Murray Adamthwaite – Gilgamesh and the Biblical Flood (Part 1)


In a previous article (See: Is Genesis 1 Just Reworked Babylonian Myth?), I discussed the allegation that the author of Genesis 1 borrowed from Enuma elish, the so-called Babylonian creation story, and concluded that there was no real relation at all, other than garbled—and generalized—versions of creation finding their way to mythologies about inter-necine conflicts among the gods, and attached thereto.

The present discussion looks at the Babylonian story of the Deluge, as enshrined in the Gilgamesh Epic. Here we do find quite a number of fairly close parallels—at least superficially so, and when seen in context with other Ancient Near Eastern literature relating a story of a great Deluge these parallels require explanation. However, some of the rather simplistic ‘explanations’ proposed by certain scholars will not stand examination, while the all-too-common discussion plays up the similarities, and at the same time glosses over, or even ignores, the profound differences between Genesis and Gilgamesh, not to mention the lack of inner coherence in the Gilgamesh story.

The Gilgamesh Epic was first found in the Great Library of Aššurbanipal at Nineveh, but its Flood story segment was not initially noticed. During 1872 George Smith, then an assistant at the British Museum, discovered the Flood story element on a previously unpublished tablet, and gave a public lecture in December of that year, one which caused a sensation. Later, in 1873, Smith went, at the behest of The Daily Telegraph, to the Kuyunjik site to seek further tablets with the Mesopotamian Flood story, and duly found a piece of missing text, and what later turned out to be fragments of the Atrahasis tale. Many other text portions and fragments of the Gilgamesh Epic have turned up since, including one portion of Tablet VII from Megiddo in Northern Israel, such that we have a substantially complete text, albeit still with several lacunae at various points.

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