I recently saw the movie Noah and because there has been such controversy about it in the Christian community, I thought I would give some of my thoughts on it.
First, it is a very well done Hollywood movie.
The casting, acting, special effects, etc. were all excellent. The story telling was compelling, I was engaged the whole time wondering what was going to happen next. It was very thought provoking as I have been mulling it over ever sense I saw it. From a film making point of view, it is a top of the line production.
Second, it’s not the biblical story of Noah.
If you want to learn what the Bible says about Noah, if you want to teach your children about the Flood, if you want to understand the significance of the Noahic covenant in the redemptive history, then don’t go see this movie. It is not made by Christians for educational or outreach purposes.
Third, the movie is deeply influenced by Jewish traditions. The addition of the Watchers to the story is inspired by the Book of Enoch, a book written in the inter testimental period. Teachings from the Zohar, the foundational text of Kabbalahism, which was written in the middle ages, influenced the writer and director so much they used the term Zohar for the metal being mined in the movie. I am sure that there are other Jewish traditions that I am unaware of that have found their way into the movie. I have read reviews by Rabbis that say this is one of the most Jewish movies they have ever seen. I say this to point out that many of the changes to the biblical story are not due simply to Hollywood imagination, but are taken from Jewish interpretations of the story from throughout history. This is not to say I agree with all those interpretations. Not at all, but it gives depth and context as to why the changes to the biblical story were made. More on this later.
Fourth, the environmental message was not overblown.
One of the big criticisms of the movie it that it is just an advertisement for the modern environmental movement, but I did not find it to be so. The ecology message is there for sure, but it was secondary to the main plot line. The message of the renewal of the creation, not just mankind, is certainly part of the biblical story, and I did not feel the movie over emphasized it.
Fifth, “Is God loving and merciful as well as just” is the main question the movie addresses.
The movie depicts Noah as a man focused on justice and this is no wonder for in the movie, Noah’s father, a righteous man, is killed unjustly by humanity living in rebellion against God. It is no surprise then that Noah is able to come to terms with God’s wrath falling on sinful humanity. But in the plot line of the movie, Noah comes to see that he and his family are just as sinful as the other people in the world—a glorious insight from the standpoint of the gospel. But without an understanding of God’s love and goodness, Noah comes to the conclusion that he and his family must die if the world is not to be corrupted again. It is this conclusion that leads him to engage in actions that are the most disturbing parts of the movie —- actions that certainly don’t appear in the Bible. The resolution to the movie’s struggles is Noah finding love within himself for others and learning that this is just as much a part of the character of God as is justice. The closing of the movie is God blessing this insight with the giving of the rainbow.
Sixth, I did not find it to be an anti biblical movie (with one possible exception)
While the movie did not follow the biblical story, I did not feel the questions raised and the resolutions proposed were anti biblical. I do not understand the angst this movie has caused the Christian community. The main question it raised (see above) is one Christians have struggled with too. Ultimately, it was only the revelation of the cross of Christ that provided resolutions to this struggle. There was, however, one thing that was disturbing to me and that I have not found a good answer for. When mankind rebelled against God, it found a snake skin that the devil had left behind and this became a keepsake for the humans that followed God that they passed down from generation to generation. It was not seen as a sign of curse but as a sign of blessing. As I said, I have not found an explanation for this, from the stand point of good or evil, that makes sense of it, but it gives the Christian pause that something of the devil would be seen as a blessing.
Seventh, I do not believe the movie had the agenda of promoting Gnosticism.
A recent conservative Christian review of the movie said the movie is meant to promote Gnosticism. This reviewer rightly noted as I did above that the movie was influenced by the Zohar, a medieval Jewish text, The Zohar is a text of Jewish mysticism that some have associated with Gnosticism. So far, so good. But the reviewer then seeks to shoehorn the whole movie into an evangelistic tract for Gnosticism. I feel this is too simplistic. The movie did contain some of those elements as I have acknowledged above, but it also was influenced by other Jewish traditions such as the one from the Book of Enoch as was also noted above. I think the director mixed and matched various Jewish traditions about Noah. He was not trying to promote one of them.
Elements of the movie that do not match Gnosticism. 1) The movie is very affirming of the material creation. Gnosticism believed the material creation was evil. 2) Gnosticism taught there was two separate gods, the bad god who created the world and the good god of the spirit world. The reviewer tired to say that the movie was promoting Satan as the god of love that Noah ultimately turned too while rejecting the just god of creation. But the movie made the point that the creator god was also loving and forgiving. When one of the fallen angels is taken to heaven after repenting and siding with God’s plan, he cries, “The Creator forgives!” That is what Noah discovered. The movie does not promote two separate gods. The movie may have been influenced by a form of Jewish Gnosticism, like it was by other Jewish traditions, but it was not made to promote it.
Noah is a well made movie that causes one to reflect on the true meaning of the biblical text. It should not be viewed as a biblical documentary to teach God’s truth or as an anti-Christian attack on the Scripture.