CULTURES ALL OVER THE WORLD tell of a Great Flood.
One shows up in the Epic of Gilgamesh, a Babylonian tale estimated to have been written more than 3,600 years ago. One fragment of the story, considered a copy, dates to about 2,600 years ago.
Here’s a quick bullet-point summary of that story, as it appears on what scholars call “Tablet 11,” which is written in wedge-shaped cuneiform letters.
- God plan: kill humans. The gods decide to wipe out the human race with a flood.
- A god who can’t keep a secret. Though sworn to secrecy, one of the gods—Ea—tells the secret to a reed house.
- No coincidence. A man named Utnapishtim [let’s call him U-man] happens to be in the house at the time.
- “Build a boat.” Ea tells the house to tear itself down and build a covered boat, no matter what it costs.
- Borg boat. U-man hires a team that builds a cube-shaped boat six decks high. They waterproof it with tar.
- All aboard. U-man loads the boat: relatives, workers, animals wild and tame.
- Seven-day deluge. “The south wind blew, submerging the mountains in water.”
- Bird #1. After the flood, U-man released a dove to see if it would find a place to land. It came back (Noah did the same, with identical results, Genesis 8:8-9.)
- Bird #2. Later, a swallow left and came back, too. (Noah released a dove, which came back with an olive leaf.)
- Bird #3. Still later, a raven found a landing spot and didn’t return. (Noah released a third dove, which didn’t come back. But a raven was the first bird he released, Genesis 8:7.)
- Disembark. U-man released his animals and offered sacrifices. The gods appreciated the sweet smell of barbecue. (Noah did the same, and offered sacrifices to God, who “was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice,” Genesis 8:21.)
Here’s a question. Do similarities like this erode your confidence in the Genesis story, build it up, or none of the above?
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