Copycat: Genesis and the Ark of the Covenant

Interesting how scoffers reject archaeology when it supports the Bible, but when tendentious evidence is twisted against the Bible, then yee haw boy howdy, the Bible is wrong. There are claims that the Bible copies other religions, such as the ludicrous "Jesus Myth", and stories that Christianity was a reworking of pagan mystery religions.

Charges of copying are made against the Creation and the Genesis Flood, and some even think the Ark of the Covenant is a copy of something Egyptian. It is not difficult to refute these.

Gilgamesh tablet. Although biblical history is vindicated by archaeology, some people twist it to give the appearance that the Flood and Ark are copies of pagan myths.
Library of Ashurbanipal / The Flood Tablet / The Gilgamesh Tablet / Wikimedia Commons /Fæ (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Creationists say that there was a global Flood, and after the dispersion at Babel, people took the account with them around the world. Naturally, there are corruptions over the years, but many (including the indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere) have core elements in agreement with the Genesis narrative.

One of the most popular "copied from" candidates is the Epic of Gilgamesh.

I wonder if any of the tinhorns that say the Genesis account is a copy have ever read any of the Epic versions, such as this one. They have changed significantly over the years. There are stark differences between Genesis and Gilgamesh, as the latter was clearly written as entertainment, and the former has very specific details, indicating that it was written as history. Indeed, the specificity of details has been helpful to archaeologists!

Skeptics of the Bible’s history often point to the Flood myths of Mesopotamia as evidence that the Bible’s authors simply appropriated stories from the wider culture for their own community. The three main texts discussed in this context are the Atrahasis poem, the Eridu Genesis, and the Epic of Gilgamesh. The first two were written at around the same time (c. 1600 BC), and Gilgamesh was written later (c. 1200–1100 BC). For comparison, Genesis was written around 1400 BC.

These poems are discussed alongside the flood narrative of Genesis because there are some superficial similarities. All feature a man who is saved from a flood by constructing an ark-like vessel. Animals are also taken on board, and birds are released. After some duration, the vessel settles and the hero disembarks.

You can finish reading by journeying to "Was Genesis Copied from Mesopotamian Flood Myths?" When you come back, we'll look at another copycat claim: the Ark of the Covenant.

In simple terms, covenant and contract are similar. Although this is less commonly discussed, the Ark of the Contract in ancient Egypt has been called the predecessor of the Ark of the Covenant of Israel. Using the standard dating Egyptian chronology (the reliability of which is increasingly doubted), some scholars say the Ark of the Covenant came first, so the monotheistic Hebrews copied a polytheistic pagan concept. Not in those days, they wouldn't.

Anubis on an Ark. Although biblical history is vindicated by archaeology, some people twist it to give the appearance that the Flood and Ark are copies of pagan myths.
Anubis and an Ark, Wikimedia Commons / Rama (CC BY-SA 3.0 FR) (background added)

Even if the Egyptian item came first, there are many reasons to utterly reject the copycat idea. These include the form and purpose of each Ark.

What is the position of AIG on Ark of the Covenant and its Egyptian parallel Ark of the Contract (used for a 1,000 years before Hebrew people were in Egypt). Some of the Egyptian arks look almost exactly like Hebrew Ark of the Covenant.

— J. H.

Hello, J. H., and thank you for writing to Answers in Genesis with your question.

Typically the structures are depicted in quite different fashions (boat-like for the ark of the contract versus rectangular chest-like for the Ark of the Covenant), and they served totally different purposes. Usually, the ark of the contract (often referred to as a ceremonial barque) carried the mummy of the pharaoh, or an important nobleman, a relic symbolizing an Egyptian god, and, rarely, the Egyptian Book of the Dead. In contrast, the Ark was the chosen place for the divine Shekinah (Hebrew word meaning “dwelling”) presence of the True and Living God. God also commanded that certain objects be put in the Ark (the Decalogue [Ten Commandments], Aaron’s rod, and a pot of manna). These objects did not symbolize the dead, but rather that God’s promises were still in effect or as remembrances of God’s sustaining the nation.

Again, we see that nay-sayers seldom do their homework, and are handily dispatched. No, Nellie, the Egyptian Ark is not the predecessor to the biblical Ark. That's because the Bible truly is the written Word of God. You savvy? To read the rest, see "Feedback: Is the Ark of the Covenant a Biblical Copy of the Egyptian Ark of the Contract?" Bonus: "Archaeologists Uncover Pottery Bearing Gideon’s Name."