Translate

Friday, November 02, 2007

Humans vs God - Round 1

I'm still hobbling about, my trek into the desert was soon halted when the mistake of wearing the yucca leaf fiber sandals woven by Bro. Clarence proved not to be up to the rigors of desert hiking. My mistake. But the blisters didn't appear until it was too late, too late to return for my hiking boots, too late to continue to the even more remote parts that I had marked on my map, so with much whining (to myself) I was able to make it to the town of Mojave and ended up in a Motel 6 to nurse my wounds. Yes, the first winch of distress and I seek not the medicinal plants that the indigenous desert people's used, no, I sought a Motel 6. Humbler now I am. But I might add that it wasn't all blisters, for during the second night sleeping under the stars "something" bit the heel of my left foot. I can't claim it was a snake or scorpion or some other fierce creature, most likely a fire ant. And the good news? I did carry my journal and will in the coming days transcribe a bit to show that the trek wasn't a complete failure, for the mental and spiritual trek continued despite the inconvenience of the distressed physical.

I departed with thoughts of the ongoing science/faith debate and was thinking of how it relates to Genesis 11, the Tower of Babel story. You may want to grab your Bible and reread Genesis 11, for here I have the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus' account of the story as he recorded it in "Antiquities of the Jews" (c 94 AD):

Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power…

Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than any one could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water. When God saw that they acted so madly, he did not resolve to destroy them utterly, since they were not grown wiser by the destruction of the former sinners [in the Flood]; but he caused a tumult among them, by producing in them diverse languages, and causing that, through the multitude of those languages, they should not be able to understand one another. The place wherein they built the tower is now called Babylon, because of the confusion of that language which they readily understood before; for the Hebrews mean by the word Babel, confusion…

4 comments:

julie said...

"He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power…"

Nothing new under the sun, is there?

I'm sorry your walk ended so soon, but also very glad you've decided to share it.

Lifewish said...

Surely this is more of an example of Babylon vs. ancient Jewish propaganda?

Taking the story literally seems kinda boring and nonsensical to me. What's really interesting is to try to figure out what it says about the author(s?) of the Bible and their relationship with other civilisations.

Bro. Bartleby said...

I think the story was crafted to instruct the Jewish people to beware of self pride and arrogance and the abandonment of their God, which as the story demonstrates would undermined their laws and understanding of justice, their entire moral code, and their values in and of what community is. As Julie quotes above, the people turning from God would open the door to tyranny (all former agreed upon stardards would be gone). I think of it as the Torah being the overriding standard for Jews, therefore the most fundamental of all laws which Jewish rulers and governments must abide by are from the Torah. Of course the Tower of Babel story takes place after Noah and before Jacob, before the Jews became the Jews. The tower builders in the story were not Jews, the story presents them as a sort of universal humankind. And as most Biblical stories, it is a teaching tool, a lesson for each new generation which creates continuity between generations, that which makes a culture a culture. So I would think the author(s) were creating a morality play to explain why cultures differ, especially why the many different languages spoken in the land of Israel, for the land was a main trade route that one would hear many differing languages. The story tells each new generation that languages separate peoples, and helps to explain why they are who they are, for their language makes them so, a separate people, a unique culture, one that believes in the God of Abraham.

Lifewish said...

As Julie quotes above, the people turning from God would open the door to tyranny (all former agreed upon stardards would be gone).

But in that case it's not any inherent evilness of atheism that caused the problem. The way you're describing it, it sounds like a natural consequence of any shift in popular ethical standards.

For example, the abolition of slavery caused a frickin' war because people couldn't come to terms with (quote unquote) "them uppity niggers" running around free. Yet no-one (well, almost no-one) is saying that retaining slavery would have been a good thing.

I agree that we should always be wary of the side-effects of reform. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try, if we think a reform is worth it. I think a "rationality reform" would be worth it - and, sadly, rationality appears to deep-six the God concept.

So I would think the author(s) were creating a morality play to explain why cultures differ, especially why the many different languages spoken in the land of Israel, for the land was a main trade route that one would hear many differing languages.

That sounds plausible. I must say, though, morality plays are a lot less enjoyable when you're on the receiving end. It's bad enough reading this as an atheist; I can only imagine how a Babylonian would have felt.