(infographic) The Ancient Near East context of Genesis 1-11


(Jon) #1

This is an infographic I created last year to help illustrate the Ancient Near East context of Genesis 1-11, and to show how scholars typically relate this data to the biblical text. I hope some people here will find it useful. If you right click on the image and show it in a new tab, you can expand it, view it at full resolution (which will be easier to read), and download it for your own use.


(Christy Hemphill) #2

Very nice. Thanks for sharing. (Welcome to the BioLogos Forum.)


(Jon) #3

I’m glad you liked it, thanks for the welcome. I’m a long time lurker, first time poster.


(George Brooks) #4

@Jonathan_Burke

Since the infographic uses the word “scholars” several times (instead of the phrase “Bible Scholars”)… I assume you agree with the repeated caveat that the Bible writers were NOT copying mythological material from other (earlier) cultures?

George


(Jon) #5

@gbrooks9

Yes that is correct, I agree strongly with that caveat. That is why I said in the infographic “THE WRITERS OF THE BIBLE WERE NOT BORROWING FROM THESE TEXTS” and “THE BIBLE’S ACCOUNTS ARE NOT COPIES, OR HEBREW VERSIONS OF THESE MYTHS”. This caveat is not simply confined to Bible scholars, it is also found in mainstream secular scholarship.


(George Brooks) #6

@Jonathan_Burke,

It may be FOUND in secular scholarship, but it is definitely not the dominant view in secular scholarship.

The Flood story of the Sumerians is very much seen as the starting place for the Biblical version of a global flood.

And the stories of Creation, Eden and the first humans have lots of earlier parallels from Egyptian, Sumerian and Akkadian mythology.

But you did a nice job on the graphic. I salute you.

George


(Jon) #7

@gbrooks9

Thanks for the salute. I would be interested in your sources, thanks. There are certainly many parallels between Genesis 1-11 and the Sumerian and Akkadian mythology (Egyptian, not so much). This is not surprising given the exilic authorship of Genesis 1-11. However, there are many significant differences; despite much searching, the Adam-Eve-tree-fall narrative and Cain-Abel-Seth narrative have no parallels. Additionally, the flood narrative of Genesis 6-8 contains a number of elements which have convinced many scholars that both it and its Sumerian and Akkadian counterparts derive from a common historical event. When I refer to the broader scholarship I’m talking about scholars such as Heidel, Lambert, Snell, Tsumura, Tigay, Niehaus, and Millard. This isn’t exactly a marginal view; these are some of the leading scholars on Genesis 1-11, and in particular on the flood narrative.

The Genesis account of the flood contains information which differentiates itself significantly from its Mesopotamian counterparts. The Ark’s dimensions are seaworthy (unlike the Akkadian text and in particular the Assyrian re-write), Noah actually releases the birds in the correct order (the other texts have the birds released in totally the wrong order), the Ark is pushed up towards the mountains of Ararat (not south, as would be expected by anyone familiar with the geography but unfamiliar with the hydrology), and the detailed description includes calendar references demonstrating that meteorological events described in the text are all described as happening at the right time in the calendar (unlike the other Mesopotamian texts).


(Jon Garvey) #8

Jon

You omitted John Walton from your list - significant because he’s actually associated with BioLogos.

Nice piece of work, and useful here. Thanks.


(Jon) #9

Thanks Jon, and you’re welcome. I own nearly every book John Walton has written, and quote him specifically in my infographic. I omitted Walton (and many other excellent scholars), because for the sake of gbrooks9 I was confining myself to scholars specifically qualified in the field, who have published in the secular scholarship on this subject (unlike Walton).

Millard is an archaeologist and specialist in Semitic languages and cuneiform, Heidel was an Assyriologist, Tsumura is a specialist in Ancient Near Eastern studies and Ugarit, Tigay and Neihaus are well recognized for their Assyriological studies, Snell is an Assyriologist, and Lambert was the world’s authority on cuneiform, a leading Assyriologist, and a highly regarded specialist in Ancient Near Eastern literature.

All of these scholars are specifically qualified in this field and have published key works in the secular literature. This demonstrated to gbrooks0 that I was not simply citing knowledgeable Biblical scholars who were nevertheless not specifically qualified in the relevant fields, and who published almost exclusively for a Christian lay readership.


(George Brooks) #10

This is the best book I’ve ever read on the ORIGINAL flood story … and how the Hebrew scribes adopted the story into their legends…

“As skeptics have long been aware, there was no global flood in the last 5000 years, a boatload of animals did not ground on so-called Mount Ararat or on any mountain, and the world’s animals are not descended from two or seven pairs of each species that lived during the third millennium BC. Nor is there any archaeological proof that a man survived a flood by being on a boat loaded with animals, food, and drinking water.”

“The Noah’s Ark book summarized here does not claim historicity for Noah or the ark story, but the book does claim that some of the story elements in the Ancient Near East flood were based on an actual river flood. This archaeologically attested flood of the Euphrates River has been radiocarbon dated to about 2900 BC. This flood left a few feet of yellow mud in the Sumerian city Shuruppak, the ruins of which have been found at Tel Fara about 125 miles southeast of Baghdad. Some but not all Sumerian cities also show signs of this river flood at the beginning of the Early Dynastic I period. According to the Sumerian King List, a legendary king named Ziusudra lived in Shuruppak at the time of the flood. There was also a flood myth about king Ziusudra which includes several story elements very similar to the Genesis flood myth. Shuruppak was also the flood hero’s city according to the Epic of Gilgamesh. The flood myth in the Epic of Gilgamesh was adapted from an earlier myth, the Epic of Atrahasis which is also very similar to the Genesis flood myth. Six of these Ancient Near East flood myths contain numerous distinctive story elements that are very similar to the Genesis flood myth and indicate a literary affinity or dependency on a common body of myths about the flood hero Ziusudra and based on the Euphrates River flood of 2900 BC.”

“Parts of the original myths were physically possible, but other parts were not possible. The possible parts can be treated as an ancient legend to which mythical material was added later. However, without contemporary artifacts, it is not possible to prove how much of the original legend was true and how much was fiction based on a real flood. In the Noah’s Ark book, the original legend is reconstructed by piecing together fragments from the various surviving editions of the flood myth, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. This reconstruction is governed by the requirement that each story element in the legend be physically possible, technologically practical, consistent with archaeological facts, and plausible for 2900 BC. Some of the impossible story elements were mistranslations or misunderstandings, and these are corrected before including them in the reconstructed legend.”

“The reconstructed legend is this: Ziusudra reigned for ten years as king of Shuruppak, a Sumerian city then on the Euphrates River. Ziusudra’s reign was at the end of the Jemdet Nasr period that ended with the flood of 2900 BC. Then as now, river barges were used for transporting cargo on the Euphrates River. This cargo included livestock, beer, wine, textiles, lumber, stone, metals, dried fish, vegetable oil, and other cargo. In June about 2900 BC during the annual inundation of the Euphrates River, the river was at crest stage. A six-day thunderstorm caused the river to rise about 15 cubits (22 feet) higher and to overflow the levees. By the time the river began to rise, it was already too late to evacuate to the foothills of the mountains 110 miles away. Ziusudra boarded one the the barges that was already loaded with cargo being transported to market. The runaway barge floated down the Euphrates River into the Persian Gulf and grounded in an estuary at the mouth of the river. After moving to dry land, Ziusudra offered a sacrifice to a Sumerian god on an alter at the top of a temple ziggurat, an artificial hill. Later, story tellers mistranslated the ambiguous word for hill as mountain. The story tellers then erroneously assumed that the nearby barge must have grounded on top of a mountain. Additional details in the reconstructed legend about Ziusudra (Noah) can be found in the Noah’s Ark book.”

http://www.noahs-ark-flood.com/


(Jon) #11

@gbrooks9

Thanks. I have looked at Robert Best’s work on this subject before. I found some of it interesting and useful. However, as a non-expert he is’t well informed on the textual history of Genesis 1-11, and he isn’t well informed on the hydrology of the flood. He thinks a mere six day rainfall was sufficient to produce the flooding indicated by the deposits at Kish, Ur, and Shuruppak, and he doesn’t understand how to interpret accurately the existing flood deposit evidence. I have found the writings of Carol and Alan Hill (both professional hydrologists), more reliable in this area.


(George Brooks) #12

Jonathan,

Best has done a great job of explaining how boat technology and the circumstances of a river-based economy could produce a story of a global flood.

Since I don’t think there was a global flood, I’m more than content with that…


(Jon) #13

I don’t think the Bible describes a global flood. It speaks explicitly of people who survived, who didn’t belong to Noah’s family.


(George Brooks) #14

I must have missed an earlier posting of yours … which verse speaks of people who survived the flood that weren’t descended from Noah?


(Jon) #15

It’s Genesis 6:4. This was recognized in early rabbinic exposition, and is well recognized in current scholarly literature.

  1. The bald allusion to the Nephilim (lit. fallen ones) in Gen 6:3 (‘The Nephilim were on the earth in those days … ’) fits uneasily into a context that has always presented a challenge to exegetes.’, Coxon, ‘Nephilim’, in Toorn, Becking & Horst (eds.), ‘Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible’, p. 618 (2nd rev. ed. 1999).

  2. ‘In Genesis 6, the Nephilim are connected with the multiplication of humanity on the face of the earth (v 1) and with the evil of humanity which brings about God’s judgment in the form of the flood (vv 5–7). Verse 4 includes a reference to later (postdiluvian) Nephilim. The majority of the spies who were sent by Joshua to spy out Canaan reported giants whom they called Nephilim, and who are designated in the account as the sons of Anak (Num 13:33).’, Hess, ‘Nephilim’, in Freedman (ed.), ‘Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary’, volume 4, p. 1072 (1996).

  3. ‘From Numbers 13 we learn that the Anakites are said to be descendants of the “Nephilim.” If the Nephilim of Num 13:33 and Gen 6:4 are taken as the same group, the verse indicates that the Nephilim and their descendants survived the flood.’, Matthews, ‘New American Commentary’, p. 336 (2001).

  4. ‘It is not clear why or how the Nephilim survived the Flood to become the original 'Canaanites; probably a duality of older oral traditions can be detected in the clash between these two texts.’, Hendel, ‘Nephilim’, in Metzger & Coogan (eds.), ‘The Oxford guide to people & places of the Bible’, p. 217 (2004).

  5. ‘The nephilim of Num 13.33 are the people whom the men saw when they were sent to spy out the land of Canaan while Israel was in the wilderness. These beings described as gigantes in LXX present the reader with the problem of how giants survived the Flood, in contrast to the Watcher tradition that conveys that all the giants were physically killed.’, Wright, ‘The Origin of Evil Spirits: The Reception of Genesis 6.1-4 in Early Jewish Literature‘, p. 81 (2005).

  6. ‘Thus, within the Flood narrative itself, the sole continuity of life between pre-Flood and post-Flood is represented by Noath and the others in the ark. Beyond the Flood narrative proper, however, there are implicit pointers in a different direction. One issue is the presence of “the Nephilim” both before the Flood (Gen. 6:4) and subsequently in the land of Canaan as reported by Israel’s spies (Num. 13:33). Indeed, there is a note in the text of Genesis 6:4 which expliciitly points to the continuity of Nephilim pre-and post-Flood: “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days - and also afterwards” (my italics), a note which of course poses the problem rather than resolves it.’, Barton & Wilkinson, ‘Reading Genesis After Darwin’, p. 12 (2009).

  7. ‘Although in Numbers 13 the inhabitants of Canaan are considered enemies of the Israelites, both the use and co-ordination (LXX) or derivation of the designation (MT) in an allusion to Genesis 6 betrays an assumption that one or more of the Nephilim must have escaped the great deluge.’, Auffarth & Stuckenbruck, ‘The Fall of the Angels’, p. 92 (2004).


(George Brooks) #16

@Jonathan_Burke

Frankly, I think I we should CLAIM these texts to PROVE that a literalist view is inconsistent and illogical.

You say this is proof that someone outside of Noah’s family survived the flood. And yet there is no reference in the Noah story for who that person could be.

This is rather perfect evidence that the Old Testament is not an accurate history, but a collection of different story vectors… that are ultimately inconsistent with each other.

Thank you for the nice assist!


(Jon) #17

Actually George the point here is that the Genesis flood narrative and the Numbers narrative dovetail perfectly, even though they were written by different people at different times. That’s consistency, not inconsistency.


(George Brooks) #18

@Jonathan_Burke,

You just got done posting some pretty interesting material that people OTHER than Noah’s family survived the flood!

"It’s Genesis 6:4. This was recognized in early rabbinic exposition, and is well recognized in current scholarly literature.

1.‘The bald allusion to the Nephilim (lit. fallen ones) in Gen 6:3 (‘The Nephilim were on the earth in those days … ’) fits uneasily into a context that has always presented a challenge to exegetes.’, Coxon, ‘Nephilim’, in Toorn, Becking & Horst (eds.), ‘Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible’, p. 618 (2nd rev. ed. 1999).

2.‘In Genesis 6, the Nephilim are connected with the multiplication of humanity on the face of the earth (v 1) and with the evil of humanity which brings about God’s judgment in the form of the flood (vv 5–7). Verse 4 includes a reference to later (postdiluvian) Nephilim. The majority of the spies who were sent by Joshua to spy out Canaan reported giants whom they called Nephilim, and who are designated in the account as the sons of Anak (Num 13:33).’, Hess, ‘Nephilim’, in Freedman (ed.), ‘Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary’, volume 4, p. 1072 (1996).

3.‘From Numbers 13 we learn that the Anakites are said to be descendants of the “Nephilim.” If the Nephilim of Num 13:33 and Gen 6:4 are taken as the same group, the verse indicates that the Nephilim and their descendants survived the flood.’, Matthews, ‘New American Commentary’, p. 336 (2001).

4.‘It is not clear why or how the Nephilim survived the Flood to become the original 'Canaanites; probably a duality of older oral traditions can be detected in the clash between these two texts.’, Hendel, ‘Nephilim’, in Metzger & Coogan (eds.), ‘The Oxford guide to people & places of the Bible’, p. 217 (2004).

5.‘The nephilim of Num 13.33 are the people whom the men saw when they were sent to spy out the land of Canaan while Israel was in the wilderness. These beings described as gigantes in LXX present the reader with the problem of how giants survived the Flood, in contrast to the Watcher tradition that conveys that all the giants were physically killed.’, Wright, ‘The Origin of Evil Spirits: The Reception of Genesis 6.1-4 in Early Jewish Literature‘, p. 81 (2005). etc. etc. "

A LITERALIST, who has the exact narrative of who survived the flood and who didn’t … would have to REJECT these very creative deductions.

So I’m not sure how you intend to play BOTH SIDES of the argument…


(Jon) #19

Correct. Both Genesis and Numbers agree on this.

No they wouldn’t. On the contrary, these deductions are the result of reading the text literally. The text literally says the Nephilim survived the flood. That’s why early Jewish commentators such as Philo and Josephus (first century), and some of the early rabbis, as well as some early Christians (especially the Syrian Christians), understood the flood was local and that there were human survivors apart from Noah’s family.


(George Brooks) #20

@Jonathan_Burke

Aren’t you being a little wild here?

The part of Genesis that discusses these other people is NOT the part of Genesis that describes who survives Noah’s flood.

So how do you explain THAT inconsistency?