We are no expert on Mesopotamian legends, but it seems that there are three principal Mesopotamian flood stories that pre-date the tale of Noah’s Ark. They are older than Genesis, which is believed to have been written during the Babylonian captivity, almost 600 BC, or not long thereafter. According to Wikipedia, those three earlier flood stories are:
First, the flood of Ziusudra, who was said to be the last pre-flood king of Sumer. That flood lasted seven days.
Second, the flood of Gilgamesh (in which the Noah character is named Utnapishtim), known from accounts that go back to around 2,000 BC (around 14 centuries before the writing of Genesis). That flood lasted six days.
Third, the flood of Atra-Hasis, a Sumerian king. Accounts go back as far as 16 centuries BC, roughly 1,000 years before Genesis was written. That flood lasted for seven days.
Then there is the newly-found 3,700 year-old tablet (from roughly 17 centuries BC), translated by Dr Irving Finkel, a curator at the British Museum, which we first wrote about here: Hey, Hambo — Noah’s Ark Was Round! In that one, like number 3 above, the Noah figure was a Sumerian king named Atram-Hasis. We assume it’s the same legend.
It seems obvious that in this sequence of Middle Eastern stories, the later ones are adaptations and revisions of earlier ones, but this is untenable to those who believe that the most recent tale, the one told in Genesis, is The Truth™. An example of the creationists’ efforts to revise what they see as chaos is presented to us today by the creation scientists at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page.
Their new essay is Cuneiform Reed-Ark Story Doesn’t Float . It’s by Brian Thomas, described at the end as: “Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.” He says, with bold font added by us:
News emerged in 2010 that Irving Finkel, a cuneiform expert at the British Museum, had translated an ancient tablet describing Noah’s Ark as round and built of reeds. Now, Finkel is publishing a book on the find, and news reports again assert the tired tale that the Bible’s authors borrowed a Babylonian flood tale like the one on this tablet and modified it into their “story” of Noah. Babylonian or biblical, round or rectangular — which Ark story stays afloat?
ICR is weary of “the tired tale that the Bible’s authors borrowed a Babylonian flood.” It should be fascinating to see how they refute it. Here we go:
Then in 2012, British historian Bill Cooper published a 1909 translation by Dr. Hermann Hilprecht of a Babylonian flood tablet that pre-dates Finkel’s fortuitous find. The two tablets differ substantially in details, with implications for both Finkel’s book and the Bible’s veracity.
We didn’t know about Cooper. All of ICR’s footnotes are to creationist publications, so we ignored them and went searching. We found a book by Bill Cooper. Here’s the listing at Amazon: After the Flood: The Early Post-flood History of Europe Traced Back to Noah. Cooper is described as: “a Vice President of the Creation Science Movement in England. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor on the Master Faculty at the Institute for Creation Research School of Biblical Apologetics.” Let’s forget about Cooper’s work and read on:
The link is clear. The oldest tablet retains the highest quality of information because it appears it was written when the actual Flood survivors were still living and could have quickly squelched inaccurate versions of the Flood events.
The “oldest tablet” is oldest according to Cooper. But is it really the first? Even if it is, it doesn’t say much at all. We continue, as ICR clears everything up for us:
The notion that Bible authors borrowed from Babylonian myths — made explicit in Finkel’s book title The Ark Before Noah — fails for the same reason. Supposedly the Jews living as captives in Babylon revised their history to include the Babylonian flood account; but if that were so they would have been written off as fiction writers by their contemporaries, who could refute their historically revisionist peers. Plus, why would the Jewish exiles ever want to adopt the historical identity of their brutal pagan captors?
Most persuasive! Here’s more:
Reality is the reverse. Noah’s Ark was the first Ark and the only real one. Babylonian and other cultures’ dim memories produced fanciful versions of the real events recorded in Scripture.
Are you convinced, dear reader? If not, why not? Moving along:
[W]ith the unreasonable disdain that secular scholarship has toward God’s Word, each copy [of Finkel’s book] sold will undoubtedly mislead its reader that the Genesis Flood account was borrowed from myth and is therefore a myth itself.
How horrible! Hey — just so you’ll know what not to buy, here’s Amazon’s listing of The Ark Before Noah, by Irving Finkel. Another excerpt from ICR:
But wouldn’t this line of reasoning [presumably Finkel’s] unravel all of Scripture? Isaiah, Ezekiel, Peter, and Jesus, for example, accepted Noah and his Ark of deliverance at face value.
And so should you, dear reader. Here’s how the article ends:
The earlier date for the Hilprecht tablet [asserted by the creationist Bill Cooper] combines with the unique feasibility of the Bible’s Ark description to firmly establish the Genesis rectangular Ark — not a round Ark — as the real one. Genesis offers the only Ark account that floats.
There you are. Noah’s Ark is the real deal. Accept no substitutes! Oh, here’s a link to something we wrote before we read the ICR article: Top Ten Reasons Noah’s Flood is Mythology. We’re so ashamed!
Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.