AS WE BEGIN TO SPEAK ABOUT THE ARK which was constructed by Noah at God's command, let us see first of all what is related about it literally, and, proposing the questions which many are in the habit of presenting, let us search out also their solutions from the traditions which have been handed down to us by the forefathers. When we have laid foundations of this kind, we can ascend from the historical account to the mystical and allegorical understanding of the spiritual meaning and, if these contain anything secret, we can explain it as the Lord reveals knowledge of his word to us.
First, therefore, let us set forth these words which have been written. "And the Lord said to Noah," the text says, "the critical moment1 of every man has come before me, since the earth is filled with iniquity by them; and behold, I shall destroy them and the earth. Make, therefore, yourself an ark of squared planks; you shall make nests in the ark, and you shall cover it with pitch within and without. And thus you shall make the ark: the length of the ark three hundred cubits and the breadth fifty cubits and its height thirty cubits, you shall assemble and make the ark, and you shall finish it on top to a cubit. And you shall make a door in the side of the ark. You shall make two lower decks in it and three upper decks."2 And after a few words the text says, "And Noah did everything which the Lord God commanded him, thus he did it."3
In the first place, therefore, we ask what sort of appearance and form we should understand of the ark. I think, to the extent that it is manifest from these things which are described, rising with four angles from the bottom, and the same having____________________