By Dan Humphries
This piece portrays two Biblical events: the building of the Tower of Babel and the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It is also a kind of birthday cake for linguistics, thanks to the implications of these two spiritually connected events.
The outer shell depicts the abandoned Tower of Babel after its construction was halted due to God confusing the language of its builders (Genesis 11: 1-9). The hoisting equipment calls to mind cannons and caissons, symbolizing the aggressive determination of mankind to elevate itself to the level of God after its near annihilation in the Great Flood. The pinkish hue on the edifice symbolizes the dusk of our original linguistic unity.
The inner shell depicts the “silver lining” of Babel’s gloomy cloud, i.e., the reunification of mankind accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost after Christ’s redeeming death, Resurrection and later Ascension to Heaven. The scripts on the Tower’s inner shell are Acts 2: 3-4 written in thirty-two languages dispersed all around the globe. This passage describes how the Holy Spirit descended on the followers of Christ like tongues of fire and gave them the ability to speak and evangelize in other languages. The flame at the top of the Tower symbolizes this and converts the meaning of the pinkish coloring on the Tower to signal the dawn of the new age where all mankind is reunited in the body of the Church.
Given the implication of these two events, the completed part of the Tower — the side of the piece opposite the abandoned construction — can be seen as a birthday cake for linguistics since the discipline would never have arisen without the dissolution of tongues nor developed like it has without the fervent work of Christian missionaries, who assiduously learned foreign languages so that they could spread the Gospel throughout the world. This is also celebratory of God’s awesome ability to take the ugliness of man’s disobedience and turn it into something beautiful – the vast array of linguistic differences manifest across the world.