I learned that the Pentatauch is attributed to Moses was, in fact, a compilation of 4 very different sources, which reflect the interests and biases of the author. This is a highly accepted theory and can be found everywhere in the Pentatauch if you know where to look. Like the story of the ark, for example. Many differences there. And the story of Babel, it was like the neard telling a story about a popular kid, of course it was not going to be flattering.

Also, I have been doing research about the religions in the ancient Near East, like the religions of Mesopotamia and Canaan. There are clearly rituals that were practiced in both religions, parallels, and doublets in the texts and I want to know why. What shakes me even more is that the Torah was compiled around the 8th century versus textx like the Epic of Gilgemesh and Enuma Eilish which have about 500 years on it. Please explain this.


I have read a numer of books written by people who ascribe to these theories.  You should be aware that, as in many fields (such as education, economics, music, art) there are fads and hot theories in biblical studies.  Source theory is a good example of this sort of fad theory.  I do believe that the theories of these folks are not completely without validity.  One of the problems is that conservative believers have had a tendency to ignore some obvious questions and to stick to simplistic theories.  For example, many if not most evangelicals have held to the idea that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible.  Surely this is not true.  There is not a shred of direct evidence that Moses wrote Genesis.  Although he did write down significant parts of what became Exodus through Deuteronomy, it is patently obvious that Moses did not write the entire content of these books, especially considering that Deuteronomy includes a record of his death!  This conservative stance has made such scholars vulnerable to criticism from liberal theologians who do not believe in God or in the inspiration of the Bible.

Probably a significant proportion of what you have learned from teh books you have been reading is true, but you should be extremely cautious of such writings.  The vast majority come from people who are highly biased and have an agenda to destroy faith in scripture. 

Let me give an example.  It is fairly obvious from the writing style of Genesis that more than one author was involved in creating the book.  For all we know, there may have been multiple authors whose work was collected and put into its final form by a later editor.  All this is fine, but here is where the authors you are reading are way off.  Their theories of the J source and the P source etc. is extremely speculative. The idea that the Bible has contrdictory ideas or theology is simply not true.  The entire Bible is inspired by God.  The claim that the different versions of the flood contradict is simply not true.  It is very easy to justify the different parts of this story, as is true with all or nearly all the supposed J/P/etc. theological contradictions.  These authors choose (for reasons they will have to explain) to ignore the absolutely overwhelming evidence for inspiration of the Bible.  They have a presupposition against the existence of the supernatural.  Anyone who approaches the scripture using a presupposition that it is not inspired is surely going to miss the boat VERY often.  That is the case with the authors you have been reading in my opinion.

Were there opposing groups such as those created by these scholars?  Maybe. We do not know for sure.  Remember that these folks are way overconfident about their speculations, but perhaps there is some truth here.  Did their different points of view have some effect on the final form of the Pentateuch?  Maybe they did, but even if there is some truth here, the basis for thinking of these skeptical scholars is based on a patently false assumption: that there is no basis for believing that the production of the Bible was affected by the Holy Spirit.  One should consider carefully the presuppositions of the authors one reads.

Now, to address your examples, I will need some specifics.  Feel free to send me the claims you have seen.  I can say that I have read the liberal theories about the flood and found them to be very unconvincing.  If you simply look at the account with a different eye, what seems obvious at first is easily understood differently.

I have addressed the sources of the creation and flood accounts–especially the Gilgamesh Epic elsewhere.  I will copy and past what I have written.  Three Q & As are below.

Before that, one more comment.  Parts of the Old Testament were composed at the time of the exodus and Genesis has evidence of oral material from even earlier.  Which is older?  The Gilgamesh Epic or the original version of the Bible’s flood story?  Bottom line, we simply do not know.  Be aware that these scholars are quite biased and they have personal reasons to undermine the authority of the Bible.  You simply cannot trust these people. They have a consistent and obvious tendency to place the writings of various Bible books as late as they possibly can.  Can I say for sure that the biblical flood account goes back to Abrahamic times?  No I cannot.  But at least I am willing to admit that I am not sure.  Neither can these writers prove that it was written in the seventh century BC.  In the end it comes down to the quality of the biblical account versus that of the Babylonians.  I believe that the biblical version is vastly superior.  Feel free to send more questions with more specifics.

John Oakes


How do you explain the similarities between the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic
and the flood account in the Bible?

There are five logical explanations I can think of for the admittedly
striking similarities between the two accounts:

1. It is coincidence.

2. They are both a record of an actual event (even if semi-mythical as
described by the Babylonians).

3. The Jews borrowed their account from the Babylonians.

4. The Babylonians borrowed from a more primitive and accurate flood
story, which was also the source of the Jewish story.

5. The Babylonians borrowed from the Jewish flood story.

I reject explanation number one as defying believability.

For chronological reasons, I reject explanation #5, but I cannot
absolutely rule it out, as Abraham lived around 1850 BC.

Between explanation 2-4, I prefer explanation #2 or #4, as the Hebrew
account has less of the feel of a classic myth. For this reason, it does
not make sense to me that the Jews borrowed straight from Gilgamesh. The
Jews working from a more primitive and accurate source makes more sense to
me. I can admit to you that my predisposition to believe the Bible is
inspired may cause my interpretation of the information to be biased. I
am sure you can reach your own conclusion! It is my belief that God
influenced, by inspiration, the Genesis account. I will admit that I
cannot prove this, and that this is a presupposition based on other
evidence for inspiration. The point is that Gilgamesh has all the marks
of a myth. The Genesis flood account has a very different feel to it.
The similarity connot be coincidental, but the superior account is that of
the Jews in my opinion.

John Oakes

I recently viewed a documentary claiming that ancient tablets (older than
OT manuscripts) were found in Iraq, telling a story almost identical to
Noah’s… and that the soil there showed signs of an ancient flood as well
(unlike the land around Mount Ararat). The final conclusion was that
Israel received this "story" from the Babylonians while in captivity. Do
you have any insight about this?

The ancient tablets you refer probably contained what is
commonly known as the Gilgamesh Epic, although it is difficult for me to
say for sure without seeing the source of the information you refer to.
The Gilgamesh Epic was known to the ancient Sumerian and Babylonian
cultures. The epic was almost certainly composed before 2000 BC. It has
been estimated by some to be based on a tradition as old as 3000 BC. If
one takes Abraham to be the father of the Jewish nation, as supported by
the Bible, then one can assume that the Gilgamesh Epic is older than the
written, Jewish version of the story which is found in the Bible, as
Abraham died somewhere around 1850 BC.

There are significant similarities between the Gilgamesh epic
and the flood account in Genesis, which seem to defy coincidence. For ex
ample, in Gilgamesh, a god speaks to a man Utnapishtim in a dream, telling
him to constuct a boat because of a great flood which is coming. Although
the stories are not identical (for example, when God spoke to Noah, it was
not in a dream) there is obvious parallel to the biblical flood account.
In the Gilgamesh Epic, Utnapishtum took his family, some friends as well
as many animals on the boat. Again, one can see parallels but also
differences in the accounts. To deny any possible common root to these
two flood stories seems unrealistic. There are two possibilities to ex
plain this. One possibility is that the flood is an actual event, the
memory of which was carried forward by the survivors, finding its way into
both Gilgamesh and the biblical account. Another possibility is that one
or the other was created first, and the other borrowed from it.

Assuming the second possibility, the question becomes who borrowed
from whom? Logically, one might assume that since the Gilgamesh Epic
precedes the Bible account, at least in its written form, it was the
source for the biblical story of the flood. From an historical or
literary point of view, this is hard to disprove. However, if one can
assume that the book of Genesis is inspired by God, then the idea of the
Genesis flood account being borrowed from Gilgamesh does not work. There
is a great wealth of evidence supporting the belief that the books of the
Bible, and specifically the book of Genesis is indeed the inspired
creation of God. Of course, much of that evidence is found at my web
site, to include prophecies in Genesis which are fulfilled in Jesus (see
the notes under articles/Bible/ click on From Shadow to Reality),
historical and archaeological accuracy of Genesis (articles/Bible/Let the
Stones Speak), and so forth. Much of this is summarized in my book
Reasons for Belief: A Handbook of Christian Evidence, available at

If the Bible, and therefore Genesis, is indeed inspired by God, then
the most likely conclusion is that Gilgamesh represents a tradition which
goes all the way back to the actual flood which is recorded in Genesis,
and that the account in Genesis, being inspired by God, is a separate, but
much more accurate depiction of the actual events which occurred in this
massive event as described in Genesis chapters 5-7. If this is the
correct explanation, then the parallels between the accounts are due to
the fact that they both describe the same, actual event, although with a
different level of fidelity to the actual events. This is what I believe
to be the case, but I leave it to you to decide for yourself.

As to the Israelites receiving the story from the Neo-Babylonians
while in captivity, I find this explanation very unlikely for a few
reasons. First of all, the Gilgamesh Epic was around in the time of the
first Babylonian Empire, about 1800 BC, not during the Neo-Babylonian
Empire, under Nebuchadnezzar. Second of all, there is sufficient
evidence, in my opinion, to conclude that the book of Genesis was written
in essentially its final form well before the time of the captivity
(586-538 BC). This would make the claim that it was borrowed from
Neo-Babylonian sources not work.

John Oakes, PhD

Every one knows the story of Noah and his ark. Some believe it, some
don’t, but that is irrelevant. The Epic of Gilgamesh is the fist written
story ever found. This epic describes how Gilgamesh took two of each
animal plus his family into an ark to avoid a world wide flood sent by the
angry gods. The story was written between the years of 2750 and 2500 B.C.
It was was most likely passed by word if mouth before it was written. My
question is: is the story of Noah a stolen or borrowed myth?

In the end, it will be difficult to prove the case either
way. It seems undeniable that the Genesis account and the Gilgamesh Epic
are parallel, but who borrowed from whom, or are they separate accounts of
one actual event? What we should do is ask what is the most reasonable
explanation. Based on the massive and I believe incontrovertible evidence
that the Bible is the inspired word of God, I believe that the flood
actually happened and that the story recorded in Genesis is an accurate
account of the events surrounding the flood. The fact is that a great
number of ancient civilizations have a story of a great, world-wide
flood. In fact, the stories are so wide-spread and general, it creates
the impression that these accounts are the human records of some sort of
actual event in the distant past. If this is true, there are two
possibilities. Either the Epic of Gilgamesh borrows from the genuine
record of Genesis, or it is a separate but garbled record of the
Sumerians/Akkadians of the actual events. I believe the second choice is
the more likely.

One might argue that this is circular reasoning. The skeptic
might point out that I am assuming that the Bible is the inspired word of
God in order to prove that it is the inspired word of God. That is not
the case. I am simply pointing out that the evidence for the Bible being
a reliable account of past history is overwhelming if one compares it to
myths such as the Gilgamesh Epic. Many scholars have analyzed both
stories in attempts to prove which might have been derived from the
other. I believe the case in inconclusive and one must reach one’s own
conclusions. However, given the solid evidence that the Bible is inspired
by God and given the fact that there is no reason at all to believe that
the Gilgamesh Epic is inspired by any type of God at all, I would go with
the biblical account. You, of course, must reach your own conclusions.

John Oakes, PhD

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