While reading Gilgamesh, I was struck by the similarities between the story being told and that of the stories compiled within the Bible. The correlations between the two made me question whether or not Gilgamesh somehow influenced the creation of certain narratives within the religion I practice today. It is interesting to read something that potentially helped fashion Christianity into what it has become over the centuries. I can see the influence of Gilgamesh in quite a few places in the Bible, including but not limited to, the creation of Adam, the corruption of Adam, and the great flood.
When I was little, the first story I remember being told in church centered around Adam and Eve, specifically their creation. I never questioned the validity of the story, nor did I ponder its origins. To me, if it was in the Bible, then it must be true. While reading Gilgamesh, it was almost like I was transported back into my old Sunday school class. Enkidu, Gilgamesh’s best friend, is created by the goddess Aruru. She moistened her hands, she pinched off some clay, she threw it into the wilderness, kneaded it, shaped it to her idea, and fashioned a man (Mitchell 74). In the Bible, God creates Adam, who is the first man on Earth. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Bible 2). Both of these powerful beings create a man from an idea and use nature to mold him into formation. To top it all off, both of these deities’ thrust their newly formed, pure, and ignorant beings into places that can easily be described as paradise on Earth.
In addition to the creation of Adam, the Bible seems to also mimic the corruption of Enkidu when it details the deception that leads to Adam and Eve’s enlightenment. In the garden, Adam and Eve live a simple life devoid of the knowledge of sin. The couple’s ignorance of sin is represented by their nakedness. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed (Bible 3). In Gilgamesh, Enkidu roamed all over the wilderness, naked, far from the cities of men (Mitchell 75). His innocence is also represented in his nakedness. Adam is corrupted when he listens to his wife, Eve, and eats from the tree of knowledge. Enkidu is corrupted when he has sexual intercourse with a priestess named Ishtar. The characters are stripped of their innocence after being tempted and deceived by females. Furthermore, both females’ actions are being manipulated in different ways by other characters. Despite the reasoning behind the deceptions, Enkidu and Adam can never reclaim what they have lost. Enkidu is no longer accepted by the animals that raised him and Adam is cast out of the garden.
Finally, perhaps the most glaring similarity between the Bible and Gilgamesh is that of a world-wide flood. In the Bible, there is a flood that lasts for forty days and forty nights and wipes out all life on Earth. And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man (Bible 9). In Gilgamesh, a similar flood occurs and eradicates practically all of civilization. There was no life at all. The human race had turned into clay (Mitchell 187). Characters in both stories avoid dying by building a large ship. In addition to this, both characters build such a vessel because they were instructed how to by a higher power at play.
In conclusion, there are many similarities between the Bible and Gilgamesh. The stories show how Gods create life and also interfere in it. Examining whether or not Gilgamesh did influence the creation of the Bible is a lofty feat that I wish I could delve deeper into. Gilgamesh is described as, the oldest story in the world, a thousand years older than the Iliad or the Bible (Mitchell 1). Its’ influence is spread throughout the stories we hear and tell ourselves, even today. Whether we talk about the creation of Adam and Eve or watch a film with Chris Evans depicting Captain America, themes from Gilgamesh are present within the narratives. However, if Gilgamesh existed thousands of years ago, is it not safe to wager that other stories also existed? Is it plausible that other stories remain hidden, waiting to be unearthed? Reading this story not only helped me see the similarities between this enticing tale and the Bible, but it also helped me see connections between this ancient text and that of the modern world.
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