Stories of creation exist in every religion and have been passed down for generations in their respective cultures. Striking similarities are readily seen between the Book of Genesis and the Epic of Gilgamesh of the Hebrews and Sumerians respectively. Both sources include a tale of a great flood that was to clear the earth of its inhabitants. Although the Epic of Gilgamesh predates the Book of Genesis by hundreds of years, the Sumerian text probably had a profound influence over the latter.
Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament in the Bible, is so named because it opens with an account of the creation of the world. The first 11 chapters, which are heavily indebted to Mesopotamian tradition, trace the gradual expansion of humankind and the development of human culture. But they show the ambiguity of this development by incorporating stories about the sin of Adam and Eve and about the Deluge, both of which illustrate humankind's growing alienation from God and one another. Although Moses has traditionally been considered the author of Genesis, modern scholars generally agree that the book is a composite of at least three different literary strands: J (10th century BC), E (9th century), and P (5th century). The interpretation of the book has led to many controversies. One of the most difficult problems has been distinguishing historical fact from symbolic narration intended to convey a religious message.
Gilgamesh is one of the oldest recorded stories in the world. It tells the story of an ancient King of Uruk, Gilgamesh, who may have actually existed, and whose name is on the Sumerian King List.
In both stories of the great deluge the flood is created by the gods or God to punish men for their sins, and is intended to wipe out all living creatures as well. Both Utnapishtim in Gilgamesh and Noah in Genesis are previously notified of the event and are told to build a boat of grand proportions, bringing along the seed of all living things to...
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