Gilgamesh and Noah Human Beings Have Passed Article Critique

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Gilgamesh and Noah

Human beings have passed down stories throughout the ages, altering and evolving them to reflect the cultural and historical context of their reception and recitation. Perhaps the most famous of these stories is the myth of a Great Flood, most widely known to the Western world in the story of Noah and his ark, as recorded in Genesis. However, the earliest extant version of a Great Flood story is found in the ancient Mesopotamian collection of poems called the Epic of Gilgamesh, when the titular hero seeks out the lone, immortal survivor of a Great Flood so that he might attain immortality for himself. By comparing the two versions of largely the same story, one is able to see how either story reinforces the cultural hegemony of its time, with Gilgamesh's version focusing on human feats of courage and the vindictive, fluctuating nature of the gods while the Genesis version focuses on the greatness of a single god and the wickedness of humans. In short, one may read the Genesis version on the Great Flood as a kind of ideological inversion of Gilgamesh, which, in order to bolster its overall claims regarding monotheism, must present the lone god as wholly righteous and not at all vindictive in murdering the inhabitants of Earth, in turn requiring that these inhabitants be wicked and thus justifiably murdered. Thus, while Gilgamesh's futile quest for immortality which surrounds the flood story ultimately reaffirms human vitality and adventure in the face of inscrutable and uncontrollable forces, the Genesis story only serves to condemn humanity in an attempt to instill constant fear of the next great cataclysm.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Article Critique on Gilgamesh and Noah Human Beings Have Passed Assignment

Before analyzing the two stories in greater detail, it will be useful to briefly mention the portions which remain largely the same, because these are the elements which suggest the analysis in the first place. Firstly, both stories feature a male protagonist and his family (and possibly friends) building a boat and filling it with animals in order to escape a massive flood, having been told to do so by a god with foreknowledge of the flood to come. The flood comes, killing everyone on Earth save those inside the boat, and following the receding of floodwaters, a god or gods bless the inhabitants of the boat. Aside from these general details, the manner in which both Utanapishtim and Noah determine the flood has receded is strikingly similar, because both release a series of birds into the open and only decide to exit their boat once the bird does not return, having a found a place for itself on dry land. These elements constitute the common, general framework of both stories, are the details filling this framework are where either story diverges. There are numerous small differences, such as the rain falling for seven days in Gilgamesh but for forty in Genesis, but these differences do not alter the story substantially. To see the true differences between the flood story in Gilgamesh and that of Genesis, one must look at the characterization of humans and gods, to see how each story uses the flood to demonstrate vastly different morals.

In Gilgamesh, the motivation behind the flood is murky at best, because the god responsible, Enlil, never explicitly tells why he has decided to flood the earth. As in Genesis, the flood is undoubtedly a punishment, because the rest of the gods refer to some unknown offense when they castigate Enlil for flooding the world. The goddess Beletili criticizes Enlil, saying that he will not be able to enjoy the offering Utanapishtim has made because Enlil, "irrationally, brought on the flood / and marked my people for destruction!" (Gilgamesh 11.175). The evidence for at least some offense comes just afterwards, when Ea goes through a list of other possible things Enlil could have used to reduce the population without wiping everyone… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Gilgamesh and Noah Human Beings Have Passed.  (2011, June 30).  Retrieved June 22, 2021, from

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"Gilgamesh and Noah Human Beings Have Passed."  June 30, 2011.  Accessed June 22, 2021.