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Babel, Pentecost and the Blessing of Diversity

Auteur: EddieArthur
Date: 28.05.2010
Category: Réconciliation

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L'original est en anglais

The Story of the Bible has an interesting shape. It starts talking about the relationship between God and all of humanity, tracing creation and then the fall. Then for a long, long section The Story only concentrates on one nation, one people group. And then in Acts it starts to broaden out again and by the time we reach the end, all of humanity will be included once more. I tend to visiualise The Story by thinking of it being thick at both ends but thin in the middle.

When you look at The whole Story in this way, something suddenly becomes very clear. At each of the transitions between thick and thin, there is a story about language. In Genesis 11, just before God calls Abraham there is the tower of Babel and then here in Acts we have the story of Pentecost and people miraculously hearing the story of Jesus in their own languages.

I don’t believe this is a coincidence!

Let’s take a trip back to the Tower of Babel. This incident occurred at perhaps the worst point in the history of humanity, when the fall at reached its lowest depths and just before God started his rescue plan through Abraham. Humanity was concentrated in modern day Iraq and they realised that their lives were limited and that no one remembered them when they died. So, they set about building a huge tower to commemorate themselves. God had created humanity to find its eternal significance in relationship to himself, not through bricks and mortar and seeing the tower, God dashed it to the ground and then scattered humanity across the earth at the same time mixing up their languages so that people no longer had a common tongue.

Make no mistake about it, what God did at Babel was a judgement on humanity. But God is remarkable, and that judgement carried with it a huge blessing for mankind. Firstly, in scattering men and women around the earth He helped them fulfil one of His earliest commandments to us. But it is the language issue that I want us to think about. God confused human language so that mankind could never again unite to find a replacement for God, such as the Tower of Babel. But in mixing up the languages God gave to us one of mankind’s most precious gifts, the gift of language and culture.

Language and culture are wonderful. It is hard to separate one from the other, but they bring incredible richness to human existence. Just think about food for a moment. There are the great world cuisines; French, Chinese, Indian and Italian. But what about the humble British Sunday roast? Then there is sushi from Japan, banana foutou from Ivory Coast, hamburgers from the US and so the list goes on… Every country has its own favourite food and they are (mostly) delicious. Likewise each culture has its own type of art; music, literature or sculpture. Every culture brings something unique to the sum total of human existence. One of the great wonders of our modern age is that we have access to so much different culture from around the world.

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Mots-clés: Babel, Pentecost, language, identity

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Répondre Signaler 0 J'aime Je n'aime pas GerardWillemsen (2)

I have been thinking a lot about the Babel story. It seems to me to be about disruption of communication rather than the origin of language. Pentacost restores communication, without having the need of one common and sacred language.

Diversity in language and culture are a blessing, I do agree to that. God seems to be a God of diversity. That is apparent in all of creation. I mean, why would God need to create one special flower species, growing on only one mountain slope not so far from where I live, where hardly anyone ever will see it? There is no ecological need for that one flower species. Just an example, all creation is full of differnt forms and species, and even within one species diversity is immense. Even so within humanity.

It might be so that no language is capable of expressing things exactly, least of all the greatness of God. Another language adds another dimension. Praising God, describing the wonder of Gods creation, in the Saami language spoken in the North of Scandinavia adds something valuable, which is difficult to express in Swedish or English.

I really agree to your point that pentacost underlines linguistic diversity rather than reverses the differentiation process. And I am thankful for that.


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