top of page
  • Dr. David Neiman

Genesis, Chapter 5 – The Universal Flood

Of interest to us is the fact that there are other literatures, earlier traditions among the peoples of the ancient Near East that contain similar accounts. The story of a universal flood is found in the earliest literature ever written, that of the Sumerians. This account is repeated in the traditions of the Babylonians who succeeded the Sumerians in the same land, inherited essential elements of their civilization, many of their traditions and elements of their faith, and who recorded these traditions in their writings.

The story of the universal flood was also a part of the Hellenic tradition, recorded in their mythology and incorporated into their earliest writings. The Greek version speaks of the time when the gods were engaged in conflict, "at that very time Zeus, who thunders on high, was meditating marvelous deeds, even to mingle storm and tempest over the boundless earth, and was hastening to make an end of the race of mortal men."2

A feature of the universal flood story is that in all of these pre-biblical traditions, as in the biblical account, it represents a boundary, a cutting-off point in time which separates that which preceded the flood from that which followed. In the biblical account it is expressed in the words:

Then the LORD said:

"My spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh,

and his days shall be a hundred and twenty years."

This clearly indicates that there will be a separation between the pre-diluvian generations, when men lived for many centuries, and the age following the flood, after which the human lifespan shall be limited to 120 years. This is quite similar to the statement in Hellenic mythology, where we read the declaration of Zeus after the flood, that human life shall be limited to one hundred and ten years.4 This leads some to see a parallel between the passage in Genesis 6:1-4 and the Greek tradition of the Flood and its aftermath.5

This theme is also present in the Sumerian King List, which dates from the period 2500 B.C.E., at least one thousand years before the earliest recorded biblical literature.6 Although we don't have a Babylonian record which parallels these Sumerian, Hellenic and Biblical accounts, there is little doubt that it existed in Babylonian tradition as well, but the clay tablets on which it was inscribed have yet to be discovered.

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

The Hidden Treasures of the Judean Desert

The top find of 2023 according to National Geographic are four Roman-era swords discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea in Israel. Ariel University’s Asaf Gayer and geologist Boaz Langford entered the

History of the Sadducees Part 16

The pietists and their affiliated groups who ultimately came to be subsumed under the general term of Pharisees, continued the tradition of Torah interpretation which ultimately came to be known as th

History of the Sadducees Part 15

Who were the Pharisees? The Pharisees were the bearers of the ancient tradition of Torah interpretation which had been brought from Babylonia by Ezra the Scribe and his associates when they came to Je

bottom of page