TSoA: Chapter 7: The First Ark Lecture

Well, it’s that time again.  Michael Murphy is actually going to TEACH A CLASS.

This is like when Indiana Jones teaches a class, in the sense that it hardly ever happens.

Turns out that Preston University is a bit of a party school, and Monday morning classes like Biblical Archeology Again don’t tend to have a high attendance rate.

But this lecture was being given by Michael Murphy, and somehow the word had gotten out over the weekend that he wasn’t going to be speaking on the designated topic: How to map out an archaeological site.

He was going to be talking about Noah’s Ark.

Emotions ran the gamut when this word got out.  Most of the partiers at Preston smirked in relief, realizing that once again, Murphy was going to be lecturing on his current pet project rather than an item in the actual syllabus.  These students knew that all they had to do was feign interest in the Noah story, and they would get the easy A they had heard was all but guaranteed in Michael Murphy’s “Jesus for Jocks” course.

Meanwhile, the students who had actually hoped to learn something about archeology rolled their collective eyes, and wished there was an archeology class at Preston that wasn’t taught by a self-obsessed evangelical blowhard.

So, Murphy has a full house for his lecture.  Ha, take THAT, Evil Dean Fallworth!  I know how to make my classes popular—just lecture on topics that have absolutely nothing to do with the substance of the course and won’t be on the final.  Ha-HA!

We zoom in on Shari and Paul talking before class, which I guess means that they’ve at least tried to patch things up since last we saw them, when they weren’t speaking to each other.

Weird detail:

[Paul’s] left foot was still in a walking cast, the explosion at the Preston Community Church having severely damaged his leg and foot.

It’s been OVER SIX MONTHS since the explosion.  So YEAH, I guess his leg and foot wereseverely damaged.”  Even though we read nothing about that in Babylon Rising, which confined discussion of his injuries to his COMA and a damaged (or possibly just dislocated) arm and/or hand and/or wrist (there wasn’t a lot of specificity).

IANAD, but my understanding is that if you broke your femur or something (and very badly), you might be in a cast six months out.  But the foot?  Hell, my mother suffered a Lisfranc injury, and despite it being awful and no fun AT ALL, she was not in a cast for six months.

So I am left wondering if Bob Phillips Did Not Do the Research, or simply forgot how long ago the last book took place.

Then, at exactly nine o’clock, Murphy strode into the hall and the chattering ceased almost instantly.  His magnetic presence was such that he never had to raise his voice or ask for quiet.

Aw man, Murphy is awesome.  Never mind that I have two graduate degrees, and have never in eight years of post-high-school education seen a professor have to raise his voice or ask for quiet.


Murphy blows away the first ten minutes of the lecture relating the Bible story of the ark, then goes on to his awesome POWERPOINT SLIDES OF LISTS OF THINGS.

Please bear in mind that this list is supposed to be “plenty of pieces of recorded evidence in the historical record to conclude that a global flood did indeed occur on our planet more than five thousand years ago.”

Also please bear in mind that I am showing these slides exactly as Murphy does…that is, these are the totality of the citations:

The Samaritan Pentateuch – 5th century B.C.

Talks about the landing place of the ark.

Targums – 5th century B.C.

Talks about location of the ark.

Berossus – 275 B.C.

A Chaldean priest: “It is said, moreover, that a portion of the vessel still survives in Armenia … and that persons carry off pieces of the bitumen, which they use as talismans.”

Nicholas of Damascus – 30 B.C.

“Relics of the timbers were long preserved.”

Josephus – A.D. 75

“Remains which to this day are shown to those who are curious to see them.”

Theophilus of Antioch – A.D. 180

“And of the ark, the remains are to this day seen in the Arabian mountain.”

Eusebius – A.D. 3rd century

“A small part of the ark still remained in the Gordian Mountains.”

Epiphanus – A.D. 4th century

“The remains are still shown and if one looks diligently he can still find the altar of Noah.”

So, anyone notice anything about these PowerPoint slides?

For one, they are just lists of names and bits of quotes, with no citations OR context.  In other words, the students are given no easy way to check these quotes for themselves.

Second, I AM GOING TO DO SOME OF MURPHY’S WORK FOR HIM, because as you can see, none of the items on this first list mention a flood.  They just discuss bits of the ark.  Without context.  (And some of the sources do in fact discuss a worldwide flood, but we wouldn’t know it from the information given.)

Let’s deal with a few of these.

The Samaritan Pentateuch is basically the first five books of the Bible, as used by the Samaritans.

Turns out that Berossus was a Babylonian priest, who did write about a worldwide flood and a boat that survived it.  Of course, if Murphy thinks Berossus was an authoritative source, does he agree with him that “a mysterious creature called Oannes -half fish, half man- came from the sea and showed mankind writing, farming and the arts“?  Just wondering.

On to the next vague slide!

Isidore of Seville – A.D. 6th century

“So even to this day wood remains of it are to be seen.”

Al-Masudi – A.D. 10th century

“The place can still be seen.”

Ibn Haukal – A.D. 10th century

“Noah built a village there at the foot of the mountain.”

Benjamin of Tudela – A.D. 12th century

“Omar Ben Ac Khateb removed parts of the ark from the summit and made a mosque of it.”

Okay, right away—if Noah built a village and Omar built a mosque, how was there anything even left of the ark?

Now, maybe I’m being a bit hard on Murphy.  After all, a list of things on a slide can be made interesting by the lecturer adding commentary and context.

Murphy let the words on the screen speak for themselves.


But Evil Atheist Paul is not letting that shit stand!

“I noticed on your slides, Professor Murphy, that several different mountain ranges were mentioned. … Doesn’t that prove that the information was made up and no one really knows?”

Man, oh man, if Shari and Paul were actually Doing It, they wouldn’t be doing it tonight, that’s for damn sure!

[Murphy answers] “With regard to calling it the Gordian Mountains, you have to remember that these writers each came from different areas and wrote in different time periods.  The names of places change over time.  Istanbul, Turkey, was once called Constantinople.”


“Mount Ararat is also known as Agri Daugh, which means painful mountain.”

That’s nice, Murph, but as far as I’m concerned, Paul’s point still stands.  As I mentioned a few chapters back,  the Bible doesn’t talk about Mount Ararat, but the MountainS OF Ararat.  So yeah, when Murphy tells Paul that “the writers were all referring to the same general area,” he is only making the point for me: it’s a general area, one (or more) ranges of mountains, not one particular peak.

Paul, with the one-two punch of being a wuss and not having access to the actual quotations, is momentarily silenced, and the silence is filled with a bunch of Noah’s ark jokes by several students, because Murphy’s Magnetic Presence allows him to always effortlessly retain control of his classroom.

Finally, Murphy gets to the next item on the agenda, ANOTHER SLIDE OF A LIST OF THINGS:

Other Historical Authors Writing About Noah and the Ark

Hieronymus – 30 B.C.

The Quran – A.D. 7th century

Eutyches – A.D. 9th century


The Quran?  Murphy is looking to the Quran for Biblical back-up?  How about that winged horse, bit, Murphy?  Believe that, too?

Actually, this brings up an important issue: At no point does Murphy use these Lists of Things to explain how the study of history works.  How researchers determine the accuracy of sources, the ideas of oral tradition, or second- or third-hand knowledge, etc.  Nope, somebody wrote it down long ago, so it must be true, and each of these sources is the equal of all the others.  Great teaching there, Murph.

Just to give one example: the writings of Hieroymus have not survived.  We know about them because Josephus wrote about them.  Teachable moment?  Not for Murphy.

Nope, he goes on to (gasp!) read some actual firsthand accounts of people who totally claimed to see bits of the ark, fer reals.  One guy found a piece of wood (yes, that’s right, one piece of wood on Mount Ararat, at about 13 thousand feet.  The conclusion is that the piece must have “washed down from the ark.”

And then Murphy goes on and on about Fernand Navarra, who claimed to find pieces of wood from the ark in the 1950s.  Strangely, although Murphy goes on and on and quotes Navarra twce (and at length), he fails to mention that the whole Navarra was a gigantic hoax.

Go figure.

Murphy ends the lecture on the Navarra note, which you’d think would be the perfect invitation for Evil Atheist Paul to do some independent research.  Go Paul!

As he watched the students making their way out of the auditorium, he wondered if he would soon have a story of his own to tell.

Good to know that you admit that it’s all about you, Murphy, and not about teaching anything to your students.


Posted on June 27, 2012, in Babylon Rising, Books, The Secret on Ararat. Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. Granted that Indiana Jones was MEANT to emulate the old-time, 1930s-50s cinema serials (hence the first one being billed as part 23). I’m not seeing much of THAT here…

    I have to wonder WHY Murphy would alter the class content in such a short span of time, though. I know he’s excited by Methuselah’s ark fragment, but I can’t believe that THAT’S sufficient for monomania purposes. Then again, I rather expect that LaHaye is of the opinion that NOTHING is worth doing (or teaching) if it doesn’t catalyze conversion to RTChristianity. Hence the way Murphy fine-tuned his class back in Pt. 1–it’s not just an archaeology class, it’s an archaeology class focusing on places and events referred to in the Bible. Khmer, Great Zimbabwe, Anasazi, pre-Jimmu Japan–all equivalent in archaeological value to Samaria and Babylon, with the sole difference that the Mesopotamian sites are supposed to contain corroborating evidence for the Bible. So perhaps Murphy sees it as his divinely ordained duty to steer students towards the conversion-catalyzing places? (Never mind that these books are expressly supposed to be set just before the Rapture–not necessarily the one for the Left Behind series, or the one for the The End series–so I get the feeling LaHaye doesn’t think there’d be any appreciable time LEFT to distract oneself with places that don’t verify Biblical Truth®™.)

    • “Granted that Indiana Jones was MEANT to emulate the old-time, 1930s-50s cinema serials (hence the first one being billed as part 23). I’m not seeing much of THAT here…”

      Believe me, no disrespect to Dr. Jones. LaJenkinsian books would always benefit from some more perspective and more humor (that wasn’t third-rate slapstick).

      “So perhaps Murphy sees it as his divinely ordained duty to steer students towards the conversion-catalyzing places?”

      He does. Wait until the next chapter. 😀

      (Not to mention that in every book in the series, IIRC, Murphy states that his “purpose” is “to prove the truth of the Bible.” Not to educate his students, not to contribute to the wealth of knowledge in his area of study, but to prove the Bible.)

    • If this actually was ‘Archeology of the Bible’ or some similar niche class his topics might make a little more sense. His conclusion would still be bullshit, but he’d have a reason not to present useful information rather than proselytizing uncited vagueness.

  2. This kind of reminds me of how Parshall also didn’t seem to quite know what would go down in a college class to use Cal Jordan to push Josh Jordan’s dogma by proxy.

  3. It never ceases to boggle my mind that these guys think a list like this is at all convincing evidence. If I wanted, I could make up an even longer list of mermaid sightings.

  4. Grammar Police

    I read your first lines — “Well, it’s that time again. Michael Murphy is actually going to TEACH A CLASS” — and my brain immediately supplied ominious organ chords and lightning flashes.

    Excellent job on extrapolating the emotions of the undergrads. Now I feel bad for the Really Truly Archaeology students stuck with Murph, even though they exist only in Meta-verse. Free the RTAs!

    You’ve already gone over how awful the lecture and “evidence” are. There’s nothing I can add to regarding the substance so here’s my comment on the form: MURPHY DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO CREATE GOOD POWERPOINT SLIDES! I will grant that very few people do know how. However, even a high schooler knows that putting dozens of random bits of information onto single slides and then not adding any commentary as to context or relevance is Presentation Fail.

    (A prediction: Dean Fallworth appears — pasty white because he is an Ivory Tower Academic and must contrast negatively when compared to Murphy’s Tanned and Manly Physique — and tries to rightly bawl out Murphy for teaching Jesus for Jocks. Sadly, because he is the author’s strawman, he will be utterly pwn’ed by Murphy while the audience gapes in horror.)

    • Yeah. The worst professors are the ones that can’t sense the mood of the class and know when they’re inducing the OMGWILLHESHUTUP eye-rolling foot-tapping GETMETHEFUCKOUTTAHERE agony.

      The better ones know when they’re boring the students and cut the lecture off in time to avoid people being P.O’ed.

  5. I’m beginning to see why RTCs think universities are such bastions of satan that are hostile to them. They think a professor ignoring the curiculum and spending the entire lecture telling the students that a particular Bible passage must be the literal truth is just what those professors should be doing. So any indication that the universities expect their staff to do something else than that is a sure sign they hate god.

    And wow, yeah, mind blow here people. The professor, without any comment, shows me in bulletpoint format a dozen or so testimonies from followers of the Abrahamic religions that they claim to have seen proof of their Abrhamaic religion. Now, if he put any writings of. say. Gensis Kahn that during his conquest west he found a strange ship frozen high up a mountain, that might be passably interesting. Someone who had not yet any reason to believe the ark existed claiming to find a piece is at least a bit more believable than effectively 20 copies of LaHaye saying “The ark is totally real guys” at different points in history. And if so many people, centuries apart, all were able to find the Ark, claiming everyone could just come in and have a look at it so it can’t have been too inaccessible, at what point did people just forget where it was?

    So what we’ve learned from the first few chapters is this: Anyone saying they found proof of evolution? They’re lying. Anyone saying they found proof of creationism? That statement is proof by itself. Kinda like so: http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcROitcKDsyvGKVICyN4SanzFzzF_zxHXgu8mbPQRZsE9Loh021rDE9t58Rchg

  6. Even old New York, was once New Amsterdam…

    This “evidence” reminds me of the logical error explored in Altemeyer’s The Authoritarians: an authoritarian follower will tend to accept or reject an idea based not on its intrinsic content but on whether he/she believes it. So for example they will tend to say that this is a valid deduction:

    All fish live in the sea.
    Sharks live in the sea..
    Therefore, sharks are fish.

    because the conclusion is one that they already know, even though the logic is faulty. Same here, I think: however implausible (or even Enemy) the writing, if it says a thing that is known-to-be-true, it must be valid.

  7. Using a series of unrelated pictures without any context and what someone said they saw as proof… I’d think Bob Philips used to work for the Weekly World News if that publication hadn’t been so firmly tongue-in-cheek.

    Does Murphy know how to map out an archaeological site? Considering what an atrocious archaeologist he is, I’m thinking no.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Does Murphy know how to map out an archaeological site?

      Knows as much as Buck Cameron does about Investigative Reporting…

  8. I’d be pissed if I was PAYING for this sort of academic class.

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy

    Party Campus… Low attendance rate on mornings… And the class where the Author Self-Insert Lectures about the TRUTH of Noah’s Ark is packed.

    This so reminds me of the Jack Chick tract “Big Daddy” where after the Christian’s Anti-Evolution lecture all the class comes around to the TRUTH of his lecture, finds out it PROVES the Bible, and all join in The Sinner’s Prayer Accepting Jesus Christ as their Personal LORD and Savior in the Altar Call Ending?

  10. Wait, his presentation literally starts with shit like “Relics of the timbers were long preserved” without even enough context to show that the “timbers” in question were from a freaking boat? “The place can still be seen”? Are you serious? And from there, he somehow manages to degenerate into listing miscellaneous writings without even providing a misleading quote to justify their presence in his piece-of-shit slideshow.

    Furthermore, in what way does this presentation prove that there are “plenty of pieces of recorded evidence in the historical record to conclude that a global flood did indeed occur on our planet more than five thousand years ago”, when literally every item on the list talks loosely about an ark, if they’re about anything at all? Even if he comprehensively provided context and citations for all his little quotes, was able to successfully argue that they’re all talking about the same thing, and even somehow proved that a bunch of shared mythology translated into archeological evidence, the best he’d be able to say would be that a boat once ended up on a mountain for some reason. Which is frankly a little mundane; given the number of amazing feats of engineering constructed by ancient cultures, it wouldn’t be weird at all if some people got together and built a big boat on top of a mountain at some point.

    Great job, Murphs. You have assembled a compelling and effective argument against the concept of tenure. I am now fully convinced that it’s a terrible idea and should never be granted to anyone, lest an organisation of any stripe is infected by something like you.

    • Ah yes, forgot that point. I immediately assumed the people might have been lying, but they could’ve also been mistaken. They didn’t have Isis and her super-carbon-dating. How would they know they got the right boat?

      I’m sure a historian specializing in ancient Greek or Roman culture could get 10 times this many contextless quotes that claim to be eyewitness accounts of encounters with their gods.

      • Or, better still, claims to have fragments of the Argo. With enough fragments to build five of them. Not counting fragments of the prow that killed Iason; those alone would build TWENTY Argos.

  11. Murphy is famous now right? Or am I totally mis-remembering the ending of the last book? But if he had gotten more famous and someone *cough*shari*cough* leaked that he was going to be speaking on the topic of his next big breakthrough, students might show up to hear about it. Of course Murphy’s complete inability to make ANY topic the least bit interesting will drive them all away again.

    • Based on the whole “cable specials” line in Babylon Rising, I assume that Murphy is “professor-famous.” At the end of that novel, he has found the Golden Head of King Neb, and takes full credit for the find at the press conference. So I guess it all depends on how famous that would make a guy.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        At the end of that novel, he has found the Golden Head of King Neb, and takes full credit for the find at the press conference.

        The Golden Head of King Neb from either of the statues in the Book of Daniel?



  12. Rappy Winters

    “How about that winged horse, bit, Murphy? Believe that, too?”


    Given the “mentions” (read: translation errors) of things such as basilisks, dragons, unicorns, and satyrs in the Bible, there actually are some fundamentalists out there that take the “Bible says it thus it must be true” path concerning such creatures. I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one out there that might believe in winged horses such as the buraq.

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