Awkward Archaeology

I love archaeology.  It’s fascinating stuff that I am really glad other people dig (get it?) because I would never ever ever want to be out in the middle of the desert digging in the dirt myself.  I love archaeological results – other people’s archaeological results.

But I don’t always like their conclusions.
Take this little ditty from last week about the translation of an ancient Mesopotamian text that tells a story similar in at least a few respects to the story of Noah in the Biblical book of Genesis.  Well, similar in at least one respect – animals being put on a boat in pairs.  I can’t tell what else it says that may be relevant, other than instructions for building a different kind of boat than what Noah was instructed to.  As per Genesis 6, Noah’s boat was not circular.
What I don’t like is the assumption that this Mesopotamian text influenced the Genesis story, rather than the other way around (or rather than there being more than one account of a massive flood, not related to one another in terms of them copying off of each other).  The Mesopotamian find is from roughly 4000 BC.  That’s certainly not outside the range of possibility for Biblical stories to be circulating already, stories that may have found their way into Moses’ writing them down around 1500-1400 BC.
Similar things don’t require that they be linked together somehow.  If there was a flood of the type described in Genesis, it would only make sense that there would be different memories of the event as people repopulated and spread out.  Those various accounts might gradually change over time to incorporate variances in ship-building preferences.  
This find doesn’t necessarily have to have influenced the Biblical text.  It could easily have been influenced by the Biblical stories itself.  Or they might be completely unrelated, yet describing the same event.  
Yep, I sure love archaeology.  But it’s good to remember that not all our conclusions about it are necessarily right.  Particularly if the conclusions are juicy enough to merit a book that somebody hopes will sell well.  But finding old things in the dirt?  That’s very cool, regardless.

2 Responses to “Awkward Archaeology”

  1. Dianne Says:

    I wonder if there were people watching Noah build the ark and, when the rains started, asked him if they could get on board and be saved. If so, I wonder what Noah thought as he sailed away. I haven’t a clue if there were people watching but I’m just wondering………

  2. Paul Nelson Says:

    I think the upcoming movie portrays this issue, though Scripture is silent on the matter.  

    It isn’t far-fetched to assume that Noah and his family lived as part of a larger family unit.  They were a fairly small group to be completely on their own.  Genesis 5:28 gives us some of Noah’s immediate family history.  His father Lamech would have been alive when Noah and his wife had their sons.  Perhaps they lived as part of this larger family unit?

    It’s so easy to bypass the horror of realizing all the people (and animals) that would die in such a catastrophe.  Recent “smaller” floods brought on by storms have proved devastating in New Orleans and Japan.  The Biblical account of Noah quickly moves from the realm of cute fluffy Sunday school flannel board depictions, and into much more graphic and brutal terms when we start thinking about these things.  A good reminder of the power of sin and the necessary and proper response to it (destruction), as well as the grace of God who saves Noah and his family, despite knowing that they are not the solution to a sinful world.  

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