The story of Noah appears in the Bible, in chapters 6-9 of the book of Genesis. The flood itself happened around 2400 BC. Every ancient civilization has a flood story because it was passed down orally from generation to generation and because everyone comes from Noah. Moses probably wrote this story while Israel wandered in the wilderness, between 1440 and 1400 BC. However, Joseph may also have learned hieroglyphic writing in Egypt and written the story. His coffin may have included manuscripts as well as his bones (Genesis 50:25-26).
After the “sons of God” took the “daughters of men” as wives, God limited human lifespans to 120 years (Genesis 6:1-3). It is biologically impossible for angels to mingle with humans, so the more likely sin is polygamy. Eventually humanity’s wickedness became “great in the earth,” so that “the thoughts of his heart [were] only evil continually” (6:5). The earth was “corrupt” and “filled with violence” (6:11). So God decided to destroy everything, animals and humans (6:7).
Yet Noah “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8). Why did God choose him? Noah was “just” and “perfect,” “righteous before [God] in this generation” (6:9, 7:1). He also “walked with God” (6:9). Unlike Noah, the rest of mankind preferred violence, evil, and corruption.
God told Noah he would destroy all flesh on earth with the earth (Genesis 6:13). The punishment would fit the crime. God then told him to make an ark (6:14-16). Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives would enter it (6:18). So would animals: seven each of clean beasts and birds, two each of unclean beasts, in order to preserve each species (6:19-21, 7:2-3). God also told Noah to provide food for them and his family (6:21). Noah was 500 years old when he had his three sons, 600 when he entered the ark (5:32, 7:6). God’s call came after his children had married (6:18). So I don’t think it took Noah more than 10 or 20 years to build the ark.
After Noah, his family, and the animals entered the ark, God shut the door (Genesis 7:16). Then the rain began. It rained for forty days and nights and everything died (7:4, 12, 21-23). Water covered the earth for 150 days (7:24, 8:3). But God remembered Noah and made a wind pass over the earth (8:1). The ark landed on the mountains of Ararat in modern-day Turkey (8:4).
Wanting to know if the water had receded, Noah sent a raven from the ark but it never returned (Genesis 8:7). He then sent a dove (8:8). She returned because she had found no home (8:9). One week later, Noah tried again (8:10). This time the dove returned with an olive leaf, which told Noah that dry land had appeared and things were growing again (8:11). The third time he released the dove, she didn’t come back (8:12).
Noah, his family, and the animals finally left the ark and walked on dry ground more than a year after they had entered it (8:13-19). Noah then sacrificed on an altar one animal of each species to God (8:20). So God promised he would never again “curse the ground for man’s sake” or destroy the earth with a flood (8:21; 9:11, 15). A rainbow was the sign of this covenant (9:12-17).
Film is the best way to bring this story to life today, yet some Christians think the Bible should never be dramatized. They point to the Ten Commandments as proof: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image” or “bow down to them to serve them” (Exodus 20:4-5). “‘In the beginning was the Word,’ not the image,” they say (John 1:1). They forget that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (1:14). The mystery of the Incarnation is an unseen God becoming a 3D image in Jesus Christ. Shouldn’t the Word of God reach audiences today through films? Film is not idolatry. It’s a vital form of communication and Christians should use it.
In the Beginning
So far, not one theatrical film about Noah has been directed by Christians. That honor goes to atheists. John Huston (1906-1987) directed “The Bible: In the Beginning” (1966), based on a screenplay by Christopher Fry (1907-2005). It was filmed in Ecuador, Egypt, Iceland, Israel, Italy, and Morocco and cost $18 million to produce (IMDb). Huston played the narrator and Noah.
The story of Noah takes 45 minutes of screen time in this 3-hour film, which spans creation (Genesis 1) to Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22). Huston’s sinners are odd-looking people. Other than examining the ark as if it were a spaceship, they leave Noah and his family alone. Although only two of each species enter the ark and Noah closes its door rather than God, Huston’s literal dramatization stays close to the Bible. Still, this film has more humor than imagination. Huston didn’t flesh out the story either. The film made $35 million at the box office in 1966 (IMDb). It received Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for its score (IMDb).
A New Noah
“Noah” (2014) returned to the screen last Friday, thanks to Jewish producer, screenwriter, and director Darren Aronofsky. It was filmed in New York and Iceland and cost more than $125 billion to produce (IMDb). The 140-minute film uses lots of visual effects. Russell Crowe plays the title character, Jennifer Connolly his wife, Logan Lerman his son Ham, and Emma Watson his daughter-in-law Ila. Sir Anthony Hopkins stars as Methuselah, Ray Winstone as Tubal-Cain.
Aronofsky’s artistic license has produced controversy in the Christian community. As a result, Paramount Pictures and National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) together released an “explanatory message” for the film, with the following disclaimer, “The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.” So far, the American Bible Society, the National Catholic Register, Hollywood Prayer Network, Focus on the Family, and other Christian non-profits have endorsed this film (Huffington Post). Answers in Genesis and Movie to Movement have not.
Changes: The Good
The sixth descendant of Seth was Methuselah, grandfather to Noah, who died the year of the flood (5:21, 29). The sixth descendant of Cain was Tubal-Cain, who may have lived at the same time as Noah (Genesis 4:22). Noah’s world was “corrupt” and “filled with violence” (6:11). People were “marrying and giving in marriage” (Matthew 24:38), redefining it as they saw fit.
We never see Noah’s extended family in Huston’s film, nor do we see the pre-flood world he lived in. Aronofsky’s film shows us both. Methuselah appears as Noah’s grandfather; Tubal-Cain opposes him. The descendants of Cain are also violent, immoral, and wasteful. Some Christian audiences didn’t like that the descendants of Seth were portrayed as vegetarians while those of Cain were meat-eaters. However, only after the flood were Noah and his descendants allowed to eat meat (Genesis 9:3-4). Did those killed in the flood eat meat? We don’t know.
Also in Huston’s film, God audibly speaks to Noah. But I think Aronofsky’s “Noah” is more accurate. Christians hear an inner voice, not an audible one. Before written revelation, God often used dreams to reveal his will and future events. He still does, even though we have a completed canon – especially since not all believers have access to a Bible. In Aronofsky’s film, Noah has two vivid, prophetic dreams.
The Bible doesn’t tell us who Noah married but it wasn’t Naamah, the sister of Tubal-cain (Genesis 4:22). Noah shunned Cain’s descendants because God had placed a curse on him and his family (4:11). I don’t know why Aronofsky altered the configuration of Noah’s eight-member family either. He and his wife had three sons and three daughters-in-law – not three sons, an adopted daughter (who later becomes an in-law), and two granddaughters born on the ark. Adoption represents salvation spiritually, but we have no proof of it here. Eight is important in both Jewish and Christian numerology. Seven is perfection, the number of God. Eight restarts the cycle and therefore means salvation. To Jews it represents a covenant with God, to Christians the Holy Spirit. That Noah’s family of eight was saved from the flood is the most dramatic instance of this truth. However, this change is the least of Aronofsky’s problems.
The dark portrayal of Tubal-cain as an antagonist is disturbing. In Aronofsky’s film, he kills Noah’s father Lamech as a young man; years later, he enters the ark as a stowaway before being killed by Ham. Tubal-Cain is also portrayed as a gun-toting, private property-owning, meat-eater who believes man was made in God’s image and should subdue the earth. He’s a typical conservative Christian.
In the Bible, however, it is Tubal-cain’s father Lamech who kills a man (Genesis 4:23-24). [This Lamech is different from Noah’s father.] We don’t know who he killed either. Lamech was a violent man, but his son Tubal-Cain was “an instructor … in bronze and iron” (4:22). His brothers were tent dwellers, cattlemen, and instrument makers (4:20-21). Maybe they were like their father, maybe not. These men and their families died either before or in the flood. They would have ridiculed Noah for believing a flood was coming and then building an ark (Matthew 24:39). Only when it began to rain would they have tried to storm it. Just because it had never rained before doesn’t mean some parts of Noah’s world were deserts (Genesis 2:5). They weren’t. Mist rose from the ground and watered the earth instead (2:6). So, none of Cain and Seth’s descendants would have searched for water.
In Aronofsky’s film, God turns fallen angels or Watchers into rock people because they helped Adam and Eve after the fall. Although many are destroyed by humans, these six-armed creatures later help Noah build the ark. In the Bible, fallen angels were cast down to hell for following Lucifer (2 Peter 2:4, Jude 1:6). They’re not friends of mankind, since Satan is partially responsible for the fall (Genesis 3:1-5, 13-15). Instead, only good angels are “watchers” (Daniel 4:13, 17, 23). That Aronofsky would portray fallen angels – demons – as friends of mankind borders on blasphemy. Angels are also spiritual beings. Unlike humans, they have no bodies of flesh and therefore roam the earth unseen.
Aronofsky’s depiction of fallen angels is part of a disturbing blend of science fiction, fantasy, and witchcraft. In his cinematic version of creation and the fall, Adam and Eve don’t become human until after they eat the fruit. As a result, the serpent’s skin has magic powers that pass from father to son – the birthright. Noah is denied this birthright when Tubal-Cain kills his father and snatches the snake skin. Methuselah is also portrayed as a witch doctor. Instead of interpreting dreams like Joseph and Daniel, he gives Noah a brewed potion. Methuselah gives one to his wife Naamah too, for Ila’s infertility. None of these elements belongs in Noah’s story.
Aronofsky’s understanding of creation is itself warped. In the opening scene he says, “In the beginning there was nothing.” The Bible says something else: “In the beginning, God” (Genesis 1:1). That makes all the difference. Aronofsky also portrays dogs with fins and sea creatures moving onto land. Yet divine creation is not evolution, theistic or otherwise. Species don’t evolve from one to another. Each one is made after its kind (1:21, 24-25). Why let the main characters call God “Creator” when the film itself mocks his creation? Besides, to the biblical Noah God had another name – revealed to Adam, Eve, and their children as “Lord” or “Jehovah” (4:1, 26, 5:29).
Aronofsky’s evolutionary depictions of humans and animals result in a disturbing environmentalism. The story of Noah is not about the environment. God still made sea creatures and birds on the fifth day of creation, land animals on day six (Genesis 1:20-25). He told Noah to bring land animals and birds, plus food for their sustenance, onto the ark to preserve each species (6:20, 7:3). This doesn’t mean animals are “good” and should be preserved at all costs. Only people are created in God’s image and have immortal souls (1:27). As a result, their valuable lives are irreplaceable.
Aronofsky’s atheistic environmentalism feeds his portrayal of a morally confused Noah. On the ark, he believes that God wants to save the animals and destroy mankind – even himself and his family. So Noah nearly commits infanticide with his own grandchildren. He has forgotten the divine mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” (1:28). Aronofsky’s Noah is a god who’s allowed to decide who lives and who dies.
Noah’s murder attempt on the ark highlights the most deeply flawed aspect of the film. Aronofsky told The Guardian that Noah fascinated him because he thought the man experienced “survivor’s guilt” after the flood. Even Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, told Time that “Noah may have wrestled with [deep struggles] as he answered God’s call on his life.” Yet the Bible does not give us any evidence that Noah struggled to learn and obey God’s call. Whether he heard an inner voice or dreamed a dream, God still spoke: “I will establish my covenant with you … because I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation” (Genesis 6:18, 7:1). Noah found grace in God’s sight when no one else did (6:8). By faith, he built an ark because he was “moved with godly fear” (Hebrews 11:7). By faith, Noah also “condemned the world” and preached righteousness (11:7, 2 Peter 2:5). The biblical Noah was a man with living faith in God, something Aronofsky knows nothing about.
Noah’s story doesn’t fit scriptwriter Ari Handel’s justice-grace arc either. He told Time, “The story of Noah starts with this concept of strong justice, that the wickedness of man will soon be met with justice, and it ends when the rainbow comes and it says, even though the heart of man is filled with wickedness, I will never again destroy the world. … God somehow goes from this idea of judging the wickedness to mercy and grace.” That Noah and his family were spared so they could enter the ark is itself an act of “mercy and grace” (Genesis 6:8). It’s the first time “grace” appears in the Bible! Although God won’t destroy the world again with water, he’ll destroy it one day with fire (9:11, 15; 2 Peter 3:6-12). Judgment is coming.
I enjoyed Huston’s “The Bible” (1966). But I will never watch Aronofsky’s “Noah” (2014). Contrary to Paramount’s claim, this film is not “true to the essence, values and integrity” of the biblical story of Noah and the flood. Producer Scott Franklin is wrong; it radically “deviate[s] from the Bible” (EW). Compared to the Bible, this film is unrecognizable! It never “illuminat[es] the text,” as the National Catholic Register claims, but only muddies it. I am ashamed that any Christian non-profit would endorse this film, especially the American Bible Society and Focus on the Family. I thought they had better judgment. Aronofsky’s film proves that a sinful world knows neither the justice nor the mercy of God. Answers in Genesis explains this film’s flaws in depth and has excellent resources on the real story of Noah.
Only two theatrical films have dramatized the life of Noah. Hollywood produced both. So I think Christians who want to see a biblically accurate version should make a film themselves. First they should emphasize God’s justice in destroying the world and his grace in sparing Noah. Then they should portray Noah as a preacher and a man of faith. Finally, they should compare the flood to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ: “As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37). I can’t wait to see such a film in theaters!
 All Scripture verses are from the New King James Version (NKJV).
 Since I haven’t seen the film, I gleaned the plot from Barbara Nicolosi (Patheos), Godawa’s Movie Blog, and Red State.