There is one deluge legend that comes surprisingly close to matching details in the Bible. When I first read this account I was surprised by some of its accuracies. In some places it reads very similar to the Noah account, closer than all other accounts, I believe.
There is a good explanation for why this particular flood story closely resembles the story in the Bible. This account comes from a civilization that was once righteous, had the rights to the priesthood, learned the mysteries of heaven through revelation, and was the civilization from which the Hebrew people came.
The civilization is Sumeria.
The ancient Jewish historian Josephus wrote that, after the Flood, the people of Shem (one of Noah’s sons) moved into Mesopotamia. Josephus says that these people were called Arphaxadites. They were Abraham’s ancestors. We know from the Pearl of Great Price that they were a righteous people, held the rights of the priesthood, and were highly favored of the Lord before falling into apostasy.
The Sumerian flood story was likely handed down from one generation to another while the apostasy was in full force. Without the benefit of prophets and scriptures, the story was altered through the years, but retained a surprising amount of similarity to the Biblical account.
The Sumerian flood story comes from the story of Gilgamesh, inscribed on clay tablets discovered in modern Iraq. The writer of the clay tablets tells us that Gilgamesh was a wise king who saw mysteries, knew secret things, and told his people tales of life before the Flood. Gilgamesh learned of the pre-deluge days from a man named Utnapishtim (Noah). Utnapishtim/Noah told Gilgamesh about a time before the Flood when the gods dwelt on earth, including Anu (the Father), Lord of the heavens, and Enlil (the Son) who enforced divine decisions.
“In those days the world teemed, the people multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull, and the great god [Anu] was aroused by the clamour. Enlil heard the clamour and he said to the gods in council, ‘The uproar of mankind is intolerable….’ So the gods agreed to exterminate mankind.”
Utnapishtim/Noah was instructed to…
“Tear down your house and build a boat, abandon possessions and look for life, despise worldly goods and save your soul…. [B]uild a boat with her dimensions in proportion – her width and length in harmony. Put aboard the seed of all living things, into the boat.”
Then the story continues:
“[T]he wind blew, torrent and tempest and flood overwhelmed the world, tempest and flood raged together like warring hosts . When the seventh day dawned the storm from the south subsided, the sea grew calm, the flood was stilled…. All mankind had returned to clay. I opened a hatch and light fell on my face. Then I bowed low, I sat down and I wept, the tears streamed down my face, for on every side was the waste of water.... When the seventh day dawned I loosed a dove and let her go. She flew away, but finding no resting place she returned…. [Then] I loosed a raven, she saw that the waters had retreated, she ate, flew around, she cawed, and she did not come back.”
Wow! That degree of similarity between a 4000 plus-year-old Sumerian story and the Bible is remarkable. Here is good evidence for the Flood.
To be sure, there are many differences between the Sumerian account and the Bible. No flood story perfectly matches the Bible, but based on what I’ve heard from movie critics, Gilgamesh’s story may be more accurate than the movie itself!
Kudos to Gilgamesh, whoever and wherever you are ;)