Man Painstakingly Crafts Scaled-Down Model of Noah’s Ark to Last Detail, Brings Bible Epic to Life

A nearly-retired construction worker in Virginia spent years of spare evenings and weekends building a perfect replica of Noah’s Ark. Down to the smallest detail, his creation is faithful to one of the Bible’s most enduring epics.

Mackie Jenkins, 65, from Washington, D.C. originally, started a Bible study ministry three decades ago in Warrenton, Virginia, where his teaching passion came to the fore. From 1999 he began producing materials and models of the Ark to aid as props.

“We found a log when I was doing hybrid construction, about 45 feet [14 meters] below street level in Alexandria, Virginia, on a high-rise we were building,” Mr. Jenkins told The Epoch Times, adding his belief about its origins. “The log was not from this time period.”

It was from the “pre-flood” era, he thinks.

A replica Noah’s Ark built to 1:40 scale sits in the office of Mackie Jenkins, 65, in Warrenton, Virginia. (Courtesy of Megan Jenkins)
Replica animals made of wood are shown being filed into the Ark two by two. (Courtesy of Megan Jenkins)

This was the impetus behind his first of several Ark models that grew successively larger in scale. Firstly, he used the log to build a 6-foot (1.8 meter) prototype. This was around when Ken Ham, CEO and founder of Answers in Genesis, was building his now world-renowned Ark Encounter in Kentucky.

Mr. Jenkins was inspired by this to think big. He wanted to incorporate all 15 biblical scenes of the Ark in one model: including its construction, the boarding of animals, and its landing after the flood. His 6-foot (1.8 meters) replica proved too small for his purposes; so he spent two more years, between 2015 and 2017, building a 12-foot (3.6-meter) version.

“Well, we’re getting close, but we’re still not there,” Mr. Jenkins said. “So I built a third one.” Starting around 2019, he drew plans for a larger Ark and gathered wood materials from a rather particular community.

Mr. Jenkins’s Noah’s Ark model being built in the woodworking shop. (Courtesy of Mackie Jenkins)
A wooden model of Noah’s Ark during the building stage sits in the woodworking shop. (Courtesy of Mackie Jenkins)

At an Amish sawmill near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he found the quarter-sawn oak that would give the ornamental finish he desired. The Amish processed the wood by cutting it “the wrong way” to expose the pattern of the grain to show off.

“It would draw [people’s] attention, and then we can tell them about the Ark and the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Mr. Jenkins, who spent between $4,000 and $5,000 on the showy wood alone.

For a third time, Mr. Jenkins called upon Virginian furniture restoration expert Jeff Hadley, from Winchester, who helped on the previous two Ark replicas, to design the magnum opus.

“The exact dimensions in the Bible are given: It’s 300 cubits long, by 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits tall,” Mr. Jenkins said. “That amounts to about 500 feet [152 meters] long, by 85 feet [25 meters] wide, and 65 feet [19 meters] tall.” Of course, the model only measures about 12-and-a-half feet (3.8 meters) long, by 3 feet (one meter) wide, by 2 feet (0.6 meters) tall. That makes it exactly 1:40 in scale.

A detail shows the miniature entrance to Noah’s Ark as the animals file in two by two. (Courtesy of Megan Jenkins)
(Left) Mackie Jenkins with his largest of three models of Noah’s Ark; (Right) A detail of the interior of the model Ark shows Noah in his kitchen drinking grape juice. (Courtesy of Megan Jenkins)

There were three rules in Mr. Jenkins’s plan.

“One, we had to match the Bible correctly,” he said. “The second goal was to find out what the model would look like.” For this, they got a press pass for Ark Encounter on opening day, and Mr. Jenkins got to talk to the naval engineer who designed the full-size version for Ken Ham.

“Number three, we wanted to incorporate a lesson into the model,” he said. The Ark was said to have been built of gopher wood and covered with pitch, a type of resin from the “kaphar” tree, denoting the Hebrew word for atonement. “So the idea there is, everyone that went into the Ark will picture having their sins atoned for,” Mr. Jenkins said.

Once the plan for the body of the Ark and interior diorama was finished, Mr. Jenkins began hunting for a vital component: the animals. He found a company in Erzgebirge, Germany, that once made miniature wooden Noah’s Ark animals as toys. The scale was exactly 1:40. He spent a few years snapping up these miniature animals on eBay, as they had dispersed worldwide.

The model of Noah’s Ark features an animal-powered lift, as spoken of in the Bible. (Courtesy of Megan Jenkins)
Views of the interior of Mr. Jenkins’s model of Noah’s Ark. (Courtesy of Megan Jenkins)

“All animals were herbivores,” Mr. Jenkins said, referencing the pre-flood facts. “When Noah loaded the Ark, he could load the leopards and the lambs together because they wouldn’t eat each other.” There were other details such as the Bible’s designation of “clean” and “unclean” animals. The former include lambs, cows, goats, and chickens; and the latter, swine, dogs, rats, and snakes.

“There was a sacrificial system,” Mr. Jenkins said, adding that the clean animals were, in fact, brought in seven of each, as one would be sacrificed to tone for sins. “There were still three complete pairs to reproduce for later sacrifices.” The unclean animals were brought in “two by two.”

To honor the Bible’s mention of “the leopard, the lion, and the unicorn,” Mr. Jenkins included two miniature fairytale unicorns and two Siberian specimens in his model. There’s proof of the latter’s existence, he said. Fossils left by single-horned animals similar to rhinoceroses were found and documented in the permafrost of Russia.

The model Ark features the production of grape juice, as mentioned in the Bible. (Courtesy of Megan Jenkins)
(Left) A detail showing the interior of Mr. Jenkins’s model Ark; (Right) Mr. Jenkins teaches about the Biblical facts demonstrated in one of his two smaller-scale Ark replicas. (Courtesy of Megan Jenkins)

Mr. Jenkins also discovered popular railroad-scale miniature lines that played a huge role, offering tiny hay bales, fruit trees, and food and drink items. He added working LED lights as oil lamps, manual elevators with moving animals, and Bluetooth speakers to transmit critter sounds for added realism.

There are functional model construction cranes based on real designs of Roman, Greek, and Egyptian types, as “nobody knew what Noah used,” he said. Noah himself is depicted in several scenes, including drinking grape juice in the Ark’s kitchen, a scene of biblical significance.

To show off the whole, Mr. Jenkins made removable panels to reveal a cross-section of the interior.

Mackie Jenkins gives a brief tour of the interior of his model Ark. (Courtesy of Megan Jenkins)

“Supposedly, when you talk to the creationists they say the world in the beginning had a different atmosphere,” Mr. Jenkins said. “In the atmosphere prior to the flood, grape juice wouldn’t ferment.” Things changed afterward. “Noah goes back to drinking his grape juice and he got drunk. Because the atmosphere was changed and the grape juice fermented.”

After years of research, trial runs, and devotion to detail, Mr. Jenkins’s final Ark replica sits proudly in his Bible study office in Warrenton, the same room where he writes his books. It has not yet been on tour as Mr. Jenkins’s second model has. This is frequently driven to schools, churches, and outdoor festivals to educate on Bible stories.

At the time of writing, the touring replica is on display at Ocean City, Maryland.

The story of his model Arks continues. With Mr. Jenkin’s upcoming retirement in two years, he plans to enter full-time ministry, doing Bible studies and handing out gospel tracts. There will be chances to show off his handy woodworks. Eventually, the model Arks will be handed down to his son, who runs a Bible study group, so Mr. Jenkin’s homage to Noah may be enjoyed by many more.

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