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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 different 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 clarification. This paintings explores how altering ancient and hermeneutical realities altered and shifted the that means of the textual content in Jewish antiquity.

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Additional info for Babel's Tower Translated: Genesis 11 and Ancient Jewish Interpretation

Example text

There is no suggestion that he views it as a joke …. If something is not done to abort the project, the consequences could be far-reaching. 60 On this reading, the ability of the people to carry out any plan or goal they might desire is a threat—not to Yahweh directly and literally—but to humanity’s relationship with the Creator and the Creator’s purposes. Once again, Westermann suggests a possible reading: This rather complicated reflection of God betrays a relatively late stage in the narrative as we have it.

In the ancient world, Philo of Alexandria will also ridicule the builders for their attempt to construct a tower that could reach to the heavens. See Chapter Seven below. R. Driver, The Book of Genesis, 135. 41 return to babel 31 Early Jewish exegetes, it goes without saying, were interpreting without the benefit of modern notions of the vast space separating the ‘heavens’ and the earth. The heavens were a lot closer for ancient Jews. Further discussion of the possible meaning of the phrase will have to await our discussion of the narrative in the canonical context.

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.

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