The Noah Story and Mesopotamian Myth, Pt 2

exopol_K_1dIn Part 1, I presented the famous Sumerian/Babylonian/Assyrian flood story which passed down over more than a thousand years through Babylonian poets into the new Assyrian empire, where it has come to us through the results of archaeological exploration. As I said, this flood story is part of an epic which developed over time. And it is not the only flood story in Mesopotamia. Yet the other major example is really the same story, the Atrahasis Epic, told with a few different details. The Egyptians, for whom the annual floods of the Nile were the source of life, have a different flood tradition, as do India, Persia, and China.

The idea is at first disturbing: the Noah story in Genesis is related in some way to pre-existing Mesopotamian mythology?

It raises questions about how the Torah was written, especially the parts of Genesis that are before the patriarchs. Assuming, as I do, that Moses is largely the voice behind the Torah, how did he know about the creation story, the flood, the ancient genealogies, and the Babel story?

The simple assumption, and it is merely an assumption though many take it as a point of faith, is that God downloaded these stories into Moses

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13 Responses to The Noah Story and Mesopotamian Myth, Pt 2

  1. dansangelflew says:

    this is fascinating! thank you. I choose options c, and d. Thank you so much for sharing Derek.

  2. peterygwendyta says:

    I would have to agree with you Derek and say D. I remember reading a number of years back that the Inca’s and Mayan’s also had similar stories about a world wide flood.

  3. sidefall says:

    Derek, have you come across a 2005 book called “Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament” by Peter Enns – I haven’t read it but it’s on my list and believe it is very good. Amongst other things, it compares similarities between the Torah and other ancient literature. Sadly, it cost the author his job at a theological school as it was judged to be outside their doctrinal basis.

    • tnnonline says:

      I have a number of publications by Peter Enns in my library, and this book is on my list. My OT prof at Asbury Seminary recalled to me the events that led to his being canned–all he said was that where Enns taught was hyper-conservative.

      Another publication that just got released is The Bible Among the Myths by John Oswalt, produced by Zondervan. I ordered my copy yesterday.

      The key is to always see where the Biblical message is subversive to the mythology.

    • I have Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation. I have not read it yet, but will. I am reviewing Kenton Sparks’ God’s Word in Human Words for the Kesher journal soon. Reading Enns’ book should be a nice follow-up. Thanks for the link and for making his material known to Messianic Jewish Musings readers. So much great stuff to read and contemplate about the Bible!

  4. tiqun says:


    thank you for your comment, and i am sorry for not answering sooner, i

  5. Chaya (tiqun):

    Great to hear from you. I want to learn French so I can read what you are writing. I took two years in High School and I know almost nothing except what my French teacher used to say at least once every week in class, “Fermer le grande bouche motere” (forgive my spelling).

    I think it is very significant that you have a Messianic Jewish blog in French and soon to be in German. I’d love to help you, from time to time, publicize it. Perhaps I could have you guest blog from time to time in three languages. Pick on of your blog posts and send it to me in all three languages (French, German, English) and I will run it. We can get the word out about your work so people can turn their French-speaking and German-speaking friends on to it.

    My family is well. I have 8 kids and the oldest is now away to college. My youngest is 18 months old. Thank God we are all healthy and our home is happy and well.

    For those who would like to see a Messianic Jewish blog in French, try this link:

    Derek Leman

  6. tnnonline says:

    Writing a review is a possibility, but what would be more probable is me writing another article about the Tanach and ancient mythology, perhaps in more broad terms than just focusing on the Gilgamesh Epic or Baal Cycle. This would involve consultation with Oswalt, Enns, Kitchen, and others who fall outside of the critical tradition. It would also involve some application on what to do next when someone watches History Channel or picks up that publication at the mega bookstore.

    • tnnonline (J.K.):

      I will want to read and write about your article when it comes out. So do let me know. Thanks for studying this area and making your wisdom available to all of us. I appreciate your work.

  7. tnnonline says:

    Thanks, Derek.

    I am going to be very careful in addressing issues regarding ANE background to the Tanach. As I do most of my teaching on the NT, I know how Messianic people get very nervous when you bring in Greek and Roman background materials, such as the likely use of prosopopoeia in Romans 7. Multiply that nervousness out about tenfold when it comes to anything other than Hebrew being the “pure language” and the history of Genesis arriving to us by any means other than letter-for-letter Divine dictation. (Even R.K. Harrison advocated that Moses used sources for the Pentateuch, like clay tablets.)

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