Was Noah’s God A Mass Murderer?


If you live in a western society, especially one with a strong Judeo-Christian influence, you are familiar with the story of Noah and the worldwide flood sent by God to punish all those very bad humans he created and supposedly loved. Guess even the god of the Jews and Christians reserves the right to change his mind and turn mass murderer if he gets pissed. But is there any evidence that such a flood really existed? Are there other historical accounts of a global inundation? If so, do these ancient records claim that it was punishment from the heavens or something else?

Actually, there are many ancient cultures and texts that contain a similar story. Here’s a few of the most well-known that also bear some similarity to the Judeo-Christian flood of Noah:

Sumeria: Translations of ancient Sumerian tablets tell of a great deluge that dates back to 200 BCE. Not sure there is anyway to compensate for a discrepancy of about 2800 years for this to be the same flood that occurred, according to Bible scholars, around 3000 BC. But the gringa has always believed that the math of Judeo-Christianity is a bit flawed. I put my trust in good, hard science. But, for curiosity’s sake, I still want to know what the Sumerian flood was like.

As the story goes, Earth saw a population explosion of humanity. Apparently, all those humans were rather noisy and the main god in power wanted a little peace and quiet. Seems he couldn’t sleep. Which is strange. I mean, if you are immortal, who the heck needs to sleep, right? But, I digress.

So, the big god who is living on Earth with the creatures he made gets cranky over lack of sleep thanks to his human rabble that had pro-created like crazy. So, with a bit of buyer’s remorse when his creation turned out to be a pain in the patootie instead of a pleasure, the big god first sent a devastating famine and drought to kill off the noisy buggers.

When that didn’t have the desired effect, the main god and his lesser gods high-tailed it off the planet. Once their great escape was accomplished, they turned around and sent a horrible flood to clean up the noisy mess of humanity left behind. Then, once everything was globally squeaky clean and QUIET, they returned.

If the Sumerian account is the truth, then we would all be the descendants of these returning gods since all humanity was killed. I mean, it’s only logical to believe that they wouldn’t return and re-create humanity, the very project that went south to begin with which is why they had to skedaddle and clean house. They wouldn’t be very smart gods if they re-created humanity. In fact, according to logic and psychiatry, they would be insane gods. The very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting a different outcome.

So, since none of us are immortal and vested with magical, supernatural powers, the gringa’s pretty sure that the Sumerian tale is just that, a tale. And very close to the account of Noah: mean gods who get sick and tired of humans so come up with a solution of human genocide.

Greek mythology’s Deucalion: Deucalion, son of Prometheus, the last Titan, tried to intervene on behalf of mankind when Zeus decided humans were just too much trouble and needed to be wiped out. Zeus decided that he would only have mercy on Deucalion and his wife, Pyrrha. Zeus considered them to be the only righteous humans among an entirely corrupted generation.

Deucalion’s father told him to build a large boat (ahem, Noah’s “ark”). Duecalion and Pyrrha took shelter on their boat, surviving the ensuing flood after Zeus sent a storm that lasted 9 days and 9 nights. A shorter lived storm than Noah’s 40 days/40 night account.

Unlike the biblical account that declares that all humanity was destroyed except for Noah and his family, the Greek myth allowed for a few stragglers to survive. It recounts that some people survived by escaping high into the mountaintops.

Another similarity between Deucalion and Noah is where the boat ended up. Noah’s account claims the ark came to rest atop Mount Ararat. Deucalion, too, ran aground atop a mountain, presumably mount Parnasus.

Chinese myth of the Gun-Yu: Occurring during Emperor Yao’s reign, this flood would have happened about the 24th century BCE. Best estimates place Noah’s flood about 3000 BC. Give or take several hundred years, the timing is consistent for both accounts. But the 40 days and nights of rain and several weeks of waiting for floodwaters to recede of the Noah story is a very different schedule of events compared to China’s record. As well as the disposition of Noah’s god as compared to the god of the ancient Chinese.

As the story goes, for 9 years Yao’s cousin, Gun, struggled to serve his emperor by devising different methods to keep the flood waters at bay. His efforts a failure, Yao resigned as emperor. His distant relative Shun took over ruling the country. He spent the next 4 years also battling the rising waters. The months of flooding Noah dealt with seems like a walk in the park compared to what China’s tale reveals of a torrential storm system lasting more than a decade.

Although attributing the flood as an act of the supreme deity, the Chinese do not attribute cruelty and punishment as the diety’s reason for sending the deluge. The Gun-Yu story also does not record the worldwide death of all humanity and wildlife as a result of the flood.

If you find this kind of history fascinating, there are many other cultural and religious tales that channel the Noah story. Check out:

  • K’iche’ lore
  • Mayan lore
  • North American tribe, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa
  • Muisca people
  • Hindu mythology
  • Scientific evidence

Yes, the gringa said scientific evidence. Scientists and geologists who have studied sedimentary layers believe there is evidence that suggests that the waters of the Mediterranean Sea once merged violently with the waters of the Black Sea about 7,500 years ago. That timing would place the event around the estimated time of Noah’s flood.

One thing the gringa finds incredibly interesting about the scientific evidence: Scientists say that the chain of events that culminated in this worldwide flood actually began much earlier, about 20,000 years ago during Earth’s last great glacier age. A global warming event occurred that caused massive ice melt and catastrophic sea level rise.

What do we know about global warming and rising sea levels? El Nino phenomena that causes catastrophic, extreme weather systems. So, that period of extreme drought and famine that culminated in a catastrophic flood as told by the Sumerians? Yep. Could have happened. Nearly 15 years of heavy downpours and flooding that ravaged ancient China? Yep. Could have happened. A storm that lasted 40 days and 40 nights, flooding the entire MIddle East where Noah was from? Yep. Could have happened.

But was the Noah account correct with regard to an angry, vengeful god who regretted creating humanity so turned mass murderer? The gringa thinks not. The gringa thinks that particular twist to the story was inspired by the same human instinct a parent exhibits when they tell their child to stay in bed lest the boogey-man grab them. Parents want some peace and quiet which can’t be had if kids don’t do as their told and go to bed and stay there!

So, the leaders of mankind often terrify the people they lead so they will behave. It makes the job of leadership easier. And nothing is more terrifying than thinking that an omnipotent god could wipe you out in the blink of an eye just because he found you annoying.

The moral of the story? Go ahead. Be annoying without fear. You’re only human. You can’t be expected to behave all of the time.

Sources:

Ancient Origins

Smithsonian Mag

Dave Livingston

Image Credit:

Maasai Boys

Video Credit:

Laurent Larraillet

Cannibals & Their Lightning God


Two things the gringa loves most are science and history. When the two collide I believe I am in Paradise.  Add the spice of controversy and there is simply no going back for the gringa. Archaeologists in Greece have made this dream combination come true for the gringa.

Let us travel back 3,000 years to the bleak mountaintop of Mount Lykaion in southern Greece, which some ancient Greeks believed to be the birthplace of Zeus, rather than Crete. This is the revered resting place of an altar featuring a grisly design of sheep bone construction. This is where the religious leaders of Greece hoped to pacify their god of gods, Zeus himself. Offered up are the bloody sacrifices of what one would expect to be sheep or goats, considering what the altar is made of. Think again dear readers.

For those schooled in literature and philosophy, when Greece is mentioned, you hearken back to the days of Plato and Socrates. You believe these sophisticated thinkers of Greece gave birth to civilized society as we know it. As you cruise about town, passing homes with columned porches, you remind yourself that this bit of architecture was passed down from an exceptionally cultured society. Or not. Not when the skeletal remains of a teenage boy near Zeus’ altar indicates that young, human sacrifices were being bled out on top of a table made from sheep bones in efforts to gain favor with a god that might rain down lightning if he got pissed.

But Mount Lykaion is historically linked to Greek athletic festivals, isn’t it? Isn’t it one of the ancient sites with a stadium and hippodrome, all indicators of a culture that appreciated athletic competitions? The gringa wonders, was death the price for losing or, could it have been the price for winning, or, could it have been the “opening ceremony” after which a priest turns around and commands, “Let the games begin!” Who really knows at this time because this is a recent discovery.

And some scholars are not too happy about revelations of human sacrifice as part of ancient Greek religious ceremonies. I mean, after all, Greece way back then liked to call rival foreign nations nasty names like barbarians and cannibals. But, really, who do they think they are fooling? Remember, Socrates asked Adeimantos if he had heard the latest gossip about religious zealouts feasting on the remains of their human sacrifice. Socrates includes a gruesome description of a terrible recipe of mixing the entrails of different victims which, if ingested by some hapless cannibal, transforms them into a wolf. Considering that Adeimantos had already heard the story, it seems that the nasty religious practices going on atop Mount Lykaion were no big secret among the ancient Greeks. It’s just big news to us.

So what kind of science goes into the decision that the remains of this young man belong to a specific era and culture? Scientists have to analyze the composition of the altar itself. Considered an “ash altar”, the gringa’s depiction of it being constructed in the fashion of, say, a dining room table and made completely out of sheep bones is not an altogether clear picture of what scientists are dealing with. Imagine, if you will, that ancient priests led sheep and goats to a sacred place, slit their throat, then burned the remains. Each sacrifice slaughtered and burned atop the ones that went before. Eventually a mound of ash accumulates and becomes a ritual platform. At Mount Lykaion the mound was almost five feet high.

So, the scientists use their handy-dandy equipment to measure remains of bones to see which animal (or human) they belong to. If human, they measure the pelvis to see if it is male or female. Then they need to determine the age of the remains. The first thing that comes to mind is ye aulde carbon dating technique. But there are other methods that can be used on other objects and archaeological sites to determine age:

  • Stratigraphical: The science of geology comes into play with a method that relies on the accumulation of soil to calculate the passage of time. The premise is that the area where people live results in layers of earth becoming deposited. Gives a whole new meaning to the saying that a particular area sure has “built up”.
  • Astronomical Chronology: Astronomers have used their knowledge to study the fluctuations of solar radiation to calculate when ice ages have occurred. The common argument is that 5 have occurred.
  • Dendrochronology: This science was pioneered in 1904 by A.E. Douglass who created the technique of analyzing tree rings to determine not only the age of a tree but to find indicators of drought, disease and hearty growing seasons.

So, if history, science and drama are appealing to someone you know, remind them that there are still exciting discoveries to be made, particularly in Greece. For young people who long for the curiosities that are found in archaeological digs, remind them that not every ancient puzzle has been solved. Along with history, they should also have a strong foundation in STEM studies.  And lucky for me this archaeological site has its own website keeping fascinated individuals like myself up-to-date on their latest discoveries. Because the gringa really wants to know just went on up there.

Sources:

www.greekmythology.com

www.biblicalarchaeology.org

www.oocities.org

lykaionexcavation.org

Image Source: tse4.mm.bing.net