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What is the Tower of Babel?

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  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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The Tower of Babel is a structure referenced in Chapter 11 of the Book of Genesis in the Bible. Its story is often told as a parable to impart lessons such as humility and modesty. Sometimes it is also taken at literal value, and used to explain the presence of multiple languages in the world.

The story of the Tower of Babel tells us that in the beginning, people had but one language. Everyone in the world could understand everybody else, and this resulted in peace and harmony all throughout the world. A time came, however, when man's pride began to get the best of him. Men agreed that as they had grown so much in intelligence and grace, it was likely in their power to build a tower that would reach even Heaven itself. And so a united humanity began construction on an edifice so tall that it would touch the skies. This was to be the Tower of Babel.

When God looked down upon humanity however, what he saw was their arrogance hubris. They were attempting to appropriate heaven for themselves and make themselves equal with God. To teach them a lesson therefore, God confounded their language, and they began to speak in different tongues. Chaos and confusion ensued, bringing with it misunderstanding and distrust. With that came anger, and soon humanity fell into discord, and scattered across the Earth.

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Some Biblical scholars point out that the Tower of Babel is likely a kind of commentary or reaction on the ziggurats, which were designed by the ancient Mesopotamians to be literal stairways to Heaven. Ziggurats tended to loom rather intimidatingly over the Mesopotamian valley during those times; in fact, they are some of the biggest religious buildings ever to be built. A ziggurat is said to resemble a terraced pyrmaid, with ever decreasing levels the higher it rose.

The Tower of Babel was not explicitly destroyed in the Book of Genesis. However, it is brought up again in the Book of Jubilees, an ancient Jewish work, where it is stated that God destroyed it with a strong gust of wind.

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tensai8
Post 5

The Tower of Babel is a metaphor which refers to the growing ego, i.e. false identity of man as his mental faculties developed rapidly through evolution. This process of mental evolution caused a 'rift' between himself and other fellow humans, i.e. the fragmented state in which 'modern' humans co-exist. The more knowledge and mental capacity he acquired, the more he considered himself separate from others and God. The Tower of Babel and its connection to the 'confounding of language' thus refers to the separation of man from man due to the arising ego / false identity.

Renegade
Post 4

@ShadowGenius

Like many tales in the Bible, I think that this one is meant to be taken metaphorically, not literally. There could have been a literal tower of Babel, but it is more likely that the language shifts were more gradual, and began to slowly fragment the world.

ShadowGenius
Post 3

I find the theory that all languages suddenly sprang out of this single event to be highly improbable. Languages evolved from onomatopoeia used by early humans, which probably evolved from earlier animal noises of communication. The sheer scale of human language diversity indicates that this divergence in dialects began to occur a very very long time ago, not as recently as the purported tower of Babel.

JavaGhoul
Post 2

@Tufenkian925

That sounds kind of scary, but I can see how the internet is causing this to happen. Skype and audio-visual technologies are connecting people everywhere and the internet is becoming a giant think-tank. We really need centralization for this to truly occur, however, and I doubt that this kind of centralization is going to occur in the near future without a big push.

Tufenkian925
Post 1

Today we are seeing the re-convergence of a massive Babel-like community, with little to no language barriers, ideas being shared at rapid speeds, and societal barriers crumbling. We are being re-united in a dangerous and potentially incredible collective intelligence of world peace and global advancement. Hopefully this Babel will be better than the last one, not dominated by humanism, but by redemption.

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