Nick Page

So that’s what happened to the Ark of the Covenant…

It’s been a hectic time. I’ve been speaking and teaching at Spring Harvest for the first time in many years – and had a great time. Work is very busy at the moment: I’m revising my Bible Book for a relaunch in the summer (a chance to correct the mistakes and create some new maps!); I’m editing a new version of George MacDonald’s classic novel Phantastes, and I’m working on some exciting new projects, which I can’t divulge. What this essentially means is that I’m exhausted! And it’s only April.

Anyway, being away over the last few weeks meant that I missed Tudor Parfitt’s C4 documentary in which he rediscovered the ark of the Covenant. Fortunately someone videoed it for me and I watched it last night. I thought I’d heard all the theories, but this was a new one on me: the Ark of the Covenant was taken by some Jews from Jerusalem to Yemen, where they kept it for a few centuries before moving down to South Africa. By which time it had turned into a drum. A large drum. But still a drum. And only 600 years old.

To be fair there were some fascinating things in the programme, not least the genetic information which showed that the lemba people of S.Africa really did have Jewish ancestry. But the linking of their ancestral drum with the Ark of the Covenant was.. er… well, it was a bit bonkers actually. Parfitt claims that the tribe brought with them a sacred object from Jerusalem. But there are a lot of problems with this. For a start the Biblical evidence is scanty. As [I state in my book->] there are hardly any references to the Ark of the Covenant after the reign of Solomon. So the dates of its disappearance could be any time from about 1000BC to the Babylonian conquest of 598 BC. There’s no real evidence that it was still around at the time of the Babylonian conquest. Secondly, I noticed that in Parfitt’s theory the escaping Jews went to Petra – which was in Edom. Yet according to the Bible, the Edomites, and Edom had had actually helped the Babylonians to attack Jerusalem. The Babylonians controlled Edom, so why anyone would escape in that direction is beyond me. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly: IT’S A FLAMING DRUM.

There were some good things in the programme. It pointed out that the ark was, essentially, just a box, so the wood would have rotted long ago (hence it being remade – as a drum). It destroyed some of the other theories (such as the Ethiopian theory, which is a seventeenth century myth). And Tudor himself got to jet around the world, so I’m pleased for him.

But it’s still a drum.