Good question--is Genesis merely a rip-off of other ANE lit?


[Series Index: gilgymess.html // Last update: to this piece Oct 16/ 2005]

Part11: Flood Traditions (gilgy09.html)


If you have been following this series, you have probably seen by now that the case of Genesis borrowing from other ANE cosmogonies is fairly weak. What few similarities there are are grossly overshadowed by differences, often simple 'banal' commonalities, or so minor as to render the suspicion of borrowing very dubious.

But when we come to the Flood traditions, we seem to be on different footing. Borrowing is almost 'canonical' in this field, although the evidence is—oddly enough—concentrated around only a handful of data points. Consider these statements, describing the current consensus:

The account of the flood presents us with a different situation than the creation accounts. We would expect most cultures to have some tradition or account of how the cosmos came to be. Once the question of origins is addressed, there are a limited number of typical directions that can be followed. Therefore, chance and coincidence may be invoked much more readily as an explanation of similarities.

In contrast, however, Flood accounts are not essential to a complete cosmology (though the pervasiveness of such traditions has been noted); the very existence of such an account in different cultures is suggestive. Furthermore, however, the parallels between the biblical and Babylonian flood accounts are more significant than the parallels found in the creation accounts. Most notable here is the sending out of the birds. This is an action incidental to the main thrust of the story-yet both Noah and Utnapishtim send out birds to determine the situation outside of the ark. This does not appear to be a detail that two different cultures would just happen to include independently of one another. Heidel expresses the consensus: 'That the Babylonian and Hebrew versions are genetically related is too obvious to require proof.'

We should not be surprised, then, to find that in the flood story, more than in any other literary tradition, it is assumed by scholarship that the Mesopotamian and biblical accounts cannot be thought of as having been independently composed. And again, since even the copies of the flood traditions in Mesopotamia date from the early second millennium (The Eridu Genesis), the biblical account is usually judged to be secondary. So, as stated by Finkelstein, 'the dependence of the Biblical story upon the Babylonian to some degree is granted by virtually all schools of thought.'” [AILCC:38]


and

One of the more important finds in Mesopotamia is the Epic of Gilgamesh. This is the story of a king and his lonely travels as he seeks to uncover the meaning of life. As the tale unfolds, Gilgamesh's best friend Enkidu dies by decree of the gods. Gilgamesh is crushed, and he becomes obsessed with the awful reality that he too must die. So he searches for a way to escape the fate of all humankind. He eventually hears of one who did escape, a certain Utnapishtim, the only survivor of a great flood. After finding Utnapishtim, Gilgamesh inquires about the secret of eternal life. Utnapishtim tells him about the flood, how he built an ark, loaded it with animals, and survived a torrential rain. Before leaving the ark, he sent forth a dove and a raven, and upon emerging he sacrificed to the gods. The many similarities between the biblical account of the flood and the Gilgamesh Epic suggest a definite relationship between the two. “ [OT:AEOT:27]


and

As Heidel commented, 'The most remarkable parallels between the Old Testament and the entire corpus of cuneiform inscriptions from Mesopotamia ... are found in the deluge accounts of the Babylonians and Assyrians, on the one hand, and the Hebrews, on the other.' After forty years the situation remains the same, with even more information about the story of the Flood being available from ancient Mesopotamia, though in recent years literatures from ancient Syria, especially from Ugarit and Ebla, have been providing enormous amounts of material in other topics for comparative studies...According to Lambert, who is extremely careful with regard to the Mesopotamian influence on the Genesis Creation story and does not admit the Hebrew borrowing from the Babylonian "Creation" story, "Enuma elish," too easily, 'the flood remains the clearest case of dependence of Genesis on Mesopotamian legend. While flood stories as such do not have to be connected, the episode of the birds in Gen 8:6-12 is so close to the parallel passage in the XIth tablet of the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic that no doubt exists.'” [ISI:52,53]


Now, what is interesting about this assumption of dependence is that it is never asserted to be literary dependence—all scholars agree that the differences in detail and content between Genesis and Mesopotamian precursors are just way too determinative against it. Even while assuming/asserting dependence, authors are quick to point out that this is NOT literary dependence:

The derivative nature of the Biblical Flood narrative or rather the existence of an antecedent Mesopotamian tradition for the early forms of the Biblical story is undeniable. However, the extent to which the later narrative is derived from the earlier tradition remains uncertain. A direct form of literary influence cannot be asserted, as the distinctive features of the respective narratives are too plentiful to allow such an affirmation. All one can say is that the Biblical accounts must have been influenced by the Mesopotamian oral tradition or by a pre-existing series of such orally transmitted traditions.” [HI:IF, 4]

It is safe to conclude that the parallels between the biblical account of the Flood and the Mesopotamian stories, being so numerous and detailed, are much more than the result of mere coincidence. Yet it cannot be claimed that any version presently known is the direct source of the biblical narrative, for the latter has points of contact with each version while it also contains items independent of them all.” [JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis, Sarna]

"However, it has yet to be shown that there was borrowing, even indirectly. Differences between the Babylonian and the Hebrew traditions can be found in factual details of the Flood narrative (form of the Ark; duration of the Flood, the identity of the birds and their dispatch) and are most obvious in the ethical and religious concepts of the whole of each composition. All who suspect or suggest borrowing by the Hebrews are compelled to admit large-scale revision, alteration, and reinterpretation in a fashion that cannot be substantiated for any other composition from the ancient Near East or in any other Hebrew writing. If there was borrowing then it can have extended only as far as the "historical" framework, and not included intention or interpretation." [ISI, "A New Babylonian 'Genesis' Story", p.126f]

..it is obvious that the differences are too great to encourage belief in direct connection between Atra-hasis and Genesis, but just as obviously there is some kind of involvement in the historical traditions generally of the two peoples.” [OT:AHBSF, 24]

One thing we need to be clear on here at the outset though, is that this issue is not as 'inflammatory' as might be assumed in certain contexts. When an modern writer asserts that:

Then begins the famous episode of the birds, famous because it is one of those details held in common that proved the shared origin of the tales of Uta-napisti and Noah.” [OT:BGE, 516]

...it is easy to read this as a statement of literary dependence. But notice the quote actually says “shared origin” of both tales. “Literary dependence” and the weaker “tradition dependence” are substantially different from “shared origins”. A “shared origin” can be the very event (e.g., a historical flood) about which the two different authors write, but this would not imply ANY literary dependence, and could easily not require any tradition (i.e., a culturally-shared interpretive belief about that event) dependence either.


For example, Walton can rightly point this out, in the example of the accounts of the battle of Qadesh:

This suggests that we are not dealing with a literary dependence or even a tradition dependence as much as we are dealing with two literary perspectives on a single actual event. To illustrate from another genre, we expect that the Hittite and Egyptian accounts of the battle of Qadesh will exhibit similarities, for they report about the same battle. Their differing perspectives will also produce some differences in how the battle is reported. The similarities do not lead us to suggest literary or tradition dependence. We accept the fact that they are each reporting in their own ways an experience they have in common.” [AILCC, 40]

Note that this is only a case of 'shared origin'--and it has a pattern of similarities AND differences.

To further illustrate this—with something more 'theological'--let's take the story of Israel's Exodus from Egypt. We are generally familiar with the Biblical version, but there is another version from the Egyptian historian Manetho. Josephus describes and attacks Manetho's interpretation of the Hebrews leaving Egypt, as being an 'expulsion of lepers'(!). Manetho and the Bible both agree (a similarity/parallel) that the Hebrews left Egypt under 'strained relations' (smile), but they disagree (a difference) on the 'why'. There should not be any doubt that neither the Bible nor Manetho are independent traditions of the same historical event—no borrowing whatsoever is needed to explain the 'similarities'.

In other words, the further apart the details in two accounts are, the less likely there is ANY literary dependence. And, since we only know about 'traditions' from actual 'texts' ('traditions' being the 'shared elements' or sometimes, 'family resemblances', between a multiplicity of disparate, but commonly-themed, texts), the further apart the details the specific text (the 'alleged borrower') are from the 'shared elements' of divergent-but-shared-theme texts, the less likely there is ANY tradition dependence. This only leaves two options: independent tradition about the same event(s); or independent events altogether.

Note: The interested reader can also look at the abduction of the statue of Ishtar from the Eanna temple in Uruk. There are FIVE independent sources describing that event--in differing terms and from differing value perspectives. No one would suggest that the five accounts were in 'literary dependence' to one another! They merely go back to a common event, and PERHAPS polemically interact among themselves. [HI:HCW, 29-40]

[One exception to this is the important category of 'polemical inversion'. This is where the framework, structure, and details are in deliberate opposition (and it is obvious to the ancient reader) to some literary text or tradition. Spoofs require enough similarity to create the allusion-base. In this case, literary dependence is assured—the polemic only works if you know the passage—but it falls into the strong category of 'anti-borrowing'. We have already noted that scholars suspect that elements of polemical inversion might exists in Genesis 1, in the minimalist/marginalizing way the author treats stars and sea monsters—important mythic figures in Mesopotamia. We will look at this possibility for the Flood story, if we get enough data suggesting that the Genesis Flood author had enough familiarity with the alleged ANE 'sources.]

One more methodological observation: the more generic the commonalities are which define a 'tradition' (remember, tradition is the set of 'shared elements' between a multiplicity of disparate, but commonly-themed, texts), the more likely they will be thematic, genre-defining, and therefore 'banal' in Kitchen's sense. The more generic these elements are (e.g., “there was a flood”, “the gods were angry”, “people escaped a disaster”) the more likely they are not borrowed—they are part of ANY such story. It is only 'specific, unusual correspondences' that suggest borrowing.


So, we will first look at the non-biblical documents under consideration here, then try to find common elements [to find the 'tradition' elements], and then compare these to the Biblical account (and each other) so see if borrowing (literary-direct, tradition-indirect, or possible literary-indirect-through-intermediate-translation) is the best explanation for the details. There are three documents: The Gilgamesh Epic (GE), the Atrahasis Epic (AE), and the Sumerian Eridu Genesis (EG).


Let's first look at the documents being referred to:


First is Gilgamesh XI.

About 120 years ago, in 1872, George Smith of the British Museum read the paper "The Chaldean Account of the Deluge" before the Society of Biblical Archaeology. There for the first time he presented a translation and a discussion of a number of fragments of the "Gilgamesh Epic;' especially of tablet XI, where the Flood story is narrated. This was so similar to the biblical Flood story that it created immediate enthusiasm for studies in parallels between the two stories. Certainly, as Millard says, 'No Babylonian text provides so close a parallel to Genesis as does the Flood story of Gilgamesh XI” ... Thorough comparisons have been made between the Flood stories of Genesis and the "Gilgamesh Epic,' tablet XI, and their interrelationship and priority have been discussed. Heidel discusses the problem of dependence and summarizes three main possibilities that have been suggested: (1) the Babylonians borrowed from the Hebrew account, (2) the Hebrew account is dependent on the Babylonian, (3) both are descended from a common original. The first explanation, according to him, finds "little favor among scholars today," while "the arguments which have been advanced in support of [the second view] are quite indecisive." As for the third way of explanation, Heidel thinks that "for the present, at least, this explanation can be proved as little as the rest."” [ISI:52f]

The plot of the Gilgamesh Epic (henceforth GE) is really not about a flood—the story is fairly 'incidental' to it:

When applied to Gilgames the term 'epic' is a coinage of convenience, for the word has no counterpart in the Akkadian language - By it is meant a long narrative poem describing heroic events that happen over a period of time. The Babylonian Gilgames fits this definition well. The poem tells the story of a great king, the hero Gilgames, who so tyrannizes the people of the city of Uruk that the gods create his counterpart, the wild man Enkidu, to divert him. Enkidu is brought up by animals but seduced by a prostitute and civilized. Gilgames and Enkidu fight, become inseparable companions and go together on a risky adventure to fell timber in the far Cedar Forest. On the way Gilgames has a series of terrifying nightmares but nevertheless they slay the forest's guardian, the divinely appointed Humbaba, and fell the cedar. On their return Gilgames repudiates the overtures of the goddess Mar and, with Enkidu's help, dispatches the monstrous Bull of Heaven that she sends to exact vengeance. For these twin misdemeanours the gods sentence Enkidu to death and he falls sick. He has a vision of the Netherworld and dies, whereupon his friend is distraught with grief. After a magnificent funeral Gilgames is consumed by the fear of death and sets off on a quest to the ends of the earth. The journey takes him where no mortal has been before, along the Path of the Sun and across the Waters of Death. He comes at last to the realm of the wise Uta-napisti who survived the great flood sent by the gods in time immemorial and was granted immortality as a result. Under his instruction Gilgames learns that there is no secret of everlasting life and is made to recognize his own human frailties. He returns home a wiser man and sets down his story for the benefit of future generations.” [OT:BGE:3; Note how unlike Genesis this plot is.]

The flood story for GE actually comes from a previous Flood story, Atra-Hasis (which we have already examined in gilgy04.html for cosmogonic material), and the flood story in GE was NOT a part of its own pre-history:

The outstanding example of material taken from elsewhere into The Gilgamesh Epic is the account of the flood in Tablet XI of the late version [tanknote: 'late version' is dated 1000 BC-600 BC roughly], lines 15 through 196. There is no evidence that the whole story was recounted in the Old Babylonian version [tanknote: OB is dated 2000-1600 BC] as it is in the late version. Although the Old Babylonian version told how Gilgamesh journeyed to Utnapishtim, the survivor of the flood (see Gilg. Me. iv), the actual retelling of the flood story is not attested in Old Babylonian fragments of the epic, and, as we shall see, there is good reason to believe that the full story was not a part of the epic before the late version.

The discovery of the flood story in GE XI in 1872 created a sensation because of the similarity of this story to the biblical account in Genesis, Chapters 6 through 9. The story may have arisen from a specific historical flood that took place in parts of southern Mesopotamia around 2900. The flood came to be regarded as a major turning point in human history and the story about it was popular enough to appear in several different versions in ancient Mesopotamia and neighboring areas. The classic Akkadian version of the story was The Atrahasis Epic, known in several versions from the Old Babylonian period on . Although the final lines of Atrahasis speak of the flood as its main theme ("I have sung of the flood to all the peoples. Hear it!" OB A& III, viii, 18-19), this epic was actually a history of the human race, beginning with the events leading up to the creation of man and continuing through several calamities down to the flood and its aftermath. A Sumerian counterpart to Atrahasis is found in the text named The Deluge by modern scholars, although it, too, is really a history of man from his creation through the flood . The story had reached Ras Shamra on the Syrian coast by the Middle Babylonian Period [tanknote: MB is dated 1600-1000 BC], in an Akkadian version which was probably part of neither Atrahasis nor Gilgamesh . The story eventually became part of The Gilgamesh Epic, and its popularity in this context could be indicated by the fact that, at least for the present, the tablet of the late version in which the story appears (XI) is the tablet of which the largest number of copies has been found, although this could be a coincidence. The story survived into the Hellenistic period and was included in the third-century B.C.E. work Babyloniaka, a history of Babylonia written in Greek by the Babylonian priest Berossus."

Unlike the episodes we studied in Chapters 9 through 11, where we were unable to point to a specific composition on which Gilgamesh was dependent, in the case of the flood story there is no question but that Atrahasis served as the source for Tablet XI of the late version. This is crystal clear from the following considerations: 1) Certain lines in Gilgamesh and Atrahasis are virtually identical, and the two are therefore textually related. 2) The flood story is an integral part of the plot in Atrahasis, and it was already part of the plot of that epic in the Old Babylonian period. In Gilgamesh, the story is only incidental to the main theme, and, as we shall see, probably did not enter the epic until its late version was created. 3) In Tablet XI, 15-18, Utnapishtim opens his account of the flood with a list of gods (Anu, Enlil, Ninurta, and Ennugi) and their offices which also appears at the beginning of the Old Babylonian Atrahasis. In Tablet XI, the list, along with line 19 which may be based on the second tablet of Atrahasis, serves to identify the great gods who, according to line 14, decided to bring the flood, but it is really inappropriate for this purpose. Not only does it omit Ishtar, who is explicitly mentioned in lines 119 through 121 as having taken part in the decision, but it mentions Ennugi, who plays no role at all in Tablet XI, and Anu, who is mentioned only in passing, without being involved in the events. In Atrahasis, however, all of the gods mentioned in the list play a role in the events surrounding the creation of man, and three of them play a role in the flood as well. Therefore it appears that the editor of the Gilgamesh flood story simply took the list over bodily from Atrahasis, rather than composing a new one of his own. 4) Finally-and this is the giveaway-although Gilgamesh usually calls the survivor of the flood Utnapishtim, in the flood story he once calls him Atrahasis (XI, 187), the name he bears throughout The Atrahasis Epic.” [HI:EGE, 214f]

Our earliest copy, however, of GE with the flood story in it is from the seventh-century copy:

The 'Gilgamesh Epic,' as is well known, is a seventh-century neo-Assyrian copy of an older original, and the Flood story built into it was taken from a much older independent story of the Flood. We now have several Old Babylonian versions (seventeenth century B.C.E.) of the Flood story, the 'Atra-Hasis Epic,' as well as the Sumerian Flood story, thus pushing the Mesopotamian Flood tradition back at least a thousand years earlier than 'Gilgamesh[' XI. From Ugarit, a fourteenth-century copy of the Flood story, 'the only version of the Babylonian Flood story found outside Mesopotamia so far' , has been unearthed.” [ISI:53]

Tigay has argued that the GE we have today included elements from versions of Atrahasis later than the Old Babylonian:

The Atrahasis flood story has thus been incorporated into The Gilgamesh Epic in a form which differs considerably, in wording, style, content, and apparently ideology, from the Old Babylonian version of that story. At least some of these changes are due to the editor of the late version of Gilgamesh having relied upon a late version (or versions) of Atrahasis. We have noted a few cases where the changes assimilate the story to the needs and interests (and, in one case [sec. b, 5, p. 219] vocabulary) of The Gilgamesh Epic, but even some of these cases may have been based on late versions of Atrahasis or other flood traditions. We have also noted areas where the editor has failed to adapt the flood narrative to the style and formulation of the rest of the late version of Gilgamesh. On the whole, there is very little evidence for changes on the part of the editor of the late version of Gilgamesh, and one gets the impression that he incorporated the story largely as he found it in one or more versions that were available to him...We must therefore infer that prior to the late version of Gilgamesh, the flood narrative was not part of the Utnapishtim section and that it was taken into Gilgamesh from a late version of Atrahasis, one dating from a time when the late formula was in vogue.” [OT:EGE, 237,239]

There seems to be a fairly substantial difference between the first-millennium and second-millennium versions:

... 'late version,' upon which the summary in the preceding section is based, was the first version to become known to scholars in the second half of the nineteenth century. It was deciphered from tablets found in the remains of the library of Ashurbanipal, the Assyrian king (668-627) who assembled the greatest library of the pre-Hellenistic Near East in his capital, Nineveh . Other subsequently discovered first-millennium copies from the earlier capitals at Assur and Calah, from Babylonia in the south, and from Sultantepe in the far north of Mesopotamia (southern Turkey today), are substantially identical to the Nineveh texts, whereas those from the second millennium, although textually related to the Nineveh texts, differ from them considerably. The latest of these second-millennium texts, from the Middle Babylonian Period (ca. 1600-1000), stem from Ur in southern Mesopotamia, from Megiddo in Canaan, and from the Hittite capital Hattusha (Boghazkoi) in Asia Minor; the latter site has also yielded translations into the Indo-European Hittite language and into Hurrian, the language of the Mitanni empire in Central Mesopotamia (ca. 1400). The earliest Akkadian copies from the Old Babylonian Period (ca. 2000-1600), when (as we shall see) the earliest version of the epic appears to have been composed, come from several sites in and around Babylonia .” [OT:EGE:11]

And more recent scholars place this SB/flood version even LATER (much too late for relevance to us):

"Most scholars, therefore, see this section (the eleventh tablet) as the work of the seventh-century editor [tn: 700-600BC!] who based the addition upon an earlier source known as the 'Atrahasis Epic'... ” [Scott B. Nagel, "Mesopotamian Epic" in A Companion to Ancient Epic, John Miles Foley (ed). Blackwell:2005, p.240]]

What this implies is that GE is not going to be an adequate source for biblical Flood traditions, for reasons of timing: (a) GE's which are early enough to influence Gen 6-9 [i.e., the second-millennium versions] do not even have a flood narrative; and (b) the GE with the Flood narratives derived from AtraHasis is probably written too late [i.e., post 1000 BC] to work its way over/through/into monarchic/ semi-imperialistic Israel.

You have to remember that in canonical Hebrew literature, there are allusions and/or references to Noah and the flood in Isaiah (Is 24.18 -> Gen 7.11; 25.5 -> Gen 9, 16,12; Is 54.9 -> covenant with Noah), Ezekiel (14.14,20 -> Gen 6), and Zephaniah (1.2-3 -> Gen 6.7). The imagery in Isaiah 24 requires significant textual familiarity on the part of the audience to work—this would require the relevant Flood passage to have been around (and circulated among the leadership) for some time. Isaiah begins his ministry around 740 BC, so this pushes the Flood text much earlier. The Davidic Psalm 29 (v 10) makes an apparent reference to the Flood, and this would push the tradition back to the 1000BC mark at the latest. If we accept the Book of Job as a product of the Solomonic literary expansion, then Job 22.16 – if it refers to the Deluge – would fall into the same turn-of-the-millennium time frame. Most or all of these essentially preclude a literary dependence on the Late Versions of GE.

This, of course, is an argument from the internal history of Israelite traditions, but there is another, extra-biblical line of argument as well. The influence of Babylonian literature (all cuneiform, btw) throughout the West is well documented. The GE is found in third and second millennia BC sites as far west as Cappadocia / Anatolia. There is no doubt it had spread into all the lands Israel would later come to live. But it was a cuneiform literature, and this type of literature 'died' in the West about the time Israel exoduses Egypt and enters Canaan:

The picture that emerges from the Middle Babylonian tables of Gilgames fits what we know of the spread of Babylonian culture in the second millennium. The diaspora of the traditional literature of lower Mesopotamia was the result not of a single act of borrowing but of a steady process over many centuries. The written culture of southern Mesopotamia was already exported to the West in the Early Bronze Age, as we know from the finds of third-millennium tablets at Ebla, Mari and Tell Beydar. A small proportion of these tablets were inscribed with literary texts that originated in south Mesopotamia. In the Middle Bronze Age the cuneiform writing system continued to be used as far afield as, for example, Qatna and Alalakh in Transeuphratine Syria and Kanis (Kultepe) in Anatolia. New evidence shows that Babylonian culture continued to make an impact wherever the cuneiform script was used in this period... The considerable prestige that attached to the Akkadian language in the Late Bronze Age, as seen in the diplomatic correspondence of the Amarna period, meant that Babylonian texts traditionally associated with the teaching curriculum were much copied in the West in the two centuries before life was interrupted by the catastrophes that overtook the eastern Mediterranean in the twelfth century.” [OT:BGE, 26f]

It would be nice if such written evidence were available from the immediate neighborhood of Israel during the first millennium, but it is not. At the end of the Bronze Age, shortly after 1200, there came a devastating disruption of the old societies that also paved the way for Israel's rise. The old powers were weakened or removed. Use of cuneiform virtually disappeared in the regions west of Mesopotamia proper. By the time the Assyrians could realistically expand their power in the west, the alphabet was firmly entrenched, never to be replaced. The older system had never been based on political authority, and the Assyrians would never have imagined imposing a cuneiform written culture on its provinces and vassals.” [OT:MAB, 224]

At the beginning of the 10th century BCE local use of the cuneiform writing system in Syria was discontinued.” [OT:AS, 168]


Without going into the details, the GE has a history essentially like this:

  1. It is written early and circulated widely throughout Bible lands, although in variant versions.

  2. There are no versions in the 3rd/2nd centuries which contain Flood stories or ANY material paralleled in the Hebrew bible [i.e., IF the Hebrews were exposed to GE, in its without-a-flood story version, then they didn't find it worth 'borrowing anything else from'.]

  3. It is influential (and paraphrased/translated) in many lands of the East/West during this period, but not in Egypt. (There was a version of it in Megiddo, which was 'owned' by Egypt at the time, but the version is fairly remote from the SB version with the flood in it. [OT:BGE, 342])

  4. The Hebrew patriarchs could have encountered early versions in their move from Ur (finding copies in Emar and Ebla?) and interactions with kinfolk in the Haran area, but again, there is no trace of any pre-flood versions in ANY of the Genesis text.

  5. Toward the end of the 2nd millennium, there is a 'preserve our history' movement which attempts to standardize many ancient Old Babylonian and Middle Babylonian texts/documents. From these efforts, a 'Standard Babylonian” version emerges in the 1000BC-800BC time frame, and it quickly assumes canonical status in the world that still uses cuneiform. They even invent a 'non-spoken' language (Standard Babylonian) for it, as a classical form. [I.e., only the scribes interested in legacy and nostalgia—and sometimes court use—know this language. It is NOT a language of common interaction at all.]

  6. This standardization process emanates from Babylonia, but variants (without the flood tradition) and abridgments still show up in the regions to the West [OT:BGE:351ff]

  7. [In the 1200 BC timeframe, there are major upheavals in the Levant, with one consequence being the 'death of cuneiform' skills. Assyria and Mesopotamia continue to use cuneiform, but the land in which Israel shows up does NOT. ]

  8. In the process of producing the 'epitome' of the GE, the scribe [Sin-legqi-unninni?] adds a flood story (from Atrahasis), polishes up the story for posterity, and 'canonizes' that version. This process seems to occur a couple of centuries after the upheaval in Palestine, and too late to make an influence—being written in the 'dead language' Standard Babylonian, and in cuneiform.


The bottom 'borrowing' line is this:

  1. The most probable 'entry point' into Hebrew thought life is via the 3rd millennium interactions between the Patriarchs and Babylonian culture, but there are (a) no flood traditions in OB GE at this point; and (b) there is no evidence of non-flood influence of OB GE on ANYTHING in Hebrew literature.

  2. The next most probable entry point into the Hebrews is through Moses in the libraries of Egypt, but there is no evidence GE was known there, the timeframe is STILL in that 'no flood story version' period, and there is STILL no evidence of it in Moses' lit. [Note: we do know that cuneiform was known by the Egyptian scribes, from the Amarna archives of the 14th century. This archive was mostly letters between nations and city-states of the day, but there is a small cache of Akkadian literary texts, most notably the stories of Adapa and of Nergal and Ereskigal. But there are no flood stories in these either.]

  3. The next possibility is when Israel enters the land and starts interacting with the locals, but by this time cuneiform is not a live force there. It is too late for the newly-created-in-Babylonia “Standard Version” of GE to impact the Land. The original language is 'dead' and the newly created 'classical version' is essentially confined to legacy scholars in Assyria/Babylonia.

  4. The final possibility is during the interaction exchanges under Solomon. His alliances with all the nations around him COULD have opened the door to access (via a translator, though) to the cuneiform SB version, but the kingdoms of Assyria/Babylonia at that time had essentially no contacts southward (they were fighting major challenges form nomadic tribes at the time): “Both kingdoms were in decline for most of the [10th] century, Assyria beginning to recover from about 925, and neither had contacts so far to the west and south because they were harassed by Aramean tribes moving east from the Euphrates.” [OT:AS, 47]. Solomon had explicit links with Egypt and theoretically could have gotten a copy from Egypt, I suppose, but once again, we have no evidence whatsoever that Egypt had a copy [the previous copy in Megiddo did not have a flood tradition], nor that they had translated it from cuneiform to hieroglyphic, nor that the relationship between Egypt and Assyria/Babylonia at the time was conducive to such a thing. Of course, no OTHER aspects of any GE document shows up in Solomonic area literature either.

So, there are decidedly difficult challenges to believing that the SB GE version (with the flood) could have influenced Hebrew literature to begin with.

This conclusion is not very 'startling' but there is one important implication we should understand clearly. This means that any parallels between Genesis and GE which are unique to GE (i.e., not present in pre-GE source docs, such as Atrahasis) cannot be used as evidence for borrowing. If the parallel did not exist in pre-1000 BC exemplars, then it cannot be cited/defended/assumed as being a from-Meso-to-Hebrew borrowing. It will—in the absence of any precursor data—have to be relegated to a 'late innovation'.


So, we have to go back one more step, to the Flood tradition which GE borrowed from—the Atrahasis story.

We have already looked at the cosmogonic content of Atrahasis earlier (gilgy04.html), but here we need to trace the history of the Flood tradition content. Let's start with this long description of the Flood background and plot:

We now pass from myth to legends about early times. The human race multiplied and their noise became such that Enlil--still on the earth--could not sleep. He therefore resolved to reduce their numbers by plague, and Namtara, the god of plague, was commissioned to put this plan into effect. Enki, no doubt fully insulated from the noise in his subterranean abode, and in any case sympathetic to his own creation, was petitioned by Atra-hasis, who, unless he was mentioned in the earlier missing section, is introduced very abruptly in line 364. To understand the narrative properly one needs to know that he was king. Enki gave him instructions for averting the plague. The normal custom of the Babylonians in time of need was to petition their personal gods, just as in the story Atra-hasis approached his personal god Enki. For most Babylonians the personal deity was very minor, but it was his duty, if suitably provided with offerings by his client, to look after the latter as need arose. However, under the divinely sent plague special measures were needed, which were mediated by Atra-hasis to the city elders, and by them to the people. They were all to direct their devotions to Namtara in person, who would be pleased by the unwonted attention and would relax the plague. All this happened and, at the beginning of Tablet ii, mankind multiplied once more, Enlil again lost his sleep, and having failed with plague, he now tried famine to reduce the human population. Adad, the storm god, was instructed to withhold his rain. This was done and in the ensuing famine Atra-hasis once more entreated Enki, who repeated his previous advice, which was again successful, and Adad discreetly watered the earth without attracting Enlil's attention.

This second attempt of Entil covered the first column and the top half of the second column of Tablet ii, and the gap between the preserved portions in the main recension can be filled from the Assyrian Recension. From this point onwards to the end the difficulty arises that frequent gaps obscure the development of the story, and especially for the remainder of Tablet ii. The Assyrian Recension is as incomplete as the Old Babylonian text, and the use of the two Late Babylonian pieces does not fully restore the narrative. The following reconstruction seems reasonably sure to the present writers. With the relaxation of the drought mankind presumably multiplied (with its noise) so that for the third time Enlil lost his sleep. The only surviving account of what he then ordered is x rev. i, which can be compared with column v of the Assyrian Recension (which contains some of this material conflated with other things) and with backward allusions in later parts of the story. It appears that Enlil was now thoroughly suspicious that some god was deliberately frustrating his plans. He did not, therefore, think up a third method for diminishing the numbers of the human race, but instituted a rigorous renewal of the drought. Since previously the earth had been watered without his knowledge, he set guards at each level of the universe to watch that no breach of his rules occurred. Anu and Adad guarded the heavens. He himself (one Late Babylonian copy substitutes Sin and Nergal) guarded the earth, while Enki supervised the regions below. Thus the drought was resumed. This much was probably contained in the bottom half of Tablet ii, column ii, of the main recension, and when, in column iii, we find Atra-hasis absorbed in devotions to Enki, we may be sure that he is disturbed that the renewal of the drought seemed to imply that Enki no longer cared for the human race. Enki, however, did respond to his petitions and communicated with him. The text is very damaged, and breaks off at this point (ii. iii and x rev. i), and when it resumes again in ii. iv the rigours of the famine are being described. It is possible that the gap between the preserved parts of columns iii and iv of the main recension contained an account of Enki's interrupting the famine a second time, but this seems unlikely. For the moment Enki saw no way out and communicated only his benevolent intentions to Atra-hasis. Just as column iv (and Tablet i of the Assyrian Recension) breaks off it appears that Atra-hasis is making a final desperate plea. Enki did then act, though what he did we can only surmise from his explanation when called to account by Enlil in ii. v and x rev. ii. It appears from the Late Babylonian x that a cosmic sea was conceived to exist at the very bottom of the universe, a kind of primeval monster that had been subdued and was held in place by a cosmic bar. The lines describing the actual happening as explained by Enki are broken and very obscure, but perhaps there was some kind of tussle down there and as a result the bar was broken. Somehow in connection with this fish were apparently caught up in a whirlwind and released on starving humanity. Whatever the exact details Enki excused himself to Enlil for this escapade, but the latter was far from satisfied with the course of events and held a council of war in which he laid down that no god must again rescue humanity. Enki's hilarious outburst at this solemn warning (ii. vi) hardly reassured Enlil, so a new plan was formed. Enki had used water to frustrate Enlil's plan, so now water would be used to further it. The human race was to be wiped out by a flood, and Enki was bound by an oath, against his wishes, to co-operate. At this point Tablet ii ends.

Tablet iii contains the flood story and the version known to George Smith from Tablet xi of the Gilgames Epic is in fact largely derived from the account in Atra-hasis. One piece of the Assyrian Recension dealing with the flood also survives, and a few small pieces of uncertain connections, but Ku-Aya's text is the main source. As the tablet begins Enki and Atra-hasis are in communication. Apparently the king had received a dream on which he sought more light. (Enki had already found a way around his oath!) In reply Enki addressed the reed hut with the instruction to pull down the house and build a boat. We are to conceive Atra-hasis as living in a reed house such as are still found in southern Mesopotamia, where reeds grow to an enormous height. No doubt the wind might whistle through the reed walls, and Enki seems to have whispered to his devotee in the same way, since it was no longer himself but the wall that transmitted the message. Since reed boats were as common as reed houses, the obvious course was to pull up the bundles of reeds which composed the walls of the house and to fasten them to a wooden framework as a boat. To make it watertight it was thoroughly coated with pitch. The Old Babylonian Atra-hasis does not have the midrashic elaboration of Gilgames xi, where the boat is a veritable Titanic with six floors. Indeed, in Atra-hasis Enki gives the hero only seven days in which to prepare for the onset of the flood, and, interestingly, sets his water-clock for the seventh night. Atra-hasis now has to explain his actions to the elders. He told them quite truthfully that Enki and Enlil had fallen out, so he, a protege of the former, could no longer live on the latter's earth. He must, then, be off in his boat to live with his own god. With this explanation the boat was built and loaded with the hero's possessions, and with animals and birds. Before embarking with his family he held a banquet, in which he could not participate, being overcome with horror at the impending destruction. Once aboard, the flood came, and save for those inside, the human race was wiped out. In the event the gods were not pleased. Enki and the mother goddess were sorely grieved at the loss of their creation. The other gods began to find the disadvantages of a world without humans. The toil which men had taken over, digging the rivers and canals, for example, was part of the agricultural process, and, with this interrupted, supplies of food and drink were cut off. The mother goddess wondered how she could have consented to such a scheme, and bitterly blamed Enlil.

The flood lasted for seven days and seven nights, and in the gap at the end of column iv and the beginning of column v the rain must have ceased and the boat come to rest wherever it did. This gap is particularly unfortunate in one respect, that the Gilgames Epic at this point inserts the episode of sending out three birds to ascertain if the waters were subsiding. This is the closest parallel of any Mesopotamian flood story with the Book of Genesis. It would be interesting to know if the Old Babylonian version already contained this item, but while there is room for it, there is no certainty that other items did not fill all the space.

On disembarking, Atra-hasis promptly instituted an offering for the gods, psychologically a good move, since this would powerfully remind them of the advantages of living mortals, and in this condition they would be less likely to take a severe view of the survival of this remnant from what was planned as total destruction. The mother goddess was emphatic in her condemnation of Anu and Enlil and wished to exclude them from partaking of the offering. Using her grief as a pretext, she appropriated some lapis lazuli flies which had been Anu's and insisted that she would wear them as a perpetual reminder of the time when her offspring were floating on the surface of the waters like flies. This is aetiological, to explain actual necklaces of fly-shaped beads around the necks of statues of this goddess in the author's experience. When Enlil discovered what had happened he was furious at yet another frustration of his plans. Of course Enki was blamed, but he excused himself and in the damaged portion of column vi Enlil was presumably prevailed upon to accept the continuance of the human race. He required, however, that Enki and the mother goddess organize them better, no doubt to spare him the noise. Enki accordingly set forth proposals, in which the mother goddess shared. The only preserved portion occurs at the top of column vii, and this concerns women who do not bear children, that is, certain categories of priestesses. It so happens that we know these women best from Old Babylonian Sippar,' where Ku-Aya probably worked. Save for the concluding epilogue the rest (perhaps nothing very essential to the plot) is missing.” [OT:AHBSF, pp9-13]

Atrahasis clearly contains a flood story, clearly does so early enough (c. 1600 BC), and is even represented (somewhat?) outside Babylonia (there is a tiny fragment of it in Ras Shamra, in the 1300's BC). So, we will work with this.

[I have pointed out earlier that the Eridu Genesis is not actually earlier than Atrahasis, and, according to Bottero, the Flood is “a literary and mythological theme that was unknown up until then (Atrahasis)” [OT:RIAM :102].]

So, let's start with a comparative chart [From WBC, Genesis, at 6.7], add a few items, and put in it Genesis, GE XI, (from OT:BGE) , and Atrahasis (from OT:AHBSF). [When there is no parallel in AE, but there is one from the Eridu Genesis, I will put it in the Atrahasis column and clearly mark it so, as EG.]


Divine Decision to Destroy Mankind


Genesis

Topic

GE XI

Atrahasis

And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (6.5-7)

1. Divine decision to destroy mankind

(when) the great gods decided to cause the Deluge. Their father Anu took the oath, their counsellor, the hero Enlil; their chamberlain, Ninurta, their inspector of waterways, Ennugi. With them the Prince Ea was under oath likewise...[14-19]

Let us bind prince Enki...by an oath. Enki opened his mouth and address the gods [his brothers], 'Why will you bind me with an oath...? Am I to lay my hands on [my own peoples]? The flood that you are commanding [me], Who is it? I [do not know]. Am I to give birth to [a flood]? That is the task of [Enlil]. Let him [and ....] choose, Let Sullat and [Hanis] go [in front], Let Errakal [tear up] the mooring poles, Let [Ninurta] go and make [the dykes] overflow.”

The gods commanded total destruction”[2.7.38-52, 2.8.34]

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (6.5)

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. (6.11-13)

2. Reason for Flood

[None given]

Twelve hundred years had not yet passed
when the land extended and the peoples multiplied.
The land was bellowing like a bull,
The god got disturbed with their uproar.
Enlil heard their noise
And addressed the great gods,
'The noise of mankind has become too intense for me,
With their uproar I am deprived of sleep' [A 2.1.1ff , passim]

And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. (6.11-13)

3. Warning to Hero


With them the Prince Ea was under oath likewise,
(but) repeated their words to a reed fence:
'Reed fence, reed fence! Brick wall, brick wall!
Listen, O reed fence! Pay heed, O brick wall!
O man of Suruppak, son of Ubar-Tutu...
demolish the house, build a boat!
Abandon riches and seek survival!
Spurn property and save life...[G 19ff]

Atrahasis made ready to speak,
And said to his lord:
Make me know the meaning [of the dream],
[ ] let me know, that I may look out for its consequence.”
(15) [Enki] made ready to speak,
And said to his servant:
“You might say, ‘Am I to be looking out while in the bedroom?’
Do you pay attention to message that I speak for you:
(20) ‘Wall, listen to me!
Reed wall, pay attention to all my words!

Flee the house, build a boat,
Forsake possessions, and save life
. [A 3:2:11–23
(TCS1)]

Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. ...

But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them. [Gen 6:14–21]

4. Command to build the Ark


...demolish the house, build a boat
Abandon riches and seek survival!
Spurn property and save life!
Put on board the boat the seed of all living creatures!
The boat that you are to build,
her dimensions should all correspond:
her breadth and length should be the same
,
cover her with a roof, like the Apsu.' [G 24–31]

Flee the house, build a boat,
Forsake possessions, and save life.
(25) The boat which you build,
[ ] be equal [ ]

[gap]

Roof her over like the depth,
(30) So that the sun shall not see inside her,
Let her be roofed over fore and aft.
The gear should be very strong,
The pitch should be firm, and so give (the boat) strength
. [A 3:1:22–33 (TCS1)]

Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. [Gen 6:22 ]


And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him. [Gen 7.5]

5. Hero's obedience


[Your command], my lord, which you spoke just so,
I shall faithfully execute.
What shall I answer to the city, the multitude, and the elders?’
Ea made ready to speak,
Saying to me, his servant,
“Young man, do you speak to them thus,
‘It seems that Enlil dislikes me,
I cannot dwell in your city,
I may not set my foot on the dry land of Enlil,
I shall go down to the depths and dwell with my lord Ea.
[Upon] you shall he shower down in abundance,
[ ] of birds, a surprise of fishes,
[ ], harvest riches,
[In the morning] spate of cakes,
[In the evening] rain of grain.
[With the fir]st glimmer of dawn in the land,
The land was assembling [around me].
The carpenter carried his ax[e ],

The [reedcutter] carried his kn[ife],
[ ] the workmen [ ],
The houses [made rope],
The wealthy carried the pitch,
The poor brought … what was needful.
On the fifth day I laid her framework,
One full acre was her floorspace,
Ten dozen cubits each was the height of her walls,
Ten dozen cubits each were the edges around her.
I laid out her contours, I sketched out her lines,
I decked her in six,
I divided her in seven,

Her interior I divided nine ways.
I drove the waterplugs into her,
I saw to the spars and laid in what was needful.
Thrice 3600 measures of pitch I poured in the oven,
Thrice 3600 measures of tar did [I pour out] inside her.
Thrice 3600 measures of oil for the workers who carried the baskets,
Aside from the 300 measures of oil that the caulking consumed,
And twice 3600 measures of oil that the boatmen stored away.
For the [builders] bullocks were slaughtered,
And I killed sheep every day,
Fine beer, [grape] wine, oil and date wine,
[Did I give] the workers [to drink] like drinking water,
They made a feast as on New Year’s Day.
[I opened(?)] ointment, dispensed (it) with my own hand.
On the seventh day(?) the ship was completed,
[ ] were very difficult.
They brought on gang planks(?), fore and aft,
[They ca]me [up] her (side?) two thirds (of her height?).
[Whatever I had] I loaded upon her:
What silver I had I loaded upon her,
What gold I had I loaded upon her,

What living creatures I had I loaded upon her.
I made go aboard all my family and kin,
Beasts of the steppe, wild animals of the steppe, all skilled craftsmen I made go on board
. [G 33–86, TCS1]

Atrahasis received the command,
He assembled the elders at his gate.

(40) Atrahasis made ready to speak,
And said to the elders:
“My god [does not agree] with your god,
Enki and [Enlil] are constantly angry with each other.
They have expelled me from [the land(?)].
(45) Since I have always reverenced [Enki],
[He told me] this.
I can[not] live in [ ]
Nor can I [set my feet on] the earth of Enlil.
[I will dwell(?)] with <my> god in(?) the depths.”
(50) “[This] he told me [ ] …”
[gap of four or five lines]

(ii)
[gap]

(ii 10) The elders [ ]
The carpenter [carried his axe],
The reed–worker [carried his stone].
[The rich man? carried] the pitch,

The poor man [brought the materials needed].
[gap]
Atrahasis [ ]
[gap]
Bringing [ ]

(ii 30) Whatever he [had ]
Whatever he had [ ]
Pure (animals) he sl[aughtered, cattle] …
Fat (animals) [he killed, sheep(?)] …
He chose and brought on] board.

(ii 35) The [birds] flying in the heavens,
The cattle(?) [and of the cat]tle god,
The [creatures(?) ] of the steppe,
[ ] he brought on board

[ ] …

(ii 40) [ ] he invited his people
[ ] to a feast.
[ ] his family he brought on board.
While one was eating and another was drinking,
(ii 45) He went in and out; he could not sit, could not kneel,
For his heart was broken, he was retching gall.
[A 3:1:38–2.47 (TCS1)]

Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate; and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth. [Gen 7:1–3 ]

6. Command to enter


Samas had set me a deadline--
“In the morning he will rain down bread-cakes,
in the evening, a torrent of wheat.
Go into the boat and seal your hatch! [G 87–89]



For in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” [Gen 7.4]

7. Timing of the Flood

Samas had set me a deadline--
In the morning he will rain down bread-cakes,
in the evening, a torrent of wheat.
Go into the boat and seal your hatch! [G 87–89]


He opened the water clock and filled it,
He told it of the coming of the seven–day deluge. [A 3.2.36f]


And Noah with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah.

And after seven days the waters of the flood came on the earth.... On the very same day Noah with his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons entered the ark, they and every wild animal of every kind, and all domestic animals of every kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every bird of every kind—every bird, every winged creature. They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in. [Gen 7:7–16 ]

8. Entry


I watched the look of the weather:
the weather was frightening to behold;
I went into the boat and sealed my hatch.

G 89–94

[To the man who sealed the boat, the shipwright Puzur-Enlil, I gave the palace with all its goods. (95,96)]

The outlook of the weather changed,
Adad began to roar in the clouds.

(ii 50) The god they heard, his clamor.
He brought pitch to seal his door.
By the time he had bolted his door,

Adad was roaring in the clouds.
The winds were furious as he set forth,

(ii 55) He cut the mooring rope and released the boat.
[A 3:2:48–55 (TCS1)]

And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in [Gen 7:16]

9. Closing door

I went into the boat and sealed my hatch. [G 94]

[To the man who sealed the boat, the shipwright Puzur-Enlil, I gave the palace with all its goods. (95,96)]

ii 50) The god they heard, his clamor.
He brought pitch to seal his door.
By the time he had bolted his door,
Adad was roaring in the clouds.

A 3:2:50f

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

The flood continued forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters swelled and increased greatly on the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters. The waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; the waters swelled above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. ... Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark. And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred fifty days. [Gen 7:6-16 (parts), 17–24]

10. Description of flood


At the first glimmer of dawn,
A black cloud rose up from the horizon,
Inside [the cloud] Adad was thundering.
While Shullat and Hanish went on before,
Moving as a retinue over hill and plain,
Erragal tore out the dike posts,
Ninurta came and brought with him the dikes.
The Anunna–gods held torches aloft,
Setting the land ablaze with their glow.
Adad’s awesome power passed over the heavens,
Whatever was light he turned into darkness.
[He smote …] the land, it shattered like a pot!
For one day the storm wind [ ],
Swiftly it blew, [the flood cam]e forth,
It was passing over the people like a battle.

No one could see his neighbor,
Nor could the people see each other in the downpour.
The gods became frightened of the deluge,
They shrank back and went up to Anu’s highest heaven.

The gods cowered like dogs, crouching outside,
Ishtar screamed like a woman in childbirth,
And sweet–voiced Belet–[ili] moaned aloud:
‘Would that day had turned to nought,
When I spoke up for evil in the assembly of the gods!’
‘How could I have spoken up for evil in the assembly of the gods,
‘And spoken up for an assault to the death against my people?
It was I myself who bore my people!
(Now) like fish spawn they choke up the sea!’
The Anunna–gods were weeping with her,
The gods sat where they were(?), weeping.
Their lips were parched(?), taking on a crust.

Six days and [seven] nights
The wind continued, the deluge and windstorm leveled the land
. [G 96–129 (TCS1)]

Adad was roaring in the clouds.
The winds were furious as he set forth,

(ii 55) He cut the mooring rope and released the boat.
[four lines lost]

(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 upon the peoples [like a battle].
One person did [not] see another,
They could [not] recognize each other in the catastrophe.

(iii 15) [The deluge] bellowed like a bull,
The wind [resound]ed like a screaming eagle.
The darkness [was dense], the sun was gone,
[ ] … like flies

(iii 20) [ the clamor(?)] of the deluge [A 3.2.53-3.3.20 (TCS1)]



[Enki] was beside himself,
[Seeing that] his sons were thrown down before him.
Nintue, the great lady,
Her lps were covered with feverishness.
The Anunnaki, the great gods,
Were sitting in thirst and hunger
. [A. 3.3.25-32, Lambert]


The gods wept with her for the land,
She was surfeited with grief and thirsted for beer.
Where she sat, they sat weeping,
Like sheep, they filled the trough.
Their lips were feverishly athirst,
The were suffering cramp from hunger.
[A 3:4.15–25 (Lambert)]



And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings; everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, human beings and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark. [Gen 7:21–23]

11. Destruction of life


I looked at the weather, and there was quiet,
but all the people had turned to clay. [G 134-35 ]

My offspring—cut off from me—have become like flies!

And consigned the peoples to destruction. [A 3:3:44, 54 (Lambert)]

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters gradually receded from the earth. At the end of one hundred fifty days the waters had abated... The waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared. [Gen 8:1–3 ,5]

12. End of rain, etc


When the seventh day arrive,
the gale relented, [...]
The sea grew calm, that had fought like a woman in labor,
the tempest grew still, the Deluge ended.
I looked at the weather, and there was quiet,
but all the people had turned to clay.
The flood plain was level like a roof. [G 130–36]

All the evil winds, all stormy winds gathered into one and with them, then, the Flood was sweeping over (the cities of) the half-bushel baskets for seven days and seven nights. After the flood had swept over the country, after the evil wind had tossed the big boat about on the great waters, the sun came out spreading light over heaven and earth (130ff

Eridu Genesis [OT:THTO]

and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. [Gen 8:4]

13. Ark grounding on mountain


On Mount Nimush the boat ran aground,
Mount Nimush held the boat fast and did not let it move.
One day, a second day, Mount Nimush held the boat fast and did not let it move,
a third day, a fourth day, Mount Nimush held the boat fast and did not let it move,
a fifth, a sixth, Mount Nimush held the boat fast and did not let it move. [G 142–46]



At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made [Gen 8:6]

14. Hero opens window


I opened a vent and sunlight fell on the side of my face.
I fell to my knees and sat there weeping,
the tears streaming down the side of my face.
I scanned the shores, the edge of the sea,
in fourteen places emerged a landmass
. [G 137-141]

Ziusudra then drilled an opening in the big boat. And the gallant Utu sent his light into the interior of the bit [sic] boat. (138f)

Eridu Genesis [OT:THTO]

At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent out the raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. Then he sent out the dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground; but the dove found no place to set its foot, and it returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took it and brought it into the ark with him. He waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark; and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days, and sent out the dove; and it did not return to him any more. [Gen 8:6–12]

15. Birds’ reconnaissance


When the seventh day arrived,
I released a dove to go free,
The dove went and returned,
No landing place came to view, it turned back.
I released a swallow to go free,
The swallow went and returned,
No landing place came to view, it turned back.
I sent a raven to go free,
The raven went forth, saw the ebbing of the waters,
It ate, circled, left droppings, did not turn back
. [G 147–156 (TCS1)]



In the six hundred first year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and saw that the face of the ground was drying. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. Then God said to Noah, “Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families. [Gen 8:13–19]

16. Exit


I brought out an offering and sacrificed to the four corners of the earth [G 157]

To the [four] winds [... [A 3:5:30 (Lambert)]



Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. [Gen 8:20]

17. Sacrifice


I brought out an offering and sacrificed to the four corners of the earth
I strewed incense on the peak of the mountain
Seven flasks and seven I set in position,
below them I heaped up (sweet) reed, cedar and myrtle. [G 157–160]

To the [four] winds [... [A 3:5:30 (Lambert)]



(140´) Ziusudra, being the king,
stepped up before Utu kissing the ground (before him).
The king was butchering oxen, was being lavish with the sheep
[barley cak]es, crescents together
with […]
[…] he was crumbling for him
[…]
[juniper, the pure plant of the
mountains] he filled [on the fire] [Eridu Genesis, 140ff, TCS1]

And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night,

shall not cease.” [Gen 8:21–22]

18. Divine smelling of sacrifice


The gods smelled the savour,
the gods smelled the sweet savour,
the gods gathered like flies around the sacrificer. [G 161–163]

[The gods sniffed] the smell
They gathered [like flies] over the offering.
[After] they had eaten the offering
[A 3:5:34–36

God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. ... And you, be fruitful and multiply, abound on the earth and multiply in it.” Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” ... I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” [Gen 9:1–17]

19. Blessing on flood hero


Now then, make some plan for him.’
Then Enlil came up into the ship,
Leading me by the hand, he brought me up too.
He took my wife up and made her kneel beside me,
He touched our brows, stood between us and blessed us,
Hitherto Utnapishtim has been a human being,
Now Utnapishtim and his wife shall become like us gods,

Utnapishtim shall dwell afar–off at the source of the rivers.”
Thus it was they took me afar–off and made me dwell at the source of the rivers. [G 198–206 (TCS1)]

Ziusudra, being king,
stepped up before An and Enlil
kissing the ground,
And An and Enlil after hono[ring him]
(180´) were granting him life like a god’s,
were making lasting breath of life, like a god’s,
descend into him.

That day they made Ziusudra,
preserver, as king, of the name of the small
animals and the seed of mankind,
live toward the east over the mountains
in Mount Dilmun. [Eridu Genesis 175ff (TCS1)]





[Atrahasis: After death is decreed for humanity in 3.6.43ff, this additional curse on humanity is at 3.7.1-8]

(1) “Now then, let there be a third (woman) among the people,
Among the people are the woman who has borne and the woman who has not borne.
Let there be (also) among the people the (she) — demon,
(5) Let her snatch the baby from the lap of her who bore it,
Establish high priestesses and priestesses,
Let them be taboo, and so cut down childbirth.


Okay, so this is the raw data to work with...The plan is to go through this point by point and ask the following questions:

  1. What are the major points of contact/parallels?

  2. What are the major points of difference?

  3. If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

  4. Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

  5. Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

Then we will tally up our observations/conclusions and see where it leads...


Now, before we start, I want to give two examples of 'arguing about borrowing' that I find rigorous and use them as a 'baseline' of comparison when we examine OUR 'similarities'.

First, from Tigay, is the argument he makes that GE XI borrows from Atrahasis:

...in the case of the flood story there is no question but that Atrahasis served as the source for Tablet XI of the late version. This is crystal clear from the following considerations: 1) Certain lines in Gilgamesh and Atrahasis are virtually identical, and the two are therefore textually related. 2) The flood story is an integral part of the plot in Atrahasis, and it was already part of the plot of that epic in the Old Babylonian period. In Gilgamesh, the story is only incidental to the main theme, and, as we shall see, probably did not enter the epic until its late version was created. 3) In Tablet XI, 15-18, Utnapishtim opens his account of the flood with a list of gods (Anu, Enlil, Ninurta, and Ennugi) and their offices which also appears at the beginning of the Old Babylonian Atrahasis. In Tablet XI, the list, along with line 19 which may be based on the second tablet of Atrahasis, serves to identify the great gods who, according to line 14, decided to bring the flood, but it is really inappropriate for this purpose. Not only does it omit Ishtar, who is explicitly mentioned in lines 119 through 121 as having taken part in the decision, but it mentions Ennugi, who plays no role at all in Tablet XI, and Anu, who is mentioned only in passing, without being involved in the events. In Atrahasis, however, all of the gods mentioned in the list play a role in the events surrounding the creation of man, and three of them play a role in the flood as well. Therefore it appears that the editor of the Gilgamesh flood story simply took the list over bodily from Atrahasis, rather than composing a new one of his own. 4) Finally-and this is the giveaway-although Gilgamesh usually calls the survivor of the flood Utnapishtim, in the flood story he once calls him Atrahasis (XI, 187), the name he bears throughout the Atrahasis Epic.” [HI:EGE, 216f]

To state these as 'principles':

  1. If there are lines which are textually identical, we may assume literary dependence.

  2. If a event/passage appears in two texts, the text in which it is more 'causally relevant' [i.e., non-incidental to the story] would be the source of the borrowing (if borrowing occurred)

  3. If a cast of characters (or items) is fully explained and utilized in one account and not in another—yet still fully included in the latter account—it is best explained by borrowing.

  4. Scribal 'slips' in which a character is 'accidentally' called by the name of the character in the earlier/other text, would suggest a borrowing with a 'global search/replace of names' editing process, but which missed one occurrence.

Second, is Lambert's argument about Enuma elish and Anzu, as summarized by Clifford [OT:CAANEB, 85]:

Lambert has clearly demonstrated direct dependence of Enuma elish on the Old Babylonian version of Anzu by pointing to specific borrowings: in Anzu three gods turn down the invitation to fight Anzu before Ninurta accepts, and in Enuma elish Ea and Anu refuse to march before Marduk accepts; in Sumerian traditions eleven monsters oppose Ninurta, and the same number appear in Enuma elish 1.146 even though Enuma elish 1.133-146 names only eight, indicating that the number eleven is a borrowing; the Tablet of Destinies fits awkwardly in Enuma elish but not in Anzu, where its disappearance initiates the dramatic action; the stock epithet of Ninurta mutir gimilli abisu ("renderer of the service of his father"), which is applied to Marduk in Enuma elish II.123, is unnatural Akkadian and best explained as a wooden rendering of a Sumerian original; Marduk's net (IV-95) is not a natural weapon against the monster Tiamat but perfectly appropriate against the birdlike Anzu; the blood borne on the north wind that signals victory over Tiamat (Enuma elish IV.131-2) is an awkward adaptation of wind-borne feathers from the defeated birdlike Anzu ("let the winds carry the feathers to give the news," in Old Babylonian Anzu II 70 = 72). The direct borrowing in Enuma elish from the Myth of Anzu in effect makes Marduk not only the new Anu, Enlil, and Ea, but the new Ninurta as well.”

To state these as 'principles':

  1. [The first argument is too weak for this: the appearance of a refusal-by-other-before-the-Hero is too generic in literature to warrant a borrowing claim.]

  2. Inconsistency of numbers (even implied) within a text, with one of the numbers being in common with a proposed literary exemplar, would argue for borrowing.

  3. If a event/passage appears in two texts, the text in which it is more 'causally relevant' would be the source of the borrowing (if borrowing occurred) [Same as Tigay's above]

  4. If a textual formulation is 'odd' in a later text, and is best explained as a 'wooden' rendering' of a linguistic original, then that counts as evidence of borrowing.

  5. If some important prop in the text makes perfect sense in an exemplar, but little sense in the latter text, this would suggest literary borrowing.

  6. [The last argument is a bit subjective for me—I will not use it here.]


So, let's keep an eye out for these, as we go through our points...

...............................................................................................................

Point One: Divine decision to destroy mankind

One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

Well, the only commonality here is the topic itself—the decision to destroy humanity through a flood by (a) divinity.


Two: What are the major points of difference?

The pervasive one (through all the points, obviously) is that of theology: one God versus many gods; disagreement and subterfuge/intrigue among the gods.

A more important issue (for the issue of borrowing) is that the flood is an 'afterthought' in A: the gods had already (unsuccessfully) tried a couple of other means of killing off the noisy humans, before coming up with the idea of a flood. The idea of a flood is therefore NOT unique in the AE (which is the basis for GE), since it follows plague and drought, and precedes other methods of population control (e.g., infant death, celibacy).


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

Yes, there is a ton of data from non-ANE with this motif in it, arguing that there is no NEED to postulate borrowing at all.

Lambert had noted that “ flood stories as such do not have to be connected”, but what about the punitive aspect of it? Wouldn't that aspect of it be something that would likely have to be borrowed? In other words, if the Babylonian sources ('traditions') uniquely (and perhaps, 'uniformly'? A separate issue...) identify the Flood with divine judgment, then one is on firmer ground to assert 'content dependence' between Genesis and the Mesopotamian Flood traditions.

Unfortunately for the borrowing thesis, this element is (a) widespread throughout the entire world; and (b) not even consistent in Mesopotamian Flood traditions. If Flood-as-punishment motifs show up in all the continents of the world, there is hardly any 'uniqueness' to Babylonian versions, nor is there any reason to assume the requirement of borrowing.

And, indeed, not only are flood traditions ubiquitous, they frequently have our elements 1, 2, and 3 in them—rendering those 'similarities' useless as supports for borrowing. Consider just a few statements by mythographers:

It often happens in creation myths that the creator becomes disappointed or even disgusted with his work. Usually it is the behavior of his human subjects that disturbs him (or her), and he can think of nothing better than to wash them away and begin again. Thus deluge appears in many mythologies. In most cases the creator spares one man to preserve life for the new creation that will follow the flood. Usually the flood hero takes his wife and a set of animals with him to ride out the disaster in a boat made to the creator's specifications. Among some Algonquians it is the animals who save the humans.

The flood hero represents the positive seed of the original creation, which we hope lies within us all. Whether he is called Ziusudra (Sumerian), Utnapishtim (Babylonian), Noah (Hebrew), Manus (Indian), or Deucalion (Greek), he is the representative of the craving for life that makes it possible for us to face the worst adversities.

As the second stage of creation myths, the flood is one of humankind's earliest "memories." We cannot remember the events of the world creation itself because we were not yet there, but we were there, as it were, for the flood. The persistence of this "memory," expressed so universally in myth, suggests an important aspect of humanity's vision of both its own imperfections and the possibility of redemption in a new beginning...

The Native American flood follows the universal pattern, with certain cultural variations. Sometimes it is the creator's culture-hero assistant who instigates the world punishment. In the Zuni version the punishment is a response to incest. There are cases in which giants cause the flood. The Navajo Water Monster causes the flood when his child is hidden from him. Simple mistakes can bring about the flood, as when the Yavapai Indians of Arizona forgot to close the emergence hole. Among the Ute of western Colorado and eastern Utah, Tavwots, a version of the Great Hare, makes a deluge when his head explodes after being burned by the sun. Among the Cherokee and others, tears become the flood.” [WR:MNNA:104f]

and

In an equally awkward way, the gods began several times to create humanity on several occasions; floods are one of the means that they used to destroy the unfortunate results of their initial endeavors. After creating the heavens and the earth in darkness, say the Quechua peoples of South America, the god Viracocha made human beings too big; he turned some into statues and destroyed the rest with a flood. In the Popul Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya, formative or progenitor spirits create the first animated mannequins. These lived and procreated, but "this was only a trial, an attempt at humanity." They disappeared in the course of a complex series of events, in a vast inundation (Popol Vuh 3-4). Instead of annihilating an imperfect humanity, sometimes the creator god tries to improve it; he eliminates the defective humans by use of a flood. When everything seemed to be complete. say the Desdna of South America, a number of plagues overcame the world, and evil beings ravaged humankind. Seeing the suffering of those he had created, Sun brought on a flood that drowned all the living, and then a fire that burned everything. There were survivors, however, and the god had them brought up.

In most of the myths, the flood occurs after a more complex series of events in which human behavior plays a decisive role, although humans are not necessarily at fault. In one Philippine story, the god of the sky causes a flood to destroy humanity because it was becoming too numerous. In a Mesopotamian myth, the growth of humanity is accompanied by a perturbation that tires out the gods; to destroy it, they unleash several catastrophes, the last of which is a flood (Lambert and Millard, 1969)...

In myths where the flood is supposed to destroy the original, defective humankind, sometimes the latter disappears completely. In other cases, there are one or ore survivors.”

It has been seen that when the flood destroys a world and all of humanity, it sometimes precedes the creation of a new universe. It appears to separate two successive eras within a cyclical time... In some cases, the gods, after completely destroying the original human species, create another one; in other cases, the survivors themselves must ensure the survival of the human race...

When only one person escapes death, a miracle is needed to provide that person with offspring. In a Jivaroan myth, the solitary man plants a part of his own flesh in the earth; from this a woman is born, with whom he couples. Other South American Indians relate that the woman came from bamboo. After the destruction of the world in Hindu myth, Manu feels the desire for posterity. He gives himself over to ascetic practices and offers a sacrifice. In the year that follows, a woman is born, approaches him, and says, "I am your daughter." He begets upon her the race of his descendants by practicing more spiritual austerities.

Things are less unusual when either a couple or numerous individuals escape death; in this case the conditions of natural procreation are fulfilled. However, it may be observed that the salvation of the survivors is in itself a marvel; in many cases, they owe their survival to divine intervention. In Australian Aboriginal myth, only the ancestors survive the flood: By eliminating their evil descendants, the inundation permits a return to origins, from which humankind will be able to start anew. Many myths attribute qualities to the survivors that set them apart: Their descendants will be the products of a process of selection. In short, even when the present humanity issues from antediluvian mankind, it constitutes a second race.

Thus, in the history of humankind, just as it sometimes happens in the history of the cosmos, a destructive flood precedes a sort of new creation.”

The influence peoples have exercised over each other in the course of history is not enough to explain why myths of the flood are present on every continent.” [Ency of Religion, 2nd Edition, Lindsay Jones (ed), s.v. “Flood, the”]

and (from Indian cultures):

Given the strength of these arguments, it can be assumed that the two versions of the flood story in the Satapatha Brahmana and the Mahabharata were likely influenced by Mesopotamian traditions. Such is not, however, the case for all the traditional flood narratives in India. The folk tales of the orally transmitted tribal and regional tales and the flood narratives associated with the shrine of Dvaraka contain such important deviations from the above mentioned parallels that independent traditions must be postulated. In some cases, the myth of the golden age and of the flood are combined with the question of guilt. For the Santals, the world begins with an act of incest between a brother and sister to whom Maran Buru gives rice beer to drink and who, after taking the drink, engage in sexual intercourse. As they then learn about shame, they are consoled by Maran Buru. Their progeny are, however, wicked and corrupt. They neither heed Thakur's (the creator's) warnings nor his calls to conversion. When a rain of fire lasting seven days and nights lays everything to waste, alone the original siblings, Pilcu Haram and Pilcu Budhi, are given shelter in a mountain cave. As all the humans and the animals are killed and only the two of them survive, it is noteworthy that the couple who were responsible for degrading creation in the first place are precisely the two beings who are later granted salvation. This symmetry of events makes the condemnation of sexuality or incest into a secondary motif, even though the negative consequences of this act are clearly illustrated by the behaviour of the descendants,

This mixture of motifs can also be found in other tribal cultures. The Kols tell how the flood was caused by human wickedness, incest and the renunciation of the gods . Another set of regional tales deals with overpopulation, a theme which plays a major role in Ancient Near Eastern myths and which is connected in those accounts with the original immortality of mankind. For its part, the Indian narrative tradition recounts how all humans were originally immortal, but they became too numerous; they fought among themselves and acted wickedly until one day, when Khazangpa was angered, he said, "All men in the world must die". Only two individuals survived, and with them a new human race was begun . The Karias tell a similar tale. Ponomosor, the highest being, created the world and its human inhabitants. The human populations grew to be abundant and soon there was too little to eat. Pomosor gave them more food, but they deeply offended him by cutting some fruit trees down. In response, he sent a flood in order to destroy humanity. When humanity annoyed him yet again, he dispatched a rain of fire. This time only a few survived The narrative associates overpopulation with a food shortage that leads humanity to desecrate the forbidden mythical trees. The flood is sent to punish this sacrilege.” [HI:IF, 12-14]


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

I think we just answered that with a firm 'no'. It's a fairly basic, common motif in most/all cultures, and there is nothing 'odd' in the way Genesis expresses its version that ties it to GE or AE. Even the monotheistic thrust of Genesis wouldn't imply polemic inversion—it could more easily be explained by a simple belief system.


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

Nothing noteworthy here. I don't think I could make a case that the “monotheo-sobriety” of Genesis was more historical in tone or expression.

Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here. Too generic, too worldwide.

.......................................................................................................................................

Point Two: Reason for the Flood


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

Significantly, there are ZERO parallels here...unless

In the Atrahasis Epic’s account of the flood the reason that the gods decide to send the flood is the “noise” of mankind. This is not necessarily different from the biblical reason in that “noise” can be the result of violence. Abel’s blood cries out from the ground (4:10) and the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great (Gen 18:20). The noise could be generated either by the number of petitions being made to the gods to respond to the violence and bloodshed or by the victims who cry out in their distress. [BBCOT]

But this is a very, very 'charitable' reading of AE, and it is clear that there is no explicit mention of human guilt in AE: “...in this literary work no human fault is mentioned...In short, the weight of evidence strongly suggests that the human race committed no other fault than expanding beyond the capacity of the land to support it.” [OT:CAANEB, 82]


Two: What are the major points of difference?

The differences here are radical: Genesis judges humanity for their crimes (and intents) of violence, while AE judges humanity as being too 'noisy' and disturbing the sleep of the gods. This is so massively different—and not in even a polemical way—that borrowing (in either direction) would make no sense of these particulars. But the noise of humanity was the cause of all the attempts to kill us—the flood attempt was caused (actually) by the incompetence (or at least the internal politics) of these gods. So, WBC:

The opening of the story in Genesis brings immediately to the fore the difference between the monotheistic theology that informed the approach of the Hebrew writer and the polytheistic mythology of his contemporaries. According to the extrabiblical accounts, the heavenly council of the gods led by Anu and Enlil decided to destroy mankind, for multiplying too much and making too much noise. However, this decision was not unanimous, and the god Ea or Enki went so far as to tip off the flood hero about the divine decision. This was how he managed to escape, much to Enlil’s subsequent annoyance.... The plurality of divinities creates uncertainty about the future as far as mortals are concerned, and the pettiness of the gods’ motives in destroying mankind contrasts starkly with the stern moral tone of the biblical account. Man is damned in the latter not for making noise but because of his incorrigible evil for ruining the earth and committing violence. The divine decree admits of no exception but Noah, who was delivered not because he happened to worship a god sympathetic to his plight, but because of his perfect righteousness.”

Now, there IS a possibility that one of the differences is a 'polemical response':

Finally, it has been argued that Gen 6–9 is opposing the Babylonian belief in population control. According to Atrahasis, the flood was sent to destroy man who was breeding too fast and making too much noise. After the flood the gods decreed that certain women should be celibate, others infertile, and some infants should die soon after birth [A 3:7:1–8). The thrice-repeated divine command to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 8:17; 9:1, 7) echoing the earlier commands in 1:26, 28 “makes it probable that the Bible consciously rejected the underlying theme of the Atrahasis Epic, that the fertility of man before the flood was the reason for his near destruction” (T. Frymer-Kensky BA 40 [1977] 150). Cf. A. D. Killmer, Or 41 (1972) 174–75; W. L. Moran, Bib 52 (1971) 51–61.” [WBC]

But this, of course, is “anti-borrowing”-not 'ripping off ANE stories'...


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

We have already cited research showing that flood traditions occur on all the continents, and we should also note that the the theme of flood-as-moral-judgment is a very frequent story line, but there are flood-as-population-control cases as well (e.g. the Philippine and Indian stories, in the quotes above). So, once again, there is no 'need' for borrowing [for either text, btw]


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

Not applicable.



Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

To modern, western sensibilities, the notion of flood-as-noise-abatement seems a bit 'sub-divine' (if not 'sub-human'), when compared to a flood-as-violence-abatement. This is, of course, assuming one allows a theistic worldview at all (i.e. Both are 'ridiculous' is one cannot allow the existence of a moral supra-authority). If one allows for ethically-good God(s), then Genesis (and the other flood-as-moral-intervention traditions) would clearly seem to be more 'natural' and/or 'historically plausible'. Genesis would therefore seem to be 'closer' to the supposed shared event, and to be a 'historically superior' account.

Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here.

.................................................................................................................................................................


Point Three: Warning to Hero


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

Again, the only point of contact is the general one: the 'hero' is warned of some disaster.


Two: What are the major points of difference?

The differences are again very significant, and are fairly resistant to coming up with a borrowing 'pattern'. In Genesis, God speaks directly and clearly to Noah about the coming destruction, its extent, and the moral reason for the destruction. In GE and AE, because of the political infighting withing the Pantheon, Enki has to resort to a ruse to warn the Hero. He has to issue a warning to a wall (he is under oath not to reveal it to the human Hero), but does so within earshot of the Hero. Only in this deceptive way can Enki thwart the intentions of the bigger god, by warning a human. The warning itself is actually part of the command (build, save) so there is no explicit pronunciation of judgment, nor is the extent or reason given to the Hero. There is no room in a monotheistic system to even have intra-god conflict, deceit, and insubordination (already present earlier in AE with the rebellion of the Igigi, of course). The sobriety and conciseness of the Genesis warning is in stark contrast to the machinations and vagueness of the AE/GE versions.

There is also a fairly huge gap between the hero figures:

Ziusudra ("long life," Sumerian account), Atrahasis ("exceedingly wise") and Utnapishtim ("finder of life," Gilgamesh Epic) are three titles for the king of Shuruppak, who is the hero of the flood story in the ancient Near Eastern traditions. In each of these Mesopotamian accounts his patron god, Enki/Ea, informs the hero covertly. The king is informed of the coming flood and instructed on how to escape by means of a boat. In Genesis, Noah is given no official position as king or priest, though he is portrayed as a faithful worshiper of God, just as the Shuruppak king is portrayed as a devout worshiper and favorite of Enki/Ea. Noah's name does not indicate a personal quality or something he achieves for himself Instead, it is given as indicative of his father's hopes for him (Gen 5:29) that were not entirely realized (Gen 8:21-22). Perhaps a subtle theological difference between the traditions is that Noah's ark is seen as the means by which God will deliver him and his family, whereas in Mesopotamian traditions the boat is seen as a means of escape [tn: from the head god's will]. Thus, instead of one god helping the hero to escape the wrath of the other gods, Yahweh provides safety for Noah from the punishment that Yahweh is bringing on the rest of humankind.” [OT:DictOT5, s.v. “Flood”]

Ziusudra, the Sumerian Noah, and apparently Utnapishtim and Atrahasis are kings. Noah is simply a commoner. Admittedly, other antediluvian heroes in Mesopotamian tradition are also called kings, whereas their Hebrew counterparts are not, so the absence of royal traits with Noah may be coincidental. However, in the closing scene Ziusudra/Utnapishtim joined the ranks of the gods by being made immortal in the full sense, a privilege akin to that conferred on a few Mesopotamian kings who were deified on death and lived in the netherworld. Noah certainly did not gain eternal life by surviving the flood: the last thing we hear of him is his disgracing himself through drinking too much.” [WBC]


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

Of course, we have already noted this above as well.

Just for an example—with the warning motif in a COMPLETELY different setting—comes from the Papago Indians”

Papago: Montezuma and Coyote in Canoes: First, the Great Mystery made the earth. He came down to earth, dug a ball of clay, and took it up into the sky. There he dropped it into a hole and soon, out of the hole, came the Great Montezuma, leading all the Indian people behind him. Last to come out were the Apaches, who ran off in all different directions... Now Montezuma taught the people everything they needed to know: making baskets and pots, planting corn, cooking food with fire. It never got cold and all the people and all the animals could easily talk to one another... Then one day Montezuma's friend, Coyote, came by and told him he should build a big dugout canoe. Montezuma could make anything, but he didn't know why he needed a canoe. Coyote told him to build it anyway, so he did, and kept it on a mountain top. Coyote made himself a little boat out of a hollow log... Before long, Montezuma found out why he needed the canoe. A great flood engulfed the land, and Montezuma and Coyote floated on its surface while everything else perished. The two friends tried to find dry land, and when they scouted out the north, they found it. [WR:MNNA, 110f; Papago]


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

Again, because of point #3, the answer is 'no'--nothing substantive here.


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

If you allow a theistic worldview and the possibility of a flood-as-judgment, then the Genesis account has to recognized as being more 'plain' and 'reasonable'. Even humans act better at court than Enki and their pantheon! And—although this is less forceful—when you are 'borrowing' in a competitive context, you always “round up” or “inflate”--you turn commoners into kings, and NOT vice versa. It is much easier to believe that someone turned Noah into a king, than that the Israelites 'dumbed down' a Mesopotamian king for their flood hero!


Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here.

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Point Four: Command to build the Ark


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

The Hero is commanded to build a boat of some kind, to roof it (maybe?), to use pitch on it, and to carry on animals to repopulate the earth.


Two: What are the major points of difference?

There are several differences between the Genesis and GE/AE accounts, most notably the size and shape of the vessel. Interpretations vary, but by all accounts U's craft was an unlikely sea vessel:

Other differences:

  1. It does, however, have tackle and punting poles—unlike Noah's free-floating boat (AE 3.1.30-33).

  2. There is no explicit command to take food/provisions into the boat in GE/AE.

  3. Noah is (probably) commanded to put a window (tsohar? See Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary) to let light in, but GE/AE sections explicitly say 'roof' it to keep out the sun (AE 3.1.29-31).


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

Of the major points of contact, the (1) command to build a boat is fairly common in non-ANE cultures (even though it might not be the humans doing the building), and the (4) protection of the animals on the boat occur as well (e.g. The Algonquians had the animals save the humans on the boat). Sometimes there is not a boat and the Hero takes the animals up the mountain by foot [HI:EIE284]. So these elements are not very surprising. [see http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/flood-myths.html]

The 'roofing' issue is a topoi-issue and not a case of borrowing: anytime your flood is going to come from rain outbursts you need a roof (duh). Since most of the boats in the ancient world were 'open to the sky', this roofing would be an expected 'problem' for the audience (“but, Mommy, wouldn't they drown in the boat when it filled up with the rain too?”).

But the 'pitch' question is VERY worthy of investigation. The 'pitch' issue is purely linguistic, since there are countless flood stories with equivalent technologies (e.g. mortar, caulking, pegging—as in Homer). So, let's go to the next point and deal with it there.


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

Here there is a good question about the 'pitch' word. Here are a couple of statements, arguing for dependence (of some 'strong' type):

As I understand Noort's argument, he is saying that the 'odd' reference to 'pitch'--in a nation which (a) didn't use it much; and (b) used other terms for it—requires borrowing from the more-logical Babylonian practice/passage.

[His comment about the 'unfamiliarity' and 'marvel' aspect at the Tower of Babel, however, is just too speculative for the passage—the word choices are actually brilliant word-plays and disparagements:

The builders’ words are replete with ironic hints of the ultimate failure of their project. As already noted, the Hebrew words for “make bricks,” “for stone,” and “build for ourselves” contain the consonants n, b, l, which spell “mix up” (v 7) or “Babel” (v 9) and evoke the word “folly,” nebalah. In particular, the people’s express purpose in building, “to make a name, lest we are scattered over the face of the whole earth,” is precisely what they fail to achieve. For ultimately the Lord does scatter them (vv 8, 9), and the name given to their construction commemorates their failure, not their success....“Let us make bricks.” Elsewhere this phrase is used only of the Hebrews making bricks in Egypt (Exod 5:7), but it is common in Akkadian. Indeed, Enuma Elish talks of molding bricks for a year to build the Esagil. The second clause, “bake them thoroughly,” while not such a clear pre-echo of Babel as the previous clause, contains the consonants n, l, and p (close to b).... “So they had bricks for stone and asphalt for mortar” is a brief aside introducing the narrator’s point of view and the approach of Israelites to building material. It is, of course, an accurate comparison of building techniques in Israel and Mesopotamia. The former used stone and mortar (חמר denotes potter’s clay as well as mortar), whereas the latter used bricks (usually sun-dried, but here no doubt special kiln-baked bricks are meant) and asphalt, produced by exposing crude oil to the air. But this is more than a technical note on differences in ancient building methods; there is also an implied disparagement of Babylonian materials (we use stone; they have only brick!). And the whole comment combines a tight chiasm: “for them brick” // “asphalt for them,” with ingenious word play: lĕbēnāh/lĕ˒aāben//haḥēmār/lahōmer. Again it makes use of the significant n, b, l.” [WBC, in loc]]

So, the questions are:

  1. How tight is the connection between kfr in Genesis and kupru in Akkadian?

  2. How 'unfamiliar' would Israel have been with working with 'pitch', in such a context?

  3. How reasonable would it be to believe their own ancestral traditions also had the kfr word in them (instead of only the more common hemar )

On #1, it is not at all clear that this link is to be made (although it is not important, one way or the other):

After Noah builds the ark, he is to cover it with pitch, that is, caulking. This is the only place in the Hebrew Bible where the noun koper means 'pitch'. The verb smear (kapar) is a Qal denominative from koper; thus the expression smear... with pitch (kaparta... bakkoper) is analogous to the expression 'season with salt' (bammelah timlah Lev 2.13).” [NICOT, in loc]

On #2, Israel had plenty of familiarity with such processes:

There's just no reason to make the 'unfamiliarity' argument...

But that's not really the issue here IMO—it's the linguistic issue of why kfr was used instead of the more familiar hemar. That's the issue. We would have perhaps expected a Hebrew author (at least one writing at the time hemar was the dominant work for 'pitch') to have described the Ark scene using the more familiar-to-his-readers word. What's going on?

Well, the first thing we should note is that Biblical authors did NOT routinely change words 'in tradition'. Sometimes they would—to update a reference, if it was an unfamiliar place name, for example—but the more ancient the material, the less they seemed to tamper with it. A good example is the Song of Moses and Miriam/Song at the Sea (Ex 15)—it has some of the most arcane language in it, as does the Song of Deborah. These are examples of very ancient sources being incorporated into the then-current text.

Scholars are almost unanimous in labeling this song [Ex 15] as being very old based on such archaic features as the mo ending in vv. 7, 9, 12, 15, 17; the archaic relative particle zu in vv. 13, 16; and certain technical Egyptological terms in v. 4.” [EBCOT]

Few deny that the ode [Judg 5] was written by an eyewitness soon after the events it celebrates. Deborah is usually considered the author; the connection between prophetess and music is a natural one (cf. the reference to Miriam in Exod 15:20-21).” [EBCOT] and “The Hebrew used in this song shows it to be one of the most ancient pieces of poetry in the OT. A version of it was sung on the day of battle (1), and it was probably given its present form soon after.” [BKC]

We have similar situation with our passage here...

Sarna [JPS Torah Commentary, p.49] notes this:

From all the foregoing, coupled with the detailed observations made in the commentary, it is clear that our biblical account constitutes an independent Israelite version that is nevertheless closely related to the Mesopotamian traditions. It is likely that underlying the present prose narrative was an earlier poetic composition, the substratum of which may still be discernible. This would account for the occurrence of so many unique or rare words, such as gofer, kinnim, tsobar, mabbul, yekum, and keshet. It would also explain poetic sentences such as 7:11 and 8:22, as well as the sevenfold repetition of so many key words. When Isaiah 54:9 refers to "the waters of Noah" rather than to "the Flood," for instance, there may be a citation from some ancient popular source not otherwise preserved. “

This could imply one of two alternate explanations: (1) the biblical author borrowed the vocabulary of these ancient words (esp. pitch) from the Akkadian texts (AE, or GE); or (2) the words are part of the independent tradition history of Israel's own past (in their origins in Abraham in Mesopotamia).

We must remember that Israel would have had its own flood traditions (like every culture under the sun seems to), and that they would not have had to have borrowed them to begin with. So, our basic method here is fairly straightforward: we compare these rare words (six of them, not counting pitch) to the Akkadian words in the corresponding flood traditions. To the extent that (a) they match; and (b) they are different from the 'normal' Israel word for that item, to that same extent the borrowing thesis find support.

So, let's compare the 6 words in Genesis with their counterparts in AE/GE:

So, we struck out here, so to speak... there was only ONE word (among the rare words in Genesis) with a match in GE/AE (i.e. 'pitch'), and there were six with zero overlap. This 'sanity check' approach strongly suggests that the pitch-word was simply an 'antique' word in Israel's own tradition, and not something borrowed (all by itself!) from GE/AE. There is no other evidence (among these 'highly suggestive' rare words) to warrant borrowing, and indeed, some warrant to assert that borrowing could not have occurred. But actually, there's a new result from our examination here: each mis-match becomes another 'difference', and another piece of evidence against dependence! And, given these words would have been voted the “Most Likely to Have Been Borrowed from GE”, our anti-borrowing case became that much stronger, oddly enough.


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

This is a little subjective, but the descriptions of Noah's ark are definitely more 'boat-like' than AE/GE (with the exception of the rudder/gear—completely unnecessary/unused in either case, since they had no navigation while 'sealed inside' the closed boats). The size of Noah's boat is at the high end of shipbuilding 'credibility'—the Akkadian accounts are way past credulity. Even the material of the Akkadian 'boat' is wrong for a 'cube' that size—reeds (although the passages do NOT say that the boat was ONLY made of reeds—there was a carpenter who worked on the boat, and surely there would have been ribbing and struts and stuff). The shape difference is also different: Noah's 'looks like a boat' and GE/AE's is a cube that looks like a ziggerat. The Biblical number of decks (3 for Genesis; 7 for GE) makes more sense from maritime history. And the instruction to build a window and take food for the passengers (only in Genesis) is certainly a practical-looking touch.

I cannot find ANY aspect of the (more limited) AE/GE accounts which seem 'more historical' or 'more in synch with ancient seafaring' than the Biblical account. So, combining the absence of such data from Meso-x, with the several data-details of Genesis which 'look like' a more sober, historical, seafaring account, I would have to say that the biblical account would appear to be closer to whatever historical event became known as the Flood. [There are not enough 'polemical inversions', btw, to make a case that the 'sobriety' was a deliberate “anachronizing” to APPEAR older and therefore more reliable. We might expect more explicit comments about the uselessness of reeds, or the lack of need for tackle, or prohibitions against making it look like a temple or too tall, etc.]


Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here, and evidence AGAINST borrowing.

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Point Five: Hero's Obedience


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

Both Noah and the Akkadian heroes build the boat according to spec, and populate the ark with animals.


Two: What are the major points of difference?

There are several of these, both in content and style:

First all, the obedience of Noah is noted very, very briefly when compared to the longer narratives of GE/AE. This is more a style issue and we have noted the major differences in how the Heroes are portrayed in the accounts:

While Genesis builds up the character of God, it very much reduces the dimensions of the flood hero. Indeed, Noah is hardly a heroic figure at all. His name, “Noah” (“rest”) simply expresses his father’s hopes (5:29), whereas the names “Ziusudra,” or “Utnapishtim” (“finder of [eternal] life”) and “Atrahasis” (“exceedingly wise”) clearly refer to the achievements of the survivor of the flood. We are simply told over and over again that Noah obeyed God: clearly he believed the divine warnings and acted on them and so could be described as a man of faith. When the flood subsided, he patiently waited until the earth was dry. Then he offered a sacrifice. But he never speaks. We are given no insight into his feelings at any point. He could simply be a well-programmed robot responding to the divine instructions. In contrast, Utnapishtim is a very active figure, hurrying hither and thither building his ship, spinning a yarn to his neighbors as to why he is doing it. Besides animals, he loads on board a large crew and all his gold and silver. At the appointed time he enters the ark and shuts himself in, whereas “the Lord shut Noah in.” [WBC]

Secondly, importantly, the Akkadian heroes actually DISOBEYED the initial order to 'abandon possessions and flee on a boat'. In spite of the 'flee possessions' injunction at the “Hero Warned” event, these guys take all they own, all their gold, and all their silver in with them!

Thirdly, one of the huge differences here is the deceit commanded by the Akkadian god. Noah is told to build a boat by himself and becomes a 'preacher of righteousness' (II Peter 2.5) for almost 120 years. Utnap/Atrahx are both told to lie to their subjects as to why they are building a boat. They deceive their subjects into helping them build and outfit the boat, without the slightest indication that they tried to get their subjects to build boats for themselves. These kings seem upset about this, but apparently they are afraid to endanger their own survival by attracting hostile divine 'attention' by all the other people perhaps building boats.


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

We have already noted that these two commonalities are too generic to be significant—these motifs show up all over the world, way outside of the range of influence.


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

No, nothing here. The closest we come is the simple-obedience-of-Noah over against the greedy-disobedience-of-the-others. One could perhaps argue that this is a polemical inversion, but it would be a little to generic to warrant this. We would need something perhaps about Noah's poverty or humility, or such. There is just not enough in common here to suspect borrowing of any type, actually.


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

No much here to work with in a comparative mode, due essentially to the brevity of the Genesis account. There are aspects of the GE/AE accounts which could be questioned as 'fantastical' (e.g., the King actually deceiving all his advisers and subjects; nobody asking why Enlil's rejection of Atrahasis required him to take all the animals into the boat; why he needed such a massive boat to go underground to Ea's domain(?!), how this 'submarine' was going to 'dive' using punting poles, etc). So, again, in simple sobriety, Genesis seems more 'plain' and/or 'historical'. [We will talk about the timing issues in a later point.]

Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here

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Point Six: Command to Enter


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

Only the command for Noah to go into the ark.


Two: What are the major points of difference?

Everything else is a 'difference':


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

This is a basic of non-ANE Flood-survivor stories, as well.


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

A simple “No”. The differences do not look like polemical inversions either.


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

Both of these look historical 'enough'--no reason to favor one over the other

Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here

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Point Seven: Timing of the Flood


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

The announcement that the Flood would begin in 7 days.


Two: What are the major points of difference?

This area is filled with considerable differences—some of which are quite significant for our question:

Let's do a timeline of each character's experience:

I am not sure there could even BE more striking differences than these (smile)...


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

Not Applicable: There are no parallels at all in this category between the Bible and GE/AE.


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

Not Applicable: There are no parallels at all in this category.


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

Apart from the (mutual) longevity of the actors themselves, the Genesis account is the only remotely plausible one! Every number for the Akkadian hero in GE/AE is impossibly short:

Consider the data from the area/period: (1) According to period data from UR, labor time for construction (or repair, which would be the shorter of the two!) of a 60 gur boat was 602 person-days in one case and 900 in another—two to three person-years, full-time [MCMF:128f]; (2) One gur is 300 liters, and so the GE/AE boat was around 550,000 gur; (3) This is equivalent to around 9,175 boats of 60-gur capacity; (4) Labor doesn't scale linearly, of course, but it doesn't stop increasing either, as boat size increases; (5) at a linear increase [taking 750 person-days as the average for a 60 gur boat], the Meso-Cube would have taken 22,056 person-years to build or 6, 881, 400 person-days; (6) To squeeze that many person-days into a 7 day period, would have required a useful labor force of 983,057 laborers—working all at the same time; (7) the 'boat' was 180 ft by 180 ft by 180 ft., with a surface area of 194,400 square feet; (8) that means about FIVE laborers per square foot of surface area; (9) with each laborer being around 60-70 liters in body mass, you cannot get that many workers to even TOUCH or STAND NEAR the boat at the same time. [They could all fit inside the boat through—packed like sardines, they would take up only half the volume—but most of them would have not access to the working surfaces.]

But, as I said, it's not linear. So let's calculate how many folk it would have taken to produce just a medium-sized 60 gur boat in the seven day period. That's fairly easy: 750 person-days, divided by 7 days, yields a labor force of a little over a 100 people. But the boat we NEED to build is 9,175 times larger than this. Let's let it scale at a non-proportionate rate: half-the-people can do all the work beyond the first 60 gur boat. So, a 600 gur boat—instead of taking the linear/proportionate 1,000 people—only takes 500, let's say. A 6,000 gur boat—instead of taking 10,000 people—only takes 5,000. [We are already out of surface area about this time, btw]. A 60,000 gur boat would thus take 50,000 people... and we run out of people (from the region) as well as surface area. It's just not remotely possible.

Even at the 'expensive' linear rate, Noah could have built his (smaller) boat with around 55 hired-laborers, working for only 100 of the 120 years [with pitch, the materials would not have decayed with age over this time]. With a less 'expensive', non-proportionate rate, this number obviously drops into a comfortable 20-30 range (assuming Noah had something to barter/pay hired-laborers for such a long period). There's just no comparison between the 'realism' appearances.

To float a boat 180 feet tall, loaded with cargo (including metals like gold and silver), is going to require at least 40-50 feet of water, even with a reed-based boat. It would probably have required 80-90 feet of water, but let's work with 50 feet for now. You have to get 50 feet of rainfall (retained!) in a seven day period just to get it off the ground—and a whole lot more to deposit the boat on a mountain. That 7 feet per day is 96 inches or 213 cm per day. Catastrophic/extreme rainfall days in the modern world are measured in sub-100 cm days [e.g. Mumbai, 2005, 94.4cm]. And remember, this rainfall cannot run off during the days/nights—it has to 'stay in place' for seven days to be able to reach the 'basic' 50ft. And then, whatever factor 'held it in place' must then be removed to let 7 feet of water drain off per day (on average) for the next seven days. We don't have rain storms [and AE/GE have only rainstorms—there are no 'foundations of the deep' that break open, as in Genesis---see 'Description of the Flood' below] that dump 50+ feet of water in a week in an inland location like Mesopotamia, and then run off just as fast. [And remember, we have to get this meso-cube up onto a mountain of the Zargos range.] This is just unworkable.

In the case of Noah, the situation is decidedly asymmetrical. The waters from above and from below build the flood for 40 days, and it takes another 10-11 months for the waters to abate. This is much more like the 'real world' of flood disasters, especially inland ones.

So, this is an easy one. The GE/AE stories are palpably fantastical/unreal/impossible, whereas the Genesis story is significantly more realistic and plausible. Many elements of GE/AE look 'symbolic' (to use George's term), but nothing in Genesis does—it all looks historical. They are too far apart, of course, to suspect borrowing, and MIGHT be so far apart as to suggest they originated from two separate events, even.


Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here

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Point Eight: Entry


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

The Flood hero and his family go into the boat.


Two: What are the major points of difference?

Several:

  1. Noah only takes his immediate family and the animals // Atrax-Utnapy carries in much more: extended family and craftsmen from every skilled trade.

  2. Noah goes in at the explicit direction/command of the Lord // Arax-Utnapy looks at the weather and goes in. [Both have the seven-day 'notice' though.]


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

“Going into the boat” is a fairly common element in seafaring stories worldwide (sly smile)...


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

Hardly.


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

No real difference in historical 'feel'.

Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here

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Point Nine: Closing the Door


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

The door to the boat is closed after they go in.


Two: What are the major points of difference?

Several:


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

Again, closing the door to the boat after you have gone through the door is a “ fairly common element in seafaring stories worldwide” (same sly smile).

But we might notice that the 'completely enclosed' motif of Noah (not actually in the GE/AE accounts, since their craft seem to be more boat-like and 'open' than the sealed chest of Noah), can be found elsewhere in the world (smile):

From China, we have the Gourd Children:

The brother and sister who recreated the human race after its destruction in a great flood, according to the mythology of the Yao people of southern China. One day, a farmer captured the Thunder God, who was responsible for storms and floods. He warned his son and daughter not to give the god anything to drink, but the children were merciful. One drop of water revived the god and he burst free from his cage. He gave the children a tooth in gratitude and left... The children planted the tooth and a few minutes later a plant sprouted producing an enormous gourd. In the meantime, a great flood began to cover the earth. The farmer told his son and daughter to shelter in the gourd while he built a boat and floated on the rising waters to heaven, where he appealed for an end to the deluge. The gods consented, but the flood subsided so rapidly that the farmer's boat plummeted to earth and he was killed... The children, safe inside their gourd, were the only survivors of the flood. [WR:DWM, 86]

And from the Navajo:

On the next day the Fourth World began to come to an end. A great tide of water approached from the four directions. The people asked Squirrel for help and he planted some nuts that became fast-growing trees. But they didn't grow high enough. Weasel planted seeds, but these trees didn't reach high enough either. Then two mysterious men, one old and one young, appeared with a bag of sacred soil gathered from the four mountains that marked the edge of the world. Once this was spread on the ground with the proper ceremony, a great reed grew with an opening on its eastern side. Into this the people went, and the reed grew, always above the raging waters. Eventually the people were able to climb out and into the Fifth World, where they live today. When they emerged into the Fifth World long ago, it was a very different place than it is today.” [WR:MNNA, 94f; Navajo]


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

Nah, too generic/expected/mundane.


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

GE/AE has a slight edge here, possibly, with the additional details of the rope, pitch, bolts, etc.; but this is SO offset with the cruelty of Utnapy to the poor shipwright—ugh. Who would want to borrow from a story like that?! [Noah, as a 'preacher of righteousness' and prophet, would have told his contemporaries to take God seriously and build boats for their families for over a century, yet this Akkadian “hero” has to hide the fact of the coming flood from his loyal subjects, so that they can build a boat for him and his gold! Talk about the 'moral high ground'--a story to emulate and borrow from, for sure...yeah, right...]

Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here

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Point Ten: Description of the Flood


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?


Two: What are the major points of difference?

There are many, important differences between the accounts:

  1. The AE/GE accounts portray the source of the deluge as a wind-rain-thunder storm, with particular mention of the wind. The Genesis account never mentions wind or thunder or lightening, until (only) wind is used to dry up the water later.

  2. In the Genesis account, a large source of water came from the subterranean waters (“fountains of the great deep”), whereas the Akkadian floodwaters only come from rain (we have seen the quantitative problem with this earlier).

  3. Genesis does not describe the external events (since there is no way to see the outside at this point), but GE/AE can somehow infer that the darkness of the storm makes visibility for the soon-to-be-drowned subjects impossible.

But the most powerful differences (and one abhorrent to Hebrew authors!) are in the behavior of the Akkadian gods!


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

Nah, again—flood stories worldwide generally include rainfall. Nothing here.


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

Nah. In this case, where a polemical inversion might be 'fun' for the Hebrew author, the account stays focused on the historical aspects and monotheistic theme. The portrait of the Mesopotamian gods in such a pathetic light would certainly repulse a foreign author from using this as a source—unless there were strong cultural reasons to do so (we will examine this later, in the Sacrifices section—GE might be trying to 'air brush' the deities in AE...).


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

Genesis has to get the thumbs up here. Between the eco-physical problem of getting enough water from just rain and the deplorable weaknesses of the Meso-gods, Genesis looks much more 'sober' and 'realistic', relatively speaking.

Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here

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Point Eleven: Destruction of Life


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

All humans died.


Two: What are the major points of difference?


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

Generic to most flood traditions. Nothing here.


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

No.


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

The only possible issue here would be the inconsistency in the GE story: somehow this guy can see outside the boat, BEFORE he later opens the vent/window to let in the sunlight. Unless there are other, unmentioned, 'safety windows' in his boat (unknown to ancient seafaring technologies!), there should be no way for him to see the things he describes: the darkness outside, the land destruction, the floating corpses, and (later) the emerged landmass. This gives Genesis a slight edge in the 'looking historical' category, but not a whole lot.

Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here

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Point Twelve: End of Rain, etc.


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

The rain stopped.


Two: What are the major points of difference?

Several:

  1. Genesis has the 'fountains of the deep' to close also (they are not present in GE/AE, at least not explicitly).

  2. God makes a wind blow over the earth to start the drying process, in Genesis. No favorable winds are mentioned in GE/EG (only the destructive gale).

  3. The timing problem is acute here: the flood plain is visible in GE on the 7th day of the Akkadian flood, but it is months and months later in Genesis.

  4. Again, somehow Utnapy can see out of the boat.


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

The stopping of rain is pervasive in flood myths all over the world. Nothing here.


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

Nothing here.


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

Again, we have the timing problem (which favors Genesis), the inconsistency problem (which discounts GE), and the 'fountains of the deep' water volume realism (which favors Genesis). So, in this category, Genesis comes off looking a little more historical/plausible.

Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here

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Point Thirteen: Ark grounding on Mountain


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

The boat runs aground on some mountain.


Two: What are the major points of difference?

Just the big one: a different mountain (obviously). GE lands on Mt. Nimus, generally associated with Pir Omar Gudrun in the Zagros Mountains (below the Little Zab river). Noah's location is given imprecisely, only as 'one of the mountains of Urartu. “The ark rested in the area of ancient Urartu (2 Kings 19:37), now part of eastern Turkey, southern Russia, and north-western Iran. The reference is too imprecise to specify the mountains...” [Waltke, Genesis]. These sites are several hundred miles apart.


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

Again, too many flood-escapees on mountains, worldwide. [Too much of this stuff is just 'banalities'--things you have to put into a story for it to make sense, topoi, background, obvious elements. Just nothing too unusual to notice.]


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

Nah.


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

Nothing much here, textually, other than one possible inconsistency: depending how deep into the Zagros mountains the GE boat landed, it might have been impossible to actually 'see' the flood plain from the boat (as claimed by the narrative). This would show that the GE author was unfamiliar with the historical aspects of the flood material he was handling, and could indicate borrowing (but not from the bible, in this case).

However, there is one textual element that strongly militates against Genesis borrowing from the Akkadian accounts—the location of the mountain:

Heidel is unconvinced by the evidence of Israelite borrowing and in the end chooses the third option, that a common source is responsible for both the Babylonian and the biblical accounts. He acknowledges, however, that proof of such an option is likewise difficult to come by. Despite this admission, there is support for the suspicion that direct borrowing from the Babylonians on the part of Israel was not involved. Most noteworthy is the report of the place where the ark came to rest. The Gilgamesh Epic reports this as Mount Nisir, generally identified as Pir Omar Gudrun, which is south of the lower Zab in the region of Nuzi. If the Israelites were borrowing directly from the Babylonians, we would expect one of two situations to develop. Either the name of the mountain would remain unchanged and would be reported as Mount Nisir in the biblical text or the name of the mountain would be changed to one familiar to those in Palestine (e.g., Mount Hermon). Neither of these is the case. The fact that the mountains of Ararat are cited by the biblical text would at the very least suggest that if there was borrowing, it was not direct.” [AILCC, 39]

Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here

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Point Fourteen: Hero opens window


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

Some kind of portal/opening to the outside world is opened by the flood hero.


Two: What are the major points of difference?

[We should first note that this event does not appear in AE, so we will be only concerned with GE and EG.]

The differences are pretty substantial here, actually:

Part of the problem here—I have begun to realize—is that the ships seem to be very, VERY different after all. GE/AE's ship has a roof, and apparently a seal-able hatch for entering/leaving, but seems also to have some kind of 'view port'(?), out of which the hero can see. Various scenes are described BEFORE this 'vent' is opened in 137: (1) dawn and the first dark cloud is noticed [97-98]; (2) devastating winds and gloom passing onto the land [100-108]; (3) people outside the boat not being able to recognize one another in the darkness [112f]; (4) the weather after the storm [134]; (5) the floating corpses [135]; and (6) the flood plain, now leveled of buildings [136]. Perhaps this is an (undescribed) window in the side of the boat which the hero opens/closes at 'quieter times'. Perhaps it is too small or oriented too low to let the sunlight in (as with the vent)? In any event, I can find no models, discussions, suggestions, or discoveries of such a structure in any of my specialist works on ancient seafaring ([HI:SIAE], [HI:SSSBAL], [HI:SASIAT], [HI:ASASA], [HI:HS]), nor in any of my works on ANE material culture. People didn't stay 'below deck' in ancient ships, and the cargo hold in merchant ships had no 'windows' at all. The fact that GE's boat is stylized as a boat (e.g., with 'punting poles' and 'tackle'!) and is called a 'boat' (eleppu) makes me wonder if even the author knows what was going on at all...

Noah's ark is NOT portrayed as a boat at all, actually—it is called an ark (Heb teva), which is only used elsewhere to describe the enclosed reed-box Moses was placed in as an infant. Teva is translated 'box' or 'chest' in other contexts. It was not supposed to be 'sailed' or 'rowed' anywhere—it was just supposed to float successfully. [GE's boat was supposed, somehow, to navigate to the Apsu, the underground ocean which was the domain of Ea/Enki.]

So, it is very difficult to compare these two 'openings', but under EITHER INTERPRETATION, they are radically different. If GE's 'vent' is somehow a 'viewing hole' (which can be opened and closed, yet sealed tight enough to withstand gale-force rain?!!), then it contrasts with Noah's, which is NOT a 'viewing hole' at all. If, on the other hand, GE's 'vent' is rather the 'hatch' (used for loading, unloading of peole and cargo), then it contrasts with Noah's , which is NOT a disembarking opening at all [Noah has to take the roof off in 8.13f to let the people/animals out]. Thus, under any understanding, there is no parallel here at all.


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

No points of contact.


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

No points of contact.


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

This is difficult to assess. Noah's ark is unprecedented and essentially unparalleled in flood stories; and GE's boat seems self-contradictory, is without analogue in ancient seafaring, and borders on the quasi-impossible. One could argue from the obvious plausibility of the teva of the baby Moses—a reasonable enough device—to its vastly larger analogue in the Flood, but this wouldn't really tip the scales very much.

Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here

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Point Fifteen: Birds' Reconnaissance


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

Flood hero sends out a sequence of birds, after running aground, and before disembarking.


Two: What are the major points of difference?

Most folks are aware of the obvious differences: different birds, different sequence, different timing, different behaviors, different motives.

So, practically speaking, the only point of actual contact is the fact of sending out multiple birds from the boat—nothing more. The details are totally variant.


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

Well, the role of birds in flood stories is fairly well established, although not as pervasive as some of the other elements. They do, however, also show up in the Creation-out-of-Water cosmogonies of the world (which many think are simply farther-removed versions of Flood-as-New-Beginning stories). Birds (and other animals) show up in all kinds of stories as 'reconnaissance agents', and are often simply another topoi/motif.

Let me mention just a few citations here, first from non-ANE stories and then some scholarly summaries...

First, some of the stories (or abridgments) themselves:

[Although one has to be sensitive to the possibility of Christian missionary 'intrusions' into such accounts, I have selected the ones generally considered to be 'free and clear' (i.e., those above). There are, of course, tons of other such stories which could be /should be considered as well, with the intrusion issue warning kept firmly in mind. With this in mind, the interested reader can peruse other stories at some of the links at: http://www.nwcreation.net/noahlegends.html (with the charts)]

Notice that this is not only illustrative of sending a bird out to check out the situation, but it even reveals the multiple-tries-with-mixed-results motif!

Now, let me cite only a summary account or two, from non ANE-sources:

We have already cited the evidence of Indian flood narratives (under “Divine Decision to destroy mankind”), but these independent traditions also sometimes contain the bird motif:

Although these narratives include many of the motifs that we also know from the classical flood stories, they are used differently or placed in other contexts. The catastrophe can come in the form of a flood but also in the form of a fire storm. Very different reasons are given to explain the offense of which humanity is guilty. A boat can be the instrument of salvation, but so can a mountain cave or even a gourd. Occasionally, the bird episode also resurfaces...The differences between the individual narratives and the general motifs are sometimes so important that the Indian flood stories offer us a very good example of, on the one hand, a partially derivative and reworked narrative tradition and, on the other hand, an autonomously developed one.” [HI:IF, 14]

Oppenheimer refers to several themes in his section on “Birds as earth-raisers and land-seekers” [HI:EIE, 237ff]:

One class of animals repeatedly found both in the land-raising and flood myths are birds. In the sub-arctic myths of North America, as I have said, they are usually recruited as divers, while elsewhere they benefit from the land-raising activities of other animals. An example of the latter appears in the 'day/devil' stories about the creation of man in Chapter 13. This long creation story, which contains nearly every archaic Eurasian creation theme, comes from the Santals, a Mundaic Aboriginal tribe of Bengal. After a watery start to the world two birds were created in mistake for men and could not find any land to nest on. They flew around the world fruitlessly looking for land for twelve years. The creator recruited various animals to dive for earth. After a few failures the turtle brought up land in the form of an island, which was then planted up by the creator. The birds then nested. The same motif appears in a Digueno creation myth from southwest California. Here the divers are two brothers who were under the sea at the beginning of time. The elder brother created land from packed red ants. The birds that he made next, however, could not find the land he had created because it was still dark. So he then made the Sun and the Moon.

Two widely separated myths record an island that was created for wandering teal (a small duck) to nest... One of these is the Finnish Kalevala, and the other comes from Samoa. Other non-Christian creation myths have birds in a less passive role, being sent out, usually to find land in the watery waste, at the beginning of time. One of these stories was collected from the Bila-an, a non Christian tribe of the southern Philippines: 'In the beginning, four beings, two male and two female, lived on a small island no bigger than a hat. Neither trees nor grass grew on the island but one bird lived on it. So the four beings sent the bird to fetch some earth, the fruit of the rattan, and the fruit of trees.' The creator beings then fashioned the earth into land and the rest of the story is a variant on the clay-man myth.

The birds are not always sent to find land. A Hopi myth from Arizona records the creation of land in the middle of the ocean by two goddesses, one from on the east side, the other from the west. The Sun during his daily passage noticed that there were no living things. The goddess of the east made a wren out of clay, animated it and sent it all over the Earth to look for life. The wren found none, so the two goddesses set about to create animals. Last of all they made a woman and then a man out of clay.

The extension of the diving-bird motif to include birds that are sent out across the ocean to find seed-earth for land creation, introduces another link between 'wet creation' and flood myths. That is the well known biblical motif of sending out birds, usually ravens or crows, to locate land after the flood. We find this theme in the Mesopotamian flood stories, throughout Eurasia and also in many Amerindian flood myths. While the rest of the Americas lack the earth-diver story, they are rich in other flood myths including those with bird land-seekers. Some, especially those in Central America, have an uncanny similarity to the main Eurasian types I will describe over the next two chapters. Others, especially in South America, are individually unique; they will be dealt with elsewhere. I do not have space to discuss them in any depth here as it is outside the remit of this book.

To summarize so far, we can include the North American flood/ diving myths in a land-raising family of 'earth diver', 'earth fisher', 'earth shover', 'earth drier' and 'earth scratcher' creation stories as all variants on a basic post-flood recovery theme. The diver variant dominates in North America, Northeast Asia and Siberia, and among the Aboriginal Austro-Asiatic tribes in India. We can include 'bird land-divers' in this group. Birds flying out to locate or fetch earth have a more worldwide mythological distribution. The 'earth-fisher' and 'earth-shover' variants are found more in southern Asia and the Pacific, while the 'earth-drier' and 'earth-scratcher' variants come from Africa. (The scratching, incidentally, is performed by birds.)”


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

Well, given that (a) all the textual details are at great variance; and that (b) the only common element is very generic and widespread (worldwide even!) in its appearance, we have GOT to conclude that there is not strong case for 'textual' dependence here. And, since the bird episode is UNIQUE to SB GE XII –and therefore not in ANY OTHER texts—there is no 'tradition' to ask about either. The bird motif in GE came from somewhere, but there are no antecedents in Meso-lit.

Borrowing on the part of the Genesis author—either tradition or textual—is thus excluded (rather strongly, actually).


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

This is a fascinating question, actually...

The interesting thing here is that Genesis looks decidedly more authentic, given what we know about the use of birds in ancient seafaring. So much so that some who have studied these passages believe that GE somehow borrowed from the Hebrew tradition/text instead. Heidel was an early proponent of this view, and Freedman gives a most detailed analysis:

In view of the more accurate Western tradition (i.e. Genesis) and the less accurate Mesopotamian tradition, it seems that what has been obscured by the Akkadian poets is a Western motif. Since our only truly Western source for the Deluge story is Genesis--there is no native or classical reports of a Canaanite Deluge story--one is tempted to suggest that the Assyrian poet borrowed a Hebrew topos.” [R. David Freedman, “The Dispatch of the Reconnaissance Birds in Gilgamesh XI”, JANES, vol 5:127; henceforth xDRB]

So, this warrants a look the birds and the hero's use of them. Let's look at the details...

Purpose of the Birds:

In the Genesis narrative, Noah uses the birds BEFORE he can see the land. He doesn't see the land until he removes the cover in 8.13--after the sequence of the birds. He has run aground, but he cannot tell if land is visible and if the weather is clear/calm yet (he only has a small window in the roof of the ark, apparently). The raven was used first, and was traditionally used in navigation to determine if land was in sight and in which direction that land was. The raven would be released by sailors, and it would soar high. It's superior eyesight and high elevation allowed it to spot any available shoreline, and sailors would note the direction in which it would fly.

Unlike pigeons or doves, which will return after being released, a raven’s use to seamen is based on its line of flight. By noting the direction it chooses, a sailor may determine where land is located. The most sensible strategy is to release a raven first and then use other birds to determine the depth of the water and the likelihood of a place to land. A raven, by habit, lives on carrion and would therefore have sufficient food available.” [BBC]

The raven also guides mariners to land: Callimachus, Hymns ii:66; Strabo, Geography, xvii, i:43; Scholiast to Aristophanes' “Clouds”, no. 134, to line 123” [xDRB, p.4, note 4.]

Heidel noted the superiority of the biblical account to the parallel account in the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic where Utnapishtim, called “the exceedingly wise,” first sent a dove, then a swallow, and finally a raven (A. Heidel, Gilgamesh Epic and OT Parallels [1963], pp. 252f). Noah, whose wisdom is nowhere mentioned, showed much more knowledge about birds. Parmelee wrote: “In selecting the raven as his first scout Noah made an excellent choice, for [the raven] is a powerful and unusually astute bird…. With a wing spread of four feet and great strength and endurance, ravens survive where smaller, weaker birds perish…. they can fly without rest for long periods of time, covering immense distances…. Because they have heavy beaks and can eat almost anything including carrion, Noah’s raven would have found enough to eat in the floating wreckage of a flooded world” (Parmelee, All the Birds of the Bible, pp. 54f).” [ISBE, s.v. “BIRDS”]

The Scandinavian Vikings undoubtedly valued certain kinds of captive land-birds for the ability to descry land from a far greater distance than can the human eye when close to sea level. The most notable instance is concerned with the re-discovery of Iceland in A.D. 874. The island, inhabited by a few Culdee monks from Ireland, who had sought there a haven of rest and peace some years previously, was first visited by the Vikings about the year 864, the leader being a Swede named Gardar...In the Saga of Floki, the second Scandinavian to visit Ireland, there is a gloss dating from the time when the Saga was first committed to writing (circa 1225) in which it is mentioned that Floki, previous to setting sail to rediscover Gardar's island, had performed a great sacrifice and had consecrated three ravens to the gods, which he had then taken aboard his ship in order to serve as guides on the voyage. After he had voyaged westwards for several days without sighting land, he liberated at intervals the three ravens, one at a time; the first flew back to Norway, the second returned to the ship, but the third flew ahead and did not return (Chapman, 1930). He proceeded onwards in the wake of the third raven, duly making landfall on the southeast coast of Iceland in A.D. 874. The reason given for the employment of these ravens was that 'in the northern lands those who sailed the sea had not the load-stone' (Winter, 1837, p. 100)... Although Floki became known as 'Floki the Raven' on account of this incident, he was certainly not the only sea-rover who, in those days, made ravens, birds sacred to Odin, server them instead of a compass.” [James Hornell, “The Role of Birds in Early Navigation”, Antiquity, Vol 20:79, 1946, p.146]

Given that the raven made return trips to the ark--without entering it--Noah would have assumed that the land had not appeared yet. But, at the end of another week of receding water, the raven was probably gone, indicating that land--although perhaps distant at this point, as evidenced by the raven's recent departure--was probably visible. At this point Noah turned to doves, to determine weather conditions and/or close proximity to land (they don't have the range of the raven or the appetite for 'unfinished land or food').

The dove and the pigeon have a limited ability for sustained flight. Thus navigators use them to determine the location of landing sites. As long as they return, no landing is in close range. The dove lives at lower elevations and requires plants for food.” [BBC]

Now the story-books tell us that when Deucalion released a dove from the ark, as long as she returned, it was a certain sign that the storm was still raging; but as soon as she flew away, it was a harbinger of fair weather. “ [Plutarch, Moralia de Sollertia Animalium 13; Decalion is the Greek flood hero, but the bird story only occurs here in Plutarch's account of the Deluge.]

The behavior of the final dove--not returning--would have indicated that the outside/proximate weather was good enough to take off the weather-guard cover of the boat. After doing this, Noah then had personal visibility and no longer needed to use birds.

In the Gilgamesh Narrative:

The episode in the GE makes no sense to me. I have already pointed out that Uty has already seen land and ascertained the weather:

All of this occurs BEFORE Utny sends out the 'reconnaissance' birds??? One might argue that the birds were to pick out the closest landmass--assuming that he could not discern this by his personal sight--but this doesn't ring true because he can already differentiate FOURTEEN separate landmasses in his boat-top vantage point. Surely they all were not equi-distant from him...?

The Swallow/Swift Issue: Noah uses ravens and doves; Utny uses these and adds a swift/swallow. Ravens are well-attested in maritime accounts and doves more rarely, but the swift or swallow never shows up in such accounts, as being sent out by the sailors. [They are, along with scores of other species of bird, described as things to watch for--ancient sailors watched the patterns of 'free birds' to make guesses as to location. The swift/swallow is mentioned as a bird to watch, but never as one sent out from the boat.] This is untrue to navigational praxis.

The Order of the Raven/Dove sequence. In this regard, Genesis is clearly superior again:

Since both Noah and Utnaphistim are scouting for land--albeit not to navigate--the bird that nautical customer dictates sending first is the raven.” [xDBR, p.124]

The accuracy with which birds are described in the historical literature is striking. The book of Genesis says that Noah used first the raven and then the dove to determine whether the water had subsided (Gen. 8:6–13). Whereas the raven continued flying to and fro from the ark until the water subsided, the dove returned quickly to the ark the first time she was let go, returned with a newly plucked olive leaf in her beak the second time, and did not return the third time. A. Heidel noted the superiority of the biblical account to the parallel account in the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic where Utnapishtim, called “the exceedingly wise,” first sent a dove, then a swallow, and finally a raven (A. Heidel, Gilgamesh Epic and OT Parallels [1963], pp. 252f). Noah, whose wisdom is nowhere mentioned, showed much more knowledge about birds.” [ISBE, s.v. “BIRDS”]

This abnormal bird-order makes sense in the context of the apparent general ignorance of nautical praxis in the Meso-accounts, compared to Genesis:

We expect that the Israelites, with a minimum of their own navigational experience and close ties with the sea-faring Phoenicians, would have better knowledge of maritime customs than the landlocked Assyrians. This expectation is confirmed in the boat-building scenes of the Deluge stories. The use in the Hebrew account of gofer wood, of qinnim, of sohar, and of the plural forms of tahttiyyim, seniyyim, and selisim all probably hark back to nautical terminology. On the other hand, the Akkadian Deluge stories all betray ignorance of proper nautical terminology, and in one version of Atrahasis, the poet makes the reason quite clear when he has Atrahasis exclaim: 'I never built a boat...Draw a picture of it on the ground...let me see a picture so I can build a boat' (DT 42:13-15, in Lambert, 128). Thus, as Assyrian writing about something he was ignorant of has changed the customary order of the birds used as navigational aids.” [xDBR, pp124-5]

Oddly enough, what this implies is that the GE author had an exemplar before him, and he changed it for other reasons...This, coupled with the nautical superiority and accuracy of the Genesis account, actually could make a case for Meso borrowing from Genesis (or pre-Genesis, of course)--the conclusion Freedmen reached in the article...hmmm...(smile).

[Let me mention here that George, in the standard critical edition of GE, takes issue with Freedman's article and conclusion, but makes a surprising show-stopping error in the process. After agreeing with Freedman on the raven, George disagrees about the more limited function of the dove. To prove that the dove WAS used like the raven, he cites a footnote in [HI:EFHWAE, 492n162] as evidence of doves being so used in antiquity. Unfortunately, somebody in this process did not check those references. The footnote refers to two (well-known passages): Pliny's Natural History 6.22 and the Landnámabók II. Unfortunately for George's rebuttal, neither of these passages refer to doves. Here is the Pliny passage (about sailors from Ceylon):

The sea that lies between the island and the mainland is full of shallows, not more than six paces in depth; but in certain channels it is of such extraordinary depth, that no anchor has ever found a bottom. For this reason it is that the vessels are constructed with prows at either end; so that there may be no necessity for tacking while navigating these channels, which are extremely narrow. The tonnage of these vessels is three thousand amphoræ. In traversing their seas, the people of Taprobane take no observations of the stars, and indeed the Greater Bear is not visible to them; but they carry birds (volucres) out to sea, which they let go from time to time, and so follow their course as they make for the land. They devote only four months in the year to the pursuits of navigation, and are particularly careful not to trust themselves on the sea during the next hundred days after our summer solstice, for in those seas it is at that time the middle of winter. Pliny NH 6.22 (Taprobane).”

Pliny uses the generic word for birds (volucres), and NOT the specific word for doves ( columba) or for pigeons (peleia, cf. Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 2.530-535). [Plus, the Pliny passage was even discussed in xDBR and it made that point there--somebody oddly enough missed this too...] I should also mention that the dove/pigeon that Jason sent out from the Argo was only used as 'bait' (and NOT for navigation) to see if those raging Rock-walls would close in on the Argo. This doesn't really show the usage of doves, but unless he was carrying cargo, then the doves were being carried for SOME sea-faring purpose.

All earlier references to birds sent out by navigators (1) do not specify 'doves'; and (2) illustrate the antiquity--and frequency--of this practice in the ancient world. It was NOT an unusual practice, when a sea-captain was in unfamiliar territory. Compare the (other) earliest account of this:

In the dialogue termed the Kevaddha Sutta of Dighha of the fifth century B.C. the Buddha states: 'Long ago ocean-going merchants were wont to plunge forth upon the sea on board a ship taking with them a shore-sighting bird. When the ship was out of sight they would set the shore-sighting bird free. And it would go to the east and to the south and to the west and to the north and to the intermediate points and rise aloft. If on the horizon it caught sight of land thither it would go, but if not it would come back to the ship again.;” [RW Hutchingson, Prehistoric Crete, Pelican:1962, p.101; This practice is also mentioned in the contemporaneous Hindu Sutta Pitaka.]

The Landnámabók II also has no mention of doves. In fact, it is the story of Floki the Raven and the rediscovery of Iceland we have already mentioned (see http://www.northvegr.org/lore/landnamabok/003.php) . There is no mention of doves (or any other birds other than ravens) in that chapter. The criticism of Freedman falls flat.]

The net of all this is that the Genesis account looks so much more like a historical account of a seafaring episode than does the GE/AE/EG. GE especially looks like a garbled account by someone unfamiliar with seafaring at all...

Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here (unless it is from Genesis to GE...smile)

.................................................................................................................................................................

Point Sixteen: Exit


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

The hero eventually gets out of the boat. (What a surprise...chuckle)


Two: What are the major points of difference?

Only minor ones:

  1. GE and AE actually never mention an exit proper, merely implying them.

  2. In Genesis, God commands/directs Noah when its time to leave the boat. No such divine involvement is mentioned in GE/AE.


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

This is just too generic an item to be of any interest—ALL sea escapes are gonna have the hero eventually exit the boat. Nothing here to look at.


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

No.


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

Nothing here either—there are no details given in GE/AE to compare Genesis to.

Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here

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Point Seventeen: Sacrifice


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

Flood hero offers a sacrifice once off the boat (with the construction of an altar implied in GE)


Two: What are the major points of difference?

Several:


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

Ditto results here (Manu below; Deucalion as well):

Manu, The hero of the deluge of Hindu mythology. In the Satapatha Brahmana, one day Manu found a fish in the water brought to him to wash his hands. The fish spoke, asking to be saved, and promised in turn to save Manu from destruction: if Manu would keep him in a vessel of water, removing him to larger and larger ones as he grew, and finally to the ocean, he, the fish, would save Manu from the great deluge that was soon to come. The day Manu put the fish in the ocean, "Build a ship," the fish said, "when the waters come, go in it, and I will save you."... All happened as foretold; when the deluge came, Manu went into the ship, fastened the ship's rope to one horn of the fish, who turned up as promised; the fish towed the ship without tire for years, until finally it was over Mt. Himalaya. Then the fish bade Manu tie the ship to a tree and await the subsiding of the waters. This Manu did; and when the waters were drained away, he saw that every living thing on earth but himself had perished. So Manu offered sacrifice, and a woman was given to him for a wife, with whom he repeopled the earth. In the Mahabharata, Mann is performing devotions on a river bank when a small fish calls to him from the water and begs to be saved from a big fish. Manu saves it; it predicts the flood; the story follows” [SDFML, s.v. “Manu”]

This element is frequent, but not universal:

A world cataclysm during which the earth was inundated or submerged by water: a concept found in almost every mythology in the world... The bare bones of the most usual deluge story are... When the deluge is over the survivors find themselves on a mountain or an island; sometimes they offer a sacrifice (not universal), and then repeople the earth...” [SDFML, s.v. “Deluge”]


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

Not so far--the sacrifice motif is not altogether unexpected (e.g., thanking a god for deliverance through ritual of some type is part-and-parcel of all ancient religion), and as noted above, occurs in other traditions as well.


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

All three accounts (Genesis, GE, EG) 'look' like a normal ANE sacrifice scene, so there doesn't seem to be anything here of note.

Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here

.................................................................................................................................................................

Point Eighteen: Divine smelling of sacrifice


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

“The gods smelled the sweet savor” (GE 11:160) sounds very like “The Lord smelt the soothing aroma” (Gen 8:21). SURELY there's some linguistic connection here, right?!


Two: What are the major points of difference?

There is an AMAZING difference here, and one that can be seen by paraphrasing the statements in a way to draw out the impact of the aroma:

Instead of God getting 'all excited' about the sacrifice, it soothes Him, after the judgment of the Flood:

In the case of an offering which is consumed by fire (not all were in Israel), almost every time such a sacrifice is prescribed in the Law, this 'soothing' fact is mentioned also (I counted at least 20 instances in the Pentateuch).

The aromatics, on the other hand, in GE functioned to 'get the gods attention' (so George):

Incense is burnt to attract the gods to the sacrifice, of course, as is explicit in, for example, an OB divination prayer recited in preparation for extispicy: ... 'O Shamash I am putting pure cedar into the mouth of the censer that is before you: let the censer rest, let it invite the great gods here' (YOS XI 22, 14-16)... (159-60) These two lines explain in detail how Uta-napisti made the first ritual offering of food to the gods... setting in rows or one by one. The objects setup in this manner, called adagurru (or atakurru), are small vessels that contain liquid for rituals of libation. Around their bases Uta-napisti puts perfumed leaves and resin. It has been suggested that these were thrown on to fire beneath the vessels, but this does not tally with what we know of the function of the adagurru. This container is nowhere directly associated with fire and we do not expect libations to be warm. It remains true that the aromatics' function in such rituals was to attract the gods' attention to their meal, and that to that end they were usually burnt on a censer. This understanding informs the ritual quoted in the preceding paragraph and is expressed directly in an incantation prayer to Girra, the fire god (LKA 139, 49): "without you [the gods] cannot smell the aroma'. Perhaps aromatic leaves and gum were on some occasions thought pungent enough nevertheless to reach the gods' nostrils without being burnt as incense." [OT:BGE:890f]

So, actually, it is not the smell of the food that the gods smell, but only the incense (they apparently cannot smell well enough to detect normal feast-food?!). In the Hebrew case, it is the smell of the offering itself (there is no incense).

This is actually QUITE a difference, when you look at it. The divine agent(s) in both accounts 'smell' something (assuming it is not metaphorical in the biblical account, which it could easily be/probably is (a la Leviticus)--cf. the quotes above on its significance as 'acceptance'), but the narrative significance of this is RADICALLY different. They don't smell the same thing. They don't 'understand' the smell the same way. They don't respond to the smell in the same way. Nothing is common except (possibly) the actual 'smelling'...? How much of a parallel could this be?

In both cases, the different 'smell' aspects make perfect sense, given the cultural/theological context. In the Meso-x setting, every offering meal had incense--and so the 'smelling' element is not intrusive, but rather expected. In the Hebrew setting, every burnt-offering was INTENDED to 'soothe' God, and so it likewise is not intrusive, but rather expected. They are both PART of the sacrifice motif, and as such, are expected in the account (like the altar is in the Genesis account--you had to have an altar to MAKE a burnt offering). So, the Sacrifice-motif carries along with it the probability of finding culturally-relative sacrifice-nexus words. For Meso-x, this nexus might would have included words like 'table', 'fruit', 'cooks', ritual cooking formulas, 'ovens', and 'curtains'. All of these would be 'unobtrusive' to the sacrifice-motif. For the Hebrews, this nexus might would have included words like 'stones', 'grain offering', 'skin', 'entrails', 'washing', 'pouring out the blood', 'smoke', 'atonement', etc. All of these would be 'unobtrusive'.

One other point should be mentioned. The smell 'soothes' YAHWEH, but the angry god of GE/AE (Enlil) who SENT the flood is even MORE angry at the sacrifice-event. He is very angry that humanity escaped his divine decree yet again. The sacrifice thus has the opposite effect: its existence proves that Enlil's will was thwarted (yet again) and thus he is even more angry. [I can see where someone might make a case for this being a case of 'polemical inversion', such that the Genesis author 'rebuffs' the point about post-flood gods STILL being angry. The 'soothing' comment is clearly opposite to the Enlil's 'non-soothing'. But this might be drawing the point a little too fine. Right in the middle of all this non-polemical and seemingly unrelated stuff, is this very pointed fine-line argument? Could be, I guess, but that cutting it a bit fine for me, and it would NOT account for all the pro-human gods in the story.]

So, I don't really see there being any real point of contact here. This seems like a standard element of the sacrifice-motif, and the differences are pretty overwhelming.


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

Given my understanding of these 'smell' elements as being 'implied/embedded' in the very common sacrifice motif, their absence in non-ANE flood stories in cultures WITHOUT a 'smelling aspect' of the sacrificial would be irrelevant. And some cultures, in which the nose is a 'portal' to spirits/possession, might not use such a ritual element anyway. So, I don't think this element is relevant.


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

No.


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

Well, on this point a lot depends on how much 'anthropomorphic' you allow your images of God to be. If you can go so far as to believe that gods can become starved, be feverishly thirsty, be such poor planners as to kill off their food supply, be tricked and deceived, etc, then the two accounts will look 'the same' to you. If, on the other hand, your 'theoretical theology' wouldn't allow such a 'low view' of God, then the Genesis account will be much more 'realistic' to you. Both sacrificial accounts would be 'historical looking' since they are simple ritual descriptions (of known practices), but the divine response (as indicated in the “post-smelling' responses/actions) would only be 'judge-able' on the basis of theological expectations from the respective sacred texts. In other words, the Hebrew would expect God to be upset during moral judgment, but calm of heart afterward. The Meso-xer would expect their gods to be starving and swarming around the sacrifice, if they had been deprived of their necessary food (even for a week!)... And of course, this is a huge difference in itself:

The closing scenes after the flood again serve to point up the differences between biblical and Babylonian attitudes to the divine: the points are made more sharply in that Genesis, like the Gilgamesh epic, has the flood hero offer sacrifice which is acceptable to God. “The gods smelled the sweet savor” (GE 11:160) sounds very like “The Lord smelt the soothing aroma” (Gen 8:21); yet the divine reaction is very different. Gilgamesh continues by describing the gods “crowding like flies around the sacrifice,” greedily jostling for places at the open-air barbecue. Since mankind had been created to feed the gods, obviously the latter had gone hungry while there were no men around to present offerings. Then Enlil, chief executive among the gods, arrives and is surprised to discover survivors of the flood. Clearly he is neither omnipotent nor omniscient. The recriminations that follow underline the fact that the gods do not agree or act in concert, whereas in Genesis the divine speeches that follow the sacrifice reassert the creator’s lordship over his creatures and his determination to uphold the cosmic order and his mercy towards mankind.” [WBC]


[Sorry--I don't trust myself on this one--it was just too easy to get 'past' this... surely there is some linguistic connection 'below' these details? Surely there is some 'borrowed' vocabulary, even if the meanings are so totally different at the semantic level, right? I have just GOT to check this, for conscience sake.


Working from the Hebrew backwards:

So, there is no linguistic tie-in with Akkadian for ANY of the Hebrew words in this phrase! I guess I was just being 'constructively paranoid'...smile]


Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here

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Point Nineteen: Blessing on flood hero


One: What are the major points of contact/parallels?

This is a very mixed bag. Noah is blessed by God. In GE/EG Enlil grants Utny/Ziusudra (and his wife) immortality, making them gods in the process (that was the definition of deity at that time!). But I can find nothing as a 'blessing' at all in AE--instead there is a curse on humanity to restrict his growth, prescribing celibacy, higher incidences of infant death, and barrenness...


Two: What are the major points of difference?

The differences are overwhelming here.

  1. God blesses Noah with a command to multiply and fill the earth! Unty&wife are essentially exiled to the horizon, to live forever alone(!)--even though they are now gods.

  2. God makes a covenant with Noah/everyone/everything to not send another flood. No such promise in the Meso-x.

  3. God does NOT decree barrenness, sudden infant death, or celibate priestesses in Genesis as population control mechanisms. “He” does in AE(!).

  4. God creates a sign of this covenant (attaching this encouraging/significance to a natural phenomenon--the rainbow)--which covenant is made with all flesh. Enlil blesses only the pair--no goodies for others.

  5. God doesn't make Noah go back into the ark for the bless. Enlil does (for the blessing)--?

  6. Noah has been a vegetarian up to this point, and God now allows him to become a carnivore (and protecting the animals from humanity by giving them a flight-reflex); Mesopotamian were carnivores from the start. [This has interesting implications for Genesis being earlier, btw, reflecting a no-longer-existent 'paradise' period of early human history (e.g. the Garden).


Three: If there ARE points of contact, are there non-ANE flood traditions with the SAME points of contact (showing that dependence is not 'required' by the parallel)?

Actually, there are plenty of these. The pattern is that the gods 'smile' upon the survivors (since they were favorites to begin with). So, this is a common element as well.


Four: Are the major points of contact 'unusual enough' to warrant dependence (of any type: literary or 'tradition', 'friendly' or polemical)?

Hardly.

[...with one possible exception. Many have suggested that the 'be fruitful and multiply' is specifically a polemical inversion of the population-control attempts of GE, and of the 'planned lower fertility/higher infant mortality rates of AE (so Kikawada and Quinne, Before Abraham Was). This could be the case, of course, without any literary/tradition borrowing, and such inversions don't really fall into the 'plagiarism' category anyway. Since all literature is written in a context, and for a purpose, we EXPECT some of the intent to be focused on correct teaching, education, information--some of which will no doubt be directed at 'correcting misconceptions' (no different that modern education). But this certainly not 'borrowing' in the sense we are investigating here...(smile).


Five: Of the 2 or 3 accounts, which would 'seem' to be closer to a presumed historical point of origination? (I.e., if the 'shared-ness' looks like one of shared-event and not one of shared-tradition, which of the accounts looks most 'historical' or event-descriptive?)

Not much here, probably. At least the Noah story doesn't have the (begrudged) granting of immortality to an exiled couple...? Not much here (although the pre-carnivorous stage data is intriguing... I'll have to ponder that soon (smile).

Conclusion: No evidence of borrowing here

.................................................................................................................................................................

Well, I am at the end of the list, and what do I have to show for it?

Frankly, I am surprised that the parallels were not really there. I honestly figured -- from all the oblique and sometimes 'assumptive' remarks in the literature on 'borrowing' -- that there would at least be SOME 'tough ones'... But even the two most commonly mentioned (e.g., the birds, the sacrifice) dissolved into unremarkable topoi of worldwide distribution. And the birds-themes were differentiated in all the details, and were predictable from nautical praxis of the day. The pitch reference (only argued by one scholar in my reading) looked promising, but turned out to be a dud. The 'smelling' element--which I personally thought was gonna be 'unusual and specific' enough--turned out to not even be talking about the same thing. It was almost like a case of simple homonyms, which look/sound alike but don't refer to the same thing at all

Granted, there is no REAL theological problem with a biblical author using sources (as we have pointed out often), but in this case we certainly cannot identify the source of Genesis with the Mesopotamian Flood traditions! (Just as we cannot identify the sources of the non-Flood portions of Gilgamesh with earlier Gilgamesh stories, by the way, for the same reasons--no real tight parallels).

And so I end up with an “I don't get it--WHY was this objection raised, again?” At a quick fly-over one might be impressed by the generics and themes, but (a) detailed examination evaporates these; and (b) comparison with geographically wider comparable stories eviscerate the parallels of any weight.

The Genesis account wins the 'who looks the most historical' contest hands down, and has the more 'theologically sober' content of all the relevant texts. Its simplicity and lack of overly dramatic scenes (e.g., no intrigue among the gods, no king manipulating his servants, no hero throwing up over his duplicity, no famished parched gods jostling for position at the sacrifice; no lamentation speeches by the characters) contributes to its tone of honest reporting.

Although the Genesis account has all the relevant elements of the Flood-story genre, none of the elements look like they were added--JUST FOR THE GENRE CONSIDERATION. In other words, it doesn't look like any of the narrative components were 'invented' to 'round out' a Flood story. They all seem to 'fit' reasonably, and to be a plausible series of events. Additionly, they all are 'stripped down'--they don't have the telltale conversation and/or elaboration markers, which might indicate a for-genre-purposes invention.

What have I missed? Some pattern argument? Let me try to construct a pushback for this:

.................................................................................................................................

Pushback: “Wow, Glenn, I have never seen such a microscopic-myopic analysis in all my days! This is the best example I have seen in years of 'not being able to see the Forest for the Tress'!!! Your method is SO FLAWED. Let me illustrate. Let's say I took Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address [http://www.law.ou.edu/hist/getty.htmland] wrote a paraphrase, moved a couple of the sentences around, changed a few of the minor details, and then told the world my copy was obviously 'borrowed' from that speech. I can already picture you going phrase-by-phrase through the paraphrase and finding many, many other speeches in history where that exact phrase was used--and therefore arguing that borrowing was not 'required'! This is so flawed, dude! The issue is not whether the phrases were identical, but whether the pattern itself matched 'unusually and specifically'. If we made an outline of the Address and an outline of my paraphrase, and then placed them side by side, a simple 'connect like ideas between the columns by drawing a line between them' school-kid exercise would show the obvious plagiarism! So, when you do your 'detailed' analysis, you omit the REAL issue--the confluence of patterns of themes/generics. It's NOT that the individual generics match in the details, but that the list of generics in one matches the list of generics in the other. A comparison like that--I bet--would show GE/AE much, much closer to Genesis than any of those other non-ANE myths... So there!”


There are several problems with this approach to 'recognizing borrowing':

Actually, this suggested method would only prove that the two pieces were in the same genre, that's all. We determine a piece's literary genre on the basis of the presence/absence of these generics (e.g., biographies have certain common generics, mystery novels have certain common generics, court documents have certain common generics--that doesn't mean they all 'borrow from one another', friend!). This method is the standard method for deciding whether a piece fits within a genre classification (or maybe, 'how well it fits in a genre category'). But it simply cannot prove anything more than that.

To get to 'borrowing', you still have to come up with the 'unusual, specific, and systematic' (and unexplainable otherwise) data points. And, in the hypothetical case you mentioned, the Gettysburg Address was only the source of SOME of your piece. For every modification you made (in order, emphasis, word choices, minor details, etc), the source of THAT piece of your document was NOT the original Address--it was YOU. With every change, your resultant document was “a little less borrowed”... If you changed “fourscore and seven years ago” to “over a hundred years ago”, that new number was NOT 'borrowed' from the Address. The generic 'some time ago' might have been, but there are even limits to THAT. For example, you cannot substitute “at the dawn of time” for “fourscore and seven years ago” and it still fit the 'intended scope' of the original generic appropriately.

So, all a comparison of lists-of-generics would do is show how 'well' each piece fit within the genre of “Flood Story”. You would still need to look elsewhere for traces of dependency.

To illustrate this, let me refer to some by Tigay. In Chapter Two of [HI:EGE, pp.41-41], he discusses the dependency of the OB GE upon the prior Sumerian Gilgy-type stories. Notice how he decides that 'borrowing' is essentially unwarranted:

Just how the Akkadian Gilgamesh narratives are related to the Sumerian tales is a matter of conjecture. Verbal similarities between the Sumerian and Akkadian versions are so few that one could assume that whoever wrote the Akkadian texts never saw the Sumerian ones, but had only heard of their themes or rough outline. Conceivably the Akkadian narratives were not based on written Sumerian narratives at all, but were derived independently, perhaps prior to the Old Babylonian period, from the same oral tradition on which the Sumerian texts were based.”

In other words, in the absence of verbal similarities, there is no warrant to suspect anything more than knowing what is included in the Flood genre! Without the details matching enough, the textual dependence question cannot even 'get started'--all remains at the conjecture and 'un-prove-ability' stage.


That being said, let's check the lists. Let's start with a state of the Flood genre (from a mytho-book) and see what elements sorta HAVE to be there, for it to be recognized as a Flood Story:

The bare bones of the most usual deluge story are as follows: The gods (or a god) decide to send a deluge on the world, usually as punishment for some act, broken tabu, the killing of an animal, etc. (in a Tsimshian myth the deluge comes because the people have mistreated a trout), but sometimes for no reason. Certain human beings are warned, or it comes without warning. If warned, the people construct some kind of vessel (ratt, ark, ship, Big Canoe, or the like), or find other means of escape (climbing a mountain or tree, growing tree, floating island, calabash or coconut shell, a turtle's back, crab's cave, etc.). Sometimes they also save certain things essential to a way of life, such as food, rarely domestic animals. The deluge comes (rain, huge wave, a container broken or opened, a monster's belly punctured, etc.). Bird or rodent scouts are often sent out, but this is not universal. When the deluge is over the survivors find themselves on a mountain or an island; sometimes they offer a sacrifice (not universal), and then repeople the earth, recreate animals, etc., by some miraculous means.” [SDFML , s.v. “deluge or flood”]

Here's that list:

  1. Gods decide to send a flood.

  2. For punishment [usual, but optional]

  3. Warning [optional]

  4. Construction of a vessel or some other way to get to higher altitudes

  5. Saving something essential to life (various items)

  6. Deluge comes (various means)

  7. Scouts sent out (various animals) [optional]

  8. Survivors end up on a mountain or an island

  9. Sometimes there is a sacrifice [optional]

  10. Re-people / re-create the Earth, by some miraculous means.

Notice, that both Genesis and Meso-stories fail #10--in our accounts, there is no 'miracle' used to re-people, re-produce the earth. Otherwise, all of our accounts fit this 'bare bones' genre delineation.

If, now, you wanted to prove borrowing (and you didn't have any linguistic/textual elements in parallel to start you off...smile), you might try listing the (a) optional items which were chosen in the same way; and (b) 'non-essential' (beyond-this-list) elements which were ALSO included and shared between the various documents under comparison. This last item might be stronger than the first, but the first would be 'interesting' in itself.

In our case, though, the results of (a) work against a 'borrowing' thesis! The optional in the list are: (1) for punishment or not; (2) Warning given or not; (3) Scouts sent out or not (4) Sacrifice or not. So, looking at our three texts, how 'close' are their respective 'choices of options'?


Category

Genesis

Gilgamesh

Atrahasis

(1) for punishment?

Yes (evil)

No

Yes (noise)

(2) Warning given?

Yes

Yes

Yes

(3) Scouts sent out?

Yes

Yes

No

(4) Sacrifice?

Yes

Yes

Yes


So, according to approach (a), both GE and AE would be closer to Genesis (i.e., only 1 element difference), than they are to each other (i.e., two elements different)--YET we KNOW GE was textually dependent on AE! So much for the 'predictive power' of method (a).


Now (b)...

In (b) we list the 'extras' added in by the accounts (beyond the 'bare bones') and see if these incidental-to-the-genre elements show up in both. If they do, then we have some real data to work with.

So, what elements in our group of texts are 'beyond bare bones'?

For the non-Genesis ones, we would have to list:

  1. GE: The sub-plot of how the king would deal with his loyal subjects, deceiving them and using them to build the boat for him/his family/his wealth.

  2. GE: The god's own fear/terror at the power of the deluge, and their flight from the lower levels to the higher levels of heaven.

  3. GE: The Thwarting of the high-god's actual intent to kill all (no survivors intended).

  4. GE: Other gods argue with the high-god that he should have 'thinned out the people' with other means than the flood (i.e., by lions, wolves, famine, plague).

  5. AE: The negative effects of the deluge on the gods--their thirsty, famished, and cramping-stomach condition.

That's all--all the other themes are part of the Flood genre.

So, how many of these 'extra elements' are also present in Genesis? ZERO...

Okay... let's flip it around--what elements are in Genesis that are 'extra' to the 'bare bones' genre characteristics?

  1. God's promise to never again flood the earth like that.

  2. God's expansion of humanity's diet to meat.

So, how many of these 'extra elements' are also present in GE/AE? ZERO...

So much for (b), eh?

So, I think that still leaves us where we ended up before the pushback... no parallels of any real weight, beyond those required/suggested by the genre (e.g., scouts, delivery vehicle) or required for the basic narrative (e.g., entering/leaving the boat, water subsiding, etc).


But just to check ONE MORE TIME... Let's revisit the opening samples by Tigay and Lambert, and see if/how those criteria might apply here..

Tigay's list (from his "GE borrowed from AE argument", above) was this:

  1. If there are lines which are textually identical, we may assume literary dependence. [We have none of these in our case.]

  2. If a event/passage appears in two texts, the text in which it is more 'causally relevant' [i.e., non-incidental to the story] would be the source of the borrowing (if borrowing occurred) [The only possible thing here is in favor of Genesis' originality--the bird sequence fits in Genesis, but not in GE well.]

  3. If a cast of characters (or items) is fully explained and utilized in one account and not in another—yet still fully included in the latter account—it is best explained by borrowing. [Nothing here.]

  4. Scribal 'slips' in which a character is 'accidentally' called by the name of the character in the earlier/other text, would suggest a borrowing with a 'global search/replace of names' editing process, but which missed one occurrence. [Obviously nothing shared here.]

So, nothing to suggest Genesis borrowing from GE/AE here... Let's move to Lambert's list (only the select ones):

  1. Inconsistency of numbers (even implied) within a text, with one of the numbers being in common with a proposed literary exemplar, would argue for borrowing. [The only possible inconsistency of numbers here is in how quickly the GE boat could be built?]

  2. If a event/passage appears in two texts, the text in which it is more 'causally relevant' would be the source of the borrowing (if borrowing occurred) [Same as Tigay's above; Nothing in our case except the birds element again-- slight data for originality of Genesis.]

  3. If a textual formulation is 'odd' in a later text, and is best explained as a 'wooden' rendering' of a linguistic original, then that counts as evidence of borrowing. [Nothing here.]

  4. If some important prop in the text makes perfect sense in an exemplar, but little sense in the latter text, this would suggest literary borrowing. [The only possible item would be the 'window' in Noah's ark. It makes sense in Genesis, with the movements of the birds, lack of visibility, etc.; but in GE/AE it has a 'confused' role, to the best of our exegesis. Not much, but would favor the originality of Genesis, again.]

So, according to the rules embedded in these exemplars, Genesis certainly did not 'borrow' from GE/AE, and what slight data DOES exist for borrowing, works in the opposite direction--GE borrowing from Genesis...

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Whew... That took forever... (or at least several weeks, given the travel/work/other responsibilities which dominate my time)...

But just for fun (smile), let me change 'modes' here for a second, and change from 'defense' to 'offense' JUST FOR A MINUTE. I can't develop this much here, but I will at least make some 'provocative observations' (smile)...

One. I used a source in the discussion on the Birds that argued for the superiority of the biblical tradition over the GE tradition, relative to maritime praxis. [I also pointed out that the criticism of that article in OT:BGE failed because of a failure to check the references.] The article itself went beyond the discussion about the use of birds in navigation, and explored the cultural significance of those birds in GE. After finding references to ravens in Meso-x lit, the author concluded that the order of birds in GE was structured around Meso-x's attitudes toward these birds rather than on actual nautical praxis. At the end of the article, the author reaches a suggestive conclusion:

The Assyrian poet, when he lets the raven serve as the herald for Utnapishtim's good by flying away never to return is quite in keeping with Mesopotamina [sic] traditions, but not with maritime customs... In view of the more accurate Western tradition and the less accurate Mesopotamina [sic] tradition, it seems that what has been obscured by the Akkadian poets is a Western motif. Since our only truly Western source for the Deluge story is Genesis--there are no native or classical reports of a Canaanite Deluge story--one is tempted to suggest that the Assyrian poet borrowed a Hebrew topos. Be that as it may, the current view of the relationship of the bird episodes seems to need revision, regardless of the relationship of the Deluge stories to one another.” [R. David Freedman, “The Dispatch of the Reconnaissance Birds in Gilgamesh XI”, JANES, vol 5:127]

Remember, there IS no 'bird story' earlier in the Meso-X tradition, and there is no Flood Story in GE until the 1000-600 BC (SB) timeframe... If there is reason to believe this Assyrian poet could have had access to the biblical Flood story, and if there is reason to believe he/she was 'open to influence' by it, then we may have an 'emerging case' for the dependency of GE on Genesis...(smile)


Two. Was the biblical flood story around in this time period (ca 1000-600BC)?

I really think we can make a strong case for an affirmative answer to this, but a detailed argument will have to wait. I have already pointed out the early Isaiah references, which would have required 'currency' of the image among his audience (pushing it before the 700's). We already noted the antiquity of much of the terminology in the passage, likewise arguing for an early date. To this we would also add the general antiquity of the patriarchal narratives, as shown in their preservation of pre-Mosaic law praxis in the narrative.

But one specific form of argument, developed by KA Kitchen in strength, is the 'post quam non' (my phrase--smile), “later than which not” argument. The tenor of the argument is simple: IF the biblical text (or any text for that matter--it's not a bible thing) refers to praxis, customs, economic conditions, international alliances, etc which only make sense in a specific period-range of time (and which is irrelevant or even, unknown) after that period, THEN the conclusion is warranted that the biblical text was written in or very close to that period. So, for example, if the purchase price for Joseph as a slave in the Genesis narrative was only the 'going price' up until the early 16th century BC, then the narrative had to have been written before that 'old pricing' had been forgotten/outdated.

There are many ways of 'anchoring' the Pentateuch in this way (with the Genesis narratives falling into that argument scope), and the recent works of Currid [OT:AEOT] and Hoffmeier [OT:IIE] display a massive amount of 'Egyptian-only' knowledge embedded in the books of Moses. This mass of 'insider trading' quality data about Egyptian life would have been impossible for Israel to accumulate (with all the ancient elements in it!) in any period after about 1000 BC. The Pentateuch (at least large, core chunks of it) had to have been written by at least then.

One recent argument along this line occurs in [OT:MPP]. Hasel studies the military/siege restrictions upon Israel in Deut 20 in the ANE context and comes to this conclusion:

If the siege prohibition of Deuteronomy 20:19-20 is to be understood as something beyond the textual directive of Yahweh to preserve the vegetation and fruit trees of the land He had promised to Israel--if it is indeed to be understood as a polemic against the common practices of other nations then careful attention must be given to the parameters of the text. While the text does address the wanton destruction of trees in general (v. 19), it also prohibits the use of fruit trees for the construction of siege works specifically (v. 20). It moves from the general to the specific, and an exception to the rule of not destroying trees when it comes to building siege works is included. Both of these aspects must be considered when comparing Israel's laws of warfare with ancient Near Eastern sources. If this text is to be understood as a polemic, it appears from the current records available that it could not have been employed in reference to Babylonian, Canaanite, and Hittite tactics, and even less likely Assyrian practices. After a comprehensive survey of currently available iconographic, textual, and archaeological evidence, it can only be concluded that such a destruction of fruit trees points to an Egyptian background in the second millennium B.C.E.” [OT:MPP, pp 127-8; Note: this has the latest book of the Pentateuch written before SB GE...]



[One of the best, article-length works I have seen on this recently is by Graham Davies, "Was There an Exodus?", in In Search of Pre-Exilic Israel (John Day, ed). [OT:ISPEI]. His summary:

"This leaves the case for a positive estimate of the historicity of some kind of 'Exodus' event to be made on the basis of the arguments expounded earlier. The tradition is a priori unlikely to have been invented; the biblical evidence is widespread and can be followed back to a respectable antiquity, within at most two hundred years of the supposed event; some elements of it have a particular claim to authenticity; and in various ways what is said corrresponds more closely to the realities of New Kingdom Egypt than one would expect from a later wholly fictitious account." (p.36)

Three. Was the biblical flood story available/accessible to the surrounding nations at the time the Flood Story was being added to SB GE?

There is a reasonable amount of data that supports a belief that the Solomonic reign was a period of significant international exchange between Israel and the nations, and this period would have started in the 970-960 BC timeframe. In the Biblical story, of course, Solomon was “world famous” for his wisdom, with foreign dignitaries coming to interact with him (e.g., the famous Queen of Sheba incident). Solomon's 'considerable' political marriages, widespread trade agreements and operations (especially with Tyre), impressive building projects, and investments in foreign countries (via trade investments likely, as in 'shops in Damascus', etc) would have created significant visibility for Israel's first king of 'splendor'. It is believed that several of the biblical books were actually written (or written down) during his reign, under his own sponsorship and perhaps example. Since many political arrangements would have required client kings and remote groups to visit the King/Jerusalem, anybody who loved literature would probably find a great conversation partner in Solomon (and his entourage of scribes). Since we known that nations sent emissaries to other countries on a routine basis (e.g. the visit by the Babylonians to Hezekiah somewhat later--and he showed him 'all his treasures'... what all would Solomon have shown to visiting scholars? Gold, or books...?).

With the death of cuneiform having occurred a couple of centuries earlier (and with it Mesopotamian literary hegemony) , there is no reason to doubt that an Assyrian or Babylonian or Egyptian scholar could not have heard the Genesis Flood stories in Jerusalem (or from travelers), during this period. And if the 'fame was even half told', then there would have been a steady stream of literate listeners at Solomon's table.

[Of course, if we believe the Genesis flood story was known/passed down from Abraham, then we have those wonderfully intriguing ancient writers who report that Sparta was founded by a descendant of Abraham around 1000 BC...but that's another story for another time...smile... for a brief discussion of this & sources, see [HI:KDAW, chapter 6]]


Four. Is there any reason to entertain the thought that the author of SB GE was influenced by Israel, in the writing of the GE Flood story?

Oddly enough, there is...The 'airbrushing' of the AE gods by GE...

Tigay discusses the various changes that the author of SB GE made to his source AE. One group of changes Tigay notes is that all references to the 'starving' and 'feeding' and 'thirsting' of the god in AE are 'purged' and removed by GE. So,

  1. The references to the gods sitting in 'hunger and thirst' in OB AE II.31 is changed to a reference to 'fear' in GE XI.113.

  2. Nintu's 'thirsting for beer' in iv.17 is removed from GE.

  3. The section which describes the gods thus “Their lips were athirst with fever. From hunger they were suffering cramp.” (iv.21-23) is changed to merely “Their lips burn with fever”.

  4. In AE v.32 , Atrahasis 'provides food'; this becomes “poured out a libation” in GE.

  5. In AE v.35 is that famous passage “Like flies about the sacrifice they were gathered”; GE turns it into “The gods, like flies, about the one who offered the sacrifice gathered.”

  6. In AE v.36 we have “After they had eaten the sacrifice...”; GE simply says “When at length...”

Tigay notes that “the editor was specifically interested in removing references to divine thirst and hunger” (p.228), and offers this reflection:

These omissions and modifications add up to a systematic elimination of implications that the gods starved and thirsted during the flood. If this was indeed the editor's intention, it is, so far as I know, unprecedented and startling, for the dependence of the gods upon man for food is an axiom of Mesopotamian religious thought.” [HI:EGE, 228-9]

Now, you have to ask yourself here a simple question: was there any group in the ancient Levant whose God did not depend on food from humans for sustenance--that GE could have gotten this perspective from? I can name one--can you name another? (smile). Every culture that we know of in the ANE of that time--Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Syrian/Canaanite--believed that their gods not only ate, but were dependent on humans to supply them this food. Only Israel had a God who was above this, who was not enslaved to humanity, and whose 'food on the altar' was for the community and not for His personal digestion! [And Mesopotamian life, btw, would NOT hold on to this brief 'higher view' of the gods--they would continue with the 'maintenance' requirement for centuries and centuries.]

So--like the navigation argument in which only a 'western motif' could have been the source for the GE scouting story, and the only Western motif was in the Biblical flood story--I think one could argue that only the 'western motif' of a less-dependent god(!) could have been the source for the GE's 'airbrushing' of the gods, and the only “Western motif” was in the Bible. [Note, though, that it didn't have to come from the Flood Story per se. A simple discussion with Solomon on the transcendence of God (cf. His “heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you” speech in 2 Chrn 6.18ff) would have instantly turned to the daily requirements of Mesopotamian religion. A discussion like this could have even been prompted by this putative Assyrian poet reading the Genesis Flood story and noticing --with surprise--that YHWH wasn't hungry at the end of a year without food! Perhaps this 'surprise' would have prompted such a discussion.

At any rate, SOMETHING moved this GE author 'up a notch', and there were no other influences we know of to do it except the people of Israel at the time...


So, anyway, the (“defensive”) argument of the article as a whole doesn't depend on the (“offensive”) argument above in the least, but I do think there is a lot of play in the data for such a scenario to be the correct one.

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Okay, where does this leave us?

Well, even in this 'closer-than-cosmogony' Flood area, we still didn't end up with a good, defensible case for major (or even 'minor') borrowing between the dominant documents under discussion...

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On to the next...(gilgy10.html),
glenn


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