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Gilgamesh: Epic Hero"Literature Review" Chapter

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Gilgamesh

The Sumerian tale, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Gospel of Luke from the Christian Bible do not seem to have much in common. However, a close examination of these two texts reveals that each recounts the story of the archetypal "Epic Hero." The Epic Hero starts from a relatively ordinary station in life, and then has the opportunity to accept a challenge that can lead to tremendous transformation. Usually, there is a journey involved for the Epic Hero. After some suffering, and near failure, the Hero is ultimately successful. Providing in-depth analysis of The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Gospel of Luke, including an assessment of their historical context, this paper will show how both Gilgamesh and Jesus, the hero of the Gospel of Luke, undergo a similar process of transformation; in the end, Jesus and Gilgamesh both offer lessons about life, death, and immortality.

The Epic of Gilgamesh was written several thousand years before the Gospel of Luke. The Gospel of Luke was written within a few centuries after the death of Jesus Christ, whereas the Epic of Gilgamesh was written several thousand years prior to that. There is no absolute date for the Epic of Gilgamesh, because the story existed in oral form long before it was recorded on stone tablets. The story most likely originated in the third millennium before the birth of Christ, and there are several stone tables containing the story that date from between 2000 BCE and 650 BCE (Lorey, 1997). Whereas the Epic of Gilgamesh was recorded on stone tablets, the Gospel of Luke was not, and its author used parchment papers, most likely papyrus scrolls ("The Gospel of Luke," n.d.). The Gospel of Luke was recorded in the Greek language, which is much different from the Sumerian language used to record the Epic of Gilgamesh. Luke recorded the story of Jesus Christ, and was the author of the Gospel of Luke. However, there is no one author of the Epic of Gilgamesh. It can instead by said that the author of the Epic of Gilgamesh is the collective people of Mesopotamia, who had been telling the tale for many thousands of years. The Epic of Gilgamesh originated with the Mesopotamian people, but may have influenced people far and wide, including the Hebrew people from which Jesus came (Lorey, 1997). The Gospel of Luke was not written for a Hebrew audience, but rather, for a Greek audience. At the time Luke wrote about the story of Jesus Christ, the center of Christianity was shifting throughout the Roman Empire, and especially in Greek-speaking territories. In spite of their differences in cultural context, both the Gospel of Luke and the Epic of Gilgamesh were written for a common audience, as opposed to an audience of scholars or high priests. These were both texts designed to be used as oral teachings, which is why being literate did not matter to the audience hearing either story.

The Gospel of Luke tells the story of Jesus to inspire the audience to believe in Christ as savior. On the other hand, the Epic of Gilgamesh tells the story of its title hero to provide a lesson of how a good King should behave. Moreover, the Epic of Gilgamesh was written about a polytheistic culture, versus the monotheistic culture represented by Christianity. At the same time, the audience of the Gospel of Luke consisted of Gentiles and Greeks living in the Roman Empire who were most likely believers in the old pagan religions of those areas, and those religions were polytheistic too ("The Gospel of Luke," n.d.). One of the most important similarities in the contexts of these two heroic tales is that the Gospel of Luke refers to the way the people had become increasingly dissatisfied with the injustice Roman rule, such as the taxation system. Likewise, the people of Uruk had become dissatisfied with the rule of Gilgamesh before he sets out on his epic journey. Whereas the Gospel of Luke was written during a time of tremendous upheaval throughout the Mediterranean region due to the expansion of the Roman Empire, the ancient Sumerian society was relatively stable and was not colonized. Therefore, the historical contexts of these two documents differ significantly. Luke wanted to create a new Christian empire by converting people in different regions of the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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