Genesis of the Old Testament records a worldwide Flood early on in the history of human civilization. Tablet 11of the Sumero-Babylonian version of the epic of Gilgamesh also records a total Flood of the entire earth very early in mankind’s development. Let’s examine the two to determine if one could be the basis for the other.
Nels M. Bailkey in Readings in Ancient History: Thought and Experience from Gilganesh to St. Augustine, comments on the likenesses and lack thereof between the two versions:
The striking similarities with the later Hebrew story are quite evident, but the great gulf between them needs to be emphasized: the Hebrew version has been completely moralized. In the Hebrew account the Flood is sent because of sin, and the hero is saved because he is righteous. In the Sumero-Babylonian version the hero is saved out of mere favoritism and the gods send the Flood, as we learn from a separate account, because their sleep has been disturbed: “oppressive has become the clamor of mankind, by their uproar they prevent sleep.” Above all, the one supreme righteous God of the Hebrews contrasts with the gang of weak, quarrelsome, greedy gods who “cowered like dogs” in the presence of the Flood and who later “like flies gathered around the sacrificer.” (10)
Alexander Heidel in his book, The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels, provides a background for the survivor of the Sumero-Babylonian Flood, Utnapishtim:
Utnapishtim was the son of Ubara-Tutu, the Otiartes, or, rather, Opartes of Berossus. According to Berossus, the deluge hero was the tenth Prediluvian king in Babylonia. Also in the Sumerian inscription he i...
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...its acceptance by God – these are repeated in both accounts of the Flood.
Bailkey, Nels M. Readings in Ancient History: Thought and Experience from Gilganesh to St. Augustine. Third edition. Lexington, MA: D.C.Heath and Co., 1987.
Gardner, John and John Maier. Gilgamesh: Translated from the Sin-leqi-unninni version. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.
Harris, Stephen L. “Gilgamesh.” The Humanist Tradition in World Literature. Ed. Stephen Harris. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co., 1970.
Heidel, Alexander. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949.
Ignatius Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1966.
Sandars. N. K. The Epic of Gilgamesh. New York: Penguin Books, 1972.
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