What are the similarities and differences between the flood stories that appear in The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Bible?
Flood stories are common in ancient cultures. It is interesting that many of them are very similar, like those in the Bible and Gilgamesh.
When studying ancient texts, whether religious or mythological, it is always interesting to find particular parallels in the various stories that appear here. Religious texts like the Bible, for instance, contain many stories to demonstrate moral or religious principles. In many cases, the same is true of mythological or ancient texts, such as The Epic of Gilgamesh. Particularly, an interesting parallel that can be found in both the Bible and Gilgamesh is the story of the flood.
There are many similarities between the two accounts of the flood. Both, for example, concern the destruction of the entire world by flood. In both cases, the main cause of the flood was human wickedness. Both the Bible and Gilgamesh contain righteous main characters who are divinely instructed to construct a boat. Both Noah and Gilgamesh use their boats to save a variety of land animals.
There are also significant differences between the two accounts. In the case of the Bible, for example, a single god, Yahweh, speaks directly to Noah. Gilgamesh receives his divine instructions in a dream from several gods. Another major difference is the duration of the respective floods. In the Bible, the flood lasts for 40 days and nights. In Gilgamesh, the flood spans only six days and nights.
What is interesting about the two stories is the debate they have caused among scholars and within religious circles. However, perhaps no debate is as important as the deeper meanings that might be derived in terms of the sense of morality within ancient cultures. Either way, both The Epic of Gilgamesh and the story of Noah in the Bible remain important in world literature for their ability to capture the imagination of their audiences.