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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

While I am aware that many people don't believe that Noah's Ark existed at all, a friend of mine raised the question about where Noah's Ark might have landed assuming it existed at all. The most commonly identified site for the landing is a mountain located in western-most Turkey known as Mount Ararat. But it seems that after many expeditions to Mt. Ararat, most people either no longer believe it is a good candidate for the location of the ark, or they believe that proof is either buried or unlikely to be found.

But what does the Bible say about where Noah's Ark landed? According to Genesis 8:4, the ark came to rest on the seventeenth day of the seventh month "on the mountains of Ararat" (har 'Ararat). The form of the word "mountain" (har) used is plural. Thus, it is a mistake to assume that the reference to the "mountains of Ararat" is to the Mountain known as Ararat itself.

So, what were these "mountains of Ararat"? According to an article written by archaeologist David Rohl called "Mountain of the Ark" which was published in The Express on Saturday, March 13, 1999,

Biblical Ararat is recognised as being identical with the region that the 1st millennium BC Assyrians called Urartu - a land which covered much of the central section of the Zagros range. According to Genesis, therefore, the Ark must be searched for in modern Kurdistan, not hundreds of miles to the north on the volcanic peak we know today as Ararat in Armenia.

Urartu, according to About.com was "the ancient name for the region called Ararat in the Judeo-Christian bible, located in parts of what are now the modern day countries of Turkey, Armenia and Iran." The Zagros Mountain range extends across a wide area of the area between modern-day Turkey, Iraq and Iran. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Zagros Mountain range is a

mountain range in southwestern Iran, extending northwest-southeast from the Sirvan (Diyala) River to Shiraz. The Zagros range is about 550 miles (900 km) long and more than 150 miles (240 km) wide. Situated mostly in what is now Iran, it forms the extreme western boundary of the Iranian plateau, though its foothills to the north and west extend into adjacent countries.

Other than the references to the fact that Noah, when he landed, built an alter to the Lord (Genesis 8:20) and planted a vineyard (Genesis 9:20) -- and this later action did not have to occur where the ark landed -- there is very little to identify the location for the landing of the ark.

Personally, I would think that the place to start looking for the ark would be in the areas intersected by the land of Urarta and the Zagrow Mountain range. This could be an area in norther Iraq, southern Turkey or even western Iran. It certainly doesn't have to be the area of Mount Ararat. In fact, the David Rohl article points out that the identification of Mount Ararat with the mountain that the ark landed on was an identification that didn't occur until the second millenium AD. According to Rohl:

It was only in the 13th century AD, when Vincent de Beauvais, Friar William of Rubruck, Odoric and Marco Polo came this way, that Mount Ararat superseded a much older and widely recognised location for the Place of Descent.

According to Rohl, the original landing places were never identified with Mount Ararat, but lists instead three sites that were more traditionally associated with the place of landing of Noah's Ark. He says:

The Koran (8th century AD) calls Noah's landing site Gebel Judi ('Mountain of the Heights') and the 10th-century Muslim writer, Ibn Haukal, observes that 'Judi is a mountain near Nisibis. It is said that the ark of Noah (peace be upon him) rested on the summit of this mountain'. Nisibis is modern Nesibin or Nusaybin, one hundred miles north-west of Mosul on the southern edge of the Zagros foothills.

The early Nestorian Christians (followers of Nestorius, 4th-century patriarch of Constantinople) knew this to be the true landing place of the Ark. The pilgrim saint, Jacob of Nisibis (also 4th century) - note the link with the town claimed to be near Gebel Judi by Ibn Haukal - was the first Christian to look for the mountain of the Ark. His search concentrated in the 'district of Gartouk' which scholars recognise as a late spelling of classical Carduchi which, in turn, derives from Kardu - the ancient name of Kurdistan.

But we can narrow down our search even further. Hippolytus (AD 155-236) informs us that the landing site of the Ark was located in 'those mountains called Ararat which are situated in the country of the Adiabeni'. The Greek and Latin sources place Adiabene in the mountains to the north of Mosul where the Hadhabeni tribe still live today. One hundred miles due north of Mosul, just across the Iraqi border into Turkey and ninety miles to the east of Nesibin, the 7000-feet peak of Judi Dagh ('Judi Mountain') rises from the Mesopotamian plain. This surely has to be the landing site of Noah's Ark referred to in all the early, Jewish, Christian and Islamic sources.

While Mr. Rohl attempts to make a case for Gebel Judi as the location for the landing, it seems to me that these earlier sources only lead to the conclusion that the earlier location of the landing of the ark was not Mount Ararat because the people didn't identify Mount Ararat with the "mountains of Ararat" described in Genesis 8:4. Gebel Judi may be the site, but I am simply not convinced of that. Thus, while I certainly invite the readers to take these resources into heavier consideration, it seems to me that it is the most cautious route to assume only that these earlier sources argue against necessarily identifying Mount Ararat with the place of the landing.

So, I will only say at this point that it seems to me that expeditions to Mount Ararat represent a misplaced effort. If one is going to find Noah's Ark, one would be better served looking in the mountains that run along the border of Iraq to the north with Turkey or to the east with Iran.

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Cross-blogged at Apologia Christi.

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Addendum:

JohnH, a commentor to the entry at Apologia Christi, noted the following:

Something along this line was discussed on Bill Koenig's website:

http://watch.org/showart.php3?idx=79950&rtn=/index.html&showsubj=1&mcat=1

Here is the excerpt:

WASH—June 15—KIN--Those who participated on the Noah’s Ark expedition to Northern Iran today clarified to KIN that they were making no actual claim that they found Noah’s Ark. Instead, they want to publish pictures, archeological data, and film footage of their expedition and allow the facts to speak for themselves. As soon as that information is available, I will follow up with another story with more details and interviews.

The Expedtion was led by Robert Cornuke and 15 people participated during the first week of June, which included attorneys, archeologists, geoologists, scientists and leaders of Christian ministries.

Bob Cornuke has been at the center of several controversies over his past findings as he has come at odds with secular scholars, but several people who I know personally were on this expedition as well as some credible, internationally known heads of Christian ministries. Cornuke and the participants are careful to not say emphatically that they found Noah’s Ark, but have taken extensive documentation to present their facts for both the public, and the Biblical and scientific communities.

Geologists took nine samples of the ark under the strict eye of a video team for analysis by the Smithsonian Institute. Over 23,000 feet of video was taken and will be released to the public. You can get your first glimpse of it on Fox News with John Kasich Saturday at 8:00 pm EDT, according to the Cornuke team.

More information about their findings will be released in the days ahead.


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Second addendum: There is a report of the finding of what may be the Ark in the mountains of western Iran by the BASE Institute, here. I understand that the BASE Institute has made a lot of claims that aren't accepted by general archaeological scholarship, so I will be skeptical of this find until I see more detail. But as I have learned in the Intelligent Design debate, merely because the general scholarship in the community thinks something is wrong does not prove it's wrong.

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Third addendum: A follow-up on the story following the interview of Bob Cornuke by Heartland on Fox News can be found here.

7 comments:

John Warwick Montgomery discusses his finding in this audio from 3/28/06 (second half of program).

I'd like proponents of a Turkey-Armenia-Iran site to explain how Noah's descendants could travel westward from there & end up in the Mesopotamian valley building Babel. Genesis 11:2 says they journeyed from the east (M-QDM), not eastward (QDM-H) as in Numbers 34:15. I'm not good with Hebrew, so I hope someone will clarify this. I tend to believe the Himalayan/Tibetan tradition would be a more logical landing spot for the ark, & that the Turkish Ararat was named such in a later tradition because that's where the Semitic culture settled.

Jeff, thanks for the audio link. I will give it a listen.

G.M., that is a good question. I hadn't considered it when I wrote my piece, but after reading Genesis 11:2 I didn't come to the impression that it had any significant impact on the location. The story of Noah ends in Chapter 9, and Chapter 10 is talking about the descendents and where they settled. I haven't gone through all of the locations, but they seem to sprad out from where the Ark landed in no specific direction. Thus, I am not exactly who is being identified when it says "It came about as they journeyed east . . ." or if the starting point of the journey is the place of the landing of the ark.

I would also point you to an essay that has been written on this subject. I haven't read it in depth, but apparently the main thrust of the argument is that the phrase "they journeyed east" may mean "they journeyed away from the east." You can find the article here:

http://www.noahsarksearch.com/from-the-east.htm

The article says:

'Let us now look at the word "qedem," which is the word translated "east" in the verse above. Its primary meaning is "in front." The compass direction is a secondary meaning. According to "A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament," other meanings include: "before," "earlier," and "ancient times." In Deut. 33:27, the God of Israel is referred to as "the eternal God." The words used in Hebrew are "elohe qedem." In context, the meaning must be "ancient times." But it would not always be easy for scholars to know the true, idiomatic meaning in Hebrew if it were not for ancient translations, such as the Septuagint and Vulgate. Every modern translation of the Bible has been either directly or indirectly indebted to these early Greek and Latin versions.

In Gen. 11:2, the preposition before "qedem" is "min," and the Hebrew reads "miqqedem." "Mi(n)" means "out of/away from." It should not surprise us, then, that the Greek version of Gen. has the preposition "apo," which means "away from." The Vulgate, or Latin translation, has: "Cumque proficiscerentur de oriente..." = And when they were setting out from (de) the east." So did they come from Iran? Did the ark land on a peak to the east of modern-day Iraq?'

The Himalayas are, as the article you quoted says, "east of modern-day Iraq". I just get frustrated over researchers who scrutinize satellite images of only the Turkish region, & look forward to the day they do the same for the Himalayas. I'd also like to know what is the oldest inscription that associates the Turkish Ararat with a flood. Do any of the cuneiform tablets specifically mention a place that phonetically resembles "Ararat"? If so, do they predate the middle of the 2nd millennium B.C. when Moses allegedly wrote/compiled Genesis?

Hello Grna
"I tend to believe the Himalayan/Tibetan tradition would be a more logical landing spot for the ark,"

That would be about the Great Flood experienced by Manu and his ark. But he did not bring animals, but all "seeds" on board. His ark was towed to a Himalayan peak. Find it please.

"Then the word went forth: "O earth! swallow up thy water, and O sky! Withhold (thy rain)!" and the water abated, and the matter was ended. The Ark rested on Mount Judi, and the word went forth: "Away with those who do wrong!"

Holy Quran 11:44

Marques, uh... thanks? I don't know what the point of quoting from the Quran is, but okay.

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