Lee Harmon's Reviews > Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About The Event That Changed History

Noah's Flood by William      Ryan
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's review
May 05, 2011

really liked it

“We need not try to make history out of legend, but we ought to assume that beneath much that is artificial or incredible there lurks something of fact.” –C. Leonard Wooley, 1934

With this quote, the authors set the tone for the story of their exploration of the Black Sea basin. 7,500 years ago, their research determined, rising sea levels on the Mediterranean broke through a barricade and plunged into the Black Sea with a force 400 times greater than that of Niagara Falls, its thundering sound carrying at least 60 miles. Could this event have spawned the flood legends we read of in so many cultures, including the Hebrew story of Noah and the Ark? “The details given in the inscriptions describing the Flood leave no doubt that both the Bible and the Babylonian story describe the same event, and the Flood becomes the starting point for the modern world in both histories.” Could it be that people driven from their villages spread advances in agriculture and irrigation throughout Mesopotamia?

Because of the impact these flood stories have had on various cultures for so long, this is a fascinating topic for me. For the most part, the research of Ryan and Pitman has been well-received, and the general theory (if not all the details) deserves to be treated seriously. More recent research validates that a sudden flood event may indeed have occurred as suggested, though perhaps not at the magnitude described in Ryan and Pitman’s hypothesis.

The writing is interesting, and it reads like a scientific detective story. This isn’t a new book; it’s now thirteen years old, and you can pick it up used at Amazon for pennies.
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message 1: by Wendy (new)

Wendy There is no doubt but that the story of the flood in Babylonian myth was COPIED and modified for the Old Testament story. Thus, that they are similar are no suprise and does not make the original story more credible, any more than stories of devils and the garden with the tree of life/knowledge.
That there were floods from rivers and destruction from water sent into villages from bodies of water, whether by earthquake or whatever. There were plagues and "mysterious disease" spread thru contagion or due to polluted water or vermin. There were volcanic eruptions. There were raging fires in areas prone to them...All cataclysmic events for the local populace who may have ascribed them to angry deities.
Perhaps there were floods after 40 days and 40 nights of rain that submerged the known world in an early area in Mesopotamia when the population was concentrated near water. Here in my state we had 33 days in which it rained every day (and many nights)just recently and nothing was submerged despite my own city being disected by one river and bordered by another... but then again, at a lower elevation with much flat land it could have meant flooding of course... but one does not need the Bible or ancient texts to reveal the possibility but just an acquaintanceship with geography, geology and the impact of weather. That it would NOT have happened at least once in ancient times in a flat populated landscape would have been amazing.

message 2: by Lee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee Harmon Wendy, I take it by "Babylonian myth" you refer specifically to the epic of Gilgamesh? The Biblical author opened the pages of that book and copied it? Or are you suggesting that a legend did indeed spring up after a real-world event? In which case, you could say the Gilgamesh story is also a "copy" of the myth.

There is one major difference between the Biblice rendition and the Gilgamesh story, and its theological in nature; the Bible story paints the flood as a creation legend, a destruction and repopulation of the entire world.

message 3: by Wendy (new)

Wendy The story of a great flood was recounted in cunieform texts dating from around 2000 BC and surely there were indeed floods in Mesopotamia as there were lime deposits found by archaeologists in the upper strata of ancient sites in the area. That there was but one "great flood" of course, we cannot know but if there were floods (southern Sumer was indeed prone to them) or one biggie in a populated area at a time when the inhabitants considered that area to be "the known world", it would not be surprising. The myth became that a flood was due to the gods at whose whims man is subject and the tale of it was relayed to Gilgamesh by Utnapishtim perhaps as a lesson that the gods are not necessarily friends of mankind. That this might have been part of an oral tradition that preceeded the cunieform writing (found not in a book of course, but on tablets)is likely. The "due to the gods" and wiping out the world pretty much and any lessons learned is part of the myth which, like many references in the Old Testament, has roots in Mesopotamian myths.That the authors of the Old Testament fashioned their stories and even their "history" is well known...whether they copied it via repeating stories passed to them, changing it to suit their needs, or whether it is from actual texts of any kind is not important. Both the Sumerians and the Hebrews clearly ascribed natural events (thunder and lightening, rain, drought, flood, earthquake etc..) to supernatural sources.. the gods or lesser supernatural agents like demons/devils etc.. I am just saying that it is not surprising that there were floods which seemed more and more calamitous as one goes back thru time to more primative times, smaller populations, and limited concepts of the extent of the world and its varied geography ..in an area of rivers and flooding like Mesopotamia. That the story of a great flood may or may not be based on this ancient event the author describes is also true. Texts derivative of the Babylonian stories are not independent corroborators of it.

message 4: by Lee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee Harmon Yeah, I'm with you. It sounds like we were in agreement to begin with: Many catastrophic events were likely to have happened over the mellenia; at least one appears to have spawned mythological tales; these tales received written form as evidenced in the Bible and the epic of Gilgamesh; the similarities between these stories gives evidence that they originate from the same source; the author of this book uncovers an event that was indeed quite calamitous; it might be The One.

message 5: by Wendy (last edited May 09, 2011 11:05AM) (new)

Wendy Since writing can not be found to have been invented prior to c. 3000 BC, it would be one heck of an oral tradition to have kept that story going for 4000 years prior to 3000 BC thru eras of short life expectancy and perhaps more nomadic lifestyles...

message 6: by Lee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee Harmon Ah! Now we're getting to your objection! You feel the event described occurred too early to have survived in oral tradition. It was, btw, only about three thousand years before the epic of Gilgamesh if I remember the dating properly, but you're right. That's a long time. It would have to be an incredible event. Which is kind of the authors' claim.

I wonder: do you think the oral story of Jesus of Nazareth would have survived 1500 years until the printing press, had it not had a few elite able to read a parallel version in written form? I think it would have.

message 7: by Wendy (last edited May 09, 2011 11:43AM) (new)

Wendy Many of the stories of Jesus differed and some were discarded or even suppressed as heretical. As is often said, History is written by the winners. The "losers"seldom have their stories effectively conveyed to much later generations. That is why archeology and other fields including I might add, textual review of Biblical scholars who discern and "peel off" changes in later manuscripts of the bible and identify sources for material in the various gospels etc.. often unearth often challenge the history of things we learned in our youth to be true..but now see as parochial versions or deliberate reworking of what in fact happened or unveil contexts of events which change the meaning of the narratives we accepted at face value.
Thus,we see that the story of "Jesus of Nazareth" is indeed a amended, altered, reinterpreted story, a compendium possibly of stories from different traditions, and may even be of more than one person...

By the way...the Gilgamesh tablets were dated after the invention of writing (c. 3000BC) obviously and estimated to be closer to 2,000 BC, but that does not limit the story's invention to post 3000 BC. Still, 7,500 years ago would make the gap narrower, I agree...to maybe 3,500 years or less. Still, quite a long time for an oral tradition to survive.

I find it more interesting to trace aesthetic responses of mankind to early man's life ...like fascination with fire, and generally, appreciation of the beauty of any body of water..(ever hear of an ugly body of water?)

message 8: by Lee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee Harmon well, sure, different writers have different aims. Or, more to the point of my scenario, different oral storytellers have different agendas. The question is not the direction in which the Jesus stories evolve, but where they originate: at a single point (ignoring, for the moment, your suggestion that there may have been more than one "Jesus"). Much as the legends of the flood might have originated in one event so monstrous that it survived thousands of years of storytelling.

In the end, I reckon its mostly idle speculation, but fun.

message 9: by Wendy (new)

Wendy Here is a fun one...the name of the Devil who tempts Christ in the Bible.. is the name of a Babylonian desert devil.

message 10: by Lee (last edited May 09, 2011 12:10PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee Harmon Interesting, I'd like to know where that comes from...I just peeked at the Greek, and the word used for "the devil" in Matthew and Luke is commonly used throughout the N.T. ... as is the word for Satan used in the Markan version. There's no temptation in John.

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