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Noah: Has Anyone Changed Their Mind About the Movie?

Remember the movie “Noah?” When it came out 16 months ago, I wrote a blog post about the fact that even though it wasn’t the Biblical story, Christians should see it. After all, hundreds of thousands of others would see it, and why not invite a non-believer to the movie, and then take them out for coffee and share the real story? I’d been on the set and met the filmmakers, then wrote the post.  But more than 1,000 responses later (on the blog and my social media sites), I realized just how many people hated that idea. And I mean hated. The rage was so great it actually prompted me to write a follow up. I also did various other posts you can see here.  (Or search the blog for “Noah”.)

And like the film or not, it did motivate thousands of people back to the scripture, as I reported here.

I’m not campaigning either way.  My reason for writing this post was based on a conversation with Lisa Swain, film professor at Biola University. She promoted me to ask my readers, “Now, almost two years out, have you changed your opinion? Any evolution or transitions in your thinking about the movie from a longer range perspective? Do you still hate it? Like it? Why?

I’d love to find out. Let me know your thoughts below….

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  1. You know, I really don’t want to comment on this, but I feel I have an interesting two cents that could be helpful to the conversation. You’re clearly still a little bit pained and puzzled about your experience while promoting Noah. It’s a long post, but please hear me out.

    I’m a small time filmmaker working his way to bigger things. I chose to pursue film full-time because of a dream to make a certain biblical film one day. I’m still chasing that dream. It’s a decision that requires a lot of sacrifice. Much like you, I once thought that engaging Hollywood was the only way to go.

    If Hollywood wants to fund a biblical movie that is actually biblical, unlike Aronofsky’s ‘least biblical’ biblical movie ever, then that’s great. But even Mel Gibson pre-2006 (ie, A-list) had to finance Passion of the Christ himself. Contrary to popular belief, Hollywood isn’t just about money – or else they would have shared in that film’s substantial profits and encouraged similar films. Well, ok, since 2004 some studios have agreed to distribute some “faith-based” films that never reached Passion’s quality or controversy, largely preaching (and marketing) to the choir. Not knocking those films, but they’re hardly the culture-transforming event films that many christians hope will usher in kingdom come.

    No, Hollywood is as much concerned about ‘message’ as christians would like to think they themselves are. If one is awake to what’s going on – not only in our physical realm but also the spiritual – the message is clear as day. It truly is a war against powers and principalities. Engaging with Hollywood is tantamount to submitting yourself to control. Think about it- the ‘faith-based’ label means watered-down, non-challenging derivative fare. These films make no waves, are cheaply made (and look cheap), but garner an impressive ROI because the faithful feel a moral need to support these films. We’re effectively being controlled. We need to be unleashed.

    Back to Noah. The message of Aronofsky’s Noah is antithetical to Genesis’ message. I’m sure you’ve read many angry posts and emails about why that is so, so I won’t get into those details here. Let’s just say that today’s mega-blockbusters featuring hybrid humans (Cap. America, Hulk), transhumanism (Iron Man), genetic manipulation (Jurassic World) and alien gods (Thor, Loki) have much more in common with the actual Genesis message about the days of Noah than Aronosky’s Noah – except the roles are reversed. There’s definitely a message, alright. Go to Apple trailers and see how many movies deal with these issues. Budgets big and small – changing humanity is in them all. That’s a conversation we’re not a part of but should be, and worse – we’re not literate in. That needs to change.

    Aronofsky’s Noah is more aligned with Pope Francis’ Gaia encyclical than the Bible. The Bible is not a popular book today (even the Pope is abandoning it!) – so why expect an atheist filmmaker to do it justice? And don’t get me wrong, I highly respect Aronofsky as a filmmaker (though I think Noah was his weakest effort by far as a director. So I was doubly disappointed :p)

    I got a copy of the script before the film was released, and I still went to see the film. Hey, I’m not a
    book burner. I went to see it because the story of Noah is the reason why I got into film – it’s the film I want to make.

    But Hollywood -barring a miracle- won’t make my film. And neither will it make the films of other, truly talented christians who want to break the mold of choir-preaching soap opera fare. However, in today’s exciting era of fragmented distribution platforms, crowd-funding, etc. you don’t need Hollywood to get something done. Really – you don’t need Hollywood. We don’t need Hollywood.

    Alternatively, if you as a producer communicate with your audience from the development stage, they will throw money at you, especially if it’s something your audience is passionate about. We live in the era of the niche market now – and as christians we can leverage our niche like none other to produce the kind of content we and they want to see. I mean, we ARE that audience. Those with voices of legitimacy – such as you, Phil, can weed out the bad, cheesy scripts and lend credibility by supporting quality, well-written screenplays with engaging characters, though-provoking themes and entertaining set pieces. Money will be raised in no time – outside of and quite likely in opposition to Hollywood and their control.

    Noah pushed a population-control eco-god narrative, and you wanted to meet them halfway. Show them you’re a good guy. That us Christians are no cultural neanderthals. Truth is, they didn’t care about your viewpoint or what you represent, Phil. You were used to get butts in the seats, both to make a profit and to further confuse the average Christian’s poor understanding of Noah, not to mention the general public. It was tough to see, and it inflamed passions. I don’t think calling names is ever a good idea, but when your (repeat, YOUR) audience, like them or not, is calling you names, it’s a sign that maybe you should read between the lines (or insults) and self-discern.

    I’m not blaming you Phil, we’ve all done it, but I do suggest changing your strategy. As a filmmaker, I am changing mine. Romans 12:2. Thank you.

    1. Thanks for your (book-length) post… 🙂
      Actually, a couple of facts would probably help. You can’t compare “Passion of the Christ” with movies being made today. A decade ago, Hollywood had no idea of the power or size of the Christian audience. That’s why he had to make it with his own money. It was a business decision, not an agenda decision. (Plus, studios aren’t thrilled with producing movies in Aramaic.) And when it became successful, they had no other faith-driven films in the pipeline, so it’s taken years to get others to the screen.
      And the truth is, because of the profits from Noah, Paramount is funding Mark Burnett’s remake of the Christian classic Ben-Hur. That doesn’t sound too agenda driven. We can climb into a bubble because of conspiracy theories, or we can get into Hollywood and make change happen from inside. Sure it’s tough, but people are doing it every day.
      And for the millionth time, I’m not defending Noah as a Biblical movie. I’m just saying that as long as it’s out there, we could use it to share our faith with nonbelievers.

      1. Yeah, no kidding – no sleep for me tonight! I promise I won’t turn into a raving madman on your forum 🙂

        Thanks for the facts. True, it’s obvious Hollywood underestimated the size of the market. Which is why we are now presented with wishy-washy faith-driven films, year after year, that never enter into the cultural conversation. It’s a good, trouble-free money maker, and it keeps us satisfied.

        Why have we not seen similar films after Passion of the Christ? In Hollywood, they can develop and turn around films in record time, so ‘not having faith films in the pipeline’ is a thin excuse. Why then, did we have to wait ten whole years to be presented with Noah – finally a film with blockbuster scope, marketed to the same crowd, though it proved to be a bait and switch? There is definitely an apprehension when it comes to funding big faith films in the major studios. I don’t expect otherwise. The faith films we do get are relegated to the taken-for-granted pile as described in my previous post.

        Burnett’s The BIble series was admittedly a success. I began watching it recently but was turned off by the cheesiness in the opening. I should give it another try. Certainly, something positive was accomplished there, though it was just a straightforward retelling, which is very safe.

        But Ben Hur is not “Burnett’s remake”. He was ‘brought on’ as producer, so he probably does not have final say. The director, Bekmambetov, does not inspire confidence with his resume, but as always we’ll have to wait and taste the pudding once it’s out. I certainly don’t want to draw any conclusions before release, though it does SEEM that Burnett’s involvement is to provide legitimacy. Hollywood does it all the time when producing films that cater to a specific segment of the population. Not saying it’s wrong, just business as usual.

        In my post, I presented the idea to be in charge of our own productions – that’s not climbing into a bubble. If you really want to get Hollywood’s attention, provide some competition! The film industry has evolved to a point where that’s possible. Everything doesn’t HAVE to be approved by Hollywood. What’s wrong with that?

        My point in all this, respectfully, is that you’re trying to change Hollywood ‘from the inside’, and that’s just not going to happen. It’s a pipe dream. Not while they are holding the reins. I mean, you obviously recognize that it needs changing – so give me one reason why they should listen to you. I mean that very sincerely.

        I’m saying let them be. Do your own thing, and where there’s agreement, co-operate. But never relinquish control or serve them.

        And by the way, thanks for leveling the conspiracy theory charge. According to the Bible, there is a massive cosmic conspiracy afoot, run by the god of this world 🙂

        OK. No more book posts from me! Thanks for the discussion.

        1. It’s true that Mark Burnett was brought on to Ben-Hur after MGM had been developing the film for over a year. In fact, he was brought onto the project after MGM got Paramount involved — and I suspect Paramount got Burnett involved because they wanted to avoid the sort of backlash that they had had with Noah. (See also how the Lifetime channel got Burnett & Downey to produce a special on The Women of the Bible as a lead-in to Lifetime’s adaptation of The Red Tent, a film that takes significant liberties with Genesis; everyone wants the Burnett & Downey stamp of approval, but that doesn’t mean Burnett & Downey have a lot of input into the actual films they are being hired to promote.)

          But I don’t think this invalidates Phil’s point, which is that the box-office success of The Passion of the Christ — and the more muted box-office success of Noah — has made studios more willing to tell these kinds of stories. When it was first announced that MGM was developing a new version of Ben-Hur, back in January 2013, it was said that the new film would place greater emphasis on the Jesus storyline than the 1959 film did. So there was an openness to the religious or biblical aspects of the story even before Paramount and Mark Burnett got involved. And that’s a good thing, I think.

          I just hope that the trend doesn’t end with that film. Noah did fairly well at the box office, but could have done better. And Exodus: Gods and Kings was an even bigger disappointment (financially and otherwise). Plus, A.D. The Bible Continues plummeted in the ratings and never did as well as The Bible did two years ago. There are three movies about Jesus coming out early next year, but two of them — Risen and Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt — are pretty low-budget. Ben-Hur is the only major Bible movie in the pipeline right now, but with the exception of Morgan Freeman in a supporting role, it doesn’t have a lot of star power, and it’s coming out in February, which is kind of a sleepy time at the box office. If it doesn’t do well, then that could spell the end of the genre… for now.

          1. Thanks, I agree with all points here. Look, I don’t hate Hollywood, or anyone for that matter. I just think it’s a fool’s errand to try to change Hollywood, whether internally or externally. And to suggest that they don’t at all curate ‘messages’ and are only driven by dollars is a tone-deaf assumption, and one that sets you up to be taken advantage of.

            There are enough resources outside of Hollywood to compete with Hollywood. There is so much opportunity to be had, but we seem locked into thinking we can only eat the scraps off of Hwood’s table. That’s all I’m really saying. Anyway, good discussion.

          2. Thanks Phil, I’m not much of a forum dweller – this subject just drew me out of my shell. I probably won’t be back much, but thanks.

            I’ll leave this cool little tidbit about the days of Noah. If you look at the meaning of the names from Adam to Seth to Noah – ten generations- you get this:

            Adam: Man
            Seth: Appointed
            Enosh: Mortal
            Kenan: Sorrow
            Mahalalel: The Blessed God
            Jared: shall descend
            Enoch: Teaching
            Methuselah: His death shall bring
            Lamech: The despairing
            Noah: Rest

            “Man is appointed mortal sorrow, the blessed God shall descend teaching, His death shall bring the despairing rest.” What’s also amazing is that these names have individual meanings as well.

            So, the gospel of Jesus hidden in the ante-diluvian genealogy of man. Diametrically opposed to the ‘let Noah decide the fate of mankind’ message we see in Aronofsky’s flick.

  2. I loved the discussion around it…loved that youversion reported a massive increase in people reading the real story, loved that a genuine discussion was being had.

    Earlier in the week, I was thinking of the scene in the movie when Noah witnesses the horrific hedonism of the world…the scene where they devour an animal whole, in the middle of a party. It made me think that spiritually our world is not much different today. God promised to never flood the earth like that again, but sometimes I wonder if He will eventually tire of our crazy ways.

  3. I enjoyed Noah immensely, including it’s barmy rough edges. I simply cannot understand why certain Christians got all hot-under-the-dog-collar about this. Even if I found the film offensive (which I didn’t) I would rather be offended than bored. Besides, as Phil rightly points out, the film drove people back to the source text – surely a good thing.

    Exodus Gods and Kings I was a lot less happy with, not because of departures from the Bible, but because denying God a clear, unambigous role in that story robs it of satisfactory catharsis.

    Ultimately, I just want a film to tell a good story. For me, Noah did (despite Biblical departures). Exodus Gods and Kings did not – and that is saying something considering what the fantastic, nigh-on idiot proof story it is based on.

    That is my two-pennies worth.

    I await the inevitable arrival of the Theology Police or Christian Blog Inquisition to subject me to rants about how dangerous and offensive Noah was, or to point out “in love” how backslidden I am, how I can’t be really saved, how by supporting the film I am effectively contributing to the death of Christianity and ushering in the reign of the Antichrist, etc, etc…

  4. Kevin and I just watched it for the first time on Netflix last month, and laughed our heads off on every level. I had a lot of theology in college, so I was surprised to learned the fallen angels actually helped build the ark, lol. We still laugh about this. As an author who’s written for TV, been behind the camera and helped edit videos for our Roku station, It was so laughably bad I’d be embarrassed to have my name on it. I say that with a clear conscience because it would have been different if he’d tried to stick to the original “script” (the Genesis account). But when you’re so presumptuous as to change God’s story, you take yourself out of the “be nice, they’re Christians doing their best” protective bubble. There’s a reason why Luther said presumption was the number 1 sin, so that’s why I feel comfortable saying it’s laughably bad. Even Kevin and I, with the 100 or so videos we made for our kid’s station, as amateur video editors (but he a professional author/illustrator), we still stand behind our videos, knowing that the production was the best we could do on our own, but that on any level, Kevin, as an award-winning author/illustrator, his art and stories hold up to this day. So, if I were Aronofsky, I’d disappear that from my resume tout d’suite.

    And from a conspiracy standpoint, yes, the devil is the prince of this world, so no wonder that movies like that (which subtly showed Ham as a misunderstood character, he wasn’t REALLY bad, lol), and others like Maleficent, The Messengers, and the upcoming Lucifer are are geared modern day “sympathy for the devil” types. Like in “The Messengers,” when the guy who played Jesus, now playing Lucifer much more convincingly, said, “My Father abandoned me,” or something to that effect, I also laughed my head off–but this biblically illiterate generation probably WOULD be fooled into thinking that God is Lucifer’s father, lol! There is DEFINITELY one thing we can do, that Satan, in all his power, can NEVER do: call Jesus “Brother,” and God, “Abba, Daddy.”

  5. I went into this movie wanting to like it more than less. I came out of it liking it less than more.
    My take away feeling left me uninspired, hopeless, and the feeling that God is distant and cold in nature…. the desaturated colors could have contributed to that feeling, however. I appreciated the production values and the depiction of how great Godlessness was on the earth at that time. The movie created opportunities for discussion and sent the curious searching the Bible to read the real story. How bad can that be?!

  6. Hated it then with a passion, still hate it now with a passion. Would never tell anyone to see it – picture’s worth a thousand words, very hard to overcome the deeply, blatantly, anti-God, anti-Biblical images. Would lead people away, not toward, even with follow-up (except of course God can use anything, which is your point, but not only is that a marginal point at best – surely there are better ways to reach others – it includes rewarding Hollywood for deeply offensive behavior/mindset; better to not buy a ticket so that they aren’t tempted to do it again).

  7. I’m pretty sure you read my “Things I Learned From Noah” post on Facebook. I still don’t understand why/how the CME (Christian Media Elite) embraced this film. If the movie had had nothing to do with Noah, I might have called it an interesting examination of faith. But — like a Harry Potter fan expecting that the movie version at least follow the basic points of Rowling’s work — it’s fair to expect the same from this movie, which is based on a book I’m even a bit more rabid about. If those who had first seen the movie had said, “This really has very little to do with the Bible, but it’s still kind of interesting,” then there would not have been such an uproar.

    I’ll stick with the first words out of my mouth after I saw it: “That was absurd.”

  8. What the movie technically is on it’s own isn’t too big of a deal…a bible story reimagined by a non-Christian.

    It’s not standalone, however. There’s a very intentional and strategic move to diminish the reality and validity of the-Bible-as-the-Word-of-God for the current and next generation. It’s happening on many fronts, and pseudo-Bible-stories are just one part.

    I did my part to not fund it, with no hard feelings, simply because, whether Darren Aronofsky is aware of it or not, he’s a part of a bigger spiritual agenda.

  9. Hi Phil,
    since we have a few people in common, I think I have a good idea of where you’re coming from (but that’s speculation on my part). Having heard Arronofsky speak his mind in person before, I wasn’t surprised about what ended up on screen. That didn’t shock me; but what did, is when Paramount paid the currently only Christian band which sells out stadiums everywhere to advertise the film very vocally before each show (showing the “exclusive” trailer), repeating a pre-packaged party line, without having seen the actual film (and I know some in the band, as do you). No discernment, just blindly going for it. My personal assumption is the financials involved were too good to pass on, but I’m glad to be proven wrong on that. But the story doesn’t end there. As you know, that same church is now an official client of WME, the argument being that they want to get into tv and film production. Why would you want to be repped as a church by an agency that is owned by investors and getting ready for a public offering? That is the exact same reason why studios don’t invest in art anymore, because the shareholders dictate what gets made. It’s not about making great films, it’s about making great profits. I’d love to hear an argument that will convince me otherwise, cause believe me, I really do want to be wrong about this, else none of this makes sense at all, from a spiritual perspective. I’m not against WME or any agency, they’re doing what they’re good at, but you can’t serve two masters, and it’s clear where corporate entities stand. And there’s others, as well, this is just the most prominent case.
    Sorry for the rant, I never thought I would actually discuss this in public, I may regret this later. But just to be clear, Burnett didn’t get hired by MGM for Ben Hur, he sold a majority stake of his production company to MGM/UA Holding Group for lots of M$ in 2014, and as part of that deal he was made CEO of MGM, hence his first producer credit for them on Ben Hur. Why they have to remake another timeless classic is beyond me, but again, the b.o. receipts will probably justify it.

    Phil, you’re a good man, and I always welcome anyone who challenges my beliefs and thoughts, because it makes me really evaluate why I believe, and how I live out my faith. I just disagree on certain aspects of entertainment and marketing strategies in the “Christian” realm. And I love Hollywood, have met many of the most interesting people, working in the industry in LA and NY for the last 12 years.

    1. Totally understand where you’re coming from Fredrick and respect your position. I would diverge on the WME issue. Everyday thousands of churches hire attorneys to represent them, pastors hire book agents to represent them to publishers, outside CPA’s to represent them to auditors, and consultants of all kinds (some like me.) So working with a major talent agency to help filter potential projects that might be right for the Hillsong brand is a smart move in my book. WME has access to writers, filmmakers, and producers who are doing brilliant projects, and should the right fit happen, I don’t have an issue with it.
      Having said that, I have to mention that I’m an Executive Producer on Hillsong United’s new movie “Let Hope Rise” so I have a vested interest in the issue. Although WME isn’t involved in that project (at least not that I know of.)

      1. Thank you, Phil, for your response. I do see (and share some of) your point of view on the rep situation, I just think there’s more to it, but I’m not here to call anyone out, it’s none of my business at the end of day. And yes, I’m aware of your involvement with LHR, and I wish you great success, the guys in United are good people. And I hope you can feel that I’m not here to argue, just a flow of consciousness responding to your question that drew me in initially. Perhaps we get to share our differences over a drink sometime, I have a feeling our worlds are too close for that not to happen someday. Keep challenging me!

    2. This is an interesting and informative post. 99.9% of people I have personally worked with so far were not Christians, were serious about making it in the industry and they were great people to work with. I enjoy fairly good relationships with people who respect my craft but think I’m out to lunch on my beliefs, and that’s OK. I never pressured them. Now some of them probably wouldn’t join me on an overtly biblical film, but it might be surprising to see how many people just want to be part of something good. I’m ready to find out.

      Avoiding people because they are in Hwood is not a great idea. I think it would be wrong to adopt a Christian-only mentality and expect to compete. But it’s the power structure that is at issue IMO, the money people. It’s a very unequal yoke to be allied with them, and I can only imagine the considerable pressure they would place on a director or writer, etc.

      I do think, and your post seems to speak to this, that we need to be very jealous about protecting our content and stay in control. If Hwood movers and shakers want to be in on that, that would be marvelous, but I’m not holding my breath. I totally agree – you can’t serve two masters. Anyone is free to take part, but on your terms. Let’s start making great films.

      1. Hi Peter,
        thanks for asking, as I’ve told Phil, I don’t know every intimate detail, and you might be right, perhaps they did hire him first, but with all respect, I don’t want to further engage in this. But I’m glad you pointed out your blog to me (and you’re Canadian, A+), where you seem to be checking on my buddy Stuart’s The Shack. Also keep an eye out for Christ The Lord (Ann Rice adaptation), coming out next year, my friend Mark is a producer on that. Keep Vancouver happening!

  10. Based on pre-release reviews, I didn’t want to see or support it. A few weeks ago, I tried to watch it, a couple of times, actually, on Netflix. The parts I could stand were worse than I could have imagined.

    So, yes, I’ve changed my mind. I thought it was gonna be bad. I now think it was worse than bad.

    If it had been named something totally unrelated, like “Bjorn’s Epic” or something, I might have seen some similarities to some elements, but probably wouldn’t have connected it as related to the Biblical story of Noah.

  11. I went to see the movie and didn’t like it, I just thought it wasn’t a great movie. The ‘why’ is harder to answer. Coming out of the theatre you usually get a ‘so glad I saw that’ moment, or talk about what you liked about the movie.

    I was fortunate to see a pre-screening of it and I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for it. I don’t ‘hate’ it. I think that is too strong a word for 2 hours of entertainment. At the end of the day that is what a movie should be doing in some way moving us from one place to another captivating our imagination and pulling us into the story.

    Don’t get me started on Noah. That was really bad. But Joel Edgerton as the pharaoh was the only redemptive part of the movie. Conflicted, confused, power-hungry. Quite a real character.

    Whoops, there I did get started 🙂

  12. I wouldn’t say my opinion of the film has changed substantially over the past 16 months, but my appreciation of the film has certainly deepened.

    Before the film came out, I was telling people to recognize that Genesis was a Jewish scripture before it became a Christian scripture, and that Aronofsky’s film was almost certainly going to tap into Jewish legends and traditions that we might not be familiar with. (Aronofsky had certainly shown an interest in Jewish themes going back to his first feature film, Pi.) And now, over a year after the film’s release, I find I have learned a lot about the Jewish tradition that I never would have known if I had not seen Noah and become curious about its sources.

    Because make no mistake: This film is not based only on Genesis, any more than Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was based only on the gospels. Evangelicals, by and large, didn’t have a problem with Mel Gibson “changing the story” and adding all sorts of weird mystical elements to his film, like the cross levitating off the ground, which came from specifically Catholic sources. Likewise, I don’t see why evangelicals should have been so quick to dismiss some of the weird mystical elements in Aronofsky’s film, which came from specifically Jewish sources.

    Take the snakeskin, for example. In the Christian tradition within which I was raised, everyone assumed that God had killed some animals to make the “garments of skin” for Adam and Eve — and this, in turn, was seen as a sign of how death came to the world because of their sin. But in the Jewish tradition, the starting assumption is that no animals had died yet, so God must have given Adam and Eve a snakeskin — because snakes can shed their skin without dying! Some Jewish thinkers have taken this idea even further and pondered the paradox that the animal which caused Adam and Eve’s downfall should also inadvertently play a part in restoring their dignity. And the film took this idea even further by having the snake shed this skin at the very moment that the snake turned to evil. The skin represents the original innocence that was lost when Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden.

    Also: there are Jewish traditions about the snakeskin being passed down the family tree to Noah, and Ham stealing the snakeskin from him and giving it to his grandson Nimrod. Aronofsky’s film taps into these traditions and flips them around a bit by having Tubal-Cain — a clear Nimrod figure — steal the snakeskin from Noah’s father and then pass it on to Ham when he dies.

    Similarly, why is Noah so harsh, and why does he come so close to killing his grandchildren? Well, again, the Jewish tradition apparently does not esteem Noah as highly as it esteems later figures such as Abraham and Moses. God told Noah he was going to wipe out the entire human race, and Noah, as far as the story is concerned, accepted this without any protest. But God told Abraham he was going to wipe out two entire cities, and Abraham pled for mercy. And God told Moses he was going to wipe out the entire Israelite nation, and Moses persuaded God to change his mind. Noah’s righteousness was not as developed, as it were, as the righteousness of these later figures. But while this is a common way of viewing Noah in the Jewish tradition, it may be unfamiliar to Christians who assume that the Old Testament heroes were all kind of equally good.

    Anyway. It seems to me that a lot of the problems that Christian audience members had with the film were largely due to their own ignorance of the Jewish traditions around this story. And I, for one, was glad that Aronofsky made this film, precisely because it gave me an opportunity to learn more about those traditions.

    1. Thanks Peter for a very insightful post. Whether one likes the movie or not, your comments are worth reading by everyone who has seen the film.
      Thanks for taking the time to post!

    2. I don’t think the mystical elements were at issue for most Christians per se, at least not for me and those around me. There’s plenty of mysticism in our Bible. Adapting a sparsely written Biblical account for a 2+ hour movie is going to necessitate adding material that is not present in the original text. That’s where you do extensive research to stay true to the ‘spirit’ of the account.

      The story of Noah and the Flood is a HUGE opportunity to clarify the gospel to a generation that looks upon the virgin birth, the need for a blood sacrifice and even the idea of sin as myth – because there’s no context. I’ll explain why in a bit.

      Noah was indeed a rough character. That’s not a problem. I don’t think anybody wanted a sunday school Noah. His alcoholism is classic survivor guilt material. Ham is a fascinating and supremely important character. But what did the Bible mean with Noah being ‘perfect in his generations’?

      The days of Noah time period is marked by a very defining event – the presence of Watchers on earth. These were angels, or direct creations of God (Hebrew calls them ‘sons of god’) who illegally descended to the earth to have intercourse with human women (Hebrew ‘daughters of men’ – not direct creations of God but descendants). This happened during the days of Jared, his name meaning ‘Descent’.

      Why? Because God announced to the serpent in Genesis 3 that there will be a war of seeds – between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman: Christ. He announced His strategy of a Redeemer that would come through the human bloodline (not through the sinful blood of a human father, but His own); his humanity would come from a woman – Mary, explaining the virgin birth.

      Satan’s counter strategy was to prevent this from taking place by corrupting the bloodline of Man with the incursion of the fallen angels. The offspring of this illicit union between woman and angel were GIANTS – Nephilim. They wreaked utter destruction upon the earth. Remember, these are sympathetic good guys in Aronofsky’s film (which he also erroneously conflates with the Watchers). Totally unfounded.

      Noah, being perfect in his generations (GENES) was chosen by God to survive the Flood. The Flood was sent to wipe out a GENE POOL problem – illicit hybrid humans, preserving true human DNA to eventually give us Christ our Redeemer. So yes, God committed genocide – against an illegal race that was designed to rob us of our savior.

      God had a plan to rescue us all along. He didn’t leave it up to Noah whether or not to rescue us. He didn’t care more about the animals as Aronofsky suggests. It totally misrepresents God and THAT is what most of us take issue with. Not the fact that mystical elements were added.

      By the way – what I just described is infinitely more engaging than the morose navel-gazing of Aronofsky’s film. Not only is it more gripping, it speaks to who we are as humans and serves as a warning to all the genetic manipulation in our day. Satan’s plan has not changed post-Cross. Christ died for humans, not cyborgs.

      And the action would make Aronofsky’s flick look like a kindergarten picnic.

      1. I am familiar with that interpretation of the Watchers and their role in the Noah story. But there are a few big reasons why that was not the story the film told:

        — First, Aronofsky is not Christian but Jewish, and this was a Jewish story before it was a Christian story. Is there a Jewish tradition regarding the need to keep the messianic bloodline pure? Not that I’ve heard. Of course, the Torah has quite a few prohibitions against mixing different kinds of plants and fabrics and food items and so on, so you would expect the Torah to take the position that mixing different kinds of gene pools is wrong, too. And indeed, I would argue that the original reason why God sent the Flood, in the book of Genesis (or, rather, in the traditions that were woven together in the book of Genesis), was precisely to bring an end to this mix of human and heavenly DNA. You can find similar traditions in ancient Greece: Ronald Hendel has written some interesting essays about the similarities between Greek and Hebrew myth in this regard, and how both of them imagined the existence of heroic, gigantic demigods who were wiped out by a Flood. But does Judaism believe it was necessary to wipe out all these demigods to fulfill a messianic promise? Not that I’ve heard.

        — Second, do you really think a story that promotes genocide — a story that says God had to wipe out an entire race of people because their parents had married across racial/species lines — would fly with a modern audience? (The Old Testament is somewhat conflicted on the question of half-breed children in general. Just compare how Deuteronomy, followed by Ezra and Nehemiah, expels the descendants of Moabite and Ammonite women from the assembly of Israel down to the tenth generation — but Isaiah 56, i.e. the passage Jesus quotes when he cleanses the temple, welcomes all foreigners into the assembly of God, and the book of Ruth tells us that the temple itself was built by kings who were only a few generations descended from a Moabite woman themselves.)

        — Third, Aronofsky was, in fact, profoundly engaged with the question of what it meant for Noah to be “righteous in his generation” — both what it meant in the sense of balancing justice and mercy, and what it meant in the sense that his righteousness was different from the righteousness of later figures like Abraham and Moses (both of whom showed more mercy for God’s intended victims than Noah did). This is a concept of “righteousness” that modern audiences can grapple with. A concept of “righteousness” that is rooted in the need for pure bloodlines just sounds kind of… fascist… and wouldn’t sell at all.

        — Fourth, is it really so wrong to look at Noah — or any other portion of the primeval history (Genesis 1-11) — as a myth or set of myths? The Hebrew phrase “bene ha’elohim”, which many Bibles translate as “sons of God”, can also be translated “sons of the gods”, or “company of the gods” (just as “bene hannebi’im” technically means “sons of the prophets” but is usually translated “company of the prophets”), and that phrase is, in fact, translated that way in at least one Bible that I’ve read. Again, see above re: the parallels between the heroic, gigantic demigods in Greek and Hebrew myth. Admittedly, one of the movie’s trailers did refer to the Flood as “the most remarkable event in our history,” which feels like a hard sell to the more fundamentalist viewers out there (though any serious Christian would have to say, “Uh, no, the Resurrection was the most remarkable event in our history”), but that’s just marketing. The film itself clearly takes the mythic aspects of the story and runs with them — by making the Nephilim resemble the golems of Jewish legend, for example — and I, at least, have no problem with that.

        I agree that the film could have been more attentive to the role humans play as part of God’s creation alongside the animals etc.; instead, the film suggests that humans were a dubious addition to creation after it was already essentially complete. But honestly, I don’t have a problem with how the film focuses on the animals either, because as a matter of fact humans were supposed to be vegetarian prior to the Flood (even if God did look favourably on Abel’s sacrifice of animals, which the film never mentions), and since the film happened to come out during Lent — a time when Eastern Orthodox Christians and perhaps others abstain from meat altogether — it made sense to me that we should be reminded that we can’t take meat-eating for granted.

        Interestingly, the film smoothes over many of the Bible’s rougher edges and gives us a more palatable story than a more “pure” adaptation of the text would have given us. It leaves out the sex between angels and humans. It leaves out the theme of divinely-ordered genocide. It leaves out Ham’s rape of his father and/or mother. And it ends on a hopeful note of forgiveness and reconciliation, instead of ending on a scene in which a drunk or hungover Noah curses his grandson (which is the only time Noah speaks in the Bible, by the way).

        Audiences may say that they wanted this film to be a more “accurate” version of the Bible story, but would they have really liked it?

        1. First of all, I just want to say that this is a very good conversation, and I thank you for that 🙂 I have a rule to avoid getting into deep discussions online, but I’m passionate about this particular topic… as I’m sure you can tell!

          I’m well aware Aronofsky is Jewish, but he’s not a practicing one as he is an atheist. Not a great argument, really, but worth noting, I guess. I think he is a fine filmmaker, though Noah was also his first big misfire from a filmmaking point of view IMO. But that is subjective. I really enjoyed Pi! I’m actually a fan.

          True, we learn about Noah from the Hebrew Scriptures, but Noah isn’t a Jewish character. He was an uncircumcised Gentile, as there were no such people as Hebrews at that time. Aronofsky has no more claim on him as do you, I or anyone.

          However, the whole mixing of genes conspiracy is discussed in great detail in the book of Enoch (which Aronofsky says he referenced, though I can’t see much evidence of that in the film) and the book of Jubilees and to a lesser extent the book of Jasher, if I recall correctly. These are all firmly in the Jewish tradition. There is also more reference to this phenomenon in the Hebrew Old Testament than the Christian New Testament, which as far as I know contains only a small passage in Jude, which also quotes the book of Enoch. (Jude 1:6 and Jude 1:14).

          Regardless, this all proves that the angelic hybrid plot is very much a Jewish concept, one that Aronofsky must have come across in his research and then chose to not only ignore, but completely contradict. His research is drawn much more faithfully from the Jewish Kabbalah, which is more aligned with the occult than with the Bible.

          Anyway, I don’t recall the books of Enoch, Jasher and Jubilees explicitly pointing this transgression out as a plan to disrupt the Messiah’s incarnation, but given Genesis 3:14 and, of course, our hindsight of Christ’s sacrifice, it really only makes sense that this was Satan’s goal. Aronofsky didn’t have to reference the Messiah, but he could have included the corruption of human DNA… which is a very hot topic in our own time. But he didn’t, rather choosing to shoehorn in a greenpeace message (and this doesn’t mean I’m against environmental stewardship).

          To prove the Jewishness of this view, here are some OT references to the Nephilim. Genesis 6:4 says that there were also Nephilim AFTER the Flood. These are the hybrids that made the Israelites look like grasshoppers in Numbers 13:33. The Hebrew word for giants in that verse is nĕphiyl. Strong’s renders it Nephilim.

          Og, the king of Bashan, is a giant mentioned in Deuteronomy 3:11, of the Rephaim tribe (a name alluding to something like ‘the living dead’). You have the Gibborim, Zamzummim, Anakim, etc. Different Nephilim tribes.

          Goliath, David’s adversary – a giant. To further denote the genetic abberation, the giant described in 2 Sam. 21:20 has six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. This in itself doesn’t prove that this giant wasn’t human, but given the context so far it does point to a genetic element.

          What is really interesting is that between Abraham and Joshua, the giants began to concentrate in the land of Canaan – the land God promised to Abraham’s descendants. We see a narrowing down of the Messiah’s lineage, so Satan zeroes in on them and leaves the Gentiles alone. That really gives weight to all this being an attempt to prevent Messiah’s incarnation.

          BTW, this is why God gave Joshua the shockingly harsh command to kill every man, woman and child in Canaan: because they were hybrids. And of course this is one of the favorite arguments for proving God as being a capricious psychopath (which is really how he is portrayed in Aronofsky’s film). Bill Maher’s quip about God being a psychopath is ENTIRELY ACCURATE unless you factor in Satan’s hybrid plot, which puts everything into perspective.

          Yes, it is genocide. Is it fascist? I assume by that you mean to evoke Hitler, but you have to remember that these hybrids were not human; they were in fact genetic weapons designed to ERADICATE HUMANITY. They are in and of themselves components of a ‘fascist’ eugenics plot, and Satan was the first aggressor. God wiping them out with a flood does not equate to Hitler’s efforts, which he directed against other humans – interestingly enough, the Jewish people.

          Noah’s righteousness is an interesting topic. The epistle to the Hebrews, possibly written by Paul, says that Noah’s faith in believing God that a never-before-seen deluge of water would sweep over the earth, rendered him an heir of righteousness. Sure, it’s in the Christian New Testament, but it is addressed to the Jewish people by, most likely, a Jew using Jewish understanding and concepts. It’s a fascinating study of righteousness. Now, I’m not saying Aronofsky should have included this; it’s quite unfair to expect this from an atheist (but so is a film about Noah!). However, the valuing of Moses’ righteousness over Noah’s is not really a Biblical concept. The Jewish prophet Isaiah says that ‘our righteousnesses are as filthy rags’ – this means everyone.

          I agree, and find it quite obvious, that the myths of Greece are moored in the events of Genesis. This is a whole other topic that I’ve been researching and will obviously take too much to get into here, but every ancient culture has myths about giants, interbreeding between gods and humans, etc. etc. I don’t believe these cultures made up these expansive mythologies out of thin air. It was a traumatic event that was passed on in legend the world over – since the entire post-diluvian population would then have descended from the same eight survivors.

          The vegan thing in the film I had no real problem with, though it felt really forced and overemphasized. Interesting observation that Nimrod could have been the first to eat meat, the ‘mighty hunter’. Nimrod is another story with a genetic component I could write ten book-posts about, which I’m sure Phil would love to read 🙂

          So, would audiences enjoy this much harsher but more redemptive film? There’s only one way to find out 🙂 I am writing two feature screenplays on this topic, the second being what we just discussed… the first a modern day sci-fi. If I do happen to succeed in getting them made, we’ll know!

          1. Actually, this has been a great conversation, and I appreciate you both bringing real information and civility to the discussion. You’re welcome to continue anytime!

          2. Hi Jon,

            I wrote a long-ish reply to your comment a few days ago but it seems to have vanished. I’ll try to make the same points more briefly here:

            — I’m agnostic on the question of Aronofsky’s “atheism”. When I interviewed him in 1998, during the release of Pi (you can read the interview on my blog), he alluded to small “miracles” that he had seen some Jewish mystics perform, and his later films certainly show signs of an openness to awe and wonder. He might not subscribe to any particular organized religion, but I wouldn’t put him in the same category as, say, Ridley Scott.

            — Even if Aronofsky is an atheist, the fact remains that he grew up in a Jewish family and a Jewish subculture, surrounded by Jewish traditions, and I am not at all surprised that his film is deeply informed by this particularly Jewish way of looking at the story of Noah. Again, see my blog for a post I wrote on ‘The Jewish roots of — and responses to — Noah‘.

            — Aronofsky would agree with you, that the story of Noah belongs to the whole world! He said as much, frequently, while promoting the film. Nevertheless, his film reflects a Jewish take on the story, just as, say, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ reflects a specifically Catholic take on the story of Jesus, rather than a generically Christian take.

            — I’m familiar with all the names for the giants, etc. I wrote an essay on the subject at university over 20 years ago, which you can easily find by Googling “giants in the bible” with my name. (In there, I talk about Ronald Hendel’s theories regarding the similarities between Hebrew and Greek mythology re: gigantic semi-divine heroes who were wiped out in a flood to restore the distinction between heavenly and earthly creatures.)

            — I also wrote a blog post last year that directly addresses the question of how to understand the “righteousness” of Noah alluded to in Hebrews and in II Peter (where Noah is linked with Lot, who for all his “righteousness” still engaged in drunken incest — and this, after telling a mob that it could gang-rape his daughters). Incidentally, in Hebrews 11 it says that Noah “condemned the world” by his faith; that doesn’t sound all that different from the Noah that we saw in Aronofsky’s film, does it?

            — The film came out during Lent, when Eastern Orthodox Christians (and perhaps others) are supposed to abstain from meat entirely, so I actually appreciated the film’s reminder that we can’t take meat-eating for granted! And yes, the Bible makes it clear that there was no meat-eating before the Flood (though there was, apparently, animal sacrifice, which the film doesn’t depict), and in Jewish tradition it is sometimes said that Nimrod was the first person to eat meat. (And the film’s Tubal-Cain was very clearly patterned after the traditions about Nimrod, as a way of foreshadowing the evil that would continue after the Flood.)

            Thanks for the chat!

          3. Hey, no problem, glad to read your comments. And thanks for putting up with mine!

            The issue regarding Aronofsky’s beliefs in context of the film doesn’t really matter to me a whole lot, to be honest. People are complex in their beliefs. An atheist adapting a fantasy (from their perspective) could have made a better movie, and a Christian could have made a worse one. I just figured he is an atheist based on some comments he made on Twitter. It’s actually unfair to label him (or anyone); it might be more accurate to say he is favorable towards atheism. Anyway, as I said before, it’s not a sound argument for disliking the movie.

            I went over multiple examples in my last post demonstrating that the angel incursion / Nephilim offspring view of Genesis 6 is fundamentally Jewish. Aronofsky seems to have drawn more from the medieval Zohar (alluded to in the film as the radiant element humans are mining) than the more ancient apocryphal books of Enoch, Jasher, etc. and also the Old Testament. I make the argument that the angel incursion view I described previously is more authentically Jewish than what ended up in the film. I agree Aronofsky’s film is *a* Jewish perspective, just not the only one and arguably not the definitive one. But it is his film, and he can make it however he wants.

            In the Bible, righteousness is always attained through faith and not works. It is the overarching message, as I’m sure you obviously know. So I’m not saying Noah was a peachy character. The only sinless character in the Bible is Jesus Christ. Most everyone else, including Paul, had to live with ugly stains on their personal histories and character flaws. The Bible doesn’t whitewash its characters in the slightest. But Noah’s faith in following God’s apparently insane plan did put to shame the world, thereby condemning it. And this faith – believing God – was attributed to him as righteousness, despite whatever moral flaws in his character.

            So I have no issue with Noah’s character in Aronofsky’s film, though his misanthropy felt a little overplayed IMO. I do take issue with how God is portrayed: capricious and indifferent- which is opposite to what we find in Scripture (despite many objections to the contrary). I don’t think it’s what he intended, but that’s just how it is. And of course, his portrayal of the Watchers/Nephilim is flawed in that he conflates the two, and just plain inaccurate in their supposed sympathy for man – given this is a story taken from the Bible and that the Bible condemns these creatures elsewhere as unredeemable. Why on earth would he show them in a positive light? Just weird.

            Nobody can fault Aronofsky for making the film. I just had a hard time understanding the support from christian leaders, given what I just wrote. Because of this, many felt duped, leading to inflamed passions and some ugly back and forth. I feel the film should have just been treated as any other film coming down the pike.

            I’m still a bit conflicted about the ‘engagement’ approach, though Phil’s comments have made me take another look at Hollywood’s relationship with the faith market. So there, consider me having changed opinion somewhat… just not about the film!

          4. Hi Jon,

            Re: tzohar, that word is used in Genesis 6:16 when God gives Noah his instructions for building the Ark, and it has been variously translated as “roof”, “window” or “light”. Some Jewish interpreters over the years have supposed (in the Talmud and elsewhere) that the tzohar was actually a luminescent stone that Noah used to light the Ark while the storm clouds covered the Earth and blocked the sun. So Aronofsky took this idea and ran with it when he was creating his fantasy-like version of the world before the Flood.

            (As Aronofsky and his co-writer pointed out to me when I interviewed them, the Flood didn’t simply get the world wet, it actually undid Creation — so who’s to say that the physical laws which govern our world would have been the same back then? After all, there were no rainbows before the Flood.)

            I don’t deny that Aronofsky is familiar with the medieval Zohar — he himself has said as much — but the tzohar in the film is actually rooted in the biblical story of Noah itself.

            As for God appearing “capricious”… well, I think a better word would be “ambivalent”. Why wipe out all of humanity, only to let this one family survive and start the process all over again? After all, as Aronofsky himself has pointed out, when you turn the page after reading the Flood story, you get Nimrod and the Tower of Babel (which inspired the film’s depiction of Tubal-Cain). The Flood didn’t put a stop to that wickedness at all, so what was the point of sending it in the first place? One of the things I really like about Aronofsky’s film is the way it wrestles with this question.

            (And then you have the stories — in Exodus 32:9-14 and Numbers 14:11-25 — in which God loses his temper and declares that he will wipe out all the Israelites, until Moses talks him out of it because it would be bad for his reputation. It’s not hard to see how some people would find the depiction of God in those stories somewhat “capricious”.)

            I agree that the film’s portrayal of the Watchers — including its conflation of the Watchers with the Nephilim — is technically inaccurate. But just think how much weirder the film would have been if it had depicted the angels marrying human women and having monstrous offspring! I’m not sure the critics who complained about the film’s lack of “biblical accuracy” would have been prepared for that. 😉

            As it is, I think I can appreciate why Aronofsky allowed for the possibility that the Watchers might repent of their ways: to foreshadow the merciful note on which the film ends.

            Incidentally, the film is of two minds when it comes to the Watchers and their motivation for coming down to Earth. Og says he came to help “Adam”, yet the opening title cards tell us that the Watchers sheltered “Cain”, and the flashback in which the Watchers fall to Earth clearly shows that there are already human settlements that are considerably bigger than just Adam and Eve and a couple kids. See my post on “The chronological Noah: an illustrated integration of the three origin stories in Darren Aronofsky’s film” at the FilmChat blog for more details about this.

            Cheers!

          5. Tzohar can mean and/or is translated light, radiance, noonday. etc, but it mainly centers around the idea of light. In that verse, Noah needed to make a light for the ark, and probably the most simple deduction is just to build a window into the ark to let in the noonday sun, given how the word is used elsewhere.

            Aronofsky, though, seems to have drawn quite a lot from the Zohar, the medieval kabbalistic text. From what I remember, the text is named after the radiance/light of mystical wisdom/splendor. I can go through many examples where the film and Kabbalistic thought line up, but don’t want to write another mile-long post 😀 A quick internet search should provide those. Given the nature of the kabbalah and its clear influence on the film’s narrative, christian leaders should have given second thought to supporting it. That’s really my point.

            Yes God does appear to be capricious in those verses in Exodus and Numbers. But looking at them closely, had Moses not convinced him to relent from destroying ‘these stiff-necked people’, his plan to redeem humanity through his Son was not in danger as Moses would’ve become the progenitor of his ‘great people’. Also, they later repeatedly bring upon themselves occupation, war, famine, exile and abandonment, because of the same thing- disobedience. So it’s not really at odds with his character. In the Noah film, the portrayed ambivalence towards humanity’s survival is antithetical to the Biblical God.

            Why would he destroy everything save one family, only to have Nimrod show up a few chapters later? I think the whole genetic problem with the Nephilim answers that nicely. The onslaught of genetic corruption reached such a high level that human existence was in danger. The same thing happened after the Flood (and even today in a different way), but not to such an extreme degree as to warrant mass genocide.

            I’m sure many faithful christians would be disturbed by a film portraying these events, but would be hard-pressed to deny it using Scripture – and it would lead directly to Jesus as redeemer.

  13. I have watched the movie, a few times, and found most have made much ado about nothing. Unfortunately, I am not entertained by most movies made by “Christians”, but find myself watching them, so I am supporting our folks. Noah was all over the place, but it made me revisit a story I very rarely preach on. The movie opened up conversations with non-believers, which is always a good thing. No one has sparked conversations based on “The Identical”, and only Christians will discuss films like “God’s Not Dead” (almost liked that movie….) Give me movies like Remember the TItans, that possess story and a strong message of hope. I always hear folks say, “What if Spielberg did a bible epic?” Give me a story of Abraham, from the guy who did Shindler’s List, and it would have to be good, right? No, the Christian community would rip it apart before it was released. I actually started liking Noah, about the third time I watched it.

  14. I still dislike it. I couldn’t even finish watching the movie. They took soooo many liberties with the actual story it was ridiculous. That may be a given in an adaptation but the one thing that I couldn’t tolerate was the depiction of God in the movie. You could tell and atheist or someone who doesn’t know God themselves made the movie. God was depicted as vague, mostly silent, hard, impersonable or too mysterious to comprehend.That is not the God I know. I couldn’t watch nor do I want to finish it.

  15. It showed up on Netflix. I still refused to watch it. Why should I encourage the production of sacrilege?

  16. Phil, my perspective on this may not be the popular one, but I think I have something to offer the conversation. My perspective is a missional one.

    I’ve watched the recent Bible epic offerings of the last two years: The Bible, Exodus, Noah, etc. I know the arguments, and they are good ones, about how we should use these as tools to spark conversations about the real story of the Bible and who Jesus is. But I don’t believe that the majority of people who have watched these movies are really asking questions or having conversations about the real story. Sure, there’s some out there. But it’s not a movement.

    Here’s the thing. What prevents us from sparking these conversations about ANY movie or TV show? There are a multitude of issues presented in almost any TV show or movie from which Christians can springboard into spiritual conversations to share the Gospel. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a ministry that provided simple 3-5 spiritual talking points for the major TV shows and movies?

    As a broadcast missionary in Mongolia for ten years, we struggled for a long time with how to present the Bible movies that were available for translation because they often had lengthy scenes that had nothing to do with scripture. How is the audience, that is biblically illiterate, going to tell the difference between what is true or made up in the movie? As a missionary working through media that concerned me greatly. Often confusion is the result, not clarity. And if your Bible presentation isn’t clear, then how can you expect your audience to understand the Bible’s story and the significance of its characters and ultimate objective of faith in Jesus?

    Why not trust the Bible’s text and represent it clearly? Because, in my opinion, the desire to add to, take away from, and alter the Bible’s story represents a low view of scripture. It demonstrates that we care more about culture and perceptions than we do about the timeless and life-changing truth of scripture. Hundreds of millions of people from virtually all countries and cultures have had their lives changed through scripture unchanged and unedited. What makes the 21st century so different? Nothing. It is an illusion that we need to update scripture in media. More than ever we need to remain faithful to it. That is when we will see lives changed.

    When I was manager of Eagle Television in Mongolia I needed to fill a 15-minute slot in our TV programming. We didn’t have the resources or time for a standard production so I decided instead to create a simple program that was nothing more than a Mongolian host reading the scripture with some countryside scenery in the background. No sermons. No exposition. No explanation. Just read, pause, and reflect. What happened blew my mind.

    That little program captured up to 28% of the TV audience for its time slot. Measured against original and translated programs on 15 other stations it consistently rated number one or number two in it’s time slot with overwhelming audience.

    For three years.

    The program was so successful that early in its run we expanded it to two 30-minute presentations a day. And the audience numbers held steady.

    I think it’s wonderful that there are producers who want to represent the scripture through dramatic movies and series. As Christians in the arts God has called many of us to share the news about Jesus and even disciple people through creative presentations of scripture and its principles. I’ve spent my career in radio and TV doing this and it is a true privilege. But I think the first thing a producer of such media needs to cling to is the absolute sufficiency and preeminence of scripture. Trust the scripture. Even when it makes you cringe. The Holy Spirit wrote it and it is his primary tool when leading others to faith in Jesus. Adding to and taking away from scripture frustrates the Spirit’s work and dishonors him as its author. Think of how many times a book is turned into a movie and people complain bitterly when the movie parts with its original storyline. Why do we praise movies about the Bible that do the exact same thing? Trust the Holy Spirit. Trust the scripture. Then, like a little 15-minute Bible reading program, see what God will do.

    Tom Terry

    1. You make good points Tom and I completely agree we could (and should) use many types of programs to share our faith. I think the stumbling block with many of these Bible movies is the EXPECTATION that they will be the Biblical telling of the story. But Arronofsky never set out to tell the Biblical account and in Peter Chattaway’s comments below you’ll see a more complete explanation. Not sure if that makes a difference, but it’s worth noting.

  17. I had an uncle named Noah and he wasn’t very close to the biblical Noah either, but I still enjoyed spending time with him. Noah (the movie) is very entertaining and it does clearly present the concept of God’s judgment — a solidly biblical concept that even many churches ignore. Here’s a blog I wrote about the movie:

    Noah — Rock Stars, Wickedness, Flooding, Abortion, The “Curse Of Ham,” & Monotheism — @ https://stevesimms.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/noah-rock-stars-wickedness-flooding-abortion-the-curse-of-ham-monotheism/

  18. I hadn’t read your blog on the subject when I suggested the same thing to my congregation. The response was great. In fact we have at least one couple attending our church now because someone invited them to the movie and then discussed over coffee what was accurate and what was inaccurate. But since when have we depended on Hollywood to preach the Gospel? They never have and they never will.

    On another note, I thought that the movie Noah somehow was able to capture the essence, the hopelessness and the horror of our sin-nature. Unfortunately, the director and the producers were unable to find or proclaim the real message of redemption. But again, that’s our job.

    Thanks Phil for your insights!

    1. Great thoughts Alan. Sharing the gospel is OUR job. Using a movie like this (or any other) is a great vehicle to spark the conversation. And I’m thrilled people are actually members of your church as a result. Thanks for sharing that story!

  19. Regardless of any theological perspective or possible spiritual use, the movie was awful. I had trouble staying awake and considered just turning it off a couple of times. Nearly unwatchable.

    Aside from that, I don’t buy into the whole “We can use this movie to start conversations” routine, because truthfully, you can use almost ANY movie to do that. Almost all movies have themes of love, redemption, heroism, cowardice, bitterness, hatred, sin, selflessness, selfishness, consequences, hedonism, and many other topics that we can use to start conversations.

    I’m not offended by the film, because I don’t expect Hollywood to take a purely scriptural or historical view of things (Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter anyone?). It’s not like this was a sermon in a local church, and at least the story was treated with some level of respect. But I don’t see a lot of value to singling out this film specifically for “use” when much of what it shows is not valid from a scriptural standpoint, some of it borders on the insulting (or actually is insulting judging from some of the responses the film got), and it’s just not a very good film.

  20. Thanks Phil, forgive me if I was perhaps too forward with some things. I know you can handle it and I hope you don’t see my comments as trolling. I am just trying to foster a questioning of what I perceive to be entrenched thinking in the way things must be done. The industry has changed a lot the last few years and continues to change dramatically. There’s opportunity more than ever before.

    I’m very much aware that it would be an absolutely stupendous challenge to finance a $150M dollar epic outside of Hollywood, or rather outside of Hollywood control. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to build towards that.

    I know it takes a long time for an epic to hit the screen, but we know there’s more than one studio in Hollywood. We get inundated with big budget films year after year.

    True, Narnia was pretty good, but I think more in response to LOTR than Passion. And whatever happened to that franchise?

    Anyway, I’m a friend, not an enemy. Thanks for the work you do – it should also be said. Peace.

    1. 3 years to release AFTER they’d spent nearly 16 years working on the project. One of the biggest challenges in Hollywood is the development stage, where projects take years to move to the front of the line. And I still would say that Hollywood WAS clamoring to produce faith-based product after The Passion, because I was one who was asked to pitch projects. I know many who pitched – many were simply terrible ideas – but the studios were flooded with Christian producers during that time. After a few dogs, they did pull back, thinking maybe this market wasn’t so lucrative after all. I actually had one of the top commercial production companies in LA come to my office and asked me to explain what a “faith-based” film is. They left me a script to read, and asked me to let them know if it was faith-based. Needless to say – like most pitched during that time – it wasn’t… 🙂
      And BTW- you’re not the enemy at all. We love good discussions here, so please feel free to come back more often! Thanks so much for your comments…

      1. My pleasure. I’ve been posting WAY more than I’m normally comfortable with! But so far it’s been rewarding.

        Thanks for your insights, it sheds a lot of light on the subject. Sadly, I admit the failure of christians to capitalize on studio interest doesn’t surprise me, and it may prove to be a lost opportunity. I admit it also explains why the studios probably feel more comfortable using proven filmmakers like Aronofsky and Scott to try to reach a market they’re frankly just not qualified to engage. Given the response to these films, they may see the faith market as unreasonably fickle. But supporting these films to appease the studios is not a viable long term strategy IMO.

        So maybe you are right, perhaps it is still possible for Hollywood money to find its way into big projects that will be widely supported by the faith market while simultaneously appealing to the secular audience. But studios are notoriously risk averse though, and the idea of a twitter backlash probably gives them cold sweats and nightmares.

        An interesting recent trend has been the acquisition by the studios of many sci-fi shorts and proof of concept reels that went viral online. This, to me, is a huge opportunity to prove interest in an idea as well as filmmaking skill. The question is, what kind of strings will be attached with a studio offer? Worth a try, I suppose. If their control threatens the integrity of the project, one can still try to raise money outside of the studio system and attempt to secure pre-distribution deals. I don’t know… but we have to do better than being satisfied with the likes of Aronofsky and Scott messing up our stories. We really should be challenged to step forward and up our game.

  21. I was probably one of the last Christians on Earth to see the movie. After all the fuss, my EXPECTATIONS were already low. As a result, and aside from how it dragged on, I still found it to be a gut-wrenching drama — strictly as piece of fiction, loosely based on what Aronofsky must consider mere legend anyhow. The big boat was nothing more than a MacGuffin backdrop for a relationship drama.

    Here’s how I describe Noah: a high-concept historical fiction using a famous boat/disaster story to attract a wide audience to a simple drama about complex characters and their relationship struggles. Sound familiar? Only this boat didn’t sink, and the good guy didn’t drown.

    Again, yes: it’s all in the expectations. Even with my expectations low, I still hoped they might get more plot points correct, and was disappointed as I also was in Exodus: Gods and Kings.

    Had Noah been about some *other* boat, I would have actually enjoyed it strictly for the drama — especially the high stakes in Act III — although for a catastrophe account, it was rather slow-paced.

  22. My wife and I saw it and enjoyed it, but one reason we could is because we let go of the fundamentalist mindset that a film based on a story in the Bible has to be a literalistic interpretation of Genesis. Like the Charlton Heston Moses movie back in the day that digressed into some soap opera subplots not in the Bible, I don’t freak out if a film isn’t supported in every scene by “chapter and verse.” I also consider the background of the filmmaker and give some grace for the fact he’s not coming from the same theological or cultural background that we come from. I’m not saying it’s my favorite film by any means, not even close to my favorite biblical film, but I give creative artists leeway to express themselves based on a biblical story without attacking them like many of my more alarmist and reactionary church friends.

      1. Thanks ,Phil, for saying that, that’s kind of you, and for bringing up the issue, but most of all for your e-newsletter which is by far the best one I receive. I find myself reading multiple articles you write each time 🙂 Amicably, Richard

  23. From the get-go, I knew Noah took liberty to the original story (as many films do with other stories). But I did glean some nuggets from it that I hadn’t thought before.

    One example: The film showed Noah’s father Lamech being murdered. In Scripture, Lamech lived 777 years, whereas others over 900. Maybe he was killed before his time?

    1. In Genesis, Lamech dies five years before the Flood, at a time when Shem and possibly Noah’s other sons are in their 90s. So the Lamech of the Bible lived long enough to see his grandchildren — but the Lamech of the film dies long before Noah starts his family.

      If you run the numbers, Genesis 5 also seems to indicate that Methuselah died in the same year as the Flood itself — so it’s not impossible that he died in the Flood, as the movie depicts. (Though there are some Jewish traditions to the effect that Methuselah died a few days before the Flood.)

      1. I didn’t know Lamech’s death was so close to the flood. Still wonder if he was murdered. It was a violent time as shown in the movie. Kind of like now.

  24. Hi Peter, I didn’t get notified of your reply. This has really been a good convo, but I think we could probably continue on in circles for eternity 🙂 So as much as I would like to counter some of your points here, I’m going to sign off on this thread and get on with my writing! It has been a pleasure to discuss the film with you in a civil, constructive manner even though we don’t have the same opinion about it. Until we meet again!

  25. I really don’t understand why people hated your idea to invite a non-believer to the movie, and then take them out for coffee and share the real story. That would be no different than inviting any friend to any movie. Very few films of any genre strictly adhere to the narrative of the original book whether the author be C.S.Lewis, Stephen King, Ken Follett or the authors of the Bible. The Christian audience should not hold filmmakers’ feet to the proverbial fire by asking that their films adhere strictly to scripture.

  26. I don’t believe it’s a good idea to give your hard earned money to anyone that is promoting false doctrine. Furthermore, it doesn’t make sense to invite someone to a movie that you yourself wouldn’t otherwise see.

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