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Gilgamesh Vs, Christianity Essay, Research Paper
Many of the same ancient stories can be found in different cultures. Each story differs in some aspects, but the general themes can have striking similarities. One story that is paralleled in several cultures is the legend of a great, disastrous flood. The epic of Gilgamesh resembles the Bible’s story of Noah’s Ark, but specific details differ on several occasions.
The story of Gilgamesh originates from twelve fire-hardened, mud tablets, written in cuneiform, in the Mesopotamian culture from around 2500 B.C.E. It has been passed down through generations for centuries, teaching obedience to gods. The story of Noah’s Ark, found in the Old Testament, seems to do the same thing; teach the importance of
being obedient to God.
Both sagas start with the earth being extremely populated, with no foreseen
break in the continuation of a booming culture. The earth was too full. People
were rowdy and reckless. Crime was widespread and grew day to day. These
heretical activities would not be tolerated for long; the flood is now scheduled to
arrive soon. Noah’s story creates the theme that the flood was sent because the earth had
become corrupt and filled with violence, (Genesis, 6). The only way to destroy this violence was to drown everyone but the chosen few. These chosen few were hand-picked by God as good people to start a new, more wholesome and obedient civilization. Gilgamesh’s story says the reason for the flood was the volume the people created. The noise was intolerable and the gods insisted on ending the racket at once (Gilgamesh). The only reason Gilgamesh was spared is that he was informed of the flood by Ea, the water god, through a dream. Ea was one of many gods in this time. He told him to build a boat of equal width and length. He was to tear down his house for wood and tell the curious townspeople that he was instructed to leave the city and go out to sea so as to please the gods. Ea also instructed him to take the seeds of life onto the ship with him. Meaning two of each animal, enough food for them and his family to eat for some time, and whatever grain was left over would be planted once the water receded, (Epic of Gilgamesh).
Noah was also instructed to do the same. Only his orders came from the one and only God. The Jewish culture believes in one supreme being. God told Noah to build a boat, not of equal width and length, but in more of an oval shape. The boat was built to hold the seeds of life as well, along with Noah’s family, (Genesis, 6). Gilgamesh brought his family on the boat as well, but he also brought all the craftsmen that helped to build it.
This is a huge difference between the stories. The craftsmen were an added group that reproduced and passed on their skills. Noah only took his family, relying on God to provide them with the necessary items that they could not produce. There were not any other people on board. Therefore, the corruption of this world is thought to come from one of Noah’s sons, descending down through him. If Gilgamesh brought craftsmen on the boat, this is a new place to lay the blame for today’s violence. The next discrepancy lies in the amount of time it rained. Noah’s story emphasized rain for forty days and forty nights. The number forty also appears in several other biblical stories. Gilgamesh’s rainfall lasts for just six days and nights. Upon the arrival on the mountain top, each man sent out a dove, which returned because it found no place to land. Then, Gilgamesh sent out a swallow, which also returned. When Gilgamesh sent out a raven, it did not return. He knew the raven had found a place to land and food to live off of. So the animals were released and the group started a new civilization.
Noah seemed to like the dove, for he sent out another one, seven days later, instead of a swallow. When the dove returned with an olive branch in its beak, he knew the water had receded, but he decided to wait another seven days then send out another dove. When that dove did not return, Noah knew the water had receded enough to provide food and shelter for all living things, (Genesis, 8). When the contents of the boat had been emptied, Gilgamesh made a sacrifice of cane, cedar wood, and myrtle to appease the gods that had allowed him to survive. The gods were pleased with the offering and blessed the rabble. One god was furious that there were survivors, but he was convinced by other gods to let them live out their lives and start a new civilization. Noah also made a sacrifice to God upon exiting the ark. He took from every animal and made burnt offerings on an alter he had created. When God smelled the sweet aroma, he vowed never again to
curse the earth because men are born evil (Genesis, 6), they do not become evil. Their wrongdoings originate from their heart and not from the decisive mind, (Genesis, 9). The fact that many ancient civilizations have a story with a great flood could mean that there really was a world wide catastrophe. Since the majority of the world’s population lived on the oceanic planes where the land was fertile and travel by boat was easiest, if the ocean level was raised even slightly, it would seem that their whole world was flooding. Also, there is one known flood that occurred in ancient times.
With so many different cultures trying to explain a great flood, there are bound to be differences in each account. The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark are different in small details. The fact that the two stories are so close in account to each other, with regard to general storyline, is quite amazing when considering the fact that these two cultures are so very different.
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