John Day on Berossus’ Account of the Flood

I sat in a tiny classroom today on the upper floor of Oxford’s Theology Faculty building with Stephanie Dalley, Nicolas Wyatt, and several others, listening to John Day read a paper he will be publishing shortly. The paper treated the flood account of the Babylonian priest Berossus and its relationship to P’s account from Genesis. Day’s argument was basically that four connections lead us to conclude that both accounts were drawing (at vastly different time periods) from some of the same source material, which was not utilized by older Mesopotamian accounts, like Gilgamesh or Atrahasis:

1 – Berossus and P both give precise dates for the beginning of the flood (P’s is two days after Berossus’). Early scholarship presumes P is using an autmnal calendar when it actually has the new year in the spring, and so missed the connection.

2 – Berossus and P both have the ark landing in modern Armenia (Prof. Day went on a tangent about the fact that P mentions the region of Ararat, not a specific mountain). The other accounts have the ark landing further southeast along the current border between Iran and Iraq.

3 – Berossus and P both describe the ark as having a shape similar to a real boat, rather than the older accounts’ perfect cube.

4 – The flood hero is cited as the last in a list of ten long-lived ante-diluvial men. Enoch and Berossus’ equivalent Emmeduranki are both 7th on the list. The other lists have varied numbers of heros.

Some took issue with Prof. Day’s paper, wondering, for instance, what to do with J’s section of the flood narrative and the similarities with Berossus, what to do with the fact that Berossus’ list of ante-diluvial heros may simply have two different spellings of a single name (and so not really add to 10), and so forth. Prof. Day seemed happy to take correction and was cordial throughou. I thought it was an interesting look into how these scholars interact with each other in a setting like this.


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