Mods, I am not sure if this is the correct forum for this, so please move to the correct one if you feel it should be elsewhere.
With that said, please enjoy ATS =)
#DISCLAIMER - THERE ARE SOURCES AT THE END OF THE OP AND THOSE SOURCES ARE CITED #THROUGHOUT THE PAPER. PLEASE READ THE ENTIRETY OF THE OP BEFORE
COMMENTING. THIS IS #NOT A BIBLE BASHING THREAD. THIS IS A PAPER THAT I WROTE COMPARING THE TWO. IF YOU #BELIEVE THIS IS A BASHING THREAD, PLEASE READ
THE FINAL PARAGRAPH FIRST. IF YOU ARE #HERE TO BASH THE BIBLE, GO BECOME AN HERO
The Bible was written using stories and themes from earlier cultures and religious texts.
Much of Sumerian religion and epic poetry can be found today throughout the Bible. The earliest known version of The Epic of Gilgamesh was transcribed
during the Third Dynasty of Ur somewhere between 2150 and 2000 BCE. The earliest Akkadian versions of the story have been dated somewhere around the
eighteenth or seventeenth century BCE, and were written on 12 clay tablets using cuneiform script. The standard Akkadian version that is used for a
majority of the current translations was found in the library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh, and was written between 1300 and 1000 BCE. The theoretical
date that religious scholars believe that the Hebrew Bible, the Torah was written by Moses is between 1446 and 1406 BCE. Just by those dates alone, it
shows that The Epic of Gilgamesh was written a minimum of 500 years before Moses first wrote the first books of the Torah. Also, you will find that
even in the book of Ezekiel, which was written around 550 BCE, there are references to Sumerian deities. In Ezekiel 8:14, you will find that Ezekiel
sees the women of Israel weeping for Tammuz, a Sumerian goddess, because of a drought.
Many of the similarities between Sumerian religion and the Bible can be found in the book of Genesis. In both the Sumerian story of creation and the
Bible, the world is formed from “a watery abyss” and the “heavens and earth” are separated from one another by a supreme being. In the second
chapter of the book of Genesis, we are introduced to the Garden of Eden. This draws a direct parallel to the Sumerian Dilmun, which comes from the
story of “Enki and Ninhursag”(ETCSL). In the story of Enki and Ninhursag, Dilmun is described as a pure and holy land. Enki blessed Dilmun to
have sweet, overflowing waters. Enki also fills Dilmun with rivers, lagoons and palm trees. In the Sumerian story, Enki impregnates Ninhursag. This
causes a total of eight new plants to spring from the ground. The Garden of Eden also has a river which overflows and causes the creation of four
rivers, which are the Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel and Euphrates rivers. The Garden of Eden is also filled with many fruit bearing trees, including the
tree of forbidden knowledge.
You will also find similarities in the creation of man. In the Bible we find that god created man “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the
ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7) In the Sumerian story of “Enki and Ninmah”(ETCSL), you will see that
they used a similar method and fashioned man out of clay.
“My mother, the creature you planned will really come into existence. Impose on him the work of carrying baskets. You should knead clay from the top
of the abzu; the birth-goddesses (?) will nip off the clay and you shall bring the form into existence. Let Ninmah act as your assistant; and let
Ninimma, Cu-zi-ana, Ninmada, Ninbarag, Ninmug, (missing text)...... and Ninguna stand by as you give birth. My mother, after you have decreed his
fate, let Ninmah impose on him the work of carrying baskets." (5 lines fragmentary) ...... she placed it on grass and purified the birth.” (Enki
and Ninmah: 24-37)
The similarities quickly vanish as Enki and Ninmah create five more versions of man, each with some sort of malformation and eventually Enki and
Ninmah get in to an argument.
In the story “Enki and Ninhursaja” (ETCSL), we find the first possible similarity to the biblical Eve. In this story, Enki and his minister Isimud
are in a marsh in the city of Dilmun, which has been given to Ninhursaja. Enki ends up eating eight different plants from the garden, which happen to
be Ninhursaja’s children. When Ninhursaja finds out about this, she curses Enki. “Ninhursaja cursed the name Enki: "Until his dying day, I will
never look upon him with life-giving eye"" (Enki and Ninhursaja: 220). This curse causes Enki to have eight wounds on his body, one for each of the
plants that he has eaten. Enlil, Enki’s brother, and a fox act on behalf of Enki. They track down Ninhursaja and have her undo the damage caused by
the curse she has placed on Enki. Ninhursaja and Enki have sex, the result being eight new children being born to replace the ones that Enki has
eaten. As they are born, these new children in turn each heal one of Enki’s wounds. The child that heals Enki’s rib is named Ninti. “"My
brother, what part of you hurts you?" "My ribs (ti) hurt me." She gave birth to Ninti out of it.” (Enki and Ninmah: 264-271) Ninti is also known as
the Queen of months and the lady of the rib (ti). In the book of Genesis, Eve is created by God by taking one of Adams ribs.
“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib
which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.” (Genesis 2: 21-22)
This shows that both stories have the creation of woman by taking a rib from man. If you take in to consideration the tale of Lilith, Adams first
wife, we find it is also the creation of a replacement woman, which is what Ninti was.
In The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Bible, there is a plant that has special powers. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, it is called "The Old Men Are Young
Again". In the story, our hero, Gilgamesh is searching for a way to bring his half-brother, Enkidu, back to life. He travels with a ferryman named
Urshanabi across the sea to a wild place where the flower grows. When they arrive, the two travel to a washing place, where Gilgamesh spots the
flower. As he reaches for the flower, a serpent that resides in the pool of water rises up out of the water and takes the flower. As soon as the
serpent does this, it “immediately sloughed its skin and returned to the well” (Epic of Gilgamesh pg.22). After this happens Gilgamesh gives up
searching for a cure for Enkidu and goes home. In the narrative of Adam and Eve, Eve is convinced by a serpent to partake of the fruit of the Tree of
Knowledge of Good and Evil. Even after the warning from God, Eve not only eats the fruit, but convinces Adam to eat it as well. As a result of this
God curses the serpent. ““So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than
every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.””(Genesis 3:14). God also casts Adam and
Eve from the Garden of Eden. This is where the two stories share common ground. ““Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one
of us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.”” (Genesis 3:22).
This shows that in both stories the end the result is the same. The intervention of a snake causes the loss of immortality for not only Enkidu, but
also for Adam and Eve.
Another similarity in themes between the two stories is both Enkidu and Adam and Eve and the loss of innocence. They both start off naked living
among wildlife and trees, and both having no knowledge of good or evil. Both lose this innocence after participating in acts that disrupt their
harmony with nature. After Enkidu meets a trapper that works for Gilgamesh, he is lured to a watering hold to meet the trapper and a harlot. After
Enkidu has sex with the harlot, the animals no longer respond to Enkidu and bolt away when he comes near.(The Epic of Gilgamesh pg.4-5) Once Enkidu
loses this innocence, he starts wearing clothes and joins civilized society with Gilgamesh. In the Garden of Eden, once Adam and Eve do eat the fruit
from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they too lose their touch with nature. The two also clothe themselves and join society once they are
cast out of the garden. The main difference between the two is that Enki’s situation is seen in a positive light, while the story of Adam and Eve
has negative connotations.
In The Epic of Gilgamesh, during Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality to save Enkidu, he meets a man by the name of Utnapishtim. Gilgamesh asks
Utnapishtim how he gained his eternal life, Utnapishtim relates to Gilgamesh the story of the great flood. While Utnapishtim was living in the city of
Shurrupak, one of the four primary Sumerian gods EA came to Utnapishtim and whispered to him that he should:
“tear down your house and build a boat, abandon possessions and look for life, despise worldly goods and save your soul alive. Tear down your house,
I say, and build a boat. These are the measurements of the barque as you shall build her” (Epic of Gilgamesh pg.20)
EA then proceeds to give Utnapishtim the measurements to build the boat, and commands him to “take up into the boat the seed of all living
creatures.” (Epic of Gilgamesh pg. 20) In the Story of Noah and the great flood, God comes to Noah and instructs him to build an Ark built of
gopherwood. He then tells him the measurements, and instructs Noah “of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the
Ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.” (Genesis 6:19). In both stories the flood is created by the gods because they are
unhappy with man and that the impending flood is related to common man by a divine presence. Also in both stories they are instructed not only how to
build the boat with exact dimensions, but also to bring their families and animals with them. More similarities between the two arrive later in the
story, with specificity for how long the flood lasted. ”For six days and six nights the winds blew, torrent and tempest and flood overwhelmed the
world, tempest and flood raged together like warring hosts. When the seventh day dawned the storm from the south subsided, the sea grew calm, the
flood was stilled.” (The Epic of Gilgamesh) “Now the flood was on the earth for forty days.” (Genesis 7:17) Another similarity comes after the
flood subsides, when both Utnapishtim and Noah both release not only ravens but also doves to see if the waters had dried from the earth. After this
happens, both men build alters and make offerings to their God in acts of worship. There are many differences between the stories of the great flood
in the book of Genesis and The Epic of Gilgamesh. However, when the similarities are pointed out between the two there is a clarity of reason about
why the flood happened, the relationship between the hero of the story and their respective God, the specifics about not only how to build the ship
but what to bring on it, the timed duration of the flood, the kinds of birds that were released after for their test flights for land. Even after the
flood, both boats come to rest on a mountainside, instead of perhaps on a plain or valley. By examining the relationship between the two stories, even
with their differences, you find that their commonalities are great. The most glaring similarity is the point by point order of these similarities
throughout the stories, even though logically there are so many other possibilities, variations and alternatives.
There are numerous direct parallels in the Epic of Gilgamesh with stories, facts and events in the Bible. While it is true that other flood stories
like the Epic of Atra-Hasis (1635 BC) and the Eridu Genesis (2150 BC) have details that predate Genesis (1440 BC), the Gilgamesh Epic was written at
least 500 years before Genesis. This may explain some of the parallels. Above all, the many parallels give evidence that both are truly ancient
documents with figures of speech and themes typical of the age and culture of the ancient Middle East. This should not surprises us, for today, many
books are written with similar figures of speech and culture ideas. For example, if someone said “he only has 8 lives left” we all know that the
person almost died. The idea that a “cat has nine lives” might appear, 1000 years from now, an idea that one person copied from another and
another. On the other hand, we all know that, it is a foundational cultural communication tool. This could explain some of the parallels between the
book of Genesis and The Epic of Gilgamesh without interdependence between sources. A universally believed fact like Noah’s Ark would clearly ignite
a lot of stories given that Noah lived after Gilgamesh. Having said this, it is possible that the book of Genesis might have incorporated specific
ideas from the the Epic of Gilgamesh that was written at least 500 years earlier. However, some parallels could be explained as common figures of
speech of the era.
edit on 17-3-2011 by Vizzle because: nudity
Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Ebeling, J., Flückiger-Hawker, E., Robson, E., Taylor, J., and Zólyomi, G., The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian
), Oxford 1998–2006.
Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Vol. 7. 27 vols. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2008. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 20 Oct.
Kramer, Samuel Noah. History Begins at Sumer. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday / Anchor, 1959. DS 72 .K7.
The Epic Of Gilgamesh, Assyrian International News Agency. Books Online. (www.aina.org...
), Mar. 2011.
The Holy Bible, New King James Version. National Publishing Company, 1985
edit on 17-3-2011 by Vizzle because: DISCLAIMER