The stories of the floods found in both Gilgamesh and Genesis contain many striking
similarities that are inevitably beyond mere coincidence. One could surmise that both of these stories might have a basis in common historical occurrence. However, despite the fact that both of these works discuss a common topic, the portrayal of this event is quite different. Like identical twins raised in different cultures, the expressions of these works are products of their environment.
The focus of this analysis is on Genesis (chapter 7) and Gilgamesh (lines 1 - 25). These two different passages will be analyzed to relate each document and how the author's worldview shapes his account of the flood.
First we shall examine the background of text so that we might understand how the culture and society had an impact on the works. The story of Gilgamesh supposedly started to take form around the year 2500 B.C., but was not written down until about 1300 B.C. The epic was passed down and developed in oral form for approximately one thousand years. As a result, the story must have changed drastically from the original, until it was finally written down on Sumerian clay tablets.
The Old Testament of the Bible, which includes the Book of Genesis, was also passed down through oral tradition before the Hebrews wrote it down from 1000-300 B.C. Both of these documents express the religious attitudes of these people as their story of the creation of the world and of humankind unfolds.
So let's look at how these two selected passages allude to the nature of the works as they each give account of the great flood that kills all of mankind. The author of Gilgamesh portrays ...
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...a "stupor of despair went up to heaven" and "even the gods were terrified and the flood, they fled to the highest heaven." This apparently shows that the society in which Gilgamesh was written had little faith in the ability of the gods to control their anger or their own powers. It is this lack of faith, which contributes to the morose undertones of this epic.
Through analyzing passages from both works, one can see how the author's environment and worldview has helped to shape the style and mood of each text. Both texts share a common event although told through different cultures. Even more, the unique perspectives of this tale help to develop the whole ambience of each document. Eac author unknowingly leaks valuable insight about his time and culture into his account to be locked in time for thousands of years. Now that's something real special.
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