Bunking Down on Noah's Ark
How did all the animals fit in Noah's ark?
Bunk beds. Being one of six kids in my family, let me tell you—that's not a fun existence for forty days of rain and 150 days of floating. That's right, it rained for forty days Genesis 7:17, but the waters remained for 150 days (Genesis 7:24).
So much has been made about whether or not Noah's ark existed or if it were just an allegorical story to teach us a truth. The Bible (and a great number of modern archaeologists and surveyors) report and testify that the ark still rests, under a frozen bed of ice, atop Mt. Ararat (Genesis 8:4) in the country we now call Turkey (on the border of Iran). It sits almost 17,000 feet above sea level and the ice cap is almost 300 feet deep and spans almost 17 square miles around the top.
But remember, the "how" questions about early Genesis are less important than the "why" questions. The first dozen (or so) chapters of Genesis weren't written to be an orderly scientific account, just as this answer is not designed for that. It is like people trying to use my prayer journal as a newspaper of current events...that ain't the purpose of it.
Let me give you an example. My journal might read "when I was at Church this morning, something really hit me during prayer." Notice that I didn't say how I got to Church, what time of morning it was or what my prayer revelation was. Someone could take that line from my journal and treat it historically if they unearthed it a hundred or a thousand (or four to six thousand) years from now and draw from the journals words and lines an incredibly misinterpreted "historical" account of what transpired with me at the Church. They might think I lived at church, it was a vision or, possibly, that I was magically transported there by God since I didn't mention how I got there. They might think morning meant between sunrise and noon, when (for a youth minister) it could mean the middle of the night until about 2 or 3 in the afternoon. They could think that something literally hit me, like an usher dropped the collection basket on my head, or someone flung a songbook or Bible at me. You get the idea. So, the intention, audience, framework, author, tone, background, etc. all play important roles in our exegesis (reading out of the Scriptures their intended meaning). That's the beauty of having Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium (the Teaching authority of the Catholic Church) to help guide us, with almost 2000 years of intense inspiration, prayer, study, debate and discernment on our side.
So let's get back to your original question. How could all the animals fit on the ark? Well, honestly, this is not really a Biblical question, since the option of reading the Flood allegorically does not detract from God's existence, truth or promise. This, actually, is more a question of physics, biology, geometry, zoology...in short, the debates that rage over whether or not Noah's ark was historical fact or allegorical truth is not for a Bible Geek to decide (I know what I think). Let the math and science geeks figure it out. Which is what many have done, already. There are, quite literally, hundreds of websites that argue the pros and cons of how the ark could or could not have stored all the animals. My favorite (and the most scientific) ark site can be found at www.worldwideflood.com. Check it out, it's a good time.
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