The idea for a book about Noah came when J. David Pleins, professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University, was interviewed for a National Geographic Society video about recent discoveries in the Black Sea that were believed to offer new evidence on the biblical story of Noah’s Ark.
In his book When the Great Abyss Opened: Classic and Contemporary Readings of Noah’s Flood (Oxford University Press, 2003), Pleins examines four approaches to looking at the story of Noah and his ark, ranging from fundamentalist to scientific views.
Pleins, who teaches courses in biblical studies and comparative ancient Near Eastern literature and mythology draws on a variety of sources in his book, from Joseph Campbell’s study of myths and the views of medieval rabbis, to Pope John Paul II’s call for the Catholic Church to hold an open dialogue with the scientific community in 1996.
“To probe the mythic meaning of the ancient flood legends,” Pleins writes, “is to probe our deepest selves. Through such tales we come to see the integral character of the core values and virtues that have woven together entire civilizations throughout the centuries.”