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.
[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 were “severely 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.”
DID YOU REALLY GO THERE, MURPHY???
“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
[ELEVEN MORE ITEMS WITH NO CITES JUST LIKE THESE]
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.
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.