RE: [asa] A question on Genesis

From: Dick Fischer <>
Date: Fri Mar 27 2009 - 15:41:54 EDT

Dear George:


I didn't get into this to perpetuate ignorance and the failed exegesis by
those who either lacked the means or couldn't bother to get their facts
straight. When the KJV translators used "slime" for mortar, subsequent
translations corrected that to "tar" or "bitumen" as a better translation of
the Hebrew word khay-mawr' - it wasn't because they inspected any ziggurats
in Mesopotamia, it was simply a better rending of the word. But they did
get it right.


Yet in Gen. 11:1 the "whole world" or the "whole earth" had one language
according to the NIV, RSV, ASV, etc. There isn't any way for that to be
possible. So if all these translations are correct then it is the writer
who can't get his facts straight. It's the poor, dumb, ignorant writer of
Genesis who has no clue about anything. If you're happy with that, stay
with that.


That is not to say that I think I can rectify every jot and tittle in
Genesis 2-11. The hardest areas are actions and conversations attributed to


"And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of
men ['adam] builded" (Gen. 11:5).


"Came down"? Where was he, up there in heaven someplace? Ah, but who was
involved in this enterprise? The children of Adam! The translators missed
that one, because they thought "the whole earth" was of one language. So
although the writer clearly identified the covenant line from Adam as
responsible for building the tower the translators had their index fingers
stuck in their noses.


"And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one
language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from
them, which they have imagined to do" (Gen. 11:6).


True, the Semites spoke Akkadian. But someone tell me how constructing a
ziggurat signifies that "nothing will be restrained from them"? Did God say
that? Who recorded his voice? Who wrote it down? And what did he mean by
it? Makes no sense to me at all.


So I confess to not knowing everything. I just seem to have figured out
more than most who have stuck in their thumbs and pulled out plumbs.


Dick Fischer, GPA president

Genesis Proclaimed Association

"Finding Harmony in Bible, Science and History"


-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of George Murphy
Sent: Friday, March 27, 2009 8:46 AM
To: Dick Fischer
Subject: Re: [asa] A question on Genesis


Dick -


There is no doubt that Gen.1:1-11 makes use of ancient Mesopotamian
traditions, & in some cases those of real historical events. In particular,
the story of the tower of Babel in Gen.11 no doubt has connections with
Mesopotamian ziggurats (not siggurats, as I mistyped before!) But it's a
very different thing to say that therefore these texts are straight accounts
of "history as it really happened." If someone writes an historical novel
that mentions George Washington and Valley Forge, it doesn't necessarily
follow that the whole novel is an accurate historical account of the
Revolutionary War. The fact that theme of a tower in Gen.11 stems from
Mesopotamian ziggurats doesn't mean that the reference to "one lip" must
therefore refer to conversation about those ziggurats, whether or not
everyone in historical Mesopotamia was in fact talking about them.


It is indeed important to take context into account in reading a text. But
here we have to do not just with the original context of whatever historical
events were used in the story but the context of the Hebrew writers many
centuries later. (This is similar to the situation with the gospels, where
in dealing with any pericope one must take into account not only the context
- the Sitz im Leben to be fancy - in the life of Jesus but the contexts in
the early church that led them to preserve the story and the situation of
the evangelist who put it in the text.)


We have to look at what the text actually says and be helped in determining
the usage by the way the Hebrew is used in other places. The facts that (a)
saphah refers to language in other texts (as noted earlier), (b) that it's
initial use in Gen.11 is separated from any mention of the tower, & (3) in
its later uses in vv. 7 & 9 it is hard to make any sense of the "one subject
of conversation" interpretation, & (d) the as-far-as-I-know universal
understanding of this text among Jews and Christians has been that the
people all spoke one language all militate against your reading.


The basic problem is that you assume from the start that the entire text
must be an historical account. Then in arguing for that view you end up
defending not the accuracy of the actual biblical text but one which has
been modified in order to fit your interpretation. This is obvious from the
fact that you steadfastly refuse to deal with any tough questions about the
text itself and insist on referring to Mesopotamian history instead. They
aren't the same, though your fundamental assumption is that they must be.


I have taken some time this morning to once more try to make the problem
with your approach as clear as possible. I will not say anything further on
this thread.



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

From: "Dick Fischer" < <>>

To: < <>>

Cc: "ASA" < <>>

Sent: Friday, March 27, 2009 1:38 AM

Subject: RE: [asa] A question on Genesis


Hi George:

The whole earth or even the whole land did not speak one common unified
language, not at any point in the history of mankind. My contention is that
the writer of Genesis had something else to tell us. I have only given a
small portion, a brief glimpse of this chaotic period of time. You can't
imagine the amount of toil that went in to building a ziggurat and every
city was building at least one. They towered over the city. Cut stone for
decoration had to be bought and paid for or traded for and imported. Daily
offerings were prepared. These were massive undertakings that came at great
cost and required enormous laborious effort by the entire city. The extent
to which your particular city god was pleased could be measured by how high
your particular ziggurat was compared to that built in a neighboring city.
You conld not afford to be outbuilt. Your very lives depended on it.

That was the situation as best I can describe it. There is only the subject
of this particular tower in Genesis 11, but you could read dedications from
kings from every city. So to say the whole land was of one lip, meaning
there was one predominent topic of conversation, is as good a way to
describe it as any given the limitations of ancient Hebrew.

I know the popular interpretation can't be true and this interpretation has
a likelihood of being true. I can't say with 100% conviction that this is
the intended meaning but I have every reason to believe it is.

Dick Fischer, GPA president
Genesis Proclaimed Association
"Finding Harmony in Bible, Science and History"

-----Original Message-----
From: <>
[] On
Behalf Of <>
Sent: Thursday, March 26, 2009 7:23 PM
To: Dick Fischer
Subject: RE: [asa] A question on Genesis

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


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Received on Fri Mar 27 15:42:32 2009

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