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Is the Tower of Babel the Jewish Temple?

Question for the readers here on DID,

While studying Genesis historically I have put off delving deeper into the Tower of Babel story. However now I'm beginning to see patterns that resonate with other consistent factors we see in Genesis which is prophecy. The more I study the more it is becoming apparent to me that Genesis is an indictment against temple Judaism just as Christianity concludes. I believe the pattern may be represented and drawn from the Jews experience with their first Temple and their being scattered and exiled to Babylon.

We see in The Adamic Garden story the loss of paradise and pure wisdom abandoned to feeble works illustrated by Paul in Romans 5-8. This relegates the people of God to an abandonment of wisdom and to a period of darkness. Then we pick up the murderous older brother Cain who kills the faithful shepherding prophet Abel which represents the Jews who killed the prophets seeking a return to the purity of Godly Wisdom (see Matt 23). Then we see the flood that is going to occur which will put an end to defilement by offering an ark of safety for the remnant faithful (See 2 Peter). Then we see a people (sons of Adam) who want to build a city and a Tower that reaches to Heaven lifting men up to Gods level but is constructed by human hands. God however wants no part of a tower/temple built with human hands as we have come to understand. This was understood even in the days of the writing of the OT and especially the OT because it was projecting toward righting a wrong that had taken place amongst the Jews and the manner they worshiped God. The Garden scene is their recognition of Wisdom of God abandoned or usurped bringing their condemnation of "death through sin".

 

We see in second temple literature the usage of the term "tower" to describe the temple as in the Book of Enoch.

Enoch 89:73 … And they began again to build as before, and they reared up that tower, and it was named the high tower; and they began again to place a table before the tower, but all the bread on it was polluted and not pure.

 

Second Temple scholars have identified also the understanding of the temple as an attempt to "span the distance to God's abode in the Heavens".

"Already in the Hebrew bible the temple is thought to span the vertical distance of the cosmos. Psalm 78:69 says God "built his sanctuary like the high heavens, in the earth, which he has founded forever". This is a brief statement of a widely assumed fact: that the temple as the cosmic mountain, covers the expanse between the upper and lower realms."

Excerpt from article "The cosmology of P and Theological Anthropology in the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira" By Crispin H. T. Fletcher-Louis, University of Nottingham.

 

So when we reflect upon Genesis 11 now with our acquired knowledge that we have accumulated over the years. It seems that Gen 11 fits the mold of a veiled discrediting of the Jews and their Temple approach which is a constant theme of 2nd Temple literature and flows right into the context and appropriation of first Century Christianity. Notice the sign post that stand out when we read Gen 11's account of the tower of Babel now. It was being built by the Jews ("sons of Adam") not humanity at large. It was designed in an attempt to protect it against another flood onslaught that was surely anticipated. The use of asphalt for mortar and fired bricks. It was built in conjunction with a city. Its top sits in the Heaven they supposed. They were afraid of being scattered and they were. These people were "one" which means they were exclusive in religion and mind. Finally it is called Babel. Does that ring a bell with the Babylon of Revelation?

 

Gen 11:1-9 And the whole land was of one religion and of one speech. And it happened, as they traveled from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar. And they lived there. And they said to one another, Come, let us make brick and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, Come, let us build us a city and a tower, and sits top in the heaven. And let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered upon the face of the whole land. And Jehovah came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of Adam had built. And Jehovah said, Behold! The people is one and they all have one language. And this they begin to do. And now nothing which they have imagined to do will be restrained from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they cannot understand one another's speech. So Jehovah scattered them abroad from that place upon the face of all the land. And they quit building the city. Therefore the name of it is called Babel; because Jehovah confused the language of all the land there. And from there Jehovah scattered them abroad on the face of all the land.

 

Ok, I wanted to throw this out there and let's see where it goes.

Blessings

Norm

Views: 271

Comment by Doug on March 20, 2013 at 10:05am

Norm,

Interesting corollaries in your analysis...

But I have a nagging question that bears on this posting and the one you made about the number 1,000 in scripture. Tell me your thoughts please...

If we accept the notion that 1,000 as used in scripture is chiefly metaphorical in nature, then I am left wondering if, when 1,000 is used, that it really doesn't mean a literal 1,000. I think scripture backs up that idea. For example, when we are told that the cattle on a thousand hills are His, does that mean that God doesn't own the 1,001 hill? Or, if we accept that the millenium isn't REALLY 1,000 physical years in length, then we are faced with another dilemma.

The dilemma boils down to the verity of scripture, and how we should be reading it. When I was a baby Christian, I read the bible literally. I read it as though it was a book telling me that David REALLY slew a giant with one stone in a sling. I read that Adam and Eve were LITERALLY naked, and LITERALLY sewed fig leaves together. etc., etc.,

OK, so now, if I am to read the bible METAPHORICALLY, what principle of biblical exegesis can I use to determine if things are literal, or metaphorical? Do you see the dilemma?

I cannot argue convincingly with anyone else if I, on my own, decide that this or that story in the bible is a metaphor, allusion, allegory, symbol, etc. I am not discounting the work of the Holy Spirit, but if we are going to become people who have ironclad "proofs" of preterism, then we had better do a good job of having sound logic in our arguments.

So, again, on what exegetical basis can we decide if the bible is being literal, or if it is being metaphorical?

Right now, I wonder if Adam's lifespan, as reported in Genesis, is literally true. My current understanding is that it is BOTH. But that presents its own problems too. The biggest problem is that if we assert that years are NOT literal years, then logically we cannot turn right around and use literal timespans as touchstones to prove other points. For example, if we say that Adam lived a METAPHORICAL 930 years, then we cannot mix our metaphors and add a LITERAL 70 years to the equation and have it reach 1,000. That means we can't be sure of ANY literal date in the bible, because they become meaningless.

The only thing I can conclude is that I either have to be literal COMPLETELY, or I have to be metaphorical, symbolic, allegoric, etc., COMPLETELY. If I don't, then my arguments break down logically.

What are your thoughts?

Comment by Doug on March 20, 2013 at 10:08am

PS.

I found a great website you might like. Check out http://www.civitatedei.com/2011/05/the-thousand-years-and-adams-dom...

Comment by Norm on March 20, 2013 at 12:55pm
Doug, I checked out the link, I think I need to charge the author with plagerism as my work predates his. :) LOL
It's always good to see futurist perform work that echoes and validates many of my conclusions. Of course he thinks we are still in the 1000 years. I'll have to respond to your other post after work and church tonight.
Thanks
Norm
Comment by Norm on March 20, 2013 at 10:48pm

Doug,

I think some of these concepts are hard to covey but I don’t think 1000 rarely ever means a literal application from a Hebrew intent. It acts as a conveying medium to reinforce concepts in more than one way. It has a consistency but it’s not a set in stone or one kind of consistency. It’s similar to the well understood literature method of using the color red to denote well understood concepts like blood, emotion, anger, passion, adultery ect. It is not one dimensional by any means and therefore is flexible for the author but conveys understood signs for the reader to grasp concepts the writer wants to be picked up on.  1000 is not as varied as the example of red I used but it can and is worked into the literature to help drive points. However it is a Hebrew defined symbol that can  only be picked up by reading as many examples as one can find in the vast OT, NT and 2nd Temple literature.

 

Now of course in my opinion it doesn’t limit the truth of the concept but maybe not in a literal ideology that we may be inclined to ascribe to it. But Doug there is not clear cut black and white answer to your concern or question. People typically use the hermeneutic that their faith level can sustain for them emotionally and that varies drastically from person to person and changes throughout life. We full Preterist all know that we have moved beyond the futurist paradigm of woodenly literal reading and so we have crossed over beyond many peoples present comfort zone. I can’t stop my investigation just because of others trepidation but that doesn’t mean I have to cram it down their throats either. If people are interested I will share with them areas that I’m exploring and sometimes those areas are on the edge for me and surely are for others who haven’t explored as much in a given area.  It may come to mean that the Heavens and Earth simply should not be understood from a literal physical concept but a theological applied symbolic understanding. But you undertake that when you have ears to hear.

 

Yes we are called to present these concepts in as sound as logic as we can but most of us laymen enter into this realm with less than needed expertise. We simply do the best we can. Also most of the concepts that full Preterist deal with are not surface details but extensive background investigations that leave the typical reader in the dust. I just took 3 retired couples through a study of Revelation and Matt 23-25 and they are like children in a candy store now that they have grasped many of the symbols and metaphors the bible uses to describe apocalyptic type literature. They can’t believe they haven’t been taught these things all these years because it changes the way they now read scripture. They will never be the same again.

 

Doug I had to drop long held concepts one at a time as I’ve progressed over the years and I’m still dropping them. But I don’t expect others to drop them just because of my say so because that simply isn’t fair. However I do like to throw things out there and let those who have ears and the faith to handle deeper investigations that challenge take a peek under the hood and see if it’s something they are ready for. This post here on Babel and the Temple comparison is hardly food for thought for most at this time but it may be for a few who might be ready to consider the ramifications.  It usually depends upon whether they feel their faith can handle it at this time.

 

Doug, when it comes to Genesis I threw out the literal years ago when I realized that Noah didn’t live 2700BC and have 3 boys populate the whole Mediterranean Roman world. It would then be inconsistent on my part to say oh I don’t take that literally but I must take the rest of Genesis as literal and everything in it. That is when I started to examine and turn over ever stone in Genesis and realized that I can’t play the game of picking and choosing what I want to be literal and what would not to be literal.   That just doesn’t work rationally. Fortunately I believe I discovered some of the formula that was being used in constructing Genesis and it isn’t what we thought but it works extremely well with an overall hermeneutic approach with the rest of scripture and the projecting of the coming of Messiah and judgment.

 

I found these constant themes being played out over and over in 2nd Temple literature and then the puzzle started to clarify. Almost everything is written from the Hebrew revolutionary perspective of their religion needing a change. That is really what Genesis is all about when you grasp reading between the lines. The reason you can do so is because it was written by men just like you and me with logical and rational concepts that leave patterns. Those patterns are their trademark but we miss them because of our tremendous cultural distance and the accumulated baggage we have garnered in our Christian inheritance.  However that is not anything new under the sun because the Jews in Jesus Day were divided camps hermeneutically as well.  There was the physical national camp who wanted Christ to rule on earth just like we see large segments of Christians today still wanting Him to do. They do not realize they turn Jesus finished works on its head and make a mockery of His sacrifice and join the Jews of His Day in that expectation. It was always a remnant that grasped the big picture that was being projected.

 

But the burden is on those of us who believe we have some clarity, to present it the best we can, yet we are hardly up to such a monumental Task.  Even Jesus and the apostles failed in convincing the majority Jews to join them in agreement.  I gather hope though when I see articles like you shared where others are seeing similar concepts. It’s because I know God will continue to rise up truth seekers long after I’m gone so the eternal search will always be working its way through each generation. God has 7000 more that haven’t bowed their knee to Baal that I’m just not aware of but they are out there.

 

I think you can see that I don’t tie myself to a black and white either or concept of metaphorical or literal. It’s all about the true context that was expected by the writer. The burden is up to me to find it and handle it with faith.  Faithless investigation I want nothing to do with.

 

There I’ve done it again and rambled for a long time, I’m not going to go back and edit this so it is the rambling mess that it is. :)

Blessings

Norm

Comment by Doug on March 21, 2013 at 3:10pm

Norm,

Your rambling mess is far better than my logical and painstaking messes ;) I SO appreciate you putting your thoughts out there for us all.

But directly as possible, can you explain how you would answer my question about mixing metaphors? That is, on what basis can we say that Adam didn't really live 930 years, but then turn around and say that the 70 years are literal, to add up to the "magic number" of 1,000?

Or, maybe I am missing something in the interpretations?

Thanks.

Comment by Tim Martin on March 21, 2013 at 10:35pm

Norm,

Like you, I suspect some deeper connections with the typology of the Tower of Babel. The connection to Pentecost is well established. But there may be more. Check out BCS, p. 177.

The only additional item I could throw out for your consideration is that we drew a link between the Tower project and Egypt's supply-cities in BCS, p. 184.

If that link is legitimate, then the thread goes through Egypt. That makes things interesting considering old covenant Israel is presented as Egypt all through the NT from Matt. 2:14 through the book of Revelation -- "Sodom and Egypt."

I don't know what to do with that, but I thought I should throw it out there.

Blessings,

Tim Martin

BeyondCreationScience.com

Comment by Norm on March 22, 2013 at 8:07am

Tim,

Thanks for the reminder. I went back and looked at the sections in BCS and I think we are on the right track. I believe what I am seeing though is that Genesis and Exodus are tied together in their themes and this supports the idea that Genesis is a product of priest and scribes writing from a common perspective of Temple Judgment and exile.  We often times focus on the supposed antiquity of the story thinking Genesis was written by Moses or even earlier. However to me the antiquity of the story just turns out to be a historical thread that provides an avenue to facilitate the Jewish plight and it sets a stage for projecting messianic prophecy. That turns out to be how so much of the later 2nd Temple literature plays off of Genesis.

 

I remember reading an article once by James Jordan who mused that it was remarkable how much of Genesis is found recapitulated in later writings that illustrate a common point of view. His implication was that it pointed to a contemporary resonance in some manner. My point is that all these sign post point to Genesis being constructed after the first Temple Judgment and exile which points to a date after 600BC. This is something that most all full Preterist have not examined or worked into their investigation but it’s probably time that we did. The reason is it helps us explain Genesis better in context with the rest of 2nd Temple literature which often works off of and builds from Genesis.

 

No one is going to dispute that these themes aren’t ancient story lines but everyone pretty well recognizes that the Hebrew were reworking and adapting these ancient stories in Genesis to their own purpose. My point is that they did this much later from a position of judgment and exile that colors this work. It sets up the story for the new Temple that Ezra and company were building to come under the same scenes as had just played out.

 

When you read the book of Ezra it almost looks like the writer is not really painting a glowing picture of justice in regards to Ezra. Ezra consolidated legalism beyond Moses and the former ways and wanted the people much more withdrawn from the Nations to the point of getting rid of all the foreign wives.  I’m not sure this was implied to put Ezra completely in a positive light because in the later work of 2nd Temple Literature the writing of 4 Ezra parodies Ezra and puts him in a less than enlightened light. Early Christians embraced 4 Ezra as a reflection of the judgment upon temple Judaism.

 

Got to head to work, thanks for the reminders.

Norm

Comment by jjkratt on March 22, 2013 at 12:27pm

Norm,

Thanks for all this work... this is the same direction I am heading in my Genesis studies. I have been taking the approaches of Jordan, Leithart, Enns, BCS, and other Genesis studies and forming it into a very similar synthesis as you. The more I study the OT the more I see these recurring patterns. It's not that these historical events in the OT didn't happen, but it's that the story is crafted to continually point to the final consummation in Christ. I've been teaching Genesis in the college class at our church and have been enjoying it tremendously. Of course I can't do very deep and can't tie it in with preterism in any major way, just tapping some basic highlights, but it is cool to see bells go off. Last week when we discussed Cain I highlighted how there were several "Cain" patterns in the Bible and it was cool for the kids to recognize that the Bible all connects and makes sense. These kids have NEVER been shown any of this; it's so sad, all they have is the Sunday School version of isolated OT stories that are only there for some moral lesson, and then a separate Evangelical message about Jesus. Sometimes I get sad about how far astray the church at large is on all this and how difficult it will be for the church to regain its roots, but then other times I am encouraged that God still has 7,000 that haven't bowed their knees to Baal yet LOL.

Comment by jjkratt on March 22, 2013 at 12:28pm

This week we did Noah's Flood, next week we do Babel so this was timely for me.

Comment by Norm on March 24, 2013 at 10:52pm

Doug,

 

I attempted to qualify my reasoning albeit in a roundabout reasoning but as I said this issue is not simple or easy to explain.  I don’t think many are going to like my direct answer but the bottom line is that much of the Bible is built on metaphor and one simply has to come to grips with that as best they can within their faith worldview.

 

Let’s consider? Did Jonah really end up in the belly of a great fish?  I don’t think so but if you understood the symbolism that the story is built with you would recognize the message that is being projected. Jonah represented Israel and their resistance to being the called people of God to take the message to the nations and in the end it was going to be a bitter pill for them. The metaphors all through that story are projecting prophecy toward the time of messianic fulfillment and I believe the NT validates that point in that Christ pulls from Jonah concerning the 3 days in the belly of the fish. One must ask how Christ made that comparison between 2 distinct issues. I think if we understood 2nd Temple literature better we would grasp how He makes that comparison. But our Protestant upbringing about outside biblical approved literature keeps most from reading the stuff that answers most of these questions. Not only Christ but Acts and the voyage of Paul in the shipwreck going to the Gentiles has so much in common with the Jonah story it seems obvious that it is validating the purpose and intent of the Jonah story as well in fulfilled prophecy.

 

By the way the author of Jonah gives the story away in this verse if the reader will stop and use a little logic and investigation while reading these accounts. Notice those “beast” are to be covered with sackcloth and along with man call out to God and turn from their evil ways. Of course since I’ve studied how the “beast” is used in OT and 2nd Temple literature it is clearly saying to me that man (adams) and beast (Gentiles) are to repent.  But most just gloss over it and think it’s a strange story about man and animals somehow, but to me it is as clear as day.

 

Jon 3:8  but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.

 

I simply believe these are virtuoso pieces of inspired literature that prove their prophetic truth at the coming of Christ. That validates them in no small way just as Christ prophecy against the Temple and Jerusalem validates His authority. I sometimes think we miss the big picture prophecies by getting hung up on symbolic story telling details. It’s the big theme fulfillment undergirding scripture that validates everything.

 

 

Now to your point about mixing 930 and 70 and 1000.  Why does that have to be a problem if you understand it was used to illustrate a concept of eternal completion? Why does it present a problem if 930 years for Adam is simply an illustrative tool? It serves a theological purpose in telling a story? Is it any different than recognizing that Jonah is using metaphor to tell a theological story that presents truth issues that need to be recognized by Israel?  I know it’s hard for those of us trained to take things literally but full Preterist should be about ready to get over a lot of that since we already have in Revelation regarding so many other symbols. But Doug full Preterist are not immune to using a hybrid pick and choose which one of their symbols they take literally and metaphorically.  That’s why we have the literal AD70 rapture group in full Preterist. Everyone has their stopping points and jump back on to the literal bandwagon they grew up with. It’s always easier to explain the literal than it is to explain the symbolic to people. Why does the time from the Cross and Pentecost take 40 years and is often called the New Exodus because it compares in so many ways with the old exodus including the 40 years? Why is it also called the Last Day and also a 1000 year period. Don‘t you see these symbols are used in so many ways that match so many deferent symbols that they fit nicely in many Hebrew motifs. Their purpose is not to be precise but to illustrate but occasionally a number may come close to approaching a literal usage.

 

I just do not worry too much about 930 years equating to Adam who equates to Israel who gets their beginning in 930BC with Solomon’s Temple and you add 70 years and you get a 1000. It works so I chalk it up to Devine prophecy fulfillment just like the new exodus. The 930 though does not have to correspond to an actual beginning person who started calling on the God of Israel if it was intended by the authors to represent Israel. Instead I again take the fulfillment as a demonstration of something very special going on that culminated with Christ and His resurrection and how He affected Jewish People enough that they threw off Traditional Judaism of their day. I would liken it to something similar happing to organized Catholic Religion over the past 1000 years and those stories became true in our day and age just as the prophecy pointed out would occur and Catholicism was relegated to the ash-heap of History. Now that would be something.  That is essentially what happened to Judaism from Solomon to AD70.

 

There are so many ways to dice these questions and they simply do not have one simple answer, especially when they culminate in a resurrected Messiah. There are something’s that I believe are literal or as Paul says we are all to be pitied.

 

However Doug your guesses are just as good as mine. :)

 

Blessings

Norm

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