Two Very Mistranslated Ancient Flood Myths
Since I shared with you, in my last post, a more accurate to the ancient worldview translation of the so-called biblical creation stories, I felt it is now time to share the two different stories of the myth of the flood that is always inaccurately translated into modern bibles. Yes, there are two distinctly different flood stories, not one, written in two very different time periods and each has a different focus. Historically, the very first presentation of the myth of the flood was written down in Sumer, around 2100-2000 BCE. The story carried on into the Judean-Israeli cultures, being written down around 1000-900 BCE, first with the polytheistic Jews and Hebrews and, then, reinvented again, around 700 BCE, by the henotheistic priestly temple cult. Throughout this time period, it is especially important to note that the teachers of the myth of a flood, which is found twice in the Torah (aka, the Bible), never had a world-wide flood in mind. At least, not “world-wide” as we understand the world to be today. In their time period of understanding our planetary earth, the world was flat, there was only one land continent with the sky directly above it, and a barrier of water above the sky and below the land – surrounding land and sky.
Noah and the Flood, Judean Version
Translation by Joseph Tsefanyahu Farkasdi as part of an accuracy to Torah study.
(Attention, this myth of Noah and the flood was written around 1000-900 BCE from the ancient polytheistic oral traditions of the Jews.)
When the humans began to increase in numbers on the face of the fertile-soil and daughters were born to them, the sons of the gods (1) saw that the daughters of the humans were pleasant, and they took for them all the women that they chose. Yahweh said, “My breath of life will not struggle with humans always, for they are also flesh. Thus, their days shall be a hundred and twenty years.” (2) There were giants on the land in those days and also after this, when the sons of the gods came to the daughters of humans and they gave birth by them. They were the warriors of the ages, men of honor.
Yahweh saw that human wickedness was abundant on the land, and every form of their heart’s intentions was only bad every day. Yahweh sighed heavily that he made the humans on the land, and it pained his heart. Yahweh said, “I will rub out the humans, which I created, off the face of the fertile-soil – from humans to domestic-animals without speech to that which moves on the belly, and the birds of the sky, because I regret that I made them.” But, Noach found favor in Yahweh’s eyes.
Yahweh said to Noach, “You and all your house come towards the wooden vessel (3), for I have seen you as good in character before me in this generation. Of every domestic-animal without speech that is clean for ceremony you will take for you seven, a man and his woman, and from out of every domestic-animal without speech which is not clean for ceremony take two, a man and his woman. Also, from the birds of the sky take pairs of seven, male and female, to keep seed alive upon the face of all the land. Because, in seven days, I will bring rain upon all the land for forty days and forty nights, and rub out all that is living which I made on the face of the fertile-soil.”
Noach did all that Yahweh commanded him. Noach and his sons and his wife (4) and the wives of his sons with him came to the wooden vessel from before the face of the flooding water. In seven days, the flooding water was upon the land. The rain was upon the land forty days and forty nights. Yahweh closed the wooden vessel for him. (5)
The flood was forty days upon the land. The water increased in size, and lifted the wooden vessel up high over the land. The water was strong and increased greatly upon the land, and the wooden vessel walked upon the face of the water. The water was very strong upon the land, and covered all the high hills that were underneath the whole sky. The strong water rose up fifteen cubits, and covered the mountains.
All whose nostrils had the flowing breath of life, of all that was on the dry land, died. All the living that was on the face of the fertile-soil was rubbed out – from humans to domestic-animals without speech to that which moves on the belly, and to the birds of the sky. They were rubbed out from the face of the land. Only Noach remained and they who were with him in the wooden vessel.
The rain from the sky held back. The water turned back from off the land, little by little. After forty days had passed, Noach opened the window which he had made in the wooden vessel. He let go a dove from among him, to see if the water had eased away from the face of the fertile-soil. The dove found no settling spot for the claw of her foot, and she turned back to him in the wooden vessel. For water was on the face of all the land. He stretched out his hand and took her, and brought her to him in the wooden vessel.
He waited longingly another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from out of the wooden vessel. The dove came to him in the evening and – here! – a fresh torn olive leaf was in her mouth. Noach knew that the water had turned back from off the land. He waited longingly for another seven days, sent out the dove, and the dove did not turn back again to him. Noach pulled back the wooden vessel’s covering, looked, and – here! – the face of the fertile-soil was dry.
Noach built an altar to Yahweh, then took from every domestic-animal without speech that is clean for ceremony and from every bird that is clean for ceremony, and offered up burnt slaughter offerings on the altar. Yahweh smelled the savory odor. Yahweh said to his heart, “I will not curse again the fertile-soil on account of the humans, for the imagination of the human heart is bad from his youth. (6) I will not strike down again all the living, as I have done. For all the remaining days of the land – seeding time and harvest, cold and hot, summer and winter, and day and night will not come to rest.”
(1) bene elohim, literally “sons of the gods” or, as modernly translated, “sons of God” – meaning the demi-gods that mated with humans of the earth, thus creating powerful giants of the land.
(2) In the Judean awareness of the world and, specifically, the life spans of humans, the early Jews never posited the idea of a human living beyond 120 years of age. The parts of the Torah that have mythic lineages that extend into the multi-hundred years of age are the later written priestly myths of patriarchal origins. The priests obsessed over numbers, positing mystical significance into numbers. Thus, as modern readers, we cannot take as being literal the numbers provided in the writings of the priests. Like the cultures around and before them, they were not trying to record literal history – rather they were creating mythic history.
(3) tebah – literally, “wood box” or “wood basket”, a “vessel” for transportation, always translated as an “ark” in this Noah myth (implying some big manufactured wooden structure, because of the later written priestly version of this myth) and often translated as a tar-covered “basket” (that is placed in the river) in the child Moses myth. Also, take note that in the original Judean version of this myth, the “ark” has already been built for Noah and family by Yahweh, and they are instructed to come aboard. But, in the later priestly Noah myth, Elohim gives boat-building instructions to Noah, and he and family must build an “ark” to survive in while there is a flood upon the land.
(4) isha, literally, “woman” or “wife”, it is now appropriate to start translating isha as “wife” with this and other Judean myths (where it was not appropriate with the Garden of Eden myth), because the myth itself implies that a human civilization has formed upon the land, and marriage is a human social legal convention.
(5) Remember, ancient Judea-Israel viewed the storm god, Yahweh, as having actual human-like form; whereas, the later priestly Jewish-Israel viewed the national high-god, Elohim, as having no describable form at all.
(6) This passage is a recognition that, by inherently “created” born nature, humans lend to acts that are bad as much as acts that are good, and this is simply the dual nature of the human as humans had been created. It is an affirmation of the realization made in the early myth about the Garden of Eden, wherein the woman and the man partake of the tree of knowledge of good and bad (aka, had their first sexual encounter) and realize their fuller less innocent nature.
Noah and the Flood, Priestly Version
Translation by Joseph Tsefanyahu Farkasdi as part of an accuracy to Torah study.
(Attention, this myth of Noah and the flood was written around 700 BCE by the temple priests.)
Noach was a just man, without blemish in his generation. Noach walked with Elohim. Noach birthed three sons. Shem, Cham, and Yafet. The land was corrupt before the face of Elohim (1), and the land was filled with violence. Elohim looked upon the land, and – here! – it was corrupt. For all flesh had corrupted his path upon the land.
Elohim said to Noach, “The end of all flesh has come before my face, for the land is filled with violence from their face. Here! – I will destroy them with the land. Make for yourself a wooden vessel of tree wood, make dwelling chambers for you in the wooden vessel, and cover inside and outside with asphalt. This is how you will make this: Three hundred cubits is the wooden vessel’s length, fifty cubits is the width, and thirty cubits is the height. You will make a window for the wooden vessel, and a cubit from the top you will finish. You will put a door in the wooden vessel’s side. Lowest, second, and third levels you will make.
Here! – I am bringing the flooding water upon the land, to destroy all flesh in which there is breath of life under the sky. All that is on the land will die. With you I set up my covenant. You and your sons will go in the wooden vessel, with your wife and your son’s wives with you. From all that is living, from all flesh, you will bring two of each into the wooden vessel – male and female – to keep alive with you. From the birds by their kind, from the domestic-animals by their kind, from every belly crawler of the fertile-soil by his kind, two of each will go with you to keep alive. Take with you every food which you eat, and gather this to you. It will be food for you and for them.” (2)
Noach did all. As Elohim commanded him, so he did. From domestic-animals that are clean for ceremony, from domestic-animals that are not clean for ceremony, from the birds, and from every belly crawler that is upon the fertile-soil, they came by twos to Noach, to the wooden vessel, male and female, as Elohim had commanded Noach. In the six hundredth year of Noach’s life, in the second month, in the seventeenth day of the month, on this day all the fountains of the deep broke open and the windows of the sky opened up. (3)
On this same day Noach, and Shem, Cham, and Yafet, the sons of Noach, entered the wooden vessel, and Noach’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them. They and all the wild-life by their kind, all the domestic-animals by their kind, all the belly crawlers that crawl on the land by their kind, and all the birds by their kind, all winged birds. They came to Noach, into the wooden vessel, from all flesh that have the breath of life by twos. They came male and female from all flesh, came as Elohim had commanded him. (4)
All flesh moving about on the land breathed out their life – birds, domestic-animals, wild-life, all that swarms on the land, and all humans. The water was strong on the land one hundred and fifty days. (5) Elohim remembered Noach and all the wild-life and domestic-animals that were with him in the wooden vessel. Elohim pushed wind upon the land, and the water decreased. The fountains of the deep and the windows of the sky were closed up, and the water had lessened by the end of one hundred and fifty days.
The wooden vessel came to rest in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. The water continued to move away and lessen until the tenth month. On the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains were seen. He sent out a raven, that flew back and forth until the water dried up on the land. In the six hundred and first year, the first day of the month, the water had dried up on the land. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the land had dried.
Elohim spoke to Noach, saying, “Go out from the wooden vessel, you and your wife, and your sons and son’s wives with you. Bring out with you all the life that is with you, from all flesh – birds, domestic-animals, and all belly crawlers that crawl the land – so that they may bear fruit and increase in numbers on the land.” Noach went out, his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives with him. All the wild-life, all belly crawlers, all birds, all that moves on the land, by their family, went out from the wooden vessel.
Elohim blessed Noach and his sons, and said to them, “Bear fruit, increase in numbers, and fill the land. The fear and dread of you will be on all the life of the land and all the birds of the sky – on all that moves on the fertile-soil – and all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. All life that moves will be food for you, as a green herb I give all to you. But you will not eat flesh with life inside (6), the blood inside. Also, I will ask about your blood, about your taken life. I will ask from the hand of all life and from the hand of humans. I will ask from the hand of man’s brother about the taken human life. Whoever spills human blood, by humans his blood will be spilled. For Elohim made humans in his image. You – bear fruit and increase in numbers, swarm and increase in numbers on the land.”
Elohim spoke to Noach and to his sons with him, saying, “Here! I set up my covenant with you and with your seed after you, with all the living breathing-creatures (7) that are with you – with the birds, with the domestic-animals, and all life of the land with you – from all that go out of the wooden vessel, to all life of the land. I will set up my covenant with you, that all flesh will not be cut down again from flooding water, that there will not be a flood again to ruin the land.”
Elohim said, “This is the mark of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living breathing-creature that is with you, for all distant generations – I put my rain-bow in a cloud, and this will be a sign for you of a covenant between me and the land. When I cover the land with a cloud, you will see the rain-bow in the cloud. I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living breathing-creature of all flesh, and the water will not again flood to destroy all flesh. The rain-bow will be in the cloud, and I will look upon it to remember the covenant for all ages (8) between Elohim and every living breathing-creature of all flesh that is on the land.”
Elohim said to Noach, “This is the mark of the covenant that I set up between me and all flesh that is on the land.”
(1) Despite the presentation by the priests, in the Six Days of Creation myth, of the creator god (the Jewish national god) as being utterly formless (meaning, without physical body), in this myth and elsewhere we find the same familiar polytheistic-like visual-oriented expressions about the creator god. This does not necessarily mean that the priests imagined form to their national god, only that they were aware that many (if not most) Jewish Israelis still practiced polytheism – even in their henotheistic temple theocracy time period.
(2) Take note that in the original Judean version of this myth, the “ark” has already been built for Noah and family by Yahweh, and they are instructed to come aboard. But, in the later priestly Noah myth, Elohim gives boat-building instructions to Noah, and he and family must build an “ark” to survive in while there is a flood upon the land or there is no rescue. A different god, so a different story. The priests were obsessed with numbers, and with doing things ritualistically according to the mystical implications they saw in numbers. Also, to reiterate a point, take note that the Elohim god of the priests is a talker, while the Yahweh god of polytheistic times is a doer.
(3) It is important to remember the priest’s worldview when reading this priest version of the flood myth. In the priest’s Six Days of Creation myth, the world of land and sky divides the water into the water above land and sky and the water below land and sky – meaning, the land and sky is encased in a boundary of water in all directions. In the priest’s version of the flood myth, the flooding occurs from water rushing up from the ground and from water pouring down from the sky. Whereas, in the much earlier written Judean flood myth, the flooding occurs just from sky rains alone. The priestly version emphasizes the ancient view of a flat single continent world of land and sky with water surrounding it.
(4) By twos of its species, is the numerical method of the priests. By sevens, is the numerical method of the earlier written Judean version. Why do you think this is? Specifically, it has to do with the timing of making a ceremonial sacrifice to the god. In the earlier Judean version, the sacrifice comes directly after the flood event – thus, more than two of ceremony creatures is needed within the ark, lest the species become extinct. In the Priest’s version of the flood, the altar sacrifices come later – thus, there is no need to worry about the characters causing extinction by bringing only two of each species aboard the ark.
(5) In the earlier written Judean flood myth, it rained for forty days and nights and this was the extent of the flooding. In the later written Priest’s version of the flood myth, it flooded and rained for one hundred and fifty days, which is a considerable exaggeration from the early taught myth. Just like with the earlier Judean stories of patriarchs and their families – wherein no one lives beyond one hundred and twenty years of age, for this is the god-determined natural lifespan of the human being – here, we have the Priest’s accounts of ancient patriarchs and their families, wherein patriarchs live for hundreds of years (almost to one thousand, for some of them) – a considerable exaggeration upon the already established natural limits for human lifespans. Reality itself shows that the Judean’s view reflects self-evident reality for the most part, whereas the numbers-fixated priests had mystic purpose and reasons for the exaggerated and very specific numbers they often used.
(6) basar/flesh and nefesh/breathing-creature or living-thing. It is important to understand that nefesh references the physical, the corporeal, in nature, even when it is used to express the lifeforce that animates a physical body. The ancient Jews viewed the lifeforce of living creatures as being physically present in the blood. The use of nefesh to refer to a non-corporeal essence or being is a much more recent modern addition of meaning to this word.
(7) nefesh chayah, literally “living breathing-creatures”. The Torah considers all living creatures of the land, sky, and sea, all creatures that breathe, to be nefesh chayah – and not just human beings alone, as it is often made to appear to be in translations of Torah into other languages.
(8) olam/distant-time. In its ancient use, the word olam possessed a visual meaning, such as “time so far off that it is to the horizon and somewhere beyond.” The concept of eternal as we understand it in modern times – abstractly, of being unending in numerical value – did not exist in the periods that wrote the various scrolls of ancient Jewish literature. In their worldview, all things have a beginning and an ending, but some things are too large or too far to count – hence, olam.
Judaism as an ethno-religion was not always monotheistic, and to say such is to be willfully ahistorical. Judaism slowly evolved from its original polytheistic form to a henotheistic form and, ultimately, into a modern monotheistic form over a period of 1,500 years (1200 BCE to 300 CE). It began with pre-monarchical/monarchical polytheistic Judaism (1200 BCE to 600 BCE) – which reverenced the gods Yahweh, El, Baal, and the goddess Asherah, and brought us the myths of the Garden of Eden, Noah and the flood, Avraham and his family gods, the escape from Egyptian slavery, and wandering in the desert. Then arose the temple theocracy henotheistic form (700 BCE to 70 CE) – which reverenced Yahweh as a formless Elohim that is superior to all the gods and goddesses of the local pantheons (the highest “creator” god), and introduced us to the myths of the Six Days of Creation, the lineage of the ancient patriarchs between Adam and Avraham, and the priestly seven day calendar and religious laws. From this evolving Jewish heritage we now have the rise of the present rabbinical monotheistic form of Judaism (300 BCE to present) – which reverences Yahweh Elohim as the only existing one true “creator” god and all other names for “God” are referencing this not directly knowable and utterly formless Yahweh Elohim, and has brought us the first complete Hebrew “Bible” redaction, the written Talmud and the Mishnah, and all the present religio-cultural observances/laws and theology that we are so familiar with today.
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