Why the Gods Destroyed Humans: The Biblical and Mesopotamian Flood Narratives

Why the Gods Destroyed Humans: The Biblical and Mesopotamian Flood Narratives

The story of Noah’s Ark is probably one of the best known from the Hebrew Bible, and not just because it’s so popular with children. It’s a flood narrative, which appear in the folklore of over 140 cultures around the world. Scholars have long been examining the similarities and differences between these accounts, and the values and worldviews they embody. There is a lot of variation even within the narratives scholars have determined to be actual versions of the famous Biblical fable. How does the evolution of the story, with its embattled depiction of the relationship between humans and the divine, track our relationship with God and nature?

As part of Scientists in Synagogues, Congregation Etz Hayim in Arlington, VA hosted a multidisciplinary program looking at the flood from both a geological-historical and a comparative-literature perspective. The second scholar of the day was Dr. Kristine Henriksen Garroway. Dr. Garroway was appointed Visiting Assistant Professor of Bible at Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religions Los Angeles Campus in 2011. She received her doctorate in the Hebrew Bible and Cognate Studies at HUC-JIR’s cincinnati campus in 2009, and she has spent time studying and researching in Israel, and has participated in excavations at Ashkelon, Tel Dor and Tel Dan. Dr. Garroway’s scholarship focuses on children using archaeology and texts of ancient Israel and Mesopotamia.

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(This post is part of Sinai and Synapses’ project Scientists in Synagogues, a grass-roots program to offer Jews opportunities to explore the most interesting and pressing questions surrounding Judaism and science. This is the first half of an adult education program on Parshat Noach at Congregation Etz Hayim in Arlington, VA).


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