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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.

Read more at Wall Street Journal

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

Hannah Arendt, Adolf Eichmann, and the Jews

Feb. 23 2018

In 1963—a year after Adolf Eichmann’s sentencing by an Israeli court—reports on the trial by the German-born Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt appeared in the New Yorker and were soon published as a book. This “report on the banality of evil,” as the book was subtitled, outraged many Jews, including many of her erstwhile friends and admirers, on account of her manifest contempt for the entire preceding, her disgust for the state of Israel, her accusation that a wide array of European Jewish leaders (if not the majority of the victims) were complicit in their own murder, and her bizarre insistence that Eichmann was “not a monster,” or even an anti-Semite, but a mindless, faceless bureaucrat. While extensive evidence has been brought to light that Arendt was wrong both in her claims of Jewish passivity and her evaluation of Eichmann as the head of the SS’s Jewish section, her book remains widely read and admired. Ruth Wisse comments on its enduring legacy:

When Arendt volunteered to report on the Eichmann trial, it was presumed that she was doing so in her role as a Jew. . . . But Arendt actually traveled to Jerusalem for a deeper purpose—to reclaim Eichmann for German philosophy. She did not exonerate Nazism and in fact excoriated the postwar Adenauer government for not doing enough to punish known Nazi killers, but she rehabilitated the German mind and demonstrated how that could be done by going—not beyond, but around, good and evil. She came to erase Judaism philosophically, to complicate its search for moral clarity, and to unseat a conviction [that, in Saul Bellow’s words], “everybody . . . knows what murder is.”

Arendt was to remain the heroine of postmodernists, deconstructionists, feminists, relativists, and internationalist ideologues who deny the stability of Truth. Not coincidentally, many of them have also disputed the rights of the sovereign Jewish people to its national homeland. Indeed, as anti-Zionism cemented the coalition of leftists, Arabs, and dissident minorities, Arendt herself was conscripted, sometimes unfairly and in ways she might have protested, as an ally in their destabilizing cause. They were enchanted by her “perversity” and were undeterred in their enthusiasm by subsequent revelations, like those of the historian Bernard Wasserstein, who documented Arendt’s scholarly reliance on anti-Semitic sources in her study of totalitarianism, or of revelations about her resumed friendship with Martin Heidegger despite his Nazi associations.

At the same time, however, the Arendt report on the Eichmann trial became one of the catalysts for something no one could have predicted—an intellectual movement that came to be known as neoconservatism. A cohort of writers and thinkers, many of them Jews from immigrant families who had turned to leftism as naturally as calves to their mother’s teats, but who had slowly moved away from the Marxism of their youth during the Stalin years and World War II, now spotted corruption and dishonesty and something antithetical to them in some of their very models of the intellectual life.

They and their Gentile colleagues had constituted the only European-style intelligentsia to flourish in America. Most of them were only one generation removed from Europe, after all, so what could be more natural than for them to serve as the conduit of European intelligence to America? Arendt’s ingenious twist of the Eichmann trial showed them how Jewish and American they actually were—and how morally clear they aspired to be.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Neoconservatism, New York Intellectuals