Noah’s Flood: Just Another Pagan Myth? -- By: Todd S. Beall
BSpade 28:4 (Fall 2015) p. 98
Just Another Pagan Myth?
The purpose of this article is to provide a brief overview of ancient flood stories and their relationship to the biblical account in Genesis 6-8. In particular, the primary focus will be on those flood stories from the ANE that most closely resemble the biblical narrative of the flood. But first a brief overview of flood stories from around the world will be given.
Flood Stories From Around The World
The number of different flood stories from around the world is difficult to tabulate. Estimates range from 150 to over 500. The most extensive list seems to have been compiled nearly a century ago by James Frazer, who devotes 285 pages to describing about 150 specific flood stories from nearly every part of the world.1 Similarly, Byron Nelson presents (in summary fashion) flood traditions from Mesopotamia, Persia, Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, Egypt, Italy, Lithuania, Wales, Scandinavia, Lapland, Russia, China, India, North America, Central America, South America, and the Pacific Islands.2 In a more recent intriguing book entitled Flood Legends: Global Clues of a Common Event, Charles Martin discusses the various flood legends, though he focuses on three: the biblical account, the Mahābhārata (a Hindu version written in Sanskrit), and the Kariña myth (a version from the Kariña people, a Native Venezuelan Indian tribe, in the Cariban dialect).3
In a short presentation such as this, it is impossible to discuss in any detail these 150-plus flood legends. But it is helpful to give a brief summary of the elements that these accounts seem to have in common.4 First, man caused the Flood either by his disobedience or lack of reverence towards the gods. In the Hindu version mentioned above, the whole human race became degenerate except for the virtuous king Manu and seven saints.5 In the flood story told by the natives of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, the god Ruhatu is upset because fishermen were fishing in sacred waters, so he declared that the whole land would be destroyed.6 In the Greek version (reported by Homer in the Iliad), Zeus sent the flood against men because they were violent and perverted justice.7
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