Flood Story Comes Full Circle

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Noahs ark 5
Replica Of Noah’s Ark in Netherlands

In America, almost every child is taught the story of Noah who, in response to a message from on-high, crafted a wooded ark and gathered the planet’s fauna to save them from destruction for sins known and unknown. We don’t teach kids that most ancient civilizations recount the same story of the Great Flood that swamped the planet but with their own cultural take on the topic. Now a recent archeological find from Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) is creating a buzz that might change  that. Found on a cuneiform tablet, the story of the Mesopotamian Noah differs only slightly from the Hebrew version of the legend. The Christian Bible tells the tale of Noah who gathers his family to build an ark shaped much like our modern-day boats, with one long keel and sides tapering at each end. The Bible details the blueprint straight from that chief engineer in the sky:

God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.  This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high.Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around.Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks.  (Genesis 5:32 NIV).

The ancient Mesopotamians have a different spin on the design though. According to a recently decoded 4000-year-old tablet, the design was circular and  not cigar-shaped. And instead of cypress, the ark  was made of woven rope with pitch applied to make it waterproof.  And the Mesopotamians weren’t as community minded as the Hebrews, either. Only one survivor makes it out of the flood alive, along with all the 2-by-2 livestock instead of the family affair populating Noah’s craft.

There are some other differences in the tales.  The Mesopotamian gods were angry at their human subjects because they made too much noise down here. The god of Israel was more concerned about all that violence in the Mid-East. Boy, was He prescient but His solution has met with mixed results.

The find is important because it points up the similarities in the ways ancient cultures viewed the world and coped with its unpredictable circumstances. Seeing themselves as pawns before angry gods and survivors of catastrophes beyond their control empowered these civilizations and brought disparate tribes together. Indeed, some scholars have opined that a function of ancient religion was to galvanize groups of humans with a common ancestry and belief system regardless of the effects of geography or political culture. The Flood Story seems have served that function many times over as it spread throughout the Fertile Crescent into Egypt and North Africa and beyond. You can read about flood stories around the world here. There are hundreds.

The find is a blow to Bible literalists however as it pokes a hole below the water line in Judeo-Christian exceptionalism. The Mesopotamian story predates the Biblical account by at least two millennium. Most Biblical scholars place the Great Flood at about the 9th Century BCE.

Regardless the archaeology confirms the power of myth in the ancient world and its lingering effects today.

Source: CNN

~Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

78 thoughts on “Flood Story Comes Full Circle”

  1. There is a movie coming out soon called Noah I recently saw the preview for it and it looks very interesting. Nice post here and thanks.

  2. Bill Cosby’s bit about Noah was on one of his first albums. I have all of those classic albums and the Noah bit was hilarious. Shouldn’t this post have been written on Sunday?

  3. QC,

    Because until the 300s AD there was not really an official branding of Christianity….. Thank the revisionist for the confusion….

  4. Dredd,

    There the Talmud and Torah as well…..as the tanakh…. I love how Davd spins it to his non fundamental Christian values….just confirms….

  5. Well, it IS safe to say that there are more Christians now than there were in Noah’s days.

  6. The Christian Bible tells the tale of Noah …” – Mark E

    Actually it’s the Hebrew Tanakh (“Old Testament”) that has the old story.

    The Christian Bible is the “New Testament.”

    The Christian Bible does mention it, as you say, but in a futuristic or prophetic sense:

    But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

    (Mt. 24:37-39).

  7. Lucifer will always try to counterfeit the Lord. If God builds an Ark, Lucifer throws out a story about a second to confuse. Jesus returns on a horse, Lucifer’s man Al Mahdi returns on one. It doesn’t surprise me that this is happening or being brought to light at the end of days. We are living in the days exactly as Noah had them, but one difference is there are far more Christians or believers now than there was in Noah’s days. Sadly, there isn’t as many as we would hope.

    1. JudeStringFellow wrote: “If God builds an Ark, Lucifer throws out a story about a second to confuse.”

      Maybe, or maybe it is just the way that gossip and storytelling deals with facts.

      Look at how many stories there are, within just a few decades, about the events of the World Trade Center being attacked. I can imagine thousands of years from now people arguing that it never really happened because look at how many different stories in different cultures there are that share similarities about the event.

  8. The late Joseph Campbell wrote and spoke frequently about the many similarities between religious myths, including a “great flood.” Hey, if it wow’d them in Birmingham it’ll sell in Topeka.

  9. Mark Esposito wrote: “The find is a blow to Bible literalists however as it pokes a hole below the water line in Judeo-Christian exceptionalism.”

    I don’t think you understand the Biblical literalist. All these discoveries confirm the Hebrew account rather than poke holes in it.

  10. “Only one survivor makes it out of the flood alive” !!! Now we should believe this story cause it is definitely more miraculous than the better known version.

    With just one survivor, this mandates the post flood involvement of God in the repopulation of the earth.

    And while were looking for more believable myths, let me sell you some beachfront property in Arizona.

  11. Raff,

    Remember the WKRP episode with Herb and Jerry Falwell about radio censorship…..

  12. Oh….. I’m telling jerry Falwell…. Next… Imagine no heaven…..

  13. Some contractor/developer in Holland built it. A rabid bible thumper, he is going to leave his legacy, or a cruise line will buy it.

    The fact that the world has gone through floods and other cataclysmic events both localized and world wide, is a no brainer. Civilizations around the world both independent of each other and connected have similar stories.

    Read ‘Worlds in Collision’ by I. Velakovsky. (sp?). His work is sketchy vis a vis strict scholastic dictums but well founded. He postulates that the earth passed through the tale of a comet some time ago and the effects would account for stories handed down, including those in the bible, i.e. the flood.

    So, five or six thousand years ago, it’s all god because science as we now know it does not exist. The big question is why is it believed today with what we really know? That’s the spooky part.

  14. And the ‘Jewish’ Ark had an ‘Auto Ramp’… so Noah could park his Mercedes….. as long as we’re making modifications…..

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