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The Ark and The Shroud

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Another sighting of the Noah’s Ark in Turkey! That was the claim of a TV documentary recently. Using specialist X-ray equipment (and evasion of the authorities, who did not give their permission for the work to proceed), the explorer slowly took 'soundings' of the ground underneath a particular mound in the desert. At first he was very excited, because he found what he thought was the outline of a massive wooden boat, with floorboards, three storeys and iron fixings. But, as the programme continued, he was not so sure after all.

The programme also filmed a rather undignified argument between the 'world's most experienced Christian Ark explorer' and a newcomer (a sea diver). The Christian, who had explored Mt. Ararat many times before, said that what the diver had found could not possibly be the Ark because it was about 18 miles from where it ought to be. Also, he said, the Ark did not use iron for fixings. So, confusion everywhere!

Readers will probably remember, not so long ago, when several universities shared minute pieces of the Turin Shroud and put them through stringent tests. The final conclusion was that the shroud could not have been the one used to wrap Christ. Later, there was intrigue, when certain researchers were said to have 'cheated'. Either way, nothing has been proven in favour of either the Ark or the Shroud.

But - so what?

There is no possible way that anyone could prove that the shroud belonged to Christ, no matter how many tests it is put through. It is impossible and so such tests are meaningless for that purpose.

What about the Ark? Possibly, the most recent 'find' (if it actually exists; there was doubt in the documentary) might be the actual Ark. On the other hand, how could anyone prove that it was the Ark of scripture, if it is not intact? There are several objections to it being the true Ark: one is that it is not where it is 'supposed' to be. Another is that it contains iron fixings, which one expert says should not be there. Another is that the shape is 'wrong': the Bible says it was box-like, but the most recent finding has the usual 'pointy-end' of a boat front.

On the other hand, it has been claimed that the area was once known (along with other mountains) as the Ararat range of mountains, so not being on Mt. Ararat itself is less of a problem. It is also said that the Bible does not say the Ark did not use iron, therefore, the objection to iron fixings is irrelevant. Other small details have been added. For example, there is supposedly a tradition amongst the oldest tribes, that the area has links with the Ark. And, at least the finding is supposed to have three storeys! So, who is right? Maybe neither. Unless a fairly intact construction is found, how can it conclusively be the Ark?

Yes, it would be marvellous if we could find the true Ark and its authenticity could be finally agreed upon. It would certainly give a great boost to Christians. It would not, however, do the job of preaching, as many hope. Even if it was shown to be the Ark, the world would not suddenly be saved in droves! Ardent Ark-watchers who wish sincerely that the Ark could be found so that their faith could be 'justified' and 'vindicated' are wrongly ardent. Their hope that such a find would bring many into the Kingdom, is also wrong.

Remember what happened with Christ Himself? He said that even if Moses returned from the dead and challenged the Jews, it would make no difference, for although the Jews demanded "a sign", such a demand meant nothing: it was a demand without substance; an arrogant disclaimer that effectively displayed unbelief, not belief. Even if every proof demanded by unbelievers was paraded before them, they would always find another excuse not to believe. Besides, salvation is by election, not by belief in archaeological finds! Furthermore, scripture promises only one major mass-salvation: of the Jews, before the Last Day. The Ark and the shroud are not a part of this plan. Also, whenever salvation is mentioned in relation to the world, it is always with reference to a 'remnant'. So, no matter what happens or who finds what, only a few will ever be saved in any age.

Basing one's faith on relics is superstitious, of works not Grace. Our faith is based on things not seen - otherwise it is no longer faith! It is rather like the lady whose "faith was shattered" when she discovered that Christ was not born on December 25th! It did not take much to destroy her 'faith' did it? That is because she had none to begin with. Real faith is like a foundation that cannot be shaken. The rush to find the Ark is an obsession with some. Leave them to it! There are many more important things to do, like preaching the true Gospel of Jesus Christ; like building up the Body of Christ, the Church; like fighting error and cults; like consolidating one's personal faith and gaining strength from scriptural doctrine. If my faith depends on the finding of relics, then I am in a sorry state!

Finding the Ark is not really a matter of honest prayer, either. Many pray that it will be found, but out of a sense of desperation! It would be very nice if it could be found, but to base one's whole Christian life on it is silly. When we preach about Old Testament references, whether it is the Ark, Solomon's riches, or Eden as a real place, let us preach them as facts, not just as possibilities. It does not matter that we do not have these things with us today; we can claim they existed because God says so. Therefore, they are solid facts. Don't make excuses to unbelievers who demand all kinds of 'proof', just insist that whatever the Bible says is true. The claim will certainly drive unbelievers wild, but that is their problem! It is not our job to placate unbelievers, but to preach the Gospel and the whole of scripture.

© April 1994

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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
United Kingdom