My patient said:
Some times the true meaning of Biblical passages can become lost not just in translation, but because modern interpreters of the Bible do not know, or really understand, why certain passages were written. By fully understanding the actual events during Biblical times, we can better understand the Bible. As a Biblical expert, and historian, I can truly appreciate this.He went on to discuss how the story of Noah and the flood was similar to the Sumerian myth of the Epic of Galgamesh. After having this discussion I picked up a book I keep on my bookshelf in my office called, "A History of Medicine," by Plinio Prioreschi.
Philosophical and religious elements from the 1000 years prior to the conquest of Alexander the Great are what influenced the writers of many passages of the Bible. These elements continue to influence Western Civilizations to this day, explained Prioreschi. (1)
He said that many of the gods and myths of ancient civilizations influenced these writings, including the stories of creation and the Great Flood.
According to one Egyptian tradition, he continued, the Egyptian sun god, Re, created man and there was no female to mate with. The first sexual act was not sexual at all. Prioreschi a German author:
"He grasped his phallus with his hand to produce orgasm. In this way the twins brother and sister Shu and Tefnut were born. (2) Shu and Tefnut, were the divine equivalent of Adam and Eve."The Epic of Galgamesh is a story of the King of Urek, a city-state in Ancient Sumeria, from around 2750-2500 B.C. It's written in Akkadian form on stone tablets. Galgamesh went on many journeys, and one of his journeys involved a Great Flood where two of each animal was collected and placed on an arc. A storm raged for seven days and flooded the earth. The ship grounded on mount Nisir, which is similar to the Biblical urartu that was used in the Bible. After a few days a dove, a swallow and a Raven were sent out. When the other two returned and the raven did not, it was understood that the waters were down enough so that there was land ahead. He set for land and let out all the animals.
This story, and the others noted here, is eerily similar to the story of Noah and the Great flood, so it's apparent the writers of the Bible used ancient stories to write the Bible. Perhaps they did this thinking few were literate and they could get away with it. Perhaps they did it because such old stories were so ingrained in the minds of people that they wanted to make those stories their own.
Or, perhaps, the Sumerian version of the story was just wrong, and the Biblical authors had to fix the errors.
A similar thing happened with pagan holidays. December 25 is not the real birth of Christ but a day when a great Pagan holiday was held. This day was chosen to celebrate the birth of Christ not because Christ was born on this day, because the actual date was unknown, but to make this day of celebration a Christian holiday that would overshadow the Pagan holiday.
Upon discussing this with my priest-patient, he said:
That's fine to investigate truths, but we must assure ourselves that we don't let facts sway us away from our Faith. We may not understand why things occurred the way they did, or were written the way they were, although we must continue to have Faith that in the end the answers will be revealed.This was a very interesting discussion. If I had time I would have spent my entire day in his room.
- Prioreschi, Plinio, "A History of Medicine," vol I, page 504
- Prioreschi, ibid, page 323, in reference to Die altagyptischen Pyramidentexte, neu herausgegeben und erlaut von K. Sethe, Liepzig, 1908, 1248 a-d. German translation in Herman Kees, Des Gotterglaube im alten Agypten, Berlin, Akademie Verlag, 1956, p. 219-220. Translation from the German by P. Prioreschi.