Noah’s Flood: a plausible scenario or just another story?

Continuing the discussion from Why is the story of the Flood so detailed?:

I read the linked article (https://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2018/PSCF9-18Dickin.pdf) presenting a fairly plausible flood scenario with interest, and I’m still thinking about it a couple weeks later. Part of me is going wow, yeah, it sounds really legit! And the other part is asking if this is one of those cases where I don’t know what I don’t know.

So, what do others think about it? There are a number of points brought up. (Haha let’s see how much I remember of what I read!)

  1. The flood as described was likely to have been flooded, flat riverlands dealing with both heavy rains and sea levels backing up the river so it didn’t drain.

  2. The author sees evidence for this type of flood a couple of thousand years before commonly calculated flood dates, where scientists have previously overlooked it.

  3. The flood story may additionally have served as a metaphor for a flood of invaders early in the history of the Sumerian empire.

  4. The word ark and the descriptions of its construction lead the author not to a giant wooden boat but to a wood-framed, reed-woven floating ‘island’ with a hut in the middle, similar in construction techniques to those the Marsh Arabs still build today (a construction technique known to be at least four thousand years old).

  5. Further evidence of the importance of this story to the founding religion of Sumer can be seen in certain temple decorations that resemble the mudhif hut construction style.

  6. There is some evidence of people from Mesopotamia fleeing en masse to surrounding areas around this time.

Which of these points hold up in the eyes of those who have studied more than me?

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Very interesting. I tend to take a historical look at Noah’s Flood but see it as regional. While I may disagree with point number 3, I agree with the rest of the points you make and it make sense of a realistic and historical Noah’s Flood event.

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I was looking over Alice Linsley’s site yesterday, and she has another interpretation of when and where the flood might have happened. Perhaps care to comment @Alice_Linsley? Interestingly, she also states the ark was a reed constructed vessel. Not something Ken Ham will go along with.
In any case, it does lead me to consider that the story is historically grounded, though redacted and re-imagined in some ways to communicate spiritual truth.

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I waste very little time arguing against Ham and his extremely flawed interpretation of Genesis. I have more fruitful conversations with anthropologists. They have a better understanding of the science of kinship analysis, and the connection between biblical populations and identified haplogroups and halpotypes.

Following the anthropologically significant data of the Bible has led me to the conclusion that Noah was a Proto-Saharan ruler during the African Aqualithic, probably during a monsoonal period of 500 years of above average wetness in the Green Sahara (Gurian Wet Period). The only region in that part of Africa that is claimed by the natives to be Noah’s homeland is Borno (Land of Noah) near Lake Chad.

We meet Abraham in Mesopotamia because he is a descendant of the Kushite kingdom builder Nimrod who established his territory in that region.

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The article was interesting. Thanks for the link. I am dubious about claims 1-2. He postulates rising sea levels combined with a mid-Holocene wet period as causing the rivers to back up and flooding to be more severe. Sea levels were rising for thousands of years all around the globe. To give credence to his theory, I think he should provide evidence of similar flooding elsewhere around the globe around 6000 B.C. I’m not going to go looking for it, but I’m dubious.

Points 4-6 also seem weak to me. Since reeds are more plentiful than trees in Iraq, everything began with reed huts and mud brick buildings in that area, including temples. Connecting the “floating marsh” with a hut in the middle to the idea that the Ark would have become the first shrine/temple is particularly fanciful.

Anyway, point #3 is of most interest to me, since I’ve done a bit of research into the flood myths recently. (@Reggie_O_Donoghue might be interested in this discussion, since he intends to study the ANE rather soon.) The author of the PSCF article says:

It has long been known that the biblical Flood story has very close parallels to the three Mesopotamian accounts of the deluge contained in works often referred to by modern scholars as the Atrahasis Epic, Gilgamesh Epic, and Sumerian Flood Story. The closest biblical parallel is found with tablet 11 of the Gilgamesh Epic, on which the Flood Hero (Utanapishtim) is referred to as “man of Shuruppak.” This ancient city is mentioned in both the Sumerian Flood Story and the Sumerian King List as the location of the last dynasty before the Flood.

Dickin actually has a good discussion of the Reassessment of the Sumerian King List and the beginning of the Relationship between Gilgamesh and Flood Traditions, but he never mentions that tablet 11 of the Gilgamesh epic is taken directly from Atra-hasis, which appeared in Akkadian in the Old Babylonian period. According to A.R. George in The Babylonian Gilgamesh epic:

The Babylonian Gilgamesh is one of several poetic narratives in literary Akkadian that appear fully developed as independent compositions in the Old Babylonian period; alongside Atra-hasis there were also Etana, Anzu, and other less long-lived mythological poems. None of these is likely to have sprung from a scholastic background, for at the time Sumerian was the language of instruction and composition…. Like other mythological narratives in Akkadian the Epic of Gilgamesh was captured in written form at a time when, under pressure from the new political masters, conventional forms were being abandoned.

“Under pressure from the new political masters …” That is the key phrase. From the evidence, the Sumerian King List appeared during the reign of Shulgi. The earliest known form has no mention of the flood or the antideluvian kings. As Michalowski details in “The Mortal Kings of Ur”:

Akkad fell soon after the death of Naram-Sin’s son, and the land was reunited under the Third Dynasty of Ur (Ur III, 2112-2004 BC) by Ur-Namma, who was killed leading his troops in battle. In 3000 years of documented Mesopotamian history, only two kings died thus: Ur-Namma and Sargon II of Assyria (705 BC). The new king Shulgi (2094-2047 BC) had to hold together the young state in the face of this horrible omen of disaster from the gods. It took 20 years of cultic, ceremonial, and building activity to secure his rule, but from year 21 onward, every year is named by military expeditions, and Shulgi’s name is preceded by the cuneiform sign for “god.”

“In order to create his new identity, Shulgi reached back to his family’s Uruk origins and inserted himself into the heroic past.” (Me: Shulgi became Gilgamesh’s brother.) “There were practical moves that came with this, most importantly the infusion of the power of the Crown into the social, cultural, and above all economic world of the temples, which at this time were massive fiscal organizations. But … Shulgi could not simply become a god, as the illusion would disappear at the moment of his death, leaving his successor without symbolic power. The unique symbolic status of Gilgamesh provided the answer as an ancestor who embodied the central paradox of divine kingship: the inevitable death of kings. Shulgi was worshipped in temples – and so would be his successors – but for the literate classes his divinity was played out in four of the five Gilgamesh poems that we know from later times …”

“Shulgi’s transformation and reinvention was a carefully managed affair. … In literature this found expression in the concomitant all-encompassing reinvention of the written tradition, which was now firmly reoriented to represent a new form of charismatic rule designed to overcome the ideological crisis precipitated by the martial death of the founder of the dynasty. The centralized, patrimonial state run from Ur required a well-regulated and well-trained bureaucracy … Writing was the instrument by which the Crown exercised oversight and control. … The hearts and minds of these literate servants had to be molded through schooling that not only taught them writing skills but also indoctrinated them into the ideological aspirations of the new state. Although contemporary evidence is still sparse, it appears that sometime under Shulgi the masters of the royal academies literally wiped clean the literary slate and discarded all but a few of the old compositions that went back to Early Dynastic times, that is, more than half a millennium earlier. They kept most of the basic pedagogical tools such as word lists, but discarded virtually all of the old narratives, replacing them with materials written in honor of the contemporary ruling house.

Some of this also found expression in a composition that we call the Sumerian King List, a largely fictional genealogical enumeration of cities – and dynasties – that ruled Mesopotamia since time immemorial, when “kingship descended from the heavens.” Now that Piotr Steinkeller (2003) has published an Ur III exemplar of the text, we can be fairly certain that it was composed under that dynasty, most probably during Shulgi’s reign. The oldest manuscript that we have ends with the reign of Ur-Namma, and then the scribe added a subscript: “May my king, divine Shulgi, live a life of never-ending days!” (Emphasis mine.)

Just as Shulgi did, the rulers of Isin rewrote history to connect their newly founded dynasty to antiquity. In Faith, Tradition, and History: Old Testament Historiography in Its Near Eastern Context, the authors say:

Michalowski has shown that, in its final form, the SKL is an apology for the post-Ur III Isin dynasty. The rulers of the Isin dynasty saw themselves as continuing the tradition of kingship at Ur. Futhermore, Claus Wilcke has proposed that the original form of the SKL goes back to the Ur III period. Neither the antediluvian nor the post-Ur III Isin rulers were included in the original composition. Instead, the pattern of several successions of the kingship of Sumer from Kish to Uruk to Ur dominates the list.… (A) civilization renders account of its own past in intellectual form…. In the case of the Sumerians, their tendency to do speculative thought in terms of “myth” results in the fact that it was not characteristic of them to separate myth from history. This is reflected in their historiography.

I could go on, but that’s probably too much already. TL:DR, right?

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