Whether or not you read the Bible, Genesis is a fascinating part of ancient writings. Especially the chapters prior to Abraham as these seem to reach back into prehistory. The style and content indicates that we’re not getting a year-by-year history, but major highlights of a vast and largely undocumented period in man’s history. Hebrew scholars will confirm that the the genealogies in these chapters are unlikely to be complete. Genesis 6-8’s talk of Nephilim, sons of God and a massive flood barely outline what was going on in this lost world. Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone went back and filled in the details?
Now someone has.
In Brian Godawa’s Noah Primeval we find an epic retelling of the story of Noah. Yes, the biblical elements are all there, but in this imagining we find out what would cause God to wipe out man. Some people object to anyone trying to conjecture a story like this and fit it into the Bible. As Godawa writes, this is a fantasy. Sure, rooted in biblical details, but a fictional adventure that may not resemble anything in history.
Then again, this book will leave you wishing the Bible did tell more.
Besides getting readers to consider Noah and his story beyond the Sunday School highlights, Godawa has produced a fast-paced adventure that fantasy lovers will enjoy. This will appeal beyond the traditional “Christian fiction” market that is surprisingly light in the fantasy genre (in spite of the legacies of Tolkien, Lewis and MacDonald).
For those who want to dig further, Godawa does provide some appendix material discussing the biblical themes he builds on. You will find detailed essays on the often debated nature and identity of the Nephlim and sons of God. Often referred to in passing in novels, or the subject of pseudohistorical New Age books, here you can find a serious study. He also studies the cultural touchstones the Hebrews shared with nearby cultures. Skeptics like to claim this makes the Hebrews nothing special (or that they stole all their ideas). On the other side, some think the Hebrews lived in a vacuum. In reality, no one does. Nor did the Hebrews get their cosmography wrong, as skeptics claim, they were describing it from their perspective. Along with some of the other nearby cultures, they weren’t necessarily attempting to be a scientific people. There can be a modern tendency to read our science or theories into the Bible. Godawa cuts a trail between all these extremes.
Being a product of their times, doesn’t mean that nothing unique can be found, after all these are inspired texts. So when Godawa writes that verses like Isaiah 45:12 are not references to “an expanding Einsteinian time-space atmosphere” I would disagree and posit that these are references to the nature of the universe (as would others, The Creator and the Cosmos). In fact, modern physics tells us spacetime is fairly flat and has been expanding and Genesis (surprising to some) is in sequence to modern science (see The Genesis Question).
From the perspective of the Hebrews, they weren’t writing about science. That which divinely inspired them, however, provided knowledge of what was unknown to them.
Noah Primeval is the first in a series and readers will definitely want more. This is also one of a current crop of books that will change perceptions (or misconceptions) about Christian fiction.