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Gilgamesh, Eridu Genesis and the Bible: Comparative Analysis

As a form of art, storytelling always pursues similar goals of appealing to the audience’s core values and fueling the imagination. Thus, although some of the most famous literary pieces might seem culturally divorced from one another, they still share the same underlying sentiments. Although the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” the Eridu Genesis, and the Bible are culturally ions from each other, they share numerous thematic elements, thus, showing how cultures interlace across space and time.

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Each of the texts under analysis, representing a constellation of stories promoting relevant values and philosophies, can be seen as a repository of wisdom and a unique time capsule. As a result, while contextually, the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” the Eridu Genesis, and the Bible have very little in common, they are united by an array of themes, the primary one being the loss of innocence. Losing innocence as the direct consequence of gaining experience and knowledge is one of the central themes in the Bible: “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (The Bible, New International Version, Genesis 6:5-6). Defining the further evolution of humankind, the specified event serves as the crucial point in the Biblical narrative.

A similar trend toward viewing innocence and its loss as the path toward the emergence of humankind is observed in the “Epic of Gilgamesh.” Indeed, considering the story of Enkidu closer, one will notice the similarities between his fall from innocence and that one of Adam and Eve as they left Eden.

Continuing the theme of innocence and its loss as one of the min narrative devices in the Bible, the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” and the Eridu Genesis, one should mention the concepts of love and sexuality as two other thematic elements that occur in all three of the narratives. Portrayed as the forbidden knowledge that defined Adam and Eve’s exile from Heaven in the Bible, the concept of sexuality is also rendered in the “Epic of Gilgamesh” and the Eridu Genesis, encouraging the reader to make similar conclusions. Specifically, in the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” the concept of innocence and the process of parting with it are viewed as the inevitable price to pay for obtaining valuable experience and knowledge (“Epic of Gilgamesh”). Namely, Enkidu becoming physically close with Shamat represents a change from the blissful state of ignorance to the development of understanding (“Epic of Gilgamesh”). Therefore, the theme of sacrificing innocence to build a civilization can be observed in both texts. Remarkably, the Eridu Genesis does not illustrate the specified idea, representing the threat to humankind solely as an external one and not detailing the reason for gods to smite humankind: “Let me bethink myself of my humankind” (“Eridu Genesis”). Therefore, omnipotent powers in the Eridu Genesis are viewed mostly as chaotic and not being constrained by the notions of good and evil, unlike the “Epic of Gilgamesh” and the Bible represent them. As a result, the theme of innocence is mostly lost in Eridu Genesis, being substituted with the idea of confrontation between wrathful gods and humanity, thus, creating a more understandable yet less complex narrative.

No reflection on a religious text is complete without the considerations of morality and its representation. In the Bible, morality is depicted as one of the crucial values and represents a major theme. Similarly, the “Epic of Gilgamesh” also focuses on the exploration of the moral dimensions of its characters, particularly the titular hero of the story. Despite having several key moral ideas woven into its narrative, the “Epic of Gilgamesh” tends to center on a single idea, namely, the importance of love as the power that surpasses any other force (“Epic of Gilgamesh”). The described sentient, while seemingly lacking nuance, produces a tremendous impact on the reader due to the appeal to emotions and the opportunity to create a rapport with a potential victim through empathy. Remarkably, even with the introduction of death into the narratives of the Bible and the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” the two remain distinctively different in their spirit, style, and the choice of the target populations. Nonetheless, the themes of morality and ethics connect the three plot threads, allowing the traditional formant opinion gradually, with every new passage indicating the development of the conflict and the attempt at reconciling it.

Finally, the theme of death remains one of the central concepts in each of the three books. While the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” the Eridu Genesis, and the Bible tackle the theme of death differently, the concept of parting with life and embarking onto a journey to the great beyond is ubiquitous in every narrative of the three. However, the perspectives that the three books provide on the concept of death are quite unique. For instance, the Bible renders death as an inevitable stage on the path toward the eventual redemption and the possibility of returning to Heaven: “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil” (The Bible, New International Version, Genesis 6:22). The described idea is quite different from the one portrayed in the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” where death is seen as the ultimate end of the journey (“Epic of Gilgamesh”). Specifically, the poem emphasizes the importance of leaving a legacy of good deeds since death will put an end to one’s journey: “and on him he fastened his eye, the eye of death” (“Epic of Gilgamesh”). Thus, the “Epic of Gilgamesh” introduces an idea that was surprisingly refreshing at the time, namely, the importance of making the best of every single moment of one’s life and trying to be the best version of oneself.

In turn, the Eridu Genesis does not contain any mentioning of death, which sets it apart from the Bible and the “Epic of Gilgamesh” thematically. Arguably, the presence of death-related themes in the Eridu Genesis removes itself from the traditional tropes of the narrative with an omnipotent creator at its core. By refusing to follow suit with the “Epic of Gilgamesh” and the Bible, Eridu Genesis has created the environment where the main characters are represented as people with relatable challenges to face. As a result, while changing the hero narrative slightly, the Eridu Heaven creates an environment where both he and the rest of the community can survive and thrive. Therefore, refusing to address the issue of death directly, the poem sets itself apart from the “Epic of Gilgamesh” and the Bible.

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Despite being drastically different from each other, the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” the Eridu Genesis, and the Bible have proven to contain quite a range of similar thematic elements, which point to the presence of cultural legacy and the significance of certain themes as universal concepts that exist across all cultures. Namely, the themes of death, loss of innocence, morality, pride, and comfort, to name just a few, are addressed throughout the biblical narrative, the Eridu Genesis text, and in the “Epic of Gilgamesh.” By promoting the same ideas of sacrificing the heavenly realm for knowledge, experience, and, ultimately, humanity, the works in question create a single narrative canvas based on similar values and principles. Therefore, the literary works under analysis indicate the closeness and the presence of legacy across different cultures.

Works Cited

“Epic of Gilgamesh.”

“Eridu Genesis.”, n.d.

The Bible, New International Version. Zondervan, 1983.

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