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The Purpose Of The Biblical Flood Narrative

2706 words - 11 pages

The Old Testament can be described as “an anthology of the literature of ancient Israel and early Judaism” (Coogen 2008) that contains many forms of writings and stories which address not only myth, main historical events and laws, but also those that follow the Israelites unique relationship with God. The first book of the Old Testament is known as Genesis, which is highly concerned with the world’s creation and its initial stages. It is also the origin of the biblical Flood Narrative concerning Noah and the Ark. The story is characterised by a man that is instructed to build an ark under the guidance of God, and take with him family members and pairs of animals, to survive a catastrophic universal flood. “The flood narrative belongs to the genre of myth. We are meant to read it as a story and allow it to play on our imagination so that we discover its deep reality” (Woods 2014) whilst also taking into consideration the context and audience for which it was originally intended, to discover its theological purpose. This essay will not only address its overall theological purpose but also concentrate on the history associated with the narrative in regards to its origin using geographical reasoning, reference and com parison of similarities and differences of other cultural flood stories, but also source criticism to gain an understanding of different proclamations made by God in reference to the author of the text and how the characteristics of their writing will in turn influence the message received by the reader. Lastly, this paper will focus on the major warning the story is constructed upon and relate it to both present and past audiences.

Although stating that the Flood narrative is one of myth, research into the factual background of the story suggests that it draws upon a strong tradition of flood stories that can be associated with various cultures. It is most likely the narrative has a Mesopotamian origin rather than a Canaanite; this is because Palestine is considered to be a “very hilly country with a dry climate” (Sarna, 1966). “A flood of such cataclysmic dimensions could have taken place, or have been imagined, only in a land subject to inundations” (Sarna 1966). As spasmodic flooding occurrences weren’t unusual in the valley between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers it is reasonable to conclude that great devastation and loss of life occurred often in this region, quite literally victims of the flood could “see nothing but water” (Woods 2014) and concluded that the whole world, their world, was flooded. There are three major Mesopotamian flood accounts, the Eridu Genesis, the Gilgamesh Epic and Atrahasis, all of which have been identified as containing similarities and material relationships with the biblical Flood narrative. In each of the stories the basic concept remains the same, that the “flood is a divinely ordained turning point within the larger history of mankind, and humankinds future is assured only through...

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