Noah: Righteous, Drunk & Naked at the end of the world


The movie Noah is out on dvd and the reverberating effects of the film are still echoing within the church, as people watch, wonder and react. I am not really surprised. Any honest reader of the biblical story would come to an existential place of shock, revulsion and terror at the narrative and implications of the story. It’s easy for me to see why poor old righteous Noah got off the boat, grew a vineyard, got drunk and ended up naked on the ground. Noah needed the help of his own family to restore his own sense of dignity and sanity (Gen. 9:20-23), no surprise, the destruction of the world can leave a heavy weight of survivor’s guilt! But the ominous story also contains some of the most important theological themes and redemptive truths and allusions in the Bible, it’s a story worth reading and contemplating from many different angles.

But religious zealots and culture critics are pronouncing their own evangelical fatwas for watching or recommending this movie:

“…we…should consider burning at the stake any Christian leader who endorses this movie.”

With that kind of divisive rhetoric — sarcastic or not — flying around out there about a movie, it’s easy to see why people of faith who ask sincere questions about a film, do so with nervous trepidation. There’s a type of fear mongering and inquisition like heresy hunting that perpetuates a culture of fear and ignorance in many religious circles. This strain of theological or sociological fundamentalism plagues vulnerable people and is a viral type of thinking that produces isolating condemnation, bully-like  threats and instigates violence. I address this posture towards truth and learning in my recent article: “Pursuing Wisdom: Is something true because it’s Christian or Christian because it’s true?

I understand that for many people, any attempt to tell a biblical story that strays from the literal text is suspect. I know that for some the biblical stories leave no room for conjecture, imagination or attempts to fill in the gaps. But if you are a student of history, particularly religious, you know we have volumes of this type of literature from the biblical era. You also are aware that there are books of the Bible that are contested by some groups and some ecclesiastical cannons contain different books among the various Christian branches of the church. A prime example is the fact that 1 Enoch is part of the Eastern Ethiopian Church cannon, you know that branch of the church whose roots go back to Philip baptizing the Ethiopian official in Acts 8.

Watchers, Giants and Magic:

If you have not watched the movie yet, or even if you did, you need to be familiar with The Book of Enoch and a few other ancient texts (like The Book of Jubilees), to grasp where a good amount of the storyline material was coming from in the movie. Here’s a few selections from 1 Enoch, which is quoted in book of Jude in the Bible and appears to be the background source for 2 Peter, or at least informed a lot of it, depending on which scholars you choose to read.

Enoch 7:1-8:3, 19:1 
And they took wives unto themselves, and everyone respectively chose one woman for himself, and they began to go unto them… And the women became pregnant and gave birth to great giants. These giants consumed the produce of all the people until the people detested feeding them. So the giants turned against the people in order to eat them. And they began to sin against birds, wild beasts, reptiles, and fish. And their flesh was devoured the one by the other, and they drank blood. And then the earth brought an accusation against the oppressors.

And Azaz’el [the Watcher] taught the people the art of making swords and knives, and shields, and breastplates… and alchemy…[or transmutation: Ancient Ethiopian commentators explain this phrase as “changing a man into a horse or mule or vice versa, or transferring an embryo from one womb to another.”] Amasras taught incantation and the cutting of roots; and Armaros the resolving of incantations; and Baraqiyal astrology, and Kokarer’el the knowledge of the signs, and Tam’el taught the seeing of the stars…

The angels which have united themselves with women. They have defiled the people and will lead them into error so that they will offer sacrifices to the demons as unto gods.

Enoch 10:4, 11-12; 54:6
the Lord said to Raphael, “Bind Azaz’el hand and foot and throw him into the darkness!” And he made a hole in the desert which was in Duda’el and cast him there…And to Michael [the archangel] God said, “Make known to Semyaza [the Watcher] and the others who are with him, who fornicated with the women, that they will die together with them in all their defilement…bind them for seventy generations underneath the rocks of the ground until the day of their judgment and of their consummation, until the eternal judgment is concluded… on account of their oppressive deeds which (they performed) as messengers of Satan, leading astray those who dwell upon the earth.”

So while Protestants may get their hackles up at the Catholics for including the Apocrypha in their Bibles, other’s chafe at evangelical’s inability to value the well read works of the early church that the apostles and Christians read and taught from in the churches. Most didn’t get listed as cannon but many were the source material for spiritual formation, teaching and encouragement in the faith. Ignoring this fact is foolish or purposefully disingenuous and misleading. Jewish and Christian writers and readers have been pondering the deep mysteries and gaps in the biblical story for thousands of years. Reason, critical thinking and even imagination doesn’t poison truth, it often adds breathing room to constrictive conservatism that can suck the air out of the room.

4 possible evangelistic results from watching this movie:
Here are four possible opportunities created from watching this film and how it can help foster important religious conversations that could lead people to making different choices about significant behaviors and views of God, creation and their own lives.

  1. This film may send people to the Bible to read the actual story (Genesis 6-9).
  2. It provides an easy public discussion about sin, violence and it’s consequences in human relationships, creation and with the creator.
  3. It portrays a worldview that embraces the supernatural vs. a modern rejection of a biblical cosmology: God, creation, angels, men and women, apocalypse and salvation.
  4. It opens the door to discuss the gospel truth of redemption.

I think those are very important theological conversations to have and this movie provides the chance to discuss these themes.

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Tracy Simmons

Eric I wanted to see this, but now I *really* want to

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