The Bible record is the most reliable and comprehensive account of the ancient world and so it is interesting to see how other details from the earth’s earliest civilisations concur with the Bible descriptions.
This topic is of interest both to people who support the Bible text and those who wish to denigrate it. To supporters, evidence for the accuracy of the account is expected and welcomed. To detractors, an absence of evidence and any parallels in ancient mythical writings can be interpreted against the Bible account.
The Genesis Record
The first book of the Bible gives us a sweeping summary of thousands of years of earth’s history. The account is selective, majoring on key elements which God chose as valuable for our understanding of Him and His work on the earth. The Bible, therefore, is not an exhaustive historical record. But it is a true account of events, so we should expect various supportive evidence to corroborate its details.
Highlights of the Genesis record include: sudden and complete creation process; uniqueness of life on earth; the earth as the centre of creative purpose; man made from the dust; woman made from the man; a garden paradise; the curse resulting from man’s actions; nomadic and settled communities; technical expertise; global judgement through a flood; universal language of all people; convergence on a city with astrological worship modes; dispersion of people groups; and the earth divided.
Evidence in support of the Genesis account will include geological factors, space exploration, anthropology, archaeological evidence, ancient accounts (which may have become distorted over time) and ancient ideas which have passed down to today.
Geological evidence will corroborate the global flood. Space exploration will continue to confirm that life only exists on earth. Anthropology will track cultures back to the beginnings described in Genesis. Archaeology will confirm that life spread from the geographical region given in the Bible. Ancient stories will contain reflections of events recorded in Genesis. And modern life will be decorated with relics of past ideas which concur with the Bible account.
The global evidence of sediment deposits is staggering, fully supporting a flood of global proportions. Ocean fossils at high altitudes occur in many mountain ranges and far from coasts. Huge fossil graveyards exist in different continents.
Traces of marine sediments have been found at a height of over 12,000 feet in the Andes Mountains in South America. The ruins at Tiwanaku at an altitude of 13,000 feet were buried under six feet of mud from flooding. The high altitude Lake Titicaca holds water that is slightly saline and its fish and crustacean are predominantly oceanic, rather than fresh water creatures.
Deserts, sedimentary rocks, coal seams, oil fields, multi-strata fossils, huge fossil beds, and more lend sound credibility to the Bible account of a world-wide flood.
The Table of Nations, given in Genesis 10, is acclaimed as the most outstanding record of early national and cultural history. As anthropologists track the various cultural and language groups and their dispersion and development around the world they do not find reason to discredit the Biblical record.
Cradle of Civilisation
Archaeology confirms that the Tigris-Euphrates region is the cradle of civilisation, consistent with what Genesis 2 says about the location of Eden. The ancient Sumerian civilisation is seen as the seed-bed from which our global population arose.
Dr Clifford Wilson declares that archaeology has confirmed a great deal of the early Biblical record. “Creation, the Garden of Eden, the Flood, Long-Living Men, Early Cities, the Tower of Babel, the ‘Table of Nations’, and the relationship between Ur and Haran – archaeology has given convincing evidence that all of these should be accepted as historical.”
Documents linked back to Sumer tell distorted stores of a divine creation and global flood of judgement. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Epic of Atahasis and the Enamu Elish are three well-known ancient stories which speak of ancient times. They are distorted with polytheism and local customisation, but they attest to an enduring consciousness of original events as described in the Bible.
John Gray in Near Eastern Mythology refers to the tradition of civilisation emerging fully developed, without the long painful evolutionary process, which is a consistent theme of ancient literature. The ancients were agreed that man was created, rather than the product of any extended process.
The early Sumerian poem known as the Epic of Enmerkar speaks of a land that is much like Eden. From a damaged tablet we learn that this land, Dilmun, was only for the gods, and was characterised as a “pure, clean, bright place where sickness, violence, and old age do not exist”. The tablet reads, “The deadly lion destroyed not, The wolf a lamb seized not”. Dilmun is also described as a garden of fruit trees, edible plants, and flowers.
By the time of Sargon II, Dilmun was identified with a place inhabited by people with whom he did commerce. The Bible similarly reveals that the name of Eden was reused for a trading city after the great flood (Ezekiel 27:23).
Many details of the Genesis account are picked up in the Sumerian stories, even though buried in polytheism and distortion. While the links are not conclusive, they are tantalising.
The different creation accounts involve mankind being made from the earth, although mixed with blood from one of the gods.
The myth of the creation of Ninti carries links to the creation of Eve, since Ninti means both “lady of life” and “lady of the rib“. In the myth she was created to cure the ailing Enki deity, reflective of how the woman was created “for the man“, as the Bible explains.
Sumerian deity stories include the account of one God, Enki, eating eight plants, resulting in a curse being placed. This carries echoes of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit and God cursing the earth and mankind as a result.
The fact of a universal language, which the Bible advises prevailed until the Tower of Babel, is stated in the Epic of Enmerkar and the lord of Aratta. It states that one of the gods, “Enki ….. shall change the speech in their mouths, as many as he had placed there, and so the speech of mankind is truly one.”
Some ancient traditions which have survived to our day provide corroboration with what the Bible teaches. The legends of huge dragons living at the same time as mankind attest to the fact that such creatures were not buried in inaccessible fossil beds, but were living creatures in man’s living memory. Cave drawings of dinosaur further support this reality, along with the dinosaur and human footprint fossils found at the Paluxy River in Glen Rose, Texas.
The ancient design for the Chinese character for ‘boat’ involving eight mouths directly links to the eight members of Noah’s family saved on Noah’s ark.
The mythical story of a city buried in the sea is consistent with the global flood event. Many cities would have been buried by the deluge, and could have given rise to the mythical concept of Atlantis.
Bolivian archaeologist Hugo Boero Rojo found extensive ruins in 1980, similar to the earliest Andean Tiwanakan culture, 60 feet beneath the waters of Lake Titicaca, close to the coast of Puerto Acosta. This drowned city may well be a relic of the pre-flood world.
Echoes from the Past
The points noted here are just some of the echoes from the past which resonate with the Bible account given in Genesis. Sceptics argue that ancient myths evolved into the Bible record, but that does not account for the geological and archaeological evidence, nor the surviving memories which substantiate the Bible, contrary to the popular scientific thought.
The Bible is the supreme record. The true and living God did create as described in Genesis. That accounts for the moral authority which that book carries. The ancient Sumerian stories, hand-me-down myths, and modern scientific speculations cannot impact lives and cultures in the positive and productive way that the Bible has proven to do for centuries.
The Bible’s similarities with ancient stories validates the stories as distorted reflections of reality, rather than discrediting the Bible as overgrown myth. “By their fruits you will know them”, is the Biblical instruction. So simply weigh up the overwhelming impact of the Bible, compared with the cumulative impact of all the Sumerian myths. The two are not the same, nor even linked by evolution of thought. One is myth-making that has faded away, while the other is revelation that is as powerful today as when it was first given.
I am thankful to Dr Clifford Wilson and his wife Dr Barbara Wilson for their inspiration and guidance in my own exploration of Biblical archaeology. As friend, academic supervisor and mentor, Dr Clifford has keenly encouraged my interest in archaeology, as he has for many others in decades past.
In honour of his on-going work and his world-wide impact I am compiling various posts on archaeology, based on the excellent work of Drs Clifford and Barbara, while adding my own personal style and insights. Drs Clifford and Barbara Wilson are building a website to present their work. You can visit the website at http://www.drcliffordwilson.com