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From What Did Moses Compose Genesis

By Dr. David Livingston

Evangelicals agree that Moses wrote Genesis and that the first five Bible books are "The Books of Moses." But, where did Moses get the information for Genesis? He wasn't present for any of the events mentioned in it.

We should notice first that neither Jesus nor the apostles, when quoting from Genesis, mention Moses' name in connection with it. However, they do call the first five books "Moses' Law." So, we may conclude that they believed it composed by Moses, but, perhaps, he used material written by others or received it some other way.

Evangelical Theory

Many evangelicals, believing in the inerrancy of Scripture, solve the problem by assuming that Moses received the entire book by direct revelation. Perhaps while on Mt. Sinai, along with the law, Moses received it by something like dictation. Or, while spending 40 years in Midian, God may have had it revealed to him over some period of time.

Another Theory

Other scholars try to solve the problem a more difficult way. Difficult, because there is no evidence for it. They say Moses did not write Genesis, or even any of the Pentateuch, for that matter. It was put together by "pious" men during the time of Israel's kingdom and as late as the post-exile (post-Babylonian captivity). In order to gain credence, Moses' name was attached to it. Materials came from Babylonian and Canaanite myth legends and from Israel's own "legends" and "oral tradition." From this viewpoint, little of it had been previously written as holy scripture, perhaps none. Thus, they would say it was a "pious fraud" used by the ruling body in Israel as a sort of religious "opiate “to pull the people together in the name of Moses. This theory is commonly known as the "JEDP Theory." Many sharp minds both in Europe and the U.S. have devoted their lives developing the system and have written whole libraries of books based on speculation about it.

We consider this solution to the problem as unacceptable and would not even mention it except that community colleges, colleges, universities and even many seminaries now teach it as if it had some basis in fact, which it does not. (It is a situation parallel to evolutionary theory which is believed by "every capable scholar" but cannot be proven with scientific evidence.)

In contrast to the above, Meredith Kline ably says:

If Moses, in composing Genesis, was not dependent on Near Eastern literature that exhibits parallels to Genesis, neither did he ignore it. But it would seem that, where he deliberately develops the biblical account of an event so as to mirror features of the pagan version, it turns out to be for the polemical purpose of exposing and correcting the world's vain wisdom by the light of revealed theology. The elaboration of this is not possible here, but an illustrative case would be the treatment of the Babylonian epic account of creation, known (from its opening words) as Enuma Elish. Acquaintance with it is evidenced in the Genesis accounts of creation and of Babel-building, but in both passages the epic's world-view is repudiated, even ridiculed, and most effectively so at the points of obvious formal correspondence. (Kline 1970: 80).

New True Theory

There is a third way Moses may have received the material for Genesis. It might have come from Abraham, Jacob, Noah, and even Adam, as well as other men of God writing under the Spirit's inspiration. In other words, those who experienced the events wrote as eyewitnesses. How could the world receive more reliable documents, especially when II Peter 1:21 is taken into account? This could explain why Jesus and the apostles considered Genesis part of "Moses' Law." He compiled the writings of other men of God, but was not the original author.

Examining this third way in more detail, Meredith Kline says:

Beyond the prologue (1:1-2:3) Genesis is divided into ten sections, each introduced by a superscription embodying the formula 'elleh toledot,'  'these are the generations of...' The placing of the entire Genesis narrative in this genealogical framework is a clear sign that the author intended the account to be understood throughout as a real life history of individual men, begotten and begetting. This genealogical line is resumed in subsequent biblical historiography, the Genesis lists being recapitulated and carried forward until the lineage of Adam has been traced to Jesus, the second Adam. (See Luke 3:23-38 and Kline, ibid.).

Genesis Originally on Clay Tablets?

Harrison states the case:

In order to understand the significance of the Hebrew term 'toledot,' it will be necessary to examine the nature and format of cuneiform communications in the ancient world. Clay was the preferred material upon which the wedge-shaped symbols were impressed... The general style of a tablet furnished some indication as to its contents... and the material usually consisted of letters, contracts, invoices, business correspondence, genealogical tables, etc. It was normal practice... for single communications of this kind to commence with some sort of title, followed by the body of the text, and then a colophon, which would sometimes contain, among other things, a hint as to the identity of the scribe, or owner of the tablet and the date when the tablet was written... The title was normally taken from the opening words of the tablet... This practice... also occurs in the Hebrew Bible.... (p. 543-4.)

  Tablet 1: Genesis 1:1 - 2:4. The origins of the cosmos

  Tablet 2: Genesis 2:5 - 5:2. The origins of mankind

  Tablet 3: Genesis 5:3 - 6:9a. The histories of Noah

  Tablet 4: Genesis 6:9b - 10:1. The histories of the sons of Noah

  Tablet 5: Genesis 10:2 - 11:10a. The histories of Shem

  Tablet 6: Genesis 11:10b - 11:27a. The histories of Terah

  Tablet 7: Genesis 11:27b - 25:12. The histories of Ishmael

  Tablet 8: Genesis 25:13 - 25:19a. The histories of Isaac

  Tablet 9: Genesis 25:19b - 36:1. The histories of Esau

  Tablet 10: Genesis 36:2 - 36:9. The histories of Esau

  Tablet 11: Genesis 36:10 - 37:2. The histories of Jacob

(Harrison 1969: 548. — Probably the best explanation of this theory.)

"Colophon" = "Toledot":  Key to Source Documents

Probably the principle use of the "colophon" was in filing the document. When libraries of tablets are found, there are usually hundreds or thousands of them. And it is clear they were stored on shelves. Problem: How do you find the tablet you want? Answer: just treat them like we do books today. On the spine at the edge, or end, there was a summary of the tablet's contents-- a "colophon" ("finishing line").

Now, if the ten or eleven sections of Genesis were originally separate documents, each would have had a "colophon" at the end describing at least the owner and contents of the document. These "colophons" in our Hebrew Bibles today would then consist of the phrase which speaks of the "toledots".

Thus, in connection with the Genesis "toledot," Harrison writes:

... the principal facts concerning the individual involved have been recorded before the incidence of the phrase in question, and that they are not recorded after its occurrence . . . This peculiarity has been a source of perplexity and embarrassment to the vast majority of Bible critics who assume it introduces new material -- and thus does not make sense....(Harrison 1969: 545.)

Abraham Had Written Scripture

Abraham had written laws of Jehovah which he kept: Genesis 26:5 says he kept, among other things, Jehovah's statutes ("chuqqim") and laws ("torah"). A "chuqqim" is a written commandment, usually inscribed in stone (BDB, 1962: 350:d). The word "chuqqim" comes from a root meaning to engrave, and hence denotes permanent and prescribed rules of conduct . . . (NBC 1930: 201.). These are not some other country's laws and statutes; they are Jehovah's own, and thus, we maintain, would be separate documents, themselves the Word of God. Raven says:

Abraham came from a country where the knowledge of writing and reading was common and from an important city mentioned in the code of Hammurabi . . . In that country traditions of the creation and the flood were preserved, which have much in common with those in Genesis. That is the very country also in which Genesis places the site of the Garden of Eden and where the confusion of tongues is said to have occurred. There, if anywhere, the remains of an original revelation concerning creation and an accurate story of the flood would be handed down. What could be more natural than that Abraham carried such records and genealogies with him from the banks of the Euphrates to the land of Canaan? 'Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac' (Genesis 25:5). Perhaps those priceless records were among his possessions. If so, they went down with Jacob into Egypt and formed the basis of Genesis 1-11 as written by Moses. (Raven 1910: 131-2.)

The main point Raven makes is that the Genesis sources were written down. The revelation of God was not committed to slipshod oral transmission for hundreds of years. The evidence that these were written documents is that whatever period or place they speak of fits into the culture and language of that place and time.

Or, another possibility is that the manuscripts were kept by the Kenites. When Moses was with the nomad-priest, Jethro, who loved Jehovah and served Him (Exodus 18:9-11), he may have received the records from which to compose Genesis. Jethro is called a "priest" (Exodus 2:15, 3:1). He could be none other than a nomad-priest of Jehovah, even as Melchizedek apparently was also a priest of Jehovah (although not a nomad). (The Kenites lived in the Negev, see: Judges 1:16.) That the Bible authors used other sources, not depending entirely on direct revelations from God, is clear from the list below:

Some Other Old Testament Sources After Moses

Joshua 8:9. Described land "in a book"

    II Samuel 1-18. "Book of Jasher" (also mentioned in Joshua 10:13)

    I Kings 11:41. "Book of the Acts of Solomon"

    I Kings 14:19. "Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel"

    I Kings 14:29. "Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah"

    I Chronicles 27:74. "Chronicles of King David"

    II Chronicles 12-15. "Book of Shemaiah the prophet, and of Iddo the Seer Concerning Genealogies"

    II Chronicles 20:34. "Book of Jehu, the son of Hanani - mentioned in the Book of the Kings of Israel"

{Reprinted with permission from ABR and for more information click this link:  http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2005/12/26/From-What-Did-Moses-Compose-Genesis.aspx}
Who was Nimrod By Dr. David Livingston

“Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a might hunter before the LORD; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD.” The centers of his kingdom were Babylon. Erech, Akkad and Calneh in Shinar. (Gn 10:8-10)

Many consider this to be a positive, complimentary testimony about Nimrod. It is just the opposite! First, a little background study is necessary.

Cultural Connections in the Ancient Near East

Besides the stories of the Creation and Flood in the Bible there ought to be similar stories on clay tablets found in the cultures near and around the true believers. These tablets may have a reaction, or twisted version, in their accounts of the Creation and Flood. In the post-Flood genealogical records of Genesis 10 we note that the sons of Ham were: Cush, Mizraim. Put and Canaan. Mizraim became the Egyptians. No one is sure where Put went to live. And it is obvious who the Canaanites were. Cush lived in the “land of Shinar” which most scholars consider to be Sumer. There developed the first civilization after the Flood. The sons of Shem, ­the Semites­, were also mixed, to some extent, with the Sumerians.

We suggest that Sumerian Kish, the first city established in Mesopotamia after the Flood, took its name from the man known in the Bible as Cush. The first kingdom established after the Flood was Kish, and the name “Kish” appears often on clay tablets. The early post-Flood Sumerian king lists (not found in the Bible) say that ‘‘kingship descended from heaven to Kish” after the Flood. (The Hebrew name “Cush,” much later, was moved to present-day Ethiopia as migrations look place from Mesopotamia to other places.)

The Sumerians, very early, developed a religio-politico state which was extremely binding on all who lived in it (except for the rulers, who were a law unto themselves). This system was to influence the Ancient Near East for over 3000 years. Other cultures which followed the Sumerian system were Accad, Babylon, Assyria, and Persia, which became the basis of Greece and Rome’s system of rule. Founded by Cush, the Sumerians were very important historically and Biblically.

Was “Nimrod” Godly or Evil?

First, what does the name Nimrod mean? It comes from the Hebrew verb marad, meaning “rebel.” Adding an “n” before the “m” it becomes an infinitive construct, “Nimrod.” (See Kautzsch 1910: 137 2b, also BDB 1962: 597). The meaning then is “The Rebel.” Thus “Nimrod” may not be the character’s name at all. It is more likely a derisive term of a type, a representative, of a system that is epitomized in rebellion against the Creator, the one true God. Rebellion began soon after the Flood as civilizations were restored. At that time this person became very prominent.

In Genesis 10:8-11 we learn that “Nimrod” established a kingdom. Therefore, one would expect to find also, in the literature of the ancient Near East, a person who was a type, or example, for other people to follow. And there was. It is a well-known tale, common in Sumerian literature, of a man who fits the description. In addition to the Sumerians, the Babylonians wrote about this person; the Assyrians likewise; and the Hittites. Even in Palestine, tablets have been found with this man’s name on them. He was obviously the most popular hero in the Ancient Near East.

The Gilgamesh Epic

The person we are referring to found in extra-Biblical literature was Gilgamesh. The first clay tablets naming him were found among the ruins of the temple library of the god Nabu (Biblical Nebo) and the palace library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh. Many others have been found since in a number of excavations. The author of the best treatise on the Gilgamesh Epic says:

The date of the composition of the Gilgamesh Epic can therefore be fixed at about 2000 BC. But the material contained on these tablets is undoubtedly much older, as we can infer from the mere fact that the epic consists of numerous originally independent episodes, which, of course, did not spring into existence at the time of the composition of our poem but must have been current long before they were compiled and woven together to form our epic (Heidel 1963: 15).

Yet his arrogance, ruthlessness and depravity were a subject of grave concern for the citizens of Uruk (his kingdom). They complained to the great god Anu and Ann instructed the goddess Aruru to create another wild ox, a double of Gilgamesh, who would challenge him and distract his mind from the warrior’s daughter and the noblemen’s spouse, whom it appears he would not leave in peace (Roux 1966: 114).

The Epic of Gilgamesh has some very indecent sections. Alexander Heidel, first translator of the epic, had the decency to translate the vilest parts into Latin. Spieser, however, gave it to us “straight” (Pritchard 1955: 72). With this kind of literature in the palace, who needs pornography? Gilgamesh was a vile, filthy, man. Yet the myth says of him that he was “2/3 god and 1/3 man.”

The Babylonian Flood Story is told on the 11th tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic, almost 200 lines of poetry on 12 clay tablets inscribed in cuneiform script. A number of different versions of the Gilgamesh Epic have been found around the ancient Near East, most dating to the seventh century BC. The most complete version came from the library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh. Commentators agree that the story comes from a much earlier period, not too long after the Flood as described in the story.

Gilgamesh is Nimrod

How does Gilgamesh compare with “Nimrod?” Josephus says of Nimrod:

Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah­a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence upon his own power. He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! And that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers! (Ant. I: iv: 2)

What Josephus says here is precisely what is found in the Gilgamesh epics. Gilgamesh set up tyranny, he opposed YHWH and did his utmost to get people to forsake Him.

Two of the premier commentators on the Bible in Hebrew has this to say about Genesis 10:9:

Nimrod was mighty in hunting, and that in opposition to YHWH; not ‘before YHWH’ in the sense of according to the will and purpose of YHWH, still less,...in a simply superlative sense...The name itself, ‘Nimrod’ from marad, ‘We will revolt,’ points to some violent resistance to God...Nimrod as a mighty hunter founded a powerful kingdom; and the founding of this kingdom is shown by the verb with consecutive to have been the consequence or result of his strength in hunting, so that hunting was intimately connected with the establishing of the kingdom. Hence, if the expression ‘a mighty hunter’ relates primarily to hunting in the literal sense, we must add to the literal meaning the figurative signification of a ‘hunter of men’ (a trapper of men by stratagem and force); Nimrod the hunter became a tyrant, a powerful hunter of men (Keil and Delitzsch 1975: 165).

“In the face of YHWH” can only mean ‘in defiance of YHWH’ as Josephus and the Targums understand it (op. cit.: 166).

And the proverb must have arisen when other daring and rebellious men followed in Nimrod’s footsteps and must have originated with those who saw in such conduct an act of rebellion against the God of salvation, in other words, with the possessors of the divine promise of grace (loc. cit.).

After the Flood there was, at some point, a break-away from YHWH. Only eight people descended from the Ark. Those people worshipped YHWH. But at some point an influential person became opposed to YHWH and gathered others to his side. I suggest that Nimrod is the one who did it. Cain had done similarly before the Flood, founding a new city and religious system.

Our English translation of the Hebrew of Genesis 10:8-10 is weak. The author of this passage of Scripture will not call Gilgamesh by his name and honor him, but is going to call him by a derisive name, what he really is a rebel. Therefore we should translate Genesis 10:8-10 to read:

Cush begat Nimrod; he began to be a tyrant in the earth. He was a tyrannical hunter in opposition to the Lord. Thus it is said. ‘Nimrod the tyrannical opponent of YHWH.’

Likewise, Gilgamesh was a man who took control by his own strength. In Genesis 10 Nimrod is presented as a type of him. Nimrod’s descendents were the ones who began building the tower in Babel where the tongues were changed. Gilgamesh is a type of early city founders. (Page numbers are from Heidel 1963)

He is a “shepherd” .............. page 18

From Uruk ............................. page 17 (Kramer 1959: 31 calls Uruk Erech.)

A giant .................................... page 17 (11 cubits)

Builds cities .......................... page 17

Vile man “takes women” .... page 18

Mighty hunter ......................... page 18

Nimrod started his kingdom at Babylon (Gn 10:10). Babylon later reached its zenith under Nebuchadnezzar (sixth century BC). Pictured are mud brick ruins of Nebuchadnezzar’s city along with ancient wall lines and canals.

Gilgamesh Confronts YHWH

The name of YHWH rarely appears in extra-Biblical literature in the Ancient Near East. Therefore we would not expect to find it in the Gilgamesh epic. But why should the God of the Jews rarely be mentioned? The Hebrew Bible is replete with the names of other gods.

On the other hand, the nations surely knew of Him even though they had no respect for Him. If so, how might His Name appear in their literature, if at all? The name of YHWH, in a culture which is in rebellion against His rule, would most likely be in a derisive form, not in its true form. Likewise, the writers of Scripture would deride the rebels.

Originally established by Nimrod (Gn 10:11), and today known as Nimrud, Calah became an important city in Iraq. This is an artist’s reconstruction of the interior of Tiglath-pileser III’s palace (late seventh century BC).

Putting the Bible and the Gilgamesh Epic Together

The Gilgamesh Epic describes the first “God is dead” movement. In the Epic, the hero is a vile, filthy, perverted person, yet he is presented as the greatest, strongest, hero that ever lived (Heidel 1963: 18). So that the one who sent the Flood wilt not trouble them anymore, Gilgamesh sets out to kill the perpetrator. He takes with him a friend who is a monstrous half-man, half-animal­Enkidu. Together they go on a long journey to the Cedar Mountain to find and destroy the monster who sent the Flood. Gilgamesh finds him and finally succeeds in cutting off the head of this creature whose name is “Huwawa” (“Humbaba” in the Assyrian version; see Heidel 1963: 34ff).

Is there a connection with the Gilgamesh epic and Genesis 10? Note what Gilgamesh says to Enkidu the half man, half beast, who accompanied him on his journey, found in Tablet III, lines 147-150.

“If I fall,” Gilgamesh says, “I will establish a name for myself. Gilgamesh is fallen, they will say, in combat with terrible Huwawa.”

But the next five lines are missing from all tablets found so far! Can we speculate on what they say? Let’s try...We suggest that those five lines include:

“But if I win,...they will say, Gilgamesh, the mighty vanquisher of Huwawa!”

Why do we say that? Because Genesis 10:9 gives us the portion missing from the Gilgamesh tablets. Those lines include... “it is said, Nimrod (or Gilgamesh) the mighty vanquisher of YHWH” This has to be what is missing from all the clay tablets of the Gilgamesh story. The Gilgamesh Epic calls him Huwawa; the Bible calls Him YHWH.

Part of Nimrod’s kingdom (Gn 10:11), Nineveh along the Tigris River continued to be a major city in ancient Assyria. Today adjacent to modern Mosul, the ruins of ancient Nineveh are centered on two mounds, the acropolis at Kuyunjik and Nebi Yunis (Arabic “Prophet Jonah”). Pictured is Sennacherib’s “palace without rival” on Kuyunjik, constructed at the end of the seventh century BC and excavated by Henry Layard in the early 20th century.

Heidel, speaking of the incident as it is found on Tablet V says:

All we can conclude from them [the lost lines] is that Gilgamesh and Enkidu cut off the head of Humbaba (or Huwawa) and that the expedition had a successful issue [ending] (1963: 47).

The missing lines from the Epic are right there in the Bible!

Because of the parallels between Gilgamesh and Nimrod, many scholars agree that Gilgamesh is Nimrod. Continuing with Gilgamesh’s fable, he did win, he did vanquish Huwawa and took his head. Therefore he could come back to Uruk and other cities and tell the people not to worry about YHWH anymore, he is dead. ‘“I killed him over in the Lebanon mountains. So just live however you like, I will be your king and take care of you.”

There are still other parallels between the Bible and the Gilgamesh epic: “YaHWeH” has a somewhat similar sound to “Huwawa.” Gilgamesh did just as the “sons of god” in Genesis 6 did. The “sons of god” forcibly took men’s wives. The Epic says that is precisely what Gilgamesh did. The Bible calls Nimrod a tyrant, and Gilgamesh was a tyrant. There was a flood in the Bible, there is a flood in the Epic. Cush is mentioned in the Bible, Kish in the Epic. Erech is mentioned in Scripture, Uruk was Gilgamesh’s city. Gilgamesh made a trip to see the survivor of the Flood. This was more likely Ham than Noah, since “Nimrod” was

Ham’s grandson! Historically. Gilgamesh was of the first dynasty of Uruk. As Jacobsen points out (1939: 157), kings before Gilgamesh may be fictional, but not likely. The fact that the Gilgamesh epic also contains the Deluge story would indicate a close link with events immediately following the Flood, S.N. Kramer says:

A few years ago one would have strongly doubted his (historical) existence...we now have the certitude that the time of Gilgamesh corresponds to the earliest period of Mesopotamian history. (Kramer 1959: 117)

What a contrast Psalm 2 is compared with the Gilgamesh Epic!

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. “Let us bread their chains.” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “you are my Son, today I have become your Father, Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Therefore, you kings, be wise; he warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him

{Reprinted with permission from ABR. To see the pictures and more information on this topic click the following link:  http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2006/10/30/Who-Was-Nimrod.aspx}
The United Monarchy under David and Solomon by Gary Byers

During the past half century, many in the academic world have come to discount the historical basis for most of the Bible's early characters. The Creation story with Adam and Eve was just a myth. There was no worldwide Flood, Noah or an Ark. The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were not historical figures. Neither Joseph nor the Israelites sojourned in Egypt. There was no Moses or Exodus from Egypt. The Israelites did not wander in the wilderness, and Joshua did not lead a conquest of Canaan. You could pretty much throw away the first six books of your Bible and not really miss a thing!

But it was generally accepted that by the first millennium BC, beginning with the kingdom of David, you were on solid historical footing. Yet, in the mid-1990's, a significant academic debate developed over the historical accuracy of the Bible’s description of the United Monarchy under David and Solomon. Covering most of the tenth century BC (roughly from 1000 to 925 BC; known to archaeologists as Iron Age IIA), the topic was frequently discussed in scholarly journals and the popular press. This challenge to the historicity of the United Monarchy culminated in the 2000 publication of The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman (New York: Free Press). The book's message was widely acclaimed as archaeology's admission to the world that there really was no archaeological evidence to support the Bible story.

Some readers might be surprised to know just how antagonistic to the Bible some scholars are today. One group of historians known as "Biblical Minimalists" (also called the "European School," the "Copenhagen School" or even "Deconstructionists") hold that the Old Testament was written during the Persian period (fourth century BC) or even the Hellenistic period (third and second centuries BC). These scholars include Niels Peter Lemche, Thomas Thompson, John Van Seters and Philip R. Davies. Their views are extreme and even difficult to know how to address. For example, Lemche challenged the authenticity of both the Tel Dan ("House of David") and the Ekron ("Padi king of Ekron") inscriptions, insinuating that they might have been faked by the excavators (see Shanks 1997: 36-38).

Israeli archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, head of the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University and co-director of the ongoing excavation at Megiddo, does not consider himself a "Minimalist." He believes the core historical books of the Old Testament were written in the late seventh century BC (the days of King Josiah) as political propaganda to support his reforms (see Shanks 2002). Thus for Finkelstein, a Biblical writer was not actually describing the period about which he was writing, instead he was inventing history about that period (Shanks 2002: 43). With these views, Finkelstein sees himself as being in the middle – between the Biblical Minimalists and Biblical Maximalists (who support the basic history of the Old Testament).

But that isn't all. Finkelstein also developed a new chronology for archaeological data that suggests there is no archaeological evidence for the United Monarchy under David and Solomon. He calls his revision the "low chronology," in opposition to the traditional or "high chronology." With Finkelstein's "low chronology," the poor material culture of the eleventh century BC (the period of the Judges) lowers and becomes the period of David and Solomon. The better architecture, ceramics and other artifacts of the tenth century BC (the period of David and Solomon) Finkelstein lowers to the ninth century BC (the days of Omri, Ahab and Jehu).

The good news is that Finkelstein has publicly declared that he does not deny the existence of either David or Solomon (Shanks 2002: 45). The bad news is that he does not believe they were who the Bible described them to be. As an archaeologist, Finkelstein sees no evidence for David's capital in Jerusalem and no evidence for his kingdom anywhere else in the region. Neither is there a capital city or temple in Jerusalem during Solomon's time, nor is there archaeological evidence of Solomon's reign elsewhere – especially at Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer (I Kgs 9:15).

You probably know that there is no "smoking gun" evidence for David, Solomon or their kingdoms as described in the Bible. Such direct evidence might include architectural evidence of Solomon's Temple, royal inscriptions from either king, or contemporary references to either from anywhere in the Levant, Egypt or Mesopotamia. Yet the archaeological data and historical material is so strong and compelling that I hesitate to classify it as simply indirect evidence.

To keep the discussion on an appropriate course, as an archaeologist dealing with archaeological material, the issue is not whether David or Solomon are associated with the archaeological evidence. At issue is whether there is evidence of an Israelite kingdom and important city at Jerusalem in the tenth century BC. If archaeology demonstrates evidence of centralization and authority in the region at that time, then it is reasonable to accept it might be evidence of the United Monarchy of David and Solomon.

Just for the record, the existence of David as a person, king and head of a dynasty was mentioned in an inscription from Tel Dan (Shanks 1994), written about 100 years after his death. King David was probably mentioned again in the Mesha Stela (the Moabite Stone; Lemaire 1994) and possibly in Shishak’s relief at Karnak (Shanks 1999).

According to the excavators of Hazor (Amnon Ben-Tor 1999) and Gezer (William Dever; Shanks 1997), there is solid evidence from the days of Solomon's kingdom. And most archaeologists still believe there is evidence from the same period at Megiddo, in spite of what Megiddo excavator Finkelstein believes (Harrison 2003; Mazar 2003). According to Jane Cahill (2004), the archaeologist finishing the 1980's City of David dig report, tenth century Jerusalem was fortified, served by two complex water-supply systems and was populated by a socially stratified society that constructed at least two new residential quarters – one inside and one outside the city walls.

Was there an important city at Jerusalem in the tenth century BC and was there evidence of an Israelite kingdom in the region at that time? Archaeology says "yes"! Was there a David who led a kingdom and founded a dynasty? Again archaeology says "yes"! Evidence will continue to pour in from new excavations and scholars will continue to debate the subject. And the historical reliability of the Biblical account will continue to stand up to any and all new facts.

Reprinted from: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/category/Judges-United-Monarchy.aspx 

Israel in Egypt by Gary Byers

The main route between Canaan and Egypt was along the northern coast of Sinai. A number of Biblical figures no doubt traveled this road. Known to the Egyptians as “the Way of Horus,” and in the Bible as “the road through the Philistine country” (Ex 13:17), it ended in the eastern delta in the Goshen region. This is the part of Egypt where most Biblical characters lived and Biblical events took place.


 Abraham came to Egypt during the 21st century BC, at the end of the First Intermediate Period (Gn 12:10; 13:1). The 11th Dynasty based in Thebes was just gaining power in the south and would ultimately control all of Egypt. So the Pharaoh that Abraham met (Gn 12:15–20) may have been a northern leader who took the title, or an early king from the Theban dynasty. Presumably, their encounter took place in the delta area.

While in this region, Abraham probably saw the Giza pyramids on the Nile’s west bank. Giza is the northern-most and most famous of the Old Kingdom royal cemeteries in the delta region, including Meidum, Dahshur, Saqqara and Abusir. They were located near Memphis, the national capital at that time. While the most famous and largest pyramids are at Giza (Fourth Dynasty; 27th-26th century BC), the first was a four-sided stepped stone construction built by Pharaoh Djoser (Third Dynasty; 27th century BC) at Saqqara. Pharaoh Sneferu (Fourth Dynasty; 25th century BC) constructed the earliest smooth-sided pyramid in the form we know today at Dahshur.

Pyramid development. They started from a flattop rectangular mud-brick tomb, called a mastaba (Arabic for “bench”). The first pyramid (left) was a series of six increasingly smaller mastabas, one on top of the other. The famous builder Imhotep constructed the four-sided stone structure for Pharaoh Djoser (Third Dynasty; 27th century BC) at Saqqara. This stepped pyramid is the oldest freestanding stone structure in the world. From Djoser’s stepped pyramid came the first real pyramid with four smoothed flat sides, constructed by Pharaoh Sneferu (Fourth Dynasty; 27th century BC) at Dahshur (center). Unfortunately, his builders were forced to correct the slope half way up, and it is known today as the Bent Pyramid. A later Sneferu pyramid at Dahshur, known today as the Red Pyramid because of the reddish color of the local limestone that was used in its construction, was perfectly constructed and is generally recognized as the first true pyramid (right). Contrary to popular opinion, none of Egypt’s royal pyramids were constructed by Israelite slaves. Instead, known archaeological evidence suggests they were constructed by professional builders who lived in nearby villages and spent their lives working on the project.


The Midianites would have brought Joseph to Egypt by way of the Horus Road (Gn 37:28; 39:1). Once in Egypt, he was sold to Potiphar, a high Egyptian official, and apparently worked as a slave on Potiphar’s estate in the delta (Gn 39:1, 2). Interestingly, Egyptian history indicates that slavery first appeared at this very time period (Aling 2002: 35–37).

Egypt’s 12th Dynasty (ca. 1991–1786 BC) built a new capital city in Upper Egypt’s northern extremity, close to the delta. From here they could more effectively administrate and access their eastern frontier (Leprohon 1992: 345–46). Called itj-tawy, it was probably located near the capital’s royal necropolis at el-Lahun, at the entrance to the Faiyum, a large fertile area west of the Nile. The actual site is unknown today (Ray 2004: 40). Here was constructed the pyramid of 12th Dynasty Pharaoh Sesostris II (ca. 1897–1877 BC). Biblical dating suggests this was the Pharaoh under whom Joseph rose to the position of vizier in Egypt (Gn 45:8). As the most powerful man in the kingdom, Joseph would have visited and even had authority over construction of this pyramid. In fact, Joseph may have supervised Pharaoh’s burial here.

Joseph most likely served under Sesostris II’s son, Sesostris III (ca.1878–1843 BC), during the years of famine. Sesostris III’s own pyramid tomb at Dahshur (northern Upper Egypt) also would have been a major responsibility for Joseph. Since documents mention later viziers during Sesostris III’s reign, Joseph probably went into honorable retirement in the delta’s Goshen region shortly after the years of famine.

Recent excavations in the eastern Nile delta may have actually identified the location of Joseph’s residence in retirement, and even his tomb. At a site known as Tell el-Daba today, the Rameses of the Old Testament, extensive excavations have been carried out under the direction of Manfred Bietak of the Austrian Archaeological Institute, Cairo, since 1966. This site was strategically located at the eastern starting point to the Horus Road to Canaan and along the Nile’s easternmost branch, the Pelusiac. That may explain its name, Rowaty (“the door of the two roads”) in the days of Joseph and Jacob. The site has evidence for Asiatics as early as the mid-12th Dynasty (mid-19th century BC), the general period when Jacob entered Egypt. It was an unfortified rural settlement, although numerous enclosure walls probably kept animals. Living quarters consisted of rectangular huts built of sand bricks (Wood 1997: 55).

Not all residents of Tell el-Daba’s first Asiatic settlement lived in huts. One, evidently an important official, lived in a small villa. While the Bible tells us that Joseph was given the title “Ruler of all Egypt” (Hebrew) or vizier, it does not mention where he lived while serving in the Egyptian bureaucracy. It seems logical that after he discharged his duties associated with the famine, he would have moved to Rowaty to be near his father and brothers. It is possible the villa in Rowaty and the surrounding semi-circle of poorer two-room houses are the homes of Joseph and his brothers (Wood 1997: 56).

A cemetery with artifacts that connected it to the houses was also excavated in the open space to the southwest. One of the tombs was monumental in construction and totally unique in finds. Inside were found stone fragments of a colossal statue of a man who was clearly Asiatic, based on the yellow painted skin, the red-painted mushroom-shaped hairstyle and a throw stick on his right shoulder (the hieroglyph for foreigner). The statue had been intentionally broken in antiquity.

While the other tombs nearby had intact skeletons, the only finds in the monumental tomb were fragments of an inscribed limestone sarcophagus and a few bone fragments. The body was gone! While it was common to plunder tombs in ancient Egypt, the bodies were usually not taken. Could this be the tomb of Joseph, from which he commanded his bones to be carried back to Canaan (Gn 50:25; Ex 13:19)? Without an inscription, it cannot be proven; but this site suggests the first material evidence of Israelites in Egypt. It is the right culture in the right place at the right time (see Wood 1997: 56-58).


The town known as Rowaty, where Joseph and his family probably lived, had its name changed to Avaris toward the end of the 18th century BC. This was during Egypt’s 14th Dynasty and the new name meant “the (royal) foundation of the district.” Same site, different era, different name—Avaris would continue to be the site’s name even through the period of the Hyksos (Wood 2004: 45).

The Hyksos, whose hieroglyphic name meant “foreign rulers,” came into the Nile delta from southern Canaan and established a center of power at Avaris. Their leaders took the title of Pharaoh and ruled northern Egypt for 108 years (ca.1664–1555 BC). They have come to be known as Egypt’s 15th Dynasty. Avaris was their capital and it became an important commercial center. The “Pharaoh that knew not Joseph” (Gn 1:8) was probably the first Hyksos Pharaoh, and it was probably Hyksos Pharaohs who forced the Israelites to build the store cities of Pithom and Rameses (Ex 1:8–12).

When the Egyptians, under the leadership of the 18th Dynasty’s founder Amosis, drove out the Hyksos in the mid-16th century BC, they most likely changed the name of the city of Avaris. The new name was probably Peru-nefer, which meant “happy journey” (Wood 2004: 45). That would have been the name of the city during Moses’ time.


The Bible records the events of Moses’ birth in Exodus 2, with the Israelites apparently still living in the delta’s Goshen area. When Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, she found baby Moses (Ex 2:5). This daughter of Pharaoh may well have been Hatshepsut, who later became a Pharaoh herself (Hansen 2003). So, the Bible suggests that the royal family had a residence in Goshen where the Israelites lived (Ex 2:2–10). While the national capital for the 18th Dynasty Pharaohs was in Memphis 13 mi south of Cairo, after the Hyksos experience a royal presence would always have been seen as necessary for national security in the Nile’s eastern delta.

Bietak’s excavation at Tell el-Daba uncovered a ten-acre royal citadel from the time of Moses at the village of Ezbet Helmi, just a few hundred yards west of the earlier Asiatic settlement. It was part of a new royal center established at the former Hyksos capital of Avaris. Located just south of where the Pelusiac branch of the Nile once flowed (the courses of the Nile branches, and the delta itself, have changed dramatically over the millennia), Bietak found two palaces that were in use during the time of Moses (early 18th Dynasty).

The palace closest to the river (Palace F) was the smaller and probably doubled as a watchtower of the river and citadel. Just 100 ft (30m) from the river, it was constructed on a platform with a ramp leading to the entrance. Nearby were a middle class settlement, workshops, storage rooms and possibly a ritual complex (Wood 2004: 47).

The main palace (Palace G), occupying over 3 acres, also had a ramp to the entrance, a bathing room at the entrance, a large open courtyard, a reception hall and private apartments for the royal family.

The site is in the right area and at the right time to be the royal palace where Moses was raised (Ex 2:10; Acts 7:20–21) and where he confronted Pharaoh 11 times during the time of the Ten Plagues (Ex 4–12). If this is correct, then the site of Jacob’s sojourn in Egypt (modern Tell el-Daba), the home and tomb of Joseph (modern Tell el-Daba) and the palace where Moses was raised and confronted Pharaoh before the Exodus (modern Ezbet Helmi) have all been excavated and are located within the same ancient complex.


The Bible mentions that Jacob and his family settled in “the land of Rameses” where they became property owners (Gn 47:11, 27). The Bible also mentions that the Israelites were used as slave labor to build the city of Rameses (Ex 1:11) and when they left Egypt after 430 years (Ex 12:40) they departed from Rameses (Ex 12:37). Apparently, most of the Israelites spent the years of the Egyptian Sojourn in and around Rameses.

While the location of ancient Rameses had been in dispute for years, excavations at Tell el-Daba and surrounding villages in the Nile’s eastern delta have demonstrated that the ancient city was located here. It sat on the Pelusiac branch of the Nile, giving access to the Mediterranean, and was the starting point of the Horus Road to the east. While its name changed throughout the centuries, the location along the Pelusiac and the Horus Road kept it a strategic site on Egypt’s eastern border.

The name Ramesses actually comes from a later period than the Israelite Sojourn. It was the name given by 19th Dynasty Pharaoh Rameses II (Rameses the Great, ca 1279–1212 BC) to the city he built a short distance northeast of ancient Rowaty/Avaris/Peru-nefer in the eastern Nile delta. Known as Pi-Rameses (“city of Rameses”) to the Egyptians, it is located at the modern village of Qantir. Much of the ancient capital has been located by means of a magnetometer survey. The 13th century BC city covered more than 4 square mi (10 square km). Excavations have uncovered a palace-like structure with pillared halls and associated stables from the time of Ramesses II. Not excavated yet, but identified on the magnetometer survey, are an additional palace area, significant public buildings, and a vast residential quarter with avenues, channels, streets, villas, courtyards and gardens (Pusch 2001).

Thus, the city called Rameses was not built until after the Exodus. But it was built at the same site where Jacob, Joseph and Moses lived. While the Bible calls it Rameses when Jacob moved there (Gn 47:11) and when the Israelites built a new city at the site (Ex 1:11) under the “Pharaoh that knew not Joseph” (Ex 1:8), that name did not actually apply to the site until the 13th century BC. Later scribes updated the Biblical text with the name Rameses when the earlier names of the site went out of use.

Egypt during the Period of the Kingdom of Judah

During the period of the Babylonian empire, there are frequent mentions of Lower Egyptian sites by the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Numerous Jews fled to Egypt when Israel and Judah were invaded, first by the Assyrians and later by the Babylonians, and these two prophets addressed them and their cities of refuge. While Memphis was most famous as one of early Egypt’s first national capitals from the 3rd millennium BC, it was only mentioned in the Bible late. Called Noph (Jer 44:1) and Moph (Hebrew; Hos 9:6), both shortened forms of Memphis (hieroglyphic mn-nfr), it was mentioned for judgment by the prophets.


Another important Old Kingdom city was Heliopolis (Greek for “sun city”). Called On (Hebrew from the hieroglyphic Iwnw “pillar town;” Gn 41:45, 50; 46:20), it was the home of Potiphera the priest and father of Asenath, Joseph’s wife. The city of Aven (Ez 30:17), a slightly different spelling of the same name, is also said to be under God’s judgment. Jeremiah’s reference to Beth Shemesh (Hebrew “city of the sun;” Jer 43:13) also refers to On as being under judgment. The ancient city is identified with modern Tell Hisn, north of Cairo. Mentioned as early as the Old Kingdom period, it was prominent during Egypt’s Saite period (664–525 BC), the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel (Redford 1992a: 122–23).


Bubastis (Hebrew Pibeseth, Ez 30:17; from the hieroglyphic name meaning “house of Bastet”—the cat goddess) was also located in the delta and was mentioned under God’s judgment. The ancient city is identified with modern Tell Basta in Zagazig, with remains dating as far back as the Old Kingdom. Bubastis became politically important as a capital city during the 22nd and 23rd Dynasties (10th-9th centuries BC).


Zoan was the Hebrew name for a site better known to us as Tanis (Greek). Called San el Hagar today, it was first mentioned during the reign of Rameses XI (20th Dynasty; 12th century BC). Zoan became the official residence of the 21st Dynasty (ca. 1081–931 BC), replacing Rameses (Peru-nefer/Avaris/Rowaty). This was possibly due to the shifting of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile and loss of Rameses’ harbor. Interestingly, structures, statues and stele from Rameses were shipped down the Nile to Zoan. The residence of Shishak I (ca. 931–910 BC; 1 Kgs 14:25), Zoan was the site of the lost ark in Indiana Jones’ Raiders of the Lost Ark. Zoan was Egypt’s capital during part of the Judean monarchy (Is 19:11, 13: 30:4: Ez 30:14; see Redford 1992b: 1106).


Tahpanhes (Hebrew; Jer 2:16; 43:7–9; 44:1; 46:14; Ez 30:18) comes from the Egyptian name meaning “Fortress of Penhase.” Penhase (like Hebrew Phinehas) means “Nubian” and was the name of a powerful 11th century BC Theban general who suppressed a rebellion in the delta. This site, identified today with Tell ed-Defenna in the eastern delta, was probably settled during the time of the Judean Monarchy and became important into the Persian period. Tahpanhes became a safe haven for Jews, including Jeremiah, fleeing the Babylonian invasion of Judah. Here the prophet pronounced judgment on Egypt and Jews taking refuge from Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah’s prophesy included mention of Pharaoh Hophra being handed over “to his enemies who seek his life” (43:7–44:30).


Sin (Hebrew, from the hieroglyphic sin “mud;” Ez 30:15–16) was an important fortress on Egypt’s extreme northeastern border. Also called Pelusium (Greek) in antiquity, it is known as Tell el Farama today.


Migdol (Hebrew meaning “tower” and a loan word into Egyptian, suggesting a northern location) was mentioned in the Exodus (Ex 14:2), and as a place where Jews resided in Egypt during the Babylonian period (Jer 44:1; 46:14) and a site of God’s judgment on Egypt (“tower” in Ez 29:10; 30:6). While a popular place name throughout the ancient near east, presumably all references relate to the same site in Egypt’s eastern delta. This city is identified with the modern Hebua I fortress, probably the famous Tjaru, a fortress on Egypt’s eastern border.


The key to understanding the history of Egypt, especially the delta region, is the Hyksos invasion from southern Canaan. Known in Egyptian history as the Second Intermediate Period, it led to permanent changes in Egyptian political thinking. From that period on, the delta was especially protected from the east. From the delta regular military campaigns were waged into Canaan. A Pharaonic presence in the eastern delta became a constant.

The Hyksos invasion of Egypt was also a seminal event in the history of Israel in Egypt. Arriving en masse with Jacob, most Israelites lived in the delta region. Under Joseph they lived reasonably well (Ex 1:7), but with the coming of the Hyksos and a new Pharaoh “who did not know about Joseph” (Ex 1:8) the fortunes of Israel changed. It was evidently the first Hyksos Pharaoh who began oppressing the Israelites and it was under the Hyksos that the Israelites built the store cities of Pithom and Rameses (Ex 1:11). After the Theban 18th Dynasty expelled the Hyksos and established Egypt’s New Kingdom, they too made the Israelites serve with hard labor. It was during this period that Moses was born and grew up in the royal house in the delta. From this very location, 80 years later, the Exodus would begin.

Late in the Old Testament story, Jeremiah and Ezekiel again mention numerous Egyptian sites, both north and south. It becomes clear from their message to their fellow countrymen living in Egypt that you can run, but you cannot hide from God. He knew where they were and He would bring judgment on them and their Egyptian hideouts.

The story of Israel in Egypt is bound up in the Egyptian history of the Nile delta.

For pictures and additional information see: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/09/Israel-in-Egypt.aspx
Noah’s Ark Discovered Again? byBill Crouse and Gordon Franz

The discovery of Noah’s Ark was announced last Sunday (4/24/10) by a Chinese organization from Hong Kong (Noah’s Ark Ministries, International).  The problem with this is that it seems like the “discovery” of Noah’s Ark is getting to be almost an annual event.  What in the world is going on? 

We think it’s a question that is easy to analyze.  Genesis 1-11 is the most attacked portion of Scripture for its historicity.  Finding an antediluvian artifact like Noah’s Ark could be the greatest archaeological discovery ever.  It evokes many wannabe Indiana Joneses to search for Noah’s Ark.  We see no problem with this quest, and would welcome such a discovery.  The problem is not in the finding of the Ark; but in its substantiation.  Amateur archaeologists can and do find things that turn out to be fantastic discoveries. 

Witness the treasure hunter, Terry Herbert, in Staffordshire, England who recently found a huge cache of Saxon gold artifacts that was reported in National Geographic.  However, to properly document a discovery, the proper scientific protocol must be followed.  Scientists are trained to gather and analyze evidence.  They then publish their research so that other scientists can test their results.

 These “Indiana Joneses” invariably do not do this.  They put the cart before the horse by holding a spectacular press conference declaring what they discovered rather than publishing their results in a scientific journal.  The news media, on the other hand, is all too eager to comply for what gets good ratings, and at the same time it usually puts evangelical Christians in a bad light.

This Hong Kong group claims they are 99.9 % sure that the wood they found belongs to the Ark of Noah.  Since we have spent a few thousand hours digging into the subject of the Noah’s Flood and the Ark, we have the following questions about the alleged discovery:

1. When archaeologists make a discovery they must be able to prove exactly where they took their specimen out of the ground.  How do we know this video showing the rooms was filmed where they said it was?

2.  It is claimed that this discovery was found in an ice and rock cave on Agri Dagh, also known as Mt. Ararat.  It is a known fact among geologists that nearly all of the icecap on this mountain consists of moving ice, that is, glacier.  A glacier is a river of ice which flows down the mountain.  Any wooden structure inside this ice would be ground to bits from the glacial action.  In their news releases they have reported this site to be at 13,000 feet and in another report at around 14,000.  With these altitudes it would have to be on the ice cap or at the very edge.

 3.     Most geologists believe this mountain was formed in relatively recent times, i.e., after the Flood.  It is a complex volcano      with no clearly discernible layers of sedimentation that would have been laid down by flood waters.

4.  The group claims they have had the wood carbon dated by a lab in Iran with  the results being almost 5000 years old (with the Flood occurring about 3000 B.C.).  Why did they have the wood tested in Iran, we ask?   Will other scientists have access to the lab results?  Are there any good labs in Iran that can do this kind of testing?  Or, was the wood tested in Iran because the lab results might be harder to trace by other scientists?  Why wasn’t a lab in the United States or the United Kingdom used?  Just asking!

5.  Is this wood coated with pitch (bitumen)?  The Bible says God instructed Noah to treat the wood with pitch, either asphalt or pine pitch (Gen. 6:14).  At least some of this wood should test positive for this coating.  Also, has a botanist examined the wood to determine what kind of wood it is?

6.  What about motives?  Only God knows their true motives, but it sure makes one nervous when these groups looking for the Ark are planning a documentary video so early in the project before any truth claims are established.  One of the members of this Chinese group just happens to be a filmmaker.  Most readers interested in this subject probably notice about once a year a new docudrama about Noah’s Ark appears on one of the cable channels.  They would not keep doing this if they didn’t make money.  Hopefully, this group’s motives are other than financial.

7.  What are the plans to publish this material in scientific peer-reviewed archaeological and geological publication?  We would have hoped that this would have been primary to a news conference and videos.  True archaeology is not forwarded by this sequence, but we certainly understand their excitement and the desire to be the first to report such a discovery.

In addition to the above questions, we have some reasons to question the integrity of this discovery for the following reasons:

1.  This group had a local guide who is a known for his deceit and fraud. It is this guide who initially informed the Chinese group that he knew the location of the Ark in 2008.  However, since then he has led them to more than one location.  The first location was a cave at a low altitude, a small cave with a tree growing in front!  Apparently the current cave is at the 13,000 or 14,000 foot level on the icecap.

2.  The specimens taken from this first cave (at the lower altitude) were claimed to be petrified wood from the Ark. In actuality, they were nothing but volcanic tuff.

3.   In one of the photos of the rooms straw is seen on the floor and even a spider web in one of the corners.  Really!  Do spiders live at 13,000 or 14,000 feet?  Can they survive the freezing temperatures?

4.  There is a real problem with evangelists (which is what they claim to be) who use this kind of discovery to prove the Bible, and hence convince non-believers of its authority, when in fact the truthfulness of the discovery had not been established.  I [Bill Crouse] know firsthand of one “Indiana Jones” who spoke eloquently and emotionally about his adventures, and when he gave an invitation at the end of his presentation, many in the audience stood up to commit their lives to Christ.  When the speaker was confronted about the truthfulness of some of the stories he told that night, he replied:  “But look how many stood up to receive Christ.”  This becomes very problematic when at some point the convert learns the real truth.  They often become very embittered about all things Christian, and understandably so.

5.  There seems to be more than the usual gullibility here in that the Hong Kong group was warned about this local guide who has led others astray.  We say usual gullibility, because it seems to be a characteristic of other ark-hunters as well, in that they tend to believe all the local lore.  While many ark-hunters mean well, it seems that they want to believe every report seemingly at all costs; putting everything through a rational grid often is avoided as being too skeptical.

At this point we are skeptical of these new claims but would rejoice in the end if they proved to be true.  If this someday is the case we will be the first to apologize for our doubts. We would strongly urge the Hong Kong group to follow proper scholarly procedures and publish this material in scientific, peer-reviewed archaeological and geological publications so that the scholarly community can examine the material first hand and critique it in order to offer helpful, and constructive, criticism.  For the person in the pew, we caution you to not get too excited about something that is at best, unsubstantiated; and at worst, a fraud perpetrated by an enterprising local guide!

 (The authors are both members of the Near East Archaeological Society and the Evangelical Theological Society.  We both believe that Noah was a real historical person and that the Flood was a literal event in space-time history.  In our own research we came to a different conclusion about the landing place of the Ark.  Nothing we have seen so far causes us to doubt of change our position.  If you care to read of our research in can be found here: www.rapidresponsereport.com )
Mount Cudi—True Mountain of Noah’s Ark by B. Crouse & G. Franz

For its historical claims the first eleven chapters of Genesis are possibly the most attacked section of the entire Bible, and the story deemed most implausible, without a doubt, is the story of Noah’s Ark. That there could be such a great flood, a ship of 450-500 feet in length containing pairs of every air-breathing animal in the land, and only eight survivors, is usually treated by most critics as the equivalent of a nursery tale for children.

Hence, it’s no secret that theological liberals view the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark as “the impossible voyage,”1 and we suspect, for many evangelicals, the search for Noah’s Ark constitutes “the impossible quest.”2 Though evangelicals fully believe that the Flood was a historical event, the attempt to discover the Ark’s remains stretches credulity.

The whole issue of the search for Noah’s Ark is not helped by the fact that its “discovery” is frequently announced by a press that is not only gullible, but also enables the spread of sensational stories by indulging those looking for a moment of publicity. All would agree that the discovery of the Ark’s remains would be a find unprecedented in the history of archaeology.

Finding an artifact from antediluvian times would be second to none, with the potential to alter the currents of thinking in several disciplines. Nevertheless we do make such a claim, as we believe the German geologist, Dr. Friedrich Bender, discovered remains of Noah’s Ark of the Biblical Flood story in 1953.

His scientific test results, coupled with other historical studies presented here, give credence to the idea that the final berth of Noah’s ship has, in fact, been located. (See the Bender article later in this issue.) The modern search for Noah’s Ark began in 1948 when an alleged eyewitness claimed he stumbled onto the Ark high on the snowcap of Mt. Ararat (Smith 1950: 10).

Since then others have made similar claims. Based on these alleged eyewitness accounts, many expeditions have been launched, innumerable hours have been spent in research, and large sums have been spent trying to

For the most part, the search has been confined to the massive 16,945 ft (5165 m) Mt. Ararat in northeastern Turkey. Despite Herculean efforts and countless heroic attempts, no Ark remains have ever been properly verified at this location. We believe there are a number of reasons why these efforts failed.

First, there is the mistaken belief by many that the Bible designates Mt. Ararat as the landing place.4 Contrary to this belief, the author of Genesis does not designate a specific mountain. As most of our readers are already aware, the 8:4 passage refers only to a mountainous region, i.e., the mountains of Ararat, trra rh.5 No exact peak is referred to.

The earliest reference to this region outside of the Bible is Assyrian in origin, and it referred to the mountainous territory directly north of the Assyrian kingdom.6 It is the consensus among scholars that the Urartian state at the time Genesis was written (assuming the authorship of Genesis ca. 13th to 15th centuries) did not extend as far north as the present- day Mt. Ararat.7 W.F. Albright, known as the dean of Biblical archaeologists, wrote: There is no basis either in biblical geography or in later tradition for the claim that Mount Ararat (the mountain bearing this name in modern times) is the location of the settling of the ark.

(Genesis 8:4 says the Ark “rested...upon the mountains of Ararat.”) (1969: 48). Secondly, the searchers proclaim the sheer number of sightings that have been on Mt. Ararat, particularly during WW II. They argue, “Where there is smoke, there must be fire.”

However, these numerous eyewitness accounts have not been helpful in locating the lost artifact. The accounts are often contradictory, and under close scrutiny, most are suspect. There exists an incredible amount of lost documents, lost photos, and lost witnesses. Accompanying the missing evidence and contradictory testimony are many implausible ad hoc arguments.

A few of the sightings have been made by pilots who appear to be of reputable character. However, these sightings, in our opinion, are explainable by the fact that the mountain has an abundance of large blocks of volcanically produced basalt, and when seen under the right conditions, they can easily resemble a huge barge. Photographs of some of these formations are enough to take your breath away!8 Third, the mountain is a volcano with no alluvial evidence.

While there is sedimentation on the mountain, it is from volcanic action and not from flooding. This is a very stubborn fact that cannot readily be explained, had a great flood once inundated the mountain. Fourthly, Mt. Ararat has been thoroughly searched over the last 50 years. Neither fixed-winged aircraft, helicopters, nor satellite imagery have turned up any undeniable evidence.9

In this article we would like to propose another site located in the Cudi Mountains in southeast Turkey, just east-northeast of the Turkish city of Cizre.10 This site is not only well attested by ancient tradition and an abundance of literature, but by some well known authorities in archaeology. We will go so far as to say that the location of the Ark’s ruins was well known in this region up until about the end of the first millennium AD.

Ancient chroniclers recount that it was a site for pilgrims and rites of veneration and worship (Ritter 1844: 154). Consequently, over the millennia, pilgrims carried off pieces of the Ark for relics and talismans as would be expected, and by the seventh century AD, according to one account, its final remaining beams were carried off for the construction of a mosque (Komroff, ed. 1989: 284).

After this, its secret seems to be remembered only by the local villagers as the scene shifts to Agri Dagh, or Mt. Ararat as it was later to become known. Hence, from about the 13th century, that majestic, 16,945 ft (5165 m), snow-capped mountain, which many of the ancients said could not be climbed, became the focus of the Noah’s Ark traditions. To the Armenians, present-day Ararat was always called Massis. 11

From antiquity to the present, the Turks have called it Agri Dagh. We must, however, note that there is at least one clear exception. The fifth century historian, Philostorgius (c. 368–c. 439), makes the following geographical observation: The Euphrates, however, to all appearance, takes its rise among the Armenians; in this region stands the Mount of Ararat, so called even to the present day by the Armenians, —the same mount on which the Holy Scripture says that the ark rested. Many fragments of the wood and nails of which the ark was composed are said to be still preserved in those localities.

This is the place where the Euphrates takes its rise (Book III, Chapter 8). If the Armenians called it “Ararat” at this early date, we have no other evidence for it. We believe there is reason to doubt the accuracy of Philostorgius at this point. While he is certainly correct here in his description of the source of the Euphrates being near Mt. Ararat, he is notorious for his inaccurate geography in the corpus of his works (Cross 1974: 1086).

It seems rather strange that he would be in disagreement with many others of the same time period. After him we find no other clear references till the middle of the 13th century. When Marco Polo traveled past Ararat in the 13th century on his way east, he was told by the locals that the mountain sheltered the Ark of Noah (Polo 1968: 34).

This suggests that the tradition arose some time prior to Polo’s trip, and by the end of the 14th century it seems to have become fairly well established.12 Prior to this time, the ancients argued that the remains of the Ark of Noah could be found on another mountain currently known as Cudi Dagh. Let us now look at the evidence from what we believe are those compelling ancient sources.

Cudi Dagh is located approximately 202 mi (325 km) south of Mt. Ararat in southern Turkey and within 9.3 mi (15 km) east-northeast of Cizre, and within sight of the Syrian and Iraqi borders. The Tigris River flows at its base. The coordinates are 37 degrees, 23 minutes N, and 42 degrees, 26 minutes E. In the literature there are many variant spellings, but all are cognates. Over the centuries it has been called Mt. Judi, Mt. Cardu, Mt. Quardu, Mt. Kardu, the Gordyene mountains, the Gordian mountains, the Karduchian mountains, the mountains of the Kurds, and to the Assyrians, Mt. Nipur.13

It is also important to note that at times this mountain has even been called Mt. Ararat.14 At about 6853 ft (2089 m) it is not a terribly high mountain, though it is often snow-capped most of the year. Cudi Dagh overlooks the all-important Mesopotamian plain and is notable for its many archaeological ruins in and around the mountain.

There are also many references to it in ancient history. Sennacherib (late seventh century BC), the powerful Assyrian king, carved rock reliefs of his victories in battle in the vicinity (King 1913).15 The Nestorians, a sect of Christianity, built several monasteries around the mountain, including one on the summit called the Cloister of the Ark; it was destroyed by lightning in AD 766.16

The Muslims later built a mosque on the site. In 1910, Gertrude Bell explored the area and found a stone structure still at the summit in the shape of a ship, called by the locals Sefinet Nebi Nuh, the Ship of Noah. Bell also reported that annually on September 14, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sabians and Yezidis gathered on the mountain to commemorate Noah’s sacrifice (Bell 2002: 289–294). The evidence for this site as the landing place of Noah’s Ark, coupled with the findings of Bender, is compelling. If all we had to go by were the ancient references, the evidence for this site easily outweighs the evidence in the literature for Mt. Ararat. Some of the more important ancient witnesses to this alternate location are the following.

Jewish Literature

The Samaritan Pentateuch

This manuscript contains the first five books of the Old Testament and puts the landing place of Noah’s Ark in the Kurdishmountains north of Assyria. The Samaritan Pentateuch was the Bible used by the Samaritans, a Jewish sect which separated from the Jews about the fifth century BC. Ancestry- wise they were of mixed blood, dating back to the time the Assyrians deported many from the Northern Kingdom.

The Assyrians then colonized the area with citizens from that country. The Samaritans were the result of the intermarriage between the Jews who were not deported and these new Assyrian colonists. Their version of the Pentateuch shows a definite propensity to update geographical places and harmonize difficult passages.17

 There is much evidence that the Samaritan Pentateuch was formulated during the fifth century BC, though the earliest manuscript extant today dates to about the 10th century AD. Even though this reference does not mention a specific mountain, it does narrow it down considerably to a mountain range north of Assyria. There is some evidence that these Hebrew tribesmen from the northern kingdom populated the area in and around Cudi Dagh.18

The Targums

The targums are paraphrases in Aramaic that were made for the Jews after they returned from the captivity in Babylon (see Neh 8:8). After their long captivity many of the Jews forgot their native tongue (Hebrew), only understanding the Aramaic language of their former captors. These paraphrases were originally oral.

They were rather loose paraphrases, and in some instances were like running commentaries. The targums later attained a fixed form and were written down and preserved. They give Bible scholars a valuable tool for textual criticism and interpretation.

Three of these targums at the Gn 8:4 reference (Onkelos, Neofiti, and pseudo-Jonathan) put the landing place of the Ark in the Qardu (wdrq, i.e., Kurdish) mountains.19 It is possible they did not know of the kingdom of Urartu (Ararat) by this time, since it had ceased to exist around the seventh century BC (Lang 1980: 13).

The Book of Jubilees

This book belongs to a group of writings known as the Pseudepigrapha. Scholars date it about the middle of the second century BC (Charlesworth 1985: vol. II, 44). It has been called the “Little Genesis” and is known for its extensive geographical details.

Scholars believe it was originally composed in Hebrew, but only fragments of the Hebrew text remain. The English translations were made from a combination of Ethiopic, Syriac (eastern Aramaic), and Latin texts. The author of Jubilees mentions the landing place of the Ark on several occasions as being on “the top of Lubar (rbwl))one of the mountains of Ararat” (5:28).

In 7:1 he says, “Noah planted a vine on the mountain on which the ark rested, whose name is Lubar, (one) of the mountains of Ararat.”20 Later the author writes that Noah’s three sons built three cities “near Mt. Lubar” (7:17). Finally, the author tells us that when Noah died, he was “buried on Mt. Lubar in the land of Ararat” (10:15).

This designation for the landing-place of the Ark is a mystery, and it seems to have originated with the Book of Jubilees. If it could be known, the Genesis Apocryphon, which is missing the text at Gn. 8:4, might also give Lubar as the site of the Ark’s landing since it names it as the place where Noah planted the vine.

Other literature, papyri 4QpsDn and 6Q8, and the Midrashic Book of Noah, likewise, give this name. Later, Epiphanius (fourth century) and Syncellus (ninth century) assign this name to the mountain of the Ark. Sayce suggests that the lu may come from another ancient name of the Urartian region, which when combined with baris yields lubar (Sayce 1882: 389).

Steiner believes that since some of the documents noted above were in Aramaic, the etymology of the word should be sought there. He notes that there is an Elephantine document of the fifth century BC where the word lubar is descriptive of a piece of wood used to repair a boat. He also notes the relationship of lubar to labiru in Akkadian, probably a cognate word used to describe wood. While there is some uncertainty, lubar seems more likely to point to the southern region than to Mt. Ararat (Steiner 1991: 248).

Cassuto is also of the opinion that Mount Lubar is possibly identical to the Baris of Nicholas (Cassuto, 1965, 105).


His writings date from the late first century AD. Josephus was a man of Jewish birth, but was loyal to the Roman Empire. He was a man of great intellect and a contemporary of the Apostle Paul. As an official historian of the Jews for the Roman Empire, he had access to all the archives and libraries of the day.

He mentions the remains of Noah’s Ark, and where it landed, on several occasions. Then the ark settled on a mountain-top in Armenia...Noah, thus learning that the earth was delivered from the flood, waited yet seven days, and then let the animals out of the ark, went forth himself with his family, sacrificed to God and feasted with his household. The Armenians call that spot the Landing-place, for it was there that the ark came safe to land, and they show the relics of it to this day (Antiquities I: 90–92: LCL 4: 43, 45).

It is interesting that Josephus says the remains of the Ark existed in his day, though he himself was not an eyewitness of them. Also, his mention of an unknown Armenian source is intriguing, even the fact that he calls them Armenians. They were first called Armenians by the Greek historian Hecataeus (from Miletus), who wrote of the Armenoi in the sixth century BC.21 Josephus, who also undoubtedly used the Septuagint (the Greek version of the OT, translated about 200 BC), knew that it substituted “Armenia” for “Ararat” where it occurs in the Hebrew original in Is 37:38.

At the time Josephus wrote, near the end of the first century AD, the Armenians were officially still a pagan nation. However, there is a tradition that some Armenians had been converted by this time through the missionary efforts of the apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus (Lynch 1990: 276–77).

The big question is, was Josephus quoting Christian Armenians at this early date, or were these pagan Armenians of which he spoke? The answer could be significant if the Armenians had this tradition before they officially converted to Christianity as a nation in 301. Concerning the Armenian name for the landing place, William Whiston, in his translation of Josephus, has the following footnote:

This Apobaterion, or Place of Descent, is the proper rendering of the Armenian name of this very city. It is called in Ptolemy Naxuana, and by Moses Chorenensis, the Armenian historian, Idsheuan; but at the place itself Nachidsheuan, which signifies The first place of descent, and is a lasting monument of the preservation of Noah in the ark, upon the top of that mountain, at whose foot it was built, as the first city or town after the flood. See Antiq. B. XX. Ch. 2. sect. 3; and Moses Chorenensis, who also says elsewhere, that another town was related by tradition to have been called Seron, or, The Place of Dispersion, on account of the dispersion of Xisuthrus’s or Noah’s sons, from thence first made.

Whether any remains of this ark be still preserved, as the people of the country suppose, I cannot certainly tell. Mons. Tournefort had, not very long since, a mind to see the place himself, but met with too great dangers and difficulties to venture through them (Whiston trans. 1998 reprint: 38). Whiston wants to identify the apobaterion, “the place of descent,” with the modern city of Nakhichevan situated about 65 mi (105 km) southeast of Ararat in Azerbaijan. Ark researchers in the past have used this footnote as a seemingly early (100 AD) evidence for Mt. Ararat being the site for the Ark’s landing place.

However, we must ask if this is the intent of Josephus, or actually the 19th century (1867) interpretation of Whiston? There seems to be linguistic and other evidence that the latter is the case. First of all, to identify the current Mt. Ararat as the landing place of the Ark, as per the footnote of Whiston, is contrary to Josephus clearly identifying it elsewhere as a mountain in Gordyene. Second, the early Armenian historians identified the Gordyene (Gortuk) mountains as the landing place of Noah’s Ark at least up to the 10th century.

Thirdly, according to the Armenian language scholar Heinrich Hübschmann, the city of Nakhichavan, which does mean “Place of First Descent” in Armenian, was not known by that name in antiquity. Rather, he says the present-day name evolved to “Nakhichavan” from “Naxcavan.”

The prefix Naxc was a name, and avan is Armenian for “town.” It was not known as Nakhichavan until the 10th century (Hübschmann 1901: V: 73).22 The second quote follows right after the first, and is perhaps the most important reference, and is largely from the above-mentioned Chaldean priest, Berossus. We quote here the entire paragraph: This flood and the ark are mentioned by all who have written histories of the barbarians.

Among these is Berossus the Chaldean, who in his description of the events of the fl ood writes somewhere as follows: ‘It is said, moreover, that a portion of the vessel still survives in Armenia on the mountain of the Cordyaeans, and that persons carry off pieces of the bitumen, which they use as talismans.’

These matters are mentioned by Hieronymus the Egyptian, author of the ancient history of Phoenicia, by Mnaseas and by many others. Nicolas of Damascus in his ninety-sixth book relates the story as follows: ‘There is above Minyas in Armenia a great mountain called Baris, where, as the story goes, many refugees found safety at the time of the flood, and one man transported upon an ark, grounded upon the summit; and relics of the timber were for long preserved; this might well be the same man of whom Moses the Jewish legislator, wrote’ (Antiquities I: 93–95; LCL 4: 45, 47).

Again, note that Josephus is not an eyewitness, rather he is quoting all the ancient authorities he had access to, most of which are no longer extant, and indeed are known only from his quotations of them.23

 It is impressive to us that Josephus seems to indicate there is a consensus among the historians of his day, not only about the remains of the Ark still existing, but also concerning the location. Josephus, in order to more specifically locate the Ark’s remains, quotes the work of Nicholas of Damascus, friend and biographer of Herod the Great and the Roman Emperor Augustus.

Nicholas claimed that he put great labor into his historical studies and apparently had access to many resources. It is possible he was one of Josephus’ main sources. His story of the Flood, however, does deviate from the Biblical account in that he has some surviving the Flood outside the Ark.

His location for the final resting place of the Ark seems to be in harmony with the Gordyene, i.e., the Cudi site. He claims the Ark landed above Minyas on a great mountain in Armenia. According to ancient geographers, Minyas (same as Mannea, or Minni) was a country slightly below and to the east of Armenia, below present day Lake Urmia.

Louis Levine says the land of Mannea…extended from Parsua in the south to Urartu in the north, and that it bordered Zamua and Assyria in the west. The eastern extent of the Mannea is indeterminable. In terms of the modern map, Mannea extended from the shores of Lake Urmia in the north to the Lake Zeribar region in the south, and the chaine magistrale of the Zagros probably acted as its western frontier (Levine 1973: 116). The name Nicholas gives this mountain, Baris, however, is a mystery. According to Lloyd Bailey, the Greek word baris means “height” or “tower,” and even “boat” (Bailey 1989: 216)! Others identify Baris with Lubar, as mentioned earlier.

The third reference to the remains of the Ark is found in Antiquities 20: 24, 25: Monobazus, being now old and seeing that he had not long to live, desired to lay eyes on his son before he died. He therefore sent for him, gave him the warmest of welcomes and presented him with a district called Carron.

The land there has excellent soil for the production of amomum in the greatest of abundance; It also possesses the remains of the ark in which report has it that Noah was saved from the fl ood—remains which to this day are shown to those who are curious to see them (LCL 10: 15).

The context of this incidental citation of the Ark’s remains has to do with a certain royal family in the Kingdom of Adiabene, of which the King and Queen were converts to Judaism. The capital of this kingdom was at Arbela (modern-day Erbil in Iraq). In the immediate context of the above citation, Monobazus, the man who converted, gives his son Izates the land of Carron.

The clues given as to the location of the Ark’s remains in this passage are not unequivocal. The remains are said to be somewhere in a country called Carron, which must be found in the greater country of Adiabene. Why? Because the king could not have given what was not his, Carron must be found within the kingdom of Adiabene.

It is fairly certain that Adiabene is bounded by the Tigris on the west and the Upper (north) and Lower (south) Zab Rivers. Today this would be largely northeastern Iraq but would include the Cudi Mountain range. The land of Carron presents some diffi culties. It is mentioned only by Josephus. There does seem to be some doubt about the text here since the Loeb edition emends the text to read “Gordyene.”

Note how easy it would have been for someone reading a hand-written Hebrew text (assuming he was) to make a mistake: wdrq = kardou. Here is what the Greek word karrwn (Carron) would look like in Hebrew: wrrq.

Notice the subtle difference of the daleth and the resh. If Josephus did misread these two similar letters in the Hebrew alphabet, then he is not giving us a second location for the remains of Noah’s Ark. He may have associated Adiabene with Gordyene since they were next to each other.

Bailey believes there is precedent for this (Bailey 1989: 66). Pliny, the Elder, a Roman author and contemporary of Josephus, places the city of Nisibis in Adiabene when it is actually located to the west of Gordyene (Pliny 6.16). It is interesting to note also that Hippolytus (second century AD) agrees.

He says, “The relics of the Ark are...shown to this day in the mountains called Ararat, which are situated in the direction of the country of Adiabene.” This would be correct since he wrote from Rome (Hippolytus, second-third century: 149). A fourth reference in Josephus is found in Against Apion (1.20:130), where he reiterates his earlier reference to Berossus.

He notes that This author, following the most ancient records, has, like Moses, described the fl ood and the destruction of mankind thereby, and told of the ark in which Noah, the founder of our race, was saved when it landed on the heights of the mountains of Armenia (LCL 1: 215).

We find it interesting that in this passage Josephus believes he was quoting from “some ancient records,” and, that he corrects Berossus by changing the name of the hero from Xisuthrus to Noah. From the above references, there seem to be grounds for arguing that Josephus pinpoints the Gordyene site (Cudi Dagh) as the landing place of Noah’s Ark.

While we cannot say this with absolute certainty, we feel we can conclude that nowhere does Josephus say anything defi nitive that might lead us to assume that present-day Mt. Ararat is in view. We also disagree with Bailey, who believes that Josephus gives three different locations for the Ark’s fi nal resting place (Bailey 1989: 66).

Benjamin of Tudela

Writing in the 12th century, he says he traveled two days to Jezireh Ben Omar, an island in the Tigris on the foot of Mt. Ararat...on which the ark of Noah rested. Omar Ben al-Khatab removed the Ark from the summit of the two mountains and made a mosque of it (Komroff ed. 1989: 284).

The ruins of this city, Jezireh Ben Omar, are located at the foot of Cudi Dagh, now the modern Turkish city of Cizre. Here also is evidence that this mountain was also called Mt. Ararat. What he could mean by the “two mountains” is somewhat problematic. The Cudi Mountain range does have two higher peaks that are of similar altitude, though the reference still is uncertain.



A Chaldean priest of Bel and historian writing in the third century BC, Berossus shows the infl uence of a Hellenistic Mesopotamia. His major work, Babyloniaca,24 was published about 275–280 BC, but only survived insofar as it was quoted (mostly third-hand) by others—by Alexander Polyhistor, a fi rst century BC Greek historian and native of Miletus, and by Josephus at the end of the fi rst century AD, as already noted. He is also quoted by a few others as late as the ninth century AD (Syncellus).

He wrote in Greek, but according to Komoroczy, he knew Akkadian. If he was priest of the Esagila, he also had to know some Sumerian. And in the Marduk temple of Babylon he could also study the texts in cuneiform writing (Komoroczy 1973: 127–128). Berossus’ account borrows heavily from the Babylonian version of the Flood account as one would expect. He notes that a portion of the ship which came to rest in Armenia still remains in the mountains of the Korduaians of Armenia, and some of the people, scraping off pieces of bitumen from the ship, bring them back and use them as talismans (Burstein 1978: 21).

Some believe that Berossus was acquainted with both the Hebrew version, which puts the Ark in Armenia (Urartu), and a Babylonian text that puts the Ark in the Gordyaean Mountains. They conclude the reason he mentions both territories is that he is trying to reconcile the two accounts (Parrot 1953: 61).

This may be true, but it is an argument from silence. The fact is, this location, Cudi Dagh, is both in the Gordyaean Mountains and within the borders of ancient Armenia (Urartu).25 It may be that Berossus is just trying to be precise! The very fact that he narrows the location to Armenia, in light of the Babylonian Flood story that locates the landing place on Mt. Nisir, is an intriguing thing to consider.

To clarify the point, Berossus, who had the Babylonian account in front of him, knows that his Babylonian text says “on the mountain of Nisir the boat held fast” (Gilgamesh 1972: 111), but does not in his own account write that the Ark’s landing was on Nisir!26

Christian Sources

Theophilus of Antioch of Syria

He was the Bishop at Antioch, a city not too far removed from the Cudi site. He does not mention it by name, but notes that “the remains are to this day to be seen in the Arabian mountains” (ad Autolycum, lib. iii, c. 91).

It is not likely that the great Bishop is referring to the mountains of Saudi Arabia. The Greek word arabia, in the strict sense of the term, means “desert” or “wilderness,” and during the early second century it often referred to the desert areas east of Syria (Arndt and Gingrich 1957: 103).

Cudi Dagh is not directly east of Syria, but if you go east from the northernmost tip of Syria you would be right at Cudi Dagh. It is not a positive directive, but most certainly does not refer to Saudi Arabia or Mt. Ararat.

Julius Africanus

He lived in the fi rst half of the third century. He may have been born in Jerusalem. His major work was a history of the world in five volumes, some of which survived in the writings of Eusebius, and later in Syncellus.

In the section describing the deluge in the extant writings of Julius, he states: And Noe was 600 years old when the fl ood came on. And when the water abated, the ark settled on the mountains of Ararat, which we know [emphasis ours] to be in Parthia; but some say that they are at Celanenae of Phrygia, and I have seen both places (1994:6:131). Some are quick to say Africanus was mistaken, but in fact, the Parthian Empire lasted into the fi rst part of the third century and did extend eastward into the area of Cudi Dagh.


Bishop of Caesarea in the third century AD, he was the fi rst great historian of the church, and in his two-volume work Chronicle, he notes that a small part of the Ark still remains in the Gordian Mountains (Eusebius 1818 : 1: 36–37). This seems to be a clear reference to this southern mountain range.

The Peshitta

The Peshitta is a version of the entire Bible made for the Syrian Christians. Scholars are not sure exactly when it was translated, but it shows up for the fi rst time around the beginning of the fi fth century AD; however, Syriac versions of the Pentateuch may have been circulating as early as the middle of the fi rst century (Harrison 241: 1969). In Genesis 8:4 it reads “mountains of Quardu” for the resting place of Noah’s Ark. This version also shows a defi nite infl uence by the targums mentioned above.

Faustus of Byzantium

Faustus was a historian of the fourth century AD. Very little is known about him except that he was one of the early historians of Armenia, though he was of Greek origin. His original work is lost but has survived through translations.

It is from Faustus that we fi rst hear the story of St. Jacob (Hagop) of Nisibis, the godly monk who asks God to see the Ark (Garsoian, Book III, Chap .XIV, 87: 1989). After repeatedly failing to climb the mountain, an angel rewards him with a piece of wood from the Ark. It is this story that is oft-quoted in succeeding centuries, and the location given for the event in these later sources is the Mt. Ararat of the north.

However, please note, Faustus, the one who presumably originated the story, puts this event not on Mt. Ararat of the north, but in the canton of Gordukh in southern Armenia. The St. Jacob of the story was the Bishop of Nisibis (modern Nusaybin), a city which is only about 75 mi (120 km) from Cudi Dagh.27 Mt. Ararat, to the bishop, was a mountain far to the north.

If Faustus had meant this mountain, he undoubtedly would have called it by its Armenian name of Massis, as he does elsewhere in his work (Garsoian, Book III, Chap. XX, 96: 1989). As noted earlier, Armenian historians are in agreement that the early Armenian traditions indicated the southern location as the landing place of the Ark (Thompson 1985: 81).

From the 13th century, however, all Armenian sources support the northern location as the landing place of the Ark. Wouldn’t it be strange for the Syrian bishop to ignore what his own Syrian Bible told him was the landing place of Noah’s Ark?

Also, St. Jacob’s own student, St. Ephraem, refers to the site of the landing as “the mountains of Qardu.” It is hard to believe that one of his intimates could be that confused! The natives of the area, even as late as the beginning of the 20th century, tell the story of St. Jacob the Bishop and similar traditions associated with Mt. Ararat, i.e. the city built by Noah and his grave, etc. (Bell 2002: 293).


The Bishop of Salamis, Epiphanius was born in Palestine and was a fierce opponent of heresy in the fourth century AD. On two occasions he mentions that the Ark landed “in the mountains of Ararat in the midst of Armenia and Gordyene on a mountain called Lubar” (Panarion I.i.4).

In fact, he says the remains are still shown, and that if one looks diligently he can still fi nd the altar of Noah. He seems to be acquainted with the Jewish writings, notably the tradition of Jubilees (noted earlier), in that he puts the Ark specifi cally on a mountain called Lubar. What he adds here is a slight measure of exactness when he comments that it is in the “midst,” “middle,” or “between” Armenia and Gordyene.


He was known for his oratory and was the patriarch of Constantinople in the fourth century. While he does not get very specific, it is notable that he says you can still go there and view the remains. He writes in one of his sermons: Let us therefore ask them (the unbelieving): Have you heard of the Flood—of that universal destruction? That was not a threat, was it?

 Did it not really come to pass—was not this mighty work carried out? Do not the mountains of Armenia testify to it, where the Ark rested? And are not the remains of the Ark preserved there to this very day for our admonition? (Sermon, “On Perfect Charity, ” trans. John W. Montgomery, The Quest For Noah’s Ark, p. 73.) Chrysostom seems to be saying, “If you don’t believe God will judge again, you can still go and see the evidence for his judgment in the past.”

Isidore of Seville

He was the Archbishop of Seville, Spain. He wrote in the sixth and seventh centuries, and was known as a very careful scholar of the Middle Ages. In his compilation of all knowledge (summa) he writes: “Ararat is a mountain in Armenia, where historians testify that the Ark came to rest after the Flood. So even to this day wood remains of it are to be seen there” (Lindsey 1911: 14, 8, 5).


Patriarch of Alexandria in the ninth and 10th centuries and of Arabic origin, he had a background in medicine before he became a leader in the church. His most important work is Nazm al-Gewahir (Chaplet of Pearls), a history of the world from Adam to 938.

He says, “The Ark rested on the mountains of Ararat, that is Jabal Judi near Mosul” (Eutychius, 41). Mosul is a city near ancient Ninevah about 81 mi (130 km) south of Cudi Dagh. This is a very precise geographical reference. He may have been infl uenced by the Quran, but he specifi cally adds the referent “Mosul.”

As noted earlier, sometime around the 10th and 13th centuries, Christian sources begin to point more specifi cally to Mt. Ararat of the north as the landing place.

Muslim Sources

The Quran

The Quran, dating from the seventh century, says: “The Ark came to rest upon Jebel al Judi...” (Houd 11:44). The modern Muslim Encyclopedia is familiar with the early traditions that the Ark came to rest on Cudi Dagh. However, the writer of the article under Jebel Judi believes Mohammed was referring to the Judi Mountains in Saudi Arabia.

This is not certain. Mohammed was very familiar with Christian and Jewish traditions, not to mention the fact that he may well have traveled to this area during his days as a merchant. In the English translation of the Quran made by George Sale in 1734, a footnote concerning the landing place of the Ark states that the Quran is following an ancient tradition (Sale 1734: 195, 496; Weil 1846: 54). At least the following Muslim sources seem to agree.


A 10th century Muslim scholar and native of Baghdad, he was known for his travels. “...[T]he ark stood on the mount el-Judi. El-Judi is a mountain in the country Masur, and extends to Jezirah Ibn ‘Omar which belongs to the territory of el-Mausil.

The mountain is eight farasangs [about 30 mi (48 km) - ed.]28 from the Tigris. The place where the ship stopped, which is on the top of this mountain, is still seen” (Young 32). This puts one right on Cudi Dagh! Remains were still seen in the 10th century, and notice his precision about the location.

Ibn Haukal

He was also a 10th century native of Baghdad, and an early Muslim geographer. He places Cudi near the town of Nesbin (modern Nusaybin) and mentions that Noah built a village at the foot of the mountain. As earlier noted, Nusaybin is about 75 mi (120 km) west of the site.

Ibn al-Amid or al-Macin

In his 13th century history of the Saracens, he informs us that the Byzantine emperor, Heraclius, climbed Mount Judi to see the site in the seventh century after he conquered the Persians. He does not mention whether or not he was giving an eyewitness account (Erpenius 1625).

Zakariya ibn Muhammad al Qazvini

He was a Muslim geographer of the 13th century from modern Qazvin, Iran. He was not a traveler, but compiled his two major works from the writings of others. He reports that wood from the Ark was still seen on Cudi Dagh as late as the Abbasid period (eighth and ninth centuries AD) (Hamd-Allah Mustawfi , 1340, trans. by G. Le Strange, 1919, 184).

He reports that wood was removed and used to construct a monastery (others say a “mosque”). The ancient references cited above—pagan, Jewish, Christian and Islamic—seem to clearly point to a long and old tradition that the Ark of Noah landed in a mountain range north of Assyria, a site that was both within the ancient region and kingdom of Urartu, as noted in Gn 8:4, and within the land of Armenia and Kurdistan.

While it may not be conclusive in itself, it certainly is more compelling than the rather late and questionable evidence in support of present-day Mt. Ararat. Along with these ancient voices are numerous historians and archaeologists who achieved some authority for the quality of their work.

As an example, Claudius James Rich, a scholar and traveler who visited the area early in the 19th century, wrote in a footnote: The Mahometans universally maintain that it was on Mount Judi the ark fi rst rested, and that it is Ararat, and not the mountain to which that name is given in Armenia. Don Calmet, Storia del Nuovo Testamento, p. 275, says, “Monobazes, King of Adiabene, gave his younger son Izates the government of Keron or Kairoun, a country where they showed the remains of the ark.”

Calmet supposes from this that the country must have been near Mount Ararat in Armenia: —he is not aware of this tradition, which places the ark on Mount Judi, or Cardoo, which is evidently the Keron here mentioned. Hussein Aga maintained to me that he has with his own eyes seen the remains of Noah’s Ark.

He went to a Christian village, whence he ascended by a steep road of an hour to the summit, on which he saw the remains of a very large vessel of wood almost entirely rotted, with nails of a foot long still remaining. In the third volume of Assemanni, p. 214, occurs the following expression: “There is a monastery on the summit of Mount Cardu, or Ararat. St. Epiphanius attests that, in his time, remains of the ark still existed, and speaks of relics of Noah’s Ark being found in ‘Cardiaerum Regiones’” (Rich 1836: 2: 123–124 footnote).

Please note that Rich cites an eyewitness who saw remains as late as the 19th century. Israel Joseph Benjamin was a Jewish scholar and traveler who adopted the name “Benjamin the Second” after the famous Jewish traveler, Benjamin of Tudela, who lived in the 12th century AD. He traveled throughout the Ottoman Empire looking for Jewish communities.

While visiting Kurdistan in the 19th century, he wrote: Six hours’ journey from the town rises the summit of a great mountain, which joins the chain of mountains of Kurdistan. The Jews believe that this is Ararat, and that here the Ark of Noah rested after the Deluge.

If this really be true the place is very remarkable for its ancient associations. We find in the Bible the word Ararat, which the Targum Onkelos translates by Touri Kardu (mountain of Kurdistan); from which the country received its name. The mountain is very steep, almost perpendicular, and it takes six hours to reach the summit from the bottom. Wonderful things are here related of the Deluge.

One of the Kurdish tribes annually towards the end of June, ascends the mountain, and spends there the whole day in devotional exercises, they use on the occasion large lighted torches. They believe themselves descended from the royal house of Sennacherib; and retain the tradition that King Sennacherib himself had divine service performed in memory of the Ark. On descending the mountain they bring with them some remains of the Ark, which according to their assertion, is still deeply buried in the earth.

The little pieces received are in the form of planks; some whitish grey; some black and pierced with holes. It is not possible for me to give a more accurate account of this Kurdish ceremony; for it did not take place during my stay; and I can only repeat what I heard in answer to my questions.

At the base of the mountain stand four stone pillars, which, according to the people residing here, formerly belonged to an ancient altar. This altar is believed to be that which Noah built on coming out of the Ark. They likewise assert that his remains are buried in this vicinity; they do not however specify the exact spot.

I myself obtained several fragments of the Ark which appeared to be covered with a kind of substance resembling tar; but of these, as well as of many other things, I was robbed between Bagdad and Constantinople...(Benjamin 1863: 93–94).

 Benjamin himself was given a piece of the ruins from the site, which he said had the appearance of tar on it. W.A. Wigram, author of numerous histories of the area around Cudi Dagh and the Assyrian Church, wrote in 1914: Still, of all survivals from early ages in this land, whether monumental, superstitious, or religious, none is more remarkable than the “Sacrifi ce of Noah.” It must be understood that no people here, save the Armenians, look on the great cone which we call Ararat, but which is locally known as Aghri Dagh, as the spot where the ark rested.

The biblical term is “the mountains of Ararat” or Urartu, and the term includes the whole of the Hakkiari range. A relatively insignifi cant ridge, known as Judi Dagh, is regarded as the authentic spot by all the folk in this land; and it must be owned that the identification has something to say for itself.

It is one of the first ranges that rise over the level of the great plain; and if all Mesopotamia (which to its inhabitants was the world) were submerged by some great cataclysm, it is just the spot where a drifting vessel might strand. Whatever the facts, the tradition goes back to the year AD 300 at least.

That date is, of course, a thing of yester day in this country; but the tale was of unknown antiquity then, and is firmly rooted in the social consciousness now. In consequence, Noah’s sacrifi ce is still commemorated year by year on the place where tradition says the ark rested—a ziaret which is not the actual summit of the mountain but a spot on its ridge.

On that day (which, strange to say, is the fi rst day of Ilul, or September 14 of our calendar, and not May 27 mentioned in the account in Genesis) all faiths and all nations come together, letting all feuds sleep on that occasion, to commemorate an event which is older than any of their divisions. Christians of all nations and confessions, Mussulmans of both Shiah and Sunni type, Sabaeans, Jews, and even the furtive timid Yezidis are there, each group bringing a sheep or kid for sacrifi ce; and for one day there is a “truce of God” even in turbulent Kurdistan, and the smoke of a hundred offerings goes up once more on the ancient altar.

Lower down on the hillside, and hard by the Nestorian village of Hasana, men still point out Noah’s tomb and Noah’s vineyard, though this last, strange to say, produces no wine now. The grapes from it are used exclusively for nipukhta or grape treacle, possibly in memory of the disaster that once befell the Patriarch (Wigram 1914: 335–36). And fi nally, Sir Henry Rawlinson asserts his opinion after a lecture given by James Bryce to the Royal

Geographical Society of London. It was at this lecture that Bryce relates the story of his ascent to the summit of Mt. Ararat in 1876, and his subsequent discovery of a piece of wood. In this lecture, Bryce had made the case that Mt. Ararat was the Biblical Ararat and the landing place of Noah’s Ark. Rawlinson, great scholar that he was, disagrees.

Whoever kept the minutes of the meeting summarized his remarks: The mountain in question [Agri Dagh], however, had nothing whatever to do with biblical Ararat. No one who had really gone into the question could doubt that the popular notion was a fallacy. The mountain had never been called Ararat in the country from the remotest times to the present day.

The name Aghri- Dagh, and Ararat did not apply to that part of Armenia at all. The history of those countries from the earliest antiquity, was now, owing to the decipherment of the cuneiform inscriptions, almost as well known as that of Greece or Rome. There were contemporary annals of Assyria, dating two thousand years before Christ, in all of which Ararat was as often spoken of and marked geographically as was Ninevah or Babylon.

It was the name of a province which might be called Southern Armenia. It never extended further north than Lake Van, but included what was now called Persian Kurdistan, being the country east of Ninevah, and between the valley of the Tigris and the Persian plateau.

In the Chaldean legend of the Flood, made known by the late Mr. George Smith, the Ark was made to rest upon Mount Nizer, which was explained to be another name for the range of Judi. It was immediately east of the basin of the Tigris, in the very centre of the province called Ararat—so called, it must be observed, not in one or two solitary instances, but throughout Assyrian history; the name, moreover, having been taken up by the Greeks, and passed on the Armenians.

Even in the geography of Moses of Chorene, the province of Ararat had nothing to do with the Northern Armenia. The mountain north-east of Mosul, which, at the present day, concentrated in itself all the biblical traditions referring to Ararat, was still called Jebel Judi, and was visited by thousands of pilgrims annually in search of relics of the Ark, who bore away with them amulets made of small portions of wood which they found at the top of the mountain, no doubt supplied periodically by the priests.

The practice had been going on for centuries, and was mentioned over and over again in history. He had himself seen troops of pilgrims going to the mountain of Judi from all parts of the East (Bryce 1877–1878: 184–85). That Rawlinson knew his geography and his Assyrian history is well attested. While he himself had never seen the ruins, he was certainly acquainted with the tradition.


We are well aware of the fact that most religious relics should be viewed with a great deal of skepticism. However, with regard to possible remains of the Ark of Noah, we would like to postulate that remains of the Ark would be a different kind of relic. Consider hypothetically: if such an Ark vessel once really existed, with the Scriptural dimensions of nearly 500 feet in length and being built of a durable wood and coated with a preservative such as tar, wouldn’t it make sense that it would have taken centuries, even millennia, to decay, and that everyone in the general vicinity would know where such a hulk would lie?

We are not talking about a small relic that cannot be readily seen by the general populace. Over the centuries, indeed millennia, people would know about it; it would be a topic of conversation and people would want to see it. In other words, in the case of the Ark of Noah, it is easy to imagine that a piece of wood from the Ark would be highly venerated and a prized possession, resulting in its being gradually dismantled by the faithful.

At some time during the fi rst millennium it seems the final large pieces of the Ark disappeared. As we noted earlier, one writer claimed that as Islam moved into the area, beams were removed to put into a mosque. Currently it is our assumption, as Bender discovered, that the only remains to be found would require some excavation.

We believe the traditions regarding Cudi Dagh are reliable. Bender’s tests proved the remains are ancient, and to confirm the thesis that they are remains of the Ark of the Biblical Flood, we believe core holes should be drilled, and with positive results, then latitudinal and longitudinal trenches should be dug using proper archaeological protocol. Hopefully, at some point, the Turkish government will grant the permits for such a project.

Reprinted from Bible and Spade, Fall 2006, with permission from ABR. Pictures and notes can be found at this website: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/

The Case for Ararat by Richard Lanser

The accompanying article by Crouse and Franz is a fascinating compilation of historical data regarding proposed locations for Noah’s Ark. Taken together, those records present a reasonable case for giving credence to the Mt. Cudi site near Cizre, Turkey. However, not all agree it is a “compelling” one. In the interest of completeness, it is appropriate to mention some of the difficulties with the Mt. Cudi idea that do not appear to have yet been resolved, and which point to a continuing need to consider that the remains of the Ark are on Mt. Ararat in Turkey.

The Eyewitnesses

All agree that the most obvious point in favor of Mt. Ararat is the eyewitness testimonies. In contrast, the historical material we have from antiquity supporting the Mt. Cudi site is, at best, secondhand, and should not be given the same weight as the firsthand testimonies we have regarding Mt. Ararat.

While admitting the force of the argument that many of the alleged Ararat eyewitness stories are open to serious doubt—whether due to the questionable reliability of the witnesses, their stories being plagued, as Crouse and Franz put it, by “lost documents, lost photos, and lost witnesses,” or the possibility they saw “phantom arks” from aircraft which were nothing but rock formations—it must be pointed out that, according to Scripture, it only takes two or three trustworthy witnesses to make a case (Dt 17:6, Dt 19:15, Mt 18:16, 2 Cor 13:1).

In the testimonies of Armenian George Hagopian (c. 1904–1906) and American Sergeant Ed Davis (1943) this requirement is met.1 They did not know each other and were widely separated by time and cultural background, so the amazing similarities between their stories buttress their credibility. In rejecting many alleged eyewitnesses for various reasons, we must not be guilty of “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” by lumping the more solid stories with the dubious.

These men made their sightings on the ground, hence are not open to the charge of merely seeing rocks from the air and misinterpreting them. Hagopian not only claimed to have seen the Ark twice in the early 1900s, but to even have climbed onto it! Davis likewise claimed to have been in such close proximity to the Ark that it is not plausible to say he only saw a huge rock structure.

There is no middle ground that allows anyone to claim these men simply made a mistake. We have only two options: either they saw the Ark, or they were lying. The problem with the latter option is that their reputations were checked out by Ark researchers concerned with the possibility of fraud, and they were found to be sober, apparently honest men who were not “out to make a buck.”

In the case of Davis, he passed a lie detector test that closely scrutinized the details of his Ark sighting (Corbin 1999: 108–110). Notwithstanding this, some suppose that a few seeming inconsistencies that came out during multiple retellings of his story point to its fundamental unreliability.

I disagree. With the passage of time or under stress, people remember or forget various minor details or emphasize them differently, without thereby changing their fundamental story. I believe this is the case with Ed Davis. Though we can nitpick at some of the details, his central story, which allowed him to pass the lie detector test, remained the rock-solid core that we cannot ignore.

It is worth reviewing the Davis lie detector test in some detail. The following is a quote regarding the polygraph test administered to Ed Davis (Corbin 1999: 109): Subject was asked to recall in detail what his recollection of the incident was. His answer was as follows: While this subject was in the U.S. Army and assigned to engineering duties between Iran, Turkey and USSR he met a male later identified as Abas-Abas.

Subject stated that Abas’ son was working for the government at the time of this meeting. As the subject related the story, Mr. Davis did a great favor for Abas and his tribe. As a result of this favor Abas was asked by Davis to tell him (Davis) about the Ark or structure that was located somewhere around Mt. Ararat.

Davis was told that if the weather was right he (Abas) would take him to see this structure. Some time later Abas and seven (7) of his sons escorted Davis to the site of the structure. In trying to solicit the information from Mr. Davis the following questions were asked:

1. Are you lying when you state that you were taken to Mt. Ararat by Abas and his seven sons?

2. Are you lying when you state that you climbed Mt. Ararat on horseback and on foot?

3. Are you lying when you state that the object you saw was broken in half?

4. Are you lying when you state that the structure was exposed between 100 and 200 feet?

 5. Are you lying when you state that you saw a large wooden structure high on Mount Ararat?

6. Are you lying when you state that no one ever told you about the Ark other than Abas and the Bible? Mr. Davis answered all of the above questions with NO.

After careful analysis of all this subject’s Polygrams it is the opinion of the examiner that he answered without showing any stress to questions 1-5. Regarding question 6, the subject did show stress and answered that he has talked to a number of people about the Ark. He also stated that not one of the people that he has spoken to have ever seen or known the exact location of where the Ark is.

My point in quoting the above passage is to make clear that there were six distinct questions asked during the polygraph, and fully half of them specifi cally mentioned Mt. Ararat. The only question Davis displayed any tension in answering was the last one. This is a patently insufficient reason for disregarding the entire testimony.

Davis knew where he went and what he had seen and experienced, regardless of any apparent ambiguity that may have arisen as he retold his story at different times. George Hagopian likewise was found to be a reliable witness. Elfred Lee, a researcher who later also interviewed Davis and marveled at the many points of contact between the two accounts, personally checked out Hagopian’s story and found that obscure details about his childhood around Lake Van in Armenia held up, greatly enhancing the credibility of his admittedly incredible Ark tale (Corbin 1999: 69, 72).

Lee also affi rmed that Hagopian, like Davis, took and passed a lie detector test (Corbin 1999:79). These two testimonies, at the very least, cannot be lumped with the less well-attested ones and rejected out of hand. They are important parts of the overall picture of the search for the Ark, and can be neither ignored nor easily explained away.

Hidden from the Air

If we do have some reliable eyewitnesses, then how do we deal with the valid observation of Crouse and Franz, “no ‘undeniable evidence’ for the Ark on Ararat has been turned up over the past 50 years of air searches?”

 Based on geographic clues in their testimonies, it appears that if the Ark is on Mt. Ararat, it is in a high, inaccessible location on the north side above the Ahora Gorge, most likely nestled in a small valley within the “saddle” between the two peaks of Greater Ararat and generally blanketed in snow and ice.2 Hagopian’s first sighting came after four years of drought conditions in the Ararat region (Corbin 1999: 67, 79), a fact attested to by climate records (Corbin 1999: 372; Shockey 1986: 33–34).

Moreover, Hagopian indicated it was only exposed every 20 years or so (Corbin 1999: 75, 370). Further, even granting adequate melt back, the Ark’s visibility from the air is dependent on such conditions as the angle of the sun and cloud cover; a little shadow or cloudiness goes a long way toward obscuring things when air searches are attempted. All of these are reasonable explanations for the lack of success in spotting the Ark on Ararat from the air during the past 50 years.

The Big Switch

The principle reason historians tend to reject Mt. Ararat as the Mountain of the Ark lies in the silence of the early historical records. As Crouse and Franz have abundantly documented, in contrast to the early records apparently supporting Mt. Cudi as the Ark site, there appear to be no extant writings prior to Philostorgius (fi fth century AD) clearly tying Mt. Ararat to the Ark.

Unambiguous references to Ararat remain hard to come by until about the 13th century, when Mt. Cudi appears to basically have been supplanted by Mt. Ararat in the tradition. The big question to ask is, why did this transfer take place at all?

If the Ark was ever on Mt. Cudi, what prompted the switch to Ararat? In the absence of more complete ancient records there are no easy answers, but certain facts can be adduced to explain such a change. The fi rst is that Mt. Ararat is a volcanic peak. Satellite photos show the magma fl ows that form its base very clearly, and blocks of volcanic basalt are all over its slopes. Armenian scholar Robert Bedrosian (1993) notes that during the third through fi rst millennia BC, Mt. Ararat was “among the more prominent volcanoes spewing molten lava and rocks into the night sky.”

This means it is likely in the extreme that had the Ark landed there, it would rather quickly have been covered in volcanic ash. If we make the entirely reasonable assumption that Noah and his family would not long have stayed in the vicinity of an active volcano but would have moved off to friendlier environs, we are looking, at a very early point in human history, at the Ark being both entirely hidden from sight by snow and ice and/or volcanic ash, and in an area away from where people would want to live.

The story of the Ark and its location would logically have quickly entered the realm of legend, because none would have been able to simply climb the peak and check it out. The power of the legend, however, would have sufficed to ensure its survival, with the story being passed down from one generation to another while the location eventually morphed in the retelling to another site.

This observation also accounts for the phenomenon of multiple Mt. Cudis (Geissler n.d.)—the one near Cizre that Dr. Bender investigated, another near Sanli Urfa, yet a third in Arabia, one of the peaks of Ararat itself (Cummings 1973: 167–79), and even the Durupinar site popularized by RonWyatt.

An additional factor to consider is the post-Flood climate. Meteorologist Michael Oard constructed an eminently logical case for the Ice Age being tied to warmer oceans after the Flood, resulting in copious snowfalls in the more northern and southern latitudes, with associated rapid formation of glaciers and deep icepacks in the mountains (Oard 1990).

 Ararat today has a permanent snowline beginning at about 14,000 ft, and it makes sense that during the Ice Age the snowline would have been much lower. The Ark would thus have been hidden under deep snowdrifts as well as ash. It is therefore not surprising that there are no surviving writings from hoary antiquity tying the Ark to Mt. Ararat; by the time people developed the degree of civilization required to write lasting records about it, it was deeply buried, out of sight and out of mind.

These two considerations allow us to make a reasonable conjecture as to how the Ark landing tradition became attached to Mt. Cudi. With the establishment of civilization in Shinar— the same civilization, we note, that gave us the Gilgamesh Epic, a corrupted version of the Flood story—it is no real stretch to say that just as Gilgamesh replaced Noah in the Sumerian version, so Mt. Cudi replaced the inaccessible Mt. Ararat as the site of the Ark. Mt. Cudi is, after all, directly north of the plain of Shinar, and would have provided a convenient nearby locale to connect with the tradition.

The flip side of the above scenario is that it can also explain why Mt. Ararat had the power to supplant the Mt. Cudi tradition around the 13th century, after the former had already had hundreds of years to take root: it was based on demonstrable fact, not mere tradition.

Facts trump “just-so” stories anytime! Just a few visits to the Real Thing, confirmed by others who could check it out for themselves, would quickly have solidified the claims of the relative “newcomer” to being the genuine location.

Geological Considerations

One point Crouse and Franz make in rejecting Mt. Ararat as the location of the Ark is the alleged lack of water-borne sedimentary rock, indicating a post-Flood origin of the volcano. If Ararat did not exist during the Flood, it follows that it could not have provided an anchorage for the Ark.

However, the old saw, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” needs to be considered here. If Ararat existed before the Flood, it must be recognized that its steep-sloped form, subjected to erosion by rainstorms and melting snow over the centuries, cannot be expected to have retained sedimentary deposits on its slopes to the same degree as less inclined areas. (Think of the catastrophic mudslides in Honduras and Nicaragua due to Hurricane Mitch in 1998.)

Unconsolidated sediments would be expected to wash off the slopes in heavy rains; mudslides would have taken place. The immediate area around Mt. Ararat is not a friendly one for the development of deep-rooted grasses, brush and protective trees that would aid in retaining soil.

And if one further considers that there were magma flows at various times—particularly evident when one looks at satellite pictures of Mt. Ararat—there is also the distinct possibility that sedimentary rock layers could have been buried under volcanic material. Another option is that Mt. Ararat initially arose during the Flood itself, and did not exist during the antediluvian age.

In a letter published in TJ, Max Hunter pointed out that If Mount Ararat was erected as a submarine stratovolcano then it would be highly unlikely that conditions on the sloping sides of the active volcano would be conducive to the preservation of ‘diluvium’ (‘coarse superficial accumulations...glacial and fluvio-glacial deposits of the Ice Age’) or fossils (Hunter 2003: 62).

 Hunter further noted that “basaltic lavas, the most common lithology in the Ararat area, commonly occur in sub-aqueous environments...” and went on to list several specific rock types that demonstrate why the geology around Mount Ararat fits well with a submarine origin of the volcano.

Although it is clear that further research needs to be done, at least one credentialed geologist, Dr. Clifford Burdick, concluded that there were sufficient indications to conclude that Ararat had been under water at some point in its history (Burdick 1967).3

He made observations as a consulting geologist on exploratory expeditions to Mount Ararat in 1966 and 1969, and reported that every sample of volcanic rock he examined on the mountain evidenced high glass content, indicating that Mt. Ararat was submerged in water at least up to the 14,000-foot level. He also claimed to have found deposits of sedimentary rocks at 13,500 ft, and evidence of water-formed “pillow lava” at around 14,000 ft.

 The last observation is somewhat controversial because magma released under ice and snow will have the same characteristics as that extruded underwater, so this should not be given undue weight. However, Burdick also found cube-shaped salt clusters “as large as grapefruit” near 7,000 ft, which he attributed to “dense, lingering ocean waters,” as well as what are called “conglomerate cones” near 13,000 ft, formed under pressure and a greater than normal degree of water agitation.

The waters must also have remained for a long enough time for these structures to cool and fuse, consistent with the mountain having been submerged for a significant amount of time. For the above reasons we cannot quickly dismiss Mt. Ararat on the basis that it lacks evidence of sedimentary rocks. Whilen  acknowledging the need for further fieldwork, there appear to be a sufficient variety of clues to say with reasonable confidence that Mt. Ararat could indeed have been submerged during the time of the Flood

Nearby Place Names and Traditions

A further reason for considering Mt. Ararat as the true Ark landing site is the meanings attached to place names in the immediate vicinity. For example, the city of Nakhichevan lies just a short distance away in the foothills of Ararat as one follows the Araxes River eastward.

There are varying interpretations of what the name means. Some say it means, in the Armenian language, “the place of fi rst descent,” and connects to Noah as the place where he fi rst went after descending from the Ark on Ararat’s slopes (Kojian 2006); I personally find this interpretation makes the most sense.

Others say the name comes from Nukkhtchikhan, meaning “colony of Noah,” and a third opinion is that it refers to the Ark itself “descending” in the water and glancing off the sub merged summit of Nakhichevan’s Ilan-dag (“Snake Mountain”) prior to finally coming to rest atop Turkey’s Mt. Ararat (Azerbaijan24.com, n.d.).

Regardless of the precise meaning, this city has a clear and ancient tradition connecting it to Noah, and when one considers that a reputed Tomb of Noah existed there as recently as the 19th century, it presents a tantalizing hint about which direction Noah may have taken after leaving the Ark. Other significant locations include the original village of Arghuri (Ahora) at the foot of Ararat, the name of which means “where Noah planted the grapevine” (cf. Gn 9:20).4 Near Nakhichevan in neighboring Iran is Marand—the Marunda of Ptolemy (in Armenian = “the mother is there”)—where tradition has it that Noah’s wife died and her bones were buried under a mosque.

Granted that similar sites are said to exist near Mt. Cudi, it would be very troublesome to consider Mt. Ararat as a candidate if they did not exist nearby. That they do gives reason to continue to seriously consider the Ararat option.

Dealing with “From the East”

Genesis 11:2 can be interpreted in multiple ways. In the KJV it reads, And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

This seems to be the most straightforward translation, rendering the Hebrew word miqqedem as a combination of the Hebrew preposition min, “out of, away from,” with qedem, “front, east.” The ancient Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate translations opt for the “from the east” translation as well, increasing its credibility. Robert Cornuke adopts this translation likewise—but in his case, it seems to be an attempt to justify searching for the Ark on an Iranian mountain (Lanser 2006).

Some would go so far as to say this verse indicates the Ark landed east of Shinar, but this is reading too much into the passage. It does not say that Noah and his family disembarked there and stayed put for a few hundred years. All we can safely draw from it is that the descendents of Noah, at some point in time, from wherever they may have gone in their journeying earlier, at length moved from the east, from what today is Iran, into Mesopotamia.

There are other ways of translating miqqedem. The NIV chooses to render it as “eastward,” making the migration into Shinar from the west. The NEB chooses an indefi nite yet still grammatically possible alternative, “in the east,” painting a picture of people moving to and fro, with no defi nite direction, prior to entering Shinar (although how such directionless movement can be said to be “journeying” anywhere—to take a journey seems to demand a destination—is unclear).

Given that Mt. Cudi is directly north of the Mesopotamian plain and presents a location incompatible with either a westward or eastward migration, those holding to Mt. Cudi as the Mountain of the Ark appear to be forced to adopt the NEB’s indefi nite directional translation of miqqedem, leaving them with little flexibility to accept the longstanding Septuagint, Vulgate and KJV translation, “from the east.”

The Bender Discovery

It remains to consider what to make of the discovery by Dr. Friedrich Bender of decayed wood and bitumen on Mt. Cudi. (See his article in this issue). Despite the erroneous dating assumption expressed in Bender’s article, this is a very significant find if it holds up and carries with it the potential to discredit Mt. Ararat as the real Ark site, despite all that has been said above.

However, we must remember that Bender’s research was very limited, and further work such as core drilling must be done to bolster the case enough to overcome all of the factors that still favor Mt. Ararat. It is also not wise to place too much stock in the alleged 6500-year radiocarbon age of the wood remains found by Bender.

The method was invented by Willard Libby in 1947, only a short time before Bender put the technology to use, and its limitations were not yet fully appreciated. For some of the limits of radiocarbon as a dating method, the reader is referred to Brown 2006.

There are two alternative explanations I see to account for Bender’s findings apart from supposing it to be evidence of the Ark’s landing place. One is that since Mt. Cudi, at around 7000 ft in elevation, is not a very high mountain, there could have been ordinary structures built upon it in the past.

Moreover, Bender’s wood remains were found only 750 m (2460 ft) above the rubble terraces of the plain, making it diffi cult to reconcile this location with Gn 8:4–5, that it took three full month after the Ark rested before “the top of the mountain became visible” (NASB).

The wood remains may thus not indicate the former presence of the Ark, but rather a shrine— with its proximity to the Mesopotamian plain, Mt. Cudi could have been a “high place” of Nimrod/Semiramis cult worship—or some other structure, such as a defensive outpost. Since bitumen is common around Mesopotamia, its presence does not require us to imagine that it was necessarily derived from the Ark; it could have been used simply to waterproof walls or a roof.

All things considered, we do not yet know enough to evaluate the signifi cance of the Bender find.

In conclusion, while acknowledging the strength for the historical case in favor of Mt. Cudi, we must also admit that there are many observations that it does not satisfactorily explain, and which are more easily reconciled with Mt. Ararat in Turkey being the Mountain of the Ark.

Reprinted from Bible and Spade with permission from ABR. To see the notes and pictures go to this website: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/
The Genesis Flood: An Interpretative Key to the Past by Henry B. Smith Jr.

In the 600th year of Noah’s life, on the 17th day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened (Gn 7:11).

For centuries, the Biblical Flood described in chapters 6–8 in the book of Genesis was considered global, cataclysmic and historical. Since the late 18th century, however, the historicity of the Flood has come under constant attack, and is now rejected as a fable by most people in Western societies.

Even some in the Church have rationalized the so-called “evidences” against the Flood, trying to reinterpret it as local event. This has been most unfortunate, because Noah’s Flood is one of the most significant events in the history of the world, impacting interpretations in the physical sciences, history, archaeology and Biblical studies. My purpose here is to briefly review the implications on some of these fields of study.

1) Geology.1 Clearly, if the Flood of Noah’s day was a recent and worldwide event, it would have drastically affected the topography and geology of the entire planet. Major geological structures and topography are much better explained by recent catastrophism, not slow processes over eons of time.

Mountain formation, ocean floor topography, plate tectonics, river valleys, volcanism, canyon formation, the formation of coal deposits, lakes and a plethora of other geologic features are dramatically impacted by the reality of a recent, cataclysmic Flood. The formation of these and many other structures will be misunderstood if not interpreted via a young earth/Flood model, a framework that the Bible plainly presents in its teaching. The dogma of uniformitarianism dominates all current paradigms, so the Flood is rejected out of hand.

Additionally, the Flood is a very plausible triggering mechanism for the Ice Age, which required a set of unique and simultaneous circumstances unexplainable by uniformitarian principles.2

2) Biology. The Bible tells us that God sent two of each kind of land animal to the Ark so that they would be preserved during the Flood (Gn 6:19–20). When the Flood ended, the animals dispersed from “the mountains of Ararat” (Gn 8:4) and began to repopulate the planet.

The history of animal habitat and genetic distribution across the planet must be understood in the context of the Flood and its immediate aftermath, or erroneous conclusions will result. The Flood or its subsequent affects serve to explain animal extinctions on a massive scale.3

 This includes dinosaurs, which have been hijacked by the evolutionary establishment as a propaganda tool against the Scriptures. Most of the dinosaurs were simply unable to survive the adverse environmental conditions that existed after they left the Ark. The Flood would also have drastically impacted the entirety of the plant kingdom, which most likely survived via floating mats of vegetation and other mechanisms.

Since the Flood lasted for a period of 371 days, the carbon cycle of the entire earth was completely disrupted in a relatively short period of time. This state of affairs would drastically affect the results of C-14 dating methods as one moves back in history closer to the Flood. Rejecting the historicity of the Flood leads to erroneous assumptions built into the C-14/C-12 ratios4 needed to calculate dates.

Again, ignoring the historicity of the Flood and its consequent effects on the entire planet leads to flawed conclusions.

3) Anthropology and Archaeology.5 Almost all current scientific paradigms assert that man evolved from primitive life forms into humans at some point in the distant past. This dogma is so deeply entrenched in the mind of the scientific community that no other paradigm will even be considered.

Therefore, when “primitive” remains of ancient human societies are discovered, it is automatically assumed they are from an earlier time when man was less evolved. The Bible, however, plainly teaches that man was created fully formed and with a sophisticated intellect right at the beginning of creation (Mk 10:6, Gn 1:27).

When God decided to judge the world because of its great wickedness (Gn 6:7, 2 Pt 2:4–5), Noah and seven others from his family were spared in the Ark. All human beings alive today are descendants of Noah’s family. If this fact of history is rejected, once again false conclusions will be drawn.

Noah and his immediate descendants entered a brand new world, a world that had lost most of its technical knowledge and civilization. Although Noah and his sons were certainly quite intelligent, they did not carry the full knowledge of all human society wiped out in the Flood. In a real sense, they were starting over (much like a modern man being stranded on a deserted island, isolated from civilization, yet not a primitive brute), so the technologies and level of civilization of humanity were no doubt more “primitive” in the immediate post-Flood world. Living in caves and using more “primitive” tools to survive would have been perfectly logical for humans living in a new and barren world.

Neolithic and other ancient remains predating the explosion of civilization in the third millennium BC therefore need to be reinterpreted in a post-Flood context. The errors of evolutionary interpretations are further compounded by a rejection of the Tower of Babel incident (Gn 11), which fractured the human community and sent various people groups all across the globe.

Genetic distribution in human culture was vastly affected by this event. People groups were separated because they could not communicate with one another and therefore the human gene pool was split apart. Cultural identity began with similarity of language and expanded to include physical features such as skin color and various other physical, yet superficial, differences. Modern anthropology and archaeology are entrenched in a paradigm antithetical to the Biblical young earth/Flood/Babel paradigm and therefore have continuously drawn incorrect conclusions from the data in their respective fields.6

4) Biblical Studies—The Plain Meaning of the Text. One interesting aspect of the Genesis Flood is the unique use of language7 in Scripture when referring to the Flood. In the Old Testament, the authors utilize a unique Hebrew word, mabbûl, when referring to the Flood. This word is used mainly in the Flood narrative, Genesis 6:17; 7:6–7, 10, 17; 9:11, 15. Genesis9:28; 10:1, 32 and 11:10 utilize mabbûl when referring to the Flood as a past event. Psalm 29:10 is the only other passage in the Old Testament where mabbûl is found. This psalm of David describes the “voice of the LORD,” referring to His authority and power.

In this context, David speaks of the LORD’s power over the mighty waters and the cedars of Lebanon. He continues in verse 10, “The LORD sits enthroned over the flood [mabbûl]; the LORD is enthroned as king forever.” The context asserts the great power and majesty of God, which is required to be in control of a cataclysm like Noah’s Flood.8 In the New Testament, we find several references to the Noachian Deluge.

The unique Greek word used in these passages of Scripture is kataklusmŏs and its derivatives. Strong’s Concordance defines this word as meaning “to dash, wash down, to deluge, surge of the sea, inundation, fl ood.”9 From this we derive the modern English word “cataclysm.” Jesus describes the time of His return as analogous to that of the Flood in Matthew 24:38–39:

For in the days before the flood [kataklusmŏs], people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood [kataklusmŏu] came and took them all away.10

The immediate context indicates there will be universal and worldwide ignorance about the time of Jesus’ return, just as there was a universal and worldwide ignorance regarding the coming inundation in Noah’s day. A local flood was not in Jesus’ view.

The Apostle Peter certainly recognized the universal and cataclysmic nature of the Flood when he wrote: For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood [kataklusmŏn] on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others...11 Of further interest are references to the Flood in the Septuagint, the third century BC Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.

In every instance where mabbûl appears in the Hebrew text, the Septuagint translators used kataklusmŏs as the Greek translation. Genesis 7:6, 17; 9:11 are translated as kataklusmŏs. Genesis 6:17; 9:15, 28; 10:1, 32; 11:10 and Psalm 29:1012 are translated as kataklusmŏn. Genesis 7:7, 10 and 9:11 are translated as kataklusmŏu. In each instance, the Septuagint translators recognized the unique nature of Noah’s Flood and used derivatives of this specific Greek word to communicate that fact.

 It appears that the New Testament authors picked up on this usage, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit continued using it when they authored the New Testament in the first century AD. Jesus Himself verified this usage when speaking of His return in Matthew 24 and Luke 17.

For the Christian, there should be no doubt that Jesus verified this usage and its clear meaning (universal and cataclysmic, not local) by virtue of His absolute authority.13 This is just a small sampling of the impact of the Flood on Biblical studies and the historical realm of the physical sciences. In this issue of Bible and Spade, you will read research regarding the landing place of Noah’s Ark.

It is ABR’s position that the Flood in Genesis 6–8 was a recent, global, cataclysmic event and there is no hermeneutical, exegetical or Biblical justification for reinterpreting it as some localized event in Mesopotamia.14 To do so is to contort the Biblical text in a way that cannot be justified.

We must remain true to the plain meaning of Scripture. If we cannot fully understand how a universal, cataclysmic Flood occurred, we must still submit ourselves to the authority of Scripture and adopt the attitude of Martin Luther: “if you cannot understand how this was done...then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are.”15

Noah’s Flood must be given its proper place in the history of the world and in Biblical history. Ignoring or dismissing its historicity impugns what God has plainly said, a serious sin indeed. The spiritual lessons are obvious as well. God is gracious and merciful, but takes sin very, very seriously. Let us give the Flood its proper place in our Biblical studies and as an important factor in developing a Biblical worldview.