With the recent release of Darren Aranofsky’s “Noah,” much discussion and controversy has been bandied about concerning the film’s biblical accuracy and the director’s artistic license. For anyone who saw the film, certainly they can attest that Aronofsky’s version doesn’t follow the biblical narrative “note for note,” but whether or not that is acceptable is up to each individual. For those who see the Bible as a book of literal history, “Noah” will be at worst heresy, at best confusing. For those who understand the Bible as a literary record of God’s acts in history (and in this case, pre-history), “Noah” will be seen as a Midrash, the Jewish tradition of storytelling that explores the ethics and values in the text, often using “what if” scenarios to flesh the story out (this is Aranofsky’s own approach). But for those who understand that the Bible is also trying to tell us something that not only happened “once upon a time” but is always happening, Preston Harold has something to say that will delight you. I will quote him at length…
The Noah legend depicts most dramatically a “recital” of all man has known in animal life, even as it enfolds, poetically and with a surprising degree of accuracy, aspects of the birth process, as may be seen in the following parallels:
When the ovum is pierced by the sperm, development of a very special growth called the placenta, cake, because of its shape, begins. When Noah is pierced by the Word of God, he goes to work and following most explicit instructions builds a very special structure upon high ground: the ark.
Through the umbilical cord that connects the embryo and placenta, the embryo derives oxygen and food; it develops its own blood, circulatory, and digestive systems – that are at all times quite distinct from its host’s. Noah was instructed to build a “window” and a “door” in the side of the ark, “and take unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shall gather it to thee, and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.”
The inner membrane of the ovum, or amnion (lamb), fills with a pint or more of water. In this the embryo floats. The ark (incorporating both placenta and embryo in symbolic form) is set afloat as the waters rise, Noah and his company shut within it.
As the embryo develops into fetus, soma or “body” cells multiply by division, assuming special shapes to fit them to form the tissues and organs of the body. Noah’s company may be seen as a group of “body cells: there in reproductive capacity, and the company may be seen also as a sort of recital of all man has known in the realm of animal flesh, Noah and wife, his sons and their wives, representing the factors that carry the genetic code. The legend says that when the company of “body cells” comes forth, all are “after their kinds,” or are “arranged in families” – as are the soma cells which form the tissues and organs.
With the spilling of the birth waters, the fetus emerges from the womb to the dry ground of life. Noah waits until the waters have drained away and then his company emerges in a body, leaving the ark behind as the placenta is “after birth.” By the time the fetus is past the seventh month, its body is basically complete; but it is not uncommon for the fetus to delay until well into the tenth month before emerging. The legend says that by the seventh month, the “ark is grounded,” but the story enfolds also the lengthier term – “till the tenth month the waters steadily subsided, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains were seen.”
So what happens after the emergence onto dry land: the birth of the human being? We will consider that in our next post. Until then, peace…