Friends from all over responded. Elizabeth Bowman from Indiana said more than two fleas came off the Ark and she wondered about rabbits. I had not thought of that. From Tennessee, Richard Bean sent a cute quip about a Sunday school teacher who asked her class whether they thought Noah did a lot of fishing while on the Ark. Johnny opined that Noah would not have done much fishing because he would have had only two worms.
The subject of worms and fishing reminds me of the question that occurred to me when I was a boy: Did God have a preference for seafood? It seemed so since the Great Flood that drove Noah and his passengers onto the Ark would have made the aquatic creatures deliriously happy. As the rain fell and the waters rose, the fishes and the lobsters would have been yelling, "It's party time!"
As I read the story, it never seemed quite fair of God to drown so many animals and people but spare the catfish. I myself like catfish, but fair is fair. I spent five years in theological seminary, but we never got around to answering such mysteries as this.
Also from Tennessee, Les Shular sent me a news report with pictures of a replica of the Ark built to the biblical specifications. That would be 150 cubits long, 30 cubits tall and 20 cubits wide. That's two-thirds the length of a football field and tall as a three-story basketball arena. (I'm trying to put this in familiar terms for you Southern-fried sports fans like me.) Now that's a big boat.
The replica is being built by a Dutch contractor, Johan Huibers. He is a creationist Christian who says he is doing this as a testament to his faith in the literal truth of the Bible. He is trying to get his Ark displayed on the River Thames for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Naturally, this project is stirring up some controversy among believers and nonbelievers alike. Some folk who are not biblical literalists are offering arguments against the possibility that two of every type of animal could fit on even a boat as big as this. Some literalists argue that maybe they were baby animals. Some are debating whether snakes and scorpions and bugs would also be on there. Then, nonbelievers are scratching their heads at the entire hubbub.
I'm not a biblical literalist. I think the litmus test for being a biblical literalist would be to practice the words of Mark 16:17-18, Luke 10:19 and take up snake handling, drinking poison and walking on scorpions. I'm respectful of anyone's sincere religious beliefs. But I also hold to that old adage: "Don't be so open-minded that your brain falls out."
However, I believe the Bible needs to be taken seriously. That doesn't mean being somber and humorless. Rather, let us approach the Bible with joy and a touch of speculative whimsy as well as reverence and awe. It is, by its very nature a book of love and hope.
Back to the story of Noah and his big boat. A lot of Southern-fried fishermen measure their worth by the size of their boats. I say it really doesn't matter how big your boat is, except that it must at least match the turbulence of the storm and of the sea. It doesn't even matter how great the storm and how large the sea. The turbulence is your great threat and you've got to find a way to keep afloat. The message of the Bible is that when the tempest is raging, the Lord will stand by you.