Biblical scholars over the past century (both Christian and Jewish) have long recognized some kind of connection between the Flood of Genesis 6-8 and the Atrahasis and Gilgamesh Epics, the two pieces of ANE mythology most widely considered.
One of the most important Tanach narratives that deserves the attention of today’s Believers—particularly as it is employed later in the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament— is the Flood of Genesis 6-8. We all know the story too well—as only Noah, his family, and two of every animal were spared. But what many do not know is that there are other Ancient Near Eastern accounts which portray a significant flood, somehow inflicting damage on the world—that may or may not parallel what we see in Genesis. What we are to do with these accounts, the role that they play in relationship to Genesis 6-8, and what they mean have baffled many interpreters. Some believe that the ANE myths appeared first, and were later adapted by the Ancient Hebrews in the compilation of the Torah. Others believe that the ANE myths are distorted forms of the true Biblical account. And others, not surprisingly, are confused and do not know what to believe, avoiding the subject altogether.
Today, many are wondering why there is a sector of individuals in the Messianic community who have denied Yeshua and either converted to Judaism, or their own primitive form of “Yahwism.” While the reasons vary, one thing that is occurring in our midst is that idle words have taken root in the hearts of people, which are now coming to full fruition. One of the statements that is made far too frequently among certain Messianics today is: “Christianity is pagan.” This statement, while often said “innocently” to describe the ills and some non-Biblical practices of mainstream Christianity, can cause the naïve and spiritually unstable person to begin to think that if the pagans believed something, it must therefore be rejected.
The problem with this line of reasoning is two-fold: (1) The problem is not with non-Biblical and questionable practices in contemporary Christianity; the problem is rather with the fact that all of us have strayed from God’s Word. God’s people have not widely made the Bible and being Scripturally compliant their top priority. (2) If you believe that the message of the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) is “pagan,” you must hold the Tanach (Old Testament) to the same standard. If you believe that the story of Yeshua the Messiah and His resurrection are copied off of pagan myths, then you also have to believe that the Bible stories of the Tanach are also borrowed or copied from the mythology of the Ancient Israelites’ neighbors.
The statements made by God in Genesis 9:3-7 are delivered after the Flood is completed, and humanity now has to rebuild itself. In most Messianic examinations of Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32), we often overlook what is being said here, for a variety of reasons. Vegetarian man is now told by the Creator that he is allowed to eat meat, something previously prohibited, with some specific stipulations on what to do with animal blood. Much of our avoidance of this section is likely because many Christians today use Genesis 9:3-7 as a proof text to show that while Noah and his family were allowed to eat meat, they seem to be told to eat the meat of any animal, which would presumably include those that would later be specifically classified “unclean.” It is thus asserted that the laws of kashrut given in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 were only temporary instructions for Ancient Israel that Noah did not have to follow.
Is this really what is asserted in Genesis 9:3-7, or is there more at work in the text that may be eluding us? What does this part of the early Genesis story tell us about animals for food, human beings, and the need to respect blood? Why did God extend permission for people to eat meat?