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Compare Gilgamesh and One Other HeroEssay

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Written on a series of stone tablets, only a few of which remain completely intact, the Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest known written narratives. One of the hallmarks of the Epic of Gilgamesh is that it encapsulates the hero's journey. The hero's journey is a narrative structure that repeats itself throughout the great works of literature, and especially within the category of epics. Like Gilgamesh, Jesus of Nazareth undergoes the hero's journey and transformation. This paper compares the older Epic of Gilgamesh with the narrative of Jesus, using the framework of the epic hero's journey from the ordinary world, through a series of ordeals and adventures, culminating in the hero's resurrection and return. Comparing and contrasting the Epic of Gilgamesh with the story of Jesus as told in the Gospel of Luke offers insight into the social, political, and cultural norms throughout the Levant and the Fertile Crescent over the course of several thousand years.

Identification of Documents

The Epic of Gilgamesh was written between the second and third millenniums BCE (Brown). However, it is impossible to know exactly when or where the tale originated as it was most likely an oral narrative prior to its being recorded in writing. Unlike the Epic of Gilgamesh, the dating Gospel of Luke is relatively precise. According to Attridge, Luke's narrative of Jesus's life was written "in the latter decades of the first century." Whereas the Gospel of Luke was penned in a Hellenistic, or Greek, environment, the Epic of Gilgamesh was written by, for, and about a Mesopotamian culture and "the people who lived in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers," which is modern-day Iraq (Brown). Whereas the author or scribe recording the Epic of Gilgamesh used stone tablets as a medium, Luke used papyrus scrolls to document his story of Jesus (Roberts). The Epic of Gilgamesh was recorded in the Sumerian language, versus Greek used by Luke. It is impossible to know how long it took to compose the Epic of Gilgamesh, because it had long been an oral narrative told by and disseminated among the people of Mesopotamia. Centuries or even millennia might have passed prior to the etching of the Epic of Gilgamesh in stone.

Although the story of Jesus had also existed in numerous forms, the Gospel of Luke was composed within Luke's lifetime, so therefore, within the space of several decades. No one retains author credit for composing the Epic of Gilgamesh, which was a collective narrative passed down through generations in the region. On the contrary, Luke is the author of the Gospel of Luke. The Gospel of Luke was written for a "Gentile" audience of Greek speakers under Roman dominion. Luke was not, therefore, trying to convert the Jews of the Levant. Attridge points out that in his writings, Luke may have been persuading Roman officials that Christian beliefs do not pose a threat to Roman political authority. The Gospel of Luke is therefore a defense of the Christian faith and its people. The purpose of the Epic of Gilgamesh is much different than that of the Gospel of Luke in that Gilgamesh did not inspire or represent any religion, and did also not present any threat to an established political authority. Rather, the reasons for recording the Epic of Gilgamesh seem to be primarily to convey the hero's journey, and to show how a leader should comport himself. The Epic of Gilgamesh can be said to have entertainment value in that its protagonist's struggles provide social and psychological inspiration to readers. Jesus's story ultimately achieves a similar goal of inspiration, but with direct political and religious intent.

Historical Contexts

The Epic of Gilgamesh details the story of an actual historical figure, as does the Gospel of Luke. Yet Gilgamesh was a king; Jesus was not born a king but rather, was the son of a carpenter. Jesus was in many ways an ordinary citizen of the world he was born into: which was Palestine under Roman colonial rule. Gilgamesh was no ordinary citizen, but rather, a fabled and lauded king. Gilgamesh's people were polytheistic. Whereas Jesus grew up in a strictly monotheistic environment, Luke was speaking to a group of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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