Extra-Biblical ‘Noah’

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah rose above (or likely because of) the controversy surrounding it to have an impressive $44 million opening weekend. I was writing my review, but getting bogged down in some technical details regarding the Watchers. I’d much rather focus on some of the themes from an LDS perspective, so I thought I’d share this blog post from Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis (Adjunct Professor of Rabbinics, University of North Texas) that covers a lot of the interesting extra-biblical bits of Noah with further links. (I’ll likely build on these in my own review, but now I don’t feel obligated to explain it all.)

These include:

  • Watchers: “The fallen angels, based in Gen. 6:4 and grandly elaborated on in the Book of Enoch and the Book of Giants, are a big part of the storyline…Aronofsky elides the more lurid part to the tradition, their coupling with human women and producing giant offspring, focusing instead on their role in Enoch as the bringers of knowledge and technology to humanity.”
  • Tzohar: “The glowy-explosive substance used repeatedly in the movie is based on the tzohar, a miraculous gemstone that tradition tells us illuminated the interior of the ark.”
  • The Garment of Adam: “…I assume this is where the idea for the magical-glowing-serpent skin-arm tefillin worn by the shamanic patriarchs of Seth is derived from. In Jewish tradition, the garment is made from the hide of Leviathan [i.e. the sea serpent]. Here, it’s the sloughed-off, pre-corruption skin of the edenic serpent.”
  • Tubal-Cain: “The terrifying and terrified king is constructed from a single verse of Genesis where he is credited as a worker of bronze and iron, but is then fused with the midrashic King Nimrod, the power-mad tyrant of rabbinic fantasy who attacks God’s messengers.”

Drawing on a parable from the Zohar, Dennis writes,

Hopefully…people are finally coming to understand that the fundamentalist critics of this film are all masters of wheat as alluded to by the Zohar. They think that in cleaving only to the bare bones of the biblical narrative, they are masters of all aspects of the story, but in fact they are, to a great extent, suffering from a kind textual indigestion, or perhaps a spiritual ciliac disorder, in which they fail to absorb the full nutritional value of the biblical narrative because of their restrictive way of reading.  The Noah story as received, a mere one hundred verses, with little dialogue, minimal motivation, no character development or insight, no struggle, is a mere skeleton which the readers must flesh out with themselves, projecting their experiences, emotions, and conflicts, and imagination onto the scaffold of plot to fully realize its many on complex meanings and implications. The movie Noah steps into those many gaps and fills them with clever, and sometimes crazed, midrashic storytelling.

I couldn’t agree more.


Here are a few more Noah-related posts from biblical scholars and biblically literate moviegoers: