The One True Christian™ Big Boat

From that last post, I wanted to single out one of the criticisms Answers in Genesis has of other people’s renderings of the book of Genesis.

10. Ark looks like a bathtub with happy animals sticking out of it

That’s an odd complaint. So children’s books are all bad because they have cartoonish simplifications of the old myth? This collection of medieval and more recent art showing the Ark is all wrong?


Here’s the entirety of the description of the Ark from Genesis 6:

Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.

A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.

That’s it. A wooden something, sealed with pitch, of certain dimensions, with one window and one door in the side. Not very specific, with a lot of latitude in how it could be rendered. But Answers in Genesis is adamant about how good Christians will illustrate it. It seems like a peculiarly narrow requirement…but then, of course, the Bible is full of peculiar restrictions.

I was curious about this attitude, though, so I looked at the archive of AiG cartoons by Dan Lietha. This was painful. A collection of unfunny, judgmental, repetitive cartoons? The things I do for you.

And it’s true. They’ve long been damning “inaccurate” drawings of the Ark, going back at least 15 years.


Strange, but it’s obvious why. AiG is building an Ark. They clearly want to set it up as canonical, and also have a tool for wagging their fingers and thundering at organizations that do not illustrate Noah’s Ark looking exactly like the one they’re cobbling together in Kentucky.

How cunning: they are going to shame every other church in the country to advertise the Ark Park, on pain of damnation.


  1. komarov says

    So judging by the cartoons the main complaint is that the ‘wrong’ drawings do not include the label “not to scale” or “Ark may appear smaller than it is in reality.” How terrible. Also I very much doubt David will still be laughing when that itty bitty spear is sticking out his back.

    On the other hand, yes, let’s demand accurate depictions of biblical events in kids books. Accuracy does religion no favours at all and neither will kids’ books filled with blood, gore and – in this case – floating corpses of every size and shape. “Look kids, there’s a herd of unicorns, and a few are still struggling to stay above water. Awww, how cute.”

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I think he is not complaining about misrepresenting the shape of the ark, but depicting happy animals sticking out of it
    Rounded corners are “okay”, as opposed to modern attempts to depict it as a huge box shape [photo of their reconstruction, included]; yet the flaw he is pointing out is cartoonish illustrations with
    happy animal faces.

  3. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    reposting to correct my html flub:

    I think he is not complaining about misrepresenting the shape of the ark, but depicting happy animals sticking out of it
    Rounded corners are “okay”, as opposed to modern attempts to depict it as a huge box shape [photo of their reconstruction, included]; yet the flaw he is pointing out is cartoonish illustrations with happy animal faces.

  4. Al Dente says

    slithey tove @5 & 6

    So I was wrong, they’re not saying their ark is more arkish, they’re saying their animals are more animalish.

  5. Knabb says

    If they’re going to whine about accuracy of illustrations, maybe they shouldn’t set comparisons up where the details that are supposed to be correct are completely wrong. David’s grip on the sling is pretty much completely wrong, and unlike ridiculously oversized floating zoos, slings are a thing that actually existed and saw really heavy use in a large variety of places.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Will the AIG Ark in Kentucky be coated inside and out with pitch if/when they complete construction?

  7. treefrogdundee says

    I think I died a little inside reading those cartoons. Thanks for taking one for the team, PZ.

  8. Rey Fox says

    This is a somewhat novel amusement: Seeing creationists act like insufferable comic book fanboys.

  9. mywall says

    and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above

    I know the Bible can be archaic in places but I genuinely cant tell if this is English or just a random collection of words.

  10. Pierce R. Butler says

    Gen 7:1. The Hebrew tebá means a ‘box.’ It has long been translated as ‘ark,’ which is the Old English word for ‘box.’ Because ‘ark’ is so old an English word, which people no longer use in daily speech and writing and because the story is so famous, people frequently think that the word really means ‘boat.’ It is not a boat in the flood story. (In the P version, its measurements are rectangular, and it has no rudder, sail, oars, or steering. Here in the J version, its measurements are not given at all.) The same applies to the box (Hebrew tebá) in which the baby Moses is placed in Exod 2:3. Still I must admit that it is notable that the two objects called tebá in the Hebrew Bible both float on water. … A different Hebrew word, ’aron, on the other hand, is used for the box that contains the tablets of the Ten Commandments. ‘Ark’ is still an appropriate translation for this container (1) because people know what it is and would not confuse it with a boat; and (2) because that word is still used for the box that contains the scrolls of the Torah in synagogues to this day and is therefore not archaic English in the way it is in the case of Noah’s ‘ark.’”

    – Richard Elliott Friedman, The Hidden Book in the Bible: The Discovery of the First Prose Masterpiece

    [Hebrew words include overlines & accents not available in my font set – prb]

  11. alkisvonidas says

    And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.

    Sheesh! Ask any software developer, and they will tell you this God person *sucked* at specifications…

    …I mean, I’m actually surprised the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch was so accurately timed.

  12. rinn says

    Are they actually building the Ark in Kentucky? Last time I heard they seemed terribly strapped for cash and they were “postponing” the construction until they could secure funding. Did they get the money?

  13. alkisvonidas says

    @Pierce R. Butler

    The Hebrew tebá means a ‘box.’

    In the septuagint, the word used for the Ark is Κιβωτός (kibotOs), which also means a crate or box. The same word is used for the Ark of the Covenant (that thing in Indiana Jones that killed Nazis ;-) )

  14. M. L. says

    The art was never meant to portray it “accurately.” Medieval art was never trying to be extremely realistic and historical accuracy wasn’t much of a concern for the artists for a very long time. It is like getting mad at the Jetsons for not being a plausible depiction of the future.

  15. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re @24:
    good point!. As I recall, the great controv of Renaissance Art (at the time) was the introduction of realism and perspective. Art (of the Medieval Period) was meant to convey metaphors artistically, relative size of each figure to indicate its importance. Etc.
    aaarrrrrggggghhhh you know what is usually said about art… eh?

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    rinn @ # 22: Are they actually building the Ark in Kentucky?

    AiG claims:

    Construction Is Underway

    Now that several bents are in place, and the technique of placing them has become routine, we should see the Ark’s size increase rapidly in the near future.

    and they offer some photos of construction work to show something very unseaworthy-looking as the result of an alleged $22M worth of donations.

  17. M. L. says

    Even during the Renaissance and later, they generally weren’t supposed to be historically accurate. Theologically orthodox, sure, but that allows for freedom in how the events are depicted. Michelangelo could hardly have thought that The Creation of Adam was how it actually happened according to the beliefs of the time. They generally did not care about being accurate to how it would have actually looked assuming the events actually happened. Leonardo’s The Last Supper doesn’t show any care about historical accuracy, and they mostly couldn’t be historically accurate even if they did care because they couldn’t just google it.

    Theologically, why would it matter how big the ark is depicted anymore than it theologically matters whether the nativity displays are historically accurate?

  18. karpad says

    Y’know, it’s really odd that he’d get bent out of shape about cartoonishly cutesy drawings of a boat that he presumes existed. Like I don’t care if the smoke stacks on a kid’s drawing of the Titanic are to scale.
    You could make a case of “it’s biblical, so inaccurate drawings are blasphemy” but then I gotta ask about white jesus.

  19. Vivec says

    I’m kinda enjoying that Orb-shaped boat in the illustrated manuscript from the link. I know it’s just a normal boat squished to fit in the space provided, but I’m surprised it hasn’t shown up on ancient aliens yet. Fear the Unidentified Floating Object.

  20. Lofty says

    Typo alert, the Ark is measured in Qubits. Being quantum, they may or may not exist, depending on how hard you look at them. At any rate the Ark may have been just big enough to hold a single atom.

  21. carlie says

    St Charles, MO used to have a hotel called the Noah’s Ark Inn. Not only did it have happy animals sticking out of it, there were hotel rooms and a restaurant inside of it! (gasp!)

  22. Al Dente says

    carlie @31

    Of course there was a restaurant in the ark. How else could the animals and people get fed? Do you think they had outside caterers?

  23. aziraphale says

    There is some interesting stuff on the Ark Encounter site:
    For instance, a model of the “giraffe kind” that was on the Ark. It looks remarkably short-necked compared to the actual giraffe on an Egyptian wall painting here:
    which dates from less than 1,000 years after the Flood. That’s quite a rate of evolution.

  24. komarov says

    Of course there was a restaurant in the ark. How else could the animals and people get fed? Do you think they had outside caterers?

    Well, yes actually. “Lord God catering services and take-away food, my name is Jahweh, how can I help you today? This week’s special is manna from heaven, extra crispy.”

  25. birgerjohansson says

    Did the ark have voice control steering? One medieval muslim scholar claimed you could get the ark to move forward by saying “praise allah”. And he also claimed Noah had the ark make a detour to Mecca and circle the Qaba seven times. Which must have been looking silly, since the Qaba was under a couple of miles of water at the time.
    Did the ark perhaps submerge for the occasion?

    If the muslims have a submarine ark it would be waaaay cooler than the christian ark, or the jewish ark (which of course would have been made from cheap wood, Noah being jewish and everything. The Christian Noah would never save on quality, no sir!)

  26. birgerjohansson says

    El promptly started a rival catering business, and the corporate lawyers of Yaweh could not stop him from using the “God” word in the name.

  27. birgerjohansson says

    The Evil muslim ark should look like something assembled in Mordor.
    And the animals should have eyes that glow red in the dark.
    The jewish ark should -of course- have ads for banks alongside the deck.
    The Real Christian Ark (TM) should have a gold-plated roof, because God (both El and Jaweh) magically transmuted the roof shingles into a noble metal.

    I don’t know what the samarian ark will look like. Are they more jewish or less jewish? Are they maybe the jewish Amish, in case the ark will have good craftmanship (but no frills).

  28. birgerjohansson says

    Should be “in which case”.
    (Obviously, I blame the jews for the spelling error, being a good Xian.)
    “Round, with π = 3? ”
    We don’t need any new-fangled decimal system, with pagan muslim numbers!

  29. busterggi says

    The people who depict a 1st century Hebrew semite as a 14th century middle-European are complaining about other people’s artistic accuracy – no mirrors at AIG apparently.

  30. says

    Next they’re going to complain about Thomas the Tank Engine misleading children on what trains actually look like. Or pretty much the entire toy line from Fisher Price misleading children about everything. This is a remarkably silly complaint, even by creationist standards.

  31. Intaglio says

    The Ark is a (several words deleted) fiction; it could not have existed. You could not even make a boat that shape and size out of steel and expect it to float for a year in an ocean that had an infinite fetch especially as this confection had no method of propulsion and no method of steering.