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Accuracy in Epic of Gilgamesh and The Hebrew Bible Essay

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There is much debate over the historical accuracy of the Hebrew Bible and The Epic of Gilgamesh. Some claim that to understand a work of literature requires extensive knowledge of the background of this work. The contrary position is that a work of literature can be interpreted solely on it’s content. The meaning of the term classical literature is that it can be applied during any period of time, it is eternal. Yet the conditions surrounding the author might still be of interest to the reader, and of importance to the work. As with many cases, the truth is somewhere in between the two extremes. Both sides have valid arguments about the importance of historicity.

To say that historicity is of the utmost importance may seem extreme. Yet to understand a work, it is important to know if these were fantastic, yet true tales, or if they came from the mind of an author. Some may read a deeper significance into a fictional work. The fact that a story was ‘invented’ usually mean that it was created for a specific purpose. An author would be more prone to using certain literary devices, even in the story line, then fate, or whatever one believes creates the true stories. A completely fictional story may have more use of symbolism, and to search for the meaning of this symbolism, it might be important to know the environment in which it was written.

On the other hand, a reader may put greater emphasis on the meaning behind stories based on fact. This may be because of a faith in a higher power that controls the events in a story. If one believes in God, or in any higher power, the events of a particular story can take on meaning as an act of this power, or even as a symbolic work from god. Still others may be more inspired by the...


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...f a leader. The fact that Gilgamesh is presented as divine in the book ends credence to the possibility that the actual King was believed to be godly.

It is in this instance, and others like it that we see another example of the importance of historicity. By studying these works, we can gain insight into ancient cultures, and even hypothesize about the past. If a work is highly historically accurate in other respects, it might lead one to believe that the other accounts in the work are accurate. Through this method, we may discover some of history through works of literature, history that records may not contain. Yet through this method we can only speculate, we cannot be certain of the accuracy of our results.

Works Cited:

Norman K. Gottwald The Hebrew Bible . Fortress Press, 1985.

Sandars, N. K., trans. The Epic of Gilgamesh. London: Penguin, 1972.


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