Global Flood Storiesby Rit Nosotro
Compare the Epic of Gilgamesh and other flood legends with that of Noah’s flood as found in Genesis. How are they similar and different from the story recounted in Genesis, and what may have caused these discrepancies?
Stories similar to the Genesis account of the flood have been assimulated and synchronized into the cosmologies of various cultural world views throughout diverse regions of the earth.
Many people groups around the world have legends that are similar to the Genesis account of the flood. The legend called the Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the legends that are similar to the Genesis account. People groups that have a legend that is similar are the Australian Aborigines, the Miao tribes of China, and the Biami people from Papua New Guinea. Most of them have the similar point that the flood was caused by man’s wickedness, the flood was created by God/god/gods, and that the flood covered the world. The differences in the accounts are most likely due to trying to fit the Genesis account into the beliefs of that group of people.
"Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thought of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, 'I will destroy man whom I have made on the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them." (Genesis 6:5-7)1
Throughout cultures that are geographically, religiously, and intellectually diverse, we have sources and people groups such as the Bible, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Australians, Chinese, and even modern scholars which tell of a catastrophic flood event in earth’s history. Some believe that there may be over five hundred different flood legends worldwide.22 We can compare the flood stories of the world to the Bible, which we as Christians hold to be absolute truth. What are the similarities and differences between these stories, and if there was a worldwide flood, then why are these different stories so - different?
In Genesis we are told of a worldwide flood which destroyed all living creatures, both man and beast, because of their wickedness. Noah "found grace in the eyes of the Lord."3 We are told that Noah walked with God and was a just man who was perfect in his generations. God spoke to Noah and warned him that he should build an ark out of gopherwood and cover it both inside and out with pitch. Noah, his wife, his three sons and his son's wives were to be preserved inside the ark during the coming flood of judgment. They were to bring two of every animal, male and female inside the ark. Being six hundred years old at the time of the flood, Noah was warned again by God one week before the deluge began. The great waters poured upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.
Unearthed among ruins of Asurbanipal's library in Nineveh, the Epic of Gilgamesh contains a flood story as well. Since Asurbanipal built his library during his reigned from 667 to 625 B. C., then it is probable that the tablets he had witten or collected may have been based on the account recorded by Moses who lived before 1500 BC. The Babylonian story bears some resemblance to that of Genesis, along with numerous differences.4 Two of the most remarkable similarities are the extent and cause of the flood; both Genesis and the Epic of Gilgamesh state that the flood was a worldwide consequence of the evilness of mankind. Also, both Noah and the hero of the Gilgamesh story, Upnapishtim, were righteous. A major difference in the two accounts, however, is that of length of the flood; Genesis says that it lasted forty day and forty nights whereas the Gilgamesh legend says that it lasted only six days and six nights. Further, the Epic tells of not one sovereign God as in Genesis, but a plethora of deities. Following the flood, both Upnapishtim and Noah made sacrifices to their God/gods, and they in turn were blessed. Interestingly, the two stories may possibly be traced to the same general area; Mt. Ararat and Mt. Nisir which were located about three-hundred miles apart in the Middle East.
The Australian Aborigines also tell of a flood story, yet this time there are not many similarities to Genesis.5 Wickedly, mischievous children caused it by hurting an innocent bird, and this act angered the gods. Filling the sky, a storm cloud appeared, and the earth was flooded so high that only the tops of a few enormous mountains were not covered. One man rapidly tried to escape the flood by rowing his canoe to the top of a mountain, where he arrived safely with several other survivors. The people who did not reach the mountaintops were killed. This legend differs in respect to the mountaintops not being covered. Although the acts of the children were not found in Genesis, this symbolically represents the evil of the people upon the earth.
The Miao tribes, who live in inland China, has a recording of what is basically the same as Genesis. They talk about God created the heavens and the earth, and created man and woman. They also talk about the wickedness of humanity and God sending a flood. Immense flooding covered the entire earth, and only one family, “the family of Fuhi”6 was saved. This family consisted of a man, his wife, three sons, and three daughters, who were all saved alive in a boat. It says that it poured forty days just like Noah and the Flood then fifty-five days of misting and drizzle which is not exactly like Noah and the Flood but very similar. The righteous person who was saved was called the Patriarch Nuah and he built a boat very wide and vast. His family of eight survived along with male and females pairs of animals. After the flood had receded, they offered sacrifices to God, and God gave them his good graces. This is one of the most similar recordings to Noah and the Flood.
One last story comes from the Biami people, located in Papua New Guinea. They talk about a great flood, which covered the earth. Only a few people survived and they climbed into the bark of the Gobia Tree with their animals and plants that were necessary for life. When the flood-waters rose, they climbed higher up the tree. When the waters went down, the people climbed down the tree and there were made to repopulate the earth. Just like Noah’s Ark, there was a great flood, only a few people survived and after the flood they repopulated the earth. It differs where Noah made an ark to survive while this legend says they survived in a tree.
In conclusion, we should examine the two possible causes of the differences in these accounts. First, these early cultures may have simply gotten the facts confused as the story was passed around. Or secondly, they may have changed it purposely, trying to fit an actual historical event into their mythology. To determine which one of these happenings are most likely true, we should examine another flood story circulating in modern times.
In our own day and age, another flood myth is rising. It is not solely circulated
by people ignorant of God's truth, but also by the church.7
This is caused by the immense compromising that is going on among Christians
today. Buying into supposedly more scientific claims, these people are all too
eager to discount the
Bible as the errant, rather than inerrant, Word of God. Instead of searching the scriptures daily to see if these things are true like the Bereans did8, they search the thoughts of scientists and then discredit the Bible. Next they try to claim that there was no worldwide flood, and that it was only a localized event. If Christians can do this, is there any doubt that early pagan cultures could have known the true flood story but purposely changed it to fit their desired beliefs and religion? The scriptures say that “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened”9 and “who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”10
These differing stories help to affirm the truths found in God's word. By recognizing that cultures in geographically diverse areas have legends of a flood that are so similar, we realize that the flood must have been worldwide. By analyzing the facts of differing religious worldviews present in these societies, we realize that the story, perhaps once well known in its truth and entirety, may have been purposely changed to meet the demands of a particular society's religious ideas. Amidst the myriads of details that differ, one main similarity and one main difference may be seen. Primarily, the stories are similar in that the entire earth was flooded and life was destroyed, while virtuous people were preserved. As would be expected, however, these cultures all add the ideologies of their religions to the story and distort it. Ultimately, although these stories may encourage Christian belief of their scriptures. The true flood story is accepted by faith, scientific evidence, and the words of Jesus: "as it was in the days of Noah..."
1) Most flood stories from different cultures share the following things
in common EXCEPT for:
a. a global flood
b. eight souls being saved from total destruction
c. the flood happened as a result of man's wickedness.
d. a vessel of some sort saved someone so that humanity could continue
2) The Biblical flood story says that the following were saved alive on the
a. Eight people, two of every clean animal, and seven of every unclean animal
b. Five people, seven of every clean animal, two of every unclean animal
c. Eight people, seven of every clean animal, two males of each unclean animal
d. Eight people, seven of every clean animal, two of every unclean animal
3) Differences between the Epic of Gilgamesh and Genesis flood stories DO NOT
include which of the following:
a. The length of time when the flood waters poured down upon the earth
b. The geographical area - one story occurred in Canada while the other occurred in the Middle East
c. The names of the main character saved from the flood
d. The gods who caused the flood to be brought upon man for his wickedness
4) All of the following are similarities between the Genesis and Australian-Aborigine flood stories, EXCEPT:
a. They both were caused by a God/god
b. They both were a result of wickedness or wicked acts of people on earth
c. They both state that the flood covered the tops of every mountain
d. They both contain a part about one of the survivor’s giving a sacrifice to his God/god
1:b, 2:d, 3:b, 4:c
~ Hoey, Tom. “The Biami legends of creation and Noah’s Flood.” Answers in Genesis. Answers in Genesis. 21 Nov. 2005 <http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v7/i2/noah.asp>.
~ Isaak, Mark. “Flood Stories from Around the World.” The Talk. Origins Archive. 2 Sept. 2002. Talk. Origins Archive. 21 Nov. 2005 <http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/flood-myths.html>.
~ Rebecca Conolly and Grigg, Russell. “Flood!” Answers in Genesis. Answers in Genesis. 21 Nov. 2005 <http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v23/i1/flood.asp>.
~ Sarfati, Jonathan. “Noah’s Flood and the Gilgamesh Epic.” Answers in Genesis. 29 Mar. 2004. Answers in Genesis. 21 Nov. 2005 <http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2004/0329gilgamesh.asp>.
~ Truax, Edgar. “Genesis According to the Miao People.” Institute
for Creation Research. Institute for Creation Research. 21 Nov. 2005 <http://www.icr.org/index.php?module=articles&action=view&ID=341>.
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