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The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood Paperback – 9 Oct 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (9 Oct. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444757083
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444757088
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 3.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 99,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

A serious book, but rarely a heavy one: in a sprightly, good-humoured way, Finkel communicates the thrill of true scholarship...it feels fresh and exciting here. (The Sunday Times)

The charged thrill of Finkel's chase permeates the book - the pages don't just join dots, they supply new pieces for a beautiful, Bronze-Age jigsaw-puzzle... Scholarly and droll, Finkel's writing is also eccentrically vivid... it is a joy. (The Times)

One of the most important human documents ever discovered... his conclusions will send ripples into the world of creationism and among ark hunters. (The Guardian)

A painstaking and lively investigation ... there are remarkable scholarly insights to admire ... brilliant. (Literary Review)

Finkel is a master at deciphering these ancient cuneiform clay tablets, but this book is far more than a fine piece of detective work: it is a humane work of scholarship that enlarges the soul. (Richard Holloway The Observer)

Delightful...a digressive, amusing personal book for the general reader, a book that is willing to ask big questions. (Stephen Moss The Guardian)

Finkel's account is wryly and entertainingly told. (Tom Holland The Guardian)

Exudes the enthusiasm of an expert deeply absorbed in his subject. (Times Literary Supplement)

A gem of a book. (The New Yorker)

Engaging and informative . . . Finkel is an enthusiast and shows evident delight in bringing this find to the wider public. (The Wall Street Journal)

Immensely erudite (I assume) and very funny. Anyone with the odd 45 years to spare should seriously think of retraining in Assyriology. (The Spectator)

Book Description

THE ARK BEFORE NOAH: Decoding the Story of the Flood by Dr Irving Finkel is a compelling investigation of one of the most famous myths in the world - and how the re-discovery of an ancient tablet challenges our view of ancient history in a new and exciting way.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Barton on 5 Mar. 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best books available on the middle-eastern Flood myth but it might not be the best. That's fine because it's really about the Ark and for that it might be the best book available. It covers all the extant middle-eastern Flood texts (I believe) with the love of a writer who knows the texts and even some of the original tablets intimately. It also spends a lot of time building up an understanding of the world surrounding the texts - especially that surrounding the Ark Tablet which is the center of this book. You will learn about cuneiform, ship building, marsh dwellers, babylonian ghosts (yes, a whole fascinating seemingly misplaced chapter on them), and, of course, the Ark and you'll (probably unexpectedly) enjoy most of it.

I found it most amazing how the presence of a handful of words in this short tablet have radically changed and coalesced our understanding of these varied Flood myths. It is a masterful work written for the layman but suitable for someone knowledgeable in the field. It even has one of my chief preferences in a text like this, an interlinear interpretation of the text so that you can take a look at the language behind the translation which often provides insight that the translation alone cannot. Amazingly, for all the insights that Dr. Finkel brings to this topic, there are plenty of insights which he seems to have missed or not included awaiting the interested reader.

My only complaint about the book is the referencing. Dr. Finkel (or, more likely, his editors) employ a truly atrocious form of referencing called chapter notes. These are the notes that you find in a section at the back of the book which are usually not terribly specific and can only be linked back to the page by page numbers and general context.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By waspish on 5 Mar. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was fun. Not only did it tell me things I didn't know, but it did its scholarship with a delightfully light touch. Finkel makes reading cuneiform sound like reading a thriller, and he kept me interested all the way through. Mesopotamian religion might be a niche market, but the general reader is very well catered for in this book. A page turner.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By G G S COLLINS on 31 Mar. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am no scholar of ancient history and I'm not sure why I bought this book - but I'm glad I did. Dr Finkel has spent his entire career deciphering and interpreting ancient clay tablets and it amazes me that anyone can read the seemingly random indentations on the tablets! Dr Finkel's infectious enthusiasm for his work and his engaging descriptions of his dealings with other experts in the field make for surprisingly easy reading.

Everyone knows the basic story of Noah's Ark and it has been known for years that the biblical story is based on earlier versions which go back as far as 1900BC. Dr Finkel, who is a curator at the British Museum and an expert on ancient Mesopotamia, carefully carries the reader through the histories of the flood story and even tries to teach us the basics of cuneiform writing. His major contribution to the work is his reading and interpretation of the Ark Tablet; this clearly describes the size and methods of manufacture of the ark. In spite of our preconceptions, it turns out that the original Ark was circular in shape and was, in fact, a super-sized coracle!

This book will be enjoyed by almost anyone who has an enquiring mind and who enjoys history. I was almost persuaded to try and grow a flowing white beard like Dr Finkel's but, perhaps wisely, my wife dissuaded me! A most enjoyable and informative read!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Assurbanipal on 3 Mar. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
A clear explanation of the different sources forming the story of Noah and his flood. The writer's dedication to deciphering the British Museum's collection of clay tablets is impressive and his enthusiasm for the subject is infectious.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Westray on 18 Mar. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Engagingly written - and pretty topical at the moment - this book investigates the 'Great Flood' myths that existed before they were adapted into the one we know best.
The impact of deciphering Babylonian Cuneiform writing turns out, in its own way, to be as controversial as Darwin's theories - and the Babylonian 'Noah' myth is a rich, human story. I won't spoil the delight of finding out for yourself what this 'Noah' made his Ark from - but, when you come to his complaints to his gods about the quality of the bitumen tar he's had to use to waterproof it, just try not to think of any builder across all of time whistling through his teeth!
A great read, turning what could be a very 'dry' subject into a detective story!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Hominid on 5 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fascinating stuff, written with wit, enthusiasm and authority. I did get confused now and again about which tablet version was from where and when, but that's my fault not the author's. If you have an interest in the history of the middle eastern flood myths then this book is for you. I know he's been doing this all his working life, but the knowledge and insight of Irving Finkel is mind blowing - it's difficult to imagine that another non-academic book on the subject could surpass it.

And it has a surprising link to the kids TV show The Double Deckers!

Great man. Great book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Jane on 16 Jan. 2015
Format: Audio Download
I downloaded The Ark Before Noah from Audible in a version which is read by the author, Dr Irving Finkel. For the first few minutes, I found his unpolished narrating style awkward to listen to and wondered if I had made a mistake. However, once his wonderful enthusiasm began to shine through, I was hooked. Finkel discusses his academic life, British Museum career and fabulous fairly-recent discovery of an ancient clay tablet containing details concerning the story of the ark and the flood. He also introduces us to the earliest origins of the story - waaay before the Hebrew Bible - and collects together other tablets with parts of the famous tale and shows how it evolved over some 4000 years into what we know today.
I was particularly fascinated by the comprehensive comparisons of the different tablets and their meshing story versions. As I have only heard the heroes' names, I am not going to attempt to spell them, but it had not previously occurred to me that Noah wasn't always called Noah! The earliest flood version wasn't occasioned by sin either - humans had simply become too noisy for the Gods to endure! Finkel goes into immense detail in his tablet comparions. He examines ark building techniques, mountain landing sites, and intricacies of language in a way that could be too in depth for less nerdy souls. I appreciated his dry humour throughout but am unsure whether this would come across via the printed page. This purely aural version obviously didn't contain images though so I think now a trip to the British Museum is called for so I can see the Ark tablet and Babylonian Map tablet 'in the flesh'. I am so intrigued by their existence that I might visit even if it's not raining!
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