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Sunday, January 04, 2009

One for the theologians


I was pondering the chronology of Genesis today with reference to the Tower of Babel. The whole story is a bit of a puzzler because at face value it presents an interesting picture of God, but that wasn't my question. The story of Babel occurs in Gen 11:1-9 and it begins with the fact of a common language which God subsequently confuses.

However in the previous chapter (Genesis 10:5) in a genealogy from Noah it says they each had their own language - within two generations from Noah. So, if you take the story of Babel as historical and in the right place in Genesis then it most likely occurred within two generations of Noah but that raises a host of other questions.

I haven't yet gone to the commentaries to see what clever solutions they have to this (because no doubt they exist) - anyway, who knows the answer?

As a pastor, we're often supposed to know all the answers and we're afraid of admitting that there are some bits of the Bible (inspired though they may be) that we just don't get or are difficult to fathom. We shouldn't be. We shouldn't be afraid of honest questions and honest doubts as it will lead us to new discoveries. I'll let you know which answer I find the most convincing when I do a little study on it later in the week.

6 comments:

dave bish on 4 January 2009 at 15:59 said...

My thought it's that it sits within the chronology of chapter 10... perhaps around the time of 10v25 in the days of Joktan and Eber when the earth was divided (then we follow Joktan's genealogy, whereas post-Babel picks up the line of Eber...) though that'd make it fourth generation after Noah... or perhaps in the days of Nimrod.

I ♥ Genesis.

Phil on 4 January 2009 at 17:37 said...

Yeah that could work, but 10v5 suggests that the spread and language development happened or began to happen from the grandsons of Japheth. So if you insert Babel into this genealogy you'd have to put it around there. Leave it too much later and you already have multiple languages, too soon and it seems unlikely there would be enough people to build the thing. Although if I'm honest I think the story makes more sense pre-flood...

Andy on 4 January 2009 at 20:35 said...

From someone who has done no research in to this at all...
Is it possible that the "language" in 10v5 refers more to dialect? People don't invent languages from scratch - they develop, so after two generations they should still be similar, at least to some extent.

Maybe a question for a linguist as well as a theologian.

dave bish on 4 January 2009 at 21:51 said...

I'd go for somewhere between 2-4 generations which could overlap a bit anyway. Partly depends whether you take a strict timescale (which the genealogy in ch11 supplies) or let it all run longer...

Pre-flood seems problematic I'd have thought - not least becasue we already have one evil city builder pre-flood with Cain in ch4. 10v10 gives us cities in Shinar which would fit with Babel being one of those cities.

Brian Barker on 4 January 2009 at 23:05 said...

Your toweer of Babel comment is certainly thought-provoking.

In today's World the language problem is still relevant!

If you have time, please check http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670
as well as http://www.lernu.net

Jim on 5 January 2009 at 02:29 said...

Such confusion exists because the account of the Confusion of Tongues does not say what everyone thinks. An objective reading removes all the confusion. This has been examined in detail. Check out

www.eloquentbooks.com/ManAndHisPlanet.html

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