David C. Harris
I’ll let you know what I think about the Noah movie after I read a review by someone else who hasn’t seen it.”
Full confession: I have not seen the Noah movie yet, but I probably will catch it later, when it appears in the dollar theaters.
As you may or may not know, I have been promoting the study of Noah – the Scriptural Noah – through my website and recent teachings over the past few months. I work as a Bible teacher and pulpit minister at Adat Yeshua Messianic Synagogue, and as it turned out, the Noah movie was being released during the same time when I happen to have been teaching through Genesis each Saturday in an ongoing study of the Bible.
Now the movie has gotten a far more controversial reaction than I had imagined, and it seems to me that this has been somewhat divisive. I have read reviews both positive and negative. For my own part, when I taught the Noah passages at Adat Yeshua, I made it a point to say there was indeed a movie coming out, and that those who were learning the Bible at our little house of worship would be well equipped to go see the movie, evaluate it, and then come and correct me if was wrong! At the time I said this with some humor, because I believe my own exposition of Genesis 5 through 9 is solid and accurate. (I still believe that.)
But one recent reviewer has caused me to write this response, and it comes from Dr. Brian Mattson. In his review he makes a solid case that the Noah movie is fleshed out by both Gnosticism and Jewish mysticism – ie Kabbalah. It is this point which I feel I must address.
Not having seen the movie yet, I am sure you may be thinking, “What kind of arrogance drives you, Dave, to think you can write such a pre-emptive review?” I will explain.
To start with, I believe Dr. Mattson is imminently qualified to speak to this issue, more so than your average joe. He is a philosophical theologian with an earned doctorate from an accredited and highly respected university. To even be able to recognize these things, in an action movie no less, takes some significant training. He is not a hater of movies. Quite the opposite, he is a cultural observer of a high order.
Second, after going through the Noah account in my own teaching, and dissecting nearly every Hebrew word in those chapters, I can tell you there is really not much there in the way of movie content. In the entire account of Noah, the Bible tells us of only one instance when Noah actually speaks. In Genesis 9:25-27 he curses the offspring of Ham, and blesses the offspring of Shem. How do you make a two hour movie out of such scant material? The answer, apparently, is to pad it with Gnosticism and Kabbalah!
So what does that mean for those who may be considering seeing the movie? I say, go ahead and see it if you want to. It’s a free country. As I have told the people of Adat Yeshua on several occasions: the Jewish way is not anti-intellectual, and neither should the Christian way be. If you want to see the movie, go have fun. But I would be remiss if I did not take the time to warn against Kabbalah in general, and the superstitious mysticism that, in all likelihood, is throughout this entire movie from beginning to end. The director, Darren Aronofsky, as it turns out is also responsible for the movie Pi, which is the one movie I point to whenever someone asks me about Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism. Pi is a darkly interesting film about the insanely complex maze a person can get lost in when they obsess over numbers and secret conspiratorial codes. In the end, the protagonist is driven crazy, and ends up lobotomizing himself to get some peace of mind. It’s gruesome, artsy, and a pretty good movie. But that sort of theology is poison and dangerous.
If I had known beforehand that this was the same director, I would have guessed as much from the beginning about the Noah movie. So again, go see it if you want to, but I would have to agree with Dr. Mattson’s assertion that church leaders should have been far more cautious about buying out entire theaters, with church money, to take their flocks to see something like this.
Movies like these have a tendency to miss the mark widely because they don’t use the Bible as their only source. The Last Temptation of Christ was the same way. In it Jesus was transformed into a mousy weakling who had to be prodded by his disciples to keep it together and not melt down. Similarly, The Passion of The Christ was laced with Catholic art throughout. I am not saying artistic license is bad, but you as a viewer should not walk into the theater, sit down, and allow a movie to teach you about the Bible. God could have given us a movie, but instead he chose to give us literature – a book. Movies appeal to the heart, knowledge is found in books. Granted, if one is skeptical enough, it is entirely possible to watch a movie, listen to a song, and observe a painting, without allowing the worldview of the artist to be plugged into your brain. But people can be highly impressionable. I have been so myself. I have no doubt some people will go to this movie, as I did when I went to see The Last Temptation of Christ as a young, clueless, non-believer, and then walk out thinking that must have been exactly how it was in real life.
So be wise. Don’t check your brains at the door when you see any movie. Think for yourself. Be rational. Be thoughtful. Your mind is too precious a gift from God to be poisoned with superstition, lies, and false doctrine. And by the way, while we are on the topic: there is no secret Bible code. There is no mystical numerology which unlocks the keys to the universe. The stars do not hold the answer. But nothing is deeper and more powerful than the simple Gospel message.