Tower of Babel

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Tower of Babel

The computer industry is truly a Tower of Babel. In this fast-paced field, there are countless arbitrary names made up every day for hardware models, software applications, programming routines and menu selections. Worse yet, the names are constantly changed for marketing purposes or attempts at improvement. As you finish reading this paragraph, a thousand names have changed, and that is an understatement. See naming fiascos, Babel and standards.

The Biblical Tower
Babel is the biblical story in Genesis about people building a steeple to reach heaven. God then 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.


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.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
This division into various lands even before the Tower of Babel episode seems to be indicated in the Bible, where the lands of the descendants of Noah's sons are listed in Genesis 10, before the Tower of Babel narrative in Genesis 11.
The inscription also depicts the Tower of Babel from a front view, "clearly showing the relative proportions of the 7 steps including the temple on the top", the Schoyen Collection stated.
Only a few years earlier, Smith had miraculously translated the ancient Book of Mormon, the religion's founding text, from a language known as "Reformed Egyptian" It told the story of America's "first settlement by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel, at the confusion of languages" Brown writes.
Birmingham's latest business park, Parklands Reserve, featuring two headquarter-style office buildings totalling more than 50,000 sq ft developed by HBG, was launched to the property world with the unveiling of a three-metre high cylindrical sculpture inspired by the biblical Tower of Babel.
The design is inspired by the biblical Tower of Babel, intended to reach from earth to heaven.
THE TOWER OF BABEL MAKES ONLY ONE brief appearance in the Bible, but it lives on as a symbol of mankind's hubris (the tower was created in an attempt to reach heaven) and diversity (God responded by splintering its builders into 12 tribes, each speaking its own language).
Where we began this Easter season perplexed about how to tell the story of Resurrection, our group sees the Pentecost lessons as studies in "communications technology." At first, the story of the tower of Babel made us long for the "good old days" of more unity and the desire to hold on to "our own." Digging deeper, we felt that the tower builders not only wanted to keep their identity, they wanted to be superior, to be the dominant and ruling culture.
If there is any analogy for our predicament, it is the story of the Tower of Babel, but of course the analogy is not understood outside the dwindling Judeo-Christian remnant.
If all this sounds like incredible hype--and even a modern-day challenge to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel (see "XBRL: Rebuilding a Tower of Babel")--consider this: Soon after the idea for the concept was floated in 1999, software giants such as Microsoft and IBM immediately grasped its potential and recognized that the only way a common standard could be developed was if the software and financial communities agreed to cooperate in establishing a standard rather than seeking to compete with their proprietary versions of the program.
Although--or perhaps because--environmental health concerns affect every person on the planet, scientists often suffer a modern-day Tower of Babel syndrome, using a diversity of terms in all different languages to describe the same ideas.
The Eiffel Tower's taller; the Tower of Babel's more fabled; and the Leaning Tower of Pisa ...well, let's just say it sustains greater angular momentum.
The Association for a Better Long Island (ABLI), a group representing some $20 billion in commercial and industrial real estate, has told a State Senate committee hearing that there needs to be a strong uniform fire protection code that will end the current 'Tower of Babel,' where every village fire code is subject to personal interpretation by the last inspector who visits a building or construction site."