There’s something tragic about researchers who travel to eastern Turkey to find the remains of the Ark of Noah on an ancient volcano. Not just because it is sad that they need evidence to support their faith, but also because they are looking in the wrong place. There was no mountain named Ararat, and the Bible does not refer to it.
The King James Version is accurate: “the ark rested … upon the mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8.4). Ararat is known from other stories in the Bible: it is a country in the southeast of Turkey and northwest of Iran, and is also known as Urartu (cf., 2 Kings 19.37; Jeremiah 51.27). The author of Genesis was, therefore, not thinking of a particular peak, but of a general area. However, medieval travelers like (perhaps) Marco Polo and (certainly) Odoric of Friuli identified the mountain that the Turks call Ağrı Dağı with the summit on which the Ark rested, and started to call it Ararat. It is a comparatively young name for a mountain that has nothing to do with the Biblical story.
As it happens, we know the summit that the ancients identified as the place where the Ark rested. In the second century BCE, the author of the apocryphal Book of Jubilees spoke about a mountain named Lubar in the land of Ararat (Jubilees 5.28 and 10.15), and so does the author of the Genesis Apocryphon (x.12, xii.8, 13). The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus calls this mountain Baris and correctly translates Ararat as Gordyene: the name of that area in his own age. He adds that people went up the mountain to take away bitumen from the wreck (Jewish Antiquities, 1.93).
This is confirmed by Babylonian sources. In his account of the Flood, Berossus also tells that there was bitumen to be found on the place in Gordyene where the Ark rested. The Epic of Gilgameš refers to a Mount Nimuš (text), which is identical to the modern Al-Gudi in Kurdistan and is mentioned in the Quran too (11.44). It is opposite modern Cizre, east of the river Tigris.
Eastern Christians, who have never listened very much to European theologians (not to mention their topographical identifications), still venerate the tomb of Noah, reportedly together with the Shi’ite and Sunnite Muslims of Kurdistan. Whether the patriarch is really buried over there remains to be seen; but however that may be, the eastern Christians remember a tradition that is about thirty centuries older than the one followed by the people searching for the remains of the Ark on the Ağrı Dağı.