I remember as a child looking at pictures of Noah's ark and criticizing them because they showed many windows in the ark. I had always been told that Noah's ark only had one window. Of course, there was no passage in scripture that directly said that there was only one window in the ark, but this could be known from a couple of passages. For one thing, in Genesis 6:16 God told Noah to make a window for the ark, implying that there was to be only one window. Then, in Genesis 8:6 we read that Noah opened the window of the ark, once again implying only one window.
As I have grown older, however, I have learned that although we can trust God's word, it is perilous to trust our reasonings based upon it. We are fallible human beings and our reasoning is sometimes fallible. Take the two passages above, for example. The Hebrew words translated "window" are not even the same in both verses. The word translated "window" in the King James Version of Genesis 6:16 is translated "light" in the American Standard Version and "roof" in the Revised Standard and New International Versions. Its literal meaning is "noonlight." It probably refers to a "skylight" put in the roof of the ark. Many "arkeologists" have supposed that the phrase "finish it to a cubit above" refers to a covering built a cubit above the skylight to shed the rain. Thus, it would provide light and ventilation for the ark while keeping the water outside.
As for the second passage, Genesis 8:6 does refer to a window. One cannot come to a conclusion as to the number of windows in the ark based on the word "the," however, for the Hebrew language cannot construct the phrase "a window of the ark." If the possessor (i.e., ark) is definite (i.e., has "the"), then the thing possessed (i.e., window) is definite in Hebrew also. A closer parallel in English would be the translation "the ark's window." Here the word "the" gives a definiteness to both "ark" and "window." But this definiteness does not imply that there was only one window. In speaking of a train, for example, I can say, "I saw a man at the caboose's window." By this, I do not imply that the caboose only had one window. "The" window I am speaking of is "the" window with the man in it. In the same way, when scripture says that Noah opened the ark's window, this does not necessarily mean that the ark only had one window. It may have; we do not know. The most that we can say about the number of windows in the ark was that it had at least one window, maybe more.
Now while this whole discussion (however interesting) may seem rather trivial, three observations about what I learned as a child may be made which are not so trivial. First, the conviction that we must stick exactly to what God's word says is a spiritually healthy thing and I am glad that I was taught this. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that we must learn not to go beyond what is written (I Cor. 4:6). Second, I learned that we must use our minds to analyze God's word. While my youthful mind did not have the proper tools to fully carry out the analysis, I did learn to think about God's word for myself and not blindly accept the popular understanding. Finally, I also learned a rather sectarian pride that what I was taught was right and all others were wrong. It is only as I unlearn this that I can be free to look at God's word afresh. The destruction of that pride is necessary to go deeper into God's word. When we think that we have arrived, we are in danger of having bogged down.
Copyright © 1993,1999, Bruce Terry. All rights reserved. This article may be freely reprinted in bulletins and newsletters so long as no charge is made to the reader and this copyright notice is included.