Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Ancient Flood Stories (Problems for Critical Scholarship) Essay

Ancient Flood Stories (Problems for Critical Scholarship) - Essay Example However, it is not an easy task to find out the important details of these flood stories because of their extreme antiquity and the lack of supporting evidence except for a few broken shards or fragments of pottery that detail these flood stories. It is unswervingly a very daunting task indeed to verify the stories that will anchor them on historical details as many of these stories are seemingly myths or legends. This brief paper examines some of the challenges encountered in critical scholarship of stories like great floods which occurred a long time ago and for which records are incomplete. Discussion The aim of critical scholarship is to set historical records straight but problems are inevitable when the records are themselves incomplete or at times even contradictory. Many scholars, academicians, historians and archaeologists realize these limitations but still try to carry on with the task. In this regard, to claim certainty in the absence of corroborating pieces of evidence i s not only risky but also considered as reckless in terms of academic scholarship. To refer to something without a degree of certainty is likewise faulty, even deceptive. Several issues with regards to critical scholarship concerning these ancient flood stories pertain to the provenance of these stories, their lack of correspondence and the contradictions, the use of varying terms or emergence of several versions by different authors that hinders the task. The two most famous and well-read flood stories are that of the Biblical Noah's Ark and the Epic of Gilgamesh. The latter predates the former by a good thousand years or more, going back to at least the period of an actual king named Gilgamesh who had ruled a kingdom of Uruk in ancient Sumeria at around 2700 B.C.E. (before current era) but was written down on clay tablets only at around 2000 B.C.E. which were discovered only fairly recently in the libraries of King Ashurbanipal, who ruled around 700 B.C.E. by a young British museu m curator named George Smith back in 1872 and translated even much later (Mitchell 4). It is a story considered as the oldest-ever written story but what is even more remarkable is that it is very similar to Noah's Ark, especially the story about an immortal named Utnapishtim and a massive flood in his time. There are also many other similar stories about a great deluge in other cultures, namely that of the massive waters released by the Greek god Zeus, the Chinese version of a deluge in the great central river valley of the mighty Yangtze and the Indian story of Manu mentioned in ancient Sanskrit religious texts dating back to around 600 B.C.E. These stories have a familiar theme, the futility of fighting against the force of Nature or the powers of God although the themes may vary a bit, depending on context ( 1). Provenance – as stated earlier, the exact or precise origins of these flood stories defy even scholars and historians because of the passage of e xtremely long periods of time, dating back to antiquity itself. Based only on fragmentary records, with many pieces of evidence lacking, the best that can be done is make a conjecture or an approximation of their origins. It believed that the Epic of Gilgamesh is actually a literary masterpiece constructed by several authors and not just one writer, the story embellished with each successive re-telling. In many instances, the similarities between the Noahic story and Gilgamesh made historians surmise it was actually copied and translated into Hebrew by Moses circa 1450 B.C.E. and the Israelites brought

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