Monday, July 17, 2006

Ark, Ark, Who's Got the Ark?

The following was excerpted from a rather lengthy article at WorldNet Daily:
After centuries of scouring the Earth for Noah's Ark, claims are now flooding in that the legendary vessel of the Bible has been found.

Last month, headlines screamed that a Texas team of archaeologists believed they had possibly located the biblical boat in Iran.

But hang on to the "Hallelujah!" chorus a little longer.

There are numerous claims about the final resting place, from Ararat to Armenia. With modern technology and digital photography being utilized in the hunt, it seems like everyone is finding what they think is Noah's Ark.

[...] As WorldNetDaily reported June 30, a 14-man crew that included evangelical apologist Josh McDowell says it returned from a trek to a mountain in Iran with possible evidence of the remains of Noah's Ark.

[...] The team returned with video footage of a large black formation, about 400 feet long - the approximate length of the ark, according to the Bible - that looks like rock but bears the image of hundreds of massive, wooden, hand-hewn beams.

[...] Despite the hype, there are those who maintain the vessel is definitely on Mount Ararat, in present-day Turkey.

Among them is Edward Crawford, a former draftsman illustrator for the U.S. military who now teaches Christian theology at Evergreen Bible Presbyterian Church in the Seattle suburb of Pullayup, Wash.

Crawford has made numerous climbs up Ararat, and says in 1990, he discovered a large, rectangular structure buried in the ice at an elevation of 14,765 feet.

"I don't have any doubt about it at all, and the Turks don't either," he told WND.

[...] Not far from Crawford's "structure" on Mount Ararat is something which made headlines in March with the release of a new, high-resolution digital image of what has become known as the "Ararat Anomaly."

The location of the anomaly on the mountain's northwest corner has been under investigation from afar by ark hunters for years, but it has remained unexplored, with the government of Turkey not granting any scientific expedition permission to explore on site.

"I've got new found optimism ... as far as my continuing push to have the intelligence community declassify some of the more definitive-type imagery," Porcher Taylor, an associate professor in paralegal studies at the University of Richmond, said at the time.

For more than three decades, Taylor has been a national security analyst, and has also served as a senior associate for five years at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

[...] Some 15 miles from Mount Ararat is perhaps the most well-known candidate vying for the title of Noah's Ark.

A boat-shaped object thought by many to be the fossilized remnants of the the vessel sits in Dogubayazit, Turkey, and was first photographed in 1959 by a Turkish air force pilot on a NATO mapping mission.

It gained worldwide attention after its photo was published in a 1960 issue of Life Magazine.

[...] The final entrant is Leroy Blevins, a New Richmond, Ohio, man who carries a 1950 Catholic Press Bible which states the ark rested "upon the mountains of Armenia," leading him to believe the location of the vessel is indeed in the former Soviet republic.

Blevins offers little proof for his claim, except a series of photos on his website, as he purports the ark is situated on Armenia's highest point Mount Aragats, not to be confused with the similar sounding Ararat in Turkey.

"No one has ever looked for Noah's Ark on this mountain in Armenia," he told WND. "There is a rectangle-shaped boat on the top of this mountain. This boat has what appears to be either a vent or windows. You can see the whole outline of this ship and it is locked in the mountains. ... You can see that it is big and man-made."

[...] Joe Zias, a Jerusalem-based anthropologist who is a former curator at the Israel Antquities Authority, is quick to throw cold water on all these claims of the ark being discovered.

"Just when I think I've seen it all, another group of nutters shows up," he told WND.

Zias says the parties making the discovery claims are "pimping" off the Bible for money, suggesting they have no training in geology, archaeology or anthropology; nor any peer-reviewed articles, university appointments and "any credibility whatsoever in academic circles."

"Pimping off the Bible" - great line. I think I will keep that one for future use.

Whether one takes the story of Noah and the ark literally, symbolically, or somewhere in between, I don't think anybody's going to find it. Why? Because people would make an idol out of it. Rather than seeing it as a sign that points to God, people would turn it into a tool for their own use. Some would use it to browbeat others about biblical inerrancy; others would use it as a national symbol or a means to claim territory; some would start selling fragments of the ark as a cure for cancer. There would be ark museums, ark parks, ark rides at Six Flags and Sea World, ark restaurants (eat with the animals!), "save the ark" fund raisers, "ark energy" room deodorizers, and ark conferences to debate whether aliens built the ark and whether any of Noah's sons were gay. I'd be willing to bet there would even be ark toilet paper. One reason the Church tends to lock up relics and only bring them out for special occasions is to minimize the tendency of people to worship the created over the creator. Hezekiah had to get rid of Moses' bronze serpent, because the people were making sacrifices to it instead of to God (2 Kings 18:4). Look at the craziness over the Shroud of Turin. Assume for the moment that it really is the burial shroud of Christ. That's really cool; I'd like to see it sometime. But does it change anything? Is the Incarnation, Crucifixion, or Resurrection any different because the shroud's hanging in an Italian cathedral?

At the risk of sounding like a theological liberal (I'd prefer to eat tofu), too much emphasis on the ark-as-a-thing loses the meaning of the whole story. God purged the world of evil once in order to give us a fighting chance and to preserve without contamination the line to Christ. He's not going to do it again until the end of days. The evil is for us to deal with, and we can deal with it because we have the Promise to Abraham and the gifts of Christ and the Holy Spirit. We're not going to improve the situation with lucky ark key chains.