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May 08, 2023

The Esperanto Bible

The biblical story of the Tower of Babel begins with all people speaking a common language. When they begin building a tower to reach to heaven and “make a name for themselves,” God scatters the people and confuses their speech. A Jewish boy who grew up in an eastern European town in the 1870s was deeply impressed by this biblical story. His hometown reminded him of the Tower of Babel. Its Jewish, Russian, Polish, and German inhabitants all spoke different languages and were often hostile towards each other. Ludwik Zamenhof dreamed of a peaceful world united by a common language. So he single-handedly developed his own. It became known as Esperanto, and today is spoken by as many as two million people. Zamenhof knew the Bible well—he spent nearly ten years translating the entire Hebrew Bible into Esperanto. Unfortunately, Zamenhof’s hope of uniting humanity was shattered with the outbreak of World War I. He died three years later at age fifty-seven, with the war still raging. His life was so associated with the story of the Tower of Babel, one of his biographers called him “the man who defied Babel.



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