Texte correspondant en français : La tour inversée
As I drank a coffee with a friend in a regional coffee shop, he asked me the following question: How to understand the story of the tower of Babel within the context of the world association. His question was obvious: Will the God (or a God) come down to annihilate the effort of the Humanity to build a common project? At first, I thought to explain what we usually understand about this well-known passage.
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth. ”But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-9)
We see a conflictual situation between God and the Humans. However, I read this text differently with some subtility. Whether we consider this text litterally, litterary or mythical, we can only see a far less devastating force in action compared to the precedent story of the flood.
On the other hand, the history of humanity testifies its ingenuity to dominate the world: Some in powerful position never hesitated to invade, destroy, subdue different people, nations, or the whole creation. However, no one is immune to this movement towards uniqueness through challenge. The say I am right, you’re wrong, often nourish and justify dramatic misconduct actions with terrible consequences. Regrettably, the Church is no exception.
Nevertheless, there is something else in this short story. I read an expression of humility. There is humbleness in God’s attitude. We can read it in the following sentence: But the Lord came down to see. (Genèse 11:5) Does God really need to come down on earth to see what is going on? Can’t He just say a word to accomplish His will? Is He not all-powerful? Jesus made it clear to Peter when he told him to put down his sword while stricking the servant of the High priest: Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew 26:53) What does it mean then when we read The Lord came down to see?
There is nothing wrong for Humanity to strive for excellence, to search for a better understanding, or to seek for peace. Why not, then, do it in harmony with heaven and earth? Jesus came to do it. As true God and true man, he came to build, not to destroy. This is that inverted tower that he came to establish; rooted in heaven, pointing toward earth. In combining heaven and earth through his birth, He builds with humans not against them. Confusion and stammerer, that is express in the word Babel in Hebrew, are no more. The project is not vague or beyond reach, but the human intent is joined to an even larger and impressive master plan: the building of a body (Ephesians 3:6). There are no bricks nor mortar that are used anymore but people to construct an incorruptible body: the body of Xrist (Ephesians 4:6). Therefore, the unity between the divine and the terrestrial is firmly established. It is not a rigid tower but a living body where everyone has its place through faith in Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:27).
It is then, not surprising to read that the crowd was cheering while Jesus, sitting on a donkey, entered the gates of Jerusalem. For that multitude saw in him a grand project in which God associates Himself with the Humanity to build his kingdom.
They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Matthew 21:8,9