Painting of an old woman reading the Bible by a fireplace
The daily lectionary for January 5 includes Genesis 11

What could the idea of being “famous” have meant to the people who decide to build a city with a tower in Genesis 11:4? For us, being “famous” more or less means being known by lots of people, widely dispersed. But according to the way the story is told, the people of the time are all together in one place? Maybe people in the future?

For that matter, being “all together in one place” brings to mind Acts 2, another story about lots of different languages, although in that one, the divine activity overcomes the barrier of different languages, instead of creating it.

The idea in Genesis 11 that God desires linguistic diversity and dispersion – and by implication cultural diversity – is in the Qur’an, too:

“… And had God willed, He would have made you one community, but [He willed otherwise], that He might try you in that which He has given you. So vie with one another in good deeds. Unto God shall be your return all together, and He will inform you of that wherein you differ.” Quran 5:48, Nasr et al.