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PAM - What do you say to people who believe that the Genesis flood of Noah was just a Hebrew embellishment of the Gilgemesh Flood myth?

JOEL - Its quite understandable for those who don't believe in a literal reading of biblical events to equate Noah's flood with the epic of Gilgamesh. The stories are very similar and occur at about the same time in ancient history (2000-3000 bc). However, these people tend to overlook the moral differences between the two stories. In Genesis, the reason for the Flood was to end wickedness and violence on the earth (see Gen. 6:5–13); in The Epic of Gilgamesh, noisy humans were keeping the gods awake, “so the gods agreed to exterminate mankind” by flood.

What it all comes down to is if you don't believe in the Bible, the flood myth was the source for the scripture; if you do believe in the Bible, then what is described in the scriptures is what really happened and might be the source for the myth.

From LDS scholar John Tvednes:

"During the second half of the 19th century, scholars looking at the Gilgamesh Epic (and other related texts) suggested that the Jews who wrote the Bible borrowed the story during the time they lived in Babylonia. The main reason for this idea is that the Gilgamesh story was known from tablets that predated the time of Christ by a number of centuries, while the oldest known Bible manuscripts were only from the 9th-10th centuries AD. A century later, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, and some of them go back to the 3rd century BC, but still later than the cuneiform flood texts (Babylonian and Assyrian). Then came the discovery of a 4th-century BC papyrus in Egypt that contained part of Psalm 20. Now we have, from ca. 600 BC, a silver scroll from Jerusalem that quotes part of Numbers 6. These very early texts do not have the flood story, nor, indeed, the book of Genesis. I suppose the critics will not be satisfied until we have a Hebrew flood story that predates the Mesopotamian ones. There are two problems with this kind of thinking:

1. The Mesopotamian records were kept on clay tablets, which survive better than papyrus or parchment, so we may never see early Hebrew texts of Genesis. "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

2. The age of the material on which an account is written does not usually represent the date when the text was composed. It could be hundreds of years (and dozens of copies) later than the original. Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest copies of biblical texts were 9th-10th centuries AD, but we now know from later discoveries that these were not the oldest.

Consequently, the age of the Gilgamesh or Atrahasis accounts of the flood is irrelevant. That doesn't mean one can disprove the theory of a Mesopotamian origin of the biblical flood story, but from a strictly logical point-of-view, that theory does not prove that the Jews borrowed the account from others."

Here is a book that might be an interesting read about this:

"Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event That Changed History"

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