A Full-Scale Replica of Noah’s Ark May Fail by Not Taking the Bible Literally Enough

Aug. 11 2016

Located in a small town in Kentucky, the 510-foot-long recreation of the great biblical vessel opened to visitors last month, complete with 265 cages containing models of the animals Noah might have brought with him on his journey. The Ark Encounter, run by an evangelical Christian ministry, also presents theories about how Noah might have disposed of the animals’ waste during his voyage, imaginative details about his family, and explanations fitting the story into the designers’ creationist worldview. To Edward Rothstein, the exhibit was imposing but unsatisfying:

The problem isn’t that it takes the story literally, but that it doesn’t take it literally enough. Leon Kass, in his analysis of Genesis, The Beginning of Wisdom, notes that for over a half-century before Noah’s birth, all nine generations of humanity, including Adam, appear to be alive simultaneously. Then, suddenly, the first natural deaths occur. Despair, confusion, and nihilism run rampant. Then comes Noah who is, Kass notes, “the first man born into the world after Adam dies.” Everywhere he looks, Noah sees death: first, humanity in frenzied rebellion against death; then, humanity perishing in apocalyptic catastrophe; and finally, after the Flood, humanity getting divine sanction to devour animal flesh and execute murderers. The account of Noah’s post-Flood drunken stupor—ignored here—makes sense. Noah has seen too much. After the Flood, humanity’s powers expanded, but so did awareness of its own limits.

Seen in this light, the Ark story is not a simple tale of sin and salvation, but a complex tale of human mortality and human primacy, issues that soon lead to the hubris of the Tower of Babel, as men seek to re-establish their own permanence and prominence. There’s something hubristic about Ark Encounter as well. But while seeming to enlarge its subject, it ends up shrinking it instead.

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More about: Evangelical Christianity, Genesis, Hebrew Bible, Museums, Noah

 

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey