Accuracy in The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Hebrew Bible
There is much debate over the historical accuracy of the Hebrew Bible and The Epic of Gilgamesh. Even further, yet address less frequently is the importance of discerning this accuracy. Some claim that to understand a work of literature requires extensive knowledge of the background of this work. The contrary position is that a work of literature can be interpreted solely on it’s content. The meaning of the term classical literature is that it can be applied during any period of time, it is eternal. Yet the conditions surrounding the author might still be of interest to the reader, and of importance to the work. As with many cases, the truth is somewhere in between the two extremes. Both sides have valid arguments about the importance of historicity.
To say that historicity is of the utmost importance may seem extreme. Yet to understand a work, it is important to know if these were fantastic, yet true tales, or if they came from the mind of an author. Some may read a deeper significance into a fictional work. The fact that a story was ‘invented’ usually mean that it was created for a specific purpose. An author would be more prone to using certain literary devices, even in the story line, then fate, or whatever one believes creates the true stories. A completely fictional story may have more use of symbolism, and to search for the meaning of this symbolism, it might be important to know the environment in which it was written.
On the other hand, a reader may put greater emphasis on the meaning behind stories based on fact. This may be because of a faith in a higher power that controls the events in a story. If one believes in God, or in any higher power, the events of a particular story can take on meaning as an act of this power, or even as a symbolic work from god. Still others may be more inspired by the actions of a real character then they would be by a fictional one. In the case of the Bible, numerous people base their religious life on the accuracy of the portrayal of Jesus Christ in the writers of the New Testament. As a real person, the fact that He lived and dies for their sins takes on a great significance. Many devote their lives to serving others the way Jesus did in the New Testament. In this case, it is easy to see how it would be greatly important that Jesus be an accurate historical figure. As a fictional character, His life and death have meaning within the story, but would not be likely to inspire the great actions that people take trying to follow His example. This is only one extreme instance in which the historical accuracy of a work would have great importance. The stories of many human beings, including those in Gilgamesh and The Bible may inspire people to have similar courage. Even if these characters are mortal human beings, that human beings could act out of such courage and love may give readers faith that they too may be able to be as courageous. ...