By Yolandé Stander
A CONTROVERSIAL new book which portrays the biblical figure of Noah and his family as rapists and murderers and is being touted as setwork reading at South African schools has been slammed by Christian leaders and family protection groups as “blatant blasphemy”.
The outraged groups have also labeled the book In the Shadow of the Ark, by award-wining Belgian writer Anne Provoost, a “perversion of a biblical story” which could be seen as an attack on the Christian faith and opened its “sacred texts” to ridicule.
The book has been translated into Afrikaans and hit Eastern Cape earlier this month. Publisher Protea Boekhuis has announced its intentions to submit the book to the various departments of education for consideration as prescribed reading material in schools.
The work of fiction tells how a young girl, Re Jana, faces a choice of becoming Noah’s son Ham’s concubine or “sex slave” to secure her place on the ark and survive the flood. The book also touches on subjects like rape, murder, violence, idol worship and homosexual acts during and after the flood.
“The book has been prescribed in the Netherlands for a number of years as a setwork. It is a wonderful read and will appeal to readers in South African schools,” said Protea Boekhuis publishing manager Izak de Vries. “I will most definitely submit the book to the various departments.”
President of the Apostolic Faith Mission Isak Burger said he was perplexed by the reason and motivation behind such a move. “We are increasingly faced with a society that is marred by immoral lifestyles and diminishing values, resulting in dysfunctional families. “There are no biblical grounds to justify her story and the fact she is doing it can be seen as blatant blasphemy.”
While he believed “the humanistic” principle of freedom of speech allowed people to say and write what they wanted – “even if it is filth and rubbish” – it should not be an insult to the religious and spiritual values of others.
Family Policy Institute director Errol Naidoo described the book as a “perversion” of the biblical story of Noah and his family. “Christians view publications of this nature as an attempt to undermine and blaspheme the sacred texts of the faith. Children of school-going age must never be exposed to such sexual depravity especially when it manipulates the sacred scriptures of a major faith group,” said Naidoo, adding school curriculums had no authority to undermine and pervert religion, he said.
Christian Action Network international coordinator Taryn Hodgson said the book seemed a “totally fictional re-writing of the biblical historical account of Noah’s Ark”. However executive member of the Freedom of Expression Institute, Professor Anton Harber, said one should be reluctant to place restrictions on any publication that did not contradict the Constitution.
This is a shortened version of an article that first appeared in the print edition of Weekend Post on Saturday March 10, 2012.