Bible critics have long discounted the biblical narrative of Noah’s Flood as an adaptation of flood myths from the surrounding area of Mesopotamia. One such flood myth is the Epic of Gilgamesh, which has many similarities to the biblical account of the Flood. But just how well do the two stories compare, and which one is more feasible?
Some of the similarities include:
- Global flood
- Cause: man’s wickedness/sin
- Intended for all mankind
- The hero is righteous
- The hero is ordered to build a boat
- The boat had many compartments
- It had only one door
- It had at least one window
- Covered with pitch
- Animals brought on the boat
- Release of birds to find land
- Ark landed on a mountain
- Sacrifice offered after the flood
Differences – Genesis versus Gilgamesh:
- Yahweh (God) vs. a group of bickering gods
- The hero is Noah vs. Utnapishtim
- The message came directly from God vs. a dream
- Ark had three stories vs. six
- Shape of the Ark was rectangular vs. a cube
- People saved were eight (Noah’s family only) vs. the family and a few others
- The flood was caused by ground water and heavy rain vs. rain only
- The rain lasted 40 days and nights vs. six days and nights
- Ark landed on the mountains of Ararat vs. Mt. Nisir
The most apparent difference is in the shape of the ark. Gilgamesh’s ark was a cube. According to the epic, “Her dimensions shall be to measure, equal shall be her width and her length … One (whole) acre was her floor space, ten dozen cubits the height of each of her walls, ten dozen cubits each edge of the square deck” (Pritchard, Ancient Near East Texts, 93.). That boat might float in easygoing seas, but it might not survive in the raging torrents described in Genesis 7. On the contrary, detailed studies of the biblical Ark’s construction have proven it to have been tremendously stable even in very rough seas.
If the biblical writer had copied Gilgamesh’s design for the Ark, maybe there would be cause for doubt; but Genesis 6 lays out exact dimensions for building a truly sea-worthy vessel.
Who do you think really copied the flood story?
The question raised by YOM asks who is doing the copying concerning the Biblical record in Genesis 6-9 or the Babylonian account of the Flood. Most critics of the Bible claim the Genesis account came much later and was borrowed from much older Mesopotamian sources. Such thinking and claims can be turned around on the critics too. Today we know the Babylonians had a Flood account, the Sumerians had a Flood account, and the discoveries at Ebla also contain a Flood account. The Flood account was clearly quite popular in antiquity.
The Sumerians had a list of pre-Flood and post-Flood kings documented in the Weld-Blundell prism. It is apparent that the Sumerians in this king list believed that kingship came from heaven and given to men. The Sumerians clearly understood that heaven was the source of their dominion in the pre-Flood world and also post-Flood world. This has parallels with Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 9:1-9. God gives dominion to Adam in the pre-Flood world and to Noah and his descendants in the post-Flood world, establishing the need for human government. It is apparent from ancient Mesopotamian texts recovered that Creation and the Flood were the origin accounts of these ancient cities and peoples with their ancestry traced back to a pre-Flood world and kingdoms. What is lacking is the story of evolution from a stone age and up from the apes. Again the biblical record of origins in Genesis 1-11 is supported by such archaeology finds and the story of evolution from the Stone Age is weakened by the discoveries. God preserved His record of origins in the Bible, Genesis chapters 1-11. The other Flood accounts arose in the post-Flood world, most after the Tower of Babel and we see the confusion in those reports and idolatry that developed in the ancient world too when we compare with the Biblical record. What we find in archaeology is the historical witness that can be expected if Genesis 1-11 account of origins is factual. Critics and skeptics of the Bible will likely never admit this.
Jefferson Sweet says:
GOD was there. Noah wrote down what He said. GOD's Word is always the authority, since it is infallible and inerrant, and comes from GOD Himself.