The goal of this first post is to publicize the two mythic stories and casually notice the similarities that exist within our story of the flood found in Genesis 6-9. I’m not making any polemical or theological statements just yet. The questions raised at the end of the blog are genuine and not meant to convey any ulterior motives. I did not include the biblical flood account because I’m assuming the readers of this post know the story well. The next few blogs will be some thoughts and ideas I’ve been musing over for about nine months now. They include Creation, myths, Evolution, Science, the doctrine on Innerancy, and some other convergent topics found within my mind.
Atrahasis (1800 BC -1701 BC)
Flee the house, build a boat,
forsake possessions, and save life.
[i.c25] The boat which you build
… be equal …
Pure animals he slaughtered, cattle …
Fat animals he killed. Sheep …
he choose and and brought on board.
[ii.35] The birds flying in the heavens,
the cattle and the … of the cattle god
… his family was brought on board.
While one was eating an another was drinking,
[ii.45] he went in and out; he could not sit, could not kneel,
for his heart was broken, he wat retching gall.
He brought pitch to seal his door.
[iii.5] … the storm
… were yoked
Anzu rent the sky with his talons,
He … the land
[iii.10] and broke its clamor like a pot.
… the flood came forth.
Its power came upn the peoples like a battle,
one person did not see another,
they could not recognize each other in the catastrophe.
[iii.15] The deluge belowed like a bull,
The wind resounded like a screaming eagle.
The darkness was dense, the sun was gone,
… like flies.
[iii.20] the clamor of the deluge.
Gilgamesh (2500 B.C.) Tablet 11
Utanapishtim spoke to Gilgamesh, saying: “I will reveal to you, Gilgamesh, a thing that is hidden, a secret of the gods I will tell you! Shuruppak, a city that you surely know, situated on the banks of the Euphrates, that city was very old, and there were gods inside it. The hearts of the Great Gods moved them to inflict the Flood. Their Father Anu uttered the oath (of secrecy), Valiant Enlil was their Adviser, Ninurta was their Chamberlain, Ennugi was their Minister of Canals. Ea, the Clever Prince, was under oath with them so he repeated their talk to the reed house: ‘Reed house, reed house! Wall, wall! O man of Shuruppak, son of Ubartutu: Tear down the house and build a boat! Abandon wealth and seek living beings! Spurn possessions and keep alive living beings! Make all living beings go up into the boat. The boat which you are to build, its dimensions must measure equal to each other: its length must correspond to its width. Roof it over like the Apsu. I understood and spoke to my lord, Ea: ‘My lord, thus is the command which you have uttered I will heed and will do it.
The boat was finished by sunset. The launching was very difficult. They had to keep carrying a runway of poles front to back, until two-thirds of it had gone into the water. Whatever I had I loaded on it: whatever silver I had I loaded on it, whatever gold I had I loaded on it. All the living beings that I had I loaded on it, I had all my kith and kin go up into the boat, all the beasts and animals of the field and the craftsmen I had go up.
Six days and seven nights came the wind and flood, the storm flattening the land. When the seventh day arrived, the storm was pounding, the flood was a war–struggling with itself like a woman writhing (in labor). The sea calmed, fell still, the whirlwind (and) flood stopped up. I looked around all day long–quiet had set in and all the human beings had turned to clay! The terrain was as flat as a roof. I opened a vent and fresh air (daylight!) fell upon the side of my nose. I fell to my knees and sat weeping, tears streaming down the side of my nose. I looked around for coastlines in the expanse of the sea, and at twelve leagues there emerged a region (of land). On Mt. Nimush the boat lodged firm, Mt. Nimush held the boat, allowing no sway. One day and a second Mt. Nimush held the boat, allowing no sway. A third day, a fourth, Mt. Nimush held the boat, allowing no sway. A fifth day, a sixth, Mt. Nimush held the boat, allowing no sway. When a seventh day arrived I sent forth a dove and released it. The dove went off, but came back to me; no perch was visible so it circled back to me. I sent forth a swallow and released it. The swallow went off, but came back to me; no perch was visible so it circled back to me. I sent forth a raven and released it. The raven went off, and saw the waters slither back. It eats, it scratches, it bobs, but does not circle back to me.
Similarities between the older mythological accounts and the Biblical account found in Genesis 6-9
- a flood and building a huge boat by divine command;
- pitch seals the boat;
- the boat is built to precise dimensions (the biblical boat is much larger);
- clean and unclean animals come on board;
- a Noah figure and his family are saved (Gilgamesh includes some others);
- the boat comes to rest on a mountain;
- a raven and doves were sent out (Gilgamesh includes a swallow);
- animals will fear humans;
- the deity/deities smell the pleasing aroma of the sacrifices afterwards;
- a sign of an oath is given (lapis lazuli necklace for Gilgamesh).
The oldest copies of the Hebrew Scriptures we have are from the Dead Sea Scrolls which were discovered a few hundred years before the time of Christ.When it comes to our Scripture, we do not have any document that predates about 300 years before Christ came. Numerous scholars believe The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Atrahasis were penned hundreds (some have said thousands) of years before the Genesis account. To say Genesis came first is a matter of faith…even blind faith. Is it a possible that the Biblical account has preisraelite origins? Was Noah a real historical person? What does it do for the doctrine of Innerancy if biblical authors borrowed or used various stories from other cultures? Can one trust the Bible if it appears to be more human than divine?
|Manuscript||Examples||Language||Date of Composition||Oldest Copy|
|Dead Sea Scrolls||Tanakh at Qumran||Hebrew, Paleo Hebrew and Greek(Septuagint)||c. 150 BCE – 70 CE||c. 150 BCE – 70 CE|
|Septuagint||Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus and other earlier papyri||Greek||300-100 BCE||2nd century BCE(fragments)
4th century CE(complete)
|Peshitta||Syriac||early 5th century CE|
|Vulgate||Latin||early 5th century CE|
|Masoretic||Aleppo Codex, Leningrad Codex and other incomplete mss||Hebrew||ca. 100 CE||10th century CE|
|Samaritan Pentateuch||Samaritan alphabet||200-100 BCE||Oldest extant mss c.11th century CE, oldest mss available to scholars 16th century CE|
|Targum||Aramaic||500-1000 CE||5th century CE|