The Epic of Noah

We are all familiar with the story of how God, after giving man free will, got upset with man’s choices and decided to use a flood to slaughter every living thing on earth. Make a great kids story, right? This tale is well known in around the world, especially in history and science classes found in Louisiana public schools!

Scientists, philosophers and instant Bible experts debate the plausibility of such event. One has to remember that the idea of the earth being a globe is about 2,200 years old. For those that believe, for some reason, that the Bible is literally true, needs to concede that Genesis is describing the old Sumerian cosmology model which suggests that the earth is a flat disk nestled within the primeval waters. What keeps the waters above from whipping out the earth’s surface is a dense watery dome called a firmament. Within the firmament are the clouds and stars along with strategically placed gates. These gates are opened up periodically by the various sky gods to let the primeval waters sprinkle down in the form of rain and snow. Open them too much or too long, flooding occurs. Traveling across the sky within the firmament during the day is that big bright thing followed by the lesser bright thing (even though it’s not a light source) at night. The sun, it was believed, was not the sole light source but gave power to the respective sun deity. The light was believed to be generated from a source beyond the primeval waters which explains why in Genesis Chapter 1:3, God said, “Let there be light” on the first day but didn’t create the “greater light to rule the day” until the forth day. The Noah story was born in Mesopotamia and, like Egypt and other Middle Eastern cultures, life depended upon the annual flooding of the great rivers to make the surrounding lands fertile for farming. Water was and still is the lifeblood of any city and to the ancients; their world was surrounded by the stuff. They noticed that the sky was the same shade of blue as with the rivers and sea, so they concluded that there must be a massive amount of water above. How else would you explain rain and snow to a secluded society that relied only on the naked eye for observation? In some areas if you dig deep enough you ran into more water! So they concluded that there were waters below! The firmament idea held on strong until 1600 A.D. when the telescope was invented. To this day the first verses of Genesis still describe a flat earth something dear to those wonderful people of the Flat Earth Society.

To the cultures living in the Middle East throughout the Bronze and Iron Age, the “world” was defined as that area that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea, to the surrounding desert towards the far reaching mountain range on the east end of Mesopotamia. The average person back then didn’t get out much. The more adventuresome was born, lived and died within a 5 mile radius while others never left their village or knew the existence of other civilizations. To them, they were “it”. Up until the advent of the railroad in the mid 1800’s, the 5 mile living radius was boosted to about 35. But there was plenty of area out there that was simply unknown and, like today, what people didn’t know, they simply made up! You can make a lot of money doing this. People wrote books and sold books about places they never been to let alone know anything about. When President Jefferson sent Louis and Clark to explore the newly purchased Louisiana Purchase, they were expecting to encounter Woolly Mammoths and all sorts of prehistoric animals. Being 5,000 years too late, the only prehistoric animals they ran into were lice and mosquitoes!

The Sumerians built one of first Mesopotamian civilizations that settled between the fertile plains between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers what is now present day Southern Iraq. They referred to this area as Eden or Edin and archeologists find evidence that they first occupied the area around 5000 – 4000 BCE. They built the worlds first cities and invented the wheel, the plow and uniformed writing called cuneiform. By pressing a reed stylus into a slab of clay tablets, they went on to invent accounting, first forms of algebra and produced some of the first works of literature. One single fragmentary tablet excavated in the ancient ruins of the Nippur tells the story of Sumerian creation. To summarize, it tells how the gods, Anu, Enlil, Enki and Ninhursanga created the black-headed people (the Sumerians) and provided a comfortable living condition (Edin) for all the animals of the field to live and procreate. There the first cities were founded: Eridu, Bad-Tibira, Larak, Sippar and Shuruppak. A section is missing but it continues on by saying that Enlil, god of storms, declared that he was going to slaughter all mankind with a great storm. Enki, god of waters, breaks his silence and warns a man named Ziusudra to tear down his reed house, and use the material to build a huge boat to save himself, family, all crafts people of the village, and all the animals of the field. For seven days and seven nights “the huge boat had been tossed about on the great waters." When the sun deity, Utu arrived, Ziusudra prostrates himself, and sacrifices an oxen and sheep where the sweet scents attracted the gods who come down to bless him. Enlil arrived and went into a rage after seeing that there were survivors. He was punished by the other gods and he conceded by granting Ziusudra and his wife eternal life and sent to live in the paradise city of Dilmun (the Sumerian holy city which became the inspiration for the Garden of Eden). This story was based on an actual event that took place in the ancient city of Shuruppak around 2900 BC. Ziusudra was a high priest, king, and merchant who appear on the WB-62 Sumerian King List. The story goes that he was caught in a flash flood as he and his crew were loading grains, livestock and beer onto one of his barges. The Euphrates overran the levees and flooded Shuruppak and nearby cities. He and his crew drifted down the river and eventually found themselves in the sea (Persian Gulf). The story was written down and became one of the first literary novels. Centuries later, the flood story was modified and incorporated into the ancient poem, The Epic of Gilgamesh. In around 580 BC, Nebuchadnezzar II held about 2,500 Jews captive following the siege of Judah. These captives were exposed to Mesopotamian culture and literature. Fearing that they would be eventually put to death, the Jewish scribes quickly started writing down the stories of their people on a scroll that will eventually become the Torah. To provide inspiration, they incorporated and modified a lot of local popular stories and myths into their own, being The Epic of Gilgamesh was one of them.

Biblical scholars and other instant experts claim that the Ark still sits on top of Mt Arrat. They are just fooling themselves while in the process of making complete fools out of themselves as well. But there are plenty of felloe fools willing to fund their misadventures. In reality, all one has to do is spend 30 minutes researching other existing Bronze Age cultures to see what they had to say. The Ancient Egyptians, Celtics, Romans, Greeks, Mongolians, and other established cultures all share one thing in common, none of them heard of a world wide floor. There is no huge interruption in cultural advancement that would suggest such an event. The Noah story is one of seven popular flood myths all based on the Shuruppak disaster. Like 99% of the Biblical stories, these were never meant to be taken literally. The Jews know that now as they knew back then. Ancient literary works were not classified as fiction and nonfiction as they are now. They were originally written for inspiration and hope during bad times. Back then times were really bad. But in today’s world a spoiled American teenager who can’t find a prom date or lost his car keys would be enough to pray to God and maybe sacrifice a goat or two! Ziusudra still lives with us as Noah, but unlike the Biblical Genesis, there’s no indication in the Sumerian versions that modern humans are products of incest, not once, but twice!

Paul Wingert

3/3/16

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