Tower of Siloam

From Academic Kids

The Tower of Siloam was a tower that existed at Siloam near Jerusalem in ancient times. The tower evidently fell before or during the time of Jesus of Nazareth, with substantial loss of life. For many years, the only evidence that there was a Tower of Siloam was its single mention in the Christian Bible, which occurs in Luke 13:4. However, more recently archaeological excavation (http://askelm.com/temple/t031205.htm) has revealed what some Biblical scholars believe to be the ruins of the tower.

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The fall of the tower and its significance

The Tower of Siloam in the Gospel of Luke records a discourse of Jesus which addresses the apparent fact that disaster falls upon the just as well as the unjust:

1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (King James Bible translation)

For extended discussion of this issue, see problem of evil.

Assuming that these words represent an actual utterance of Jesus and were not a later interpolation, it is clear that Jesus takes the view that the worst sinners were not specially singled out for disaster, either in Pilate's slaughters or under the falling tower.

Aside from this, it is difficult to determine what were Jesus's views on the problem of evil. One possibility is that Jesus simply does not know why God permits the innocent to suffer, but is rhetorically invoking the ever-present possibility of sudden, random death as a way of urging his followers to repent. Another is that Jesus believed that none of the eighteen killed by the falling tower had repented, and that is why God permitted the tower to fall on them. Yet a third is that Jesus felt that all of humanity is irredeemably sinful, and that God would be justified in causing the Tower to fall on any of us, irrespective of individual differences in sinfulness. Clearly, other interpretations are also possible.

The Tower of Siloam appeared frequently in Web material written by Christian priests and ministers following the disaster of September 11, 2001, in which many people also died, apparently at random, under falling towers.

Siloam as a location

The place referred to by the word "Siloam" is now the Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem called Silwan, formerly Kefr Silwan, on the east of the valley of Kidron, and to the north-east of the pool. It stands on the west slope of the Mount of Olives.

In 1897 it was stated, "as illustrative of the movement of small bands of Canaanites from place to place, and the intermingling of Canaanites and Israelites even in small towns in earlier times, M.C. Ganneau records the following curious fact: "Among the inhabitants of the village (of Siloam) there are a hundred or so domiciled for the most part in the lower quarter, and forming a group apart from the rest, called Dhiabrye, i.e., men of Dhiban. It appears that at some remote period a colony from the capital of king Mesha (Dibon-Moab) crossed the Jordan and fixed itself at the gates of Jerusalem at Silwan. The memory of this migration is still preserved; and I am assured by the people themselves that many of their number are installed in other villages round Jerusalem" (quoted by Henderson, Palestine).

This entry incorporates text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897, with some modernisation.

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