I have been moderately active on this site for about eight years, and a few here may know that I am a college professor who teaches and does research in the field of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and Biblical Hebrew language.  So, a major motion picture related to my academic discipline came out yesterday, and I felt a need to interact with it.  I have posted a first of three essays on my blog.

The first thing to say about Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is that it is acaptivating movie.  When I first heard a Noah movie was coming several months ago I was surprised and did not think anyone could make a movie about Noah that would interest me.  The biblical story has little drama, but movie is surprisingly suspenseful. Two types of elements in the film make suspense possible.
Jump the less-than-ominous orange rain cloud for more.

There are lots of good reviews around by professional movie critics, which I am not.  Here is one.

Be warned: Anyone familiar with the 500-year-old man and his ark may need to check some of their most cherished visualizations of him at the theater door. No cozy two-by-two images of beatific giraffes grace this “Noah.” Like any good artist, Aronofsky has avoided predictable, literalist retellings of beloved Sunday school stories by inserting new characters, bringing parenthetical figures to the fore and making one of history’s most enduring and universal myths his very own.
There has also been a fair amount of controversy, which always seems to surround biblical films.  I will not be writing directly about those, but if you are interested the article in The National Catholic Register is a good place to start.
The punning headlines write themselves: “Noah Awash in Flood of Controversy.” “Deluge of Criticism Inundates Filmmakers.” In the weeks preceding the release of Noah, controversy has swirled around the film — and will no doubt continue to do so in the weeks ahead.
Does Noah replace the biblical theme of judgment of sin with environmental themes? Is Noah a radical environmentalist? Does the movie mention God at all? Is the director an atheist? Why are there giant rock monsters? And so on.
I have written an essay in my blog (Observing Points of Convergence), offering my first reactions to the movie, and I plan to write two more.
The changes in the story allow the movie to ask two questions that the biblical story does not, and the movie is helpful to me because they are exactly the kinds of question I want to explore.

1) How does the purpose of God combine with our own attempts to understand the world and figure out how to work in it?  Russell Crowe’s character struggles to understand and to do what he thinks God wants.  Sometimes he gets it right and sometimes he misunderstands.  Sometimes he succeeds and sometimes he fails, but he is never just the simple divine mechanism of Genesis 6-8.

2) What would be the impact on a person of doing something like God commanded Noah to do, and what would be the impact on his family?  Powerful and influential people in our world often identify divine causes, and those causes shape their lives and the lives of many others.  Who gets to decide the divine purpose and who suffers or benefits from those decisions?

I suspect that the divide between those who like the movie and those who dislike it will be based largely on the nature of those two questions, and the two ways of reading the Bible, one of which the questions represent.  Those who believe that the Bible is trying to tell us exactly what happened in the ancient world and that somehow this will provide us with instructions for living our own lives, will probably not like the movie.  Those who believe that the Bible presents us with a (sometimes confusing) array of literature that can help us identify and explore the great questions in our own lives will probably like it.  There will be others who don't care much about the Bible or the movie, and that is fine.  I hope not many of those are still reading this far, so that I didn't waste much of their time on a Saturday.
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