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Was the Genesis flood narrative copied from Mesopotamian myths?

June 1, 2011

The Challenge

By the end of the 19th century archaeology had discovered many Mesopotamian texts containing creation and flood narratives remarkably similar to those in the Bible.

Critical scholars came to believe that the Biblical narratives had simply been copied from earlier Mesopotamian myths.[1] [2]The Biblical flood narrative in particular is still considered by some scholars to have been borrowed from the Mesopotamian story.[3] [4]

The Facts

Later scholarship noted significant differences between the Biblical and Mesopotamian narratives;[5] the Mesopotamian creation narratives were now viewed as parallels to the Genesis narrative.[6]  Still later it was the Genesis and Babylonian accounts shared an earlier Mesopotamian source, whether literary or oral.[7] [8] [9]

Scholarly Views

Kitchen (Assyriologist), note that Assyrologists have abandoned the idea of Genesis 1-11 being borrowed from Assyrian and Babylonian texts.[10] Millard (Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and Ancient Semitic Languages), observes there is no evidence for direct literary borrowing.[11] [12] This is the majority view of current scholarship. [13]  [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20]

At least early as 1872, it was suggested that the similarities between the Genesis and Mesopotamian flood narratives are due to the texts describing the same genuine historical event. [21]

In the early 20th century, critical scholar Hermann Gunkel observed that this was supported by the curious description (in both the Genesis account and the earlier Mesopotamian accounts), of the Ark being driven upstream, contrary to expectation.[22]  This explanation remains well represented in scholarship. [23] [24] [25] [26] [27]


[1] ‘Some argued that many Hebrew ideas actually originated in Mesopotamia and were borrowed by Israel.’, Chavalas, ‘Mesopotamia and the Bible’, p. 32 (2003).

[2] ‘The idea of Babylonian primacy was perfected by Delitzsch in 1902-1903. In his lectures, he argued that Israel could only be studied in light of Babylonia, and in fact Israelite civilization was derived from Babylonia.’, ibid., p. 32.

[3] ‘Since this portion of the biblical narrative postdates the Mesopotamian traditions (the final form of this portion of Genesis is usually dated to the fifth century B.C.E, although its oral or written sources may be dated as much as six hundred years earlier), it is conceivable, if not likely, that the biblical writer has borrowed and adapted Mesopotamian flood traditions.’, Fant & Reddish, ‘Lost Treasures of the Bible: Understanding the Bible through Archaeological Artifacts in World Museums’, p. 25 (2008).

[4] ‘It is commonly accepted that parts of Genesis 1–11 show literary dependence, either directly or indirectly, on Mesopotamian literary tradition.187 The best test case would be the flood story in Genesis 69.’, Smith, ‘God in Translation: Deities in Cross-Cultural Discourse in the Biblical World’, p. 182 (2010).

[5] ‘As scholars studied the significant differences and omissions between the accounts, they concluded that neither the Mesopotamian nor the biblical author borrowed from the other.’, Couch, ‘The Fundamentals for the Twenty-First Century: Examining the Crucial Issues of the Christian Faith’, p. 177 (2000).

[6] ‘Nevertheless, it adds much that is significant for the Near Eastern mythological horizon, and perhaps even provides a number of interesting parallels to the motifs of the biblical paradise story as told in the second and third chapters of Genesis.’, Kramer, ‘Sumerian Myths and Epic Tales’, in Pritchard (ed.), ‘Ancient Near Eastern texts relating to the Old Testament’, p. 37 (1950).

[7] ‘The similarities in broad outline and in certain points of detail between the Gilgamesh and the Genesis and the Gilgamesh versions are too striking to be accidental. Both probably derive from a common older Mesopotamian tradition, fragments of which are preserved in the Sumerian version.’, Davidson, ‘Genesis 1-11′, Cambridge Bible Commentaries p. 65 (1973).

[8] ‘It is undoubtedly borrowed from a common religious tradition of flood accounts.’, Brueggemnann, ‘Genesis’, p. 73 (1982).

[9] ‘Although the differences between the two stories may be too great to support a theory of direct literary dependence, most scholars are convinced that the biblical flood narrative is to some degree dependent upon ancient Mesopotamian flood narratives.’, Fant & Reddish, ‘Lost treasures of the Bible: understanding the Bible through archaeological’, p. 21 (2008).

[10]Thus most Assyriologists have long since rejected the idea of any direct link between Gen. 1-11 and Enuma Elish, and nothing else better can be found between Gen. 1-11 and any other Mesopotamian fragments.’, Kitchen, ‘On the Reliability of the Old Testament’, p. 424 (2003); his footnote reads ‘Assyriologists generally reject any genetic relationship between Gen. 1-2 and the Mesopotamian data because of the considerable differences; see (eg.) J.V. Kinnier-Wilson. In D. W. Thomas, ed., Documents from Old Testament Times (London: Nelson, 1958), 14; W. G. Lambert, JTS. n.s., 16 (1965): 287-300, esp. 289. 291, 293-99. and in ISF, 96-113, with addenda; A. R. Millard, TynB 18 (1967): 3-4.7. 16-18, and in ISIF 114-28; T. Jacobsen, in JBL 100 (198 1): 513-29, and translation, both now in ISIF 129-42, plus 160-66.’, ibid., p. 591.

[11]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.’, Millard, ‘A New Babylonian “Genesis” Story’, in  Hess & Tsumura (eds.), ‘I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood: Ancient Near Eastern, Literary Approaches to Genesis 1-11’, Sources for Biblical and Theological Study, volume 4, p. 127 (1994).

[12] ‘The two accounts undoubtedly describe the same Flood, the two schemes relate the same sequence of events. If judgment is to be passed as to the priority of one tradition over the other, Genesis inevitably wins for its probability in terms of meteorology, geophysics, and timing alone.’, ibid., pp. 127-128.

[13] ‘The similarities between the Genesis account and the ‘Atra-Hasis Epic’ do not support the idea that Genesis is a direct borrowing from the Mesopotamian but do indicate that Mesopotamian materials could have served as models for Genesis 1-11, as Jacobsen holds. P.D. Miller also admits that ‘there were Mesopotamian models that anticipate the structure of Genesis 1-11 as a whole.’, Tsumura, ‘Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood’, in ibid., p. 47.

[14] ‘With Genesis 1-11 we seem to be working more with shared motifs and basic plotlines that originated in Mesopotamia rather than with actually known texts directed [sic] borrowed into Israel.’, Smith, ‘God in Translation: Deities in Cross-Cultural Discourse in the Biblical World’, p. 182 (2010).

[15] ‘The Bible’s accounts of the creation of the world, the creation of humankind, and the flood were not borrowed from these, but neither are they unique in every respect.’, Arnold & Beyer (eds.), ‘Readings from the ancient Near East: primary sources for Old Testament study’, p. 13 (2002).

[16] ‘The details are not exact and most scholars deny any direct literary dependence but it would seem that both stories emerge from a common tradition or milieu.’, Moyise, ‘Introduction to Biblical Studies’, p. 33 (2004).

[17] ‘The Biblical flood of Noah in the book of Genesis 6-9 shares continuity with the other Ancient Near Eastern flood stories, but is probably not directly dependent on any of them.’, Snell, ‘A Companion to the Ancient Near East’, p. 256 (2005).

[18] ‘But after a careful study of the two, Alexander Heidel has concluded that “no incontrovertible evidence can for the present be produced” in favor of biblical dependence on the Babylonian materials. His conclusion regarding the flood accounts is similar.’, Niehaus, ‘Ancient Near Eastern Themes in Biblical Theology’, p. 22 (2008).

[19] Text

[20] ‘Many who have done thorough linguistic and literary analysis (e.g., A. Heidel, A.R. Millard, D. Damrosch) conclude that literary dependence cannot be demonstrated. Here, as in most of the parallels in the primeval history, it is considered more likely that Mesopotamian and biblical traditions are based on a common source. Some understand this common source to be a piece of more ancient literature, while others consider it the actual event.’, Hill & Walton, ‘A Survey of the Old Testament’, p. (2010).

[21] ‘Among many theorists, George Smith in 1872 [33] famously linked the great Biblical Flood of the book Genesis to an historical event, probably of the 3rd millennium BC, which deposited a 50-cm- sediment-layer in the Mesopotamian lowland.’, Haigh & Křeček, ‘Environmental Reconstruction in Headwater Areas’, p. 14 (2000).

[22] ‘The most characteristic element of the Babylonian account seems to be that the Ark, driven from the South inland against the current of the rivers, was stranded in the northern mountains. This element is so remarkable that it could only have been stimulated by a corresponding natural phenomenon. E. Suss (25ff.) suspects that a violent earthquake in the Persian Gulf may have been the cause. A powerful cyclone from the South, associated with voluminous rain and horrible darkness, drove the destructive waters far into the inhabited land. This event must have taken place in a very ancient time. The news of the terrible catastrophe was preserved through all times. This theory is certainly very plausible.’, Gunkel ‘Genesis’ (1910), Biddle (trans.), p. 77 (1997 English ed.).

[23] ‘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.‘, Walton, ‘Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context: A Survey of Parallels’, p. 40 (1994).

[24] ‘The story may have arisen from a specific historical flood that took place in parts of southern Mesopotamia around 2900.’, Tigay, ‘The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic’, p. 214 (2002).

[25] ‘Could not stories be shared by the Bible and surrounding cultures because they are both based on a historical event? Both Scripture and Mesopotamian literature mention a flood because there indeed was a flood.’, Hamilton, ‘Handbook on the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy’, p. 66(2005).

[26] ‘However, there are more options than simply concluding that the Bible borrowed from Babylon. An equally plausible explanation is that both traditions go back to a real event.’, Longman, ‘How to read Genesis’, pp. 86-87 (2005).

[27] ‘On the basis of substantial historical evidence, coupled with many parallel words and phrases, what reasonable conclusions could we make? Here are just three: 1. There is a likelihood that a flood event actually happened. Why would the Akkadians, Sumerians, and Hebrews invent such a story unless there was some historical basis? 2. considering the parallel accounts are describing a historical event in the region of southern Mesopotamia about 2900 B.C., then Genesis also is describing the same historical, regional flood, and not a global deluge. 3. A regional flood would have brought judgment to those in the region. Judgment would have been specific to the sinful Adamite population, those answerable to God, rather than a universal pronouncement upon all mankind everywhere.’, Fischer, ‘Historical Genesis: from Adam to Abraham’, p. 140 (2008).

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14 comments

  1. (2)
    Who was Tubalcain? He was a worker in iron. When did the iron age begin? 1200 BCE. The earliest possible evidence of iron working was in Turkey maybe 1500 BCE at the absolute earliest.
    He was also in between Cain and Seth and the great, great, great grandson of Enoch.

    Either way the Pharaoh Ahmosis didn’t have iron when he drove the Hyksos out of Egypt. One of the earliest fragments of worked iron known was a dagger made from a meteorite found in Tutankhamen’s tomb. There was no iron in 1300 BCE.

    Genesis 4
    22 And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.

    (3)
    Here is the trifecta.
    The only 360 day year historically was the ancient Sumerian Calendar. In Genesis we have a 150 day period between the 17th day of the second month, and the 17th of the seventh month. That is 5 months of 30 days each or a 360 day year. This calendar was not in use in Egypt or Babylon, it was only used by the ancient Sumarians.

    Genesis 7
    11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

    24 And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.

    Genesis 8
    3 And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated.
    4 And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.
    5 And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.

    For other purposes, a year began before or with the harvest. This fluctuating and discontinuous year was not precise enough for the meticulous accounting of Sumerian scribes, who by 2400 BC already used the schematic year of 30 * 12 = 360 days.

    The use of lunar reckoning began to prevail in the 21st century BC. The lunar year probably owed its success to economic progress. A barley loan could be measured out to the lender at the next year’s threshing floor. The wider use of silver as the standard of value demanded more flexible payment terms. A man hiring a servant in the lunar month of Kislimu for a year knew that the engagement would end at the return of the same month, without counting days or periods of office between two dates. At the city of Mari in about 1800 BC, the allocations were already reckoned on the basis of 29- and 30-day lunar months. In the 18th century BC, the Babylonian Empire standardized the year by adopting the lunar calendar of the Sumerian sacred city of Nippur.
    http://history-world.org/mesopotamiancalander.htm

    The Epic of Gilgamesh existed at least 1,000 years before the book of Genesis was written or compiled.

    ~Rose


  2. The first half of my post was cut off (probably by me). Here is the first part (sorry)

    Most scholars, consequently, accept the priority of the Mesopotamian flood story. Andrew R. George, known for his translations of the epic, notes that “…the Flood episode in Gen. 6-8 matches the older Babylonian myth so well in plot, and particularly, in details, few doubt that Noah’s story is descended from a Mesopotamian account”. What is particularly noticeable, according to another scholar, is the way the Genesis flood story follows the Gilgamesh flood tale “point by point and in the same order”, even when the logic of the story permits other alternatives.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_of_Gilgamesh

    It’s obvious to anyone with a working knowledge of history, who has read the book of Genesis that it was written very late.

    For example

    (1)
    The horse drawn wheeled vehicle probably originated in Mesopotamia about 3000 BC. The earliest depiction of vehicles in the context of warfare is on the Standard of Ur in southern Mesopotamia, c. 2500 BC. The chariot, together with the horse itself, was introduced to Egypt by the Hyksos invaders in the 16th century BC.

    Genesis 50
    7 And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,
    8And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father’s house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen.
    9 And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company.

    This in Genesis wasn’t possible until the 16th century BCE. The Egyptians didn’t have chariots or wheeled vehicles (not even the potters wheel) until way late (about 1600 BCE). So either Genesis is a compilation of fragments of other writings (which means Gilgamesh was first), or Genesis was written by a single author after 1600 BCE or so (which means Gilgamesh was first).

    ~Rose


  3. I’m not sure what the point of those posts is (posts which contain a number of inaccuracies), but you seem to be unaware that although the Epic of Gilgamesh predates the Genesis flood narrative, the original edition of the Epic of Gilgamesh did not contain a flood narrative at all.

    The flood narrative was only added to the Epic of Gilgamesh very late, in the 7th century, long after the Epic of Gilgamesh was written. None of what you wrote actually addresses the point of the article, nor the scholarly consensus.


  4. I completely disagree Fortigum, the flood story was mentioned very early according to (George, Andrew R., 1999, The Epic of Gilgamesh)

    “The earliest Sumerian Gilgamesh poems date from as early as the Third dynasty of Ur (2100–2000 BC). One of these poems mentions Gilgamesh’s journey to meet the flood hero, as well as a short version of the flood story.”

    My point was to establish the fact that Genesis uses the ancient Sumerian calendar when dating Noah and the flood. Not the Hebrew calendar, not the Egyptian calendar, not the Babylonian calendar, but the ancient Sumerian calendar.

    Also to establish that the book of Genesis could not have been written or a final compilation made until after 1200 BCE the iron age, or after 1600 BCE when the Egyptians had chariots.

    So we have a flood story from that area that predates Genesis by several hundred years. That’s the only point. You can speculate that there was an unknown flood story that included Noah that existed before Gilgamesh, but that’s all you can do here is speculate. This would also prove that Genesis wasn’t written but compiled from other stories.

    The existing fragments of the Gilgamesh flood story predate the earliest possible composition date for the book of Genesis.

    Where are my facts wrong?

    Genesis uses the ancient Sumerian calendar when dating Noah.

    I guess we can get hung up on the word “copied”. Is it even possible to say it was ‘copied’ if it was translated into a different language? However it was based on an ancient story that existed in the land long before Genesis was written.

    So I put it back on you to show which facts I cited are wrong. Show an early date for Genesis. Without specifics your just saying you don’t know.

    ~Rose


  5. Rose, you are not actually addressing what I wrote.

    * It is not under dispute that the flood story was ‘mentioned very early’; what is under dispute is whether or not the Gilgamesh Epic originally included the flood story (the academic consensus is that it did not)

    * The quotation you provide is from Wikipedia; it does not appear to be from George, whom you cite

    * I have not made any comments on the calendar; this is not an issue I am contesting

    * I have not contested that the Book of Genesis ‘could not have been written or a final compilation made until after 1200 BCE the iron age, or after 1600 BCE when the Egyptians had chariots’; once again you are arguing against something I have never said

    * I have never said there was ‘an unknown flood story that included Noah that existed before Gilgamesh’; if you read what I write in the article you will see that I say the OPPOSITE of this

    As I have pointed out, you were wrong to claim that the Epic of Gilgamesh originally contained the flood story. The scholarly consensus is that it did not. That’s where you went wrong.


  6. I would say that the fact that the ancient Sumerian 360 day calendar appears in Genesis in the story of Noah is empirical proof that the author of the flood story in Genesis was using the ancient Sumerian Calendar. ;-)

    No one in history used that calendar since.

    The Babylonian epic of Atra-Hasis existed in 1650 BCE, but even that is much later than the ancient Sumerian 360 day calendar used by Noah in the book of Genesis.

    Any scholar who doesn’t address the Sumerian Calendar used by Noah has incomplete information.

    The calendar alone is ‘proof’ far and above anything any other scholar has cited.

    Few scholars know about the calendar in Genesis because very few scholars ever read the Bible, they just read commentaries.

    ~Rose


  7. * You say ‘The calendar alone is ‘proof’ far and above anything any other scholar has cited’; proof of what?

    * You seem unaware of the fact that the Genesis flood narrative uses the same lunisolar calendar as the Assyrians and Babylonians (which derived from the earlier Sumerian calendar, but was different from it); this calendar included months which were not a uniform 30 days in length, and also included an intercalary month to make up the chronological deficit of the lunar cycle

    * Knowledge of the calendar used in the Genesis flood narrative is well recognized among scholars, and cited widely in standard commentaries; comparisons with the Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian calendars are commonly made


  8. > You seem unaware of the fact that the Genesis flood narrative uses the same lunisolar calendar as the Assyrians and Babylonians (which derived from the earlier Sumerian calendar, but was different from it);

    If this is true one should easily be able to demonstrait this in the book of Genesis. Where is the Hebrew lunar calendar in the flood narative? In Genesis chapter 7 and 8 we are told that there were 150 days between the 17th day of the 2nd month and the 17th day of the 7th month. That’s 5 months of 30 days each. This is the calendar in use in ancient Sumner, it was not used after about 2000 BCE. It was not used by the Babylonians, Egyptians, or Hebrews.

    I have pointed to the actual text in the book of Genesis that confirms the 30 day per month calendar. You claim this is false and Noah used the Lunar calendar. It’s now incumbant on you to show where in the book of Genesis that Noah used a calendar different than the one in chapters 7 and 8. My faith is in the Bible not scholars, so please point to the text (verses) in Genesis that supports your claim.

    the lunar cycle is 29.53 days long. 5 Lunar months is 147.65 days. The book of Genesis is explicit that there were 150 days between the 17th of the 2nd month and the 17th of the 7th month. Your saying the Bible is in error and it was actually 147.65 days. Again my faith is in the Bible itself, not scholary opinion, show me da verses!

    Here’s why this calendar reference alone proves that this story was ‘copied’ from the ancient Sumarian story. The term ‘copied’ is used loosly as the story was (at the very least) translated into a different language and a translation isn’t a direct copy. Josephus when writing about Jewish history uses his calendars, both the year of the Olympiad and the Julian calendar. Josephus never dates history based on the old hebrew calendars. All the ancient historians refer to the modern calendar of their day to date past events, never the calendars in use by the cultures they were writing about.

    Yet Noah uses a calendar that was only in use historically before 2000 BCE and in ancient Sumner. Whomever wrote the Hebrew version of the flood story in Genesis didn’t use the calendar of their day, they cited the ancient Sumner calendar. So they either copied the material directly into their language preserving information that has since been lost, or the author wrote it in a way to point to ancient Sumner.

    Either way the calendar used in Genesis chapters 7 and 8 crystalizes a date prior to 2000 BCE. If you can’t show a different calendar in the flood story, then you can’t even ‘support’ your claim.

    Please show evidence of Noah using the Lunar calendar in the book of Genesis.

    ~Rose


  9. Rose, I said the LUNISOLAR calendar, not the lunar calendar. The lunisolr calendar also had months of 30 days in length. Nothing you have provided actually proves your claims that ‘Noah uses a calendar that was only in use historically before 2000 BCE and in ancient Sumner’.

    If you read the text, there’s nothing in it which shows us which calendar Noah used. The narrative is not written from a first person perspective.


  10. > Nothing you have provided actually proves your claims that ‘Noah uses a calendar that was only in use historically before 2000 BCE and in ancient Sumner’.

    I don’t think anyone disputes that the ancient Sumerian’s used the 30 day fixed month calendar. The book of Genesis is explicit in a 30 day month as it gives the numbers. So the author did use the ancient Sumerian calendar in use before 2000 BCE. However you are correct in that it wasn’t ‘only’ used before 2000 BCE.

    I’ve been reading Marshall Clagett’s book Ancient Egyptian Science Volume II (Calendars, Clocks and Astronomy) 1995. Clagett exhastively reviews the work of Richard Parker regarding the Egyptian calendars. While they disagree on some details both schools agree that the Egyptians from the 4th dynasty on (2600 BCE) had a civil calendar of 12 months of 30 days each. Each month consisted of three weeks and each week was 10 days long. Because each month was 30 days long they added 5 inercalary days each year (Thoth days). So the year was 365 days long. Aparently this calendar was in use until the time of Ptolomey. Here again, this is not any known Hebrew calendar.

    Senusret II (1897 BCE to 1878 BCE) was the Pharaoh who began to divert water from the Nile into the Faiyum depression forming Lake Moeris. Lake Moeris was huge in the time of Herodotus (450 BCE or so). The Pharaoh’s did control the flooding of the Nile Delta each year by diverting water into Lake Moeris.

    It actually makes more sense that the story of Noah is an Egyptian flood story. However the Egyptian flood stories that I’m aware of do not include animals, that is from the Mesopotamian flood stories.

    The parting and flooding of the ‘Red Sea’ was about the flooding of the Nile Delta and the expulsion of the Hyksos (who lived in the Delta), as the Delta is an extension of the Red Sea. The book of Genesis is very favorable to Pharaoh as well, the Egyptians are the good guys in Genesis.

    Genesis 50:7
    And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,

    So far we have established that the flood story in Genesis did not use the Hebrew calendars (lunar or solar). We know the story took place before Abram and Jacob.

    Abraham most likely being the Hyksos Pharaoh Maaibre Sheshi (~1690 BCE). Maaibre being a form of pig Latin for aaibreM, simply move the frist letter to the end. Jacob being the Hyksos Pharaoh Yaqub-Har of the same time period.

    This fits the time line very well. The flooding about 1800 BCE, Abram and Jacob about 1690 BCE, and the Exodus or expulsion of the Hyksos about 1550 BCE under the Pharaoh Ahmosis.

    Genesis seems to be a blending of both flood stories. The authors of the Egypt and Mesopotamia flood stories seem to be unaware of each other as both stories are unique. The animals are from the Mesopotamian flood stories, yet the calendar is from both ancient Sumner or Egypt. Also the story of Genesis is of a land called Eden boardered by the Euphrates and a man named Abram who comes from Ur (Urak Iraq) to Egypt. Both cultures have flood stories and both cultures used a 30 day month.

    So we can’t say the author of Genesis copied the flood stories of Gilgamesh directly. However the author of Genesis blended the flood stories of Abram’s homeland with the flood stories of Abram’s new land (Egypt).

    I guess the point here is that the flood story in Genesis is not origional, it’s based on older legends, myths, and history.

    ~Rose


  11. ‘I guess the point here is that the flood story in Genesis is not original; it’s based on older legends, myths, and history.’

    If you read points 15 on to the end above, the original poster said basically the same thing (apart from the words ‘legends’ and ‘myths’, which carry a connotation of falseness).


  12. Fortigurn, I have very little knowledge of the calendrical issues but would like to politely pick you up on one point. You suggest very confidently that ‘the original edition of… Gilgamesh did not contain a flood narrative’. You go on to say that this was only added in the ’7th century’ (I presume you mean BCE) ‘long after the epic of GIlgamesh was written’.

    The fact is that we don’t actually know whether the Old Babyonian versions of Gilgamesh mentioned the flood. We don’t possess any extant copies of the relevant portion of the epic in its early forms so dogmatism on this point is unwarranted. If I remember correctly, the common assumption that the flood story was missing is based on estimates of the length of the epic compared to the later “Standard Babylonian” version.There was certainly an existing tradition that Gilgamesh learned of the flood story when he visited Utnapishtim, as evidenced by the Sumerian poem The Death of Gilgamesh (oldest extant copy c1800 BCE but thought to date to the late third millennium). Consequently, it would be surprising if there was not at least some mention of the flood in the Old Babylonian text – although it is normally assumed that the full blown flood narrative of the later versions was not present.

    The real problem, however, comes with your dating of the flood story inclusion and the curious statement that this occurred ‘long after the epic was written’. My understanding is that the experts (I’m thinking of Tigay and George) agree the flood story was incorporated somewhere between 1300 to 1000 BCE when the so called Standard Version was developed. Anyone who has read the literature will also be aware that the Gilgamesh flood story was borrowed from the Epic of Atrahasis that dates to around 1700 BCE.


  13. Thanks for your comment. The fact that the only physical evidence for the Epic of Gilgamesh having a flood narrative dates to the 7th century BCE, and that the flood narrative inserted is a narrative which was written later than the original Epic of Gilgamesh is strong evidence that the Epic of Gilgamesh never had a flood narrative in the first place.

    If the original Epic of Gilgamesh included a flood narrative, why would the Late Version (earliest extant copy 8th-7th century BCE), throw it out and insert a flood narrative from a completely different work which wasn’t written until after the original Epic of Gilgamesh?

    Tigay, ‘The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic’ (2002), speaks for most scholars when he says the flood narrative was not part of the original Epic of Gilgamesh (the Old Babylonian version).

    ‘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, lines 15 through 196. There is no evidence that the whole story was recounted in the Old Babylonian version as it is in the late version.

    Although the Old Babylonian version told how Gilgamesh journeyed to Utnapishtim, the survivor of the flood (see Gigl. Me. iv), the actual retelling of the flood story is not attested in the 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.’, p. 214.

    As for when the flood story was added to the Epic of Gilgamesh, yes it was certainly borrowed from the Atrahasis Epic, written long before the Late Version of the Epic of Gilgamesh was written; between 500 and 700 years before, even at the most conservative dating.

    Tigay says that the Late Version containing the flood story wasn’t necessarily written as late as the earliest extant copies we have, but also notes that the earliest date proposed for its inclusion is speculative.

    ‘The version to which these fragments belong was not necessarily created as late as the ninth or eighth century. It may well be an accident of discovery that earlier manuscripts of the late version have not yet been fond (see n. 1). Indeed, various considerations arising from the study of Akkadian literature as a whole have led scholars to the conclusion that the late, standardized versions of most Akkadian literary texts, including The Gilgamesh Epic, were produced during the last half or quarter of the second millennium. As a rough approximation of the date, 1250 is sometimes given, but it should be kept in mind that the date is conjectural.’, ibid., p. 131.

    Without any physical evidence for the Late Version any earlier than the 8th century BCE, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to describe a proposed date of composition 500 years earlier as speculative at best.


  14. I think it is definitely the same flood story in both cultures. The fertile crescent, Mesopotamia, was the beginnings of civilization – the oldest tales are invariably going to have their beginnings from there. The flood legend likely originates there, rather than Egypt. Egypt flooded alright. Every year, very predictably right on schedule. The crescent was an immensely flat plain that had unpredictable floods that would undoubtedly be devastating to those mud-brick civilizations who would have to continually rebuild upon the ruins of the old cities and towns. It would truly appear as if the whole world from their perspective had flooded as even a foot of water would cover their land from horizon to horizon.

    The geology would seem to indicate multiple flood layers and it is my belief that the great flood is a telescoping of many floods throughout the early history of civilization. The fact that there are pieces of the bible that seem to have corresponding stories in both Egyptian and Mesopotamian writings (The Ten Commandments correlation with The Code of Hammurabi and The Great Flood for example) plus the fact that the Hebrew people didn’t even get around to writing their biblical stories until after their Babylonian captivity leaves a lot of room to accept that they had assimilated some of the culture and religion of the people they spent a lot of time living with. This likely also includes something from the Egyptians as well.

    I know I am not citing sources or anything like that, I am an enthusiast and not a scholar like you good folks. But I think the references and correlations I make above are fairly well known. It just seems to me that the obvious answer is that the old testament most likely is a collection of moralistic stories that would contain references to the most powerful stories being past down through their culture before finally being put to writing, and that they would also contain the most popular assimilated stories as well. If that makes any sense.

    Thanks. I love this stuff. :)



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