Following the Evidence: Noah's Ark
A news story last week claimed that Chinese and Turkish researchers found the remains of Noah’s Ark on Turkey’s Mount Ararat. Some are saying the claim is a hoax, while others point out that the ark has been seen by many explorers. So what is the truth of the situation?
While no conclusive proof has arisen that the wood structure(s) at the 13,000 – 14,000 foot levels are the remains of Noah’s ark, it is interesting that there does seem to be historical evidence for the ark’s survival through the centuries.
My most recent recreational reading is in a commentary by James Montgomery Boice on the book of Genesis. Boice points to a large number of accounts through many centuries of the ark resting on Turkey’s Mount Ararat, just as the Bible records. For instance:
Berosus, the historian of Babylon, wrote in approximately 275 B.C. of the condition of the ark.
Josephus, the Jewish historian, wrote about the ark a generation after Christ.
The ark was written about by the Egyptian, Hieronymus, and Nicolas of Damascus.
In 180 A.D., Theophilus of Antioch wrote of the ark’s remains on Ararat.
In the eighteen and nineteen hundreds many expeditions were mounted to locate the ark, with many returning with positive reports and even photographs that seem to depict the structure on the mountainside, mostly covered by ice and snow. Expeditions included:
An Armenian named Haji Yearam who visited the ark in 1856,
A British statesman in 1876 named Viscount James Bryce.
Prince Nouri, the archdeacon of the church of Babylon claimed to have discovered the ark in 1887.
Six Turkish soldiers climbed Ararat and claimed to have spotted the ark in 1916.
In 1936 a British archeologist named Hardwicke Knight found interlocking timbers at a height of 14,000 feet.
In 1943 American aviators flying over Ararat photographed the ark site and the photos were published that year in Stars and Stripes.
And the list goes on…
The record of research bears out that there is something on Ararat that at least indicates the possibility of the ark’s existence under the ice and snow of the mountain. Additionally, historical records and stories from no less than 211 cultures all have flood traditions that seem to point to an ancient, common event of a worldwide deluge and the survivors who rescued humanity and a limited number of animals.
So what are we to make of these claims and traditions?
It is hard to believe that with so much historical and documentary evidence that there isn’t something at Ararat that would seem to align with the traditions at hand. But the greater evidence is not to be found in ancient tales or even wood beams on the mountain side.
The best available evidence for the ark’s existence, at least historically speaking, is found in the scriptures. The scriptures record the story of Noah and present it as history passed on to us by Moses. The scriptures, as the trustworthy historical account given to us by God, remain the best evidence for Noah’s historicity. Without the scriptures, the flood traditions of 211 cultures may be interesting, but none stand out as potentially the “one true account.” The Bible’s claim is authoritative. Like any other historical record we can either accept it or reject it.
In my 27 years of walking with Christ I have yet to be disappointed by any account or claim of scripture. It’s words are trustworthy as history. One may argue that such a thing as Noah’s ark is impossible, but such a claim is not defensible as a starting point. The first question must be, “Where does the evidence lead?” The evidence of scripture’s many other claims have not fallen to date. Therefore I take that cumulative evidence and decide to trust its other accounts as well.
It may be controversial, and some may even say ignorant or foolish to trust the scripture’s claims at face value. But it is no matter to me. God’s word is truth, and I’ve yet to find reason not to trust it, whether it be about Noah’s ark, or the more important and life transforming account of Jesus Christ.