Tower of Babel

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Tower of Babel

The computer industry in the 20th and 21st centuries. There are countless arbitrary names made up every day for products and functions in this fast-paced field, which is changing constantly, even as you read this paragraph. See naming fiascos and standards.


The Biblical Tower
Babel is the biblical story in Genesis about people building a steeple to reach heaven, wherein God split their single spoken language into many to confuse and scatter them across the world.
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The book of Genesis tells how a king built the Tower of Babel—depicted here in an illustration from a circa 1300 German publication—in an attempt to reach heaven. Some believe the legend is based on the construction of an actual Babylonian ziggurat. Getty Images.

Tower of Babel

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

One of the most well known biblical stories is related in Genesis 11. It tells of an ancient people who built a city with a tower that reached to the heavens. In the face of such hubris, God confused their language so that the people spoke many different tongues and could not understand one another. They thus scattered to the corners of the earth. The site of this tower, Babel, recalls the ancient city of Babylon and is the origin of the modern word “babbling.”

In the nineteenth century, many questioned the story, dismissing it as a baseless fable. However, archeologists exploring ancient Babylon, located in modern Iraq, uncovered the ruins of a ziggurat, a temple in the form of a stepped pyramid. It was soon discovered that for several thousand years the people of the Tigris and Euphrates Valleys had centered their town on one or more ziggurats. The Babylonian ziggurat had a square base, each side being some 300 feet in dimension. It honored the deity Marduk and is believed to be the source of the biblical story.

Ziggurats were made of mud bricks, and even in the dry climate they have not fared well over time. Babylon, as an urban center, disintegrated after the fifth-century Persian conquest. Only the base of the Tower of Babel now exists, though a few other small examples of ziggurats have survived. The largest surviving ziggurat is found at Elam in southwestern Iran. The best preserved is at Ur, in modern Iraq, a ziggurat dedicated to the the moon god Nanna.

In the contemporary world, the discovery of ziggurats has been used as evidence for the historical accuracy of the biblical text. However, critics have pointed out that while the Tower of Babel story probably refers to a real historical building, the myth itself is not a believable explanation for the origins of the world’s languages. Not to be outdone, a small group of conservative Christians has attempted to argue that ancient Hebrew was the original human language and other languages descend from it. Such arguments have met with little positive response from linguists.

The Tower of Babel story might also have derived from an ancient Sumerian belief in a distant age during which everyone worshiped Enlil, the main Sumerian deity, until Enki, the god of wisdom, confused the people’s speech.

Sources:

George, Andrew R. House Most High: The Temples of Ancient Mesopotamia. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1993.
Kramer, Samuel N. The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963.
Oppenheim, A. Leo. Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964.
Pennock, Robert T. The Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999.
Walton, John H. “The Mesopotamian Background of the Tower of Babel Account and Its Implications.” Bulletin of Biblical Research 5 (1995): 155–175.
References in periodicals archive ?
Babel Tower is set in the 1960s, when postwar life called for new ways of being and seeing.
In Babel Tower, by contrast, there is "a Babel-like loss of non-arbitrary language" (Pereira 217).
From a quotation about the Helix or spiral form of shells that match, in miniature, the stepped ziggurat of Babel Tower, Frederica cuts to a lecture by Timothy Leary on LSD and perception, in which the sixties guru speaks of "looking into someone's genetic code" and "hav[ing] to make sense to many evolutionary forms of life--an amoeba, a madman, a mediaeval saint" (465).
In Babel Tower, Byatt implicitly questions Bull's overpainting and Frederica's verbal laminations, juxtaposing and comparing their semiotic strategies.
Babel Tower works like an intellectual switchboard with signals coming in at various points and frequencies.
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In Babel Tower, Byatt mixes cultural levels, genres, and media, linking visual arts, literature, myth, and pop culture, and dissolving aesthetic hierarchies in a colorful pastiche of hedonist culture (21) while indulging her love of verbal profusion.
The laminated panels of Babel Tower participate self-reflexively in conditions of fragmentation and dissonance that affect all the arts.