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The biblical take on TV's 'Noah'

Sunday, May 02, 1999

You've read the TV critic's take on "Noah's Ark," but what does a biblical scholar think?

Linda Day, an assistant professor of Old Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, gave the mini-series a mixed review.

"It was an entertaining enough little story, but it is not very biblically accurate," Day said after watching an advance tape of "Noah's Ark." "The disclaimer that this bears little resemblance to the Bible should be taken very seriously."

Day acknowledged the producers didn't really have a lot to work with. She said the Bible story is fairly short and some characters, including Noah's wife, aren't even given names in the good book. But some deviations were glaring.

"This story seems to collapse biblical stories together," Day said. "The worst example of this is putting Noah and Lot together. The Flood came long before Sodom and Gomorrah. At least they're in the same biblical book, but Genesis is a very long book."

Day cautioned parents who might want their children to watch "Noah's Ark."

"With the amount of violence that was in the show I would hope most Sunday school kids would not be watching it," Day said. "It interprets everything in the story either according to violence or sexuality, which is typical television fare. But these things are not clear in the biblical text."

Day defended the depiction of Noah's sons as not married. While many versions of the Bible refer to Noah's sons and their wives, Day said the original Hebrew is ambiguous.

"The same word means wife or woman [in Hebrew], but the Bible at least gives the impression that these three sons are already married and established," Day said. However, the Bible had no decree from God that Noah's sons must abstain from sex, a point of much frustration to the boys in NBC's mini-series.

Day liked the depiction of Noah's family going stir crazy on the ark and the portrayal of God as indecisive and full of sorrow. She also approved of Noah's conversations with God in which Noah hears God's voice as his own.

"It's not biblical, but that's one of the things that kind of makes sense," Day said. "There's a theory that we always come to the divine through ourselves."

But women don't fare well in "Noah's Ark."

"Noah is the one who talks to God and the rest of the family doesn't even consider having a relationship with the deity," she said. "It's a very patriarchal family structure. Noah is certainly the main character, but they were free to draw Noah's wife any way they would have liked."

Day recommended "Noah's Ark" to viewers, but with a caveat: Don't have high expectations.

"Expect to be entertained," Day said, "but take it with a grain of salt."

Or a bit of Lot's wife.

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