Ark hunter: Potential Noah hoax could make Christians look gullible
A group of Chinese and Turkish evangelical explorers said Monday they believe they may have found Noah’s Ark — four thousand metres up a mountain in Turkey.
However, the Christian Science Monitor reports that “a longtime ark-hunter” who is “a member of NoahÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ark Search LLC” and has “gone on a number of expeditions to Mount Ararat” has “serious doubts.”
The team say they recovered wooden specimens from a structure on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey that carbon dating proved was 4,800 years old, around the same time the ark is said to have been afloat.
“It’s not 100 percent that it is Noah’s Ark but we think it is 99.9 percent that this is it,” Yeung Wing-cheung, a Hong Kong documentary filmmaker and member of the 15-strong team from Noah’s Ark Ministries International told AFP.
The structure had several compartments, some with wooden beams, which were believed to house animals, he said.
The group of evangelical archaeologists ruled out an established human settlement on the grounds that one had never been found above 3,500 metres in the vicinity, Yeung said.
Local Turkish officials will ask the central government in Ankara to apply for UNESCO World Heritage status so the site can be protected while a major archaeological dig is conducted, Yeung added.
The biblical story says God decided to flood the earth after seeing how corrupt it had become, and told Noah to build an ark and fill it with two of every animal species.
After the flood waters receded, the Bible says, the ark came to rest on a mountain. Many believe that Mount Ararat, the highest point in the region, is where the ark and her inhabitants came aground.
But Dr. Randall Price, an evangelical Christian and former member of the Chinese-led team that announced this weekÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s finding, says the latest purported finding may not withstand closer scrutiny.
“If the world wants to think this is a wonderful discovery, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fine. My problem is that, in the end, proper analysis may show this to be a hoax and negatively reflect how gullible Christians can be,” he says.
Dr. Price, who is director of the Center for Judaic Studies at the conservative Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., was the archaeologist on the Chinese-led team in 2008 when this alleged discovery was first made. He says he has “difficulties with a number of issues related to the evidence at hand.”
Price declined to elaborate. However, a leaked email from Price – which he confirms that he wrote – shows that he has reason to believe that a group of local Kurdish men trucked wood up to the mountain and staged an elaborate hoax for the Chinese team.
A skeptical blogger argues, “There is no Ark. There never was, and if there had been, it wouldn’t still be sitting on Mt Ararat. Do something useful with that energy.”
Enjoy the story. Study the story. If you find meaning in the story, retell the story and help other people understand it. But the truth of the story about Noah’s ark has nothing to do with exactly how long a cubit was, what sort of wood is meant by “gopher wood,” or what happened to all the poop. Noah’s ark is a story about the dangers of selfishness, about the importance of being good to one another, and ultimately of honoring our ancestors. It’s also about the patriarchal society of the era in which it was written down, a culture in which the sins of the father pass to the children, and in which Noah’s religious devotion could save not only himself, but his family, just as Lot’s goodness (including a willingness to offer his virgin daughters to be raped by a mob to save a guest) was sufficient to save his family.
In other words, a good story, but also a problematic one. And sometimes, problematic stories are the best ones, since you need to think about them more, and reward careful consideration. But not an excuse for chasing around Turkey sneaking rotten wood up a mountain to build a fake boat.
As CSM noted, “A 2004 ABC News poll showed that 60 percent of Americans read the story of NoahÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ark as literally true.”
(with AFP reports)