In his book Jesus, Interrupted, Bart Ehrman, distinguished professor of religious studies at the prestigious University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is perplexed about the number of animals Noah took with him on the ark. He poses the following question: “Does [Noah] take seven pairs of all the ‘clean’ animals, as Genesis 7:2 states, or just two pairs, as Genesis 7:9–10 indicates?”

First, I would like to pose a different question: Does it seem reasonable to suppose that an author capable of writing a masterpiece such as the book of Genesis would get confused within the span of several sentences, or is it more likely that Ehrman is straining at gnats and swallowing a camel?

Furthermore, is Ehrman’s question legitimate, or has he created a problem out of whole cloth? Ehrman, of course, has created a fictional problem. Genesis 7:9–10 does not say that Noah was to take just two pairs.

Finally, if Ehrman really wants an answer, all he needs to do is consider the context. Several verses back, God said to Noah, “You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female” (6:19). In Genesis 7:2–3, God added: “Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.” Together these verses provide a sufficient answer.

Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters
came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife
and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters
of the flood. Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds
and of all creatures that move along the ground, male
and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God
had commanded Noah. And after the seven days the
floodwaters came on the earth.

Genesis 7:6–10