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Flood legends are native global flood stories that closely parallel the Biblical narrative in the book of Genesis. Similar accounts are documented as history or legend in almost every region on Earth. In The Antiquities of the Jews, first-century historian Josephus cites myriad ancient histories recording the flood, including those by Berosus the Chaldean, Hieronymus the Egyptian, Mnaseas, and Nicolaus of Damascus. (Antiquities I:3:93-95.) In addition to these written accounts, scores of oral traditions about the flood exist throughout the world even today, including Native American and Aboriginal societies. Old world missionaries reported their amazement at finding remote tribes already possessing legends with tremendous similarities to the Bible's accounts of the worldwide flood. H.S. Bellamy in Moons, Myths and Men estimates that altogether there are over 500 Flood legends worldwide. Ancient civilizations (such as China, Babylonia, Wales, Russia, India, America, Hawaii, Scandinavia, Sumatra, Peru, and Polynesia) all have their own versions of a giant flood.
These flood tales are frequently linked by common elements that parallel the Biblical account including the warning of the coming flood, the construction of a boat in advance, the storage of animals, the inclusion of family, and the release of birds to determine if the water level had subsided. The overwhelming consistency among flood legends found in distant parts of the globe indicates they were derived from the same origin (the Bible's record), but oral transcription has changed the details through time.
- Main Article: Global flood
The Biblical account of the flood contains a remarkable degree of detail. Precise dimensions are given for the ark and each of its decks. It also provides the exact year, month, and day of the flood. In Genesis 7:11 we read that the flood occurred in the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month. According to the Biblical genealogy, this was 1656 years after the creation.
The Bible account also states exactly how long the flood lasted. "On the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat." Genesis 8:4. Finally, "By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry." Genesis 8:14 . This degree of detail — day, month, and year — is common in first-hand historical accounts, but is rare in myths and fiction.
Genesis 6:7 So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth — men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air — for I am grieved that I have made them."
According to the Biblical chronology the global flood occurred approximately 4500 years ago. If this event occurred as described in the Bible, the fossil record left behind could never be correctly interpreted by a naturalist. Although the earth is completely covered in monumental amounts of flood sediment, a naturalist would have to explain the survival of animals using natural processes, such as many local floods, and gradual deposition over millions of years. However, the Bible specifically says God caused the earth to be flooded until the waters exceeded the highest mountain by 15 cubits (22.5 feet, or 7 meters) (Genesis 7:20). The waters covered the mountains to the extent that no human was capable of surviving without supernatural intervention. The evidence of this event covers the world, but cannot be correctly interpreted by scientists who hold to an atheistic philosophy and naturalistic presuppositions.
Genesis 7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month — on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.
References to Noah
- Genesis 5:28-32 — Genealogy
- Genesis 6-10 — The full narrative of the Flood itself
- Isaiah 54:9
- Matthew 24:37-39 — Testified to by Jesus
- Luke 17:26-27
- Hebrews 11:7
- 1Peter 3:20
- 2Peter 2:4-11 (vs 5)
Near explicit — Noah not mentioned by name
- 2Peter 3:3-9 (vss 5-6) — (the word translated "flooded" here is the root of our word cataclysm)
Possible implicit references to the Flood
Epic of Gilgamesh
The Epic of Gilgamesh contains what is arguably the most important flood legend known to exist, due to the age of the text and the close parallel with the Biblical narrative. Its existence establishes ancient knowledge of the global flood as written in the Hebrew book of Genesis. The ancient Epic of Gilgamesh tablet XI describes the deluge in great detail through the character Utnapishtim.
|“||For six days and six nights the winds blew, torrent and tempest and flood overwhelmed the world, tempest and flood raged together like warring hosts. When the seventh day dawned the storm from the south subsided, the sea grew calm, the, flood was stilled; I looked at the face of the world and there was silence, all mankind was turned to clay. The surface of the sea stretched as flat as a roof-top; I opened a hatch and the light fell on my face. Then I bowed low, I sat down and I wept, the tears streamed down my face, for on every side was the waste of water. I looked for land in vain, but fourteen leagues distant there appeared a mountain, and there the boat grounded; on the mountain of Nisir the boat held fast, she held fast and did not budge. One day she held, and -a second day on the mountain of Nisir she held fast and did not budge. A third day, and a fourth day she held fast on the mountain and did not budge; a fifth day and a sixth day she held fast on the mountain. When the seventh day dawned I loosed a dove and let her go. She flew away, but finding no resting-place she returned. Then I loosed a swallow, and she flew away but finding no resting-place she returned. I loosed a raven, she saw that the waters had retreated, she ate, she flew around, she cawed, and she did not come back. Then I threw everything open to the four winds, I made a sacrifice and poured out a libation on the mountain top.||”|
When the Biblical and Babylonian accounts are compared, a number of outstanding similarities are found that leave no doubt these stories are rooted in the same event or oral tradition.
|Take the seed of all creatures aboard the ship||Gen. 6:19 And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring.|
|I boarded the ship and closed the door.|| Gen. 7:1 Come into the Ark|
Gen. 7:16 The Lord shut him in.
|I sent out a dove . . . The dove went, then came back, no resting-place appeared for it, so it returned.||Gen. 8:8 He sent out a dove...But the dove found no resting-place . . . and she returned.|
|Then I sent out a raven . .it was the waters receding, it ate, it flew about to and fro, it did not return.||Gen. 8:7 He sent out a raven, which kept going to and fro until the waters had dried up from the Earth.|
|I made a libation on the peak of the mountain.||Gen. 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord (on the mountain) and offered burnt offerings.|
Once upon a time the rivers began to flood. The god told two people to get into a ship. He told them to take lots of seed and to take lots of animals. The water of the flood eventually covered the mountains. Finally the flood stopped. Then one of the men, wanting to know if the water had dried up let a dove loose. The dove returned. Later he let loose a hawk which did not return. Then the men left the boat and took the animals and the seeds with them.
The Chinese classic called the Hihking tells about "the family of Fuhi," that was saved from a great flood. This ancient story tells that the entire land was flooded, including the mountains, but that one family survived in a boat. Fuhi, his wife, three sons, and three daughters were the only people that escaped the great flood, so they repopulated the world. The Chinese consider this man the father of their civilization.
Gilgamesh met an old man named Utnapishtim, who told him the following story. The gods came to Utnapishtim to warn him about a terrible flood that was coming. They instructed Utnapishtim to destroy his house and build a large ship. The ship was to be 10 dozen cubits high, wide and long. Utnapishtim was to cover the ship with pitch. He was supposed to take male and female animals of all kinds, his wife and family, provisions, etc. into the ship. Once ship was completed the rain began falling intensely. The rain fell for six days and nights. Finally things calmed and the ship settled on the top of Mount Nisir. After the ship had rested for seven days Utnapishtim let loose a dove. Since the land had not dried the dove returned. Next he sent a swallow which also returned. Later he let loose a raven which never returned since the ground had dried. Utnapishtim then left the ship.
There was a man by the name of Xisuthrus. The god Chronos warned Xisuthrus of a coming flood and told him to build a boat. The boat was to be 5 stadia by 2 stadia. In this boat Xisuthrus was to put his family, friends and two of each animal (male and female). The flood came. When the waters started to recede he let some birds loose. They came back and he noticed they had mud on their feet. He tried again with the same results. When he tried the third time the birds did not return. Assuming the water had dried up the people got out of the boat and offered sacrifices to the gods.
A long time ago lived a man named Manu. Manu, while washing himself, saved a small fish from the jaws of a large fish. The fish told Manu, "If you care for me until I am full grown I will save you from terrible things to come". Manu asked what kind of terrible things. The fish told Manu that a great flood would soon come and destroy everything on the earth. The fish told Manu to put him in a clay jar for protection. The fish grew and each time he outgrew the clay jar Manu gave him a larger one. Finally the fish became a ghasha, one of the largest fish in the world. The fish instructed Manu to build a large ship since the flood was going to happen very soon. As the rains started Manu tied a rope from the ship to the ghasha. The fish guided the ship as the waters rose. The whole earth was covered by water. When the waters began subsiding the ghasha led Manu's ship to a mountaintop.
There is a legend of a flood called the Dreamtime flood. Riding on this flood was the woramba, or the Ark Gumana. In this ark was Noah, Aborigines, and various animals. This ark eventually came to rest in the plain of Djilinbadu where it can still be found. They claim that the white mans story about the ark landing in the middle east is a lie that was started to keep the aborigines in subservience. This legend is undoubtedly the product of aboriginal legends merging with those of visiting missionaries, and there does not appear to be any native flood stories from Australia.
A long time ago, perhaps before the golden age was over, humans became proud. This bothered Zeus as they kept getting worse. Finally Zeus decided that he would destroy all humans. Before he did this Prometheus, the creator of humans, warned his human son Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha. Prometheus then placed this couple in a large wooden chest. The rains started and lasted nine days and nights until the whole world was flooded. The only thing that was not flooded was the peaks of Mount Parnassus and Mount Olympus. Mount Olympus is the home of the gods. The wooden chest came to rest on Mount Parnassus. Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha got out and saw that everything was flooded. The lived on provisions from the chest until the waters subsided. At Zeus' instruction they re-populated the earth.
Plato refers to the greatest flood of all in the Critias and Timaeus.
- "Solon, before the great deluge of all, when the city which now is Athens was first in war and in every way the best governed of all cities." Tim.23c
- "And then occurred the extraordinary inundation, which was the third before the great destruction of Deucalion." Crit.112a
The Toltec natives have a legend telling that the original creation lasted for 1716 years, and was destroyed by a flood and only one family survived. Aztec- A man named Tapi lived a long time ago. Tapi was a very pious man. The creator told Tapi to build a boat that he would live in. He was told that he should take his wife, a pair of every animal that was alive into this boat. Naturally everyone thought he was crazy. Then the rain started and the flood came. The men and animals tried to climb the mountains but the mountains became flooded as well. Finally the rain ended. Tapi decided that the water had dried up when he let a dove loose that did not return.
The Ojibwe natives who have lived in Minnesota USA since approximately 1400AD also have a creation and flood story that closely paralleles the Biblical account. "There came a time when the harmonious way of life did not continue. Men and women disrespected each other, families quarreled and soon villages began arguing back and forth. This saddened Gitchie Manido [the Creator] greatly, but he waited. Finally, when it seemed there was no hope left, Creator decided to purify Mother Earth through the use of water. The water came, flooding the Earth, catching all of creation off guard. All but a few of each living thing survived." Then it tells how Waynaboozhoo survived by floating on a log in the water with various animals.
In the pristine age, the world lived at peace; but an evil spirit came and caused a great flood. The earth was submerged. A few persons had taken refuge on the back of a turtle, so old that his shell had collected moss. A loon flew over their heads and was entreated to dive beneath the water and bring up land. It found only a bottomless sea. Then the bird flew far away, came back with a small portion of earth in its bill, and guided the tortoise to a place where there was a spot of dry land.
During the period of time called the Pachachama people became very evil. They got so busy coming up with and performing evil deeds they neglected the gods. Only those in the high Andes remained uncorrupted. Two brothers who lived in the highlands noticed their llamas acting strangely. They asked the llamas why and were told that the stars had told the llamas that a great flood was coming. This flood would destroy all the life on earth. The brothers took their families and flocks into a cave on the high mountains. It started to rain and continued for four months. As the water rose the mountain grew keeping its top above the water. Eventually the rain stopped and the waters receded. The mountain returned to its original height. The shepherds repopulated the earth. The llamas remembered the flood and that is why they prefer to live in the highland areas.
Comparison of Accounts
|Destruction by Water||Divine Cause||Warning Given||Humans Spared||Animals Spared||Preserved in Vessel||Country and Legend|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||01 Australia- Kurnai|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||02 Babylon- Berossus' account|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||03 Babylon- Gilgamesh epic|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||04 Bolivia- Chiriguano|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||05 Borneo- Sea Dayak|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||06 Burma- Singpho|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||07 Canada- Cree|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||08 Canada- Montagnais|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||09 China- Lolo|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||10 Cuba- original natives|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||11 East Africa- Masai|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||12 Egypt- Book of the Dead|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||13 Fiji- Walavu-levu tradition|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||14 French Polynesia- Raiatea|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||15 Greece- Lucian's account|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||16 Guyana- Macushi|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||17 Iceland- Eddas|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||18 India- Andaman Islands|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||19 India- Bhil|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||21 Iran- Zend-Avesta|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||22 Italy- Ovid's poetry|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||23 Malay Peninsula- Jekun|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||24 Mexico- Codex Chimalpopoca|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||25 Mexico- Huichol|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||26 New Zealand- Maori|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||27 Peru- Indians of Huarochiri|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||28 X . Russia- Vogul|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||29 U.S.A. (Alaska)- Kolusches|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||30 U.S.A. (Alaska)- Tlingit|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||31 U.S.A. (Arizona)- Papago|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||YES||32 U.S.A. (Hawaii)- legend of Nu-u|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||33 Vanualu- Melanesians|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||34 Vietnam- Bahnar|
|YES||YES||YES||YES||35 Wales- Dwyfan/Dwyfan legend|
|35||18||17||35||24||32||Total Occurrences out of 35|
- The Biami legends of creation and Noah’s Flood The Biami legends of creation and Noah’s Flood by Tom Hoey, Creation 7(2):12–13. October 1984
- Creation & the Flood ChristianAnswers.Net
- Flood Legends from Around the World
- The Floods of Noah and Gilgamesh by Frank Lorey, ICR Impact, March 1997, Institute for Creation Research.
- Genesis According to the Miao People
- Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood by by David T. Tsumura, Winter 1996, Bible and Spade.
- Panning for Traces of the Flood.
- How do creation and global flood legends from different cultures compare to the biblical account? Answers in Genesis