Back in January, the story broke that a Babylonian clay tablet had been examined that gave a different description of a great flood from the one in Genesis. The tablet is about 3,700 years old and is addressed to Atram Hasis.
Apparently, the translation of the tablet goes as follows:
Wall, wall! Reed wall, reed wall! Atram-Hasis, pay heed to my advice, that you may live forever! Destroy your house, build a boat; despise possessions And save life! Draw out the boat that you will built [sic] with a circular design; Let its length and breadth be the same.
The Institute for Creation Research does not have an especially positive reaction to this, saying that this account of a round ark can’t be real, not because it conflicts with Christianity, but because it doesn’t make sense.
My first reaction to this was that it’s further evidence of the unoriginality of the Bible. Almost every story in the Bible is told somewhere else first (including virtually every aspect of the life of Jesus), and it seems to me that it was just thrown together from the various myths and stories that happened to be floating around the Mediterranean at the time. The ICR, of course, sees these redundancies as additional evidence for the historical veracity of the Bible. Here’s their website.
Anyone see a problem with that? No? Let’s look closer.
Still no? Let’s zoom in one more time.
Oh there it is. This is a problem if you’re trying to be taken seriously, but I will try. They make some valid points, like the fact that building a boat to hold all the world’s animals out of reeds is a terrible choice of building materials. It should be noted that the tablet doesn’t say a damn thing about animals, but hey, whatever lets the ICR sleep at night. They also point out that a circular ark would be incredibly unstable in a “violently turbulent flood event.” That’s probably true, but your precious Bible very specifically says that “the waters prevailed, and were increased gently [emphasis mine] upon the earth” (Genesis 7:18), not “the waters smashed the shit out of everything in a violently turbulent flood event.”
The article concludes that “the biblical account is a trustworthy account of real history.” If you think I’m going to let that slide, you must be new here. Pay attention, young ‘uns, you won’t forget your first time.
The story of the flood is so riddled with contradictions that it’s difficult to actually read through the whole thing without getting confused. Here’s the gist of it.
Genesis 6:5 – God sees that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Let’s keep in mind that God created them in the first place, and in his own image. Doesn’t speak well for the guy.
6:7 – God decides that he regrets making mankind, so he’s going to kill everything on the earth. Not only humans, everything.
6:9 – Except Noah. Noah is “a just man and perfect,” which is why three chapters later (Gen 9:20-25) he plants a vineyard, gets shit-faced, passes out naked, and then curses Canaan to a lifetime of slavery because Ham (Canaan’s father) has the decency to cover up Noah’s 600-year-old man junk.
6:13 – God reiterates, in case you missed it, that he’s going to destroy every living thing in the world to make the world less violent.
6:15 – God tells Noah to build an ark 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet tall. As an afterthought, he tells Noah to cut a square window eighteen inches across for ventilation.
7:2 – God tells Noah to bring in seven of each clean beast and two of every unclean beast, or possibly two of everything (Gen 6:19, 7:8, 7:9: 7:15), because the omnipotent creator of the universe is really bad with numbers.
7:17 – The flood lasted either forty days or a hundred and fifty because math is hard (Gen 7:24, 8:3), and then went away.
8:6 – Noah opens the window for the first time in either five or twenty weeks, which is totally gross, and sends out a dove. The dove doesn’t find anything.
8:11 – One week later, the dove has apparently found a fully grown, living olive tree.
and the burning, universe-consuming fury of God himself.
8:13 – The earth dries out on the first day of the first month
8:14 – The earth dries out on the 27th day of the second month. It’s like when you run the dryer and it says it’s done, but your clothes aren’t really dry and you have to run it for another seven weeks.
8:20 – After all the animals get off the ark, Noah takes one of each clean beast—the ones he just spent so much time and effort to protect and of which there are only two in order to guarantee the continuation of the species—and kills them. God is pleased, because he forgot that he told Noah specifically to save them just a few months ago.
8:21 – God explains that after killing everyone because humans are inherently evil (Gen 6:5), he will never do it again because humans are inherently evil.
After reading that, it should be abundantly clear to you that God is perfect, omnipotent, and infallible, and that the word of the Bible should be taken literally. I only covered three of the 1200 chapters in the Bible, but rest assured that it does not get better.
The next time a Christian tries to tell you that something does not make sense, punch them in the mouth.
your analysis of 6:5 is … interesting, and not really accurate, but whatevs
and couldnt equal breadth and width = a square?
I'm curious as to how you think I'm misinterpreting that particular verse. Perhaps I'm taking it out of context; a common problem, and one I try to avoid.
Note: this is from the KJV
6:1-2 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
Not much up for interpretation there. People started multiplying and marrying each other.
6:3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
God doesn't want to deal with men forever, so he limits their lives to 120 years (which apparently doesn't work at all, because Noah lives to be 950).
6:4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
The talk of giants sort of comes out of nowhere, but maybe it's meant to be metaphorical and refer to men that were great of character, and not necessarily of stature. In any case, 6:4 is about more reproduction and a lot of great men being born.
6:5 (Our verse in question) And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
God sees that mankind is very wicked and that his thoughts are all evil, all the time. If there's a different way to interpret that, please enlighten me.
6:6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
God regrets making mankind; it grieves him greatly. I mentioned earlier that God created man in his own image, which is addressed quite succinctly in Genesis 1:27, which says “God created man in his own image.”
6:7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
And so it begins. Seems like a pretty straightforward sequence of events to me, but if I'm missing something, please let me know. I'm genuinely not here to blindly mock religion; I have good reasons to mock religion.
And to address your other point, yes, equal breadth and width could mean a square if it wasn't for the part RIGHT BEFORE THAT that says “with a circular design.” You really must try harder.
I think it helps explain it if you look into the documentary hypothesis, which basically says a significant portion of the Hebrew Bible is actually two different political groups' narratives that have been stuck together as one document. For instance, this is why there are two creation stories (One from Gen 1:1 to 2:4 or so and the other following it) and why there are two Noah stories, though in the case of those stories they were intermingled (which is why things get repeated and Noah sends out a dove and then a raven – one from each story) There are a lot of other examples of such couplets, like Hagar getting cast out twice, among others. It's also apparently more obvious in the Hebrew, since the original sources use different names for God, for instance. Might be worth looking into since you're going to be reading the Bible.
I'm familiar with the hypothesis, but I've found almost no evidence to support it. It seems that it would explain some of the discrepancies fairly well, but that's the only thing it has going for it.
In addition, what does it say about the validity of the Holy Book of more than half the world's population if you freely admit that the book is not the word of God, as so many think, but a poorly assembled and never-proofread compilation of bickering Bronze Age aristocracy? Doesn't reflect well.
I think it rained for 40 days and then either the earth was flooded 150 days in total OR the earth was flooded for 150 after the 40 days of rain.