Thursday, May 3, 2007

Who the Heck is Gilgamesh?

History has a way of bringing about rude awakenings. The Epic of Gilgamesh is one such history lesson that can blast preconceived notions out of the water – at least for those who never heard of him before.

Who in the heck is Gilgamesh, anyway?!

The story of Gilgamesh has elements that are eerily familiar to the story of Noah. I won't dare try to recount the story here. Look it up and check it out for yourself. But for me, a pre-Noah story contained in the Gilgamesh Epic was problematic for me as a Biblical fundamentalists. One of the oldest recorded pieces of literature unearthed from one of the oldest recorded societies in history has a flood story that predates the Biblical manuscript. At first I thought, “So what? Many cultures have a flood story”. But, the dating of the Gilgamesh Epic kept begging the thought that Noah's Ark was a retelling of certain parts of the Gilgamesh Epic.

But for a die hard Christian like I was, I told myself that Gilgamesh was simply confirmation of Noah's trek across the flooded earth. Civilization simply had perverted versions of the true story concerning Noah. The Gilgamesh Epic just happened to be the oldest version written down on a stone tablet. Age didn't make Gilgamesh right or true.

But, I still didn't like knowing that this bit of archeology existed. What a bummer!

And I didn't like reading about a fellow named Sargon, King of Akkad. Before the Exodus story of Moses could have happened, Sargon was floating down the river in a basket. His mother secretly sent him down a river and he was drawn out and raised as someone else's son. And, well, I suppose he became royalty one day, since he's called King of Akkad.

A thread was forming; Stories in the Bible were mirroring older non-biblical narratives. I didn't want to say it, but the Bible looked like it was copying from other works in history. Legends and folk tales appeared to be passed around from culture to culture. Other god-men, other flood stories, other babies floating down the river – all older than the Biblical text.

Maybe those archaeologists and scientist just don't know how to date things. They don't really know what they're doing. Besides, the world started off with two people. We all have the same history and ancestry. It just all got perverted over time as our various cultures developed. This stuff means nothing!

At least, that what I said to myself at the time.

I hung in there. At least now, I better understood the skeptic. I could understand why they were so stubborn in their disbelief. I was starting to realize that you really had to know your stuff to witness to a skeptic.

However, the more I learned . . . . the more I started to feel like a skeptic, too.
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