TSoA: Chapter 3: Noah’s Ark, Baby!

Sadly, Isis doesn’t grant our collective wish and let Murphy twist in the wind for months before using the carbon dating equipment at the Parchments of Freedom Foundation.

Not that Murphy isn’t keeping busy:

Over the next few days, Murphy concentrated on getting up to speed with his lecture notes, knowing that Dean Fallworth would be looking over his shoulder, just waiting for an excuse to boot him off campus.

Dean Fallworth, you may remember, is Murphy’s on-campus arch-nemesis, a man who actually publishes REAL RESEARCH.

So you can see how such a man might be slightly pissed off by the likes of Michael Murphy, who gallivants off around the globe whenever he damn well pleases, never publishes anything, and (oh, yeah) is a colossal tool to boot.

On the other hand, doesn’t Murphy have tenure?  (I honestly don’t know, and I don’t think we are ever told.)  Could Dean Fallworth really “boot him off campus” for the crime of delivering one lackluster lecture?

Either way, no worries, because Dean Fallworth won’t show up in person until Chapter Fourteen.

But hey, if his evil spectre makes Murphy actually PREPARE FOR FRACKING CLASS, I guess we shouldn’t knock it.

In the meantime, Shari is busy Not Speaking to her “boyfriend,” since he disagrees with her about evolution and is reading books by atheists.

She is also busy raising two puppies, and “beginning to hope an offer of a good home wouldn’t turn up.”

I doubt she’ll be singing that tune when Shem and Japheth grow up into the giant monster German Shepherds that they will.  Shari, just to let you know: it will soon be impossible to keep their existence a secret from your landlord.  Hope you’re ready for all those extra pet fees, honey!

THE VERDICT FROM ISIS

(Hey, remember when Isis used to use her massively awesome language skills to solve problems, instead of just being the Girl Friday who happens to have access to carbon dating equipment?  Man, I miss those days.)

The piece of wood found in the cave is between five and six thousand years old!

“Meaning,” said Murphy [to Shari], drawing it out, “that our little piece of wood just might be a chunk of…Noah’s Ark.”

WOW!!!!!

Speaking of wow, if Murph is a creationist and thinks the ark is five to six thousand years old, I suppose that makes him a Young-Earth creationist, someone who thinks the Earth itself is about ten thousand years old.

Which in turn makes me wonder why Murph puts so much stock in carbon dating.  Isn’t that the same method that dated the paintings in the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in France as being around thirty to thirty-five thousand years old?  So, Murph, anything wrong with those results?

What was it that Shari was just saying about “preconceived views”?

But since these particular results lined up with his initial wish assumption, Murphy puts the Noah’s ark puzzle together for Shari: piece of old wood, two of some kind of animal, watery trap…

And Shari FINALLY catches on to the fact that Murphy was off on a Methuselah-adventure.

Nobody ever said Shari was the sharpest knife in the drawer, but let’s not forget that Good Christian Murphy LIED to her:

“I didn’t want you worrying, is all.”

That’s nice, but no excuse for fakey-keeping-the-truth-from-someone-who-cares-about-you.

Now, all of these pieces of the puzzle don’t quite add up to Noah’s Ark for me, and Shari points out one of the many holes in Murphy’s idea:

“…Shem and Japheth are two little boy dogs,” Shari said with a smile.

“You’re right.  Methuselah was cutting corners a bit there.  But he made his point.  He was trying to tell us that the biblical artifact at stake had something to do with the ark.”

So, Murphy’s telling us that the guy who managed to procure a LION was thrown for a loop by the challenge of finding a German Shepherd bitch?

‘Kay.

I guess.

Methuselah should have put a pair of DUCKS in the cave with Murph.  They would be more likely to survive than puppies, totally adorable, and easily released into the wild (or even the campus of Preston University, come to think of it) once Murphy rescued them.  And boy ducks and girl ducks look totally different, so the Noah’s Ark theme would be much more clear.

“If it really is a piece of the ark, where on earth do you think Methuselah found it?” [asked Shari]

Yeah, and while we’re at it, why didn’t he just report the discovery to the world, instead of forcing Murphy to retrace the steps and rediscover it himself?  After all, we know that even though he gives Murphy shit for his “Bible Boy” ways, he really wants the biblical artifacts to be found.

“Traditionally, the ark is supposed to have finally come to rest on Mount Ararat, in Turkey.” [Murphy answered]

WRONG

This is WRONG, and one of the most enduring WRONGS of the book.

The ark did not “traditionally” come to rest on Mount Ararat, it came to rest on the mountainS OF Ararat, which means something quite different.

Mount Ararat is one mountain.  The Mountains of Ararat can refer to a much larger number of mountains, and there is no specific reference in the Bible to any particular one.  Indeed, as I pop open my New King James, it says right here:

Then the ark rested in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat.

Genesis 8:4

SEE???

Also:

Notice that a specific mountain peak is not named.  There is no mention of a “Mount Ararat.”  Instead the Bible clearly states “the mountains of Ararat,” implying Ararat to be a region or nation within which there was a mountain range on which the ark came to rest.  The Anchor Bible translates the phrase as “the Ararat range.”

If further Biblical evidence is needed that Ararat is a region and not a mountain, it can be found in the fifty-first chapter of Jeremiah.  The prophet is reporting God’s promise to destroy Babylon, which at that time was on the point of conquering Judah:

Jeremiah 51:27 … call together against her [Babylon] the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashchenaz …

In Assyrian times there was a kingdom among the mountains in which the Tigris and Euphrates rose, in what is now eastern Turkey. … This kingdom extended from the lake to the Caucasus Mountains, and in Assyrian inscriptions is referred to as the kingdom of Urartu—of which name Ararat is clearly a version.

Despite all evidence, most people insist on thinking of Ararat as the name of a definite mountain peak and indeed the name Ararat was eventually applied to one.  Mount Ararat is a mountain in the eastern-most region of Turkey about seventy miles northeast of Lake Van.  It has two peaks, Great Ararat and Little Ararat, the former being the higher, reaching 16,873 feet (3.2 miles) above sea level.  The tradition remains firmly fixed that Noah’s ark came to rest somewhere on Great Ararat and every once in a while there are expeditions to find traces of it.

–Isaac Asimov, Asimov’s Guide to the Bible

Michael Murphy is one of those “most people.”  Throughout this book, he will never even consider the possibility that the ark might be anywhere but Great Ararat.

Funny attitude from a character and author who rely on “the literal truth of the Bible.”

And the funnier thing is, this could be solved very simply by the following conversation:

Murphy:  I’d love to cancel all my classes and go searching for Noah’s Ark.  But the Bible says that it could be on any of a number of mountains…

Shari:  Look, Professor Murphy!  Methuselah just Fed-exed you this handy map, showing that he found the piece of old wood on Greater Ararat!

Murphy:  Shari, cancel all of my classes and buy some more piddle pads—we’re off to Turkey!

See?  Easy.

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Posted on June 4, 2012, in Babylon Rising, Books, The Secret on Ararat. Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. As I understand it, even tenure can be got round these days if the administration is prepared to put a bit of work into it. (There’s often some sort of ethics clause, for example, and we know what those mean at Christian-TM-brand universities – so naturally a Christian-TM-brand author would assume that it’s the same everywhere else.)

    • Jenora Feuer

      A friend of mine who just finished his Ph.D. said that at most universities, there are essentially two methods by which you can get thrown out even if you have tenure:

      – Improper relations with a student;
      – Academic improprieties (i.e., stealing someone else’s research and passing it off as your own.

      Aside from that, getting rid of a tenured professor is difficult, and very deliberately so: the whole point is that a professor with tenure should feel relatively free to speak his mind and research what he wants to, as long as he follows the basic requirements of teaching classes as well.

      Granted, at Christian universities, I would be a lot less surprised to see some sort of loyalty clause in the contract.

      • Grammar Police

        I’m probably reading way too much into this, but could the two BOY dogs somehow signify a homosexual agenda, the sort that RTCs are forever alleging? (I dunno; makes more sense to me than Methuselah somehow finding the funds and resources to pull off these stupid pranks and then pooping out when it came to finding a female puppy to go with the male.)

        Also props to Asimov-quoting!

        (Shari will never press charges against Murph, so unless Fallworth can prove Murph’s incompetence . . . err, I mean “trump up some charges” . . . I fear we’re stuck with him.)

        • I’m sure the Massive Atheist Conspiracy could find a female student to tell a sob story about Murphy. (Or a male one. They’ll stop at nothing, those atheists.)

        • Unfortunately, incompetence isn’t enough to get someone who has tenure fired. My mom was a professor (non-tenured) for years and constantly had to pick up the slack from a tenured professor who didn’t even bother to show up for her own classes half the time, and was rude and incompetent when she did. Her students would go to my mom’s office hours to let off steam and to learn what they were actually supposed to be learning.

          Oh and my mom didn’t get tenure, despite being recommended for it by the dean, publishing enough, and being adored by all of her students, both undergrad and graduate. Because another tenured professor was jealous of her.

  2. hidden_urchin

    *sigh* I wish my profs were concerned about their jobs enough to put some effort into their classes.

    • Most of my professors were, tenured or not — but in my admittedly limited sample size, history professors seem to care about teaching more often than many other kinds. Still, there is a serious problem in academia in that publishing is what counts and teaching often gets left by the wayside.

  3. Props for quoting Asimov! 😀

  4. So, Murphy’s telling us that the guy who managed to procure a LION was thrown for a loop by the challenge of finding a German Shepherd bitch?

    I get the feeling that the third book is going to start with Murph getting an email telling him to kickstart a flea circus.

  5. I remain mystified as to why the two dogs were male. Actually why dogs at all? Countless children’s paraphernalia is illustrated with ark themes and they generally include exotic animals. Almost never cats or dogs. Anyway, my best guess is that LaHaye and his ghost writer are the types who more or less assume that all creatures or characters are male unless there is a very specific reason to make them female. Some editor probably pointed out the mistake and instead of just fixing it LaHaye et al put some ridiculous hand-waving.

    • The dogs had to be male because they’re named after people on board the Ark. There were only four women* on board the Ark – Noah’s wife and his daughters-in-law, – and the Bible doesn’t bother to give us their names
      *If Noah (supposing he existed) had any daughters, in the traditions of the time they’d have been married off and become members of their husbands’ tribes. So they would no longer count as family and could be left to drown with the rest of humanity.

  6. Yeah, this gets really crazy. The previous book gave Murphy a clue that wasn’t part of the actual treasure, and might indeed be found without finding the bronze serpent. Then Methuselah might (foolishly) think he needed Murphy’s awesomesauce powers of christian inteligence and manliness to unearth the actual treasure. But a piece of wood from the ark implies you at least have a broad idea of where the rest of it is buried.

    Methuselah is a really weird character. He’s an atheist, but wants Murphy to succeed (it would, by now, be really easy to draw Murphy out to a warehouse with no prize but 50 kilos of semtex on a remote trigger if he was hoping to kill him) and never seems interested in getting any credit or reward for his part. He’s kind of an atheist antagonist, but we have several of those already, and they are actually working against Murphy. And Murphy seems to trust him perfectly, seeing how he goes from only having an old piece of wood to concluding that it must be wood from the Ark, based on Methuselah’s hints. What’s the guy’s purpose in the story? What does he accomplish that couldn’t be more logically handled by having, I dunno, a Turkish man who found the wood and has seen it as an obvious hint that the islam has always been a lie and that he wants to convert to RTCism now, OMG. Is it just because LaHaye wants to start with a James Bond style opening action scene that has only a tangential connection to the conflict in the main plot, if that?

    • I think there would be better ways of getting the action scene – after all, unlike the static duo of Rayford ‘n’ Buck, Mikey actually does do some vaguely action-hero type stuff. Just look at the first few minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark and what that tells you about the character!

      So let’s dump Mysterious Good Atheist and open instead with Mikey working on some other artefact retrieval – don’t space them out one per book, it’s not as though there’s a shortage – and if we’re really good at this we could even show him giving the thing to a museum anonymously rather than trying to grab the glory for himself.

    • Hey, I’m fully with you that there are much better ways, I’m just trying to see why the writers ever thought this character served a point. The horrible, horrible lecture on evolution was stupid and filled with projection, but I can understand why LaHaye wanted that in there. Methuselah though… I dunno. Do we ever learn more of him than that he is the secret behind all of Murphy’s successes?

      • Sorry, I’m not trying to undermine your point, rather to reinforce it – if I can quickly come up with an idea that fits the plot purposes better, it can’t be beyond the wit of someone taking several months to write a book. Ruby, you’ve read ahead; is there some key point we’re missing here?

        • Hmmm…do you guys really want me to skip ahead a book or two and reveal The Truth about Methuselah? I will on your say-so. 😀

          • I’ll at least leave a hint (which is almost ALL that I’ve seen on The Truth About Methuselah)–he fits one of the hackneyed stereotypes on how to become a Hollywood Atheist. And one of those words isn’t entirely accurate…

          • I’ll leave that to others, but I’m already somewhat happy to hear that there IS a Truth. It makes no sense as it is, and…. well, I’d say “whatever revelation they come up with can’t make any less sense” but that’s giving LaHaye entirely too little credit. But at least there might eventually prove to be some point to his character, even if that’s just as bizare.

  7. Your Ominous And Shadowy Man In The Shadows cannot ‘cut corners.’ At that point you’re saying he’s bargain basement. This, from a guy who got a whole LION for his last nonsensical deathtrap.

    What will happen next time? If it’s the Grail, will there be a bottle of Smuckers grape juice and a loaf of Wonder Bread? If Aaron’s rod is the next relic, will it be a crayon drawing of a snake? Is THAT how far Methuselah’s “cutting corners” will go?

  8. I’m sorry if you’ve mentioned this and I missed it, but do the puppies have some kind of twee names that go together? That may be why they’re both male, if so. It’s the kind of thing immature and/or incompetent writers love to do.

  9. I note that neither of the dogs is named Ham.

    Noah’s curse on Ham and his son Canaan for walking in on him in a drunken stupor is, of course, the basis for a lot of really racist arguments for why Africans are less advanced than Europeans.

    So explicitly linking the dogs to the Noah story by naming them after Noah’s “good” sons has some disturbing implications.

  10. Somewhat off-topic, but “This Present Darkness” (a classic among spiritual warfare aficionados) is getting lanced at http://yamikuronue.wordpress.com. I only bring it up because I didn’t see it in RubyTea’s weblogroll.

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