Babel's Tower Translated: Genesis 11 and Ancient Jewish by Phillip Michael Sherman

By Phillip Michael Sherman

In 'Babel's Tower Translated,' Phillip Sherman explores the narrative of Genesis eleven and its reception and interpretation in numerous moment Temple and Early Rabbinic texts (e.g., Jubilees, Philo, Genesis Rabbah). The account of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) is famously ambiguous. The which means of the narrative and the activities of either the human characters and the Israelite deity defy any effortless rationalization. This paintings explores how altering ancient and hermeneutical realities altered and shifted the which means of the textual content in Jewish antiquity.

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Sample text

52 Many modern interpreters tacitly ignore the conjunction and treat the notion of “making a name” in isolation from the desire not to be scattered. The narrative links the two issues closely. The people believe that the only way to avoid being scattered is to create a name for themselves. In what way does building a city and a tower create a name? How would the creation of this name allow the people to remain together? These are the sorts of questions which can certainly not be resolved through a simple reading of the text.

In all this discussion related to Yahweh’s motivation lies a rather simple question: What is the rationale for the divine reaction?

This tower which man thought reached heaven, God can hardly see! From the height of heaven it seems insignificant, so the Lord must come down to look at it! 54 For historical-critically minded readers, the notion of the descent of Yahweh is often used to argue for the alleged ‘primitive’ origin of the narrative. There remains here, as elsewhere in the Primeval History, quite an anthropomorphic understanding of the divine. Yahweh, not unlike many deities in the ancient Near East, appears as a curious god who must be on-scene if he wishes to be informed about human activities.

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