Q&A: Does Jesus Contradict our Noah-Narrative?

Q: If you have time, I'd love to hear your thoughts on something that's puzzled me for a long time. It's about Noah.

Genesis doesn't say anything about anyone seeing him build the ark. And, in fact, Jesus said that "no one knew." Which makes sense, if people were so evil that God had to destroy the entire world. In my mind, they would have done a lot worse than shout insults.

So... where do we get the idea that everyone was outside the ark, making fun of them? I know that Noah was called a "preacher of righteousness" but that was because he was a faithful witness for believers that would come after him. It doesn't mean he was a literal preacher to the evil people standing outside the ark.

My biggest struggle comes from Jesus' statement. Cuz, it seems He would know better than anyone what happened. Whether anyone knew about the ark or not.

A: Hey dude! Thanks for the cool question. I'm going to answer briefly and leave the door open to followup questions in the comments below. So here I go:
The Hebrew writers did not write like Greek writers. Those of us influenced by the Greek style are used to a narrative loaded with details (like 3 pages describing what the main character looks like, what she wears, her quirks etc.). But the Hebrew style typically includes details only when those details are absolutely necessary to the story which is why the Bible authors never gave huge descriptions. In the case of Noah, you are right that the story doesn't say people saw the ark being built. This is most likely due to the fact that the writer simply assumed it was common sense and thus an unnecessary detail. Either way, Jesus comment that "no one knew" doesn't automatically mean that people weren't aware of what was happening. Jesus goes on to say that when he returns it will catch people unawares. He likens their surprise to the surprise of the antediluvians. However, he also says he wont return until the gospel goes to the whole world. So the "no one knew" statement needs to be understood not as an absence of awareness, but as a rejection of that awareness.
In addition, the context of Jesus words has to do with timing. He is saying that no one knows the day of his return in the same way that no one knew the day the flood would come. Noah preached for 120 years an nothing had happened. People began to see him as the crazy dude. When the event actually happened it caught them by surprise because they refused to believe not because they weren't warned. The statement that Noah was a preacher of righteousness can be understood as you said, but that understanding is not in opposition to the traditional interpretation that he preached to the people in his day. In other words, both interpretations are valid at the same time. One does not deny the other.
As far as people making fun of him versus trying to sabotage his work (something we would expect from a totally depraved people) its an interesting suggestion but not conclusive. Remember, the text doesn't give us all the details. Maybe they did try to sabotage the work, set the ark on fire, or attack Noah and his family. The text doesn't say it happened but we are well within reason to consider that possibility. However, the protection of heavenly angels would have thwarted any devious attempts to destroy the ark or harm Noah and his family. Or perhaps they saw him as such a deluded fool that they chose to leave him alone and instead use him for their personal amusement. Who knows?
In the end it's hard to imagine that God would send a flood upon the world without one final appeal to humanity. It just doesn't fit his character as revealed in the rest of scripture. I deal with that in more detail in my response to Aronofsky's film "Noah" which you can read here:  
Hope that helps a bit dude!


  1. Jesus' idea that the people "did not know" until the flood came (Matt 24:39), implies, I would suggest, that the flood came upon them like "a thief in the night". The people were in the dark, and they were taken unprepared. (1Thes 5:2)

    But in Noah's day, and in our day, people remain "in the dark" because they refuse to believe and understand. "But you, brethren, are not in the darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." (1Thes 5:4)

  2. Didn't Jesus use both Noah and Lot as examples in Luke 17:26-29?

    We know for a fact that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah weren't warned about the coming destruction. Nor were the other five cities in the plain.

    And Jesus compared them both to the Second Coming. It'll hit us as suddenly as it hit them. Without warning.

    My question is: Why did the Original Poster ask the question? What's the relevance? Are they questioning the Hollywood version we're all taught? And, if there isn't any evidence that Noah preached... should we teach that he did? Especially if Jesus said, "No one knew."

    Thanks for an awesome blog, Marcos. I read you all the time. I just never felt the need to comment, until I saw this and wondered... Who do we believe? Hollywood or the Bible?

    1. Not sure what the motivation behind the question was either! But hey, I'm always happy to entertain an honest inquiry. I think the challenge here is obviously the Bible doesnt include every detail in a story so at times we have to understand these stories in light of the character of God. I am certain God warned the antediluvian world and even the people of Sodom and Gomorrah at some point because that's what he is like - he always reaches out and offers mercy. Any answer we seek based on textual evidence is going to be non-conclusive so in the end we have to base our perspective on God's eternal character.


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