Comparing and Contrasting Epic of Gilgamesh and the Bible's Noah's Ark

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Comparing and Contrasting Epic of Gilgamesh and Noah's Ark

Many cultures have stories of a great flood, and probably the best known story is of Noah's Ark. The next most notable is the Sumerian story of Ut-Napishtim found in the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the ancient Babylonian depiction of the flood story, the god Enlil creates a flood to destroy a noisy mankind that is disturbing his sleep. Gilgamesh is told by another god, Ea, to build an ark (Monack 1). The Epic of Gilgamesh has broadly the same structure and plot as Noah's Ark, suggesting the possibility that the Biblical account has drawn influence from the archaeologically older Sumerian depiction. University professor Alexander Heidel concludes that these accounts are undeniably
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on all sides. However the Biblical record depicts the vessel as rectangular, measuring 450 ft. in length, 75 ft. in width, and 45 ft. in height (Fowler 2). Naval Academy graduate and engineer Chuck Missler maintains that the Biblical dimensions are certainly the more reasonable of the two measurements. Interestingly enough, he also notes the 6:1 length to width ratio of the Biblical ark is amazingly similar to that of modern day ships (Fowler 2).

More differences between the stories include only minor details. Noah only invited his family and the animals onboard, but Ut-Napishtim invited additional people such as a pilot and some skilled workmen. Noah's ark landed on Mt. Ararat, but Ut-Napishtim's ark landed on Mt. Nisir, which is only a few 100 miles away. In the Babylonian account, the water came only in the form of rain; however in the Biblical account water came from beneath the earth in addition to rain. Noah released a raven once and a dove twice, but Ut-Napishtim released three different birds; a dove, a swallow, and a raven (Comparison). Perhaps the differences were intentional in order to make the two stories more unique in their own way. Perhaps the differences are simply two different people's renditioning of the same story.

However, despite the minor differences there are many similarities between the two stories. Indeed the similarities have led some to speculate that these ancient flood stories were

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