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March 31, 2014


Ellen Lerner

I watched this movie and in some ways it brought the biblical story of Noah to life.. A Rabbi once pointed out ( and I cannot remember the situation now) that the bible is like a chapter in a book. There are stories and rules and histories in between the chapters and these stories are open to be interpreted and missing parts filled in; this is what the midrash does. Biblical scholars do not study for years and generations to look at a book like the bible and take it so literally in a black and white matter. Rather, Interpretation makes the bible more meaningful. The book also points out the historical facts confirmed by some archeology that makes it an historical group of books as well. There is nothing right or wrong about it. I remember reading a midrash about passover; It was incredible and I remember how it brought the plagues to life - very detailed description of frogs everywhere.. in ovens, in beds, on person's bodies, in food, in houses, etc. I liked this movie a lot for the same reasons. I also just finished a book called "Who Wrote the bible?" Although I knew there were at least two or more writers involved, the history of how these writers (at least 4 is said) from different places had the same stories to tell even though they were not necessarily known or aware of each other without tape recorders or telephones. The stories are more than just stories. There is an interpretive meaning behind them, an analysis worthy of discussions, and as someone in the comment mentions, not everyone from other religions and other points of view may not have learned what midrash is and its value. Thus the movie doesn't have to be "perfect" or black or white either. I think the author here based his comments on lots of research and viewers don't have to agree with it. It held my attention which to me is the sign of a good film.


Dear Laura,

While I wanted to offer Dr Mattson's point of view, I certainly would not take it as confirmation of much more than misplaced fears, given that it suffers from a number of serious deficiencies, overlooks some important facts, and makes so basic errors. Specifically, consider these:

I like that he noticed a few more potential Jewish sources that came into the co-writers research (for the kind of gnosticism he mentions likely is rooted in Judaism, and the Kabbala is Jewish mysticism, though much later).

But he completely undervalued the intertestamental literature and seriously missed the powerfully anti-gnostic messages of the movie (our stewardship of God's good earth and God's recreation of ruined creation).

So while he might have brought some neat observations to the table, I also think he missed the point badly at times. Namely, that while I may disagree with gnosticism or kabbalism, their inclusion in their story-telling should hardly be problematic unless we think Aronovsky was somehow beholden to his Evangelical standard.

Certainly he's just wrong in saying the whole movie is either a retelling of the Kabbalah or a "gnostic subversion" (these aren't even the same thing) or that it doesn't reference the Bible at all (!?) ... so while he's seen something, he's grossly overstated his point with no reference at all to the intertestamental literature (quoted in the Bible).

It would have been a much better article had he demonstrated some of his own research from primary sources so we could fact-check. He also goes big on the wisdom of the serpent as 'sympathy for the devil,' (and he's not 100% wrong here), but the appearance of the serpent is clearly connected with the fall, with sin and replicated in the temptation of Ham by Tubal-Cain in order to answer the question of how evil itself survives the flood. Tubal-Cain offers the meat as the serpent offered the wrong fruit. In the end, I think the author tries to prove too much and sabotages his own argument.

I would recommend that you also check Archbishop Lazar Puhalo's review, whose theology is much more deeply in Orthodox thought than Dr. Mattson, and notices again, some key themes which Evangelicals seem unable to see in the midst of the knee-jerk reactions. I will post that for you as a new article today.

Laura Tyree

Thanks for posting Dr. Brian Mattson's article in the comments. His review is complete confirmation of what we felt the Lord showed us about this film. Praying the church will gain a basic enough understanding of false teachings that we will be able to recognize them when they're presented to us wrapped in a snakeskin with a Biblical bow. Blessings!


While I've emphasized the intertestamental sources connected to the film, it's also fair to recognize the gnostic and kabbalistic sources -- Brian Mattson has some good work on this here:

Catherine Collie

I am going to see the movie tonight with some friends. Glad I read the article. Thank you for the insights.

Peter T Chattaway

The film does actually have the wives for Ham and Japheth -- but they are "in utero" when they first get on the Ark. The filmmakers addressed this when I interviewed them (see the URL below), and Noah's wife makes the point explicit when she tries to prevent Noah from killing his grandchildren by telling him that God, by giving Ila twins, has given them "what we need."


Good comments and questions Matt.

I think some of your initial reaction may come from pre-conditioning about what makes a Bible movie 'faithful' (namely, biblical accuracy) ... but also, maybe you just didn't like parts of the movie (same here).

However, the key to understanding both Jewish apocalyptic and also the practice of midrash is that the story re-tellers look for gaps and questions and then try to fill them in.

So in the movie for example, it does a pretty good job of creating a backstory for why Ham eventually goes wrong and also for the drunkenness of Noah. Another question it tries to answer is how the world gets a fresh start and yet evil re-emerges. These are the kinds of things that both Enoch the book and Noah the movie and Peter the apostle mess around with creatively.

Personally, I think some of the directions the writers experimented with weren't the best decisions, but hey, I'm just the viewer. Those aren't theological issues so much as storyline preferences. Some parts of the movie that I found awkward may be just as awkward in the biblical version (i.e. repopulation and incest, for example).

I also found Noah's belief that God wanted to die very profound, because he's not the first to sink into that kind of fatalism ... but his wife brought the point around in a profound way -- namely, that God's will is not merely about obeying his directions (obligation to choose right or wrong) but about stewarding the crazy responsibility with which he's left us (i.e. freedom to choose life or death).

Matthew Unrau

Awesome! Watched the movie and immediately reacted negatively to it without knowing all of this before hand.

My question however is what do you think of the fact there were no wives for Noah's two youngest sons? The evil kings getting on board (eating a butt load of snakes during the 9 months) and attempting to corrupt the world once again. And the fact that Noah believed God wanted mankind to die.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

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