Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Noah - a biblical movie?

Day three on the ark. All is dark. It sounds like rain. These critters stink.

Spoiler Alert

I've been wandering around the internet and found many complaints by Christians leveled against the movie Noah. The chief complaint is that it is not biblical. I can't understand this complaint. Why isn't it biblical? Is it because it includes elements that aren't written into the story? Is ti because it is too fantastic (as in loaded with fantasy images)? Is it because the characters don't do what is wanted or expected?

I have already touched on some of these issues in the previous posts. But I want to focus on the biblical nature of this movie in detail. I felt that it is perhaps more biblical than most movies based on biblical narratives. And that is saying a lot considering the number of Bible themed movies that have come out recently.

I feel that this movie is more biblical because it not only takes the Noah story seriously, but it also puts the Noah story into the larger context of the Bible. There are many places where imagery, tone, and story tie into the larger picture of the Bible.

  • The creation story is alluded to in the opening scene and then retold beautifully by Noah.
  • The story of the Fall through Adam's sin is a predominant theme throughout the entire movie.
  • There are repeated reminders of Cain's sin and his lineage down to Tubal-Cain sets up the antagonist/villain for the movie.
  • Methuselah is a prominent character in the movie. And the lineage parts of Genesis do not have to exclude this possibility.
  • The entire plot of Noah and the ark is taken directly from the Genesis account. There are no embellishments on the major points of the story.
    • God warns Noah of judgment against humanity for its corrupt nature
    • God gives Noah the inspiration to build a vessel to save Noah's family and animal-kind.
    • The rains and the "waters of the deep" are both depicted as flooding the earth.
    • ALL of humanity outside of the ark was destroyed.
    • The boat comes to rest (if somewhat violently) on the mountain.
    • Noah gets drunk and naked.
    • God re-establishes a covenant with humanity, through ALL of Noah's lineage. And God marks this covenant with a rainbow.
  • The controversial scene where Noah is committed to killing the infant granddaughters was almost a direct translation of the passage of Abraham offering Isaac.
  • The image of Methuselah "blessing" Ila could have been a picture of Jesus healing a woman during his ministry.
  • Ila is one of many stories of women who felt they were cursed due to barrenness who become blessed and bringing a child into the world. (Sarai, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth just to name a few.)
  • The Watchers (one of the subjects that receives the most ridicule and criticism) live out John 15:13 picture perfectly.
I will concede the argument that there are scenes that were inserted. I will agree that some things were in direct contradiction to the Genesis narrative (ie.: the "wives" of Ham and Japeth were not on the ark; Tubal-Cain escaped the deluge by being on the boat). But those things are not examples of being non-biblical. They are questionable decisions in telling the story. But sometimes the details become muddy to further the story. And if you are going to engage and audience for over 2 hours, you need to make the story watchable. Honestly, how long would it take to actually portray the "facts" of the Noah story? 20 minutes? An hour at best with LOTS of long, silent shots of Noah building a big box?

I would also argue that Noah is more biblical than other Christian-based, biblical movie. Compare Noah to The Bible that was shown on The History Channel. I heard many Christians saying, "Praise God we got the Bible on television show in a serious manner." But what about the failures of that series in dealing seriously with the subject matter?
  • Abraham is shown as a warrior, much as Noah. He tends to come across as obsessed or even crazy in his devotion to God. Abraham is shown has having to prove his faithfulness over and over again through a series of tests. In the rescue of Lot, Melchizedek is completely excluded. Jesus is inserted into the scene of the three strangers who visit Abraham before Sodom and Gomorrah. The angels are ninjas. Sarah instinctively knows that Abraham is going to kill Isaac.
  • Moses and Pharaoh seem to have no connection, just animosity. The Hebrew who is saved by Moses is not afraid of Moses turning on him. Moses shows extreme confidence in the face of the holy God he meets on the mountain. God uses Dementors. The Ark of the Covenant is in an open air tent that anyone can approach.
  • Samson is a humble man with a mission. The Philistines appear to be more racist than the Israelites. 
  • Samuel's sons are shown as corrupt but not immoral. Saul wears an earring (look that up).
  • Uriah is David's armor bearer, an important position within a warrior culture. David is shown as arrogant and self-promoting in stead of humble or a "man after God's heart." When confronted with his sin against Uriah and with Bathsheba, David is not repentant. 
  • Nothing happened between David and Zedekiah, the last king of Judah before the Exile is completed.
  • The biggest offense of the entire series is this: the Bible is made up of 2/3 Old Testament and 1/3 New Testament. Of the 1/3 of the New Testament, only 4 books (1/8th) deal with Jesus. If this series was about The Bible, then why was half of the series about less than 10% of the story?
I would argue that The Bible series was an even greater failure at being biblical when compared to Noah. Especially if we take into account one the primary issues I have heard leveled against Darren Aronofsky. There are a lot of reviews/criticism being pointed at the issue of Aronofsky being an atheist. That may be so. I'm not qualified to address his theological worldview. But I am capable of comparing the two films and I would argue the atheist got more details right than wrong, told the story in a complete fashion without "cherry picking" the best parts, and told the story in such a way that it fits with the entire story of the Bible. The creators of The Bible are Christian, yet they played loosely with details, chose only the elements of the biblical narrative that were right for their point, and put their own theological bias into the mouths of the characters. 

Atheist wins in my book.