Noah versus Gilgamesh

arkAnthropologists who study legends and folktales from various cultures throughout the world consistently report that the biblical account of the flood is common to practically every civilization. Noah is but one story in a worldwide collection of at least 500 stories of a massive inundation found in nations such as China, Babylon, Mexico, Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Persia, India, Norway, Wales, Ireland, Indonesia, Romania, to name but a few, and the similarity between much of their content is amazing.

In the Aztec flood only two people survived by floating in a boat that came to rest on a mountain where giants constructed a great pyramid to reach the clouds, angering the gods who scattered them with fire from the heavens. The Toltecs told of a great worldwide flood where only a few escaped in a “toptlipetlocali” [closed chest] and wandered about the earth where they built a “zaculai” [high tower] but their language was confused and they separated to different parts of the earth. Another ancient tribe of Mexico told the story a man who escaped in a boat filled with animals, sending out a raven (similar to Noah) that never returned and then a dove that came back with an olive leaf.

The Chinese version has God sending a personal messenger to earth to warn three sons that a flood was coming but only the youngest listened and built a wooden boat. After the waters receded the boat landed on the mountain of Tibet where he had three sons who repopulated the earth. The Iban people of Sarawak have a hero who floated around in an ark with his wife and numerous domestic animals.   Natives from India tell a story about a man who built an ark after being warned of a great flood. He also escaped in a boat that landed on a mountain.

Probably the best know flood account, aside from the biblical account of Noah, is the Gilgamesh Epic of ancient Babylon, a 2,900 line poem written on 12 tablets, dating to about 650 BC, describing the life of King Gilgamesh and his reign . The 11th tablet of this work contains an account of a massive flood which parallels the Genesis account in many areas.

It is often touted by the secular community that the Biblical story of Noah was stolen from this text since it was supposedly written first.   But does this claim hold up under a thorough investigation?   If a universal flood occurred we would expect to find differing stories with similarities that date hundreds of thousands of years apart and that arise from various geographical locations and ethnic groups across the globe.

After a massive flood in which only a few survive, what would they have told their descendants? They didn’t have the book of Genesis to read.  The account of the flood was passed from generation to generation by word of mouth.  After so many retellings of the story over hundreds of years, should we not expect to find differing tales that trace their origins back to the actual event?  And, the fact that one of these stories was actually written down first cannot be used to argue that it is the correct accurate description of what happened or the basis for the text of any narrative recorded at a later date.

In the Gilgamesh Epic, Utnapishtim was told to build a boat 120 cubits on four sides, making the boat a giant cube with 6 decks. He loaded it with gold, silver, ale, beer, butchered meat, wine and a host of living animals.   Just before the boat was launched, the god Shamash rained down loaves of bread and wheat from heaven.   When the flood ended all humans left on earth had turned into clay. After leaving the giant cube, the  Babylon god Enlil  blessed Utanapishtim and his wife with the ability to be like gods and live an extended life.

A cubit is an ancient unit of measure from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow, approximately 18 inches.   In the Babylon story, Utnapishtim’s boat was a giant cube approximately 180 feet on 4 sides with decks 60 feet high.

In the Genesis account God told Noah to build a boat 300 cubits long x 50 cubits wide by 30 cubits high, or 450 feet long x 75 feet wide, with three decks approximately 45 foot high. In addition to Noah and his family, God instructed Noah in Genesis 6:19 to take two of every living thing of all flesh, male and female.  This was not just animals but included two of every living human being.   And before anyone starts quoting 1 Peter 3:20 that says “….wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water,” Peter was referring to the 8 souls of Noah and his family, descendants of Adam, that were pure in their generation. If you’re still not convinced, use your gray matter. It is genetically impossible for 8 Hebrew people, all of the same blood line to create all the different races we have on earth.

The discovery of ancient writings that contain flood stores does not call the Genesis account into question. On the contrary, it provides evidence that verifies the fact of a flood. The Book of Genesis is viewed for the most part as an historical work, even by many liberal scholars, while the Epic of Gilgamesh is viewed as mythological.

Personally I do not accept that the flood was worldwide because in Genesis 6:7, 7:3, 7:4, 7:8, 8:9, 9:2, and 12:3, the word translated earth is adamah, taken from the prime awdam, or Adam.  Adamah can also be translated country or ground. Every other time the word earth is used in Genesis it is the word ehrets, meaning the earth, nations or the world.  After all, God’s sole purpose in the flood was to destroy the offspring of the Nephilim (Gen.6:2) because of their wickedness so it stands to reason that only the areas in which they lived needed to be destroyed.  

Sources: Archaeology and the Old Testament, Kyle Butt; The Epic of Gilgamesh, Maureen Kovacs; Legends of the Flood, and Apologetics Press



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