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09/04/2019

How would I start off a comparison and contrast essay?

QUESTION
How would I start off a comparison and contrast essay?
I made a venn diagram and all that but I’m not sure how I would start off the intro, as in the first hook sentence starting off the whole essay, I’m very confused and i’m supposed to write a comparison and contrast essay on o the Flood of Gilgamesh and Noas Ark.

ANSWER
As with most essays of this type, you would start of with a paragraph summary that covers the main points you are going to make in your essay. You might also like to allude to the controversy over the allegation that Genesis “plagiarizes” or borrows the story from Mesopotamia (See also the flood stories in the Eridu Genesis and the Epic of Atrahasis). One way to start off your essay might be to startle your readers with the similarity between the two stories eg. We all know the story about an ancient hero who is told by God to build a great boat to escape a worldwide deluge. Taking representatives of all kinds of animals on board, he survives a great storm, sends out birds to find land and eventually settled on a mountain top. After accepting his sacrifice God vows never again to send a flood to destroy the world. The thing about this story that we may not realize is that it is found in a Mesopotamian work called the Epic of Gilgamesh and predates the Genesis flood story by at least one thousand years.

If you look up Gilgamesh on Yahoo answers and arrange the answers by “newest” you will find this question answered many times over. I’ll leave you to reach your own conclusions on this. However, I would advise that you veer away from two very unbalanced viewpoints on this whole issue. The first opinion is that Genesis does something dishonest by copying another flood story, the implication being that the flood story is completely discredited and of no value. This extreme view often creates the impression that there is no difference between the stories in Genesis and the Mesopotamian sources. It is true that Genesis has a closer literary relationship with the Gilgamesh flood story than with any other, and many expert scholars are convinced that Genesis is dependent upon the much older Mesopotamian one. However, this viewpoint generally ignores the strong theological differences between the stories and is ignorant to the possibility that there may be a specific purpose to this retelling.

The other view to avoid has a few variations. These include the opinions that any similarities are coincidental, that Gilgamesh must actually be dependent on Genesis (an impossibility based on manuscript evidence), or that Gilgamesh is a distorted pagan memory of the actual event described in Genesis (again an impossimpossibility on geological and archaeological evidence).

There are two approaches that may help you in your essay. One is to ignore the fine detail and ask what the thematic differences are between the two stories. Why is the flood sent? What happens after the flood between the gods and humans? Is the flood a good thing in either story? What is the attitude of the gods to the destruction? What laws are implemented in the aftermath of the flood? Secondly you need to ask why there is such a strong Mesopotamian flavor to the book of Genesis. The garden of Eden is the source of the Tigris and Euphrates, the story of Adam and Eve has multiple parallels with that of Enkidu and Shamhat in Gilgamesh, Nimrod is singled out as the founder of great Mesopotamian cities, the flood stories are based on the same underlying framework, Abraham comes from Ur, the story of the city and tower of Babel is set in Mesopotamia and so on. If you look at the other references to Mesopotamia and the reason that stories such as the “civilization” of Enkidu are reformulated in Genesis, this should give you some insight into what is happening in the flood story.