How about the Noah movie, what can we learn from it?
Basically, we can learn the concept of original sin and judgment. I think that the movie also provides a bridge to the Abraham/Isaac story and the concept of a sacrificial atonement. My explanation is REALLY long and ruins the plots of both “Noah” and “Facing the Giants”, so if you’ve never seen them and don’t want to know what happens, then don’t read on! Otherwise, here goes:
I liked the Noah movie. In preparation for the movie I re-read Enoch, the beginning of Genesis, and a slightly abridged English version of The Gilgamesh Epic. As you can tell, I was quite excited before it even came out. After seeing it, I thought that Darren Aronofsky made a good movie, and I think that Emma’s performance was terrific.
But as a Christian, the question again is what can we learn from it?
First of all, I think the movie itself more closely followed the Book of Enoch than the book of Genesis.
What is this book of Enoch? The book of Enoch was a book that was not included in most Jewish cannons of the Old Testament. According to Wikipedia there is a group of Ethiopian churches that have accepted it, but most have not.
I think the biggest argument against Enoch being legitimate comes from the story of how it was supposedly “handed down”. The story goes that Enoch wrote this book…and he gave it to Noah to save on the ark…and that’s why we have it today. The problem is, if Enoch wrote the book, and then he gave it to Noah…in what language would it have been written? It would have been written in the world’s first universal language. It was only about 100 years after the Noah story in the Bible and what do you have happening next? The tower of Babel, where all of the earth’s languages were confused. But the oldest fragments of Enoch that exist are written in Aramaic. It’s just not old enough. Most Christian and Jewish groups would consider this book a forgery, not really written by Enoch. But it’s still good to understand it.
In a nutshell, the book of Enoch tells of these angels that decided to have sex with human women. Samyaza was kind of the leader of these angels…and you find him mentioned by name in Aronofsky’s Graphic novel. The way Enoch puts it is that there were many of these chief angels, and they taught the humans living at the time all these different things: sorcery, incantations, using roots and plants, etc.The offspring of these people were Giants. And the giants were evil and killing each other…and the people were using all of this stuff and killing each other. And so, that’s why there had to be a flood.
If we take all of this to the Bible, there is this one passage in Genesis 6 that is quite confusing. I don’t know if we’ll ever have consensus on exactly what happened here this side of Heaven. Genesis 6:1-8 tells us,
1 Then the people began to multiply on the earth, and daughters were born to them.2 The sons of God saw the beautiful women and took any they wanted as their wives.3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.”4 In those days, and for some time after, giant Nephilites lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times.5 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.6 So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart.7 And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.”8 But Noah found favor with the Lord. Gen 6:1-8 (NLT)
Now, who are these “Sons of God” that had sex with these daughters of men?
Back when I was in seminary, our theology teacher, Dr. Elmer Towns, he taught us that there were a number of ways that this passage could be explained. Basically, everything in the next 3 paragraphs in quotation marks below is a rough quotation of Dr. Towns.
“FIRST, some people thing that this passage does suggest sexual relations between fallen angels (or demons) and the human race. There is some support for this. The term ‘Sons of God’ always seems to refer to angels in the Old Testament. The passage seems to imply that the resulting offspring of these unions were Giants. In this case, the Flood was not just a natural consequence but a universal judgment of such vast devastation that eliminated any trace of the sin and unnatural offspring of the cohabitation between angels and women.
In addition, 2 Peter 2:4-5 seems to imply the same, inferring that there were angels that sinned.
4 For God did not spare even the angels who sinned. He threw them into hell, in gloomy pits of darkness, where they are being held until the day of judgment.5 And God did not spare the ancient world—except for Noah and the seven others in his family. Noah warned the world of God’s righteous judgment. So God protected Noah when he destroyed the world of ungodly people with a vast flood. 2 Peter 2:4-5 (NLT)
SECOND, however, and a totally different view, is that what Moses was writing to us in Genesis was God’s explanation of a godly line from Seth intermarrying with the ungodly line of Cain. This would make sense in the sense that the previous two chapters of Genesis list the godly and ungodly genealogies
Furthermore, in Matthew 22:30 Jesus said that angels do not reproduce.”
All of this being said…if you hold to view #2…then the entire Noah movie is going to be inaccurate. (Again, not to say that it won’t be a good movie…but it will be totally out of context).
At least if you hold to view #1…then there is some kind of strange angel/human thing going on…so having these “Watchers” (rock type creatures…fallen angels that the comic novel refers to) running around is at least a possibility.
But even if you hold view #1, then there’s still a lot of additional material added. Emma’s character, Ila, she doesn’t even exist in either Genesis or Enoch. And here you have her, she becomes like an adopted daughter of Noah. Noah at this point has determined that the best way to stop the inherited sin from Adam is to just let the entire human race die out…the plan is Shem & Ila will bury Noah and his wife…Ham will bury Shem & Ila, and Japeth, will then be the last man.
The caveat though, is Ila finds out she is pregnant while on board the ship. She ends up having twins…two girls. Noah decides to kill the children, because he wants the human race to stop.Ila asks if she can just hold them, and she sings a lullaby to them, and then she tells Noah to go ahead and kill them…and then in a “Noah meets Abraham/Isaac Moment”…Noah says he can’t do it…and right after, the dove comes by with the olive branch in its mouth.
Following this, the people then return to land, and we’re taken to the scene of Noah getting drunk and Ham seeing him naked…and the idea is that of course sin still reigns in people. It basically ends with Ila telling Noah that maybe he can teach the remaining people to be better…to give them hope.
So what does Aronofsky get right? He gets right the idea that humanity is sinful. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). To the people saying that the movie made Genesis to be about environmentalist issues, it didn’t seem that way to me at all. There were places where the Noah character in the movie stresses the importance of being a good steward…but that to me is a Biblical concept…we’re not to waste things…and I thought that both the graphic novel and the movie made it clear that people are just sinful…arrogant, proud, etc…it’s sin that’s the problem.
What’s the solution though? We just teach people better? In the Noah movie…I think the whole temptation for the sacrifice of Ila’s two children is an allusion to the Abraham/Isaac story…but what really happened that kept Abraham from killing Isaac? God provided the sacrifice…Look at Genesis 22…
7 Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”8 “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.9 When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood.10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice.11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son.14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” Gen 22:7-14 (NLT)
God provided the sacrifice to die in the place of Isaac. As Christians, we believe that God provided the ultimate sacrifice…Christ died in our place. He died when we deserved to die.
It’s interesting, Darren Aronofsky only considers himself culturally Jewish…but he has a handle on sin…he understands that humanity is sinful. He knows the need of judgment for sin. But it’s almost like, what hope can there be…look at all the bad we’ve done?
What about Emma? I think she did amazing. But in the publicity, she comes out with this interview saying that she’s a spiritual universalist who believes in a “higher power”. She kept saying, [my rough summary of her quotes], “All these cultures have flood stories, and we should celebrate this.” That’s the only thing that disappoints me. Technically all of these faiths having flood stories is a true statement. But what’s the problem? The problem with this for me is that all of these flood stories clearly aren’t the same.
You take something like the Gilgamesh Epic. In that story, Utnapishtim was sort of the Noah…he wasn’t really the focus of the story. Utnapishtim was the one that survived the flood and the “gods” granted him immortality. Gilgamesh sought him out, but he himself wasn’t granted immortality. However, Utnapishtim’s wife told him about a magical plant that would help him be young again. So Gilgamesh manages to get this plant, but just before he eats it a snake takes it and eats it. Gilgamesh then learns to accept mortality. This isn’t the same story at all, although it does mention a flood and a man that survived it and took two of each animal with him.
People will say that the Gilgamesh story is older (it may be the oldest book in existence), so it must be the true one…and the Bible is making things up…but most evangelical Christians hold to the view that God explained the first five books of the Bible, mainly to Moses, who wrote them down…(although I guess Joshua probably wrote part…I doubt Moses wrote about his own death)…so we believe that Moses had an eyewitness in God himself. The Babylonians got part of the story right, but we believe that they messed it up as it was handed down through time. I have to admit, Christians have no proof of this…we believe this by faith. Regardless what one thinks about this, though, it can clearly be seen that these two stories are not the same.
Now the Christian message of Noah is what? Genesis 6:8 and Hebrews 11:7…
8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Gen 6:8 (KJV)
7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. Heb 11:7 (KJV)
God decided to show his grace to Noah…and Noah responded in faith.
What do we get from the movie…we get an understanding of sin and the need for judgment…Sadly, though, there really isn’t a reason for hope…except for Ila trying to console Noah by telling him that maybe one day people will learn.
All in all, though, I appreciate the honesty of Paramount Pictures. Right up front they said that this movie is inspired by Noah…they didn’t claim it as a word for word retelling. They admitted that this wasn’t the purpose.
Furthermore, we have had “Christian” movies from “Christian” production companies. An example would be, “Facing the Giants”. Movies like this didn’t come with a disclaimer, and yet, what did “Facing the Giants” teach? In that movie, the basic plot goes as follows: before following Christ, a football coach was about to lose his job, his football team was losing, his car didn’t work, his house smelled, and his wife couldn’t get pregnant. Then, the man decides to follow Christ, and he ends up keeping his job, the football team wins, he gets a new car, they find the dead mouse that smelled up the house, and the wife gets pregnant. It’s like a come to Christ and all your earthly problems are all solved…it doesn’t represent “a take up your cross and follow me” picture at all. It's a terrible misrepresentation of the Gospel. And yet, this is sold on DVD at Christian Book Stores with no apologies. And Christian’s don’t complain about the movie being totally inaccurate…they promote it.
On the other hand, you have the “Noah” movie…and it’s made mostly by people who were not Christians…and Paramount is up front and honest that it’s not a retelling of Genesis…and the movie attempted to get some things right (fountains of the deep, dimensions of the ark, explanations for how the animals possibly hibernated to survive the journey)…but still, some Christians response was, “Well, if it’s made by an atheist, I’m not going to it.” A response like this seems hypocritical to me.
I mean some of the Facebook comments about the people involved with this film were really mean, and many of those comments came from people that considered themselves Christians. It seems so often that Christians raise the bar higher for non-believers than they do their own. The double standard just makes me sick. On one hand, I guess I can understand people having a high view of the Bible getting upset if the story is changed…and I can understand people pointing to John’s prohibition of adding words to scripture from Revelation 22…but to me this wasn’t really adding words to scripture…Darren didn’t rewrite a Bible…he rewrote a story from the Bible and made it into a movie, and the producers from Paramount were up front and honest that it was simply based on the Biblical story, not a retelling of it.
To sum up, I enjoyed the movie. I didn’t expect it to be accurate. I guess it could confuse some people. But I think that the movie Noah correctly presents the concept of sin, and the need for the judgment of sin. In addition, the ending makes for an easy transition to talk to people about the story of Abraham and Isaac and the meaning of the Gospel.