Thursday, November 19, 2009

Every Major Nation has a Flood Legend

Flood Legends –

Massive Coincidence or Distorted History?

You’ve heard of Noah and the ark, but did you know that similar tales are told the world over? Is this just a coincidence, or is it something more?

Flood Legends – Massive Coincidence or Distorted History?
By Earl Hunsinger

To many the account of Noah’s ark is simply a child’s story, a fairy tale told at bedtime. They don’t actively argue against the truthfulness of the account, but they’re skeptical, or embarrassed to admit that they secretly wonder if it might be true. Others are openly hostile toward any discussion of the subject, simply because the account is contained in the Bible. They feel that we live in an age of enlightenment, where science has replaced religion and anything even remotely connected with it.

Briefly, the account as stated in the Bible says that God warned the man Noah that he was going to bring a flood to the earth. Noah constructed a large vessel, or ark, to save his family and representatives of all the animal species. The ark had a single door, which God shut and sealed after Noah and his family entered (a total of eight people). After the waters started to subside, Noah sent out a raven and then a dove to see if there was dry land anywhere. When they eventually left the ark, they made a sacrifice. They also repopulated the earth, making everyone alive today their descendants.

While many dismiss this account as a myth, simply because it’s contained in the Bible, or involves God, it’s interesting to note that the Bible is not the only source of information about such a cataclysm. People from every corner of the earth tell stories about such an event. Literally hundreds of such flood legends exist, from each of the six inhabited continents and various islands of the sea. The researcher H. S. Bellamy estimated in his book Moons, Myths and Man that over 500 of these can be found. Since they have often been handed down as oral traditions, variations are understandable, yet their similarities are remarkable.

Outside of the Bible, the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh is probably the most famous of these legends. There are many familiar elements in this story. The hero Ut-Napishtim is given divine warning that a flood is coming. He builds a large wooden vessel where he and a few others are spared, along with some animals. This ark was covered in pitch. It had a single door and many compartments. Birds were sent out to look for land. After the water subsided the survivors left the vessel and made a sacrifice.

In Greece, the legend says that Zeus was angry because humans were proud. He decided to bring a flood. The god Prometheus warned his human son Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha, later putting them in a chest to save them. When the chest came to rest on a mountain, they saw that everything was flooded and had to live on the provisions from the chest until the water went down. At the direction of Zeus they then repopulated the earth.

For the Aztecs of Mexico, Nata and his wife Nena were the ancestors spared. They got into a hollowed out Cyprus log, the door of which was closed by God. In a similar way, the Bhil of central India tell of a man and his sister surviving a flood by entering a box with a rooster. At the direction of a god, the man later marries his sister and they repopulate the earth. To the Welsh the man and woman were Dwyfan and Dwyfach. They escaped in a mastless ship with pairs of every sort of living creature. After landing in Prydain (Britain), they repopulated the world. In Tanzania, they believe that God told two men to enter a ship with all sorts of seeds and animals. The flood covered the mountains. Later, to test whether it had subsided, they sent out a dove and then a hawk. Similar stories are found among the native peoples in Australia, Bolivia, Borneo, Burma, Canada, China, Cuba, East Africa, Egypt, Fiji, French Polynesia, Germany, Guyana, Iceland, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Malay Peninsula, New Zealand, Peru, Russia, Scandinavia, U.S.A, Vietnam, and in numerous other countries.

This worldwide belief that a handful of people survived a watery cataclysm has even affected various languages. One interesting example can be found in the Chinese character for ship. This is composed of three separate symbols or pictograms. These signify vessel, eight, and mouth (person or family member). When combined together, these seem to allude to eight people in a vessel.

Most of these flood legends predate any contact with foreign missionaries. While they differ widely in detail and often incorporate local religious figures or beliefs, there are many common elements. In all of them, we find widespread destruction by water. We also find some combination of the following: a divine cause, prior warning, humans saved, animals spared, and preservation in some sort of vessel. Is this a massive coincidence? Or distorted accounts of an actual cataclysmic event that affected the common ancestors of everyone alive today?

By Buzzle Staff and Agencies
Published: 10/31/2007

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