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The Tower of Babel, described in the Old Testament (Genesis 11: 1-9), was started by descendants of Noah on the plain of Shinar in Babylonia. The builders intended the tower to reach into heaven and make a name for them. God, however, was not pleased with the people, because they were disobeying the command given to Noah to fill the earth. The people's pride was leading them into rebellion against God, just as those people whom God had just destroyed by the Flood in Noah's time. To keep them from bringing greater punishment on themselves in the near future, God stopped the building by confusing the language of the people, causing them to be scattered throughout the earth. The place where people built the tower is called Babel, so the tower is referred as the Tower of Babel. Today, the word "babel" in English means a scene of confusion, disorder, or noise from many different voices.

 

巴别塔(Tower of Babel),也称通天塔。据《圣经·旧约·创世纪》第十一章中记载:诺亚方舟之后的幸存者繁衍了众多的后代,他们来到了巴比伦尼亚的示拿(Shinar)平原,准备在这个地方为自己建造一座通天塔。上帝觉得他们狂妄自大,十分不满,于是施法弄乱了人类的语言,让他们说不同的语言。这样一来,由于语言不通,人与人之间感情无法交流,思想难以统一,猜疑与争吵就此出现,通天塔也就未能建成。人们离开了巴比伦尼亚,到世界不同的地方生活。因此此处的城市名叫巴别(Babel),因而塔名取作巴别塔。现在babel一词用来指喧闹、混乱的场面。

 

(本文选自人民教育出版社《中学英语文化背景知识手册》,2008年8月第1版)

    
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