The Flood

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Sun Oct 1 16:51:38 EDT 2000

Ian Hutchesson wrote,

>Dear Rolf,
>I don't think it is relevant to attempt to tie the notion of absolute
>chronology to astronomical (or other observable) phenomena. It is
>sufficient to have consecutive lengths of reigns, one of which can be
>associated to a fixed date. A relative chronology is one in which we know
>the order of events and perhaps the dates with in the chronology but that
>chronology cannot be tied to a fixed date. This is at least my
>understanding of how John Brinkman uses the terminology in his works on the
>reconstruction of Babylonian chronology. See for example "A Political
>History of Post-Kassite Babylonia 1158-722 BC," Chapter II, "Chronology".
>(Year 16 of the reign of Shamash-shum-ukin is sixteen years after
>Ashur-banipal sat on the Babylonian throne for a year. We then have a
>continuous series of reigns back from his period to the time of
>Shamshi-Adad. Brinkman takes the twenty synchronisms between Babylon and
>Assyria in the Post-Kassite era to provide the basis for an absolute
>>Even if we cannot make an absolute chronology, a relative one can be made.
>>Such a chronology can be quite good, and I do not reject the Assyrian king
>>lists or other king lists, I have just asked why we should trust these
>>lists more than the Biblical chronological lists. And behind such a
>>question is the challenge to demonstrate that either of the lists are right
>>and wrong.
>I cannot hope to show that the Biblical chronological information is
>"right"; it doesn't figure as primary historical information (due to its
>late date) nor does the information it contains receive support -- except
>in a very cursory manner. I would however argue that, without ancient
>collusion to defraud posterity amongst the various realms of the ancient
>near east, there is enough cross-cultural primary and secondary historical
>evidence to say that the Assyrian King Lists are essentially historically
>>So far I have not seen any plausible chronology going back to
>>the third millennium BCE. All I have seen build on several assumptions and
>>axioms and are not better than these. I would like to stress that I do not
>>reject historical reconstructions and chronologies, I just ask that we
>>critically scrutinize their foundations in order to discover circularity
>>and questionable axioms. One such fallacy is to to put age above quality.
>>It is for instance a general consensus among researchers that the creation
>>account in the Bible is taken from a Babylonian ora  Sumerian source, and
>>the principal argument is that the Sumerian and Babylonian accounts are
>>older than Biblical manuscripts. I am at present working on a translation
>>of Atrahasis into Norwegian, and I am very familiar with the Gilgamesh Epic
>>and Enuma Elish as well. For me, the great difference of quality between
>>the three on one hand and the Biblical account on the other, is a strong
>>argument against the view that the Bible adopted its text from the others.
>I don't know what you mean by "quality" here.
>>I know that you have a very good historical knowledge, so why not show us
>>how it is possible to make a reliable chronology before the last
>>astronomical diary in the 7th century BCE, on the basis of the Assyrian
>>king lists or other information. You need not take the chronology back to
>>Alulim and Alalgar who reigned 28.800 and 36.000 years respectively; it is
>>enough that you make a reliable chronology beyond the year 2400 BCE.
>To do such a thing seriously, the process would be long, would require
>recourse to various literatures and archaeological evidence. So, let me
>only give a few highlights!
>I have already briefly mentioned the 20 synchronisms between Assyria and
>Babylon between 1158 and 722. These assure the chronological order of the
>Assyrian regnal order. (One can only dispute the figures provided for the
>reigns themselves, though I can't see that that would be particularly
>I've already mentioned the different king lists also, each of which was
>compiled in a different reign (Tiglath-Pileser II, Ashur-nirari V,
>Shalmaneser V), showing that the chronological information provided in the
>latter parts of these lists are contemporary information and need to
>contain relatively controllable information for the period they were
>updated in.
>The passage back to 1158 BCE is reasonably well supported, yet we are now
>back to the time when the Assyrian information receives support from
>numerous sources. For example the climatic change which is noted in
>Assyrian literature matches the stratigraphic information from Ugarit and
>Cyprus, where the stratum covering those archaeological sites is much
>lighter in colour than those above or below. This layer caused by the
>climatic change is dated by the references in the Assyrian literature to
>that change, which is also reflected in numerous other areas around the
>near east and Europe. (See the Parpola & Neumann article on the subject,
>JNES 1988 -- from memory. If exact reference is needed I can get it for
>you.) The importance of this climatic change is that it provides an ad quem
>date for the destruction of Ugarit, forcing the dating of the Hittite
>empire to be constrained by it as well, given the numerous synchronisms
>between these two cultures.
>The relationship between Ugarit and Hatti provides a strong synchronism
>with Egypt as well, supported both by the treaties between Ramses II and
>Hattusilis III and by the Amarna letters which provide a further
>synchronism between Egypt and those countries as well as Mitanni, Babylon
>and Assyria. Thus, returning again to the Assyrian King Lists, we have a
>further strong support of the veracity of the lists. This list itself
>considering only back to Shamshi-Adad I, we reach back to 1810 BCE.
>We also have the record of Mursili I's raid on Babylon which both brought
>an end to the dynasty of Hammurabi and the arrival of the Kassites in
>Babylon. It was under Hammurabi that Mari was annexed by Babylon. The last
>king of Mari was Zimri-Lim, who was the successor of Yashmakh-Addu, the son
>of Shamshi-Adad I, a further demonstration of the validity of the Assyrian
>King Lists.
>From the records of the palace of Mari a continuous list of rulers has been
>constructed back to the times of the dynasty of Sargon of Akkad. At the
>same time there are records from Isin (annexed by Larsa), Larsa (annexed by
>Hammurabi) and Eshnunna (annexed by Hammurabi) which provide numerous
>synchronisms which will take us back to 2000 BCE.
>Before this period each of these cities (Isin, Larsa and Eshnunna) were
>under the control of the 3rd dynasty of Ur with a well documented
>succession from Shulgi down to Ibbi-Sin. The documentation as you are aware
>includes various works and actions performed by these kings which indicate
>the length of reign. Shulgi received the throne of Ur from Ur-Nammu who
>surplanted the king of Uruk, Utu-khegal. Utu-khegal was responsible for
>unseating the Gutean king, Tirigan who was preceded by 21 kings in 91
>years. The Gutean kings came to some power in Mesopotamia by destabilising
>Akkad at the end of the reign of Shar-kali-sharri. It was probable that
>under the reign of Shar-kali-sharri's predecessor, Naram-Sin, that Ebla as
>a world power was destroyed. The rulers of Mari mentioned in the Ebla texts
>are names that are not in the Mari texts, ie they are earlier than the Mari
>kings from their own records.
>The Akkadian dynasty was initiated by Sargon (Sharr-ukin, "the rightful
>king") whose reign takes us back to before 2300. He was a late contemporary
>of Lugal-zaggesi (Uruk) who in turn was a late contemporary of Urukagina
>(Lagash). The period from 2400 to 2350 BCE is rather thin on documentation,
>though we have three rulers of Lagash on record. Strangely, the fifty years
>prior to this (2450-2400) is quite well represented in the documentation
>with synchronisms between kings of Lagash, Umma, Uruk, Ur and even Kish.
>There are also kings on record prior to this for Kish, Adab, Ur and Lagash
>though without synchronisms. Sometime before this, ie before 2500 there are
>a few synchronisms with the king of Kish, Meshilim, who was a contemporary
>of Ninkisalsi of Adab and Lugalshagengur of Lagash. (Of course for many of
>the kings in this early period there are Sumerian king lists, which are
>supported by the contemporary inscriptions, but I haven't looked closely
>enough into these to understand the context in which they were kept.)
>I therefore think there is sufficient evidence in the combined literature
>of the various Mesopotamian powers to permit us to go back before 2400 BCE.
>I have supplied only pointers for what sort of information is available.

Dear Ian,

I understand that you have done much work with this post, and it is a fine
post, because it presents the essence of the historical sciences in
connection with our subject.

The best place to dig in order to learn the history of the Middle East is
not in Israel, not in Jordan, not in Egypt, not in Syria, not in Iraq, but
rather in the basement of the British Museum. In the last 20 years, tablets
have been read and published, which even have jeopardized the New
Babylonian chronology, one of the best of the old chronologies. I do not
generally dispute the Assyrian king lists; I would just like to point out
that the last years of the Assyrian empire  is not fully understood. The
Ada Guppi stela, for instance, cannot be perfectly harmonized with the
Assyrian chronology about Assurbannipal (the discrepancy is at least two
years), and there are other original tablets which cannot be harmonized
with the traditional chronology. This is very problematic because an
astronomical diary *must* be correct in everything; it cannot even bear a
one year's error.

These details, however, are not my concern here; what is in my mind, is the
general picture. In the Cambridge Ancient History I:2 there are
chronological tables from page 994. The first Egyptian dynasty is dated to
c. 3100 BCE and the Sumerian period is dated to 2700. Is it not strange
that there are no accounts of human cultures before these dates? (The age
of a few isolated finds of habitation are highly questionable.) Your post
represents the best outline that is possible to give of traditional
chronology, yet it is full of conjecture. This is of course necessary when
one wants to parallelize kings in different nations, and definite
astronomical dates are not available.

Even though your dates go beyond 2400 BCE, and the dates of the Cambridge
Ancient History go further back, still the oldest date of human culture is
not more than 700 years beyond 2.400 BCE. Keeping in mind how uncertain
dating is, particularly in the third millennium BCE, the dates of the
Cambridge Ancient History corroborates the 2.400 BCE date of the Bible
rather than contradicting it. I suppose that no chronologer who has
wrestled with ambiguous data would deny the possibility that a real old
chronological scheme is 23 % off the track. This is all we need to reduce
Egyptian history by 700 years (from 3100 to 2400). In my view it is highly
remarkable that human culture suddenly apears on the scene 3.100 BCE or 700
years earlier. This accords better with the Biblical information than with
the traditional evolutionary scheme.

What I have tried to do in this thread, is to plead our ignorance. While
the Biblical information about a worldwide flood is categorically rejected
by most researchers, this is not done on the basis of data, but rather on
the basis of the paradigm to which most are subscribing. Because clear
astronomical data are lacking in the third millennium BCE and historical
information is scarce, there are no data that really contradict the
Biblical information about the flood, but the young age of human culture
and the fact that the surface of the earth is very young, accords with the



Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

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