For Old Testament scholars
The Noah's Ark book reviewed 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 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. Zuisudra was the Sumerian Noah. There was also a flood myth about king Ziusudra which includes several story elements very similar to the Genesis flood myth. Noah was a Sumerian king of Shuruppak and son of Lamech (SU.KUR.LAM in Sumerian) who preceded Noah as king of Shuruppak. Shuruppak was 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 legends about the flood hero Ziusudra (Noah) 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. In the Noah's Ark book, the original legend is reconstructed by piecing together fragments from the various surviving editions of the flood story, 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.
These are some examples of mistakes: The ambiguous word for hill or country was mistranslated as mountain. The words that identified the flood as a river flood were changed to indicate an ocean deluge. The archaic number signs in which the Genesis 5 numbers and Noah's age were recorded, were mistranslated which made them about ten times their original value. The "flood" of Genesis 6-7 was confused with the "waters" of Genesis 8. A journey on foot to Mount Judi in the Mountains of Ararat was confused with a journey on the water of the Persian Gulf. The numbers in the Sumerian King List were also mistraslated by an ancient scribe.
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 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.
Tour of subjects