Remember the children’s story from the Bible, “Noah’s Ark?” That’s the one where 4,000 years ago a small middle eastern family builds the world’s largest boat, sails through the world’s most catastrophic flood, while managing the world’s largest animal rescue? You remember the one… where Noah saves two of every living creatures on earth and then repopulates the world?
Most Bible scholars agree that this is indeed a Children’s story. It was never meant to be a history lesson. Yet, some Christians believe that the Bible, including the story of Noah’s Ark, is an accurate historical document. Some firmly believe that Noah had dinosaurs on the Ark! Could the story of the Ark be true? Is there any possibility that the Ark could be real?
The Bible is filled with strange tales. The strangest, and most violent of which, are usually left out of Sunday sermons. But just about everyone has heard the story of Noah’s Ark. I mean, it’s got all those animals and kids love animals! Even kids from secular families know the story about the Ark. But a very few people who truly, TRULY loved this story want it to be true. When they grew up, they would build a real Ark.
Did you know that there have been several attempts to build an “authentic” replica of the Ark? that’s true! Except, of course, that none of these “replicas” had much to do with the Biblical boat. Some used a steel hull, others used modern tools and materials. None used the materials and tools from Noah’s time, because… well… that would be very difficult to do.
Still, regardless of the questionable practices, one Ark that been getting attention. The one in Kentucky called, “The Ark Encounter”, that was created by Biblical Creationist Ken Ham. But before we look at The Ark Experience, lets first take a look at why biblical scholars argue over the historical facts of the Ark.
If the Bible is right the Ark was something like 500 feet long and built over 4,000 years ago. Bronze was still a relatively new material. However, to even have a hope of this Ark holding together for a few hours in a calm sea, it would take iron or steel nails. But iron barely existed, and steel would not be invented for a long, long time.
Given how little metal existed in the world, just the nails used to hold together the planks of the Ark represented a fantastic amount of wealth. Yet, the Bible tells us that the Ark, a boat the size of a cruise ship, was built by a poor family of 6 without any help or previous experience in building ships. A bit difficult to imagine?
In reality, it’s a lot harder to imagine. In Noah’s time, everyone was a “subsistence farmer”. It took just about 1 farmer to make enough food for 1 person. Noah’s family would need to spend almost every hour of the day just to feed and clothe themselves. They would have very little free time, certainly not enough for the world’s biggest DIY project.
What does it take to build an Ark? According to the FAQ on the Ark Experience site, it took $135 million to make a replica of Noah’s Ark. Even allowing for inflation, Noah would have been too poor to pay even a few million for the lumber he would have needed. Since there wasn’t any steel, and he wouldn’t have been able to buy bronze tools, that means that this family would need to fell, strip, and finish these trees on their own to turn out the 3 million board feet that The Ark Encounter stated was needed for their replica.
Of course, that means that they would also need to mine the ore they would need for the millions of bronze nails to secure together the planks of the Ark. Dozens of lifetimes would be spent just moving all of these materials around, sharpening tools, and making new tools when old tools wore out. Quite a task for a family with very little time to spare after they feed and clothe themselves.
Another small task for the overworked Noah family is to be security guards for the greatest treasure of that age! Not the Ark… but the nails for the Ark. Millions of bronze nails, plus their tools, the copper and tin mines, and the foundry to refine and forge bronze, would be incredibly valuable. You would need to guard their metallic treasure day and night.
With a family of just six, it would literally take thousands of years to accomplish the tasks that The Ark Encounter website tells us are needed to duplicate Noah’s task. Of course, Noah’s family was supposed to have built the Ark with their own hands, while the replica in Kentucky was built with steel, power tools, bulldozers and a lot of hired workers.
And the Ark Experience Ark doesn’t, well, float. The Bible clearly states that the Ark was covered in “pitch” to waterproof it. The Ark Project chose not to coat their replica because that would make it sticky and gross. If the replica was ever placed in water, even the people who manage the Ark Encounter would expect it to sink. With a rather inauthentic Ark, and enough work to keep a small family occupied for a thousand years, did the Ark Encounter prove anything? I think it did!
While it was hardly intentional, Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter conclusively proved that a small family 4,000 years ago, could not have built the Ark. It’s not just a question of how impossible it would have been for a bronze aged family to do all of the work (and find all of the resources) necessary to build an Ark. Even with $130 million, Ham’s team was unable to build the Ark without the use of modern technology.
Unfortunately, the investors who raised the $130 million for the Ark Encounter assumed that Ken Ham was a bit better at math than he actually was. Ken has rather deplorable skills at estimating the work needed for a carpentry job were no better at his skills in estimating ticket sales. The Ark Encounter might sink if it were set afloat on the Red Sea, but it has proved to be fully capable of floating on a sea of red ink.
Did Noah and his family build a giant Ark 4,000 years ago? It seems extremely unlikely! Then again Ken Ham is having quite a few problems building a theme park for a giant Ark today. Maybe we should just leave stories about floods and Arks to fairy tales? Yeah, that’s probably a good idea!