A Prophetic Link Between Babel and Pentacost

One of my students pointed this out in the context of our discussion of Pentacost as an Anti-Babel.

Zephaniah 3:9 For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, That they all may call on the name of the Lord, To serve Him with one accord.


Doug P. Baker said...

But the linguistic effects of Babel have lasted rather longer than those of Pentecost. I think of the Zeph passage as more in line with the time when people of every tribe and family and tongue will together worship before the throne. Not an overcoming of Babel but a greater glory through the linguistic spectrum of Babel.

JPB said...

I'm not as intersted in the sociological linguistics of the narrative as I am the poetic and literary arc, Doug.

Of course the tongues of Babel are not 'overcome' merely by the 'phenomenon' of tongues at the day of Pentacost.

Rather, the unity brought through the spirit (as represented in the inaugural gift of tongues) suggests that the telos of that unity, the New Jerusalem, represents a correction of Babel, the city that was left unbuilt because it was founded on the desire of men to make a name for themselves rather than for their creator.

I haven't checked the Septuagint yet, having only recently stumbled upon the link between Genesis 11, Zephaniah 3, and Acts 2, but I am very intrigued by the commonalities even of the imagery: unity/in one accord, common language/pure speech, confusion/overcoming of confusion.

N.T. Wright and others have already suggested the anti-Babel imagergy of Pentacost, though I happened upon it while teaching my high school scripture course.

I would also say, your profile is intriguing!

I've studied haiku and Hopkins, am an Evangelical in the Reformed tradition, love Babbette's Feast, Dekalog and Gibson's Hamlet, and if not all of Sufjan Stevens at least his cover of "Ring Them Bells!"

And I did my master's thesis on the theoloigcal aesthetics of "Till We Have Faces." If you're ever going to be in town, we should grab a drink!

JPB said...

Oh, and I too am the father of four daughters and a high school humanities teacher!

Doug P. Baker said...

Next time I'm near the Twin Cities I'll take you up on that drink. That is rather a lot in common!

Had I known you were of a Reformed persuasion I might have guessed that you were handling the question with sufficient subtlety. I feared you might have thought of Anti-Babel in terms of a simple undoing of the curse. There is in Christian thought a strong current of return-to-Eden thought, against which I utterly protest.

History is a moving into greater glory rather than a return to old glory. The New Jerusalem that you speak of will be far greater than Eden. I like what you say about Pentecost representing that we are moving toward a true unity rather than the haughty unity of Babel.

At each point that Satan thought he had the upper hand, Eden, Babel, Gethsemane, etc., he will find that not only does he lose what he thought he had but he will find that he is always playing right into God's hands.

"He may be the devil, but he's God's devil." John Gerstner (I think)