The key to being ‘modern man’ lies in his civilised pursuits – the arts, writings, all those things that specially mark us as fundamentally different to animals, even the clever ones. The Egyptians started the ball rolling with their hieroglyphs about 3400 BC, with coherent texts coming in around 2600 years BC.
In the grand scheme of things that doesn’t really seem very long ago does it?
Putting it in to a British context, the neolithic era saw the locals living in small extended family groups who would work the land in a semi settled manner, they would wear basic hide garments, build barrows, causeways and around 2500 BC put together Stonehenge, for reasons we know not what. But whilst that has to stand as a stunning example of tooless basic engineering and one we Brits should be duly proud, we can’t duck the fact that we didn’t start writing stuff down onto tablet or papery stuff until over 3000 years later with the epic Anglo Saxon hero poem of Beowulf.
Civilisation is generally considered to have begun around 6000 years BC in Mesopotamia – an area that would set it in modern day Iraq, and it was from this very area that we see the first epic story, written in Sumerian cuneiform, a sort of detailed picture series on stones around 2000 BC – the Epic of Gilgamesh as it’s called is a story of the daring do’s of King Gilgamesh of Uruk
What I find fascinating is the epic story of Gilgamesh recounts, a number of early biblical tales as delivered in Genesis – and as a means of comparison, it is believed that the life of the old Testament Abraham is dated around 1900-1800 BC which puts him in historical touching distance to the author of the story; and furthermore, King Gilgamesh himself was believed to have been a historical figure in Sumeria c.2700 BC which places him as a physical contemporary of the early Genesis characters.
Finding unadulterated manuscripts or stones from antiquity are rarer than hens teeth, but they are the gems we long for – to help us place ancient history in context, to act as corroboration.
And herein lies one problem I have and this doesn’t make me clever or unusual – when one considers ancient religious texts – the danger for corruption, especially where translation has taken place, but also where the same language has morphed, developed and changed over time, means that our reliance on the text as the unadulterated truth is challenged severely.
I cannot believe the Bible is written under divine influence.
I love the idea that the Gilgamesh story lends credence to stories such of the great Flood and even Adam and Eve that gives me a spark of some historical corroboration that is guiltily exciting.
But the Bible, as a reliable document is perhaps a stretch too far – of the 3 Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – it is the Bible which for me presents the greatest challenge to unravel – because in part I feel it has the answer to my soul searching and in part is complete doctored fantasy.