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Thorfinn the Shallow Minded

The Flood Myth

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Most people have heard of the story of the flood.  Water came down and wiped out most of humanity.  This is most famously told in the Biblical narrative of Noah and the Ark.  Interestingly, in many mythological traditions such as Norse, Greek, Sumerian, Chinese, and Native American just to name a few, there is a similar story.  Obviously there are differences between them, yet it is fascinating that such a story is told on a global level.  One of the more prominent explanations for this phenomenon is to argue that it confirms the Bible's story, but for those who would dismiss this, what do you think of the matter?  Is it a coincidence and apologists who argue for the aforementioned statement are simply jumping conclusions?  

This gets into somewhat controversial territory due to the religious nature of it, so please be respectful of course.  :)  

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ever I ear about Native americans have same "myth" like Troy can be a background (Historical) behind.

  • you have the source of those people  like Chinese and American natives they are geographical far from Mesopotamia. mostly of expert arguing about the site were the flood happens.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesis_flood_narrative

there are a flood similar in the history.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sea_deluge_hypothesis

Quote

In 1997, William Ryan, Walter Pitman and their colleagues published their hypothesis that a massive flooding of the Black Sea occurred about 5600 BC through the Bosphorus.[2] Before that date, glacial meltwater had turned the Black and Caspian Seas into vast freshwater lakes draining into the Aegean Sea. As glaciers retreated, some of the rivers emptying into the Black Sea declined in volume and changed course to drain into the North Sea.[4] The levels of the lakes dropped through evaporation, while changes in worldwide hydrology caused overall sea level to rise. The rising Mediterranean finally spilled over a rocky sill at the Bosphorus. The event flooded 155,000 km2 (60,000 sq mi) of land and significantly expanded the Black Sea shoreline to the north and west. According to the researchers, "40 km3 (10 cu mi) of water poured through each day, two hundred times the flow of the Niagara Falls. The Bosphorus flume roared and surged at full spate for at least three hundred days."[5] Some archaeologists support this theory as an explanation for the lack of Neolithic period sites in northern Turkey.[6

 

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Flooding happens pretty much everywhere. It's kind of hard to explain how or why exactly. A storm can pass, the next day, it will be fine... or you'll be canoeing to the local store for some ice-cream. The length of it depends on a lot for factors early civilizations probably didn't know.

It makes sense for cultures to tell stories of them. Scare the kids so they know what to watch out for them. Parents have been telling stories for a long time. Some stick around. The flood isn't the only story that's crossed continents. The concepts of gods and different 'focuses' of them. Death for example, the underworld, whatever. Kid's need to know it's a part of life in some way. If you just think about how myths start you'll see where most of them come from: preservation, preparation, and to answer questions we don't know.

Control is also another reason why they exist. Which makes sense. You need to need to believe some things have a consequence. Instead of getting scared of the parent, let them look to the sky instead. It's always on their shoulders so they shouldn't forget its there. That's my logic at least. Idk

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Another interesting note is that global sea levels have risen by 130 meters since the last glacial maximum, c. 20.000 years ago, rising more than 100 meters over a 7000 year period from 14.000 years to 7000 years ago. Not exactly a sudden deluge, but it's effects on pre-historic human populations and their movement (often traveling and living on the coastlines) would have been significant, and definitely left some kind of mark on the collective global memory. Areas between landmasses which were previously connected and probably "densely" populated according to Pre-Historic standards became submerged:

  • British Isles and Europe were connected,
  • the Aegean sea and islands used to be coastal plains,
  • The Adriatic, Black and Caspian Seas were much smaller, 
  • the Bering straight,
  • South-East Asian Islands and the Asian mainland (Sundaland),
  • Australia and Papua New Guinea,
  • India and Sri Lanka,
  • Arabian Peninsula and Iran
  • Korean Peninsula and China (perhaps even Japan)
  • Distance between Yemen and the horn of Africa became negligible
  • Basically every coastline of the world was affected.

 

Post-Glacial_Sea_Level.png.e9587c67b7af826f7c4f9338a43cefc2.png

Edited by Sundiata
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21 hours ago, Thorfinn the Shallow Minded said:

One of the more prominent explanations for this phenomenon is to argue that it confirms the Bible's story, but for those who would dismiss this, what do you think of the matter?

Interesting that the other myths "confirm" the Bible's telling, instead of the other way around? ;) 

Floods are one of the major natural disasters which plagued early mankind, especially since we have the habit of building our dwellings on or near floodplains. It is not surprising that the myths and legends of many ancient peoples include large floods. There's also, as @Sundiata mentions the massive sea level rise after the end of the last glacial period, which contributed to the flooding of the Mediterranean basin and later the Black Sea basin. :)  

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31 minutes ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

Interesting that the other myths "confirm" the Bible's telling, instead of the other way around? ;) 

Hence the multiple meanings of "myth." 

That explanation does have a good scientific framework.  What makes the subject interesting to me personally is the comparative mythological aspects of the story/stories, and how despite the linguistic, cultural, and geographical differences, there are so many parallels worldwide.  If this topic was more popular, I'd definitely have a prediction for the next Watch.Mojo top ten video. ^_^ 

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On 9/29/2018 at 4:21 AM, Thorfinn the Shallow Minded said:

Most people have heard of the story of the flood.  Water came down and wiped out most of humanity.  This is most famously told in the Biblical narrative of Noah and the Ark.  Interestingly, in many mythological traditions such as Norse, Greek, Sumerian, Chinese, and Native American just to name a few, there is a similar story.  Obviously there are differences between them, yet it is fascinating that such a story is told on a global level.  One of the more prominent explanations for this phenomenon is to argue that it confirms the Bible's story, but for those who would dismiss this, what do you think of the matter?  Is it a coincidence and apologists who argue for the aforementioned statement are simply jumping conclusions? 

Basically there are two different questions:

  • was there a world-wide myth about a flood?
  • was there a global deluge?

The answer to both is actually negative. First the former: it takes more than just "there was a flood" to conclude different myths have a common origin. There are numerous trickster myths throughout the world, but that doesn't mean there once was a single myth shared by everyone (nor that there was only one trickster ever, on which all later myths were based). The Greeks had several flood myths (Deucalion and Pyrrha, Philemon and Baukis, Achilles vs Xanthos/Skamander, Atlantis), but these are all separate stories with different origins.

Then the second. It is true global sea levels have been rising over the past thousands of years, albeit at varrying speeds; the increase since c. 5000 BC is practically negligible. What matters more is that continental plates are moving, causing some areas to submerge and others to rise (e.g. the Atlantic Ocean widens at about 2.5 cm each year and Mount Everest in the Himalayas becomes nearly 1 cm higher yearly). It is also true the Black Sea was not always connected to the Mediterranean, the Mediterranean not always to the Atlantic. and the Persian Gulf not always to the Arabian Sea. However, although there are some who argue this might have happened at single, catastrophic events, the majority believes that all these changes happen at too slow a pace for individual humans to notice.

People tend to overlook that flooding is actually quite common. Rainfall isn't constant and river levels fluctuate. Usually rivers stay within their course but occassionally they inundiate nearby areas, sometimes for days, sometimes for weeks. We know from Latin and Italian sources that e.g. the Tiber (Rome) and Arno (Florence) frequently flooded; it was part of normal life; only particularly severe ones enter collective memory, e.g. the Seine (Paris) in 1910 or the Arno in 1966.

Only last month (August 2018) there were severe floodings in Kerala; c. 500 people died, over a million were evacuated to relief camps, five million more were directly affected; and Kerala is a relatively wealthy state with weather forcasts, emergency services, mass communication, and dozens of dams to control water levels. In a different time or area there would have been a far greater disaster.

Given that the vast majority of human population throughout have lived since pre-historic times, and still are living in the present day, near rivers, and that it is not unusual for rivers to flood, it is perfectly understandable (unrelated) flood stories are present in different parts of the world.

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9 hours ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

Interesting that the other myths "confirm" the Bible's telling, instead of the other way around?

Indeed. There are enough similarities between the myths of Deucalion, Noah, Utnapishtim, Atrahasis, and Ziusudra that there is a consensus all these have a common, Mesopotamian, origin. It has even been suggested the "deluge" of the story was a severe flooding of the Euphrates in c. 2900 BC.

It is not unusual that myths are borrowed and retold elsewhere; many (possibly most) Greek myths came from the Near East; e.g Adonis is Tammuz/Dumuzid.

As for the Bible and Torah, Genesis was probably codified shortly after Cyrus allowed the Jews to return from Babylon to Jerusalem, maybe as a consequence of the construction of the Second Temple, subsidized by Darius, i.e. somewhere around 500 BC. The Mesopotamian versions of the flood myth were written down more than a thousand years earlier and it is highly unlikely the Jews living in Babylon for decades never heard or read the Babylonian version.

Anyway, Genesis consists of two different parts, the primeval (Genesis 1-11: creation of the world; Adam and Eve; their descendants; Noah; his descendants, Tower of Babel, etc.) and the ancestral (Genesis 12-50: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob; Joseph and his brothers, the migration into Egypt) history. The latter serves as an introduction to the stories of Moses (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deutoronomy).

Many scholars believe the primeval part of Genesis (1-11) is a later addition to serve as an introduction to the ancestral part of Genesis (12-50). Also, Genesis 1-11 is the result of merging at least two different versions, which explains why this part frequently contradicts itself, e.g.:

  • the first woman is created twice, first simultaneously with the first man (Gen 1:27), later afterwards out of a rib of him when he was sleeping (Gen 2:21-24). (In Medieval times the explanation was that they were two different women, the former, Lilith, considered herself an equal of the man, and was not willing to obey him, therefore God created the latter, Eve, out of Adam, to serve him as an obidient wife.)
  • Noah collects one pair of each animal (Gen 6:19) or seven pairs of all clean animals (Gen 7:2)
  • the deluge lasts 40 days (Gen 7:17) or 150 days (Gen 7:24)
  • Noah releases a raven once (Gen 8:6-7) and (?) a dove thrice (Gen 8:8-13)

Anyway, the story of Noah in the Bible actually confirms a Mesopotamian origin of the myth, not vice versa.

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On 9/30/2018 at 4:53 AM, Nescio said:

Many scholars believe the primeval part of Genesis (1-11) is a later addition to serve as an introduction to the ancestral part of Genesis (12-50). Also, Genesis 1-11 is the result of merging at least two different versions, which explains why this part frequently contradicts itself, e.g.:

You obviously did some research on this, and it is possible that the section in question could be the result of two merged accounts. However, I don't feel the particular points you listed provide compelling support for that.

On 9/30/2018 at 4:53 AM, Nescio said:

the first woman is created twice, first simultaneously with the first man (Gen 1:27), later afterwards out of a rib of him when he was sleeping (Gen 2:21-24). (In Medieval times the explanation was that they were two different women, the former, Lilith, considered herself an equal of the man, and was not willing to obey him, therefore God created the latter, Eve, out of Adam, to serve him as an obidient wife.)

We often follow a summary account with a more detailed account, so I think that's not necessarily that odd in itself. I'm especially not surprised that some in Medieval times had unusual alternate explanations for things. (Actually, that's still common today.)

On 9/30/2018 at 4:53 AM, Nescio said:

Noah collects one pair of each animal (Gen 6:19) or seven pairs of all clean animals (Gen 7:2) 

Because the emphasis is on "clean" animals which is such a big topic in other passages, this most certainly meant both, not one or the other. If these were the result of two merged accounts, then one account would not preserve most animals (unclean) from the flooding. Also, it later states (Gen 8:20) that there were animal sacrifices made right after the flood, so there had to be some additional (clean) animals available for that purpose (or they would be killing off the last two of a particular animal).

On 9/30/2018 at 4:53 AM, Nescio said:

the deluge lasts 40 days (Gen 7:17) or 150 days (Gen 7:24)

It mentions forty days of active flooding (ark was lifted up) and 150 days of water retention. I guess the 150 days is supposed to include the flooding and receding. The idea seems consistent enough with one account.

On 9/30/2018 at 4:53 AM, Nescio said:

Noah releases a raven once (Gen 8:6-7) and (?) a dove thrice (Gen 8:8-13) 

It's implied that the raven never returned, so instead a dove was sent weekly until the dove returned with a branch indicating land was found. The last time the dove was sent it didn't return either. The three times is probably supposed to be symbolic. The raven vs. dove was probably included to provide a comparison (like goat vs. sheep, etc.)

[Edit] fixed grammar

Edited by WhiteTreePaladin
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It is not difficult to ignore, explain away, or smooth over internal consistencies, as has been done by many commentators, translators, and readers over the centuries.

However, it is not unusual that when an orally transmitted story is codified, people try to unify different accounts into one text, leaving artefacts in the final version. Something similar is visible in the Odyssey:

  • Although books 5-24 focus on Odysseus, he's entirely absent in books 1-4, which concentrate on his son Telemachus, who does little but complain, talk, and listen to others in the palace (1), Ithaca (2), Pylos (3), and Sparta (4); he's sent by Athena-disguised-as-Mentor to find his father, but at the end of the Telemachy he still doesn't know whether Odysseus is dead or alive
  • In books 9-12 Odysseus tells the fairy tales of his travels; at the end of book 10 Circe orders him to visit the Underworld to ask Teiresias for advice on how to get home; in book 11 he talks to Teiresias and several others but doesn't ask nor receive any directions; at the beginning of book 12 he's returned to Circe, who gives him instructions on how to sail home, as if nothing has happened
  • Odysseus, his son, and two loyal servants massacre the dozens of suitors of his wife in book 22. In book 23 he's reunited with Penelope, the two go to bed, tell each other what happened in the past twenty years, and go to sleep; the Odyssey clearly ends here. However, then we still have book 24, in which Odysseus and Telemachus visit his father Laertes on his farm, suddenly an enemy army shows up, they prepare to annihilate them, and deus ex machina Athena appears, ordering everyone to calm down and make peace. Some commentators consider book 24 to be a later addition and a few translators even omitted it entirely, because they view it as a disappointing anti-climax unworthy of Homer; yet it is clearly part of the text, linguistically and stylistically as old as other parts of the Odyssey
On 10/1/2018 at 7:03 AM, WhiteTreePaladin said:

You obviously did some research on this, and it is possible that the section in question could be the result of two merged accounts. However, I don't feel the particular points you listed provide compelling support for that.

We often follow a summary account with a more detailed account, so I think that's not necessarily that odd in itself. I'm especially not surprised that some in Medieval times had unusual alternate explanations for things. (Actually, that's still common today.)

The remark on Medieval Lilith-vs-Eve was intended as a fun fact, not a proof of anything, which is why I put it between parentheses. However, it does illustrate even monks who believe every word of the Bible to be litterally true felt a need to reconcile the two creation stories.

Both Genesis 1:1-2:4 and Genesis 2:4-2:25 are very short, however, it is clear the former is not an introduction nor the latter a summary. It's the same story told differently; some points are longer in the first, others in the second; the order also differs.

Genesis 1:1-2:4 is the creation in seven days; on the third day God creates Earth, plants, trees, and fruits; on the fifth day fish and all animals that live in the water first, then the birds, and blesses them; on the sixth day he creates all land animals; he then made man and woman to rule everything else, and gives them his instructions.

Genesis 2:4-2:25 starts by stating Earth was empty, there were no plants; God then makes man out of dust, subsequently continues to make the Garden of Eden, places man there, and gives him instructions; then he notices man is lonely, therefore he creates animals and birds, and brings them to man, who names them; but because God didn't find any animal suitable to match man, he puts him to sleep, steals a rib, makes woman out of it, man wakes up, and speaks.

To me this appears to be two different stories; likewise, there are differing accounts in Noah's myth. It's not difficult to find articles, books, and scholarly publications on this.

However, I'm not trying to convince anyone; everyone is entitled to his own opinion. I do urge you to read Genesis yourself; it's a short but rich text full of beautiful stories. Reading the entire book might take less than two hours, and it's really worth your time; Gen 1-11 is about a fifth of the total and could be done in perhaps twenty minutes. Read it, critically, think about it, and make your own judgement on it.

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I'd say the remarks made about Genesis 1 Genesis 2 being two separate stories seems plausible given the stylistic and thematic differences despite finding the differences easy enough to reconcile.  The flood, on the other hand, being two separate stories merged together, seems to be a clumsier argument in my opinion.  The closeness in the text of the "inconsistencies" makes the problems, if they were so, absurd if we are adhering to a documentary hypothesis since they are glaringly obvious to an editor.  Admittedly, the only textual criticism I am informed about is New Testament related, yet I think that there are so glaring issues that probably would relate to the following case.  First, work with religious texts tends towards conservative ends, attempting to harmonise the texts, making the idea of two stories being merged together implausible due to the so-called inconsistencies mentioned of the flood.  Furthermore, it seems unlikely given the generally conservative nature of religious writers that they would mesh together two separate stories.  A more likely case would be for there to be two accounts, mirroring the cases of Genesis 1 and 2.  

Obviously, as I have not read much literature on textual criticism of the Torah, I'm sure that other people have made better arguments both for and against my position, but those were just a few thoughts on the recent comments.

By the way, I found the points about the Odyssey's structure to be fascinating.  

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There are two "narratives" that some may interpret as two separate accounts. If they are separate accounts, they are rather complementary. The first narrative covers the overall creation and provides a timeline. It mentions each element of creation and states that each is good. At the end, mankind is created as both male and female; it then states that this is "very" good rather than just good.

Considering that the creation of mankind was considered "very" good, the second narrative provides a follow-up and focuses on this in detail. The ordering in this section is less consequential because everything is related to humans, and no attempt is made to provide a chronology like the first section. Here things are introduced when it is convenient to bring them up in relation to the main topic, the creation of man. Except for the portion that provides extensive landmarks for location of the Garden of Eden, it's difficult to read more than a sentence here without the word "man" appearing. There are a few sentences about plants which are presumably included to introduce the Garden of Eden as a habitat for humans. There is also a very small part on animals which was included to show that there was no mate available for Adam. This led to the creation of woman which completed the creation of mankind.

The first narrative could be seen as independent, but the second narrative would be rather incomplete as a full creation story. There are no references to the creation of light, darkness, celestial bodies, or even the creation of the earth itself.* Plant and animal details are sparse. There is no mention of the sky (except to say that rain had not been invented yet), or any water creatures. (The lack of sky or water in the discussion is likely due to humans being land dwellers.) The second narrative's major omissions lead me to think that it was intended as an addition to the first part rather than a separate, standalone account.

 

*The beginning of Genesis 2 can easily be seen as a continuation of the first narrative. It can be difficult to determine where the second narrative actually begins as the first flows so gradually into the second. In Genesis 2:4 there is part of a sentence that mentions the creation of the heavens and earth, but it is either the conclusion of the first narrative or a reference back to it due to the wording: "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,..."

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Although I'm not a fan of the literalist approach to interpreting thousands year old mystic literature, you need to keep in mind that the Bible is a large collection of transcribed oral traditions with obvious parallels in other Middle Eastern traditions and even some Egyptian influences. The editors of the "final" written versions would not always have been as familiar with all the original source-material, and therefore might not always have even known that they were merging/conflating stories, or even be 100% aware of the underlying messages accumulated over many centuries.

The first time I read Genesis I was a kid, and even then it seemed obvious to me that this stuff isn't literal. I always interpreted the "days" in which the Earth and the universe were created as eras, rather than literal days. How can a "day" for God be the same as a day for man? Also, god creates "mankind in his own image" on the 6th "day" in Genesis 1. It doesn't say anything about Adam. Then the 7th day comes and the lord rests. Then comes the story of Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden. It doesn't say they were the first people. This is demonstrated in Genesis 4, in the story of Cain and Able. When the Lord condemns Cain to be a wanderer on the earth, Cain cries out "whoever finds me will kill me." Who is he talking about, if supposedly he, his father and his mother are the first and only people in the world? He clearly referred to Able as his brother, so if he's talking about his later unnamed brothers and sisters, why doesn't he call them his brothers and sisters like normal people would. Further into Genesis 4, Cain makes love to his wife. Where in the world is she coming from?? And one sentence later he's building a city. For who??? Adam and Eve are a beginning of a special line of people, a chosen people, but not necessarily the first. The bible seems to differentiates between the sons of Adam, and the sons of Man. Either way, non of it is clearcut, and was never meant to be, imo. The dominant narrative today is just one of the interpretations that people "agreed" upon at some  point in time.  

The flood-myth is irrelevant from a scientific perspective, which is logical considering that it was written down well over 2000 years before the development of modern science... But the fact that that it's a recurring theme the world round is interesting to say the least... As mentioned earlier, the combination of local flooding events and the global rise in sea level would have undoubtedly contributed to the spread of such stories, as well as the shared heritage of many Middle-Eastern accounts, further blurring the lines between fact and fiction. 

Edited by Sundiata

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5 hours ago, Sundiata said:

The flood-myth is irrelevant from a scientific perspective, which is logical considering that it was written down well over 2000 years before the development of modern science... But the fact that that it's a recurring theme the world round is interesting to say the least... As mentioned earlier, the combination of local flooding events and the global rise in sea level would have undoubtedly contributed to the spread of such stories, as well as the shared heritage of many Middle-Eastern accounts, further blurring the lines between fact and fiction.  

Indeed. Like you, I think it is related with very old fears resulting from events during the end of the Ice Age. People don't realize how much it was different at this moment, with gigantic rivers flooding most of the valleys.

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/channeled-scablands/

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/original-brexit-how-tremendous-ice-age-waterfalls-cut-britain-europe

And there is not only indication in the Black Sea for a sea level rising, but in the Persian Gulf too.

https://www.world-archaeology.com/world/asia/iran/persian-gulf-the-first-migration/

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6 hours ago, Sundiata said:

The first time I read Genesis I was a kid, and even then it seemed obvious to me that this stuff isn't literal. I always interpreted the "days" in which the Earth and the universe were created as eras, rather than literal days. How can a "day" for God be the same as a day for man?

I am more likely to believe the original oral tradition meant literal days. Only later did apologetics attempt to add a non-literal nuance to the story. Sure, the far ancients were capable of nuance, but they literally believed there was a God who created the Earth, so why couldn't He do so in literally 6 days? He's God after all. The Ancient Greeks literally thought Hades existed below their feet. It wasn't metaphorical to them (there was the Necromanteion in Epirus where they literally believed they could enter Hades or commune with it).

 

Quote

Either way, non of it is clearcut, and was never meant to be, imo. 

It's true that it's not clear cut, but I really think that in ancient times it was meant to be clear cut. Human settlements were quite isolated for thousands of years. Most people were born, lived, and died within a 5 mile radius. 

Edited by wowgetoffyourcellphone

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10 hours ago, Thorfinn the Shallow Minded said:

I'd say the remarks made about Genesis 1 Genesis 2 being two separate stories seems plausible given the stylistic and thematic differences despite finding the differences easy enough to reconcile.  The flood, on the other hand, being two separate stories merged together, seems to be a clumsier argument in my opinion.  The closeness in the text of the "inconsistencies" makes the problems, if they were so, absurd if we are adhering to a documentary hypothesis since they are glaringly obvious to an editor.  Admittedly, the only textual criticism I am informed about is New Testament related, yet I think that there are so glaring issues that probably would relate to the following case.  First, work with religious texts tends towards conservative ends, attempting to harmonise the texts, making the idea of two stories being merged together implausible due to the so-called inconsistencies mentioned of the flood.  Furthermore, it seems unlikely given the generally conservative nature of religious writers that they would mesh together two separate stories.  A more likely case would be for there to be two accounts, mirroring the cases of Genesis 1 and 2. 

To clarify, I'm not saying there are two separate Noah stories in the Bible; I'm merely pointing out there are *artefacts* of different versions present. It's not a case of a single author who has two different texts before him and suddenly decides to merge the two into one. The different accounts were probably merged (unconsciously) long before they were codified.

Orally transmitted stories tend to evolve; every time a story is told it is slightly different; the story-teller and audience do not always notice this. And when there are different stories or versions alive in a community, they tend to influence each other, and, often, merge eventually. The Iliad is the result of a tradition of many generations, and as a consequence it has artefacts from many different periods and societies: heroes are descibed as chariot-warriors but typically fight on foot; iron is prized as worth more than gold, and shortly afterwards simply said to be useful for making farm-tools; Pylaimenes is killed in book V but still alive in book XIII; etc. Something similar probably happened with the primeval part of Genesis in the centuries before it was incorporated into the pentateuch.

9 hours ago, WhiteTreePaladin said:

*The beginning of Genesis 2 can easily be seen as a continuation of the first narrative. It can be difficult to determine where the second narrative actually begins as the first flows so gradually into the second. In Genesis 2:4 there is part of a sentence that mentions the creation of the heavens and earth, but it is either the conclusion of the first narrative or a reference back to it due to the wording: "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,..."

Yes, half-way Gen 2:4 the first narrative ends and the second narrative begins. However, saying "mid-sentence" is misleading. Keep in mind neither word separators, nor capitalization, nor interpunction were used in Antiquity; those were only gradually adopted during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Where many translations (including yours) have a comma between "... were created" and "in the day ...", many others have a full stop.

Also a note on the numbering: a book is the text of a single scroll; a chapter the text of a single column on it, c. 25 lines; a single line of poetry is called a verse. That the first six days are described in Genesis 1 and the seventh at the beginning of Gen 2 can easily be explained: Gen 1 is already 31 lines long, there is no space to squeeze another five lines below it, therefore those are at the top of the second column.

Chapter lengths are not constant; if a scribe decided to write somewhat smaller he can fit in more lines, and if he uses a greater space between lines he can fill up a column with fewer; as a consequence the longest chapters can be twice as long as the shortest. Although it might sound weird to people depending on text editor software, this is actually quite natural in a pre-modern world; if you hand-write dozens of unlined pages, not all of them will end up with the same amount of text.

Anyway, the point is the numbering is descriptive, nor prescriptive.

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@Nescio Okay.  My bad with misunderstanding you.  That makes a lot more sense.  For a clarification on another point though, Hebrew does use word separators as early as the reign of King Hezekiah, evidenced by the Siloam inscription.  While there are not many old copies of the Tanakh, examples such as the Samaritan Pentateuch, written using Paleo-Hebrew scripts, also can be seen to have word separators.  

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6 hours ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

I am more likely to believe the original oral tradition meant literal days. Only later did apologetics attempt to add a non-literal nuance to the story. Sure, the far ancients were capable of nuance, but they literally believed there was a God who created the Earth, so why couldn't He do so in literally 6 days? He's God after all. The Ancient Greeks literally thought Hades existed below their feet. It wasn't metaphorical to them (there was the Necromanteion in Epirus where they literally believed they could enter Hades or commune with it).

6 hours ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

It's true that it's not clear cut, but I really think that in ancient times it was meant to be clear cut. Human settlements were quite isolated for thousands of years. Most people were born, lived, and died within a 5 mile radius. 

Ooooh, we disagree :) :P  

I wasn't being an apologetic when I was a kid reading genesis. I was used to the literal interpretation, but when I read it for myself, it didn't make sense to look at this ancient text as something literal. If you're a little familiar with ancient Egyptian religion for example, you'll see that the gods all represent ideas. The stories are just for "kids", but the deeper knowledge that was studied by the priests included mathematics, astronomy, architecture, medicine, philosophy etc... 

I definitely think that a lot of people interpreted it literally, but those people were commoners, and their interpretations nearly irrelevant, considering they were not the ones producing this stuff. Mystic knowledge is past on between initiated individuals, not through the entire population. Priests were the "scientists" of the ancient day, and the knowledge they possessed with regard to the movement of the sun, moon and stars for example, was used to determine the calendar (when do the rains come, when to plant, when do eclipses occur, when do certain comets pass). We take these things for granted today, but more than 99% of the population today wouldn't be able make such predictions without consulting the news, who in turn consult astronomers among others...

Ancient religious texts like the bible are chockfull of parables and metaphors... Stories sometimes borrowed from other cultures. The accuracy and exact sequence of events in the story is not nearly as important as the underlying message it conveys. The plebs might tunnel vision on "miracles", but theologians aren't interested in supernatural events, per se, they rather seek to see the relevance of God in the everyday natural world.

The mystics and deeper truths behind religious texts are rarely understood by the masses. Take the Quran for example, with its mathematical literary composition and structure. It's insane... Meanwhile most people can barely do math in the first place, let alone recognize it in a religious text. Most of these religious texts started out as oral traditions. This means that the keepers of those traditions knew the entire text by heart! Meanwhile most religious people can't even be bothered to even read their religious texts in their entirety, let alone memorize it...     

Also, ancient Greeks were a very diverse bunch. Again, I don't doubt that a majority of the population probably took these stories about gods and titans and monsters and what not literally, but Ancient Greece also produced some of the finest thinkers of the ancient world, laying the foundation for Western philosophy (and the god of the philosophers). I believe Socrates and Plato, for example "rejected the Homeric image of the Greek Pantheon". Not to say they were atheists, but their views on theology can hardly be described as conventional. Neither were they unique to those individuals. 

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8 hours ago, Nescio said:

...many others have a full stop. 

To be fair, a hard stop doesn't really change much there. If anything, it seems to remove Gen. 2:4 from the first narrative and place it exclusively as the start of the second: "This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven." Adding punctuation does require interpretation as do all aspects of translating. Even disregarding punctuation, it's not really possible to read a direct transliteration of ancient texts to English. In these translations, sometimes several English sentences are generated from only a few ancient words.

The first narrative focuses on the overall creation and covers the cosmos (mostly from an earth based perspective, I think),  the earth,  and lastly, mankind. The second narrative narrows the focus to mankind, and provides details about his habitat (the Garden of Eden), establishes the Tree of Life, etc. The remainder of the book is based on this part, so it's essential for the story to continue.

However, if you omit the first narrative, you lose the big picture of God performing the overall creation, and instead start by focusing on mankind. There would not be any mention of the order of when things were created or even the concept of units of time (day, week, etc.) There also wouldn't be any information about anything not on the earth, and most plant and land animal details would be lacking (with water creatures completely absent).

To me this points to both parts being essential, with the second part naturally following the first in order to elaborate on mankind and setup the rest of the story. I'll admit that it's possible not all writers valued consistent and complete coverage the way I do though.

8 hours ago, Nescio said:

The different accounts were probably merged (unconsciously) long before they were codified. 

That makes more sense. I thought you were claiming that they took two versions and manually mashed them together.

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@thankforpie I'm not sure if I am understanding you.  The title of this topic refers to the flood being a traditional story, not necessarily arguing that it did or did not occur.  While there is scientific and and historical evidence for a variety of stances, there is no definitive proof that it did not occur (Not that it is much easier to prove the other side of the argument.).

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