The Theme of Knowledge in Gilgamesh and Genesis

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Ancient world literature and early civilization stories are mostly centered on human’s relationship with higher beings. Ancient civilizations were extremely religious, holding the belief that their very lives were in the hands of their almighty god or goddess. This holds true for both the people of biblical times as well as those of the epic era. However, their stories have some differences according to cultural variation but the main structure, ideas, and themes are generally found correlative. It is hard to believe that one work did not affect the others. The first great heroic epic poem of Gilgamesh and the Old Testament are parts of two cultures that are hundreds of years apart. Whereas Gilgamesh is a myth and the book of Genesis is the basis of many religions, they both have notably similar accounts of symbols, motifs, meaningful events according to the relationship between the divine and humans in literature.

In addition to having with different languages, customs, and traditions, ancient Greeks, Hebrews, Middle-easterners or Romans have very different beliefs about the divine. For example, Old Testament is monotheistic, while Gilgamesh outlines many deities. Both texts have fundamental links in the relationships between deities and mankind, and the idea of knowledge. The Bible and Gilgamesh are literary texts that conjunctively parallel and contrast each other in various aspects such as wisdom. Knowledge is a prominent characteristic that is central in Gilgamesh and Genesis which builds a link between omniscient divine and mortals, but also distinction of power.

The ancient epic of Gilgamesh and Genesis both place a strong emphasis that the divine is much more superior to mankind in terms of power, control, and mor...

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...ses this imperative information of immortality. Enlil states them, "You were but human; now you are admitted into the company of gods. Your dwelling place shall be the Faraway" (Gilgamesh 75)." Enlil feels that Utnapishtim has obtained too much knowledge as a human. This acquisition of knowledge leads Enlil to make Utnapishtim immortal and a god. On account those events it is a clear indication that knowledge is preserved only for gods and punishment is reserved for man.

Wisdom is the key which keeps the hierarchy off balance, distinct of power and moreover favoring God or the gods over mankind. Upon reading and comparing Gilgamesh and the Old Testament, it should be state that deities prefer to control mankind's wisdom in order to maintain the higher status, continue the ideas of worship, power, sacrifice and honor within the relationship of mankind and divine.
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