Skip links

Flood or Fiction? Part I. The Ark

Is the Flood of Noah just a fiction? Answering five common questions, objections, and misconceptions about the Ark.

While there are many who think that the Bible is the world’s greatest book, its harshest critics think it’s the world’s greatest book of fiction! But is such staunch unbelief really fostered from a careful study of the Bible and history I wonder? Or does it come from the influence of highly embellished or fanciful retellings by Hollywood, pop science, storybooks, media, and the like? Whatever the cause, there has clearly been a faith fallout when it comes to the Biblical account. A prime example of this is Noah’s Flood. Skeptics scoff at this Bible “story” proclaiming it to be nothing more than mere fantasy. And for many of them, this unbelief begins with Noah’s ark. But is this lack of faith justified based on the Biblical account? We will see. In what follows, I will be presenting Biblically based answers to five common questions about the ark.

1. Could the ark really have survived the flood?

As I already mentioned, many people reject the flood story because they do not believe that such an ark could have survived a global flood. In other words, a large part of their unbelief is based on the ark’s shape. But that’s very ironic since the Bible says absolutely nothing about its shape! Genesis 6:14-16 simply describes it this way:

Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.

While the Bible provides the dimensions of the ark and a few other details (common to all ship instructions), it gives us no indication as to its specific form.[1] So, any criticism about the ark’s shape should be directed toward the artists, a lot of whom have completely ignored the few details the Bible does give and have created a totally unrealistic vessel of their own imaginings.

The most common of these are what we could call “bathtub arks” seen often in children’s stories which have “the dimensions and shape of a claw-footed bathtub, with a house stuck on top.”[2] While these pictures may be cute we need to be careful because they can lead (and have led some) people into thinking that the Flood event was just children’s fiction with a moral to the story. And when we compare these fictional arks with Biblically based renderings, we see a vast difference. Thankfully, there have been a few realistic illustrations over the years but one of the most thoughtful Biblical designs to date is the Lovett design, created by ark researcher and engineer Tim Lovett, which is what the life-size Ark Encounter is based upon. Obviously, the fictional arks portrayed in children’s stories, the square-shaped boat in the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the like would prove disastrous in a global flood, but an ark based upon the realistic dimensions provided in the Bible is a totally different story.

Still, some persist in their protest arguing that the size and material of the ark also pose major problems. The Bible tells us that it was a wooden vessel 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. Depending on which cubit Noah used the Ark would have been between 450-510 feet long.[3] Some claim that a wooden vessel of this size would break apart. But history alone is enough to disprove that idea. The simple fact is, “Classical literature records huge wooden ships of a comparable size to the Ark.” [4]  One of these was the Greek ship Leontifera. Somewhere between 400-500 feet long, it “performed admirably in an Aegean Sea battle in 280 BC…[So] If wooden ships of compatible size were built and functioned well, then obviously functioning wooden ships that size could be built.”[5]

As Tim Lovett himself concludes, “The scale of the ark is huge yet remarkably realistic when compared to the largest wooden ships in history. The proportions are even more amazing—they are just like a modern cargo ship.”[6]

2. Could Noah really have made such a vessel?

Of course, many doubt that Noah even had the brains to create such a sea-worthy vessel. But this objection is based on an evolutionary worldview in which ancient man was less evolved and therefore less capable than we are today. “[Man’s] evolutionary story begins with cave men and bone tools, painstakingly developing crude technology over countless centuries.”[7]

That’s why Noah is often imagined as a primitive nomad, chipping away with stone, bone, and wood implements. This version of Noah definitely could never have made such a sea-worthy vessel. But this portrayal of Noah, like the storybook depictions of the ark, is fictional and unbiblical. It is also unhistorical.

In reality, “People in Noah’s day [both before and after the flood] were much more intelligent than skeptics credit.”[8] The ancient pyramids, ships, and other ingenious artifacts testify to that.[9] As a matter of fact, “The ability of ancient builders is such a mystery to evolutionists that some think they had help from extra-terrestrials, an idea for which there is zero evidence.”[10] People in Noah’s time were also not limited to stone and bone tools. As the Bible clearly explains, Tubal-Cain, who lived centuries before Noah, “forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron” (Genesis 4:22). This means that before the flood there was no Bronze or Iron ages. “One person conquered both metals and Noah had them at his disposal.”[11],[12]

Another thing that Noah had at his disposal was time—although it’s not as much as some people think. While at first glance Genesis 6:3 seems to set the window of time for building the ark at 120 years, a careful reading reveals that this was actually a countdown to the flood.[13] But the specific command to build an ark came years later following the birth of Noah’s three sons. Actually, by the time God gave Noah the command in Genesis 6:13-18, his sons were already married. This means that Noah would have had roughly between 55-75 years to build the ark which is still more than enough time.[14] Especially if Noah and his family contracted workmen to help them which is very likely.

3. How could Noah possibly fit all the animals on the Ark?

Another major criticism about the ark has to do with the animals. In particular, how could Noah have possibly fit all of the millions of different species of animals on the ark?

But there are two main mistakes that critics make here. The first is that they equate the Biblical term “kinds” with “species.” But in most cases, they aren’t the same. As a matter of fact, the “created kinds” of the Bible are more comparable to the “family” level of our modern classification system which is much broader. But what exactly is a kind? While there are a lot of different factors to consider, “a good rule of thumb is if two things can breed together, then they are of the same created kind.”[15] Take dogs as an example. All species of dogs whether wolves, dingoes, coyotes, or domestic dogs can breed with each other. So, all dogs belong to one family or kind.[16] So Noah didn’t have to take all the different species of animals on board but only their representative kinds—a male and its female. So, one pair of dogs, one pair of cats, one pair of horses, and so on. As you can imagine, this drastically reduces the amount of animal life on board the Ark.[17]

The second error skeptics make here is to include on the ark “types of organisms that were not specified as obligate passengers, such as plants, fish, and even microbes.”[18] According to the Bible, God only required Noah to take aboard air-breathing animals of the land and sky.

So how many animals were actually on the ark? While it is a complex subject, researchers have been able to estimate minimum and maximum numbers. At minimum, there were around 1,000 animal families which would be roughly 2,000 animals total.[19] But at the absolute maximum, there could have been up to 8,000 kinds (or 16,000 individuals).[20] Taking this maximum figure with a smaller ark of 450 feet would be the worst-case scenario. And yet, the total amount of space used on the ark would still only be about 46.8%.[21]

However, a more realistic scenario is that the total number of animals on the ark was less than 3,200. [22] And the ark was most likely built according to the longer cubit which means there would have been a lot more room.

4. How did Noah round up all the animals?

 Ok, so space isn’t the issue. But that’s still a lot of animals and people have often wondered how it was possible for Noah to search and capture all these different creatures. This would be a hard enough task on its own but with Noah busy building the ark and gathering supplies this would be next to impossible.

But nowhere does the Bible say that Noah had to go searching for all the animals. Rather, Genesis indicates in a few different places that it was God who brought the animals to Noah. This is most clearly stated in Genesis 6:19-20: “And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive.” So, this idea of Noah searching for all the animals, rounding them up, and bringing them back to the ark is, again, completely fictional and unbiblical.

5. Did Noah’s ark really land on Mt. Ararat?

Unfortunately, even some believers have been guilty of misreading the Bible at times. One of the best examples of this is regarding the final resting spot of the ark. While it’s often been claimed that Noah’s Ark landed on Mount Ararat the Bible doesn’t actually say that. Rather, it says that the ark landed on the “mountains of Ararat” (Gen. 8:4) which refers to a range of mountains located “in the eastern part of modern-day Turkey, Armenia, and western Iran.”[23]

Of course, this doesn’t automatically rule out Mt. Ararat either. And many people are still convinced that this is the spot. As the highest of the mountains, Ararat (at an elevation of well over 16,000 feet) does seem to be consistent with the vantage point Noah had after the ark landed. And several eyewitnesses have claimed that they have seen something ark-like there. On the other hand, even with all the eyewitness accounts “there has never been anything of substance ever found or documented to prove the Ark landed [there].”[24] And Mt. Ararat’s high elevation does pose problems. First of all, there’s a question as to how the animals could’ve made their way down such a high and treacherous mountain. And second, at 16,000 feet above sea level there would have been a severe lack of oxygen for the human and animal passengers. The fact is, at any altitude over 12,000 feet oxygen becomes an issue.[25] But the main problem with Mt. Ararat is that it is a volcano and has “been identified [by some geologists] as having been formed after the Flood” because it sits “on top of fossil-bearing sediment from the Flood.” If true, then this volcano “did not exist at the time the ark landed.”[26]

Of course, there are lots of other proposed sites for Noah’s ark, but the most popular besides Ararat is Mt. Cudi. This mountain has gone by a lot of different names but “many ancient sources say the ark landed on this specific portion of the mountains.” In fact, while “Ararat is referred to in some early literature…as the ark’s landing site, Mt. Cudi is referred to as the landing site in many more and far earlier sources.”[27] Also, unlike Mt. Ararat, Cudi is not a volcano and so doesn’t seem to be a recent formation. Cudi is also “much lower in elevation, being about 6,800 feet high, so it would not have been so difficult to herd animals down the mountain.”[28] Nor would there be any lack of oxygen.

Based on this, Mt. Cudi seems to be the more logical choice, but the truth is that nobody truly knows where the final resting spot of the ark was. But if Cudi is the site, then the ark was in a place “where pieces could be [easily] looted or taken as relics.”[29] So the real ark may well be gone.

Conclusion

As has been demonstrated, a lack of faith regarding Noah’s ark simply isn’t justified when we allow the Bible to speak for itself. While it’s true that we haven’t found Noah’s ark (and may never), it shouldn’t cause us to doubt the Biblical account. Time and time again the Bible has demonstrated its accuracy. And nothing in history or science contradicts the Biblical record of the Flood. Quite to the contrary. Nevertheless, there will always be scoffers. As a matter of fact, the Apostle Peter prophesied that in the last days scoffers would come who would willfully forget and reject three specific things: Creation, the Flood, and Jesus Christ’s Second Coming (2 Peter 3:3-6). Skeptics understand that if Creation and the Flood weren’t real events then Christ’s Second Coming doesn’t have to be either. No wonder, then, that they persist in their attacks on these very real historical events!

Ryan Hembree is a daily co-host, speaker, and writer of Bible Discovery. He also hosts a YouTube channel that shows the unity of the Bible and how science and Scripture fit together. Ryan also has an honorary Masters of Ministry in Creation Science from Phoenix University of Theology.


[1] Believe it or not, this is not uncommon. As Tim Lovett and Bodie Hodge explain, “ships have long been described like this without ever implying a specific shape.” Tim Lovett & Bodie Hodge, The New Answers Book 3, P.20.  Lovett also adds that “To a ship designer, these dimensions are immediately recognizable—just like a modern cargo ship.” Tim Lovett, Noah’s Ark: Thinking Outside of the Box, P.22.
[2] Tim Lovett, Noah’s Ark: Thinking Outside the Box, P.7.
[3] Ken Ham & Bodie Hodge, A Flood of Evidence, P.195-6.
[4] Jonathan Sarfati, The Genesis Account, P.502.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Tim Lovett with Bodie Hodge, The New Answers Book 3, P.20.
[7] Tim Lovett, Noah’s Ark: Thinking Outside the Box, P.39.
[8] Jonathan Sarfati, The Genesis Account, P.495.
[9] For more on this subject check out the 2-hour documentary I produced on this called 30 Out of Place Artifacts available here: https://biblediscoverytv.com/resources/dvd/30-out-of-place-artifacts/
[10] Tim Lovett, Noah’s Ark: Thinking Outside the Box, P.39.
[11] Ibid., P.40.
[12] From a Biblical point of view, “It would be reasonable to expect pre-flood technology to be at least as high as it was at any time in history before the scientific and Industrial Revolution beginning in the 1700s.” Tim Lovett, Noah’s Ark: Thinking Outside the Box, P.40.
[13] It’s also possible that this 120-year timespan refers to a new limit on the human lifespan.
[14] For a more detailed explanation see, Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge, A Flood of Evidence, P.169-172.
[15] Dr. Georgia Purdom and Bodie Hodge, What Are “Kinds” in Genesis, The New Answers Book 3, P.40.
[16] Ibid.
[17] For more see Ryan Hembree, Did Noah bring insects on the Ark?
https://biblediscoverytv.com/question-answer/2020/q4-did-noah-bring-insects-on-the-ark/
[18] Jonathan Sarfati, The Genesis Account, P.513.
[19] Arthur J. Jones, How Many Animals in the Ark? Creation Research Society Quarterly, vol. 10, no. 2, September 1973, p. 102-108.
[20] See John Woodmorappe, Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Ken Ham & Bodie Hodge, A Flood of Evidence, P.217.
[23] Ken Ham & Bodie Hodge, A Flood of Evidence, P.265-266.
[24] Ibid., P.269.
[25] Ibid., P.269-270.
[26] Ibid., P.271.
[27] Ibid., P.272.
[28] Ibid.
[29] Ibid., P.272-273.

Leave a comment