Is the tower of babel real?

In my studies I have been reading the book A History of the Ancient Near East, by Marc Van De Mieroop. What is interesting is his chapter on the Uruk period, where he mentions the rapid and vast expansion of Uruk culture across the ancient near East, for apparently unknown reasons. Interestingly, John Walton claims that this influence quickly died out, so it is a sudden, rapid, mysterious single vast expansion, coming from Mesopotamia.

Could this be the Babel event?


I found an article on CMI’s site which discusses this period and mentions both Babel and Uruk. This article puts Babel before Uruk. This was published in 1986 so look out for more recent information.
A Better Model for the Stone Age

I’ve been meaning to answer since you posted, but I ended up dropping my reply on the thread about the Ages of Patriarchs. Rather than repost, here’s the link:

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This is frankly ridiculous:

It can be seen that the period from the Flood until the early years of Abraham, if we count the latter at 1,870 B.C., is approximately 432 years. However, Genesis 10:35 against the Genesis 11 genealogy suggests that the catastrophe of Babel may well have been in the fourth generation born after the Flood, which we may approximate to about 100 years. Therefore, we are allowing a post-Babel period until the end of the stone age of 332 years.

The entire stone age is compressed into 332 years. What?! The Tower of Babel was made of brick and mortar, but people somehow possessed that technology before the stone age even ended. What?!

I really don’t know how people come up with this stuff. It reads like a cartoon parody of history. Did the author manage to keep a straight face when he wrote it down for the first time?

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Okay, thanks for your response, and sorry for the wait. The Mesopotamians in particular had stories resembling Genesis precisely because the events of Genesis 1-11 are all local Mesopotamian events.

This is not just an ad hoc position, Genesis 4:17 may in fact refer to Enoch, not Cain, building the city of Eridu (See I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood). The Mesopotamian links of the Eden and Babel stories should go without saying. So there does seem to be somewhat of a focus on Mesopotamia in the primordial stories (probably to prepare for the calling of Abraham from Ur)

See also this article, where Nissim Amzallag links the origin of cities in the Bible to the origin of cities in archaeology: (both suggest an association between early cities and metallurgy)

Which essay? The book is an interesting mix of perspectives, not all of them as conservative as your example.

This has things backwards. Genesis resembles the Mesopotamian stories that were written down in Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform long before the Hebrew alphabet was invented. By the time that Jewish scribes were writing their own history in Hebrew, whatever local events that inspired the Mesopotamian myths were long forgotten.

There’s a more parsimonious explanation. Around 900 B.C., every literate person (scribe) in the ANE was familiar with the Mesopotamian myths they copied in scribal school, especially the flood tablet of Gilgamesh. Knowledge of a flood in Ur (?) two millennia prior wasn’t required for them to recognize the similarities to the story of Noah when they read it.

I never said the stories were copied from hebrew originals, I’m saying the Mesopotamians remembered the original events orally

Okay, sorry if I misunderstood. I didn’t think you meant copied, but it sounded like you were saying the Mesopotamian myths were influenced by Genesis.

I think an original event passed down orally may stand behind some myths, but that mainly applies to the flood. Creation myths are hard to put into that category. What local event could possibly inspire a creation myth? Babel, likewise, is a stretch.

Then, there is the undeniable connection to political propaganda and the appearance of the Sumerian King List and Enmerkar and the Lord of Arratta, both of which are parodied in Genesis 1-11. Those myths were invented to serve the empire-building purposes of Shulgi and his Babylonian/Assyrian successors. Looking for historical antecedents in this or that detail misses the forest for the trees, in my opinion.