Posts Tagged With: Noah

Origins

In recent years, Hollywood has tapped into the audience’s desire to see how their favorite characters came to be. In Star Trek we witnessed the coming together of the legendary starship crew. X-Men First Class unveiled the emergence of professor X, Magneto and their teams of mutants. And in Casino Royale we finally saw how Bond became 007. Film isn’t the only place that has been exploring origins. Brian Godawa has been exploring the beginnings of iconic figures from biblical accounts in his Chronicles of the Nephilim series.

First it was Noah, then Enoch. The great patriarch of religion Abraham. Now Joshua comes alive in Joshua Valiant. As in the previous books, Godawa reads between the lines and makes three-dimensional these people that we all know, whether or not one is a reader of the biblical accounts. Those accounts are known for giving us the main points, the purpose of our place in the Great Story. We can argue that this all that is needed and we’d be right, but many of us our curious and inquisitive people. What has been relayed to us are sometimes short on the details on the lives of these people. How they became who they were. Their paths that led them to where we meet up with them in the Bible.

So in this novel on the entrance of Joshua, Godawa continues to draw on what subtle details that the Bible provides, history from the era and other contemporary writings, and extrapolates into the fantasy genre with a cast of warring giants, demons and angels. But one is left wondering where does the fiction end and the history begin?

As I have said in previous reviews, it’s always best to start at the beginning with volume one of the series. You can jump in with this latest entry without much trouble, however. If you’re worried about this being “biblical fiction” that is going to sound like a sermon, put your concerns aside. This written more in the style of high fantasy and definitely not the calm, pastoral stories of children’s books (which have so colored our minds of the source material).

Before the walls of Jericho fell, there was a story to tell. Many stories, in fact. And when you compare the events of those times to the present day, you will begin to see some important parallels and one thing may come to your mind.

Has the War of the Seed begun again?

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Noah’s Ark Lands in Hollywood

Expensive biblical epics haven’t been a staple of Hollywood for decades, but this week saw the release of the first trailer of Noah which will hit theaters in early 2014.

Enter controversy.

Some like J.W. Wartick have written on concerns over possible “divergence from the Biblical story.” Fair enough, but I don’t have a problem with divergence, if it is in the sense Brian Godawa describes:

…there is nothing wrong with engaging in creative license, whether it is magical seeds or six-armed Watchers, or even Noah as a warrior. I don’t even think there is a problem in using non-biblical sources like the Book of Enoch or the Sumerian version of the Flood story, where unlike in the Bible, Noah receives dreams about the coming Deluge. The question is, does it support the spirit or meaning of the original story, or the original author’s intent. Bible believing Christians do not necessarily own this category of Biblical interpretation. The Bible doesn’t say what vocation Noah had before the Flood, only what he was afterward (a tiller of the soil). So if a Christian attacks the notion of Noah as a warrior shaman, he may really be illustrating his own cultural prejudice of the notion of a white bearded old farmer which is not in the Bible either…[bold mine]

However, Godawa does discuss quite a few concerns he had with an earlier draft of the script. Having only seen a brief clip of the movie, and not knowing how the script evolved or was edited, I’m not going to add or subtract from his analysis other than this: I do like how the film trailer does not depict Noah as a pastoral old man leading cute, Narnia-like animals into an ark. This Sunday School-fantasy version ignores the terror — and ultimately the point — of the account: Horrible evil is occurring in the world and mankind will be wiped out because of it. The actual story — an adult one — has been co-opted by preschoolers. Perhaps the film will spark debate on how shallow our take on Noah has become.

Hopefully, the filmmakers chose not to put modern agendas into an iconic account from the ancient world. There’s enough historical contextual sources to draw from, as Godawa does in his own novel on Noah. In a film of this budget, studios try not to be too offensive to anyone. It is a business after all. Then again, many big budget films failed in 2013.

Time will tell if Noah emerges under a rainbow or washes out.

Update [3/2/14, 3/17/14]: After continuing controversy over a film not released, Jerry A. Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), discusses Five Positive Facts and Five Negative Facts about the film. Johnson and the NRB were behind the recent press release from Paramount Pictures which states, “the feature film is a dramatization of the major scriptural themes and not a line-by-line retelling of the Bible story.”

Apparently the NRB thinks the Christian world is not intelligent enough to figure that out on their own. On the other hand, the “Sunday School-fantasy version” of Noah I discussed above that many envision in their minds is not “a line-by-line retelling of the Bible story” either.

And here, Dr. Hugh Ross looks at the biblical Noah account here and here. Or check out his new book that explores this and other issues of Genesis.

Update [4/3/14]: Here’s an interesting debate: Is Noah a Gnostic interpretation or not.

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The War of the Seed Heats Up

If you haven’t been reading Brian Godawa’s Chronicles of the Nephilim books, you’ve been missing an unique fusion of ancient history and fantasy. Godawa begins with two premises: One, the fantastic tales from ancient history often contain kernels of truth. Two, many of the early biblical accounts leave a lot unsaid.

What was so horrible in Noah’s day that people had to be destroyed? This flood account was repeated in other Near East histories as well, though often in a much embellished and fantastic way. Why did Enoch avoid death? And in Godawa’s most recent book, was God’s chosen person Abraham that classic stereotypical, pastoral old guy? Or did God choose someone far more dynamic?

In Abraham Allegiant, Godawa puts some depth to the person we know as Abraham. Think about it, the bible tells us very little about this person. In reality, he had a life, a history. It’s like how you often know your grandparents as they are now, but not really as they were. Their life to the point you met them. Everything that happened to make them what you now see. That’s what Godawa does in all if his books, tell the stories behind the name.

This is all set against the War of the Seed as the fallen angels and their mutated giants scheme and fight to reconquer the world. The current novel, as with the rest, is replete with intrigue and battle. Abraham finds himself in the middle of this war and Godawa has managed to find ways to combine his story with those of Babel and Sodom and Gomorrah.

If this all sounds too biblical for you, rest assured, this isn’t what would be considered stereotypical “Christian fiction.” Godawa attempts to bring a level of realism not often found in that genre, but not going overboard like some other writers may be inclined. As he writes on his site, he uses the descriptions and realism level in the bible as a guide. So the content of his books may surprise readers ready to write it off as “just” biblical inspired fiction. It will probably also bother those not as familiar with the bible as they think they are. They may also object that Godawa is creating parts of these stories that are unknown to us. Such objections are silly as Godawa isn’t writing history here, nor claims to be doing so. We shouldn’t be so fragile as to not allow ourselves to imagine how events unknown may have happened.

Some of the humor seems goofy in an anachronistic way, but action and characters only continue to get better. It is always dangerous for an author to give away too much in the “author’s notes” section (or Godawa’s Appendices), but it works well here. Perhaps because it doesn’t make his story seem as fictionalized as one might suspect. His combining in this book of what are usually considered widely separated events works well for his story, but I’m sure many scholars will challenge the basis for his choices.

These books are a hybrid of historical fiction and fantasy. They will appeal to a broad swath of readers, especially if you are looking for something new and fresh. As always, it is best to start at the beginning of the series.

So leave your apprehensions and misconceptions behind and choose a side in the War of the Seed.

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Gilgamesh: The Warrior King

Brian Godawa has been writing a fascinating fantasy series that takes place in the ancient Near East. It began with Noah Primeval which was rooted in the question, “What was going on in the world that was so horrible that mankind needed destroyed?” The series continued with Enoch Primordial (actually a prequel), which centered around the enigmatic Enoch. A man barely mentioned in the biblical accounts, but because he never died, and the other books attributed to him recount many a strange event, he has long been a person of high speculation.

Godawa now steps out from filling in between the lines of the biblical accounts with Gilgamesh Immortal. Taking off from events in the Noah episode, the tale of Gilgamesh provides a link to storie Godawa has next that is centered around Babel. One can’t study Near Wast cultures in a vacuum, so bringing in the most famous character from that region’s legends that isn’t chronicled in the biblical accounts was a perfect idea. Gilgamesh, a king and warrior of Mesopotamia, rules his empire with an iron fist. He has everything. Then he encounters a Wild Man that is his equal in many ways, and better in others. He begins to realize there has to be something more.

He wants immortality.

There begins his quest to conquer the weak and silent gods of old. These fallen angels had largely been destroyed and contained during the Great Flood, but he seeks out their remnant. It’s a journey full of adventure and death, while one of the most sinister of these “gods” is about to re-emerge and try to take Gilgamesh’s kingdom.

This book, along with the others, have Godawa’s trademark fast-paced storytelling. Their combination of fantasy and history is a largely original take on the people and places they are centered around. He also draws on the elusive references to Nephilim, Watchers and “sons of god” in the bible and other writings. For centuries, people have debated exactly what these beings were. Essentially Godawa is saying, “Maybe these references aren’t so mysterious. Maybe all of the ancient legends of battling gods aren’t just myth. Perhaps there are kernels of truth in them. Maybe there is a reason that the ancient cultures believed in them so much.”

It’s an intriguing premise. Perhaps it sounds irrational in our supposedly advanced world. But it’s perfectly reasonable to ask why did the ancient world pay so much credence to such things? Was it all just because of active imaginations? Or have we left behind part of our history we chose to forget?

Godawa’s series not only entertains, it asks such questions. And it gives us one possible imagining of the answers. It could have happened like this.

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Enoch: The Merging of History and Fantasy

There are but a handful of vague references to Enoch in the Bible. One of those is one of the most enigmatic passages in the Bible, for it states Enoch was taken by God and did not die. That, combined with the non-canonical book I Enoch and its writings on the Watchers (another little-explained item in the Bible), has made Enoch long the center of speculation. Who was he? What did he do? Brian Godawa attempts to answer these mysteries in the second volume of his epic-ancient-history-based series, Enoch Primordial.

In his first book, Noah Primeval, the premise was, what had the world degenerated to that required its destruction? In that world the Nephilim controled the world, filling it with their evil corruptions. In Enoch we see how those beings rose to power and the first rebellions against them.

This book is actually a prequel to the first. I suspect the author released his story on Noah first because he is better known. In esoteric circles, Enoch is at the center of speculation on the nature of the Nephilim, The Watchers and Sons of God. In the appendix to the first book, Godawa delves into the biblical and historical backgrounds of these enigmas and also draws from the myths of contemporary cultures to the ancient Hebrews. The question is posed, what if those myths, and the Nephilim of the Bible, were references to the fallen beings of heaven?

That premise underlies Enoch and Godawa creates an action-laced adventure full of fantastic beings and battles that draws on the whispers of history. The early pre-Abraham chapters of Genesis have the feel of great antiquity – almost an outline of the distant past, short of detail. While Godawa’s book is fiction – and perhaps the best example of a new sub-genre of fantasy sometimes referred to speculative fiction – he has managed to piece together a story that is not only gripping, but with more hints of truth than all the oddball, esoteric “nonfiction” writers out there.

In the appendix he gives more background detail to his story. I generally don’t like when authors start explaining things, but here it adds to the story, making one wonder where fiction ends and fact begins. His stories are set during the Late Bronze Age or thereabouts. I would argue that these stories are much older and far removed from us. Nevertheless, whatever or preconceived notions are about a novel that draws from biblical accounts, if you are a fan of fantasy or historical adventure, this series should be on your must read list.

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The Reimagining of Noah

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.

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