If you believe in the literal truth of the Bible (as, according to a recent study, 3 in 10 Americans do), Kentucky is the place to be. In addition to a Creationism Museum, a group of religious organizations are building a Bible-themed amusement park called Ark Encounter, which is receiving a 75% tax break from the state. The centerpiece of the park will be a replica of Noah’s Ark, the legendary ship built to house two of every animal during the 40-day flood recounted in the Book of Genesis. This, project leaders say, should go a long way toward dispelling widely held notions that the Bible is not, in fact, literally true.
“The message here is, God’s word is true,” said project leader Mike Zovath. “There’s a lot of doubt: ‘Could Noah have built a boat this big, could he have put all the animals on the boat?’ Those are questions people all over the country ask.”
The ark will be built mostly by Amish carpenters from Indiana. It’s unclear whether they will be using techniques exclusively from several thousand years B.C.E., to be as “authentic” as possible. It will also not be the first replica of the Ark ever built. And certainly, the building time will not take as long as the original Ark’s creation; according to Jewish rabbinical tradition, Noah spent 120 years building it (they lived longer in those days).
My question is why this single episode in the book of Genesis has been isolated as the dramatic proof of the Bible’s truth. Perhaps it’s because of the familiarity of the story, or maybe it’s simply because it can actually be done. God’s instructions for building the Ark in Genesis 6 are vague, and it could – perhaps – hold 4,000 animals, although that is nowhere near the number of bird species in the world, much less “every living thing, of all flesh.”
The state of Kentucky is banking on Ark Encounter to bring in significant tourist dollars. That’s likely, given the scale of the project. But will it sway more people to embrace the Bible’s literal truth? I have to believe that anyone who looks at any other part of the Bible — or even examines the details of the Noah story — will find the Ark Encounter convincing.
From my perspective, it’s much harder to imagine God speaking to a 500-year-old man, who then builds a giant ark with only the help of his three sons, than it is to believe that such an ark could, theoretically, be built using twenty-first century techniques. It’s doubtful that this Ark will be seen as anything except a dramatic and expensive piece of religious theater.
Photo from Jack Duval via flickr.