brockport, published in 1998.


Epic of Gilgamesh, tablet 11, story of the Flood - Fragment of a clay tablet. The British Museum
Epic of Gilgamesh - Fragment of a clay tablet



To quote from the book: "Through Utnapishtim, Ea offers "bread" at dawn and "showers of wheat" in the night: a pun on both 'kukku', a kind of bread or cake, and 'kukkû', "darkness" (used as a name for the netherworld); and on 'kibtu', "wheat" but also "misfortune"- so both senses are being exploited. The elders expected bread and wheat; but what they are going to receive is darkness and misfortune.


But there are many obvious problems with this story, which I don't need to go into here in detail, as many respected professionals, such as scientists Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Richard Dawkins, have already pointed out the scientific and historical errors.


However, to give an example of these errors I will present a list as follows -

  1. The bible said the mountain tops would be covered by 20 feet of water. Now considering Mount Everest is 29,000 feet tall, the flood would have to be 5.5 miles deep and there simply isn’t enough water in the entire world for that to be possible.

  2. If the ark had been floating at 29,000 feet, the temperature at that altitude would have been around -50C, so Noah and the animals would have frozen to death.

  3. The carbon cycle would have been disrupted and the production of oxygen would cease, which would have suffocated those left on the ark. If all the vegetation in the world had been submerged under miles of water, cutting it off from light, oxygen and carbon dioxide, it would all have died, leaving nothing left to survive on.

And these are just a few of the problems.


The Age problem


Noah is stated as having been 600 years old when he built the ark, but it is clear that humans do not live that long. An explanation for this claimed lifespan can be found by doing some historical research into Ancient Egypt and how time was measured. Judaic literature was originally dependent on a lunar calendar, it was only later harmonized with a solar year, following Roman developments. In Ancient Egyptian times, a lunar calendar was used alongside the civil calendar of 365 or 12 × 30 + 5 days, but in daily life, the civil calendar was the dominant, and the lunar calendar was religious. One of its most important functions was to regulate the service in the temple. Teams of priests would relieve one another to perform the temple term of service, which typically lasted one lunar month.


In the Old Testament, 'years' means 'rotations', and not necessarily a 365 day year as we know it. The Hebrew word translated as 'day' in the Book of Genesis is 'Yom', the plural being 'Yamin', which is 'days'. The main meaning of 'Yom' is 'day' – as in the 24-hour synodic rotation of the Earth, the time required for a planet, Moon, or satellite within the solar system to return to the same, or approximately the same, position relative to the Sun. So "forty days and forty nights" means that in the flood story the rain would continue for 40 Earth rotations.


Manetho, the ancient Egyptian historian, wrote:

"Most Egyptian Kings alleged that their years were lunar years, (which were 30 days long), whereas the Demigods who succeeded them gave the name "horoi" to years which were three months long."

A Demigod is part human and part god, so this is referring to bloodlines. If their years were three months long, that means the much lower ages of 210 years of age given in the Bible, such as that for Job, would change to 52 years of age, meaning the ages given need to be divided by either 13, 6.5, or 4.3. The prophet Abraham's father, in the Bible Terah (or Terach), is said to have been 205 years old when he died. If a factor of three is applied to this number, the result is a normal life span of 68.5 years.


If that is accurate, it means we can conjecture that Noah's age of 950 is based on lunar years, which when divided by 12 becomes 79 terrestrial years. But Manetho says that Egyptian Kings alleged that their years were lunar years, so does that mean that the individual known to us as Noah was an Egyptian King or Pharoah?, possibly. If we take into account research into the Dead Sea Scrolls, by the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library project, then yes, he was, as the Dead Sea Scrolls seem to reveal that the ark was shaped like a pyramid, which is connected to Pharaohs; I must point out, however, that this particular bit of research by the Leon Levy project is not considered consensus among scholars.


The project was set up by experts in linguistics from the Academy of the Hebrew Language, and Dr. Alexey Yuditsky was the individual responsible for initiating the interpretation of the Book of Genesis. using sophisticated technology, using very high resolutions, they photographed tens of thousands of fragments from the scrolls. This helped them to identify letters and words that were previously illegible. Concentrating on the part that contained Noah's story, the researchers were able to find out words such as 'ne'esefet, (referring to the tallness of the ark), and it's meaning being collection, to be collected, or gathered. Dr. Yuditsky, after interpreting the text, came to the conclusion that the ark's ribs were being described in this section of Genesis section, and they were "gathered together at the top,"– the roof being tapered to a point. Dr. Yuditsky is not quoted as saying the ark was a pyramid, however.


Interestingly, the theologian and Early Church Father known as 'Origen' (circa 182–251), made an argument that Moses, traditionally credited as the author of the book of Genesis, had been brought up in Egypt, therefore, he would have used the larger Egyptian cubit. 'Origen' also argued for the shape of the Ark as being a truncated pyramid, being square at its base, and then tapering to a square peak one cubit on a side.


“Bent” Pyramid built for Pharaoh Sneferu
“Bent” Pyramid built for Pharaoh Sneferu



In regards to the ages of the Biblical patriarchs, it seems that a misinterpretation by the writers of ancient books has occurred. These misinterpretations are only by a factor of two, however, on other occasions, the misinterpretation is by a factor of 12 or 13. This seems to be because of the different interpretations of 'lunar seasonal years', 'lunar years', 'lunar months', and 'Egyptian seasonal years'; at one time, the ancient Egyptians only recognized three seasons instead of four. What seems to be the case is that two types of lunar years were used in the Biblical accounts: a lunar seasonal year that lasted 84 days, and a lunar month, that lasted 28 days.


A Hebrew word for 'moon' is 'Yarach', and in the Bible, it is translated 12 times as 'month', which is a 'lunar cycle'.

For example Exodus 2:2 says:

"the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months/lunar cycles (Yarach)."

Deuteronomy 21:13 says:

"and she shall put the clothes of her captivity from off her, and shall abide in thy house, and bewail her father and mother a full month/lunar cycle (Yarach)..."

But the Hebrew word for 'month' is 'Khohdesh', and an example is in Genesis 8:5, which says:


"And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month (Khohdesh): on the first day of the tenth month (Khohdesh), were the tops of the mountains seen."

There is a Babylonian influence in the Bible passages, using the lunar cycle names Zif, Bul, and Ethanim, and the author is trying to translate them into Biblical months, e.g., the seventh month, the eighth month, to accommodate the author's audience. The same thing happens today, where the Biblical dates are translated into the Gregorian calendar, for better understanding. Originally, the Hebrew months in the Bible were labeled by numbers, not names, any name being associated with a biblical (numerical) month is of a foreign culture.


The ancient Egyptians also used a solar period/solar calendar which came into use in the New Kingdom era, but it did not represent the entire revolution of the Earth around the sun. It was based on the counting of equinoxes (two per year), so, in effect, counting two separate solar cycles; the religious year, which began in the spring, and the civil year, beginning in the autumn.


The Theme Behind The Story


The first thing to be aware of is that this story was created when sex was a very important part of religion and the letters of languages were used differently. In ancient languages, vowels were 'switchable' (some letters are seen as identical), or not used at all, to make the pronouncing of words easier, for example, L and R are identical in Egyptian Hieroglyphics, and the lion or open mouthed hieroglyph (forma of the letter R) was often times used for the L sound.


When studying ancient mythologies, we find that the 'ark' was a symbol for the female womb, making the theme of the story phallic. Historians are well aware of the phallic culture that surrounds ancient religions, but according to the book Notes and Observations upon several Passages in Scripture, by John Gregory, Master of Arts in Christ's Church, it reads: "Noah prayed daily in the ark before the "body of Adam".


Now, 'Adam' was not originally a name, but was a Hebrew word for 'man', that word being 'Adamah', the 'ah' part indicating the female gender. But 'Adam' also means 'red thing', as in there was no 'male red thing' to make pregnant the 'female red thing'. So, it appears that Noah was praying to a phallus, which should come as no surprise because this was an important part of ancient religions, with the Judaic religion being no different.


This then points to the Noah's Ark story being an ancient phallic/creation story of the time, here is why -


There are two dates in the story, as mentioned above regarding Genesis 7:2, and Genesis 8:13. One date being the final closing up of the Ark and the second being the opening, and the number of days between these dates in the story is 284, which is the fetal development period, from the time of conception until birth.

But where does the ancient use of vowels come in? As mentioned before, L and R are identical in many languages, for instance, in ancient Egypt, China, and Japan. In England, there is a saying "he is a fine lad", in India the word 'lad' is 'lat', because T and D are seen as the same letters, and that word 'lat' means the "male organ" or "phallus", for example, there is "Ashoka's Lat", a famous iron column or phallus, that has a reference to the inscribed pillars of Seth, an Egyptian god.


Pillar (Lat) of Ashoka
Pillar (Lat) of Ashoka


The connection between the word 'Lat' and the Noah story looks to be a play on different meanings, just like the flood clay tablet discovered by George Smith, mentioned earlier. We can see just how significant the vowels are to the story when the vowel uses between different languages are known and what words are produced when the vowels switch. The word 'Lat' is used as the name of the location of the mountains in which the "Ark" came to rest after the Flood; the name Noah also means 'rest'. By L and R being identical, it means that the specific name of 'Ararat' stated as the name of the mountain the Ark came to 'rest' on, although not stated as such until the Middle Ages, is the same as 'Alalat' (Allah's Lat), Allah is the Arabic word for God in Abrahamic religions.


Robert H. Hewsen, an American historian and professor of history at Rowan University and an expert on the ancient history of the South Caucasus, states:


"The name Ararat that was later used to describe lands located in the central region of the Kingdom of Armenia seems to have been of local usage as no known classical works use this word to refer to Armenia."


This seems to suggest that the story says that the Ark (female womb) rested on Allah's Lat (the male organ of God), at which point, life emerged from the Ark (female womb), which is how reproduction works. In the Dead Sea scroll 1 QapGen xvii 7-15 and Jubilees 8:17-21, both texts state that Ararat (Allah's Lat/Allah's phallus) belongs to the line of Shem, from whom Abraham and Israel descend.


Ararat as a mountain range, region, or individual mountain peak was an important site in Second Temple Jewish theological geography and also primeval historiography, the studying of the writing of history. The name Ararat is the Hebrew equivalent of the ancient Urartu, the historic Armenian Highlands, in present-day eastern Anatolia in Turkey. To be even more specific, the Aramaic Genesis Apocryphon (1 QapGen) talks about "one of the mountains of Ararat", naming the site in two places - "Mount Ararat" (xvii9, 14; cf. Sib. Or. 1.262) and "Lubar" in another (xii 16; Machiela 2009: 123-24, 128-29). Several Dead Sea documents also present Lubar as does Jubilees 5:28. The name "Mount Lubar" looks to be an Aramaic word-for-word translation for the Hebrew "the mountain of the east" and Lubar appears to come from a secondary meaning of Qedem, meaning "ancient time", since Lubar means "old" in Aramaic.


Conclusion


It is clear that the flood story concept existed long before the story in the Bible emerged, for instance, the Cybium of Egypt, the Argha or ‘Yoni’ of India, and the 'Argo' of the Greeks were all represented by a cup or boat. There may not be a consensus agreement regarding the shape of the Ark being a 'pyramid' shape, but given that Egypt features heavily in the Old Testament, it should not be ruled out. Going on the information above, and based on the fact that the leadership of an area are most likely the ones who created religious literature, it is not absurd to conjecture that 'Noah' may have been a Pharaoh. The flood story of Noah was given a more modernized/humanized form for the audience of the time, the above facts also indicate that to get to the truth behind certain myths, an understanding of history, culture, and how languages are used is the key.






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