Noah and Freemasonry
R. Jeffery, Grand Lecturer February, 1990.

NOTE:Supplementary Info included
on Noah's Ark after this lecture

The average Craft Freemason would probably be quite surprised to learn that Noah ever had any connection with Freemasonry. But there is one degree which is frequently worked here in Queensland, and in many other places too, in which Noah plays a prominent part. I refer of course to the Royal Ark Mariner degree, which is worked in Chapters under the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Queensland, and in Lodges under the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of Queensland. but even brethren who are familiar with this particular degree may be surprised to learn the length of time for which the connection between Noah and Freemasonry has existed, and the extent of the connection, even today.

The oldest Masonic document in the world, the Regius MS, dated about 1390, mentions Noah, but this is just a passing reference. The next oldest Masonic document, the Cooke MS, dated about 1410, also mentions Noah, but has more to say about his family. The story told, which appears with minor variations in all subsequent copies of the Old Charges, as these Manuscripts are known collectively, is substantially as follows: Lamech had two wives, Adah and Zillah, and four children. These four children were the founders of all the crafts in the world. The first son, Jabal, was the founder of the craft of geometry, was a keeper of flocks and herds, and built the first house of stone and timber. The second son, Jubal, was the first musician, and played the harp, the organ and the trumpet. The third son, Tubal, was the first blacksmith and worker in brass, copper, silver and gold. The daughter, Naamah, was the founder of the craft of weaving. Knowing that God would destroy the world by fire or flood because of the sins of the people, and being desirous of preserving their knowledge for future generations, these four erected a pillar of marble and a pillar of brick.

On these pillars, they inscribed the knowledge of the crafts and sciences that they had founded. After the world was destroyed by the Flood, which Noah survived because of the Ark which he had built, the pillars were found by a great grand son of Noah, and the knowledge inscribed thereon was imparted to mankind.

Genesis 4:18-24 gives the Biblical story of Lamech, his two wives and four children, which is quite different from the story of the Old Charges. It is interesting to note that the Tubal mentioned in the Old Charges is given in the Bible as Tubal-Cain, well known to every Freemason.

Lamech also appears in Genesis 5:25-31, where he is given as the father of Noah. Some scholars have suggested that the Lamech of Genesis 4 and the Lamech of Genesis 5 are in fact the same person, but this is open to doubt. Suffice it to say that to the writers of the Old Charges, there were two separate persons named Lamech.

The earliest Old Charge containing the story of Lamech is, as stated, the Cooke MS of about 1410. There is a gap of about 100 years before we come to the next oldest of the Old Charges still in existence. By comparing phrases used, the story told, the spelling, the sequence of the events mentioned, the layout of the document generally and so on, scholars are unanimous in stating that this copy of the Old Charges (and all subsequent copies of the Old Charges) are copies - through an unknown number of intermediate copies of the Cooke MS. Thus we have undeniable proof of Noah and his family having been connected with Freemasonry ever since the Regius MS was written in about 1390. But of course, the Regius MS had an unknown source, as did the Cooke MS, so the connection goes further back still.

One should perhaps mention the Mystery plays presented by various guilds in England in the 13th to 16th century. It appears that a particular guild presented the same play annually in a particular English city. At least eight of these plays concerned Noah and the Ark - all presented annually for many years in some city. There is no known connection between these plays and Freemasonry, but they do show that some knowledge of Noah and the Ark was commonplace in those days. It is possible that this knowledge played a part in causing Noah to be mentioned in the Old Charges, let us now look at another example of Noah’s connection with Freemasonry.

The world’s first Grand Lodge was formed in 1717, and in 1723, there appeared the first Book of Constitution for the premier Grand Lodge. This book was written by a Dr. James Anderson, and contains the rules and regulations. More importantly for our purposes, it also contains a history of Freemasonry, written by Anderson. In writing this history, Anderson drew freely on the Old Charges, but did not hesitate to alter or invent when it suited him to do so. It is worth quoting several passages from Anderson’s history:  ‘Until at length Noah, the ninth from Seth, was commanded and directed of God to build the great Ark, which the wood, was certainly fabricated by Geometry and according to the rules of Masonry. Noah and his three sons, Ham, Shem and Japheth, all Masons true…’‘...yet their skill in Masonry …And though it was afterwards lost in most parts of the Earth, it was specially preserved in Shinar and Assyria, where Nimrod, the founder of that Monarchy, after the Dispersion, built many splendid cities....”

So now we suddenly find that Noah and his sons were Masons, as was Nimrod, who was a great grandson of Noah (Genesis: 8-l0). Anderson repeated this story in the next Book of Constitutions, which again he wrote. Anderson’s second B. of C. was printed in 1738.

Yet another connection of Noah and Freemasonry is to be found in one of the Old Charges - the Graham MS - dated 1726, and brought to light in 1936. In this MS is described a raising, such as we see in our present day Third Degree. But the body raised is not that of H A B - it is the body of Noah. And the persons doing the raising are not three craftsmen, but the three sons of Noah - Ham, Shem and Japheth.

Put into modern language, the story told is as follows: We have it by tradition and some Scripture reference that Shem, Ham and Japheth went to their Father’s grave to try to find his valuable secret. They had previously agreed that if they could not find his secret, the first thing they found would serve instead, for they firmly believed that God would make this thing as valuable as the secret itself. So they came to the grave, finding nothing but a dead body almost rotted away. They took a grip on a finger, but it came away, as did the hand at the wrist and the arm at the elbow. So they reared up the dead body and supported it, foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, cheek to cheek and hand to back and cried out “Help, 0 Father” meaning “0 Father of heaven, help us now, for our earthly father cannot.” So they laid the body down again, not knowing what to do. One said “Here is yet marrow in this bone” and the second said “But a dry bone” and the third said “It stinketh.” So they agreed to give it a name, which is known to Freemasonry to this day. Yet it is believed that the virtue did not proceed from what they found, but from faith and prayer.

There have been numerous versions of the word of a Master Mason, and some of them have been something that sounds very much like “marrow in the bone.” It is quite obvious, then what is meant by the sentence “So they agreed to give it a name, which is known to Freemasonry to this day.” Masonic scholars who studied the matter are unanimous in stating the Graham MS reflects the actual working of a lodge, perhaps a number of lodges. It has been stated that the Graham MS of 1726 is the earliest known description of a Masonic raising. The first reference to H A B being raised occurs in Prichard’s “Masonry Dissected” of 1730 — four years after the Graham MS was written.

We find references to Noah in Masonic jewels, especially jewels from about 1750 onwards. Jewels had been worn long before this - one of the first official references to them is in an instruction from Grand Lodge dated. 24th June, 1727. But jewels from about 1750 on have a number of interesting features. They were basically of two types - stamped out, as is a coin, or with designs cut out with a tiny fret saw or other tool, and then engraved or incised. These pierced jewels typically included numerous Masonic emblems crowded onto the jewel. Among the emblems found are the flaming sword, the crossed quills, a coffin, the five pointed star, the all seeing eye, the Mason’s pick, Noah’s Ark, the tessellated pavement, a pedestal, and numerous others. The same sort of thing is found on the decorated aprons of the same period.

It was normal for Masons to put on their aprons various symbols to Indicate the degrees through which the wearer had passed, so that the Inclusion of Noah’s Ark on the jewel or on the apron would normally indicate that the wearer had taken a degree in which either Noah or the Ark played a central part. Although we lack the rituals (none were printed for any degree in those days), the titles of the degrees indicate that there were several degrees to which this could apply.

Crossing now to the U.S.A., we read in Mackey’s Encyclopedia about the Noachidae. Mackey states that the term “Noachidae” means the descendants of Noah, and is a name applied to Freemasons on the theory that Noah was the father and founder of the Masonic system of theology. This theory Is based on the legend of the Craft. Hence, Freemasons claim to be descendants of Noah. Mackey also states that Dr. Anderson, referred to above, used the term in his second Book of Constitutions, dated 1738. The actual passage reads: “A Mason Is obliged by his tenure to observe the moral law as a true Noachida.” Mackey names several degrees - Patriarch Noachite, and Ark and Dove - as degrees which were woven about Noah and the Ark.

Since the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813, the Deacon’s jewel has been a dove with an olive branch in her beak. This is found as a collar jewel, and is usually found on top of the Deacon’s wand. But we do not have to look very far to find that the dove with an olive branch Is a symbol for Noah and the Ark. This comes, of course, from the Biblical story of Noah and the Flood. Hence, it may be claimed that even in our Craft lodges today, we have a remnant of the story referring to Noah, which is to be found in the Old Charges. It may be that this story had some influence in causing the dove, as Noah’s messenger, to be chosen as the Deacon’s jewel, the Deacon being a messenger also. But the Craft ritual plainly states that the dove is an emblem of celerity. Hence, this interpretation must be the preferred one for Craft Freemasons — but not necessarily the only interpretation.

It will be seen then, that Noah has been associated with Freemasonry, to a greater or lesser  extent, continuously from the earliest records (the Regius MS of 1390 and the Cooke MS of 1410) right up to the present day. Only one other person has been associated with Freemasonry for the same length of time, and that person is, as one would expect, Solomon, King of Israel, the builder of the Temple at Jerusalem.

References Freemasons’ Compendium and Guide, Bernard E. Jones.
Mackey’s Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry. 
Pocket History of Freemasonry, Pick & Knight




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