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About the Book

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII



Part II:  Flood Traditions

Appendix 1

The Search for the Ark

    THE SEARCH for the ark is much in the news these days in certain quarters. The mounting of alpine expeditions to survey Ararat may appear to many readers of current reports to be something new. This is far from being the truth of the matter. It seems worthwhile in the circumstances to set forth some of the
background of such expeditions undertaken more than 150 years ago and reported in M. M. Kalisch's Historical and Critical Commentary on the Old Testament: Genesis (Longmans Green, London, 1858).

     Commenting on Genesis 8:1-4, Kalisch wrote (in 1858):

     Ararat consists of two unequal peaks, both of which disappear in the clouds; the loftier summit is 16,254 Parisian feet high, while the other northwestern pinnacle rises to the elevation of 12,284 Parisian feet above the level of the sea. Both are 12,000 yards distance from each other. . . .
     The plateau on which Ararat rises is of considerable height. But, viewed from the vast plain which skirts its base, it appears "as if the hugest mountains of the world had been piled upon each other to form this one sublime immensity of earth, and rock, and snow. . . .
     These two peaks of Ararat are separated by a wild and dark chasm, cutting deeply into the interior of the mountain, filling the spectator with horror and shuddering, and containing in its innermost recesses immense masses of never melting ice of the dimensions of enormous towers. And this stupendous and fearful abyss is probably the exhausted crater of Ararat, become wider than ever since the eruption of 1840, and since that catastrophe, exposing on its upper sides the white, yellow, and vitreous feldspars of which the mountain consists. Pious hermits seem, in that fearful precipice, to have sought refuge from the cares and vanities of the world. . . .

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     The vegetation on the sides of the mountain is extremely scanty; stones, sand, and lava form their mass.
Eagles and hawks soar around its majestic summits. In the hottest season only, the snow melts on the peak of the Little Ararat; and this event is used as a kind of calendar by the agriculturists in the surrounding villages. In September and October it is generally free of its hoary crust. But the Great Ararat is, for about three miles from the summit, covered with eternal snow and ice, and for the greater part of the year gloomily shrouded in dense and heavy cloud. The summit of this noble mountain forms a slightly convex, almost circular platform, about two hundred paces in circuit. . . .
     At the margin, the summit slopes off precipitously, especially on the northeastern and southeastern side. A gentle depression connects this pinnacle with the somewhat lower eminence at a distance of 397 yards. Here it is believed the ark of Noah rested.
     The perils and fatigues of the ascent of this mountain are so considerable, that it was several times unsuccessfully attempted. . . .  The French traveler Tournefort undertook the ascent with the same inauspicious result in 1700 as the bashaw of Bayazeed in the beginning of the present [nineteenth] century. These disappointments rejoiced the hearts of the Armenians. For they considered that the sanctity of the mountain would be lost if its heights were searched by the curiosity of man. It is almost an article of faith with them that the summit of Ararat is inaccessible; and they firmly believe that the ark of Noah still exists on that solemn peak.
     These convictions have been strengthened by ancient legends, busily spread and confirmed by the Church. It is reported that the monk James who was later patriarch of Nisibis, a contemporary of St. Gregory, wished to see with his own eyes the sacred ark; he tried an ascent; from exhaustion he frequently fell asleep; and when he awoke he invariably found he had slipped back to the point from whence he had started (!). . . .
     However, in spite of this venerable tradition, the German traveler Dr. Parrot, after two fruitless attempts, effected an indisputable ascent of the summit of the Great Ararat on the 9th of October, 1829, and five years later in August, 1834, the tracks of Dr. Parrot were followed and his accounts verified by the Russian traveler Antornomoff. It is indeed not the fault of these two intrepid men, if their reports are disdainfully rejected by the pious Armenians as barefaced impositions.
     The latest successful ascent was made in the course of 1856 by five English travelers (Maj. Robert Stuart, Maj. Fraser, Rev. Walter Thursby, Mr. Theobald, and Mr. Evans) who have considerably enriched our knowledge of these interesting regions.
     They saw uninjured the oak cross which Professor Abich had in 1845 fixed about 1,200 feet below the peak of the cone, and the Russian inscription on it was still perfectly legible. But the fact that the ark was not found on the summit caused serious uneasiness, even to European scholars; they thought this a very untoward circumstance,

     pg.2 of  7    

and at last entirely renounced the idea that the ark landed on Mount Ararat. They now firmly assert that it happened to float merely in its neighbourhood at the end of the one hundred and fifty days, but that it was then slowly carried along in an eastward direction (cf. Gen. 11:2); and that the real place of its concealment is entirely withdrawn from human knowledge. . . .
     Another locality, which several ancient writers and translators assign to the Ararat (of tradition) is in the Gordiaean or Carduchian range which separates Armenia from Kurdistan. The Armenians call that peak the "place of descent," and Josephus maintains that, even in his time, remains of the ark were shown there by the inhabitants (Antiquities, XX, ii, 2); Berosus relates that the people value any part of the structure highly and use the pieces as safe amulets against mischief, with which account other authors coincide.
     Nicolaus of Damascus mentions the Mount Baris in Armenia, above Minyas, as the place where the ark of Noah landed (cf. Josephus, Antiquities, I, iii, 5, 6); and the Mohamedans believe this to have been the mount Gioud or Dshudi, a little to the east of Jezireh ibn Omar, on the Tigris (Koran, xi, 46), at the feet of which there is still a village called Tsamanin, or "the eighty," because the Moslems believe that not eight but eighty persons were saved in the ark. At the top of this peak  stands a mosque, and here was formerly a Nestorian convent, "the Monastery of the Ark," which was destroyed by lightning in the year 1776. The wood of the ark was said to have been preserved there to the ninth century.
     All these localities might indeed be taken as the mount of our text with no less probability than the Ararat above described, except that tradition has not pronounced itself in their favour with such consistent unanimity.

     In recent years a number of expeditions have had the same objective of finding the remains of the ark on Mount Ararat, the traditional site of its grounding, on the basis of a report of a sighting from the air supposedly made in 1917 by a Russian airman. For anyone who wishes to examine the record of this so-called sighting and these expeditions, the following documentation may be useful.
     In 1917, supposedly testing out an aircraft with a supercharger which allowed the plane to fly up to 14,000 feet, an airman Roskovitsky is reputed to have sighted the ark. This report sparked an expedition of several hundred soldiers to climb the mountain. Subsequently a full report was given to the Czar. Unfortunately the revolution brought an end both to the czar and the report, and the latter has never been actually seen by anyone since. The story is well known. Some of the circumstances were reported by Donald Wiseman in an article, "Hunting for Noah's Ark," in The Life of Faith (21 September, 1949, pp.733ff.). Also, Alfred M.

     pg.3 of  7    

Rehwinkel in his book, The Flood (Concordia, St. Louis, 1951, pp.77ff.), has given a supposed verbatim account of Roskovitsky's report as published in The Banner of the Christian Reformed Church, dated 27 November 1942. The details of this were also given in full in Evangelical Christian (Toronto, June, 1949, pp.297ff.).
     There is considerable doubt about the reality of this particular sighting, since aircraft without superchargers could not climb to 14,000 feet and it is believed that no supercharger was fitted at that time to a Russian or any other aircraft.
     In his book, The Flood and Noah's Ark (SCM Press, London, 1955, pp.63ff.), Andree Parrot gave a carefully documented account of all the recent attempts up to that time to verify the story. He concluded that they were without foundation. In fact, he points out that at least two of the Christian papers which reported supposed "findings" subsequently retracted their statements. One German paper, Kolnishce Illustrierte Zietung, reported a sighting which afterward turned out to be an April Fool's Day joke. Needless to say, the report appeared on 1 April. However, John Warwick Montgomery believes now, as reported in Christianity Today (7 January, 1972, p.50), that such an expedition did actually occur. Montgomery interviewed several relatives of the soldiers who took part in the expedition to the site in 1917. He has also made a most thorough and commendable attempt to track down the supposed reports made to the czar at the time and found that there is virtually no truth to some of the claims made for that report nor any hope of ever recovering the originals. (See his Quest for Noah's Ark, Bethany Fellowship, Minneapolis, 1972, 334 pp., illustrated)
     In 1949 an American expedition to the site, which included in the party an engineer and a physician among others, reported total failure, though they reached the summit. The famous photograph published in Life magazine in 1964 purporting to show the remains of a huge vessel high on the mountain has now been shown
to be merely a rock formation. It is not impossible that it was this formation sighted from the air that sparked the report made in 1917 by Roskovitsky. An excellent report with beautiful photographs of the geological formation will be found in The Creation Research Society Quarterly for September, 1976, by W. H. Shea, (Ph.D.), under the title "The Ark-Shaped Formation in the Tendurek Mountains of Eastern Turkey."
     Since publication in 1972 of Montgomery's Quest for Noah's Ark, which is certainly the most thorough and

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scholarly to date, several other volumes have been published. Christianity Today (3 June, 1977) reviewed three of these volumes: Search for Noah's Ark by Kelly L. Segraves (Beta Books, Chino, Calif., 1975); In Search of Noah 's Ark by Dave Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier, Jr. (Sun Classic Books, Los Angeles, 1976); and The Ark on Ararat: The Search Goes On by Tim LaHaye and John D. Morris (Nelson, Nashville, 1976). The reviewer -- Montgomery himself -- considers Segraves's volume the best of the three but identifies it as essentially a popular picture book rather than a serious examination of the evidence.
     There is much that is naive in the present "popular" literature, unfortunately, and the Christian public is not being served too well by writers attracted to sensationalism. Reader's Digest carried an article entitled "The Mystery of Noah's Ark" (condensed from Christian Herald, August, 1975) in which this statement appears: "Since [Ararat] is by far the highest mountain in the entire region, its peak would be the first to emerge from the water -- and obviously the place to land" (p.127). Can one imagine Noah and his three sons seeing the mountain emerge and deciding "That's the place to land" and so getting out sails or oars and maneuvering the huge barge-like vessel to a deliberate landing, having decided it was the obvious thing to do? Does not such an observation suggest really a total lack of imagination? Does one speak of a chance landfall of an unpowered vessel of such proportions as though it were the result of a deliberate decision made because the captain saw the emerging mountain as "obviously the place to land" his ship? Yet many readers will undoubtedly be misled into supposing that just such a sequence of events must have occurred, though how the ship was brought to this spot by the captain and his three-man crew has not been given a thought. Moreover, there is no certainty, as has been pointed out time and again, that the ark landed on this mountain. The Scriptures say only that it landed on the mountains (plural) of Ararat (Genesis 8:4), Ararat being almost certainly a district (Jeremiah 51:27) containing more than one potential landing site.
     Almost every search has been directed toward the side, rather than the top, of the supposed site of landing. This seems difficult to justify unless one supposes that after settling at the top and unloading, the ark later slipped down the side. Is it likely that such a huge vessel would be so easily shifted -- unless by an earthquake or a landslide? But the assumption always seems to be that this, the present supposed site, is where it landed. Then one must ask, How did it land well down the mountainside without the dry land having already appeared?  

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If it had settled, let us say, 1,000 feet from the top, would not the 1,000 feet of exposed land from which the waters must have already declined have constituted "dry land" long before the ark touched down? How then can the ark be said to have bottomed some 74 days before dry land was anywhere visible?
     The olive leaf brought back to the ark by the dove seems to suggest that the bird had found green trees at some elevation which must have been far below the elevation at which the ark is reportedly resting today. And
if my argument has any force regarding the non-appearance of dry land when the ark settled, the ark must have landed at an elevation even higher than this. In that case, where could a dove possibly find an olive leaf at such
a high elevation? Most of the land around was still under water. It was, moreover, an olive leaf "plucked off"
(Genesis 8:11), i.e., not a bit of flotsam and jetsam but a leaf from a living tree. It may have been found some distance perhaps from the ark, but it seems reasonable to suppose that the ark was, in fact, not resting at an altitude of several thousand feet, and thus the olive tree had not been submerged under these thousands of feet of water: possibly it had been an olive tree on the crown of a rise of land like the Mount of Olives, and scarcely submerged at all.
     In all the present sightings, either aircraft spottings or binoculars or mountain climbing has been involved, suggesting that the site of land was, or is now, difficult to reach. Many of the animals would have trouble descending to sea level. . . .
     The scenario we thus create may be quite unrealistic. Until we know with greater certainty what the phrase "the mountains of Ararat" actually signified to the writer, we are not in a good position to assert vigorously that the ark landed at an elevation of several thousand feet on what is now known as Mount Ararat. 
     The stories reported by early writers, like Josephus (Antiquities, I, iii, 5), of wood taken from the ark in the first few centuries of the present era almost certainly exclude any supposed site such as is currently in question, the visiting of which means the mounting of an alpine expedition with all the sophistication of modern mountain climbing equipment. 

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Appendix 2

The Tower of Babel

     A GOOD FRIEND of mine, W. H. Pape, author of I Talked with Noah (Baker Book House, 1966), who spent some years in China, tells me that in the western part of that country the primitive Miao tribesmen have a Flood story of sorts. They say that two brothers plowed half a field one day but next morning they found all the furrows had been filled in. This was repeated the following day. So on the third night they hid to see what was going on and saw an old man carefully replacing all the earth which had been plowed. One of the brothers rushed out to kill the old man, but the other suggested they should find out why he did this. He told them a
great Flood was coming and plowing was useless, advising them to make a boat to save themselves. Only one brother did so, and he survived. The other tried to use a shallow cooking pot as a boat, but perished.
     Mr. Pape also pointed out that one Chinese sign for "boat" (a sign about 2,000 years old) is composed of three elements thus:
The root or radical, , means "boat." This is accompanied by a second element, ,which means "eight," and by a third element, meaning "mouth." When the Chinese talk of people, they use an expression which literally means "man-mouth." As we count heads, they count mouths. The Chinese ideograph for "boat" has therefore come to be closely associated with the idea of eight people, a fact which seems most reasonably accounted for by assuming that the tradition of eight survivors of the Flood already existed when the sign language was developing.

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 Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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