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Publisher's Summary

Since the Victorian period, it has been understood that the story of Noah, iconic in the Book of Genesis, and a central motif in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, derives from a much older story that existed centuries before in ancient Babylon. But the relationship between the Babylonian and biblical traditions was shrouded in mystery. Then, in 2009, Irving Finkel, a curator at the British Museum and a world authority on ancient Mesopotamia, found himself playing detective when a member of the public arrived at the museum with an intriguing cuneiform tablet from a family collection. Not only did the tablet reveal a new version of the Babylonian Flood Story; the ancient poet described the size and completely unexpected shape of the ark, and gave detailed boat building specifications. Decoding this ancient message wedge by cuneiform wedge, Dr. Finkel discovered where the Babylonians believed the ark came to rest and developed a new explanation of how the old story ultimately found its way into the Bible. In The Ark Before Noah, Dr. Finkel takes us on an adventurous voyage of discovery, opening the door to an enthralling world of ancient voices and new meanings.

©2014 Irving Finkel (P)2014 Tantor
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"[Finkel's] conclusions will send ripples into the world of creationism and among ark hunters." ( Guardian)

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What listeners say about The Ark Before Noah

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excellent, enlightening, entertaining

Any additional comments?

The author successfully combines "modern" detective stories from the 19th, 20th & 21st centuries, archeological, linguistic & literary; with an approachable guide to the history of written language (focusing on cunieform); and the evolution of biblical literature (focusing on the Noah story, but not only that). The writing & the narration, excellent. I was so sorry when the book was over, I wanted to hear more.

11 people found this helpful

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Nerd candy!! (Linguistics + History)

Yes, there are videos online providing much of the same story; however, you might find the finer details in this book even more fascinating. In short, it's a detailed historical and semi-linguistic discussion about Cuneiform tablets, the Babylonians, and how their inscriptions passed through history in a variety of forms all the way into modern day religion. If you don't get captivated by academic studies, then move on. But if you do, this book is for you.

4 people found this helpful

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Splendid and Perfectly full of new knowledge

Would you listen to The Ark Before Noah again? Why?

I would. It will be one I pick up again in a few years I think. It was that full of knowledge that I can't imagine how much more I'll learn from a second listen.

Which scene was your favorite?

My favorite part was the small section about discovering the scratched in game boards on the feet of many statues that were used by soldiers whiling away their time. Most of these statues were scattered around museums across the world, and remained unseen until a serendipitous discovery one day.

Any additional comments?

I absolutely ADORED this book. Not only did I learn an incredible amount, but the author is a quintessentially British academic - and that makes him adorable. At least, to me. I dig that sort of thing. Page after page is injected with both hard facts, historic discovery, and the dry humor that you either get and love - or you don't.

This is a book written by a man that deciphered one of the more important tablets that show how much the traditional myth story of "Noah's flood" was just a copy/paste job from an earlier myth. Only names were really changed. As a skeptic and atheist that has a healthy (mostly healthy I suppose) love of history, this book seemed tailor written for me to love every minute of it.

The narration by both the author and Armstrong was strong. I adored Finkel's phlegmatic British accent.

2 people found this helpful

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Vastly entertaining book

I have enjoyed this book from the very first sentence. It creates the experience of attending a university class with an extraordinary teacher. The writer is at home with his material and presents it in a relaxed and charming manner. (There are two readers listed; I assume the primary reader is the author. ) He speaks directly and in a lively manner to the listener.

I have listened with equal pleasure to the book as I do other things in the house and while sitting quietly. Either way I sometimes go back and re-listen to a few minutes just for the pleasure of rehearing a particularly interesting passage. Did I mention it is also funny? Loved it.

1 person found this helpful

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Irving Finkel is just the best.

Irving Finkel presents a wonderfully compelling and well researched history of the Ark. That, and he makes me now want to deep dive into Assyriology! I really hope for more books from him!

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Hard to listen to the narrator!

The substance of the book somewhat interesting if you can get past the horrible narration.

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  • 06-14-22

A bit slow to start but worth the wait

The early part of the book is a bit of a slog as it's the author's love letter to cuneiform. It wasn't without some interesting moments but it went on a bit long for my taste. Once it gets more to the point it really gets interesting.

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Brilliance and Dedication of Purpose Exemplified

Humanity will come to Thank the author deeply for the abilities developed over his lifetime. To be able to connect past language to cultural source across great distances of time is awe inspiring, but to do it with such chipper mental flair is such good storytelling.

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Very insightful analysis

Irving Finkel here reads his on book on the Flood tradition, starting with the cuneiform sources. Finkel is one of the foremost scholars in cuneiform studies, and has a very delightful style in talking about the material. I found it an enchanting listen, helped by Finkel's melodious voice. Finkel shows how he thinks through the fragmentary evidence and manages to squeeze an amazing amount of information from them. Highly recommended.

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Very enjoyable to listen to.

Irving Finkel is an excellent reader. He makes his points in a logical, easy to understand way. He's also very funny. I don't doubt he is an expert Assyriologist and obviously an expert on Semitic languages. I would love to learn to read cuneiform just from listening to this book.

However, I disagree that the captive Jews in Babylon incorporated the Sumerian/Assyrian flood story into their Biblical one. Abram of Ur was a contemporary of Noah and Shem and could have gotten the story first hand. Captive Jews like Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel were obsessed with keeping and preserving the Law of Moses, which included the Noah's flood story.