133 The Ark of Noah - an allegory 9 Feb 2022
Article 50 was my first allegory, a story where the words are not taken with their conventional meaning. At the end of the article, I listed conventional words the reader might associate with my story about a mysterious building. Many months later I appended an explanation for those who might have missed my meaning. Any interpretation you found has high personal value; I do not detract from that by sharing mine. My intent was that the purpose of life is to bless others, not to purify ourselves.
Applied to Noah
Setting the stage
Reflecting on this process reminded me of a major event in the Old Testament, the story of Noah and the flood. For reasons I am about to explain, that narrative is also an allegory. I was sadly confused because in earliest school years I took the story to be a literal account. Later I observed that my wife was blessed with a more reasonable approach to the story; it had not been a major stumbling block to her.
Applying just a little bit of reason quickly evaporates a literal interpretation of the Noah account, but the story has value as an allegory. The reasoning is so simple: (a) There is not enough water on the planet to hide the highest mountain and then within one year disappear off what is now dry land. There is not enough hiding space to accomplish the disappearing act. (b) Perhaps the rainwater remained as fresh water on top of the oceans. That might save fresh-water life. However, land plants and animals require air. It is the pinnacle of fantasy to imagine that in less than 7,000 years the entire genetic pool of the land-and-air biosphere evolved again from the ocean or descended from the life contained in Noah’s one ark. Evolution does not work at that speed.
Practical value as allegory
I am not refuting theories that Noah’s ark still exists. My quarrel lies in the physics and biology cited above. Perhaps in a local geographic cataclysm the Mediterranean did overflow eastward and flood an enormous valley. If the rest of the biological world survived intact, Noah’s family is not likely to have comprised the sole human survivors on the planet. At least some aspect of the literal story must give way.
It is ever so simple to read the story as an allegory. In that light, it provides a significant practical teaching. Recently I encountered an interpretation that associates the drowning in water with drowning in spiritual darkness. Voila! There is a breakthrough in appreciating the Old Testament (which I frequently fault for its perspective). God does not solve problems by slaughtering his children. His children lose their creativity (life) when they drown in the darkness of ignorance. Meaning established!
Applying the Noah allegory today
Article 132 traces the LDS roots of Ernstraudian philosophy. This article makes one more connection to LDS teachings. It cites a biblical allegory to support the policy of the Church that human progress is family centered and church supported. The story of Noah teaches us to look for salvation first in the nuclear human family. Connection successful!
The Old Testament exposes us to people’s efforts to address society’s problems. It is not a rigorous historical account of events. It is valuable for philosophical stimulation. Its negative viewpoint on the human condition is counterbalanced by deep discussions of enduring truths. The challenge is to recognize the meaning without bogging down in the painful details. The story of Noah’s flood is today’s example. Taken literally it is senseless carnage. As an allegory, it teaches the role of the nuclear family.