Leland Gaunt (and Others) on the Flood

I started Stephen King’s Needful Things.  In my reading last night, I saw references to events in The Dead Zone, Cujo, and (if I’m not mistaken) the story that was made into the movie, Stand by Me.  One thing I learned was that Cujo (a rabid dog) killed George Bannerman, the sheriff in The Dead Zone, who was played in The Dead Zone movie by Tom Skerritt.

This book is about an evil being who goes by the name of “Leland Gaunt”, and he opens a little store in Castle Rock called “Needful Things”.  In this post, I’ll use as my starting-point something that Gaunt says on pages 28-29:

“Well, that splinter is supposed to be from Noah’s Ark.  Of course, I can’t say it is from Noah’s Ark, because people would think I was the most outrageous sort of fake.  There must be four thousand people in the world today trying to sell pieces of wood which they claim to be from Noah’s Ark—-and probably four hundred thousand trying to peddle pieces of the One True Cross—-but I can say it’s over two thousand years old, because it’s been carbon-dated, and I can say it came from the Holy Land, although it was not found on Mount Ararat, but on Mount Boram….I have a certificate from M.I.T., where it was carbon-dated, and that goes with the item, of course.  But, you know, I really believe it might be from the Ark…After all, Mount Boram is less than thirty kilometers, as the crow flies, from Mount Ararat, and greater mistakes than the final resting place of a boat, even a big one, have been made in the many histories of the world, especially when stories are handed down from mouth to ear for generations before they are finally committed to paper.”

Well, isn’t it obvious that Leland Gaunt is evil, even though he comes across as such a nice man in this early part of the book?  He questions the inerrancy of the Bible!  Just kidding, folks.  Actually, he reminds me of the biblical archaeologists of the past (the Albright-types) who believed in the basic historicity of the Bible, but quibbled with the Bible on details.  Gaunt assumes that there was an Ark and a historical Noah, but he does not think that the Ark landed on Ararat, as the Bible says, but rather on Mount Boram (which I could not find in a Google search, so perhaps Stephen King made that mountain up).  Moreover, Gaunt makes a factual error that Albright and company would not have made: Gaunt implies that the Ark landed in the Holy Land, when Mount Ararat is in Turkey, not Israel.

What do I believe about the biblical flood?  I think that there could have been some event that inspired the ancient Flood stories in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and elsewhere.  There are even secular scholars who have said that.  This January 21, 1999 article in the Columbia University Record states the following:

“With growing evidence to support their theory that an ancient violent flood in the Black Sea destroyed a fresh water desert oasis, forced the diaspora of an advanced civilization and inspired the story of Noah’s Ark, two Columbia oceanographers have ignited archaeological interest in the previously overlooked Black Sea region.  Research by William Ryan and Walter Pitman, senior scientists at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, is already generating new discussions on the role climate has played in human history.  The story behind their discovery is recounted in Noah’s Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event That Changed History. The book, which arrived in bookstores last week, retraces their search to uncover evidence of a 7,500-year-old flood in the Black Sea, and tells how ancient flood myths might be tied to that evidence.  Ryan and Pitman believe that the sealed Bosporus strait, which acted as a dam between the Mediterranean and Black Seas, broke open when climatic warming at the close of the last glacial period caused icecaps to melt, raising the global sea level.  With more than 200 times the force of Niagara Falls, the thundering water flooded the Black Sea, which was no more than a large lake, raising its surface up to six inches per day and swallowing 60,000 square miles in less than a year. As the Mediterranean salt water replaced fresh water, it expelled a wave of human migration from what had been an oasis of fresh water within very arid lands-an exodus traumatic enough to be recorded in human memory as the epic of Gilgamesh and the biblical story of Noah’s Ark, the scientists said.”

This idea diverges from the Hebrew Bible, which dates the Flood much later than 7,500 years ago.  But I think that it may account for the existence of ancient stories about a major Flood.  But, then again, this research occurred a little over ten years ago, and I do not know what the latest developments are.  (UPDATE: See here for criticisms of Ryan and Pitman’s idea.)

After all, minds do change.  I was raised on the ideas of David Fasold, who claimed to find Noah’s Ark in a place where many creationists did not care to look, using the Egyptian cubit as his standard of measurement.  But Fasold himself changed his mind on this issue, as this wikipedia article documents.  The wikipedia article contains helpful links to Fasold’s initial argument and critiques of it.

I’ve often been baffled by conservative Christians who claim that proof for a global flood would substantiate the Bible, especially when there were other ancient cultures that had Flood stories.  Why would such proof substantiate the Bible and its worldview(s), but not the worldviews of the other cultures that had Flood stories?

And then there are conservative Christians who act as if morality itself rests on the Bible being inerrant.  I don’t buy that.  Whether or not there was a historical flood, a historical Ark, a historical Noah, etc., we still have to learn how to live with each other.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Bible, Religion, Stephen King. Bookmark the permalink.