The Tower of Babel in Reverse



Genesis 11:1-9

Acts 2:1-21

John 14:8-27)

Psalm 104:25-37

In reading the scripture in Acts for today, several issues present themselves. In verse 1, we read, When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one placeESV Or, And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one placeKJV None of the other translations that are on my list include the underlined phrase, but it is found in many other translations.

That means we need a reminder about Greek texts. Many date back as far as the Second Century. There are four complete Bibles in Hebrew and Greek, two from the Fourth Century and two from the Fifth Century. But there are now hundreds of partial manuscripts, especially of the Old Testament, available back to the Second Century BCE. The oldest New Testament is dated to the Second Century AD, likely the first half of the century. It’s not much, but it’s old.

John 18:31 and 18:37 on the back side

We also have many very early manuscripts written in Coptic (Egyptian), Arabic, and Aramaic. Many experts debate whether much or all of the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic.

To show how easy it is to lose manuscripts, let me copy a section from the Josh McDowell Ministry website.

~ Codex Sinaiticus (AD 350) ~

This extremely important manuscript, discovered in 1844 by Constantin von Tischendorf, a leading biblical scholar in his day, at the Monastery of St. Catherine at the foot of Mt. Sinai in Israel, is located in the British Library. The St. Catherine’s Monastery and libraries in Germany and in Russia hold a few separate pages. The manuscript contains almost all of the (4th century) New Testament and over half of the Old Testament. For the Gospel texts, its reliability is considered second only to the Codex Vaticanus. For Acts, its reliability is equal to the Codex Vaticanus, and for the epistles, its reliability is ranked first.

The discovery of this manuscript is a fascinating story. Tischendorf, while visiting St. Catherine’s, chanced to see some leaves of parchment in a waste basket of papers destined to light the oven of the monastery. Upon examination, they proved to be part of a copy of the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. Tischendorf retrieved from the basket no less than 43 leaves, no doubt horrified when a monk casually remarked that two basket loads of similarly discarded leaves had already been burned.

We are fortunate it survived 1600 years. Countless manuscripts have been lost over the centuries due to accidental and war-related library fires. Centuries-old documents and candles are not friends.

Back to the Text.

And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sittingESV There is a suggestion by a handful of scholars that the Greek word oikos could refer to the Temple, but the weight of evidence is that it means house, as in a house in Jerusalem large enough for the Twelve plus many of the other regular disciples. Many think the Twelve were back in the Upper Room. It could be that the rest of the house held the others.

Pentecost is a borrowed word from the Greek. It means, roughly, fifty days from Passover, or fifty days until the Festival of Weeks. It is actually the feminine form of pentekonta, fifty. To non-Christian Greeks in the First Century, it meant fiftieth. It became a made-up word. In Hebrew, the first day of the Festival of Weeks is hag sabuayya, or Shavuot.

To harmonize this with the other readings for today, especially Genesis, this is the day that the followers of Yeshua were given the ability to face the Twelve Tribes with the Truth that Yeshua was the Son of God and that he lived as a human so that he could defeat both death and sin.

Or, to say it another way, at Babel God took away the common language. At Pentecost, God gave back the common language. We try to reach up to God. God came to live with us.

There is something in this Holy Spirit event that I had not thought of or read about before. Luke alone records this event. Paul never mentions it, nor do any of the other texts. At the end of GJohn, we read, And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy SpiritNIV

That text has bothered me, and it still does. Did Jesus’ followers receive the Spirit before he ascended into Heaven or at Pentecost? The quote is from chapter 20 of John. Jesus appeared in the locked room among the ten Apostles gathered there to hide. After convincing them he was real, he breathed on them. There is no mention a few verses later of his breathing on Thomas. Instead, he cuts him gently. Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” NIV

The question does not change the fact that the Spirit of God always surrounds us. We need only allow his guidance and strength to fill us.


Read my earlier comments on this theme here.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

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