Re: [asa] A question on Genesis

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Mon Mar 23 2009 - 13:54:00 EDT
I understand the language issue, aware that words like gandydancer, gaffer, "dime turn" [with a nod to the U-2 pilots!], and even "Jesus nut" rise within particular vocations or other work or social group contexts. But I was just struck that in vigorous concordist efforts such as yours (and I'm no expert at all in this area), you've really worked hard to bring a lot of cultural parallels into view, along with language interactions, and yet don't seem to make room for legend to have been swept into the texts of Scripture, though this particular explanation of language diversity quacks and waddles with all the appearance of legend rather than history. To expect the written capture of oral tradition - apparently from many voices - to result in texts that are completely sterile with respect to any elements of legend just seems very unlikely. And I don't recall having heard that word "legend" mentioned in any of these discussions, even though a legend interpretation of the tower of Babel story would not seem to sacrifice anything significant other than personal literalist perspective. [My point was still just the apparent absence of a legend perspective when discussing the tower of Babel.]


JimA [Friend of ASA]

Dick Fischer wrote:

Hi Jim:


It isn’t simply a matter of legends.  Some words and phrases can be difficult to decipher without an intimate knowledge of the background and situation.  By way of illustration here is a brief conversation between two men engaged in a particular occupation.  We’ll call them Joe and Pete.


Joe: “Say your viz.”

Pete. “We’re popeye.”

Joe: “We’re oranges sweet.  Where you at”?

Pete. “Angels twenty-two, how ‘bout you”?

Joe: “Base plus seven.”

Pete. “You feet wet”?

Joe: “Feet dry.”

Pete. “Starting turn, roll out three two four.”

Joe: “Roger.”

Pete. “Got a talley”?

Joe: “Talley.”

Pete. “Changing freaks.”


I imagine a lot of people would not catch even the situation surrounding this conversation, but a few probably would - certainly those astute fellows on this list.  If I disclosed these were two pilots, more people would make some connections.  If you knew these were two Air Force pilots conducting a mid-air refueling rendezvous that would be a big help.  “Viz” is short for visibility.  “Popeye” is in the clouds.  Twenty-two thousand feet is “angels twenty-two,” but sometimes we used a base altitude which was classified to keep the “Charlies” from knowing how high we were flying.  “Talley” comes from the English, “talley ho.”   Simple.  But only if you had been there actively involved in mid-air refueling would you be likely to know that “oranges sweet” meant clear visibility, and feet wet or dry meant over water or over land.


And that is exactly the point with Genesis translation.  Just converting Hebrew into English accurately will get you in the ball park in some cases.  That’s what most commentaries are able to do.  I read them all.  Some are better than others.  Speiser was well aware of the Near East connection and was an authority on ANE literature.  Delitzsch recognized the similarity between the Genesis patriarchs and the list of ten kings from Berossus, and so on.  But the most valuable connections didn’t come from Genesis commentaries, they came from archaeologist’s notes, reports and books, soil scientists, and anthropologists who spent time in Iraq and got their hands dirty.


Instead of reading Westermann and Von Rad, one needs to read Kramer, Crawford, Hallo, Parrot, Pritchard, Gowlett, Pettinato, Layard, Hilprecht, Barton, Synkellos, Postgate, Heidel, Clay, Barton, Langdon, Zimmern, Dalley, Jacobsen, Cottrell, Mallowan, Woolley, Sollberger, Poebel, and good old Archibald Sayce, to name a few.  If someone did that, maybe I wouldn’t catch so much flak.  (Oops, sorry, another old Air Force expression.)


Dick Fischer, GPA president

Genesis Proclaimed Association

"Finding Harmony in Bible, Science and History"


-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Jim Armstrong
Sent: Monday, March 23, 2009 1:05 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] A question on Genesis


Legend? I don't seem to hear that word used hereabouts.
Were these early folks without legends?
 JimA [Friend of ASA]

Dick Fischer wrote:

George, you’re on record contradicting the Apostle Paul, why should I fare any better?  Jublees has no historical value, Genesis has no historical value, where does it end?  What would you believe?  I can’t imagine these are the teachings of Martin Luther!


Let’s start on a note of agreement.  There was no point in the history of the universe where everyone on this planet spoke one, common, universal language.  And there was no time that God scrambled one universal language into different languages   Let’s start there.


So the question is did the Bible writer(s) think that and say that, or did they not think that and say something we have interpreted as having said that?  Your opinion seems to be (and you always disguise your own opinion) that the Bible writer(s) thought, believed, and wrote that the entire world spoke one common language and that this basic language was changed into many languages, which we know to be hogwash, and so the Bible writer(s) were misinformed, ignorant and uninspired.  Is that your position?


We all know what I believe, tell us what you believe.


Dick Fischer, GPA president

Genesis Proclaimed Association

"Finding Harmony in Bible, Science and History"


-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of George Murphy
Sent: Sunday, March 22, 2009 4:07 PM
To: Dick Fischer; 'Preston Garrison'
Subject: Re: [asa] A question on Genesis


1)  The independent historical value of the Book of Jubilees is slight if not zero.


2)  Note the assumptions buried in the statement "So the Bible writer couldn't have meant the entire world spoke one unified language as there were at least two languages spoken right there, Akkadian and Sumerian."  I.e., the Bible must be giving an accurate historical account & we know historically that more than one language was spoken in the area so the text can't mean what it says.


3)  There is no evidence that that the Hebrew saphah echath, "one lip," is equivalent to the English idiom "on everybody's lips."   All the English versions I've consulted (KJV, RSV, NRSV, NIV, TE, NEB, Goodspeed, Moffat), as well as the commentaries of von Rad, Westermann and Speiser, translate "one lip" as equivalent to "one language."  Dick has no reason at all to claim that it means anything else other than the desire to get out of a difficulty for his concordist scheme.


4)  But if we grant that baseless supposition, what sense do we make of v.7, "Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech" (RSV)?  ("Language" and "speech" there are again saphah.)  I'm sure Dick can come up with something about God making them all interested in different topics of conversation, but the obvious & correct meaning is the traditional one, that they couldn't understand one another.



----- Original Message -----

From: Dick Fischer

To: 'Preston Garrison'


Sent: Sunday, March 22, 2009 12:58 PM

Subject: RE: [asa] A question on Genesis


Hi Preston:


The dispersion of the sons of Noah occurred at Noah's death according to Jubliees.


“And in the sixth year, she (Azurad, wife of Eber) bare him a son, and he called his name Peleg; for in the days when he was born the children of Noah began to divide the earth amongst themselves.  For this reason they called his name Peleg.  And they divided (it) secretly amongst themselves, and told it to Noah.  And it came to pass in the beginning of the thirty-third jubilee that they divided the earth into three parts, for Shem and Ham and Japheth, according to the inheritance of each …” (Jub. 8:8-10).


“And thus the sons of Noah divided unto their sons in the presence of Noah their father, and he bound them all by an oath, imprecating a curse on every one that sought to seize the portion which had not fallen (to him) by his lot” (Jub. 9:14).


Then Peleg takes a wife and begets Reu. They departed Ararat after the death of Noah, as did all the sons, and this particular line of Semites headed “eastward to Shinar” (Jub. 9:19).  In the words of Peleg: “Behold the children of men have become evil through the wicked purpose of building for themselves a city and a tower in the land of Shinar” (Jub. 9:18).


And Genesis follows this same line of reasoning.  Thus Japheth was unrepresented at Babel.  Furthermore, Asshur, a Semite, went to settle his cities including Nineveh in chapter 10.  So the incident at Babel in Genesis 11 affected those in the line of Arphaxad, the Line of Promise, and a group of Hamites led by Nimrod.


Scrambling and altering of one basic language into many languages at Babel is a common misinterpretation.


Gen 11:1 states in the KJV: "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech."


And they dwelt in the land of "Shinar."  Shinar is Hebrew for Sumer and the Sumerians spoke an unrelated language.  So the Bible writer couldn't have meant the entire world spoke one unified language as there were at least two languages spoken right there, Akkadian and Sumerian.  In addition, inscriptions found in various Semitic languages, Assyrian, Aramaic, Canaanite, Amorite, and of course Hebrew are all variations of the original Akkadian language.  So the basic language structure was not changed at all.


The key to a better interpretation is in the original Hebrew where the word “land” can be used for “earth” and the Hebrew word translated “language” is the word saphah for “lip.”  So the whole land of Shinar or Sumer was of one lip.  This was during the era of the ziggurats from the time of the flood at 2900 BC and the destruction of Ur at 2000 BC.  The topic of conversation on everyone’s lip was these massive ziggurat building projects that took place in every major city in the region.  In essence, it became a contest between cities to out build their neighbors and thus to elevate the status of their own particular city gods.  These are the words of Gudea commemorating the ziggurat at Lagash:


The bright crown of the temple rested upon it and as the

lapis-lazuli mountain of heaven and earth rose from the earth. 

The pavement of the terrace of the great temple he laid; as a

pure vessel on which honey and wine are poured it was open

to heaven.  The shrine with a couch which he built like a

perfect mountain, as the holy stone vessel of the deep it rose. 

On account of the great name which he had made for himself

he was received among the gods into their assembly


Note the similarity in attitude with that of the tower builders who declared, "let us make us a name" in Genesis 11:4.


In essence, the order of presentation in Genesis is correct.  After the flood the children of Noah remained in the area of where the ark landed until they could reconstitute.  The lands were divided or apportioned in the days of Peleg (Gen. 10:25) while Noah was alive.  At the death of Noah came the dispersion of the sons of Noah described in Genesis 10.  The incident at Babel with the scattering of the descendants of Arphaxad caused Terah to move south from Babylon to Ur where Abraham originated.  The curse on Canaan was fulfilled from his seizing a land not apportioned to him that Abraham claimed under his inheritance.


This is all in my book, Historical Genesis from Adam to Abraham.


Dick Fischer, GPA president

Genesis Proclaimed Association

"Finding Harmony in Bible, Science and History"


-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Preston Garrison
Sent: Saturday, March 21, 2009 11:54 PM
To: ASA list
Subject: [asa] A question on Genesis




This may be off topic, unless Biblical studies can be considered

something of a science, but such things have been discussed here

before, so here goes.


Has anyone else noticed that multiple languages are already mentioned

among the descendants of Jephthah in Genesis 10:5, nearly a full

chapter before the story of Babel, which concerns Nimrod, a

descendant of Ham.


 From the NASV:


"From these [the descendents of Jephthah], the coastlands of the

nations were separated into their lands, EVERY ONE ACCORDING TO HIS

LANGUAGE, according to their families, and into their nations."


The rest of chapter 10 concerns the descendants of Ham, one of whom

was Nimrod. His kingdom and the Babel story are described in chapter

11:1-9. Then the descendants of Shem are described in 11:10-32.


It starts to look like to me that Genesis 11 didn't originally refer

to a univeral unity of language - the unity described was something

that was imposed by the conquests of Nimrod.


It was the working out of the curse on Ham. They were cursed by

getting an able, effective and violent leader who unified them,

conquered surrounding tribes and imposed the same language on all of

them, which was followed by unified rebellion against God and the

resulting judgement.


Insert the usual admission that I haven't been to seminary, and I

have no idea what I am talking about.


Let the expertise commence.




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