Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation


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Exploring the Judeo-Christian Scriptures

English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. It only takes a minute to sign up. The English name of ancient Mesopotamian city is Babylon. However, the name of tower is The Tower of Babel. Is there a difference between Babylon and Babel? Why aren't the words identical? Babel and Babylon have different origins and may actually reflect different words. Akkadian was the native language of the Mesopotamian nations at that time. The city became the largest in the world and the center of power under Hammurabi BCE.

The complete history of the place name is disputed. Hammurabi called his realm Babylonia a transliteration of what is represented as Bab-ili, Babilli, or Babilla, from Akkadian or perhaps Old Babylonian, which was the language of king Hammurabi. The Mesopotamians built many monumental towers as temples. Archaeologists have discovered nineteen of these buildings in sixteen cities; the existence of another ten is known from literary sources. Babylon, itself, contained a number of these. The Etemenanki was among the largest 92 x 92 x 92 meters. It was the most important its Sumerian name E-temen-an-ki means "House of the foundation of heaven on earth".

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This temple tower was erected at what was thought to be the center of the world, the axis of the universe, where a straight line connected earth and heaven. This aspect of Babylonian cosmology is echoed in the Biblical story, where the builders say "let us build a tower whose top may reach unto heaven" apparently heaven is at 92 meters. This is the tower known as the Tower of Babel. Construction of the tower took over a century.

The LORD understood man and his capacity for evil. We see the same pattern as above. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.

The Truth Is

Yahweh LORD came down to look at the city and tower which they had built. They really did build it. Obviously, their complex was sufficiently sophisticated to cause the LORD to take action. The greatest problem was not this one tower but the means by which they built it. The Lord Himself concluded that their unified purpose combined with one language makes them able to do anything that they would now wish.

Nothing would be impossible. The Lord took this as an evil omen.

Some might think that God didn't want any competition, but the fact is much more complicated. God wanted to bring good into the world but the intensity of evil would frustrate God's design.


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He instead created many smaller cultures that would be isolated from each other. They would have to then use their thoughts on defending themselves from the threats of each other. The confusion came about by not mutually understanding each other as before. The scene was quite remarkable no doubt. We are not sure how large were the groups that still did understand each other. Was it a family or a great grandfather and on down that still understood each other?

We are not sure. But whatever, each of these groups spread about. It is quite possible that something like bad weather or suspicion and a sense of protectionism came over them that they desired their own individual place. They went across the earth looking for such place. Man was confused before he was scattered. The language barrier not only made them drop their building plans but caused them to become isolated groups according to language.

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The confusion was selective though. People in the same groups could understand each other. People who speak the same live together - Chinatown! Isolated groups of people formed their own cultures. This explains why cultures have slight but distorted memories of main biblical events such as the flood- they all experienced it in their early development before they were divided by language and confusion.

A mono-lingual world is difficult for a world traveler to comprehend. He gets so familiar with different currencies, dress, customs and incomprehensible languages that it seems incredible for there to be only one language and culture all across the earth. Same language, same words.

Confusion: Dispersion at Babel - Answers Bible Curriculum: Lesson 29

Variance was despised. Since the scriptures only state that the one language was confused, it is possible that there is one original father language. Much work is being done on the history of languages though. They compare the words from the major language families one such language grouping is to the right. One language may have a finely nuanced sense of the past with multiple verbal forms to denote these nuances.

Your Answer

Trying to translate these nuances into a language that has a very simple means of describing the past can be very difficult. Bible translations roughly fall into three types of translations: formal equivalence, functional equivalence, and paraphrase. Of the three paraphrasing is probably most understood by the average reader because they may have experience from school in paraphrasing.

A paraphrase restates the content of a passage in language easier for the reader to grasp. This is a thought-for-thought translation method that emphasizes understanding over strict word-for-word translation. On the other end of the spectrum, formal equivalence is an attempt at an exact word-for-word translation. Formal translation attempts to translate not only the exact renditions of vocabulary but also the grammatical structure and idioms used in the original.

Idioms are expressions that have meaning distinct from the actual meaning of the words used in the idiom. Functional equivalence falls between formal equivalence and paraphrase. Functional equivalence is sometimes called dynamic equivalence. It places a greater emphasis on readability over strict word-for-word translation, but it is not like paraphrase, which can render thoughts in completely different language. A functional equivalent translation may change the grammatical structure of translated sentences so they read better, but it sticks a closely as possible to the original text.

The translation you choose should be determined by what you intend to do with it. Adult Bible study should always begin with a formal translation. One who studies the Bible is presumed to want to know the exact meaning of the passages he studies. This is best achieved with as literal a translation as possible.

Tower of Babel Bible Story Study Guide

The New American Standard Bible is considered the best study version because it is the strictest formal equivalent Bible. Bible study tools like dictionaries and commentaries can assist in the process, but the foundation should be the Biblical text. The English Standard Version is a newer and somewhat easier to read formal equivalent version of the Bible. The New American Standard Bible may be perfect for Bible study, but many people find its grammatical structure difficult to read. Functional equivalent translations work well for daily or devotional reading because they are easier to read.

The best selling functional equivalent Bible is the New International Version.

Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation
Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation
Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation
Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation
Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation
Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation
Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation
Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation
Bible, Babel and babble: The foundations of Bible translation

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