As mentioned in an earlier blog post, I recently saw the movie Noah starring Russell Crowe in the lead role. Production quality, acting, FX, and so forth were all well done. However, the real issue is the controversy this film has caused. While the reviews have been mixed, generally Christians have been disappointed in the film. It is not true to the Biblical account. The question is asked, “Why can’t Hollywood make a film true to the Christian faith?” In this case, the answer is fairly easy to explain as Dr. Brian Mattson does in his blog post “Sympathy for the Devil.” The film’s director, Darren Aronofsky, did not base his story on the Biblical account.
Many Christians are surprised to learn that flood accounts in the ancient world are plentiful. The account of Noah is not the only one. But it is later works from Gnosticism (2nd-3rd century AD) that give a different spin on the flood epic. One of the teachings of Gnosticism is that “the Creator” is a lesser god who actually created the material world, inferior to the spiritual world. He is not the One True God as Christians perceive him from the Scriptures. He is somewhat of a troublemaker. Throughout the film, God is not mentioned, only the Creator.
Aronofsky has, it turns out, been very faithful to his source material. It is just that, as Mattson tells us, “The Bible is not his text.” Instead, Aronofsky has told his story based on Gnostic thinking. I encourage you to read Mattson’s post. He points out common themes from several of Aronofsky’s films that carry over into this one. He explains clearly why this is not the Biblical story of Noah.
Towards the end of his post, Mattson chastises Christian leaders for not recognizing this film for what it was so that they might warn their congregations. In my thinking, he is being a little harsh here. Let me explain. When a person goes to college to learn about a subject, let’s say chemistry, part of the reason he is there is because he not only doesn’t know about chemistry, he doesn’t even know what areas of the field of chemistry are important to learn about. That is why he goes to college, to learn from those who should know. If he graduates without knowing everything he should know, the fault does not lie strictly (or even primarily) with him. His mentors should have educated him about such things. That is why he is there—because he doesn’t know stuff about chemistry.
The same applies to theology. A person goes to seminary because, not only do they not know stuff about theology, they don’t even know what areas of theology they should know about. They have to trust their mentors. When I was in seminary, no one taught us anything about Gnosticism. If we heard about it at all it was only in relation to the proto-Gnosticism of Colossians or 1 John. Gnosticism did not fully develop until after the NT era. We were not even told it was important to know about this. We were at seminary because we didn’t know stuff and thought the experts we were trusting ourselves to would teach us what we needed to know.
It is only in recent years that I have become aware of Gnosticism and some of its particular teachings. I still would not call myself educated about it. In light of this, perhaps Christian leaders deserve a little slack as they come up to speed about aberrant teachings from the early era of Christianity. But they do need to come up to speed because history is apparently repeating itself.
In any event, if you have seen Noah, you may have suspected some things were not right with the story. If you decide to go see it, remember that Aronofsky is not using the Bible as his source. This explains why the film does not portray the Noah you learned about in Sunday school.