Historicity of The Flood

Paolo Magnone p.magnone at AGORA.STM.IT
Mon Jun 7 19:32:09 UTC 1999

In reply to Michael Rabe's message of 5 Jun 99, 17:06:

> While I agree that it may be impossible to connect literary traditions
> about a universal flood with geological evidence for actual events,  I
> wouldn't want Brian or anyone else to overlook striking similarities that
> also exist between the Matysa-avatar stories and the Middle Eastern
> references to an ark...

I beg to differ. The "ark" is perhaps the most conspicuous instance
of what I was referring to as "very generic traits as must needs
belong to any flood myth". After all, how could anyone survive a
flood if not by some kind of floating device (unless the flood is a
partial one, as is sometimes the case)? So it is only too natural
that different flood traditions may have independently developed the
idea of an "ark"; and notice that the similarities do not go much
beyond that.

Actually, the so-called "ark" in the Genesis is "tEvAh", occurring
elsewhere only in Exodus 2, 3.5 where it means the basket
wherein Moses was set afloat on the river; and a basket it may
have been even in the original deluge myth. In the extant account,
the "ark" is not really a ship, but a parallelepiped, quite unsuitable,
one would think, for navigation.

In Apollodorus, Deukalion and Pyrrha are saved in a "larnax", i. e. a
trunk or a casket, which becomes a raft ("ratis") in Ovid.

In the Indian tradition, on the other hand, the "ark" is consistently a
ship; it may be built by Manu, or it may be already there, which is
extremely significant in connection with the unique symbolism --
including the fish and the rope -- of which it is an integral part.

Paolo Magnone
Catholic University of Milan
pmagnone at mi.unicatt.it
Jambudvipa - Indology and Sanskrit Studies

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