Noah and the Christian Apocalypse
In the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24, Christ compares tine coming of the Son of Man to the days of Noah. The analogy is between late stages of the present age and matching stages of the antediluvian period when Noah was building the Ark and stocking it with survivors. If the analogy is extended, the early postdiluvian period, when Noah's family created the Gentile nations, matches events subsequent to Christ's Return when He builds His Millennial Kingdom. His further analogy between the pristine Gentile nations and the Millennial Kingdom can he supported from Scripture as well as from ancient Gentile data but is a neglected mystery.
In the first place, Roman Catholic theology, to which we all owe a historic debt, denies the existence of a future Millennial Kingdom on earth. This denial by weakening the analogy between Noah's career and Christ's, influences the way Christians conceive of Gentile antiquity by making ancient data seem harmlessly old-fashioned rather than apocalyptic. It weakens the logical implications of Matthew 24: 37-39 for pedagogical reasons. A fundamental task of the early Greek and Roman churches was to repudiate paganism; and that repudiation often took the form of belittling satire. To suggest an analogy between Christ's future glory and Gentile origins would have muddled the thinking of Christian converts from one end of the Mediterranean to the other.
More important, the Book of Genesis is carefully designed to veil the glory of pagan origins. In fact, the whole Bible is designed to mute the full glory of Christ's Millennium and of everything that relates to it St. Augustine found it easy enough to deny the Millennium by simply following the major thematic trends of the Beatitudes, Christ's Kenos 5, and Christian mortification, the has a lessons of humility and simplicity.1 Thus Catholic amillennialism arose from the same motive which later prompted early Protestants to decry the splendor of the Renaissance Catholic Church. Christians everywhere have united in a common cause against external glory of the sort embodied in ancient Babylonia, Greece, and Rome.
In order to understand Noah's post diluvian work, Christians must come to grips with the Biblical wisdom concerning external grandeur. The Bible, in the final analysis, does not repudiate it but affirms the advent of a glorious New Jerusalem, an objective city of God. All debate concerns where and when external glory become manifest in the will of God. Obviously, it exists in the world of the third heaven, the regime of the holy angels. We can agree with the Catholic poet John Dryden in rejecting any idea of a "heaven slovenly and sad." The issue facing Christian antiquarian scholars is whether God would have been glorified if Noah's postdiluvian family had built mud huts rather than Mesopotamian temples Or is it possible to distinguish between Gentile glory, on the one hand, and Gentile corruption on the other?
At the crux of this problem lies the Tower of Babel account of Genesis 11, where God appears to some interpreters as an indiscriminate adversary of all Gentile grandeur:
Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. And it came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly." And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar And they said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built And the Lord said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth (Genesis 11 1-9).
A key assumption has been made about this narrative. Interpreters such as Augustine have assumed that the unity of language stated n the opening verse was an innocent result of Noah's antediluvian origins.3 If there was nothing sinful in this unity of language, then the confusion of languages fell on the builders of the Tower of Babel for some other reason. It seems pointless for God to be judging an unknown sin; so the offense must be identified in the immediate context. The only other contextually supportable possibility is that God was condemning the construction of the tower and city per se and, in the process, criticizing the whole pattern of urban civilization as outside His will. The sin of pride in 11:4 is an intangible dimension of the outward sin of building a city.
Augustine's belief that the linguistic unity of Genesis 11:1 was innocent harmonizes well with the modern Creation Research movement because of the cultural dependence of that movement on natural science. In effect, it extends one dimension of the dispensation of innocence (the dispensation of natural creation down to the moment of the Tower of Babel judgment, where it posits the origin of Iinguistic and racial diversity as a punishment for sin.4 Race and language, according to this theory, become casual, judgmental misfortunes. Such a view harmonizes with the logic of random causation operative in all the natural sciences It diminishes the importance of the humanities by treating linguistic cultures as casual flotsam rather than parts of a designed and sanctioned order. Above all, it subordinates the world of history to the world of nature by dismissing world civilization as a purely human fabrication without the divine sanction enjoyed by nature itself as God's creation.
Yet this logic, common to Augustine and to leaders of the Creation Research movement, rests on a questionable foundation. Throughout Genesis 11:1-9, emphasis falls on language itself as though the sin of the passage concerned unity of language from the outset. The text of 11:1 offers no explanation of how the stated unity of language arose. Why naïve interpreters assumed mat the universal linguistic unity of 11 1 was innocent? The answer lies with the popularity of innocent naturalistic thinking, that is, an instinctive cultural preference for nature as matrix of reality. By assuming that unity of language existed from Adam's time down to the Tower of Babel, such interpreters aggrandize what Spengler calls the "world as nature" by casting blame on the builders of urban civilization for a kind of second Fall of Man, as though cities and literate history were all inherently evil or presumptuous.
To gain a clearer understanding of what really happened in Genesis 11, we should turn back to the antediluvian geography of Genesis 2:10-14, the world of the four rivers. We learn a lesson from this passage that some natural scientists nave been slow to learn, namely, that our God is a God of design and system. Randomness may be a feature of God's creation but is certainly not the measure of His creative mind.5 Adamic mankind, after the Fall, inherited a neatly designed, fourfold geographic world. Because the text of Genesis does not deal explicitly with the origins of race or language, we have as much reason to trace the diversification of both back to the four lands outlined in Genesis 2 as to explain these phenomena as the casual result of Babel. Once we adopt the Genesis 2 alternative, the true meaning of Genesis 11 1-9 emerges more clearly.
The builders of the Tower of Babel were a tyrannical sect bent on undermining Noah's divinely instituted plan to create a diversity of nations after the Flood. The sin under judgment throughout Genesis 11:1-9 is simply unity of language, foisted on the postdiluvian world community by Noah's enemies through political privileges beyond his control A diversity of divinely sanctioned languages had already been introduced prior to the events recorded in Genesis 11. Such a view harmonizes with the immediate text and with the larger context of the Pentateuch. In 11:6, the Lord says, "They all have the same language," as though this circumstance were the offense." The judgment, suited to the offense, aims at the "confusion" of language, not at its origin. God caused the builders of the Tower of Babel to revert to their distinct languages, forgetting some universal lingua franca, which appears to have been the Hamitic tongue later spoken in Egypt. In the Exodus from Egypt, Moses was seeking the same sort of liberation which Noah's followers sought from analogous tyranny in Mesopotamia a millennium earlier.
Of course, this logic remains highly implicit in Genesis, where the elliptical nature of the text generates mysteries and allows for diverse interpretations such as the two treatments of Genesis 11:1-9. In such matters, the truth comes to light gradually and under the influence of different cultural regimens such as the sciences and humanities. In general, scientific logic applies best to the natural order as `t existed before the Flood. The humanities spring into a dominant position in handing the world after toe Flood, when the dispensation of human government generated historical consciousness and literature. The Genesis 11 problem is a crux to demonstrate how the two different patterns of thought operate.
In science, causal mechanisms reign supreme. In the humanities, causation is less important than idea, design, analogy, and symbolic representation A scientist, faced with the fourfold cosmos of Genesis 2:10-14, might ask how Adam's family dispersed into those four lands and, perhaps, what economic principles kept them alive there The artistic or poetic theologian is more concerned for why God divided the earth in that way. What sort of idea governed the creation of such a fourfold world; and what ideal steps did Noah take in preserving the integrity of that idea? In observing Genesis 2, the artist recognizes that God, the supreme artist, has given us a pattern without causal explanation. The value of the pattern lies in its archetypal meaning, not in the causal mechanisms associated with it. Geography, race, and language have always been both systematic and sacred, never profane or casual in origin. If we rivet our attention on God as designer, we begin to understand Noah's career more clearly. God acts through all types of persons including those who are high-spirited and creative. Noah was one of these. The construct on of the Ark, a means of survival, was nevertheless more than that: the constructive first step toward the formation of a designed world after the Flood. Altering the earth in many ways, God establishec the seasons, after the Flood, as natural backdrop to the world of "times and seasons,"the historical cosmos of literate nations. The whole point of the Flood was to replace violent, barbaric mankind with civilized, history-making, designing mankind. This transition from survivalist barbarity to artistic civilization was an apocalyptic fact, a sign of God's future plan for the human race
Conventional Cnristian thought has generally overlooked the importance of the Flood in establishing an apocalyptic status quo. that is, a redefinition of humanity posing problems which only the Christian apocalypse can solve. Conventional wisdom holds that ordinary mankind survived the Flood. How could it? The Lord had told Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me" (Genesis 6:131 Noah survived the Flood only because, through faith, he had become something more than mere flesh, and all those who survived tie Flood were reckoned more than mere flesh. Genetic, biological mankind was doomed then and is doomed now. As the Apostle Pail tells us, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom" (I Corinthians 1 5'50f, meaning that all concepts of the future are predicated on the existence of a separate variety of mankind, whom Christ terms `sons of the resurrection" (Luke 20:36} Just as Noah was saved by the blood of Christ before Calvary defined the atoning blood, he survived the "end of air flesh" by taking concrete steps toward the life of resurrection man long before the Risen Christ gave definition to resurrection man.
In other words, Genesis records the beginning of the end of biological human life as we know it. Gentile origins date from an event supernatural both in itself and in its effects. The religious and symbolic artefacts of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia derive from a comprehensiveiy supernatural redefinition of mankind The posfdiluvian principle of human government rests on a specific, concrete "divine r1ght of kings" which, as the Sumerians claim, descended from heaven after the Flood. All recorded world history is a chronicle of supernatural governmental powers coexisting with a natural order. Naturalists and secularists are 4,500 years behind the times, sentimentally wallowing in a mode of life which passed out of God's reckoning at the Flood: so Christ tells us that the Son of Man will return to a version of humanity drunk with the misconception that they are products of a natural order "eating, drinking, and marrying until the Flood rook them all away.
After the Flood, Noah inherited and developed a world based on artistic, rhythmic designs, symbolically shaped "times and seasons.' No matter how corrupt tile religious civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt became, these cultures display the supernaturalistic and artistic norm governing everything that the eight survivors of the Flood thought and did. Noah's family did not nave to invent the cult of astrology, they inhabited an "astrological" universe if, by that, we mean a world in which the powers of heaven and earth are knit together by endless chains of symbolic correspondence.
One of the strangest, most revealing aspects of modern Christian thought is the notion that Biblical symbolism represents some sort of exception to a norm. What norm? Like causal mechanisms, symbolic correspondences are woven 0th the fabric of the universe from top to bottom. In passages such as the Bread of Heaven discourse Christ samples those dimensions of the symbolic universe which apply to His auditors at the moment. if allegorists such as Origen and Augustine have done a poor, ill-disciplined job of describing the symbolic world their errors should not be allowed to damage our faith in a symbolically reinforced universe. To believe that the universe is organized through symbols is to believe that it owes its origin to God rather man to some committee of plumbers, and to observe symbolic relationships, accurately, is to worship God. Idolatry offends God precisely because it displays contemptible weaknesses of symbolic reasoning.
Noah's postdiluvian command of "times and seasons" commenced with the tetrad of the natural seasons n Genesis 8; 22 and culminated in the thirty-year generations approximated throughout Shem's genealogy in 11 10-26. These passages sample a ritualistic approach to time essential to understanding postoiluvian man. Ritual means symbolic form in action Naturalists would have us helieve that such ritualisms are the 'primitive folkways of ancient peoples. "Instead, they represent the angelic image of God in man operating through Noah's fam1ly to answer Christ's prayer, "Thy k1ngdcm come on earth as it is in heaven." If primitives such as the Dogons or lroguoians have done a poor job of reproducing these ritual patterns, their weaknesses show us what we sinners tend to make of angelic lore. But the angels will not be denied, and tlhe symmetrics of heaven will shape our lives sooner or later. Whtat scientists call "superstition" is the fabric of heaven as viewed by sinners.
The Noahic thirty-year generation of Genesis 11 reflects the day-year equation which seems to operate implicitly in such apocalyptic contexts as Daniel 8:14.8 Such thirty-year periods echo the thirty-day lunar month and therefore. carry the symbolic stamp of the moon. TIre genealogy of Shem commences with his son Arphaxad, who was born two years after the Flood (Genesis 11 10). Euhemeristic study l as shown an equation netween this Arphaxad and the primary Mesopotamian ,unar goc, Sumerian Nanna and Akkadian Sin." A striking coincidence of Biblical and Gent Ic tradition is that Abram, whose birth terminates the Shem-Arphaxad genealogy, was born at Ur cult center of Nanna, and migrated to distant Reran, cult center of Sin. The hoar principle, therefore, blankets the Genesis 11 genealogy from beginning to end just as the standard generation takes its length from the symbolic value of the lunar month. Phases of the moon symbolize the rise and fall of numan generations.
The "lesser light" of the moon stands at the crjx of a symbolic logical sequence extending from ~uao down to the "redemption of the body," the apocalypse of resurrection man at the Christ an Raptire. Accord ng to Genesis 1 16, God established the moon to "govern the night." The Rapture context of I Thessalonians 4-5 states that the natural man, oblivious to the Rapture hope, is "drunKen in the night," posing a contrast to Christians who, in their love of Christ's appearing, have become devotees of naylight, the contrasting solar principle. The same Noah who inaugurates the "lunar" genealogy of Genes 5 11 feil into 5 n through a fit of drunkenness 19:20-22), as though nis unique genetic privileges made him a devotee of the night: the earthy matrix of sex, death, and alcoholic sleep
These relationships demonstrate that Noah, builder of the Gentile cosmos, 5 to Christ, builder of the Millennial Kingdom, what "lunar," genetic mankind S to the "solar" resurrect on man The Apostle Paul contrasts these two versions of mankind, with the appropriate lunar and solar symbols, in his great account of the resurrection body in I Corinthians 15:
There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, ann another glory of the stars, for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor (15: 41-43).
Despite becoming something more than flesh by surviving the Flood, Noah fell short of the organic resurrection state and depended on the "lunar cult" of human genetics, so Genesis 9 makes a point of explaining that he "sowed himselt in dishonor" by getting drunk, having reconciled hitnselt to the "lesser ligm" ot what some have called `genetic immurtality." As a result of his drunkenness, his son Ham observed his nakedness, the genetic principle, in a fit of spiritual lunacy, the pornographic oblivion of those who have never env sinned the "sun of righteousness," so far resurrection man
Such symbolism is no verbal decoration or humble "teaching device," It is realty itself. The apocalypse of the first resurrection man, Jesus Christ is most certainly a rising sun: "But for you who fear My name the sun of righteousness will rise with heal ng 0 its wings" (Malachi 4:3) Like the sun, Christ's resurrection body contains its own motive or energy source independent of food and of the sleep of death, As for "healing in ts wings," the resurrection body is absolute health and like "Sol lnvictus" cannot be conquered by anything, Christ notes the solar character of resurrection man in his millennial context in Matthew 13:43.
Inevitably, a solar cult took its place, along with the lunar, in the Mesopotamian system created by Noah's family, The Sumerians, in fact, identified the sun god Uto as son of the lunar Nanna,1 as though to underscore the Christian principle that the first titan "of the earth earthy" must precede the heavenly or solar man (I Corinthians 15.47). Noah's family understood enough of this logic to associate the lunar-solar d stinction wito the antediluvian-postdiluvian revolution woico they oao experienced. In focussing on this distinction, they inspired much of the classic antipathy between solar Egypt and lunar Syria, the opposed interests of the gods Horus and Seth.
The solar principle was and is synonymous with the Millennial Kingdom, tltat final earthly empire which cannot oe inherited by "flesh and blood" but must be conquered and governed by resurrection man, Every Gentile empire from the Akkadian to the present marks another failed attempt by "flesh and blood "to achieve the impossible. The millennial ideal justifies every attempt but defines every failure. The Akkadian emperors belonged to the house of Shem, inherited the Akkadian "capital zone" of the earth by right, sent up hymns to the sun at the solar cult center of Sippar, and extended the lengths of postdiluvian reigns from the lunar thirty months to periods of sixty years." If the greater truth were known, they established dynastic Egypt, populating that land with the proper solar stock, the Hamitic, and colonized the "uttermost parts of the earth." Still, they failed to achieve a true millennial synthesis; and their failure lies at the flawed historical foundation of every Gentile enterprise, testifying with the Mayans of the Popul Vuh that the "sun would not rise."
Christianity shows us how the sun is going to rise and how to put Noah's nocturnal drunkenness behind us. Once we internalize the message of Christ's resurrection and view it as a cosmic norm, we can forgive the Gentiles their weaknesses, put human genetics in a proper perspective, and strike the right balance between nature and the supernatural and between natural science and divine art. Science or natural philosophy rests on a foundation of causal mechanisms of which human genetics is the most personal and compelling. All the natural sciences are symbolic variations of selenology, the study of the moon, the "lesser light" of nature. By surviving the Flood, Noah became a genetic link in this natural "logic of the moon." But, by building the nations according to symbolic patterns, he began to create the greater science of "heliology", the civilized pattern of matching earth with heaven according to the prophetic triumphs of millennial resurrection man, co-inhabitant of both realms.
1 Augustine rejects the doctrine of a millennial kingdom owing to popular visions of "immoderate carnal banquets" in The City of God, XX, ch.7. Basic Writings of Saint Augustine, ed. Whitney J. Oates, Random House, New York, 1948,11, 518.
John Warwick Montgomery, The Shape of the Past (Minnespolis, Minnesota: Bethany Fellowship, Inc.,1975), p. 7.
2 Dryden, The Medal, 1 285, in Selectod Worts, ed. William Frost, 2nd ed., Rinehart Press, San Francisco,1971, p. 55.
3 Augustine opens ch.4 of The City of God, XVI, with the assumption that "a diversity of languages was introduced" in Genesis 11, meaning that universal linguistic unity had existed to that point. Op. cit., ll, 322.
4 Henry M. Morris theorizes, for example, that the antediluvian language spoken universally down to the time of Genesis 11:1 was the Semitic. The Genes/s Record, Creation-Life Publishers, San Diego, California,1976, pp. 266-67.
5 Francis Bacon set the tone for the scientific commitment to randomness in The Advancement of Learning, when he contrasted the human feeling for design with the way God scattered the stars at haphezard across the sky. Out of this attitude arose Thomas Hobbes'conviction that images formed by the human mind on the basis of sense data are mere "fancies" resulting from casual motion and lacking authority to reconstitute external objects in the mind. The third step in this philosophical process was furnished by Charles Darwin. The theory of evolution arose out of a structural flaw in the philosophy of science as a whole.
6 In his commentary on Genesis 11 :6, Morris acknowledges that world unity, based on language, was the central "problem." The Genesis Record, p 273.
7 The text of the Sumerian Kinglist of Isin reads, "After the Flood had swept over and kingship had descended from heaven, Kish became the seat of kingship." Samuel Noah Kramer, The Sumerians, University of Chicago Press, 1963, p. 328.
8 The classic commentary of Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown suggests that the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14 represent 2300 years. A Commentary, Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1961, IV, 429.
9 The present author has determined this Noabic equation by comparing parallel mythic genealogies such as the Ugaritic line of Dagan, Bal, and Yerikh; the Trojan line of Dardanus, Tros-llus, and Erichthonius; the Egyptian line of Amon and Knons; and the Hittite line of Taru and Telepinu. The Origm of the Nations, Master Books, San Diego, California, 1984, p.105.
10 Thorkild Jacobsen, Toward the lmage of Tammoz Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1970, p. 26.
11 In the Sumerian kinglist, the outrageous lengths of the early reigns cannot be taken iiterally; but the Akkadian reigns fall into convincing multiples of the Noahic thirty years. The keys to this revolution arethe duplicate 56-year reigns of Sargon and Naram Sin. Kramer, The Sumerians, p 330.