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The traditions of ancient peoples throughout the world share in common the inclusion of flood stories. The Mesopotamian accounts have garnered the most discussion since they are culturally closer to the Biblical material than any of the other non-Scriptural narratives. The most famous Mesopotamian flood account is the Babylonian version, found in the library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (seventh century B.C.) as part of the larger Epic of Gilgamesh.
In this epic, Gilgamesh searches for a man named Utnapishtum (the equivalent of the Biblical Noah), whose story is then recounted. When one of the highest gods, Enlil, becomes annoyed by the cacophony of noise coming from human beings, he decides to inundate and destroy them all in a catastrophic deluge. Enki, the god of waters, reveals Enlil’s intent to the mortal Utnapishtum, directing him to construct an enormous boat and load it with pairs of animals. Instructed not to reveal the reason for this mystifying building project, Utnapishtum is further commanded at a critical point to take his wife on board with him. For seven harried days and nights Utnapishtum and his wife are tossed about in this vessel as floodwaters engulf the earth. When the waters finally subside, the boat lodges atop a tall mountain. Utnapishtum sends out a dove, a swallow and a raven, the last of which fails to return, apparently having located nourishment.
In contrast to the Biblical creation narratives, ancient creation stories from Mesopotamia, Egypt and Syria-Palestine do far more than try to explain how the physical world came into being. Creation myths often elevated the particular god of a particular shrine to supremacy over all other gods in order to validate the prestige of that deity, that shrine or the city in which the shrine was located.
For example, Egyptian creation myths tend to assert that a primordial mound or “Island of Creation” arose from a primeval ocean and that a specific god created all things from that location. Several Egyptian shrines, however, claimed to be the site of that primordial mound and asserted that the god of their respective shrine was the great creator god.
There are only two Biblical references to the Nephilim (Ge 6:4; Nu 13:33), people of “great size” (v. 32) from whom the Anakites were said to have descended. Upon glimpsing these imposing inhabitants of Canaan, ten of the twelve spies became demoralized and terrified. The Nephilim may have been similar in appearance to the Rephaites, a race of strong, tall men with whom the Anakites are compared in Deuteronomy 2:21.
The Nephilim are described in Genesis 6:4 as having been mighty men who lived before the great flood. The author of Genesis linked them to “the sons of God” (other translations render this “sons of the gods”), either in terms of being identical to this group or of being their offspring. Three theories have been proposed regarding the parentage of these Nephilim (these hypotheses do not address the problem of how they might have survived the flood to appear in Canaan at the time of the spy expedition):
Any book copied by hand is likely to contain errors. Not surprisingly, there are copyists’ errors (called textual or scribal errors) in ancient Biblical manuscripts. The original copies of the books were lost long ago. Thus our sources for the Biblical materials are limited to handwritten copies (of copies) of the originals. We do also have access to copies of ancient translations of the Bible into other languages, as well as citations of the Bible by early rabbis and church fathers. Thus Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Bible, together with early translations and citations of Scripture, witness to the correct reading of a particular text.