Noah, Action Hero

Brian Godawa, screenwriter of To End All Wars, has written a “speculative retelling” of the Noah story titled, Noah Primeval: Chronicles of the Nephilim Book I. I was contacted about reviewing the book and at first was not interested. “Hollywood re-envisions a Bible story” did not sound interesting. However, when I noticed Godawa has a book on faith and film published by IVP and saw endorsements ranging from Ralph Winter (X-Men) to Marvin Olasky, I decided to give it a chance.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book- both the theological depth and strength of writing. This is a really fun read! I was impressed by how the author built biblical plausibility into so much of the story. Of course, it is quite speculative in many areas, but overall it works. Then, the words put into the mouths of the characters are often theologically weighty and profound. One powerful scene provides a moving expression of courage rooted in trust in God’s sovereignty. Often scriptural truths, which show up after Genesis, are stated by characters in the story.

The basic idea is that Noah would have been part of a tribe. Thus, in this retelling Noah leads a tribe who remains faithful to Yahweh resisting the lure of the “city dwellers” who have been drawn into the worship of the fallen angels who have set themselves up as gods on the earth. Here Godawa draws in the creation stories from the Ancient Near East as the alternative stories created by these fallen angles to draw people away from Elohim. Noah also is struggling with trusting God in light of the sufferings he and his people have endured. This sets up a good lesson on how people sometimes struggle with faith but in the end must trust God.

Godawa has done his homework on the Nephilim (which seems to be the central interest in the series), other creation and flood stories from the Ancient Near East, the Book of Enoch and intertestamental Jewish literature as he weaves ideas from all of these into a fantasy tale. He provides several appendixes explaining his understanding of various issues which underlie the story (Nephilim, Leviathan, etc.). I am not convinced by all his interpretation, but the story still works well. He is careful to state that he is not trying to suggest this is how the Noah story even might have happened. Here are his words:

“This novel seeks to remain true to the sparse facts presented in Genesis (with admittedly significant embellishments) interwoven with theological images and metaphors come to life. Where I engage in flights of fancy, such as a journey into Sheol, I seek to use figurative imagery from the Bible … and bring them to life” (4).

I think Godawa succeeds overall (a couple of lapses) and tells a great story. I enjoyed the story immensely and was encouraged by it. This book would make great holiday reading.

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