Today’s post will be an exercise divided into four sections. First, I will explain the problem, then show you the error, provide the correct answer, and finally draw a lesson from this exercise. I hope you will play along with me.
With the showing of the movie “Noah” in our country and around the world, people are talking about the flood and whether it really happened. In the process, many people who have a meager knowledge of the Bible are writing about Noah and the flood and in the process, they are introducing mistakes into their discussion of the flood.
Take the news report below. In discussing the flood, the author of this short article, published in Foxnews.com, made a mistake that anyone with a little knowledge of the Bible will easily recognize.
So, I am challenging you to find the error in the article below. Read the article carefully and find the error before I point out where the error is. Don’t read the answer I will provide below until you are sure where the problem is.
Ready? Begin reading now.
The story of Noah’s flood in the Bible’s Old Testament has been popular for centuries, but the opening of the big-budget Hollywood film “Noah” has reignited fascination. Religious scholars and pundits are asking, did the flood actually happen?
In an interview with Fox News’ Lauren Green, author Larry Stone gave his take on the biblical story. Stone is the author of “Noah, The Real Story,” an account of both the flood and search for Noah’s ark centuries later.
There are over 300 different ancient accounts of flood stories. Stone explained how these reports come from all over the globe.
“Floods do happen all over the world and some say that’s why there are so many flood stories,” Stone said. “But the other alternative is that all these flood stories all over the world are a collective memory of one great, worldwide flood.”
He points out that up until the early 20th century, geologists believed floods of any size couldn’t have tremendous devastation on a global scale. “Yet a geologist found evidence out in the Western United States in the Northwest … that yes, the floods can affect the world,” Stone said.
Stone said there are three scenarios that could explain the flood told in Noah’s story: a “freak flood” on the Euphrates River in Ancient Samaria, Mediterranean Sea floods into the Black Sea, or a substantial flood that covered the world.
Each possibility, Stone says, can relate to actual geological or climate patterns noted in our world’s history.
Did you find the mistake? Of course you did; after all, you are a regular reader of this blog.
For those who did not find the mistake, let me provide a little bit of an introduction to the issue.
In his article, the author is discussing the story of the flood as it appears in many cultures of the ancient world. In fact, the article says that “There are over 300 different ancient accounts of flood stories.”
One of these stories is that story of Gilgamesh. The Gilgamesh Epic is, by far, one of the most important surviving examples of Mesopotamian literature.
The Gilgamesh Epic is also the most famous non-biblical story of the flood. According to the Sumerian king list, Gilgamesh reigned for 126 years. Gilgamesh was the king of the city-state of Uruk and the central character in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
I will not go into detail about Gilgamesh and his quest for immortality. This will require retelling his story, which could be the theme for one or more posts.
It is here where the answer to our problem is found. In the article mentioned above, the author wrote: “Stone said there are three scenarios that could explain the flood told in Noah’s story: a “freak flood” on the Euphrates River in Ancient Samaria, Mediterranean Sea floods into the Black Sea, or a substantial flood that covered the world.”
“Ancient Samaria.” Samaria was the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The city of Samaria was built by Omri on land he bought from Shemer, the owner of the land:
[Omri] bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver; he fortified the hill, and called the city that he built, Samaria, after the name of Shemer, the owner of the hill” (1 King 16:24).
The Euphrates River in Ancient Samaria was not in “Ancient Samaria” as the author wrote. The Euphrates River was located in Ancient Sumeria. The word “Sumeria” refers to Sumer, the city-states located in ancient Mesopotamia, present day Iraq.
This exercise teaches us an important lesson. Be careful of what you read on the Internet. Many people on the Internet who write about the Bible and about the ancient Near East may not be very familiar with some of the issues they are writing about.
I often tell my students to be skeptical of the things they read on the Internet. One never knows what kind of scholarship and reliability authenticates the information in that specific writing.
Because I know you found the mistake in the article above, I will give you an A for this exercise.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary