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Nov 8, 2017 in Literature
The Epic of Gilgamesh and Genesis
The Epic of Gilgamesh closely compares the first chapters of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, majorly on story of Noah’s Ark. The Epic of Gilgamesh is written in Akkadian, the route language of Babylonians, which is believed to be up in the hierarchy of Semitic languages in contrast to the Hebrew, in which The Book of Genesis was written. The two narratives have images of comparison that is the boat, the king, and the serpent. The Epic of Gilgamesh hits climax in similarity in Tablet XI when it speaks of the great flood which is similar to the flood in Genesis, Chapter 6. Could the two stories be one and the same thing as some scholars suppose? Arguably, the two stories are different and one of them is a fable.
However, there are also major distinctions and deviations of The Epic of Gilgamesh in comparison to the Bible. The first ten tablets capture the reign of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian King. This analysis looks into the character of Gilgamesh, Utanapishtim and Noah of the Bible. It further looks into the different periods when the two are said to have been written. This paper questions the credibility of the Tablet Eleven telling the story of the flood in contrast to the story of Noah in the Bible. It argues in favour of Christian faith comforting them that such epics are not trustworthy and should never be a bother to them.
Many people find Christian faith a bit hard. Having used the Bible as a manual to know faith, many live by the witness of their encounter with the saviour like Paul on his way to Damascus. It is important to study this early history to understand the case before us. Archaeology has proven that the epic was written many years before Genesis was written. The epic disputes the credibility of the book as a true record of history that Christians should rely on. Even if archaeology speaks differently that their dating of the material cannot be disputed, its many faults discredit it. No one will care whether it was written earlier if it gives poor information.
There are several tablets on the life of Gilgamesh as a strong and oppressive King. The closest link is the event of flood that appears in Genesis and in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Though there are other places of comparison, this story shows close similarities leaving it upon keen observers to see the differences. To find the variations, this study limits itself on the flood story without much consideration to the rest of the stories.
To focus deeper into the Epic story, Tablet Eleven, there is a need to understand the language that was involved. Obviously, the difference in the languages and the similarity of the information presented from the two sources raises some questions. The epic from the Akkadian language would never have been easily translated to Hebrew and vice versa because of the distance in language family. This may give the epic some credibility.
It is important to focus on certain aspects of personality of the characters involved and experiences surrounding each of them and their motivation to build a boat or an ark. Were they both credible and trustworthy? Is it Noah, Gilgamesh or Utanapishtim? In arguments, did the event really occur or was it a fiction story fabricated by humans? Is there enough archaeological evidence concerning the flood?
According to Alexander, Genesis narrates of giants in form of angels who loved human daughters and bore children that were monsters (13). Coupled with the same facts, was Gilgamesh and Enkidu, the friend of Gilgamesh, a part of this lot that the Bible speaks of? Noah’s ark is believed to have been most stable compared to what Utanapishtim built as instructed by the gods. The two were different when their comparing their stability. The images of the boats are different while the birds are similar. If the information regarding the same was passed through oral tradition, which story crossed the other?
There are still questions on how these stories relate while Akkadian language bore the Babylonian language that lost its meaning by around 50 B.C. The Hebrew language appeared from the Canaanite, and it has survived up to date. In between the two languages there is Aramaic later evolving to Syria making a bridge between the two. How did the story spread if it was one when the languages could not cross? Could archaeological evidence be lying to the masses?
Austen Henry, an archaeologist, discovered the tablets containing the epic in 1853. The Epic of Gilgamesh dates back to around 650 BC. This was at the ruins of Nineveh. It had the story and the poem which are older than the written historical material. It told the story of a legendary hero, a king of Uruk, a Sumerian king who ruled for more than a hundred years.
The story is told in Akkadian, a language descending from a Semitic language family root different from the Hebrew language. The Hebrew descends from the Canaanite language, which is from Northwest Semitic language with Aramaic. Canaanite language is closely connected with Arabic. The confusing fact is that Akkadian language died in the next years. In analysis, these languages did not match or meet. If sharing between the languages happened, it should have been before 50 BC until the disappearance of Akkadian language. One would take it that the flood occurred in all parts of the world.
A controversial issue was the dimension of Noah’s Ark. The dimensions given in Utanapishtim are similar in some way, but some major information is omitted as well as distorted regarding what gave the boat strength. From his description as told by the family of gods, Utanapishtim builds a boat that scholars and engineers doubt it would survive the flood. It is well proven that Noah’s Ark was stable compared to Epic Ark. By the calculations of the dimensions in the building of Noah’s Ark, it is conceivable that a higher power was involved in building the ark, or Supreme guidance.
Gilgamesh as a King oppressed his subjects. Actually, he cannot be compared to Noah, who was righteous. In Chapter Six of Genesis, Noah found favour in the sight of God. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the gods become hungry and they are craving for sacrifices. Someone would consider asking what kinds of gods these are. They can give immortality but fail to secure food for themselves. This disputes the credibility of this Epic. The Hebrew God is portrayed as almighty in the Bible and in Genesis, and does not help in any of the situation.
There are several questions that can be raised against this Epic. For instance, whether the ancient Babylonian communities were trying to have stories similar to the Bible records to dispute its credibility or just to have some equality? The credibility of the Bible record has gone through several tests. In fact, Christians may believe or fail to believe this epic story. If they do believe the story, it means their faith is not built on a credible source.