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Noah's Flood: The Genesis Story in Western Thought (1996)

by Norman Cohn

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701374,013 (3.33)None
The biblical tale of Noah and the Flood has been interpreted in many different ways through the ages, mirroring the many changes in Western beliefs and values. In this masterly and beautifully illustrated book, Norman Cohn, the author of The Pursuit of the Millennium and Cosmos, Chaos, and the World to Come, explores the origins, development, and varying interpretations of this ancient story and assesses its impact on the history of ideas.The roots of the Flood story, Cohn explains, lie in Mesopotamian mythology. But its meaning was totally transformed by the authors of Genesis so that it became a message of hope for Jews and later a prefiguring of salvation for Christians. Cohn then shows how, under the impact of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, the story came to be understood in a new way. Between the seventeenth and the nineteenth centuries it was closely associated with the development of scientific geology, which it both helped and hindered. From the late eighteenth century until the present it has been involved also in the conflict between traditional religious beliefs and science and the attempts to harmonize the two. Cohn describes how, while geological and palaeontological discoveries were calling the historicity of the Flood into question, fundamentalists have continued to champion it, even to the extent of searching for the landing site of the ark. Finally, he considers how, in the course of the present century, the story has been interpreted as a solar myth, a lunar myth, a fertility myth, and even (psychoanalytically) as an expression of male resentment against women.Wide ranging and compellingly narrated, the book includes intriguing accounts of the scholars and theologians who endorsed or rejected the Flood story and the painters, sculptors, poets, dramatists, and composers who used it as a theme in their work.… (more)
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A more popular book than Cohn's other works (but still with 13 pages of endnotes!), this is, obviously, about the story of the Deluge in Western intellectual tradition, esp. its rĂ´le in the development of geological ideas. It's mostly about what intellectuals thought - the common man's ideas on the subject are almost only touched on in the chapter on 19th and 20th century fundamentalists. Overall, it's quite good, tho I knew a far lot of the material already, and the perspective gets rather anglocentric once the narrative reaches the later seventeenth century. Only the later is Cohn's fault of course.

The many illustrations are very nice.
  AndreasJ | Apr 23, 2012 |
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The biblical tale of Noah and the Flood has been interpreted in many different ways through the ages, mirroring the many changes in Western beliefs and values. In this masterly and beautifully illustrated book, Norman Cohn, the author of The Pursuit of the Millennium and Cosmos, Chaos, and the World to Come, explores the origins, development, and varying interpretations of this ancient story and assesses its impact on the history of ideas.The roots of the Flood story, Cohn explains, lie in Mesopotamian mythology. But its meaning was totally transformed by the authors of Genesis so that it became a message of hope for Jews and later a prefiguring of salvation for Christians. Cohn then shows how, under the impact of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, the story came to be understood in a new way. Between the seventeenth and the nineteenth centuries it was closely associated with the development of scientific geology, which it both helped and hindered. From the late eighteenth century until the present it has been involved also in the conflict between traditional religious beliefs and science and the attempts to harmonize the two. Cohn describes how, while geological and palaeontological discoveries were calling the historicity of the Flood into question, fundamentalists have continued to champion it, even to the extent of searching for the landing site of the ark. Finally, he considers how, in the course of the present century, the story has been interpreted as a solar myth, a lunar myth, a fertility myth, and even (psychoanalytically) as an expression of male resentment against women.Wide ranging and compellingly narrated, the book includes intriguing accounts of the scholars and theologians who endorsed or rejected the Flood story and the painters, sculptors, poets, dramatists, and composers who used it as a theme in their work.

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Yale University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300076487, 0300068239

 

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