Interpreting Noah

There are three films I know of that are playing in theaters, and are Biblically or Religiously themed. By far the one that seems to be the most controversial is the film “Noah.” I’ve seen postings on Facebook, heard cable news pundits blast the apparent lack of appropriate respect for God and criticism from well known pastors who, without having seen the film are criticizing it. My take is that the gist of the criticisms mostly question the interpretation of the director of the film and in that context the criticisms can be valid. After all, film is art and art has always been a subject of interpretation. And criticism.


What I am really interested in, though, is how this criticism reveals a lack of understanding about the Noah story. Darren Aronofsky, director of the film, appears to know more about the story of Noah, and by that I mean what is called the “back story” as well as the Biblical version, than many of those who are criticizing it.


For example, there has been lots of talk about the giants (some referred to them as “Transformers”). These beings are mentioned in Genesis 6:1-6 and Biblical scholars have understood these divine-human relations and their offsprings to be offensive, their mention an introduction to the state of universal wickedness that leads to God’s decision to flood the earth. The problem is the Genesis verses are both limited, and refer to these giant beings as “men of renown.” So, how did the scholars conclude that what these men of renown did was actually evil? It turns out there is another source, a non-biblical source that provides a back story to Noah. 


You see there have always been writings during the 1000 year creation of the Bible that were considered sacred writings, but were not considered Scripture. That is, just as we might use an inspirational daily devotional that is not directly from the Bible, so, too, early believers used many sources for inspiration. One of those was a book called Enoch. 


Enoch, according to Biblical genealogy is the grandfather of Noah. His book “The Watchers” describes these giants as well as the fallen angels that were the progenitors. Here is an excerpt from Enoch, Book 1,


"And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three hundred ells:[68] Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. And when men could no longer sustain them, the giants turned against them and devoured mankind. And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another's flesh, and drink the blood.”


Granted, Aronofsky is interpreting what these giants look like, but as I’ve said, artists have always employed poetic license. And isn’t one’s life an interpretation of one’s experience? Ultimately I see a film like Noah as an opportunity to stretch the horizon of our experience. Others simply criticize or condemn. For whatever reason some Christians recoil at the notion that there is something more to the Christian story, that what they have is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but. 


I think if we are to truly seek truth we must be willing to risk having everything we believe to be true turned upside down.


After all, the New Testament of the Bible is evidence of things being turned upside down. The Apostle Paul reminds his readers they “see through a glass darkly…” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Faith is not about certainty, it is a choice to engage in a relationship with mystery.


I’ve invited my congregation to meet me this Saturday at Cinemark to watch the 4:05 showing of Noah and afterwards we can talk about it. I see this as an opportunity to deepen our faith. Maybe you would like to join us.