RE: [asa] A question on Genesis

From: <gmurphy10@neo.rr.com>
Date: Thu Mar 26 2009 - 19:23:00 EDT

Dick -

This is very informative, though I knew that siggurats were an important feature of Mesopotamian culture. But where does it say that everyone was talking about the tower?

Of course even if other ANE sources did say that, it wouldn't prove that Genesis 11 does, especially in view of the other problems with that paraphrase.

Shalom,
George

---- Dick Fischer <dickfischer@verizon.net> wrote:
> Hi George, you wrote (quoting me in the beginning):
>
>
>
> "If the Bible writer wanted to tell us there was a topic of conversation
> that was all the rage in Babylon ..." - but how do we know there was? We
> don't, even granted Dick's other dubious assumptions."
>
>
>
> I can agree with that. I could say I'm not responsible for what you don't
> know but that would be a cop out. If I can spend years in the Library of
> Congress reading that stuff I can spend a few minutes telling you about it.
> Fair enough.
>
>
>
> The Tower of Babel incident was some time between the dispersion at roughly
> 2550 BC, and the destruction of Ur and the fall of Sumer around 2000 BC,
> probably within a couple hundred years of the latter date.
>
>
>
> This is one translation of one of the Sumerian King Lists:
>
>
>
> http://www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk/section2/tr211.htm
>
>
>
> In the first paragraph notice the expressions, "Then Eridug fell, then
> Bad-tabira fell, then Larag (Larak) fell," etc. Jacobsen translates his
> version "smitten with weapons." While you are at it skip to the last of
> paragraph two, "Then Kic (Kish) was defeated and the kingship was taken to
> E-ana." That is the temple Eanna. Note the third sentence in that
> paragraph, "Enmerkar, the son of Mec-ki-aj-gacer, the king of Unug, who
> built Unug." "Unug" in Sumerian is the city of Enoch. But I digress.
>
>
>
> Even after the "flood swept thereover, "the Sumerian king list concludes a
> list of kings at cities with an ominous phrase, "Uruk was smitten with
> weapons," "Ur was destroyed"; "Opis was smitten with weapons."
>
>
>
> Imagine you were living in St. Louis when suddenly an army from Chicago
> appears. They conquer your defending forces, plunder your treasury and your
> women, take your possessions, capture the mayor, cut off his hands and feet,
> and parade him with a ring through his nose naked in front of the citizens
> before they kill him. On the way out of town they destroy every building,
> tearing them down brick by brick and pour salt on the surrounding farm lands
> to kill the soil. It would make you think twice about taking your next
> vacation in the Windy City.
>
>
>
> Wars were frequent and brutal, and Mesopotamia itself was a difficult place
> to live even in peacetime. Floods and droughts, violent sand storms and
> hail storms. By contrast Egypt was far more placid both weather-wise and
> they is no record of them fighting among themselves. Thus the pharaohs
> became gods and whatever other gods may be were distant and detached. In
> Mesopotamia, the gods ruled events. The gods decided when it would thunder
> and rain, when the floods would sweep them away, everything.
>
>
>
> Lamentation poems were commonly found in major cities. I at first puzzled
> over the Lamentation Over the Destruction of the City of Ur set down by a
> Sumerian scribe. This is a small part:
>
>
>
> On its walls they lay prostrate. The people groan.
>
> In its lofty gates where they were wont to promenade
>
> dead bodies were lying about;
>
> In its boulevards where the feasts were celebrated
>
> they were viciously attacked.
>
> In all its streets where they were wont to promenade
>
> dead bodies were lying about;
>
> In its places where the festivities of the land took place
>
> the people were ruthlessly laid low.
>
>
>
> The Sumerian scribe further lamented over the temple:
>
>
>
> The lofty unapproachable mountain, Ekissirgal-
>
> Its righteous house by large axes is devoured ...
>
>
>
> Naming the Gutians and Elamites as defilers of the temple, the scribe spat
> out his hatred against the "destroyers" who "made of it thirty shekels."
>
>
>
> What I wondered about was why they would spend time attacking a huge mound
> of bricks? The original Tower of Babel was destroyed by the Assyrian king
> Sennacherib who leveled the entire city. The ziggurat at Babylon was
> restored by Nabopolassar, the founder of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty, about
> 625 to 605 BC. These were his words:
>
>
>
> The lord Marduk commanded me concerning Etemenanki, the staged
>
> tower of Babylon, which before my time had become dilapidated and
>
> ruinous, that I should make its foundations secure in the bosom of the
>
> nether world, and make its summit like the heavens.
>
>
>
> His firstborn son, Nebuchadnezzar, continued in the efforts started by his
> father, carrying out building the tower until 562 BC. When finished, a
> seven-stage structure and its temple complex reached nearly 300 feet in
> height. Herodotus visited Babylon about 460 BC and gave this report:
>
>
>
> In the midst of the temple a solid tower was constructed, one stadium in
>
> length and one stadium in width. Upon this tower stood another, and again
>
> upon this another, and so on, making eight towers in all, one upon another.
>
> All eight towers can be climbed by means of a spiral staircase which runs
>
> round the outside. About halfway up there are seats where those who make
>
> the ascent can sit and rest. In the topmost tower there is a great temple,
>
> and in the temple is a golden table. No idol stands there. No one spends the
>
>
> night there save a woman of that country, designated by the god himself, so
> I
>
> was told by the Chaldeans, who are the priests of that divinity.[i]
>
>
>
> What probably started out as mud brick platforms after the big flood as a
> means of surviving future floods gradually grew into the massive ziggurats
> still standing as decaying mounds of dirt today. Each city had at least one
> and some had two. Each city had a city god who if appeased properly would
> look out for the city and protect it from harm. Thus the ziggurat became a
> temple and dwelling place of the city god. Offerings of meat and grain were
> presented daily.
>
>
>
> Furthermore, the ziggurat was a refuge in the time of war. Individual
> cities, united for waging war, were sufficiently organized for civic
> building projects. At each cult center, a simple temple mound was erected
> dedicated to the god or goddess who protected the city. Although primitive
> mounds or platforms can be traced to as early as 3000 BC, by the end of the
> third millennium they were reaching immense proportions.
>
>
>
> The Ashmolean Prism contains a liturgy to the temple at Kes, presumed to
> have been in the proximity of Erech and Shuruppak. Numerous lines end with
> "attaining unto heaven" (Gen. 11:4):
>
>
>
> Oh temple whose design in heaven and earth has been
>
> planned, thou are possessed of pure decrees. Temple
>
> erected in the Land where stand the chapels of the gods.
>
> Mountain house, radiant with abundance and festivity.
>
>
>
> Destroying the ziggurat itself destroyed the dwelling house of the city god
> thus depriving the hapless citizens of his protection. As a practical
> measure it also left them no refuge to protect themselves.
>
>
>
> A kind of ziggurat contest ensued as cities added mud brick structures on
> top of older temple complexes topped with granite, sandstone, and marble
> temple enclosures. It became a point of honor and pride to outdo neighboring
> cities, and of course, this demonstrated love and devotion to their deity,
> who in turn, protected them and gave them good fortune. And of course, an
> important god was also paramount.
>
>
>
> You wouldn't expect to get the same level of protection from some wimpy god
> of irrigation when you were under attack from Uruk whose god was the big and
> powerful Ea. Babylon needed a powerful god and the biggies were already
> taken protecting other cities by the time Babylon came along. So with only
> leftovers to choose from they did the next best thing and invented one. If
> Ea wasn't available why not the son of Ea - and Marduk was born. This was
> during the Babylonian Period later than the period under discussion and so
> we can't know who the resident god might have been at the time of the
> incident, but we have no reason to believe it was the God of the universe
> being honored with a ziggurat especially for him.
>
>
>
> So there are any number of reasons why God would be angry with his chosen
> people. Descendants of Shem and Arphaxad, together with Hamitic descendants
> at Babylon, may have cooperated in this enterprise, or they may have been at
> odds. Whatever the case, the Lord was not pleased and put an end to their
> foolishness by confusing their speech. As described by Oracles:
>
>
>
> And now all intercourse,
>
> By some occult and overruling power,
>
> Ceased among men: by utterance they strove
>
> Perplexed and anxious to disclose their mind;
>
> But their lip failed them; and in lieu of words
>
> Produced a painful babbling sound ...
>
>
>
> Dick Fischer, GPA president
>
> Genesis Proclaimed Association
>
> "Finding Harmony in Bible, Science and History"
>
> www.genesisproclaimed.org
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: George Murphy [mailto:GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com]
> Sent: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 10:52 AM
> To: Dick Fischer
> Cc: ASA
> Subject: Re: [asa] A question on Genesis
>
>
>
> "If the Bible writer wanted to tell us there was a topic of conversation
> that was all the rage in Babylon ..." - but how do we know there was? We
> don't, even granted Dick's other dubious assumptions. & the notion that
> this refers to conversation about the tower is further weakened by the fact
> that this statement in v.1 is separated from mention of the tower by v.2
> about migration from the east. But taking that seriously would mean some
> real text study & not just shoehorning the text into a preconceived
> concordist box.
>
>
>
> But in reality the notion that saphah echath refers to a single topic of
> conversation is unnecessary for Dick's scenario. The only critical thing
> for him is that the phrase not mean what other biblical usage & the
> unanimous testimony of the Jewish and Christian tradition and all modern
> scholars and translators indicate, "one language."
>
>
>
> & again there are verses 7 and 9 where Dick's purported meaning makes no
> sense - verses that he apparently refuses to think about.
>
>
>
> As to the claim that Hebrew would be incapable of expressing in a relatively
> straightforward way the idea that all the people were talking about the
> tower, one might consider a verse like I Kg.1:39b, "and all the people said,
> 'Long live King Solomon'" (wayomeru kol-ha`am yechi hamelech shelomo). Not
> exactly equivalent of course but close enough to show that the Hebrews
> were't as limited as Dick imagines. Those more expert in Hebrew than I can
> probably find better examples.
>
>
>
> That's it as far as I'm concerned. I have better things to do with my time
> than keep pointing our errors and evasions.
>
>
>
> Shalom
> George
> http://home.roadrunner.com/~scitheologyglm
>
> ----- Original Message -----
>
> From: Dick <mailto:dickfischer@verizon.net> Fischer
>
> To: 'George Murphy' <mailto:GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com>
>
> Cc: ASA <mailto:asa@calvin.edu>
>
> Sent: Monday, March 23, 2009 11:17 PM
>
> Subject: RE: [asa] A question on Genesis
>
>
>
> Dear George:
>
>
>
> I have run out of ways to put it. If Genesis 11 follows Genesis 10 and is
> read just that way it fits the chain of events. The dispersion followed the
> death of Noah not the incident at Babel. Because the commentators thought
> all the entire world (Chinese, Australian, Amazons, etc) were present and
> accounted for at Babylon, their languages must have commenced there. We, of
> course, know better. If you choose to believe the writer(s) of Genesis had
> no earthly clue what was going on that is your prerogative. Just stop
> harranging me because I give him/them more credit than that.
>
>
>
> If the Bible writer wanted to tell us there was a topic of conversation that
> was all the rage in Babylon he couldn't have done it. The Hebrew language
> is too limited. You have to know that was what was going on (I do, you
> don't) and presume the writer had the good sense to be saying that instead
> of something we all know is dead wrong. Is that a controversial position to
> take? You'ed prefer to believe, apparently, ignorance stems from the writer
> and not the translation. This was Umberto Cassuto's attitude. He was a
> preeminent Hebrew authority. His Genesis Commentary is still the hallmark
> to this day. If one particular verse is contradicted by another verse,
> however, the problem lay with the writer, his translation was sacrosanct.
>
>
>
> If you want to read a good book, and God foirbid you take any of your
> valuable time reading mine, read Hilprecht's The Babylonian Expedition. I
> cited his book so much I was afraid they were going to go after me for
> copyright infringement. He did take over 500 pages to cover what he could
> have said in 200-300 pages but still it is a great read and will answer some
> of your questions.
>
>
>
> If you just know one thing, George, that the Garden of Eden was irrigated,
> by extrapolation you can figure out everything. If you had only one more
> nugget to add to that it would be that the city of Enoch that Cain built
> dates to 4200 BC and was located just north of the city of Eridu via a canal
> that linked the two cities. Just those two little tidbits of information
> are totally absent in every commentary and in every Genesis translation.
> And how did I discover these tiny bits of information? I dug it out of
> archaeological publications, something Hebrew translators didn't think of.
> They thought they could sit in their own libraries and fathom it all out
> translating in the blind. Turns out they, and you, were wrong.
>
>
>
> As for me being "silent," that sounds out of character for me. Do you
> remember what it was about?
>
>
>
> Dick Fischer, GPA president
>
> Genesis Proclaimed Association
>
> "Finding Harmony in Bible, Science and History"
>
> www.genesisproclaimed.org
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: George Murphy [mailto:GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com]
> Sent: Monday, March 23, 2009 8:41 PM
> To: Dick Fischer
> Cc: ASA
> Subject: Re: [asa] A question on Genesis
>
>
>
> My position is (a) irrelevant for the present issue and (b) one that has
> been expressed here more than once.
>
>
>
> The notion that because some Hebrew word other than saphah means "language"
> in Daniel, saphah can't mean "language" in Genesis is ridiculous. Take a
> look instead at Is.19:18 and Ez.3:5-6 where saphah obviously does mean
> "language."
>
>
>
> You still have given no justification for your paraphrase, & have not even
> touched my point in my original post that with that paraphrase v.11 would
> make no sense.
>
>
>
> How many years you spent reading books proves nothing. You have given no
> one a reason to believe that you know biblical Hebrew better than the
> scholars who have worked on all the published translations and all the
> commentaries. This of course is not the only case in which you've done
> that. You made the same implicit claim with Gen.2 a few months ago, &
> having been were called on it were silent. It's quite obvious that your
> concordist scheme is what's in control, not any expertise in biblical
> languages.
>
>
>
> Shalom
> George
> http://home.roadrunner.com/~scitheologyglm
>
> ----- Original Message -----
>
> From: Dick <mailto:dickfischer@verizon.net> Fischer
>
> To: 'George Murphy' <mailto:GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com>
>
> Cc: ASA <mailto:asa@calvin.edu>
>
> Sent: Monday, March 23, 2009 6:55 PM
>
> Subject: RE: [asa] A question on Genesis
>
>
>
> Hi George, you wrote:
>
>
>
> Sorry Dick, my beliefs aren't the issue here. A YEC or atheist could pose
> the same objections I did. The question is rather whether there is any
> justification for your idiosyncratic translations. The fact that you avoid
> the question entirely makes it easy to see why you would rather change the
> subject.
>
>
>
> George, I continually state my position. And my position is based solidly
> on the written text as it pertains to the situation as I know it existed. I
> do not take the position that The Bible says X, but we all know Y is true
> (wink, wink), therefore the Bible writer was totally out to lunch or he must
> have had something else in mind besides history. Since you won't state your
> position let me characterize it for you.
>
>
>
> What I believe is that X is true, the Bible writer wrote X in his own quaint
> way which in ignorance was interpreted as Y. Therefore the discrepancy is
> not in what was written being at odds with known facts, but what is being
> interpreted as having been written being at variance with the facts of
> history. Keep in mind the facts of history have not been widely known,
> partly because of an ignorant interpretation of Genesis. So it's a vicious
> circle.
>
>
>
> Of course context is important in establishing meaning but you give no
> evidence that in the context of the biblical writer (rather than in some
> other hypothetical ANE setting) the Hebrew sapheh echath means anything like
> what you claim. & it is not just biblical commentaries who disagree with
> your speculations (though dismissing von Rad and Westermann is pretty
> arrogant). Can you cite a single recognized English translation of Genesis
> that renders the text the way you want to have it?
>
>
>
> Absolutely the book breaks new ground. Did any of the commentaries see
> irrigation in the Genesis text? Of course not, they all presume Adam is
> depicted as the first of our species. How could the Garden of Eden have
> been irrigated if there was only one person? And that is exactly what the
> writer meant when he said a river flowed out of Eden (edin) to water the
> garden. We only know that because there are canals all over southern
> Mesopotamia. The Atrahasis epic uses the term "fountains of the deep," a
> typical Akkadian description of irrigation works. Knowing that is one more
> indicator of a local flood not because we know it was local but because the
> writer of Genesis also knew it. How many commentaries describe the flood as
> being local to southern Mesopotamia? Yet the local Sumerians are on both
> sides of the flood. That's a fact of history.
>
>
>
> Translating saphah as "lip" fits the situation and "lip" is the primary
> translation. It is only because the commentaries and translators thought
> the entire world was concentrated at Babel (which we know can't be true)
> that they got it in their heads that they all spoke one common language, and
> thus the translation. Refer to Daniel: "Therefore I make a decree, That
> every people, nation, and language (lish-shawn'), which speak any thing
> amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in
> pieces ."(Dan. 3:29). Here is where "language" is clearly intended and the
> Hebrew word saphah is not used.
>
>
>
> And who is dismissing von Rad and Westermann? They made mistakes, that's
> all. All Genesis commentaries contain mistakes, just as all Bible
> translations have mistakes, heck I'll bet there are mistakes in my own book
> I don't know about. But these commentators didn't sit in the Library of
> Congress for 25 years reading all this stuff like I did, and they couldn't
> devote their entire effort to just ten chapters the way I could.
>
>
>
> Dick Fischer, GPA president
>
> Genesis Proclaimed Association
>
> "Finding Harmony in Bible, Science and History"
>
> www.genesisproclaimed.org
>
>
>
>
>
>
> _____
>
> [i]. Parrot, The Tower of Babel., 22-23.
>

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Received on Thu Mar 26 19:25:02 2009

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