Genesis, Gilgamesh, and an Early Flood Tablet
by John D. Morris, Ph.D. *
For over a century, the standard view among “higher critics” has been that the Genesis Flood account was written long after Moses by a Jewish priest who revised an older Babylonian myth. This myth, the Epic of Gilgamesh, was found on several broken clay tablets in the Assyrian city of Nineveh in 1853. From archaeological constraints, the tablets were determined to have been inscribed around the 7th century B.C. (Moses lived during the 1400s), having been copied from prior documents that no longer exist. Based on linguistic analysis, the Gilgamesh story could have been composed no earlier than 1800 B.C. For reference, Abraham lived during the 2100s, long before any of the documents and only about 300 years after the Flood. Thus, none of the Babylonian writings existed until long after the Flood.
The Gilgamesh Epic is likely a corruption of an older document. It is so full of fanciful and unbelievable details that probably no one ever considered it true. It may have been the official Babylonian account of the Flood, but how could anyone believe a cubical Ark could have been seaworthy, or that the gods gathered like flies to receive sacrifices? The similarities between the epic and Genesis are striking, but the differences are overwhelming. Genesis is written in a clear fashion as a historical narrative, with an obvious intent that it be believed. The stupendous facts given may be wholly out of modern experience, but the account is understandable. Yet the assigned early date of the undiscovered Gilgamesh sources predate the assigned late date of Genesis written by the mythical scribe. Thus, the skeptics claim that Genesis is a non-historical copy.
Unknown to most archaeologists, however, is an even earlier Flood tablet. It was discovered in the ancient Babylonian city of Nippur in the 1890s. The tablet was so encrusted that its value was not immediately recognized, but by 1909 Dr. Hermann Hilprecht had discerned the figures and translated the text. Given the catalogue designation CBM 13532, it dates from about 2200 B.C., or soon after the Flood itself. More importantly, while the differences between Genesis and Gilgamesh are striking, the similarities between Genesis and this tablet are obvious. There is no detail that differs from Genesis, and nothing extra is added.
Hilprecht’s translation reads as follows, with damaged sections reconstructed by Fritz Hommel and unreadable portions of the text noted:
The springs of the deep will I open. A flood will I send which will affect all of mankind at once. But seek thou deliverance before the flood breaks forth, for over all living beings, however many there are, will I bring annihilation, destruction, ruin. Take wood and pitch and build a large ship!….cubits be its complete height…. a houseboat shall it be, containing those who preserve their life….with a strong roofing cover it…. the ship which thou makest, take into it….the animals of the field, the birds of the air and the reptiles, two of each, instead of (their whole number)….and the family of the….1
This clear text stands as both a confirmation of Scripture and a condemnation of liberal “scholarship.” It so clearly undermines the “critical” view that it never sees the light of day. Professor Hilprecht himself was hardly a defender of Scripture, yet he was a recognized expert in ancient languages. His translation originally caused quite a storm of controversy among academics, for it undercut their position that Genesis carries no authority, but no challenge was ever levied against his translation. Nevertheless, it remains hidden today. Few know of the tablet, or of its strong testimony to Scripture’s authority.
- Pinches, G. and F. Hommel. 1910. The Oldest Library in the World and the New Deluge Tablets. Expository Times. 21: 369. Pinches’ editorial marks were omitted for clarity.
Image: Babylonian tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh
Source: Dr. Bill Cooper, The Earliest Flood Tablet, Pamphlet 382, May 2011, published by the Creation Science Movement, Portsmouth, UK.
* Dr. Morris is President of the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Morris, J. 2011. Genesis, Gilgamesh, and an Early Flood Tablet. Acts & Facts. 40 (11): 16.