The Assyrian Flood Tablet

Museum of Biblical History Staff • 01.29.2015

“Let me disclose, O Gilgamesh, a matter most secret, to you I will tell a mystery of the gods.” (George, 88)

Assyrian Flood Tablet

Museum Replica of the Epic of Gilgamesh Standard Version, 11th Tablet

Within the main exhibit of the Museum is a small tablet that reveals a masterpiece of literature –as well as the oldest known literature.  The tablet, which we have labeled the Assyrian Flood Tablet, is a cast-molded replica of that which comes from the great library of Assurbanipal in ancient Nineveh.  It is the 11th tablet of what is known by scholars as the Standard Version of the Epic of Gilgamesh; and though the tablet itself dates to the 7th Century B.C., the story goes back even several centuries before the time of Abraham!  But why is this tablet, which tells of multiple gods, heroes, monsters, and glorious battles even in the Museum of Biblical History?  It is here because it also tells the story of Noah and the Great Flood.

Unfortunately, it is not a widely known fact that the story of the Great Flood is not just told in the Bible; it is the closest thing the world has to a truly universal story!  Virtually every known culture has some version of the Great Deluge within their stories of days long past.  Some scholars say that even as many as 500 flood myths are known. (Schoch, 249)  Even more surprising is where these stories are found – not just in the Ancient Near East, but stretching all the way to India, China, Australia, and perhaps most importantly, even to the pre-European Americas.  Before the Europeans came to the Americas, even the natives had Flood stories, from the Ojibwa and the Cherokee, to the Aztecs and the Incas.

Yet of all the hundreds of Flood Stories that span the cultures of the world throughout time, one story stands out as the most comparable to the Biblical record of Noah and his ark.  Perhaps even more surprising, however, is the age of the story: it predates even the text of Genesis by around a thousand years, which has led many scholars to believe that the Bible “borrowed” from the Gilgamesh Epic, and changed it to fit Hebrew culture.  But is this what really happened?  Did the Hebrew people “borrow” from Mesopotamian culture to write the Bible: or is there another possible explanation?  What evidence is there for the arguments made, and can we even know the facts?

In our presentation, Deluge: Our Universal Story, we examine several of the various myths of the Great Flood, and scrutinize mythology at its very core as we test the question, “is it possible that the Bible records the original story?”  We hope you join us in this incredible journey into antiquity as we try to separate myth from fact, and discover the world that was when Noah walked the earth.

 

Works Cited

George, Andrew. The Epic of Gilgamesh. London: Penguin, 2003. Print.

Schoch, Robert. Voyages of the Pyramid Builders. New York: Putnam, 2003. Print.