Looking at Joseph Farrell’s Book (2020) “The Tower of Babel Moment” (Part 1 of 10)

0001 The full title of the work before me is The Tower of Babel Moment: Lore, Language, Leibniz, and Lunacy.   The author is one of the wandering stars of our current age, an era when academics award more doctorates than any job market can absorb.  Professors with sharp elbows occupy the few available academic positions, leaving brilliant and successful graduates, the ones with sharp minds, to find places in heaven knows where.

Farrell finds a spot on the internet, that once verdant pasture of free expression, and establishes his own scholastic exploration outside of modern institutional constraints.  In short, he founds his own school.  Those who listen to his voice offer remuneration.  God bless all concerned.

0002 The work before me offers speculation on the nature of the titular biblical story.

Farrell proceeds by way of a spiral staircase of observations and… may I say?.. expansive “measurements”.  Measurements of what?  The literature of the seventeenth century?  The titans of the late Renaissance?  Yes, that will do.

0003 My goal in this examination is to shoehorn Farrell’s exploration into a category-based nested form composed of category-based nested forms.  The interscope is elaborated in A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.  Of all procrustean beds that I have at my disposal, the interscope is most accommodating.

Here is a diagram of the interscope.

0004 The method is simple.  First, associate features of Farrell’s argument to elements in the above matrix.  Second, discuss the implications.

Each nested form consists of four statements, the most paradigmatic of which goes like this.  A normal context3 brings an actuality2 into relation with the possibilities inherent in ‘something’1.  The subscripts refer to the categories of Charles Peirce.  Thirdness brings secondness into relation with firstness.

The nested form is fractal.  An interscope is a category-based nested form composed of category-based nested forms.  A two-level interscope associates with sensible construction.  A three-level interscope corresponds to social construction.  Note how the labels change from 1, 2 and 3 to a, b, and c.

The three-level interscope allows the visualization of virtual nested forms, composed of elements within one column.  For example, the virtual nested form in the realm of actuality turns the second column into a category-based nested form,where a perspective-level actuality2c (as virtual normal context) brings a situation-level actuality2b (as virtual actuality) into relation with a content-level actuality2a (as virtual potential).

0005 Farrell opens chapter one with his personal discovery of Leonard Bernstein’s recorded lectures, titled “The Unanswered Question”.  In these lectures, Bernstein discusses Noam Chomsky, who has his own unanswered questions.  Chomsky, in turn, provokes Farrell to ask his own unanswered question, “How do linguists go about demonstrating linguistic universals?”

A universal may be regarded as an observable feature “measurably” appearing in all spoken languages.

0006 Phonologists find common observable features in the sounds of speech.  Common sounds are attributed to the anatomy of the head and neck.

Etymologists find common observable features in closely related words in different languages.  The words are similar and not identical, because they arise from isolation and drift among speaking populations, in a manner similar to biology’s slogan, “descent with modification”.

0007 The key?

Universals imply common origins.  For phonologists, the universal is biological.  For the linguist, the universal is… perhaps lost… in the recesses of time.

0008 A dramatic hypothesis stands against this key.  A sudden change may destroy the common language of humanity.  That change may be labeled, “A Tower of Babel Moment”.

0009 Years ago, Farrell proposes a wider context to this type of hypothesis.  The scenario includes ancient cosmic wars and world grids.  But, these are other books, and other matters, than the text at hand.

0010 So, before going on to chapter two, let me draw some associations.

On the content level, the normal context is language3a.  The actuality may be called a “topology”, or a map of all spoken languages2a.  The potential is that universals imply common origins1a.

The normal context of language3a brings the actuality of cross-language maps2a into relation with the potential of ‘the idea that universals imply common origins’1a.

On the situation level, the normal context is a civilizational moment3b.  The actuality is the Tower of Babel (the biblical story)2b.  The possibility is ‘discontinuity’1b.

The normal context of a civilizational moment3b brings the actuality of the story in Genesis 112b into relation with the potential of a discontinuity1b that corresponds to God confounding the common language of the plains of Shinar.

0011 Here is the two-level interscope.


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 21 of 38)

0071 Gordon Wenham begins his interpretation of Gen 1-11 with the genealogies.  The genealogies seem to be minor elements, since they do directly tell stories.  However, they are significant as a genre.

Here is the virtual nested form in the realm of possibility.

genealogy1c( insights for reader1b( Biblical witness1a))

0072 To me, the principle of genealogy1c directs the reader1b to consider the possibilities inherent in a family tradition1a.  The intended audience is the witness’s family.

0073 Wenham notices two obvious patterns.

Linear genealogies connect the generations.

Segmented genealogies make claims to territories or skills.

These topics, descent, territory and skills, must be relevant to the family.

0074 Also, there are less-obvious patterns.  The number seven stands out, starting with the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest.  Tens and twenties are also favored.

Are these relevant to the family’s pedigree, territory or skills?

In a world that is constantly and unpredictably specializing, who would be sensitive to repetitions of particular numbers?

May I guess?

The numbers have mystical significance.

What specialization might concern itself with mystical significance?

0075 I go back to the metaphor of a river, flowing through time, for the consequences of the first singularity.  Gravity is a metaphor for the actualization of the potential for labor and social specialization.  Eddies and whirlpools are metaphors for long-lived spontaneous structures, such as markets, temples and thrones.  Spontaneous structures include associations of scribes, canal builders and maintainers, farmers, warriors and the like.

A family lives within one of these long-lived whirlpools.  Each generation preserves the witness of the family through routinized stories about what the ancestors witnessed.

0076 Does that fit the definition of the term, “protohistory”?


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 22 of 38)

0077 After noting the character of the genealogies, Gordon Wenham examines Gen 1-11, starting with the Creation Story, Gen 1:1-2:3.

Wenham sees the Creation Story as an overture to the symphony of Gen 1-11, as well as the entire Pentateuch.

On the one hand, the Creation Story departs from other written origin stories of the ancient Near East.

On the other hand, the Creation Story coheres to the literary styles of these extra-Biblical narratives.

0078 To me, the Creation Story is the only written origin story of the ancient Near East that places humans in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  To the ancients, the Creation Story describes God building a tent (or temple) of creation. To moderns, the Creation Story tells a progressive tale, reminiscent of evolution.  Some associate a day to an evolutionary era.  To postmoderns, the articulated structure of the Creation Story aesthetically matches the bony structure of the evolution of our world, especially when the correspondence is viewed through the three types of natural sign: icon, index and symbol.

0079 The hypothesis of the first singularity takes the implications one step further.  Humans, created in the image of God,appear in this dramatic unfolding of a narrative that artistically corresponds, in the way of signs, to the evolutionary record.  These humans correspond to Adam, before the Fall, living in paradise. The tree of life resides in Eden.

On top of that, if, as Thomists postulate, original justice defines the state of Adam before the Fall, then original justiceshould also apply as a noumenal description of the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  This is discussed in Comments on Daniel Houck’s Book (2020) “Aquinas, Original Sin and the Challenge of Evolution”, available at smashwords.


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 23 of 38)

0080 The appearance of the Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia marks the start of the first singularity.  Development towards unconstrained social complexity begins immediately, and imperceptibly, like gravity moving water in a river.  The narratives in Gen 2.4-11:9 describe eddies and whirlpools, events in the flow of time.

0081 Wenham argues that the term, “myth”, is not appropriate.  I use the term, “fairy tales”.  Why?  Mothers tell their children fairy tales.

The Creation Story is told from father to child.  It is referenced later in the Pentateuch.  Moses codifies the seventh day as a day of rest.

In contrast, the stories of Adam and Eve are told from mother to child.  They are not put into writing until the Pentateuch is woven together into a coherent whole.  Indeed, vivid reminders of the Adam and Eve are found in the New Testament, not the Old Testament.

0082 What does this imply?

The stories of Adam and Eve belong to the genre of fairy tale.  Once routinized, fairy tales may remain stable for thousands of years.  These early stories are like ancient zircons intercalated into recent sedimentary rock.

With the hypothesis of the first singularity, inquiry turns completely around, just as in geology, where zircons offer clues to environments far earlier than the rocks in which they are embedded.  The stories of Adam and Eve offer fairy-tale clues to the start of our current Lebenswelt.


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 24 of 38)

0083 Gordon Wenham asks (more or less), “Can we think of Gen 1-11 as a genealogy, adorned with narratives?”

The literature of the ancient Near East offers parallels.  The Sumerian King List directly compares to Biblical genealogies.  Other writings of the ancient Near East coincide with Biblical narratives.

0084 For example, the Sumerian Flood Story is similar to Noah’s Flood Story.  In terms of content, they refer to an identical prehistoric event.

0085 Yes, this fits Wenham’s overall label of “protohistory” for Gen 1-11.

I return to the virtual nested form in the realm of possibility, found in day 20 of this series.

protohistory1c( insights for reader1b( Biblical witness1a)

There is an advantage to Wenham’s term, “protohistory”.  It expands the field of inquiry to include all discovered written origin myths of the ancient Near East.

0086 From my point of view, the discovery of these extra-Biblical materials is nothing short of miraculous.

These writings are preserved as cuneiform inscriptions on clay tablets, fired into bricks with the immolation of a royal library, and buried in ruins for thousands of years.  Only after Western archaeologists recover tablets and clever people figure out ways to translate them, do these stories come back to life.

0087 Who knows about these tablets?

At the time when the Babylonian exile ends and the Pentateuch takes final form, no one knows about these tablets.

At the time of Christ, no one knows about these buried tablets.

The same goes for Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas.

It is as if God concealed these tablets for the modern West to discover, in the Age of Ideas, after the successful birth of science.


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 25 of 38)

0088 Why do all the written origin stories of the ancient Near East depict a recent creation of humans (with the exception of the Creation Story)?

The hypothesis of the first singularity offers an explanation.  The hypothesis works as a perspective2c, that virtually brings a situation-dependent interpretation2b into relation with the contents of the Biblical text2a.

Figure 09

0089 Of course, the hypothesis is not the only perspective-level actuality2c.

Another option is God’s Word2c.

0090 With the passing of the Age of Ideas, the normal context of our current Lebenswelt3c does not rule out either actuality2c.

Does the potential of ‘genre as classification’1c, seem to favor the natural approach of the hypothesis2c over the supernatural approach of God’s Word2c?

I wonder.

Well, the name of the book that I am looking at could be titled, “Genesis: Does Genre1c Contribute to Insights1b into the Biblical Witness1a?”.

Plus, the arguments from the contributors seem to give a qualified “yes”.

0091 In other words, the concept of genre1c gives the reader insight1b into how the witness is viewing ‘something real’1a.

0092 The concept of the first singularity1c offers a hypothesis on the nature of ‘something real’1a.

At the same time, the hypothesis does not describe the event from within.

Instead, the Genesis witness1a describes the emergence and fall of Sumerian civilization, the original fruit of the first singularity2c, from God’s point of view3c.

So, the answer to the question (in 0090) remains unclear.


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 26 of 38)

0093 Wenham considers an odd passage, Gen 6:1-4.  The passage sounds like fantasy or myth.  But, the placement is crucial.  The mention of the Nephilim comes right before the first announcement of the flood.

Commentators offer a wide variety of explanations.

Here is mine.

0094 If a four-hundred year cycle associates to a genre, and if the primeval history covers nine cycles, then one expects a layering of genres in the same fashion as sedimentary rock.  The Nephilim are mentioned in passing.  It is like a distinct, thin layer in sedimentary rock.

0095 Here is an analogy from modern times.

During the latter half of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth centuries, at the zenith of the Age of Ideas, textbooks in philosophy covered the Greeks, the Romans, then the Renaissance, the Western Enlightenment and Modernism.  Twelve centuries of the Latin Age are thinned down to a funny little term, “the dark ages”.  That is three cycles, one for each word.

0096 With this analogy in mind, Genesis 6:1-4 may cover a lot of history.  It has its own genre.  This genre differs from the genre of the flood.


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 27 of 38)

0097 Wenham moves on to the Flood Story.  This story associates to failure and re-orientation.  It also touches base with extra-Biblical Near Eastern myth.

Both the Story of Noah’s Flood and the Mesopotamian, Epic of Atrahasis, point to a devastating flood prior to the start of the Sumerian Dynastic.  These two versions of the same incident tell me that they belong to the same genre.  They are expressing a similar spirit of the age.

0098 The progression of genres in Gen 1-11 do not smoothly overlay a highly theoretical 400 year cycle starting around 7821 years ago.  However, coincidences such as two stories of the flood, one Biblical and one Mesopotamian, are highly suggestive.

What do they suggest?

The family mythology in Gen 1-11 is told from inside an institution proclaiming the public mythologies of the ancient Near East.

This suggestion is further developed in the dramatic fiction, An Archaeology of the Fall.

The story of Terah marks the event when the two traditions begin to diverge.


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 28 of 38)

0099 The Tower of Babel comes before the unexpected death of Haran.

0100 Why is there no equivalent to the Tower of Babel in the literature of the ancient Near East?

Why would anyone involved in the failed construction of a ziggurat draw attention to the incident?

0101 Why does the Bible contain a story mocking the pretensions of ziggurat builders?

The story sounds like a joke, coming from within an organization, making fun of the hubris of the institution.

The in-house character of the Tower of Babel makes me wonder why Terah, Abraham’s father, flees Mesopotamia.  Abraham’s brother dies.  The family needs to run.

0102 Wenham associates the Tower of Babel to the extra-Biblical reign of Nebuchanessar I (4598-4720 U0′) whose construction projects turned into royal nightmares.

I make an extra-Biblical association to the end of Ur III.  Ur III is the last fluorescence of the Sumerian tradition.  Afterwards, Akkadian becomes the common tongue and Sumerian becomes a dead language, only to survive as a written tradition, much like Latin at the start of the Age of Ideas.


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 29 of 38)

0103 Gordon Wenham concludes chapter 2, titled “Genesis 1-11 as Protohistory” with a caveat.

Perhaps, the message of Genesis 1-11, as God’s Word2c, is more important than defining its genre1c.  God’s word2c pours out grace.

0104 Yet, the possibilities inherent in genre as a classification1c support a complementary natural actuality, the hypothesis of the first singularity2c.

Grace and nature are not separate, after all.

0105 These comments applaud Wenham’s naming of the genre of Gen 1-11 as “protohistory”.

Protohistory allows the reader to appreciate extra-Biblical materials as part of the big picture.

After all, the written origin stories of the ancient Near East witness the consequences of the same transition, the first singularity.

0106 Here is a picture.