Was this the garden of Eden/Noah's flood?

by little_Socrates 26 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • CalebInFloroda

    Part of the reason for the similarities in stories and the "pattern" people are seeing in discoveries like these has to do with the ancient Mesopatonian cosmogony.

    The cosmogony was the accepted "scientific" model of the time, so to speak. The ancients of the area believed that life and the earth came to exist by means of the cosmic oceans of which the universe consisted. In the minds of the ancients there was no void or vacuum of space. All there was existed in a cosmic soup of waters.

    Deities were an accepted "reality" in this cosmic model. Where the heathens generally ascribed humans as an afterthought or closer to an accidental side effect due to creative projects or regular functions of the gods, the Hebrews believed humans were a direct creation. The center of the world was generally believed to be in the vicinity of the four major rivers known to these people, especially the Euphrates. While other models existed, this was the one shared by the inhabitants of the Mesopatmian cultures.

    Instead of defying the "scientific" model of the day, the Jews merely inserted their mythology into it. This is why one reads in Genesis 1.6 that the waters had to be divided from waters to create the world and 2 Peter 3.5 states "earth was formed out of water and by means of water." All the elements known by these ancients that made up the universe were believed to have originated in this cosmic soup of waters.

    There were two cosmogony myths, one in which the gods directly created the universe from the waters and another in which a previous existing humanity and world of animal life was birthed from the destruction of what previously existed by means of water and introduced into a new one created through the waters. The Hebrew texts kept both stories, interpolating their mythology and legends and history into it (not doing so would have made the Hebrew stories laughable had they rejected the common "science" of the day).

    This represents only the Mesopotamian cosmogony however, and not necessarily that of other ancients who existed concurrently. The idea that life began in the "nearby" vicinity is to be expected of any ancient society whether on the western or eastern side of the planet. Too often people read the Mesopotamian cosmogonies as universal, when reality they are just the best known in Western society. Coincidences are usually seen only because people are often comparing Mesopotamian mythologies with other Mesopotamian mythologies instead of these with lesser known ancient cultures.

    The Jewish pattern of mythology is not unique in that it used the shared Mesopatamian cosmogony as a backdrop for its stories. People often try to validate the details of the cosmogony when in reality the "truths" lie not in the backdrop but in the character interactions with G-d that take place over this backdrop. This is why it is somewhat silly to prove a global flood or make a search for a Garden of Eden, as these are not the original elements of the stories. The characters and dialogue are the central facets of the narratives from chapters 1 to 11, but they are merely set on this stage. Trying to prove that the "sets" and "backdrop" are true is like claiming sets on a Broadway stage are reality as well. The Jews merely used the "same stage" every other group around them used to tell their origin legends.

    That is why I dismiss so much of this "science" that tries to prove the flood and those other ancient details of Genesis. It comes from reading these texts in a vacuum, ignoring their Jewish construct and seeking to support some literalist's need to validate their own fundamentalism, never bothering to check if their interpretations makes a mockery of the holy texts and the religion that gave birth to them.

  • Half banana
    Half banana

    The myth of Noah’s Flood is not a Jewish matter, it is pretty well universal. The Biblical tale of the flood is uninspired because it is borrowed from much earlier Middle Eastern literature including the oldest known narrative writings in Sumeria in southern Mesopotamia.

    It is a mistake to think that it is based on a reality and go searching for scientific corroboration, as Caleb points out; this is without point. (Of course this does not stop the crack-pots from trying). The Genesis flood is so hopelessly flawed as a literal account as to immediately dismiss its truthfulness. One small family could not save the world’s fauna in a floating chest and then have all the animals subsequently journey back to their place of origin after the water dried up. These are just the first two of a hundred arguments defying a literal interpretation. As for the Garden of Eden, come on! This reads like a myth and waddles like a myth and quacks like a myth.

    It is also a mistake to think that myths are true in essence or existed as a kernel of truth but were elaborated for the sake of the literary effect. This is not how myth functions. It is this gross assumption which gets writers to make fatuous and startling headline claims like the ones in the title of this thread; proof of The Flood or finding the Garden of Eden. No! Myth is usually a universal tale, part of a coherent broader pattern of stories, which explains the unexplainable or reconciles the irreconcilable. It makes only for a story not a fact of history or science.

  • CalebInFloroda

    @Half Banana

    Pretty much thumbs up with much you have to say.

    I do want to point out to those who read my comments that I am using a different meaning to the word "mythology" than commonly used in the vernacular. Most people use it to refer to a false story but in philology it refers to a creation-origins story.

    Longfellow's famous poem, "Paul Revere's Ride" (a.k.a. The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere) is also this type of "mythology," as it tells of the origins of freedom in the American Revolution. In this sense the stories of Genesis chapter 1-11 are "mythology" in the sense that, despite the settings to most of them, they are stories with a purpose to serve as the Torah's own backdrop, preparing the reader for the stories of Abraham and those that follow. They have genuine Jewish roots that are based on traditions handed down by generations through Hebrew society despite employing techniques not original or exclusive to Semiites.

    The traditions that formed the basis of these type of written accounts have some basis in either a historical reality of some sort of historical-cultural need, and theoretically they could in some instances have a basis in real occurrences like those surrounding Paul Revere. But, especially in reference to the Hebrew Bible the stories have been transformed into tales explaining the origins of life and the universe from the standpoint of Jewish religion. However well set in genuine history or not, the stories have been transformed into the present mythology genre and must be approached as such, not the stories which inspired them.

    While this is not mean to counter the stand of those who believe that nothing in the Hebrew Tanakh could possibly be true, it is meant to explain that such an argument is irrelevant as the stories, false or true in origin, have been transformed into mythology for a purpose transcending the transmission of history itself. "Mythology" in this sense is a reflection on reality, explaining it in various ways such as poetry and song, in ways that only the genre itself can transmit ideals and cherished views of a culture.

  • Crazyguy
    I failed to mention in my first post that in southern Mesopotamia, archeologists' have found evidence of a major flood that took place several thousands of years ago. This river flooding was normal in this area but this flood was thought to be caused by more water run off then usual. Some believe the original flood story may have been a retelling by the people that survived this local flood.
  • Half banana
    Half banana

    Whilst what you say Crazy guy is perfectly true this is not the direction to go if you are attempting to interpret a myth.

    If one were familiar with Quaternary geology i.e. the prevailing geological period, or more specifically the Holocene epoch which covers the last twelve thousand years; it is simply a matter of normalcy that rivers flood. I have hands-on experience of describing flood events in a proto river Thames at 230,000 years before present. Any of these events could have caused deaths and folk with boats could survive an inundation. It could also create local legends of survival and renewal. However I suggest that the Biblical Flood is not one of these but does nevertheless describe the consequences of a literal global event. (It takes more than a quick post to explain convincingly!) Evidentially determined Earth- sciences do not allow for the possibility of a global flood within the last 2.6 million years of the Quaternary... and local flood events are legion.

    As you say CalebinF there are a number of different types of myth which is an important distinction to make when discussing a folk tales, legends or traditional stories etc.

  • Vidiot

    Iown Mylife - "...Why preserve a flood story shared by heathens who worshipped idols and pass it down as part of the lineage narrative that leads to Abraham?"

    Same reason the Church adapted (or adopted) aspects of the different pagan customs and myths as it spread across Europe.

  • Viviane
    But it does suggest the bible may be a lot more historically accurate than many want to admit.

    No, it doesn't. It shows, at best, that cultural stories, legends and myths can share a common origin based on an actual event, something that was already known.

  • CalebInFloroda


    Actaully that question was rhetorical to show that there is no logic in claiming that the Noachin flood is supposed to be read as historically accurate.

    The point I was making is that "creation-flood" stories are one of two types of ancient cosmogony models that were considered integral to the legendary origin stories of almost all Mesopotamian societies. You couldn't tell a "history" story without setting it in at least one of these narrative backdrops.

    The Jews chose both the model that states that life came directly from the cosmic ocean to form the earth as we experience it and the other that claimed that human and animal life had a pre-existence before a catastrophic flood that wiped away the previous world but planted the survivors of that flood as the foundation of this current one.

    Being without a collegiate background, the Governing Body is quite ignorant of how ancient cosmogony played into Scripture and how this changes the meaning therein.

  • Vidiot

    CalebInFlorida - "Being without a collegiate background, the Governing Body is quite ignorant of how ancient cosmogony played into Scripture and how this changes the meaning therein."

    Willfully ignorant, I suspect.

    They've grasped that if you become highly educated, you can't help but encounter arguments and evidence that successfully refute your beliefs, no matter what religion you belong to.

    Eventually, all your beliefs and doctrines will come into question, and they know it.

    It's the ideological equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling, "Lalalalalalalalala...".

  • Crazyguy
    Half Banana, one needs to remember the original flood stories from that area were not of a global flood, it's was later that the stories changed to be a global flood. Let's also remember that 10-15 thousand years ago the last ice age was ending so a lot of ice was melting surely causing a lot of flooding. These events could have also made for flood stories around the world.

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