Bible Review 4:6, December 1988

Bible Books

The Flood Myth

Edited by Alan Dundes (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 1988) 452 pp., $48.00 (hardcover), $15.95 (paperback)

Alan Dundes, known for his important contributions to the theory of folklore, is also known for his idiosyncratic, often bizarre, interpretations of individual myths and customs. In this volume Dundes, a folklorist at the University of California at Berkeley, has collected a variety of previously published articles by biblical scholars, folklorists, historians of science, and others on the fascinating topic of the flood myth.

The flood myth in question is, at least initially, the biblical story of the flood recounted in Genesis 6–9. Over the last several centuries this story has been approached from a number of angles. Geologists of the 17th through the 19th centuries had to reconcile new discoveries about fossils and the age of the earth with the biblical account of the flood. At the same time, antiquarians learned of the flood myths of various non-Western cultures and tried to accommodate these accounts to the Genesis flood. George Smith’s discovery in the British Museum in 1872 of a tablet with a Mesopotamian flood myth initiated a flurry of new research and new controversy. The cuneiform tablet demonstrated that the Genesis flood was not the “original” flood account, but was a later version of a Mesopotamian myth.

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