This post will be a short one as mostly I will refer you to links that discuss fully the plethora of flood myths from around the world. In every case, from every land and country, the way the story goes is nearly identical: at one time the world was different than it was today, from flora and fauna to people themselves, and that people especially were rather wicked, and in need of discipline. So, for one reason or another, God, the gods, Nature, aliens—whomever—decided to destroy the existing life on this planet NEARLY completely. I say nearly, because also prevalent in all these myths is the tendency to save one man and woman, one family, one ark, or numerous of same, and so leave the seeds for life to re-emerge after the godly destruction.
Whatever, or despite what, this says about the foresight, omniscience, or even benevolence of the God or gods involved in the erection and destruction, it is almost eerie how global this ancient saga is. From the Sumerians to the American Indians and everywhere in between, come myths of such a nature. I will touch here on only a few important ones, but I encourage a thorough reading of all of them, and even a ranking based on time of origin, in order to try and track the progression, if not origin, of this idea.
The oldest-dated rendition of this tale is from Sumeria, dated by the feeble means we have at our disposal to the 17th century BC. Zisuthra, or Zisudra, or Sisuthra (the variations come from scholarly disagreement, from one country to the next, about phonetic matters, or how Sumerian should be pronounced…), a human “given immortality” by the gods. Technically, he “saw life” as Wikipedia puts it, yet another note on the continued problems with interpretation. We cannot, let me also add, very well interpret anything, if we are not sure of what it says. One wonders how much of the cryptologist’s imagination goes into the decipherment of these symbols…something we discussed a bit in the previous sections about language.
Be that as it may, Zisuthra is warned by the god Enki about a coming deluge. He is told to build a boat in order to survive, and then to repopulate the Earth after the flood is over. “After seven days the flood ends, Zi-ud-sura [Zisuthra] makes appropriate sacrifices and prostrations to An (sky-god) and Enlil (chief of the gods), and is given eternal life in Dilmun (the Sumerian Eden) by An and Enlil” (Wikipedia). This story comes from what is known as the Eridu Genesis, a product of a stone tablet that is still extant. While probably the oldest rendition, its similarities and close proximity to the Babylonian account in the Epic of Gilgamesh may in fact raise the antiquity of Gilgamesh, and so we begin to ask the important question: are these flood myths all disparate accounts concerned with the same, singular, global event? Or rather are merely repeatings, through hearsay, of the same singular tale?
Next time the Epic of Gilgamesh and its flood account. This book, we will see, may be the foundation of all religion today as we know it, preceding even Egyptian records.