Two's Company the experts say

The whole brouhaha over Prince Charles and the sexual peccadillo about which no one is allowed to write or speak has me thinking about Noah. Possibly you haven't read the Bible lately — and why would you, even its most ardent readers call it the Good Book; no doubt you're holding out for a Great Book. In any case, here's how Noah starts.

First, divine beings are smitten by the beauty of ordinary mortal women and take them as their wives. Next, God — who's very big on boundaries — reminds everyone that humans are mortal and sets their life span at 126 years. But do these mixed-marriage couples get it? No, they go ahead and have children, Nephilim, who are demi-gods by virtue of their parentage — in-between mortal and immortal. And, says the Bible, "They were the heroes of old, the men of renown."

Followed immediately by "And God saw how great was man's wickedness." The only antecedent for "wickedness" being the hero-worship of demigods, one can only assume God meant man to revile them for being Middle Men. And when man doesn't revile them but worships them instead, God gets so disgusted He sends the flood to destroy every living thing on earth — we'll see who's semi-mortal now! — except of course for Noah and his family, because Noah is a "righteous" man who can be trusted to put two and two together.

Which is what Noah mainly does. This is the "two of each unto the ark" part. (It follows the "three hundred cubits by fifty cubits by thirty cubits part." In fact, this whole section is math, like in the movie The Hunt for Red October — "Your target is at 2000 meters, re-clock distance twenty miles." It probably just seemed like forty days.)

Finally, the ark lands on Mt. Ararat and God decides "so long as the earth endures, seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease." Everything will be in two. Nothing in-between. That's basically what the covenant represents: God promises not to send any more floods; humankind promises to eschew the middle.

All of which goes a long way towards explaining why the middle class is being squeezed out. Why mid-sized cars have given way to Mini-Coopers and Hummers. Why there's trouble in the Middle East. (My advice: change the name to Mellow East. Problem solved.)

But wait, you ask, where's the sex part?

At the end of the Noah story, in which God the Bible-writer turns out to be like Oliver Stone, the director — he never saw a point he couldn't drive home harder.

"Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyards. He drank some of the wine, became drunk and lay naked inside his tent. When Ham, father of Canaan, saw his father naked, he told his two brothers outside. So Shem and Japheth took a cloak, put it on their shoulders and walked backwards and so covered their father's naked body; their faces were turned away so they did not see their father naked. When Noah woke from his drunken sleep, he learnt what his youngest son had done to him, and said "Cursed be Canaan, slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers."

Believe me, even actual religious scholars look at this and go "Huh?" The son sees his father naked, tells his brothers, and boom, his progeny is consigned to slavery, to be the slave of slaves? Even Prince Charles is only threatening a law-suit.

Some religious scholars point to the word "nakedness," which, in this context, can mean specifically the genitals. From this, they conclude that Ham committed a sexual offense against Noah or Mrs. Noah or caught Noah out in one. Here's my interpretation. To earn a curse that dire, Ham had to have seen — and worse, told! — something really, really bad. Less an impropriety, more an impiety.

Let's review: 1) God's cosmology boils down to two/two/two/two/two. 2) There are only two of anything and nothing in-between, nothing in the middle. 3) Noah is the earthly representative of this divine order.

For you to assess on the crackpot scale of one to ten, here's today's theory: Ham found Noah in a threesome, in-between two other partners.

Read the response of Tammi Schneider, Associate Professor of Religion at Claremont State University

Read the response of Stephen Mitchell, author, translator

Read the response of Rabbi Jen Krause

Tammi J. Schneider, Associate Professor of Religion at Claremont Gradate University, writes, "Emily has done her homework. The end of Noah's story is a bit confusing and I am not convinced that her take on it should be dismissed." Read on
Author Stephen Mitchell says, "Crackpot? Your theory seems entirely reasonable to me. As a matter of fact, the Tao Te Ching elucidates it perfectly in its 42nd chapter." Read on
Rabbi Jen Krause responds, "Here's the flaw in the threesome theory: the Bible is a basically patriarchal narrative. If Noah had been engaging in said act, Ham would probably have been rewarded for telling the tale." Read on