The Flood

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at
Sat Sep 30 23:18:25 EDT 2000

At 19.14 30/09/00 +0200, Rolf Furuli wrote:

>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.

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.

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