The Problem of “Conservative” Catholic Mythologizers: Part III – The Tower of Babel
Fatima Perspectives #1378
As the first two parts of this series should have made clear, the first ten chapters of Genesis are an integrated historical account of the origin of man, the Fall of man, the global punishment of fallen man and the repopulation of the earth following the Flood, with Noah thus representing the second Father of humanity after Adam, the first Father of the whole human race.
It should also be obvious that to reduce to a fable the patently historical account in these chapters, replete with chronological sequences, the names and lifespans of specific historical figures, and the places and details of particular events in time, is to call into question the inerrancy of Genesis and thus the Bible as a whole. Yet Catholic sophisticates, including the “conservatives” among them, do not seem to notice that by mythologizing what are clearly historical facts in Genesis they are sawing off the branch on which they profess to sit: the absolute and infallible veracity of Divine Revelation in every particular.
The same holds true for Chapter 11 of Genesis, wherein we read of a historical turning point in both human and salvation history: the catastrophe at the Tower of Babel. At the end of Chapter 10, the descendants of Noah and his sons, Sem, Cham and Japeth, have come to constitute the nations (peoples) of the earth who were “divided on the earth after the flood.” (Gen 10:32) That division is recounted in the 32 verses of Genesis 11, which are filled with historical details:
1And the earth was of one tongue, and of the same speech.
2 And when they removed from the east, they found a plain in the land of Sennaar, and dwelt in it.
3 And each one said to his neighbour: Come, let us make brick, and bake them with fire. And they had brick instead of stones, and slime instead of mortar.
4 And they said: Come, let us make a city and a tower, the top whereof may reach to heaven: and let us make our name famous before we be scattered abroad into all lands.
5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of Adam were building.
6 And he said: Behold, it is one people, and all have one tongue: and they have begun to do this, neither will they leave off from their designs, till they accomplish them in deed.
7 Come ye, therefore, let us go down, and there confound their tongue, that they may not understand one another’s speech.
8 And so the Lord scattered them from that place into all lands, and they ceased to build the city.
9 And therefore the name thereof was called Babel, because there the language of the whole earth was confounded: and from thence the Lord scattered them abroad upon the face of all countries.
10 These are the generations of Sem: Sem was a hundred years old when he begot Arphaxad, two years after the flood.
11 And Sem lived after he begot Arphaxad, five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters.
12 And Arphaxad lived thirty-five years, and begot Sale.
13 And Arphaxad lived after he begot Sale, three hundred and three years; and begot sons and daughters.
14 Sale also lived thirty years, and begot Heber.
15 And Sale lived after he begot Heber, four hundred and three years; and begot sons and daughters.
16 And Heber lived thirty-four years, and begot Phaleg.
17 And Heber lived after he begot Phaleg, four hundred and thirty years: and begot sons and daughters.
18 Phaleg also lived thirty years, and begot Reu.
19 And Phaleg lived after he begot Reu, two hundred and nine years, and begot sons and daughters.
20 And Reu lived thirty-two years, and begot Sarug.
21 And Reu lived after he begot Sarug, two hundred and seven years, and begot sons and daughters.
22 And Sarug lived thirty years, and begot Nachor.
23 And Sarug lived after he begot Nachor, two hundred years: and begot sons and daughters.
24 And Nachor lived nine and twenty years, and begot Thare.
25 And Nachor lived after he begot Thare, a hundred and nineteen years: and begot sons and daughters.
26 And Thare lived seventy years, and begot Abram, and Nachor, and Aran.
27 And these are the generations of Thare: Thare begot Abram, Nachor, and Aran. And Aran begot Lot.
28 And Aran died before Thare his father, in the land of his nativity in Ur of the Chaldees.
29 And Abram and Nachor married wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai: and the name of Nachor’s wife, Melcha, the daughter of Aran, father of Melcha, and father of Jescha.
30 And Sarai was barren, and had no children.
31 And Thare took Abram, his son, and Lot the son of Aran, his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, the wife of Abram his son, and brought them out of Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Chanaan: and they came as far as Haran, and dwelt there.
32 And the days of Thare were two hundred and five years, and he died in Haran.
The “conservative” Catholic mythologizer, cowed by the claims of the pseudo-science of evolution, cannot bring himself to accept the literal truth of this account because it cannot be reconciled with the neo-Darwinian account — which actually is a myth — of biological evolution from molecules to man over the posited billions of years. Seeking human respect, these “conservatives” fear to maintain that an actual Adam and Eve gave rise to actual named descendants, including Noah and his sons, who in turn gave rise to actual named descendants making up the peoples of the earth who were divided according to language at Babel.
Instead, they allow evolutionists to lead them by the nose in an endless fool’s quest for the evolutionary origin of the first man in Africa, then China, then Europe — in Bavaria, of all places — or wherever else the next purported “hominin” fossil of a supposedly upright ape-monkey-whatever, presumed to be a human ancestor, is found. It never occurs to these credulous Catholics that such fossils are dubbed human ancestors based only upon the implicit premise of man’s descent from a common non-human ancestor of men and apes through accidental genetic modification preserved by natural selection — or whatever other mechanism evolutionists have conjured up (“punctuated equilibrium,” “genetic drift,” etc.) to evade the patent inadequacy of natural selection and the paucity of transitional forms in the fossil record. But man’s descent from a non-human ancestor is the very matter to be proved, and it can hardly be proved by presuming its truth and then arranging a scant few fossils accordingly!
As is so often the case with history as recounted in the Bible, however, historical researchers in our time have only tended to confirm the historicity of the Biblical account. Concerning the origin of languages, linguists have labored to explain a development that, for them, is shrouded in evolutionary mystery but is easily explained by the Genesis account of one common language being divided by divine intervention into language families, followed by the migration of peoples in these language families across the globe. As one mainstream secular source observes:
“There are about 5000 languages spoken in the world today (a third of them in Africa), but scholars group them together into relatively few families – probably less than twenty. Languages are linked to each other by shared words or sounds or grammatical constructions. The theory is that the members of each linguistic group have descended from one language, a common ancestor. In many cases that original language is judged by the experts to have been spoken in surprisingly recent times – as little as a few thousand years ago.”
If, as little as a few thousand years ago, the human race had “one language, a common ancestor,” that would square with the Genesis account that “the earth was of one tongue, and of the same speech” before the incident at the Tower of Babel. On that score, no less than the Smithsonian Institute has published a video entitled “Some Very Compelling Evidence the Tower of Babel Was Real.” As the subtitle explains: “Biblical scholars have long debated whether the Tower of Babel really existed. Now, a remarkable stone tablet never before shown on film appears to settle that question.” The video discusses a tablet depicting precisely the location of the rebuilt Tower of Babel, located in Babylon, the original having been built by the first Babylonian king, Nimrod, who died around 2100 B.C. The tablet depicting the rebuilt tower, a seven-stepped construction, has been dated to around 600 B.C.
Another source, speaking of the same tablet, notes that “[t]he spectacular stone monument clearly shows the [rebuilt] Tower and King Nebuchadnezzar II, who ruled Babylon some 2,500 years ago,” that “captions [in cuneiform] clearly identify the tower as the ‘great ziggurat of Babylon’,” and that “King Nebuchadnezzar himself talks about the amazing construction: ‘I made it the wonder of the people of the world, I raised its top to the heaven, made doors for the gates, and I covered it with bitumen and bricks’…”
Most tellingly, another find of cuneiform in stone revealed that while at Borsippa, Nebuchadnezzar II wrote as follows concerning Nimrod’s tower: “A former king built the Temple of the Seven Lights of the Earth, but he did not complete its head. Since a remote time, people had abandoned it, without order expressing their words. Since that time the earthquake and lightning had dispersed its sun-dried clay; the bricks of the casing had been split, and the earth of the interior had been scattered in heaps.”
Now, if Nimrod died around 2100 BC, and his tower was destroyed before his death, then the Babel event would have occurred roughly 4,000 years ago, which would jibe with the theory of secular scholars concerning the existence of a common language of humanity spoken as recently as several thousand years ago.
What, then, of the origin of the different nations in different parts of the world? This would be explained by the migration of peoples, now speaking different languages, to all the regions of the earth over thousands of years. Is it a mere coincidence that the Biblical account speaks of the descent of all the races of men from Shem, Japeth, and Ham and that today anthropologists generally recognize three main racial groupings: Caucasian, Asian and African (formerly Caucasian, Mongoloid and Negroid)?
Consider this account by the Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews, written c. 93 A.D.:
“[About An. 2520] Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God: and they built a Tower; neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work. And, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than anyone could expect….
“When God saw that they acted so madly, he did not resolve to destroy them utterly; since they were not grown wiser by the destruction of the former sinners: but he caused a tumult among them, by producing in them diverse languages; and causing, that through the multitude of those languages, they should not be able to understand one another. The place wherein they built the Tower is now called Babylon: because of the confusion of that language which they readily understood before: for the Hebrews mean by the word Babel, Confusion….
“After this they were dispersed abroad, on account of their languages, and went out by colonies everywhere. And each colony took possession of that land which they light upon, and unto which God led them: so that the whole continent was filled with them, both the inland and the maritime countries.
“There were some also who passed over the sea in ships, and inhabited the islands. And some of those nations do still retain the denominations which were given them by their first founders: but some have lost them also: and some have only admitted certain changes in them, that they might be the more intelligible to the inhabitants.”
It is easy enough to see how over many centuries the dispersed tribes of men were able to make their way to Asia from the Middle East. Just look at a map. But what about the aborigines of Australia? How did they get all the way “down under” from Asia? According to National Geographic: “Humans are thought to have migrated to Northern Australia from Asia using primitive boats.” The same article notes that a molecular study of mitochondrial DNA estimates their arrival some 50,000 years ago, but such “molecular clock” dating arbitrarily assumes uniform, clock-like mutation rates which must in any event be calibrated to archeological dating, as the supposed “molecular clock” cannot give a beginning date but only an elapsed time. This means that “molecular clocks” are no more reliable than archaeological dating, which is entirely open to question.
What about native Americans? From whence did they come? Also from Asia: “prior research indicates that the first humans reached North America some 15,000 years ago when the massive glaciers of the last ice age locked up enough water to lower sea levels and expose a 1,000-mile-wide land bridge between Siberia and Alaska.” How do researchers know this happened 15,000 years ago as opposed to, say, 3,000 years ago? They don’t. They merely suppose this to be the case based on the same sort of eminently debatable “molecular clock” estimates.
By the way, we can readily dispense with the evolutionary fiction that the whole world was populated by the first homo sapiens migrating from Africa, as evolutionists themselves can no longer agree, based on evidence as paltry as four molars, that man originated there. Some now argue, as the linked source claims, that “for humans, it would suggest that our deepest primate roots were in Asia, not Africa.” Or perhaps Bavaria! Whatever.
Obviously, one cannot exhaust a subject as vast as this in the space of a short article. But what is presented here suffices to indicate that it is at best rash, scandalous and a threat to the integrity of the Faith to side with worldly opinion, including the patently ridiculous theory of molecules-to-man evolution, by rejecting as a mere fable a clearly seamless historical account of human origins, the Fall of man, the original unity of the human race, and its division into the nations of the world, all presented with astonishing concision in the first eleven chapters of Genesis.
To declare that any part of the fact-laden Genesis account is mythical is to call into doubt the whole, and to do that is to call into doubt the veracity of the Old Testament as a whole. This in turn calls into doubt the New Testament, including Our Lord’s and the Apostles’ own references to Old Testament depictions of events as true history, and thus to call into doubt the Gospel itself and the entire Faith founded upon it.
Let the Catholic “conservative” sophisticate who would mythologize any of the obvious historical details recounted in Genesis — ironically, for the sake of neo-Darwinian mythology — demonstrate how, once having done so, he can save the Bible as a whole from falsification. I have yet to see a serious attempt at such an argument. Perhaps because it is impossible, for they would be arguing with God Himself.
On this point, let Pope Leo XIII have the last word:
“For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true.
“This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican. These are the words of the last: ‘The Books of the Old and New Testament, whole and entire, with all their parts, as enumerated in the decree of the same Council (Trent) and in the ancient Latin Vulgate, are to be received as sacred and canonical. And the Church holds them as sacred and canonical, not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority; nor only because they contain revelation without error; but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author.’”