The ancient Israelites, on the other hand, would naturally have pictured a boat like those they were familiar with: which is to say, the boats that navigated not the rivers of Mesopotamia but the Mediterranean Sea.
This detail of engineering can and should stand for a larger array of themes and features in the flood stories.
But there is one apparently major difference: The ark in this version is round.
We have known for well over a century that there are flood stories from the ancient Near East that long predate the biblical account (even the most conservative biblical scholars wouldn’t date any earlier than the ninth century B. What’s really intriguing scholars is the description of the ark itself.
Likewise, the relative age of the Mesopotamian and biblical accounts tells us nothing about their relative authority.
Even if we acknowledge, as we probably should, that the biblical authors learned the Flood story from their neighbors - after all, flooding isn’t, and never was, really a pressing concern in Israel - this doesn’t make the Bible any less authoritative.
There are plenty of significant differences between the two Flood stories in the Bible, which are easily spotted if you try to read the narrative as it stands.
One version says the Flood lasted 40 days; the other says 150. Another says it came from the opening of primordial floodgates both above and below the Earth.
The Mesopotamian versions feature many gods; the biblical account, of course, only one.
The Mesopotamian versions tell us that the Flood came because humans were too noisy for the gods; the biblical account says it was because violence had spread over the Earth.
But from a biblical perspective, its importance resides mostly in the way it serves to remind us that the Flood story is a malleable one.
There are multiple different Mesopotamian versions, and there are multiple different biblical versions. Baden is the author of "The Historical David: The Real Life of an Invented Hero" and an associate professor of Old Testament at Yale Divinity School.
Neither version is right or wrong; they are, rather, both appropriate to the culture that produced them. What, then, of the most striking parallel between this newly discovered text and Genesis: the phrase “two by two”?