Will the Real Noah, Please Stand Up

We all know that there there were many gods prior to Jesus that did everything else that he did. Appllonious of Tyana, Mithras, Horus... you know the deal. There are around 20 savior gods that share many of his traits. Born of a virgin, God in the flesh or powers of the gods possessed, resurrection, etc. But what about Old Testament characters? Did character in the Old Testament exist prior to Judaism? Yes, the flood myth has existed considerably longer than Judaism. In the Gilgamesh flood, we run across Utnapistim. 

Utnapistim was the original Noah. The flood of Gilgamesh tells the story of Utnapistim.Utnapistim, like Noah, was approached by Ea (a god) and told to build a boat to save himself and his family, as well as a number to the local animals. The Boat size was specified. 120 cubits with equal sides. A cubit is roughly 18 inches or 45 centimeters, but the size varied over the years. There were compartments, with between 6 and 9 decks. Hell, you can reproduce that and feel accurate about it.

 

Maybe not so accurate or faithful that you'll let a wooden keel and beam support it at that length, let alone sail it as a wood structure, loaded, especially in a storm, but you have faith that Noah was able to do it. 

 

Besides building a boat, Utnapishtim also:

  • Saved his family, but also workers who helped him. 
  • Saved a specified number animals
  • Followed God's directives for building the Ark
  • Saved gold, because a dead population loves and needs gold?
  • Brought beer and wine for a party. Nothing says party like seeing dead humanity, turned to clay no less.
  • His boat landed on a Mountain, Nimush

It's a little more than coincidental as a story God(s) tell one man to save himself and the animals because they are about to flood the world. One man builds a ship larger than is possible out of only wood and proceeds to load it then end up on the top of a mountain. This is the same story and if you took the same details from a copy written story today, you'd be sued and lose. As an aside, it is funny that Judaism felt the need to spice up and make the story grander. 

Here's the deal. Besides the Bible lacking originality, you have a God(s) so powerful that they can create and destroy the world. But they aren't powerful enough to convince people to change. Simple argument moves people to change. If you could stop everyone else in the world for a few minutes and walk me through it (like in the movies), I'll buy that you are god. It's not difficult for a being that created the world in six days. So why is it that these God(s) can't even manage this feat, yet I'm supposed to worship him for a cruel act of mass murder? It's historically wrong and simply not even a respectable story even if there were evidence that it had happened. So I reject the God(s) of both flood myths. 

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Comment by Darren Cohen on March 24, 2011 at 11:19pm
There is an temple arch that dates to 1750 years before the story of Moses with a carving of the Babylonian sun god giving stone tablets with the code of law to King Hammurabi atop a mountain. The Babylonian code of law on stone tablets is on display at the Louvre. Original Hebrew 10 commandments? Still nowhere to be found. The Babylonian code of laws even says things like: an eye for an eye. Sound familiar.
Comment by Gaytor on March 25, 2011 at 12:16am
And what other law giver statues didn't survive time? The assembling of the Bible is so absurd.
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 25, 2011 at 12:26am

The only reason that the Gilgamesh tale wasn't embellished as much as the Noah tale was that it was canonized first - Sumerians having produced the earliest body of writing that we have ever interpreted.  Although there is evidence that Israelites were writing in that era, they didn't canonize their mythology until the religious reforms of Hezekiah, almost 2000 years later.  The similarities and extra embellishments are simply a matter of common ancestral culture and different eras of canonization rather any attempt at guise.

 

The petulant nature of their mythological gods was nothing more than a reflection of the way they viewed the volatility of their respective worlds.  They imagined an order to their world, imbuing that order with a human consciousness that they could understand - an easily angered parental figure.  Your rejection of that interpretation is simply a reflection of your modern perception of the same world, still just as volatile but much better understood.

 

 

Comment by Gaytor on March 25, 2011 at 12:49am

I'm seeing a dating discrepancy that maybe you could clear up? Maybe there is a fragment of information missing. 

Under the Hebrew Language, the earliest fragment is 3000 years old. Link

The Story of Gilgamesh might go back another 1000 years before that. Link

So, is there another semitic language to be looking under? Scholars can often date the materials based on the style of writing. Do we have something complete or extant that shows the story and how it might be linked? I'm not sure what I'm missing. I'm in agreement that simple existence of an earlier copy doesn't prove who had the original idea. But it's not unfair to ask the other side, for their evidence to support the originality of their story given the presented evidence. 

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 25, 2011 at 1:22am

What I was trying to point out is that they are the same story, not an original and a ripped off version.  The Sumerians lived side by side with those who would become Israelites and the flood/creation myths were ubiquitous in cultures of the time.  You can't date the age of the myth by the style of writing because the myth existed long before writing was invented - likely centuries, if not millenniums.

 

I made a mistake above in suggesting the the earliest Judaen writing was contemporary with Sumerian writing - by reading 3000 years old as 3000 BC.  I should point out, though, that even if the earliest evidence of Judean writing could be dated to that period, as nomads, they wouldn't have carried any sort of library with them, still leaving the door open for oral evolution of the mythology.

 

The Gilgamesh version goes back to 2700 BC.  That shard with Hebrew writing is 3000 years old, or 1000 BC.  Hezekiah didn't commission the final draft of the Torah until the mid 7th Century BC.  That leaves 2000 years between the Gilgamesh commitment of the myth to writing and the Judean.  If we looked around, we would likely find that all cultures out of that region who documented their myths would have included similar stories because they were the accepted mythology of the land.

 

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on March 25, 2011 at 2:09am

Clicking through the links, one thing becomes clear - there is a lot of blending of Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian cultures.  Then you've got the Akkadians who are also known as Assyro-Babylonian.  The Sumerians seem to have provided the written language and that seems to be the means by which the surviving documents are dated/ordered.

 

In essence, these different civilizations seem to represent the rise to prominence of different ethnic groups.

Here is a list of the surviving written accounts.

 

Eridu Genesis            17th Century BC

Atra-Hasis                 16th Century BC but suggesting the flood occurred in the 18th Century BC

Epic of Gilgamesh  7th Century BC

Biblical Genesis  2nd Century BC

 

The dates of the surviving copies do not necessarily reflect the dates that the stories were first written down.  Archeologists try to uncover the origins of documenting a particular mythology by the known surviving copies and secondary sources that can be used to document the history of recording that mythology in that form.  The Greeks actually have 3 flood mythologies.  As stated earlier, the flood and creation mythologies were ubiquitous in the region.

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