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Box with legs or DNA repository? How did a translation error turn Noah’s Ark into a ship

Box with legs or DNA repository? How did a translation error turn Noah's Ark into a ship 1

Legends about the Flood and the Ark exist in various cultures. In the biblical tradition, this is Noah’s Ark, since it was Noah who was the righteous man who was entrusted with the mission of saving mankind. 

The story of the Flood is known to most, this is the epoch when God realized that the Earth was corrupt and then he decided to destroy all living things and sent the Great Flood.

“And the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord repented that he had created man on earth, and was grieved in His heart.”

An exception was made only for the righteous and God-fearing Noah and his family. The Lord warned him about the upcoming test and told him about the only way of salvation – the Ark.

Most people are familiar with popular images of Noah’s Ark, in which the ark resembles a wooden ship with some kind of barn on top. But the Bible gives a different description – in the Book of Genesis it is a certain rectangular object:

“Make yourself an ark of wood. Make rooms in the ark and cover it with pitch inside and outside. And make it like this: the length of the ark is three hundred cubits*, its width is fifty cubits, and its height is thirty cubits. Make a window for the ark and make it on top to the elbow and place the door of the ark aside. Do this with the bottom, second and third decks.”

*A cubit in the Old Testament is about 45 centimeters. But it is also worth taking into account this Egyptian royal cubit – 53 centimeters, because Moses is considered the author of the Book of Genesis (and he was educated in Egypt).

The purpose of the ark was to save the inhabitants from a catastrophe that was supposed to put an end to earthly life. It took about 120 years to build and was designed without control. This is due to the fact that during the flood there was nowhere to sail, and all navigation was carried out by the will of God.

Kaspar Memberger, "Building of Noah's Ark", 1588
Raphael, “The Construction of Noah’s Ark”, one of the sections of the Raphael Loggias, dedicated to the story of Noah.

The Ark was made from a material the Bible defines as “gopher wood” – but what this type of wood is is not known for certain. Some researchers have suggested that it could be cypress, cedar, teak or mahogany. An interesting coincidence – the word “coffer” (from the French coffre – chest, box, or Latin cophinus – basket) is consonant with the word “gopher” – the wood from which the Ark was made at the direction of God.

As you know, Noah’s Ark landed on the top of Mount Ararat:

“And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat” (Gen. 8:4).

Noah’s Ark was searched for on Ararat several times. It is interesting that until recently, conquering the mountain was considered forbidden: it was believed that the climber would break the commandments. 

One of the oldest stories about the ascent to Mount Ararat is the legend of the Holy Bishop Jacob (Hakob Mtsbnetsi). He lived in the Ararat gorge and wanted to dispel disputes about the Flood. Then the Bishop decided to climb the mountain, see the Ark with his own eyes and bring a piece of it to the people. The climb was difficult, and every time Jacob stopped to rest, an angel brought him back to the foot of the mountain.

But God had mercy and sent an angel to him, who said that he should not climb to the top – the hand of a mortal should not touch the Ark. And along with warnings, the angel brought a piece of the Ark. The relic can still be seen today in the Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Armenia. And Catholicos Simeon I of Yerevantsi sent a small fragment as a gift to Catherine the Great in gratitude for her concern for the Armenian people.

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Box with legs or DNA repository? How did a translation error turn Noah's Ark into a ship 2
Reliquary with a piece of Noah’s Ark, please note that a small piece is still missing.

Most people imagine Noah’s Ark as a giant ship. However, recently more and more hypotheses have appeared that destroy this traditional view.

Archaeological finds give modern viewers the opportunity to see how our ancestors depicted the ark in ancient times. For example, in many works of the 1st millennium BC. the ark looks exactly like a box. Similar images are present on ancient coins of the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.

Legends about the Flood and the Ark exist in various cultures.-7

Turkish mosaics depicting the events of the Great Flood also support this version. At the site of the city of Mopsuestia, a preserved fragment of a mosaic floor with the inscription “Ark of Noah the Redeemer” was found. The mosaic contains an image of animals crowded around an open box with 4 legs.

Legends about the Flood and the Ark exist in various cultures.-8

The ark had modest dimensions: length was 162 meters, width 27 meters, height 16.2 meters – this opinion was reached by a group of scientists from Rome who studied Sumerian, Akkadian, Jewish and Aramaic texts.

Agree, a 162-meter wooden box is too small to accommodate a pair of each creature. Researchers tend to assume that we are talking more about the genetic material of animals and plant seeds.

During the translation of the Bible into different languages, the meaning of the word “ark” changed its meaning several times. Initially, the Greek translators of the Old Testament used one word (kivotos) for both Noah’s Ark and the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the tablets of Moses with the Ten Commandments, and, according to the New Testament Epistle to the Hebrews, also the vessel of manna and Aaron’s rod. “Kivotos” was a closed wooden storage box. But in translations they began to use different terms, as a result of which the original meaning was lost.

Edward Hicks, Noah's Ark, 1846.
Edward Hicks, Noah’s Ark, 1846.

Thus, according to recent research, Noah’s Ark was not a ship in the usual sense: in ancient texts, the structure is a cubic or rectangular box.

Moreover, in antediluvian times, shipbuilding was not developed, and Noah was not familiar with such a difficult craft, so he completed the task in the simplest way: he built not a ship, but a box.

It’s an interesting hypothesis suggesting that the story of Noah’s Ark is an allegory. In words understandable to ancient man, it is told about a spaceship on which not the animals themselves were collected, but their DNA.

If we view Noah’s Ark as a ship that is a repository of the DNA of all life on earth, several fascinating questions arise. For example, how did Noah receive information about the coming flood? Can this be interpreted as a warning from extraterrestrial beings? Is there a connection with extraterrestrial technology?

If we imagine that Noah’s Ark was a ship saving not the fauna itself, but genetic data, then at that moment only extraterrestrial technologies could ensure the safety of the Earth’s biodiversity in the event of a catastrophe.


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