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.