This past summer, my family and I visited the full-size replica of Noah’s Ark that was completed in July, 2016 in the hills of Williamstown, Kentucky. Branded the “Ark Encounter,” it is built to biblical proportions, 510 feet in length, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet in height. You would need to see it in person to realize just how big that is: roughly equivalent to 2-1/2 football fields long, 3.1 million board feet of lumber, and as tall as a ten-story building. Central lodge poles in the structure are three feet in diameter and fifty feet tall. Indeed, huge is an understatement. It is “bigger than imagination,” and ranks as the largest wood structure at present in the world!
This is therefore by no means an amateurish production; and it must probably have cost several hundred million dollars to construct the Ark, the several related theme buildings, the zoo, and the professionally designed exhibits. This complex was inspired and led by creation scientist, Ken Ham, who also built the “Creation Museum” a few miles away outside of Cincinnati.
The Ark is built with four levels: a ground floor and three upper decks. The ground floor contains mostly a long queue and extensive gift shop, but the upper floors are packed with exhibits from end to end. Deck one is dedicated to a display of “animal kinds.” The exhibits explain that it was not necessary for every different species of creature to be taken aboard the Ark, but only one “representative kind” from which all of the variant species developed. They do not consider this an evolution, but a differentiation of species. For example, the claim is made that only one pair of dogs was necessary, and that all of the wide variety of canine species developed from this original pair.
The question naturally arises: was there enough time for all of these widely varying species to develop if accepting the “young earth” theory that they espouse? They accept the biblical dating of Usher’s Chronology, which places the time of Adam at 4004 B.C. According to “The Bible Timeline” published by evangelical publisher, Thomas Nelson, the flood is dated to 3400 B.C., a date verified by an 8 foot layer of silt in the Mideast found during archaeological digging at Ur by Sir Leonard Wooley in 1929. Could the widely varying races of the world have fully developed (evolved?) in only 600 years? How much genetic change to Europeans, aside from intermarriages, has occurred since 1400 A.D.? Really none at all!
Deck one is outfitted with dozens of wood cages holding a variety of animal kinds, with signage giving interesting facts about each. At first glance, these appeared to be actual stuffed animals, but in fact were sculpted using three-dimensional computer-aided-design equipment to cut the forms. Then, trained artists carefully inserted each individual hair or scales into the forms one-by-one by the many thousands. The results of this laborious process are extremely lifelike in appearance. On the port side there were familiar common creatures such as deer, pigs, bears, and sloths, while the starboard side contained extinct animals including dinosaurs.
The creation science organization does indeed insist that Noah brought dinosaurs aboard the Ark, not smaller babies, but young mature creatures ready to mate as soon as the Ark came to rest. In fact, the claim is made that 85 kinds of dinosaurs were on the Ark! The exhibit belittled the idea that the creatures were too big or needed too much food to eat, but ignored the concern on my mind of how powerful and dangerous such gigantic creatures were. I envisioned Noah locking a Tyrannosaurus Rex in a wood cage and having the creature smash a huge hole in the side of the Ark!
What happened to the dinosaurs after the flood waters subsided? The exhibit explained that they were released into a world lacking vegetation due to the year-long flood, and therefore soon all starved to death. That brings up the question of why God would go to all the trouble to gather, feed, and have Noah’s family clean up after all of these huge hungry, dangerous dinosaurs for a year knowing that they were all doomed to extinction as soon as the flood ended? As you may guess, my own family’s view is that the dinosaurs died off before the flood and were not carried as cargo on the Ark.
How many of each animal did Noah bring into the Ark? A large billboard exhibit explained that the Hebrew text of Genesis 7:2 is unclear and may be interpreted in two different ways. The Hebrew literally says, “seven seven—a male and his female.” While it is unambiguous that two of each unclean animal were required, the clean animals were to be brought either “by seven pairs” or simply “by sevens,” depending upon your interpretation of the Hebrew text. Compare English translations and you will see the difference among various Bible versions. For example, the King James Version, Ferrar Fenton, and New American Standard interpret as seven of each clean kind, while the New Revised Standard Version and English Standard Version advocate seven pairs. The New International Version of 1984 has seven, while their 2011 version switched to seven pairs!
Deck two begins the story of Genesis chapter three and the fall of Adam, which the exhibit labels, “the descent into darkness.” This sad story is made a bit more palatable with beautiful and artistic paintings and dioramas.
More large animal cages are on the second deck, with fabricated reptiles, mammals, and synapsids, sculpted and printed using three-dimensional technology. Interesting creatures included entelodonts, extinct mammals looking like a strange mixture of wolf and pig; pakicetids, supposed to be an ancestor of whales; simosuchuses, looking somewhat like a crocodile; and much more including even more dinosaurs!
Deck two also includes beautifully designed dioramas of Noah’s study, library, workshop, and blacksmith shop, with some of these rooms outfitted with moving and talking figures.
Deck three focuses on Noah’s family, including Ham, Shem, and Japheth and their wives, complete with well-designed dioramas. In addition, Noah’s wife and daughters-in-law are given creative names not found in the Bible. For example, Noah’s wife is Emzara, a Hebrew name; Ham’s wife is called Kezia, an African name; Japheth’s wife is Rayneh, an Indo-European name; and Shem’s wife has a Hebrew Semitic name, Ar’yel. (The origin of the Oriental races was simply assumed to be from Kezia without explanation.) Unlike most mainstream biblical teaching, the exhibits point out that Noah’s three sons were definitely all of the same race since they were brothers of the same parents. Nor was Ham turned black due to Noah’s curse! Instead, they posit that the three sons married wives of three different races; Ham’s descendants, they say, were black due to Kezia’s black race. Why each of Noah’s sons made such long, difficult, and dangerous journeys in opposite directions to such widely different parts of the world for their wives is not addressed! How such widely varying races developed so quickly is explained by the claim that Adam and Eve were not white as usually depicted by artists, but “medium brown,” and therefore white and black people, they claim, are actually genetic variants of the true original brown. A diorama depicting Adam and Eve shows them with color and features closely resembling Pakistanis!
This exhibit was joined by an exhibit room dedicated to destroying racial stereotypes, including the belief that interracial marriage is wrong. There is nothing in the Bible against marrying someone of another race, they proclaim, and in their exhibits ridicule Christian ministers of the past and their writings who thought otherwise. However, if you Google “intermarriage divorce rate” the fact is given that white-black marriages have fully twice the rate of divorce as same race marriages, an atrocious figure and a tragedy both for the parents and their children. Did God know that would be the result? I don’t want to stand in the way of “true love,” but the Bible counsels to marry within one’s own tribe (i.e. ethnicity) as clearly stated in Numbers 36:6. This may be politically incorrect with the liberal modernists, but our Father knows best!
Despite disagreeing on some points with the rather strident positions taken by the Creationists in some of the many exhibits, we enjoyed our visit and learned some interesting things as well. The Ark was indeed huge and of course it needed to be in order to house nearly 7,000 animals and the systems to care for them when assuming a worldwide flood. We can recommend a visit, but be prepared for hours of walking through the many displays on view.