You’ve likely heard of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Attending a small Christian highschool, I was not familiar with the ancient tale until I enrolled in an Ancient World class for an elective at college. The first thing we studied in the literature section was Gilgamesh. I noticed right away the similarities between the Epic of Gilgamesh and Genesis – namely, the story of the man who was created first out of dirt and then the woman who came along to tempt him. It also included the flood where animals were brought onto an ark of sorts.
I think that class helped me more than I imagined. I remember sitting there quite perturbed at the culture and religion of the Greeks, which made me stop and ask myself about my own religion at the time – Christianity.
People likely recorded a devastating flood that did happen in the Mesopotamian area. It is no wonder that women were written into these accounts to tempt men or take men off their course. Without education and status, women were viewed to be objects as opposed to humans and the writings of both books highly reflect that. This view is shown throughout the Old Testament (With the exception of Judge and Prophetess Deborah) as well as The Epic of Gilgamesh. I would like to think that if there were a deity out there, that women wouldn’t have been portrayed in such a predictable, awful fashion in the writings of early earth.
Add in humanity’s need to create gods as a result of fear and you’ve suddenly got a glorified fairy tale that is still held as an authority to live one’s life by.
I was unnerved at the similar writing style between the Epic of Gilagamesh and the Old Testament (I know both have obviously been translated, but it’s the similar content that got me.) and, for the first time, I consciously thought to myself that the Old Testament sounds a lot like a story – God forbid, mythology. What also shook my reality was when my teacher said that The Epic of Gilgamesh is older than the Old Testament. In fact, The Epic of Gilgamesh predates the Bibilical account of the flood by thousands of years. How interesting. How not surprising.
Digging deeper, it’s actually astonishing to me that the earliest written account of Genesis was found in 150BCE, which was on the Dead Sea scrolls, of course. I always thought it had been around for much, much longer than that. There is nothing blissful about ignorance. One feels cheated when they have been part of a huge lie.
I digress. Back to Gilgamesh. Apparently, the earliest physical account of Gilgamesh was on tablets (Yep, that’s quite old!) and are dated to be before 2,000 BCE. I actually thought that the flood account, along with the creation writings, would have been written around that time as well. I was wrong! Nevertheless, it is clear that both stories borrowed the same mythology origins. Gilgamesh has several gods bickering and competing with one another, while Genesis, of course, features one male God.
It goes to show that stories told over the generations (Which were ALMOST always driven by superstition and mythology) can form from a tale to a testament.
There we have it.