The headline on a Los Angeles Times opinion piece, of all things, tells the story best:
They paved Kentucky and put up a Noah's ark
That's right, folks. A for-profit company is reaching deep into the biblical archives -- all the way back to Genesis, in fact -- to build a theme park featuring a "full-size replica" of the ark, as The New York Times reported.
How big is a full-size replica? Um, for reasons that will be explained later, the Times apparently did not have room to include such details. But Genesis 6:14-16 contains these instructions by God to Noah:
14Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.
15And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.
16A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.
That's from the King James Version of the Bible. I'm typically a New International Version guy, but the NIV refers to "cypress wood." My Sunday school classmates and I learned at an early age that Noah used "gopher wood," as the KJV accurately reports.
You can imagine the kind of questions that reporters asked at the news conference announcing this project:
-- Will you use authentic gopher wood or a different kind of wood in this project?
-- What is pitch, and how will it affect the construction process?
-- How many feet are in a cubit?
-- Will your ark only have one door and one window for all the animals and tourists? And if so, will this create fire-code concerns?
-- Given that it took Noah an estimated 100 years to complete the ark, why are you confident you can finish the project in just 36 months?
I jest, I jest, although maybe a Godbeat pro did ask a few of those questions.
But based on the media coverage I have seen, I suspect that most of the questions related to separation of church and state -- or, if you prefer, separation of church and synagogue. Alas, this is America, where there is always a political angle to ruin a perfectly good religion story.
Again, I jest, I jest.
In this case, plans for the state to provide generous tourism tax incentives to the ark entrepreneurs have dominated the news coverage, much to the chagrin of folks -- or maybe I'm the only one -- intrigued by the idea of the ark itself.
The New York Times piece did include a few juicy details such as this:
In the interest of verisimilitude, the ark is to be built with wooden pegs and timber framing by Amish builders, Mr. Zovath said. Animals including giraffes -- but only small, young giraffes -- will be kept in pens on board.
"We think that God would probably have sent healthy juvenile-sized animals that weren't fully grown yet, so there would be plenty of room," said Mr. Zovath, a retired Army lieutenant colonel heading the ark project. "We want to show how Noah would have taken care of them, taken care of waste management, taken care of water needs and food needs."
The Lexington Herald-Leader provided this information on the dimensions:
The centerpiece of the proposed park is a 500-foot-by-75-foot wooden ark built to replicate the biblical Noah's Ark.
The ark will be made of various types of wood and capable of floating.
From the Louisville Courier-Journal:
Ark Encounter, which will feature a 500-foot-long wooden replica of Noah's Ark containing live animals such as juvenile giraffes, is projected to cost $150 million and create 900 jobs, Beshear announced at a Capitol press conference.
I really liked the lede on The Associated Press' ark story:
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Modern-day investors want to do in three years what took Noah and his sons more than 100 years to do: Build an ark to the dimensions specified in the Bible.
Mike Zovath, co-founder of the Answers in Genesis ministry that opened the Creation Museum in Kentucky three years ago, said Wednesday he believes the full-scale replica of Noah's Ark will draw some 1.6 million visitors a year to the Bible belt city of Williamstown.
The mission of the project, Zovath said, is to lend credence to the biblical account of a catastrophic flood and to dispel doubts that Noah could have fit two of every kind of animal onto a 500-foot-long ark.
There, in the first sentence, the AP writer answered a key question: whether the ark would conform to biblical dimensions. That's a crucial question, in my opinion. And in the third graf, the AP gives the exact length: 500 feet.
Don't misunderstand me: The church-state debate is an key element of this story. So is the clash of "mainstream scientific thought" against "the biblical account of the Earth's creation in six days."
But future news accounts could benefit -- in an ark-sized way -- from a few more details about the massive wooden boat at the center of this flood of controversy.