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Noah's Ark

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The Hebrew name to designate Noah's Ark, the one which occurs again in the history of Moses' childhood, suggests the idea of a box of large proportions, though the author of Wisdom terms it a vessel ( Wisdom 14:6 ). The same conclusion is reached from the dimensions attributed to it by the Bible narrative: three hundred cubits in length, fifty in breadth, and thirty in height. The form, very likely foursquare, was certainly not very convenient for navigation, but, as has been proven by the experiments of Peter Jansen and M. Vogt, it made the Ark a very suitable device for shipping heavy cargoes and floating upon the waves without rolling or pitching. The Ark was constructed of gofer wood, or cypress, smeared without and within with pitch, or bitumen, to render it water-tight. The interior contained a certain number of rooms distributed among three stories. The text mentions only one window, and this measuring a cubit in height, but there existed possibly some others to give to the inmates of the Ark air and light. A door had also been set in the side of the Ark; God shut it from the outside when Noah and his family had gone in. Apart from Noah's family, the Ark was intended to receive and keep animals that were to fill the earth again ( Genesis 6:19-20 ; 7:2-3 ) and all the food which was necessary for them. After the Flood, the Ark rested upon the mountains of Armenia ( Genesis 8:4 -- according to Vulgate and Douay, the mountains of Ararat, according to Authorized Version ). Tradition is divided as to the exact place where the Ark rested. Josephus (Ant., I, iii, 6), Berosus (Eus., Praep. Ev., IX, ii, P.G., XXI, 697), Onkelos, Pseudo-Jonathan, St. Ephrem, locate it in Kurdistan. Berosus relates that a part of Xisuthrus's ship still remained there, and that pilgrims used to scrape off the bitumen from the wreck and make charms of it against witchcraft. Jewish and Armenian tradition admitted Mount Ararat as the resting place of the Ark. In the first century B.C. the Armenians affirmed that remnants of it could yet be seen. The first Christians of Apamea, in Phrygia, erected in this place a convent called the monastery of the Ark, where a feast was yearly celebrated to commemorate Noah's coming out of the Ark after the Flood.

Suffice it to remark that the text of Genesis 8:4 mentioning Mount Ararat is somewhat lacking in clearness, and that nothing is said in the Scripture concerning what became of the Ark after the Flood. Many difficulties have been raised, especially in our epoch, against the pages of the Bible in which the history of the Flood and of the Ark is narrated. This is not the place to dwell upon these difficulties, however considerable some may appear. They all converge towards the question whether these pages should be considered as strictly historical throughout, or only in their outward form. The opinion that these chapters are mere legendary tales, Eastern folklore, is held by some non-Catholic scholars; according to others, with whom several Catholics side, they preserve, under the embroidery of poetical parlance, the memory of a fact handed down by a very old tradition. This view, were it supported by good arguments, could be readily accepted by a Catholic ; it has, over the age-long opinion that every detail of the narration should be literally interpreted and trusted in by the historian, the advantage of suppressing as meaningless some difficulties once deemed unanswerable.


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