Augustine ends book 15 with a discussion of how to read the Ark narrative in Genesis. He says that it’s not enough to read the story as a literal story of eight people and a whole bunch of animals getting into a big boat. There are too many inherent connections to the story of the salvation of God’s people. We have to read it as an allegory for how God saves His people in Christ. He says that the story was written “with purpose”, meaning that it has some allegorical meaning for others out side of the historical narrative. But, he says, it is also not enough to read it only as allegory. To reject the history would be to maintain a perspective on the world and God’s place in it that comes dangerously close to anti-miracle or anti-supernatural. Of course, the details of the story are absurd – that is part of the point, after all – but that is no reason to think that they could not or did not happen. God is in the habit of doing absurd things to restore and remake His creation, not least of which is the incarnation and death of His Son.

We could quibble about the details of this particular text, but I’m fully on board with Augustine’s ways of reading Scripture. It is not good enough to reject the history but say that it has spiritual or allegorical meaning for us. At the same time, I’m no fan of reading the story as history with no space for allegorical readings that connect this beautiful and ancient text to our world. If God had a hand in the creation of the text, then we can have confidence that He has a hand in creating meanings for us from the text in an ongoing way.