The Flood

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Sat Sep 30 13:14:06 EDT 2000

Ian Hutchesson wrote,

>Dear Rolf,
>Walter wrote:
>>>Humanist scholars have built up a series of pottery sequences to date
>>>man's culture by in the Ancient Near East. According to this pottery
>>>paradigm, there are cities that were founded as early as the 9th millenium
>>>BCE (Jericho for example) as well as others, and they have exhibited no
>>>flood debris universally dated to the 4th or 3rd millenium BCE when the
>>>Hebrew Bible claims the Flood occurred.
>To which Rolf responded:
>>Your example is a very good test case, and I will again play the devil's
>>advocate. In the Bible there is a continuous chronology of persons and
>>periods from the flood and down to the fall of Babylon for the Medes and
>>Persians in 539 BCE. This chronology places the flood around 2400 BCE. Few
>>persons take this seriously, but my challenge to you is to PROVE that
>>cultures existed before this date!
>It would seem, Rolf, that, as the devil's advocate accepts the literary
>efforts of the OT/HB in order to arrive at the date 2400 BCE, he would have
>to accept the literary efforts of other cultures, if he didn't want to be
>arbitrary. This would include such works as the Assyrian King Lists, one of
>which spans the time from Shamshi-Adad I down to Shalmaneser V (and 38
>kings before Shamshi-Adad I).
>[It's worth noting that because there are actually three well preserved
>lists, one (Nassouhi) written at the time of Tiglath-Pileser II showing
>that attempts a la Rohl to discount such lists are ill-founded, for one
>cannot be ignorant of parallel reigns at the time there was supposed to
>have been parallel reigns.]
>Naturally, one can add the literature of other realms, such as the
>Babylonians of the era of Hammurabi, which also goes back dozens of
>generations, then pass back to Mari, Ur, Akkad, Uruk, Lagash, Umma, Kish
>and through the various literature well before 2400 BCE.
>The impressive thing to remember is that, unlike the biblical record which
>our devil's advocate is taking on trust, much of the information in these
>king lists finds support amongst the other realms' records.
>At the same time the archaeological evidence (at least in the cases of
>Assyria and Babylon) relates many of the names to strata.
>>I once wrote a paper about the Neo-Babylonian chronology, and discovered
>>that the oldest tablet (astronomical diary) that could help us create an
>>*absolute* chronology (=a chronology where an historical event can be tied
>>up with unambiguous astronomical observations), was VAT4956. It is dated to
>>Nebuhcadnezzar's 37th year and the observations are very accurate. (But
>>there are even questions with the connections between astronomy and history
>>in this tablet). Before that, very much is conjecture. Eclipses and similar
>>phenomena are usually only roughly described, and because such events occur
>>so often, they are of little importance as chronological proofs.
>The devil's advocate is putting forward arguments that he would not be able
>to deal with with the material that he is using to support the 2400 BCE
>date. There is absolutely no supporting evidence for that date outside a
>collection of books which cannot be dated in itself earlier than DSS times.
>The Assyrian King Lists provide both order of reigns and lengths of reigns.
>Very much of the order is supported by epigraphy. The lists were updated at
>various times and therefore not of late invention. If we trust the dates
>provided in the OT/HB which we can only date exceptionally late, why can't
>we trust the dates supplied in Assyrian lists and other records? They are
>after all supported by contemporary data, whereas date information in the
>biblical literature is not. It is after all against good procedure to be
>tied to any single source of data, when dealing with matters which are not
>strictly within that data.
>Rather than the paradigm you would like to discount, I have argued with the
>literary/epigraphic evidence, which is of superior historical weight, due
>to its mainly contemporary status and its cross-support from other cultures.

Dear Ian,

We all have our beliefs, and our views will of course influence what we
write and the evidence we select.  Very few historians and scientists would
accept what the Bible say about a worldwide flood around 2400 BCE. I have
not defended this directly in this thread, but I have pointed to surprising
data that accords with a worldwide flood, and that will of course
*indirectly* defend the Bible. My main point, however, has been to attack
traditional thinking where the consensus of historians almost is viewed as
the voice of God.

All those working with chronology know the difference between an absolute
and a relative chronology. The oldest astronomical diary listed in A.J.
Sachs, H. Hunger,1988, "Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from
Babyulonia", is one from year 16 of Samashsumukin. Thus an *absolute*
chronology cannot go back longer than the 7th century BCE. If you are aware
of older astronomical data that can be used for an absolute chronology, I
will like to know it.

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. 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 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.


Rolf Furuli

University of Oslo

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