Page 1 of 6 123456 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 76

Thread: The Bible as Literature: The Noah/Flood Story

  1. #1
    Skol'er of Thinkery The Comedian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    where the cold wind blows
    Posts
    3,895
    Blog Entries
    79

    The Bible as Literature: The Noah/Flood Story

    Our next selection is Genesis 6-8, which details the Noah and flood story.

    Post away. I'll add my comments on this topic a little later.
    “Oh crap”
    -- Hellboy

  2. #2
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Near Chicago, Illinois USA
    Posts
    3,949
    Blog Entries
    1
    Two things stand out for me on reading this:

    1) There weren't 2 of each species, as I was used to thinking, but 7 pairs of each species in the ark.

    2) After they left the ark, some of each of these species Noah burnt as sacrifices.

  3. #3
    Super papayahed's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    16,473
    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    Two things stand out for me on reading this:

    1) There weren't 2 of each species, as I was used to thinking, but 7 pairs of each species in the ark.
    That surprised me too. There were only two of the unclean species right?
    Do, or do not. There is no try. - Yoda


  4. #4
    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Montreal
    Posts
    3,984
    Blog Entries
    25
    I just don't find the flood story all that interesting, it's not even unique to the Bible, appearing in the older Epic of Gilgamesh as well.

    It reminds me of this Isabella Rossellini video though:

    http://greenporno.tumblr.com/post/16...it-to-the-next
    Last edited by OrphanPip; 12-13-2010 at 10:11 PM.

  5. #5
    Jethro BienvenuJDC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Mid-Pennsylvania, USA
    Posts
    13,841
    Blog Entries
    10
    Quote Originally Posted by papayahed View Post
    That surprised me too. There were only two of the unclean species right?
    Yes, that is true. The only reason that there were 7 pair of the clean animals is that they sacrificed them as Yes/No said.
    Les Miserables,
    Volume 1, Fifth Book, Chapter 3
    Remember this, my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators.

  6. #6
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Near Chicago, Illinois USA
    Posts
    3,949
    Blog Entries
    1
    Quote Originally Posted by OrphanPip View Post
    I just don't find the flood story all that interesting, it's not even unique to the Bible, appearing in the older Epic of Gilgamesh as well.

    It reminds me of this Isabella Rossellini video though:

    http://greenporno.tumblr.com/post/16...it-to-the-next
    I enjoyed the video. And when the sacrificing time comes after the flood waters leave, I'd like to sacrifice the mosquitoes.

    I don't find the flood story interesting either, but what I think is interesting is that the story is supposedly part of J's original text which started the whole thing. But who knows what she originally wrote?

    What some consider to be J's text was translated by David Rosenberg as The Book of J. Harold Bloom's commentaries are in there.
    Last edited by YesNo; 12-14-2010 at 12:45 AM. Reason: typo

  7. #7
    dark angel Haunted's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    NY
    Posts
    10,116
    Blog Entries
    4
    So men are sons of God, but women are only daughters of men? And what exactly is uncleaned beasts?

    "But do you really, seriously, Major Scobie," Dr. Sykes asked, "believe in hell?"
    "Oh, yes, I do."
    "In flames and torment?"
    "Perhaps not quite that. They tell us it may be a permanent sense of loss."
    "That sort of hell wouldn't worry me," Fellowes said.
    "Perhaps you've never lost anything of importance," Scobie said.

  8. #8
    Registered User Jassy Melson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    1,772
    Blog Entries
    1
    It's debatable whether the flood episode in the Epic of Gilgamesh is older than the Bible's account.

    The literary merit of the flood story in the Bible is excellent; whereas the account in the Epic of Gilgamesh is crude and fragmented--the writing I mean. The account in the Bible reads smoothly. Whoever wrote the Bible's accouht of the flood was an accomplished writer.
    Last edited by Jassy Melson; 12-14-2010 at 03:58 AM.
    Dostoevsky gives me more than any scientist.

    Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. - Albert Einstein

  9. #9
    spiritus ubi vult spirat weltanschauung's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    dunwich
    Posts
    1,228
    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    Two things stand out for me on reading this:

    1) There weren't 2 of each species, as I was used to thinking, but 7 pairs of each species in the ark.

    one pair representing each elohim. there are 7 elohim, which in greek mythology would be the equivalent to the seven original planets: sun, mercury, venus, moon, mars, jupiter, saturn. yeah i know, sun and moon arent planets, but im not classifying, just mentioning.

  10. #10
    spiritus ubi vult spirat weltanschauung's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    dunwich
    Posts
    1,228
    in hebrew mythology it would be the 7 demiurgs, the archangels that built the world:Mikael, Gabriel, Shatqiel, Baradiel, Shachqiel, Baraqiel (Baradiel), Sidiel (or Pazriel),

    and in the christian gnostic mythology it would be: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel (Phanuel), Barachiel, Sealtiel, Jehudiel

    the seven elohim are:Iao, Sabaoth, Adonai, Ouraios, Eloi, Astaphaios, Achamoth

    well, you get the point
    Last edited by weltanschauung; 12-14-2010 at 07:12 AM.

  11. #11
    riding a cosmic vortex MystyrMystyry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Under the trees deep in a cave
    Posts
    3,214
    Blog Entries
    25
    Those dudes were just obsessed with the number seven (the highest of the single numerical primes) and looked for 'seven' in everything. Seven days of the week! It's a miracle! Seven planets! It's a miracle! Seven prophets! It's a miracle! Seven plagues! It's a miracle!

    Julian Barnes' History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters has a great account of what it might've been like to be on the Ark, but I'm not going to spoil it for you.

    The fact that the myth appears in Gilgamesh is due to it being one of the collected tales of the peoples of the region. (How many peoples? Seven? It's a miracle!)

    Or it wasn't a myth at all, and had a profound affect on those who experienced it. I mean a flood's just a seasonal occurence, but when it does actually rain for forty days and you don't know anything about Earth shifting on its axis or pole inversion or can't even be sure where rain comes from...

    There had been an Iceage thousands of years before the invention of writing, and there's no mention of it anywhere, not even in cave paintings.

    No, I think to a desert dwelling people who were more accustomed to droughts and duststorms, the opposite very wet hardship would have had to made you think 'Why does our God hate us so much?'

  12. #12
    Bibliophile Drkshadow03's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    My heart lives in New York.
    Posts
    1,691
    I noticed a lot of people mention the 7 animals. But if you read closely right before the seven animals, God commands Noah to bring two pairs of each animal only. Later the narrative again assumes there are only two pairs of animals.

    "And of all that lives, of all flesh, you shall take two of each into the ark to keep alive with you; they shall be male and female" (Genesis 6:19, JPS translation)

    "Of every clean animal you shall take seven pairs, males and their mates, and of every animal that is not clean, two, a male and its mate" (Genesis 7:2)

    "Of the clean animals, of the animals that are not clean, of the birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two of each, male and female, came to Noah into the ark, as God had commanded Noah" (Genesis 7:8)

    "They came to Noah into the ark, two each of all flesh in which there was breath of life" (Genesis 7:15)


    "Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking of every clean animal and of every clean bird, he offered burnt offerings on the altar" (Genesis 8:20)

    If read it all as one unified story, the flood myth contains a lot of contradictions.

    Of course, I think there are actually two flood stories here that switch back and forth between their narrative in a pattern: Story A, then part of Story B, part of Story A, then part of Story B, etc. The ending of one of the stories occur at the end of Genesis 8, while the end of the other version occurs at the beginning of Genesis 9. Yes, there are even two endings.

    This also explains why God repeats a million times, that yes, he plans to destroy the earth with water as if we don't believe the first three or four times he tells Noah. Of course, he probably only tells him twice per a narrative, but since these are two stories spliced together, it sounds like he is repeating himself. Each story has slight variants from each other in other little details.

    In one story, the main reason he destroys the earth seems to be that humans are copulating with other divine beings (angels), thus alluding to Genesis 3 and the fear that humanity could become divine by eating from the tree of life. This theme consistently repeats itself throughout Genesis and other parts of the Bible (humans are not meant to be divine like God, and bad things happen to them when they try to surpass their limitations). He does connect this to a more general: therefore, the people were evil and wicked.

    In the other version of the story, the main reason seems to be a much more general people are just evil and wicked and the earth has become corrupt, without much of a specific reason.

    The presence of two stories suggests that these stories originally circulated orally before they were recorded and two different traditions, if not more were written down. Whoever redacted this narrative must have felt both stories were authoritative for different reasons.

    The sacrifice at the end of Genesis 8 almost undoubtably is part of the 7 animal version of the narrative. It says he specifically kills one of each clean animal, which means an animal he is allowed to eat (it's kosher) and sacrifice to God. The seventh animal that is sacrificed represents the sabbath and the end of "new" creation at the end of the flood, while the other six go off to mate and repopulate the earth.

    The other ending gives us the origins of rainbows (God's bow in the sky as his symbol of the new covenant with humanity).

    I agree with Orphanpip. The narrative seems to have a relationship to the flood narrative in the Epic of Gilgamesh. This idea pretty much has mainstream acceptance in academia in Biblical Studies, Judaic Studies, English courses that cover the Bible as Literature.

    There is the obvious major similarity that they are both flood stories in which God or gods destroy the world because of humanity's wickedness and chose to save one survivor.

    Both Utnapishtim and Noah release ravens and doves to see if the earth has tried. Utnapishtim releases one additional type of bird, and the order is reversed I think in the two narrative of which bird is released when.

    Like the many deities in the Babylonian narrative, we are told God finds the scent of Noah's sacrifice pleasing. The Babylonian narrative has the deities squabbling, while this narrative has God promising never to destroy everyone again.

    The Babylonian version takes part of a larger epic. It's almost like a mini-story/side-story that relates only through its theme of life and death and its interactions with the main character to the larger story of the epic. The biblical version seems to stand on its own more as a story in its own right. It functions as part of a larger theological history. It has the feel of a continuous mythological history, like we are progressing linearly through time, while the Babylonian story is a character talking about his past (an event that already happened).

    Interestingly, nobody mentioned the beginning of Genesis 6:

    "When men began to increase on earth and daughters were born to them, the divine begins saw how beautiful the daughters of men were and took wives from among those that pleased them.--The Lord said, "My breath shall not abide in man forever, since he too is flesh; let the days allowed him be one hundred and twenty years."--It was then, and later too, that the Nephilim appeared on earth--when the divine beings cohabited with the daughters of men, who bore them offspring. They were the heroes of old, the men of renown."

    What an enigmatic passage! So the children of these divine beings mating with human were called Nephilim, and this mating angered God (probably for the reasons listed above about one of the main running themes of Genesis).

    A number possibilities exist to explain this bizarre passage:

    1) there really were extra-biblical tales known to the ancient Israelites of the time about the Nephilim, the children of divine beings mating with humans, that have since been lost with the passage of time and were not considered Canonical enough to be included in the Bible, or even might have been forgotten by the time the Bible was being redacted. This would then be a faint cultural memory of lost Israelite mythology.

    2)this is a mocking commentary on their neighbors' mythology (Mesopotamian, Greeks, Canaanites), which included human beings who were the offspring of their deities and a focus on great heroes descended from deities. The Israelites in this story present the very idea of such a union as a sin and a heresy that caused the first end of the world by linking it to the Noah flood story.

    I had a discussion with JBI a little while back on a thread here in litnet in which he pointed out that Judaism has no tradition of heroes, the one exception possibly being Samson from the Book of Judges (as I argued). Instead we have prophets and messengers of God. So the last line of Genesis 6:4: "They were the heroes of old, the men of renown" is also interesting when we consider this fact.

    I think all of this indicates quite explicitly that we should read this as a mocking commentary of their neighbors' beliefs rather than a lost tradition of stories, unless there really is a lost tradition of Israelite hero narratives. This also helps us frame one of their possible aesthetic purposes in the Noah flood myth. If we understand the beginning of Genesis 6 to be an attack on their neighbors' beliefs, what a better way than to follow it up by recasting and rewriting the flood myth of their neighbors in the shape of Israelite monotheistic theology.
    "You understand well enough what slavery is, but freedom you have never experienced, so you do not know if it tastes sweet or bitter. If you ever did come to experience it, you would advise us to fight for it not with spears only, but with axes too." - Herodotus

    http://beyondassumptions.wordpress.com/ - my book blog!
    Feed the Hungry!

  13. #13
    ésprit de l’escalier DanielBenoit's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    There is a Heppy Land Furfur A-waay
    Posts
    3,718
    Blog Entries
    137
    What a wonderful idea for a thread! I think I shall join and comment soon. I agree very much with DrkShadow's comments. I think one of the greatest virtues about the Torah/first five books of the Bible is the great irony and uncanniness of Yahweh/God. I cannot think of a single figure in all of literature that is comparable. We have become so familiarized with these stories that we forget the strangeness and striking originality of them. Just take one of my favorite moments in Genesis when Jacob wrestles with an unknown angel until sundown.

    Anyway, I'll re-read the Flood story and comment later.
    The Moments of Dominion
    That happen on the Soul
    And leave it with a Discontent
    Too exquisite — to tell —
    -Emily Dickinson
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVW8GCnr9-I
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckGIvr6WVw4

  14. #14
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Near Chicago, Illinois USA
    Posts
    3,949
    Blog Entries
    1
    Quote Originally Posted by Drkshadow03 View Post
    Of course, I think there are actually two flood stories here that switch back and forth between their narrative in a pattern: Story A, then part of Story B, part of Story A, then part of Story B, etc. The ending of one of the stories occur at the end of Genesis 8, while the end of the other version occurs at the beginning of Genesis 9. Yes, there are even two endings.
    The commentary in The Jewish Study Bible says this about the two stories:
    Critical scholars explain the contradiction by attributing 6.19-20 to the Priestly source (P) but 7.2 to the J. Only the latter reports Noah's sacrifice when he emerges from the ark (8.20-21). If there were only one pair of each animal, this sacrifice would lead to the counterproductive result that the species offered would thereby become extinct.
    And then there was the "Redactor" (Ezra?) who put it all together.

    Based on a Chronology in The Book of J, for what it's worth, J wrote this between 950-900 BCE and P wrote between 550-500 BCE and then the Redactor made the final version around 400 BCE.

  15. #15
    ésprit de l’escalier DanielBenoit's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    There is a Heppy Land Furfur A-waay
    Posts
    3,718
    Blog Entries
    137
    I should also like to mention that if it's okay with Comedian, can we go in chronological order? Like maybe have a reading group on Genesis and then Exodus, idk. I was recently planning to re-read anyway. I would love to see a discussion here on the stories of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.
    The Moments of Dominion
    That happen on the Soul
    And leave it with a Discontent
    Too exquisite — to tell —
    -Emily Dickinson
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVW8GCnr9-I
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckGIvr6WVw4

Page 1 of 6 123456 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. D.H. Lawrence's Short Stories Thread
    By Virgil in forum Lawrence, D.H.
    Replies: 3248
    Last Post: 12-26-2011, 08:27 AM
  2. Replies: 576
    Last Post: 06-28-2011, 03:21 AM
  3. Are bible stories literature?
    By mal4mac in forum Religious Texts
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 11-17-2009, 10:14 AM
  4. can somebody help me understand this?!
    By stella in forum Religious Texts
    Replies: 164
    Last Post: 06-26-2007, 04:47 PM
  5. What has literature in store for you?
    By hbacharya in forum General Literature
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 04-21-2007, 06:03 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •