Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Noah and the nuances of the flood
It is widely understood that the Bible is not the only document of antiquity that records a global flood. Many people have argued that because of this, its possible that the Biblical narrative is an extension, and modification of ancient pagan cultures and religions. While it is true that there are many similarities, the differences, although subtle, should not be ignored. For in fact, these small nuances are what have continued to make the Bible’s narrative unique and enduring, long after the other narratives have died.
In the non-Biblical accounts, the deluge of water is brought about because of capricious gods that can’t get along. In the Bible however, the flood is the product of a humanity gone astray. The Bible’s tone is unique, in that it calls the audience to consider that humans will be held responsible for their actions. Furthermore, we see the use of literary devices which aid the reader in considering that people must examine themselves, and take responsibility for their actions. It does this in two ways:
1. By way of a divine motif. In other words, God will lead by example. According to Genesis, He is the first to reflect on the condition at hand, consider a solution, and then take action. The implication of the motif is that if God did this, we (who are less than God) should do this too. Which as a shadow and type is quite beautiful. Sinful humanity, must be put under water.
2. The text speaks explicitly for the purpose of conveying to its audience that the flood is not a story of innocent humans caught in the “cross fire” of capricious gods. When reading the Bible as literature, we notice the use of “dramatic irony”. This means that the reader is granted a “bird's eye view of things”. The reader sees the scenario as God might see it. From this perspective, the reader can hardly escape the notion that the world had to be held accountable for its actions.
What Genesis doesn’t do however, is invite the reader to assume that all natural disasters are God's way of dealing with things. As some have concluded (both religious and non-religious). We know this because there was many other natural disasters after the flood, but none of them are attributed to God’s judgment. In fact, its not until Sodom and Gomorrah, that the idea of natural disasters being linked to God’s judgments is revisited.
Responsibility and self examination have never been popular. From as far back as antiquity down to our modern era, it seems that everyone is looking for someone else to blame. Adam blamed his wife, Cain blamed God, Esau blamed his brother, Aaron blamed Israel, but few and far between, have considered blaming themselves.
Believers have often been scoffed at, and ridiculed as people who believe fanciful stories about the preservation of the human race, and animals. Truthfully however, the account of the flood means more than that to those who allow it to shape their world view. Most believers, would probably say that the flood is a secondary message to the one of self examination, and taking responsibility for your life. It goes without saying, that any system of beliefs or non-beliefs, that negates these two qualities isn’t worth buying into, no matter how much it might try trump the nobility, and intelligence of the Bible. Remember, its the differences that sometimes make all the difference.
Posted by A. Prado