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The Epic of Gilgamesh

Map of ancient Sumer

Ziggurat ruins

Soldiers climbing a reconsructed ziggurat

Typology ó the belief that things from the past correlate with things in the present, or that things on the earth correlate with things in heaven.

Gilgamesh tablet.

Gilgamesh with a lion. Nice kitty.

The tragic arc in Gilgamesh's life.

The taming of Enkidu.

Allegory.  The dreams in the story are interpreted allegorically.  Allegory is when every part of a narrative has a corresponding symbolic level.  Gilgamesh and Genesis shows that allegory is one of our most ancient modes of thinking and interpreting.  And now for a digression on allegory, since it is one of the earliest forms of interpreting narrative and literature.

-Allegory ~ is the reading of documents on several levels.  It was used by church in middle ages, and still is popular.  Allegory was used by Greeks because their gods' immorality was embarrassing. (Example - Zeus sometimes turned himself into an animal and raped women.  Allegorical interpretations of these myths thus arose).  Also, they interpreted their heroes allegorically as embodying virtues and vices.  Allegory was later adopted by Christians.

The medieval church expressed its understanding of allegory in the following distich:

  1. Littera gesta docet;
  2. quod credas allegoria;
  3. quid agas moralia;
  4. quo tendas anagogia.


  1. The letter teaches the events;
  2. what you believe is allegory;
  3. what you are should do is the moral (tropological) sense;
  4. where you are going (after you die) is anagogical.

The verse that the church used to justify this method of interpretation is 2 Corinthians 3:6:

Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
The early church took this to mean that interpretation of the Bible should be symbolic as well as literal.  "By dismissing the spiritual sense as a pious fantasy, modern critics have missed the profundity of this verse, and hence of the tradition of spiritual exegesis. This medieval distich expresses what the Church has always believed about the Bible.
  1. The Bible records God's action in history (the letter), and it is the task of the interpreter to discern the relation between what is written there and what has come about (and will come about) because of what happened.
  2. The three latter senses show how this is best done, by relating the text to what we believe (allegory),
  3. to how we are to live (the moral sense),
  4. and to what we hope for (the anagogical sense)."  (Interpreting the Bible: Three Views)

Jerusalem in the four-fold allegorical senses:

  1. Jerusalem, e.g., according to its literal sense, is the Holy City;
  2. taken allegorically, it denotes the Church Militant;
  3. understood tropologically, it stands for the just soul;
  4. finally, in its anagogical sense, it stands for the Church Triumphant.

 In Pilgrims Progress:

  1. Literal - journey from the City of Destruction to Celestial City despite great perils.
  2. Allegorical - the progress of any Christian from Baptism through trials to heaven.
  3. Moral - courage, trust, effort ~ to have these there characteristics.
  4. Anagogic - Godís providence and care for us. Worthiness of goal - to get to city.

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