No myth story is so widespread around the world as that of the Flood.
It appears everywhere, among the folk legends of the Australian aborigines,
the Inca Indians of South America, the North American Indians, the Chinese,
the Greeks and the people of the Near East. The Hebrew story in the Bible
is merely another version of that worldwide tradition. Theodore Gaster
provided a summary of many of these Flood storiesMLCOT, including
many of the tales collected by James FraserFOT.
One Greek story runs as follows:
This tale of the Flood associated with the name of Deucalion is the
Greek version most familiar to western students, yet it was not the only
story. Ancient Greek learned men distinguished three such great catastrophesMLCOT.
The first flood took place in the time of Ogyges, the second in the time
of Deucalion, and the third in the time of Dardanos. The name Ogyges (or
Ogygos) gave us Egypt; the Og syllable comes from Oc. Ogyges founded the
oldest city in Greece, long before the first Flood.
In India a Flood story goes as follows:
In Hindu folklore the slope of the northern mountains are often called
"Manu's descent." The flood swept away all creatures; only Manu was left.
By sincere worship a woman was produced within a year from clarified butter,
sour milk, whey and curds he offered as a sacrifice. When he asked who
she was she replied that she was his daughter. Through her he generated
his race, the race of Manu.
A story from ancient Mexico relates the following:
In another version the hero of the flood is Coxcox; his wife is Xochiquetzal.
Their deluge comes at the end of the fourth SunLAM.
The Potawatomi Indians of North America had a flood hero who was named
Many pages would be required to relate all the deeds of Messou in bringing
back the earth to its former self, how he took vengeance on the monsters
that had taken his brothers, and how he transformed himself into a thousand
kinds of animals to bring forth new creatures. This great Restorer married
a little muskrat and had children who then repeopled the worldNAM.
The oldest recorded story of the Flood was found on clay tablets from
Sumer. The story was woven into an epic tale by later Babylonian-Assyrian
scribes around 2,000 BC, now known as the Gilgamesh EpicGEOTP.
When the story was first discovered Gilgamesh was thought to be a mere
legendary hero; the stories of his adventures were thought to be invented
folk tales. But then modern scholarship took a second look; his name was
found on the Kings List. He was the fifth king of the First dynasty of
Erech. He was more than a legend.
Unfortunately, another problem arose. On the List he was assigned a
reign of 126 years, more than could be accepted for a real mortal. Furthermore,
he was the last of the line; all kings before him had legendary reigns;
all kings after him were as mortal as any man today. He was called Divine;
he was more than a mere mortal. Directly before him on the list is Dumuzi
-- again. But Dumuzi now lives for only 100 years compared to the Dumuzi
before the Flood who lives 28,000 or 36,000 years. The two kings who reign
before Dumuzi, Divine Lugulbanda, a shepherd, and Enmekar, lived 1200 and
420 years respectively. Obviously the records reflect a tradition of long-lived
kings and divine origins.
The King Lists, which shows Dumuzi twice, must be contrivances. They
reflect attempts to recapture traditions which, by that time, were distorted,
corrupt, and unreliable as true history.
Virtually all Sumerian legends surround the four kings who are at the
end of superhuman reigns. Gilgamesh is second in prominence only to Dumuzi,
while Enmekar and Lugulbanda come next in their importance in the mythical
tales. These four characters hold the unique position of being honored
in Sumerian folk memoryNET.
The long ages on the Sumerian list after the Flood remind us of the
biblical ages of the patriarchs after the Flood, Gen 11. Shem lived 600
years; Arpachshad 438 years; Shelah 433 years, and so on down to Terah,
the father of Abraham, who lived 205 years. Abraham lived 175 years. If
the Hebrew scribes borrowed their traditions of eight and ten ancestors
before the Flood from the Sumerian traditions of eight and ten kings, and
if they borrowed the long lives after the Flood from the same sources,
then did they also borrow the story of the Flood? Since they lived in Babylonian
captivity perhaps they took those stories and adapted them to their peculiar
view of world history.
Examination of the Flood story in the Gilgamesh Epic shows how very
similar it is to the Flood story in the Bible. Here I briefly outline important
elements from the Babylonian version to show the physical nature of the
Flood and the close parallels between the two sources. I follow the translation
Ishtar cried out like a woman in travail. The lovely-voiced Lady of
the gods lamented:
The Annunaki wept with her; the gods sat bowed
The elements of this tale, dating earlier than
1800 BC, run close in parallel to the biblical account.
1) The Babylonian gods are dissatisfied with
conditions on earth; God saw that the wickedness of man was great.
2) Ea, the god of the earth, revealed to Utnapishtim
the divine decision to flood the earth; God revealed it to Noah.
3) Ea instructed Utnapishtim to construct a
ship; God instructed Noah to build a ship.
4) Utnapishtim was told to provision it and
to stock it with the seed of all living things; Noah was told to take seven
pair of all clean animals and a pair of all unclean. He was to take food
for himself and the animals.
5) Utnapishtim took his family and relatives;
Noah took his wife, his sons, and their wives.
6) In the Babylonian tale it begins to rain
the same day Utnapishtim enters the ship; in the Bible it begins to rain
seven days later, Gen 7:10, or the same day, Gen 7:13.
7) The Babylonian rain lasted seven days and
nights; the biblical rain forty days and nights.
8) Mighty windstorms come with the rain in
the Babylonian tale; in the Bible they come after the rain to dry off the
earth, Gen 8:1.
9) No precise time is given from the end of
the rain to the appearance of dry land in the Babylonian tale; the Genesis
account is confused: 150 days in Gen 8:3, 54 days in Gen 8:6, 10, 12. Note
also the time from the beginning of the flood, 7:11, to the embarkation,
10) Utnapishtim sends forth a dove, a swallow,
and a raven; Noah sends forth a raven first which does not return and then
a dove three times in succession.
11) Utnapishtim offers a sacrifice of an ox and a sheep; Noah offers a sacrifice of every clean animal and bird.
Although the two accounts differ in some details they could not originate independently. Either the one was borrowed from the other, or they both derive from a common parent tradition. In the older Sumerian version Ziusudra is the hero of the storyGEOTP. (Berossus gives his name as Xisuthros.)
In order to bring out more fully the physical
mechanisms I quote pertinent elements from the earlier Sumerian tale.
1) All the windstorms of heaven, exceedingly
powerful, attacked as one. At the same time the flood swept over the cult
2) For seven days and seven nights the flood
swept over the land. And the huge boat was tossed about by the windstorms
on the great waters.
3) Utu, the sun god, who sheds light on heaven
and earth, came forth.
4) Ziusudra, the king, prostrated himself before
Utu. The king killed an ox; he slaughtered a sheep.
After a break in the text there is further
reference to the sun god.
Similar elements can be listed from the biblical
1) Gen 2:6: (Before the Flood) there went up
a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
2) Gen 7:11: ...the fountains of the great
deep were broken up; the windows of heaven were opened.
3) Gen 8:1: ...and God made a wind to pass
over the earth, and the waters subsided.
4) Gen 8:22: While the earth remaineth, seedtime
and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not
5) Gen 9:11: And I will establish my covenant
with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of
a flood, neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
6) Gen 9:13: I do set my bow in the cloud,
and it shall be a token of a covenant between men and the earth.
7) Gen 9:20: And Noah began to be a husbandman,
and he planted a vineyard, and he drank of the wine and was drunken, and
he was uncovered in his tent.
Near East scholars debate the missing word
in the Sumerian cuneiform text; what should it be that "he may . . .
with you" and "he will . . . with you?" From our daily experience
we see no remarkable fact that Utu, the sun-god, shone forth. We see the
sun almost daily. However, if the word were "abide" or "remain" we would
cast a different light on the question. Prior to the deluge the sun did
not shine in the sky as it does today. Ziusudra was surprised by it. This
suggestion is supported by the covenant God made with Noah. The sign of
the covenant was the bow in the clouds, the rainbow. It also was a new
phenomenon. If direct sunlight did not appear on earth prior to the Flood
there would be no rainbows; if direct sunlight appeared afterward rainbows
could be observed. What would prevent the sun from shining? Dust clouds
in space? Today we do not experience direct sunlight when there is a cloud
cover. Is it possible there was a constant cloud cover prior to the Flood
which enveloped the entire earth? If that cover broke at the time of the
Flood men would be surprised at the sun. Then they would also observe rainbows.
windows of heaven were opened."
Other factors enter into this query. Although
the biblical account does not portray the great windstorms which took place
at the time of the heavy downpour, the Sumerian and Babylonian myths retain
this physical element. They were so strong they tore the masts out of Utnapishtim's
ship and rocked his boat mercilessly. This element of the myth suggests
tremendous atmospheric disturbance. Extreme temperature and pressure gradients
existed around the planet, perhaps greater than those which cause tornados
and hurricanes. If the earth were surrounded by a constant cloud cover
prior to the Flood this cover had to be formed by water vapor. There would
have been a huge volume of water continually hanging in the atmosphere.
At the time of the Flood this huge volume of water dumped onto the earth,
creating havoc all over the globe. All low-lying areas would have been
inundated. Survivors would have been on the mountains, as the myths portray.
What would cause this great change?
Other clues are provided for us. Before the
Flood mists go up from the ground to water the ground. The seasonal variations
of rain and dry did not then exist. Perhaps there was rainfall but it was
mild compared to the torrential downpours we experience today. After the
Flood the seasons came: summer and winter, cold and heat, seedtime and
harvest. Prior to the Flood there were no summer and winter but rather
a constant temperature. The earth saw continual plant growth, not cyclic
seasons. The story in the Bible says that the very foundations of the earth
were shaken, the fountains of the great deep were broken up. There was
a tremendous wracking of the globe to cause violent earthquakes. Furthermore,
Noah and Yu were surprised by the fermentation of wine. Prior to the Flood
microorganisms did not function as they do today; grape juice did not ferment.
After the Flood new ecological conditions were created which permitted
bacteria to grow.
What is the explanation behind these elements
retained in the mythical accounts? Can we find a physical mechanism?
Our planet at this time revolves around the
sun with an inclination of its axis. As a result of this inclination we
experience the phenomena of summer and winter, spring and fall. The change
of seasons is due to changes in quantity of sunlight which falls on different
parts of the earths surface. In the northern winter the axis is tilted
with the north pole away from the sun. This polar orientation causes the
northern hemisphere to receive increasing exposure to sunlight as the earth
moves farther around the sun. The change not only affects the temperature
of the earth, it also affects the weather. In spring we in the northern
hemisphere experience rain as the moisture patterns shift due to different
mixing of polar and tropical air masses. Thunderstorms develop where hot
air meets cold air. Tornadoes and wind storms arise. In the summer these
tend to stabilize until fall brings on hurricanes and the fall rains. And
so on into winter and back to spring.
If the planet were to revolve around the sun
with no inclination of axis the great seasonal changes would not exist.
Since all parts of the planet would then receive constant amounts of sunlight
the air masses would not seek different equilibrium conditions during the
year. The tropical regions would receive the most sunlight, the polar regions
the least. But since no mixing of air masses takes place tornadoes and
thunderstorms, hurricanes and windstorms, would not occur. The atmosphere
would become stable, perhaps with breezes blowing in an easterly direction
due to the earth's rotation, with gentle morning or evening showers, but
not with the meteorological violence we experience today.
Furthermore, since the air masses would be
stable, great amounts of moisture might accumulate in the atmosphere to
create a large cloud cover. It is possible that a canopy would build to
completely surround the earth. This canopy would act like a greenhouse,
permitting solar energy to be absorbed but inhibiting escape of heat through
infrared radiation. We experience such phenomena on cloudy days and nights
when the average ground temperature remains warmer. This phenomena might
also cause all portions of the earth's surface to receive moisture differently
from what we know today. The deserts once were lush pastureland but over
the past ten thousand years they gradually changed into wasteland as prevailing
winds moved to different directions. With a cloud canopy, and with no mixing
winds to divert moisture, it is possible that the deserts would receive
moisture in large quantities. This would produce luxuriant growth. Thus
the wilderness would be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful
field into a forest. Then a mist would rise up to water the whole face
of the earth as it did in the days of Adam and Eve. Evidence of the effects
of constant moisture can be seen along the coast of northern California
where temperatures are moderate, and where sea breezes bring moisture in
from the ocean. The Sequoia and the Redwoods, as well as numerous shrubs,
attest to this effect. Similar effects may be seen along the western coast
of Ireland. Indeed, the great trees live to be two thousand years old,
and grow to giant size.
The greenhouse effect, and the stability of
the atmosphere, have been verified scientifically on the planet Venus.
That planet revolves around the sun with little or no inclination of its
axis. Except for the intense heat and pressure of its surface, Venus shows
how this model works. Thus scientific measurements of Venus and observation
of flora on this world show that a mechanism exists whereby God can change
the meteorological and biological conditions of the planet. Then the desert
might blossom like the rose and men might, indeed, experience increasing
length of life. Out of these meteorological and biological changes would
come great changes in human condition. No longer would the seasonal problems
of colds and influenza afflict mankind. Other biological changes would
take place to greatly modify microorganisms. Even aging processes would
be affected, (note the huge trees), and men would then begin to live far
beyond a hundred years. There would be a golden age.
Thus it was prior to the Flood. A huge body
of water had accumulated in the atmosphere in a constant cloud cover. The
earth axis tilted and the atmosphere could no longer hold the water vapor;
the atmosphere became unstable; it fell to the ground in a tremendous deluge.
Giant windstorms were let loose. There was a great wracking of the globe.
The rotational energy was not greatly modified; the earth continued to
spin on its axis. But the north pole pointed to a different direction in
the sky. We do not know the cause but the myths say it came about at the
hand of the gods, or God, as a judgment.
The ages of the Sumerian King lists suggest
that the cycles are related in some way to cosmic periods. Perhaps the
cycles of the earth, and the behavior of man, are interrelated according
to some master cosmic cycle and overcontrol from on high.
The myths have numerous remarks about the tilting
of the earth and the physical conditions which prevailed prior to the Flood.
Derk Bodde writes that Kung-kung fought unsuccessfully with Chuan-hsu to
become ruler of China and in his rage at defeat he caused the pillar of
Heaven and the cord of earth to break off. Nu-kua, (note Inanna's lament),
tried to patch up HeavenMAW. Nonetheless, Heaven and Earth at
that time sloped toward one another in the northwest, but have since tilted
away from one another in the opposite direction. That is why the astral
bodies of Heaven continue to this day to move in a westerly direction .
. . . . . At that time wind and rain brought no calamities, sun and moon
equably distributed their light (through the cloud cover), and the planets
did not deviate from their courses.
R. B. Dixon writes that in the New Hebrides
the people believed that heaven was originally lowOM. A woman
struck it with her pestle as she was pounding food, whereupon she angrily
told the sky to rise higher and it did so.
This same theme of raising of the heavens which
once were low is repeated in the Philippines, in Indonesia, and in Micronesia.
In Polynesia the people believe the god Tawhaki stamped on the floor of
heaven, which cracked so that waters flowed through and covered the earth.
Formerly the sky was low and close to the earth; a deity later lifted it
up to its present place. The Dasun of North Borneo declare that the sky,
originally low, retreated when six or seven suns were killed. The Dyaks
of Sarawak say that a serpent once devoured all their harvest. When the
people set up a watch one night they saw the serpent. One of their number
chopped off its head and cooked it for breakfast. Immediately the sky was
overcast as dark clouds rolled up and a terrible rain-storm caused a flood
from which only a few people escaped who succeeded in reaching the highest
In another version of the story a great hurricane
resulted from the capture of the serpent and swept away all the houses.
Velikovsky quoted Augustine writing in The City of GodWIC:
Numerous other tales could be recounted to show how the old people of this world remembered the cataclysmic cycles of ages past.