The Tower of Babel Question

Is There More to the Confusion-of-Tongues Tale than Was Thought?

One of the earliest Bible stories is that of the Tower of Babel. In Genesis 11 we read, “And the Earth was of one tongue, and of the same speech.” The people of Babel decided to build a tower so high that they could reach heaven. God said in Genesis 11:7, “Let us go down and there confound their tongue.” After which, “the language of the whole Earth was confounded.”

Stories from the Bible can’t, in many cases, be taken literally. They do, however, often reflect real historical events, although not to any exact standards. Some, like underwater archaeologist Robert Ballard, say evidence of the great flood can be found in the fact that the Black Sea was once a lake. The Mediterranean Sea was also, at one point in time, not connected to the Atlantic. Islands in that sea, like Malta and Sicily, only became islands after the sea level of the Earth rose. The Sumerians told similar tales, and they also included impossible features, as they were intended to convey a moral tale.

The story of Babylon’s tower was originally described in a Sumerian text and is depicted on a stele dating to 2300 BC. The Bible may have intended to tell a cautionary moral tale, but the Sumerians may have described a real event. Massive floods, drought, and any number of catastrophes could have broken up a worldwide civilization whose peoples then fled by foot and ship.


A Universal Language?

Could the Earth have shared a language that only later became divided into numerous languages? Evidence for this may be found in the extended number of shared words that exist around the globe.

Greetings today often involve a reference to God. Vaya con Dios is Spanish for “Go with God.” ‘Namaste’ loosely means “I recognize the God within you.” At the time of the biblical story of Babylon, Eloah was the name of God, a name from which Allah, the God of Islam, is derived. In Greece “Haloa” was the name of an annual festival to all the gods including Dionysius. “Heloha” was the thunderbird of the Choctaw tribe. The earliest greeting we know in the English language is “Halloa” which became “hello.” It was commonly used in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. The name may have spread as far as Hawaii where “Aloha” is the greeting.

The Bible tells us that the Jews wandered in the desert for forty years. In times of near starvation, Manna was a gift from God that sustained his people. In Hawaii and Tahiti the word Mana can refer to a form of spiritual energy and healing power. This spiritual quality has a supernatural origin. In New Zealand the Maori culture has a similar meaning to the Hawaiian concept. It is believed one can gain or lose Mana through one’s actions. North American tribes share a nearly identical concept. Mana (or Manna) was spiritual nourishment. The Great Spirit of these tribes is Manito who sent Manabozho to Earth to bring culture. Manabozho was a white man like Ireland’s hero Manannan mac Lir. In Ireland, England, and Wales he is regarded as a God of the Sea. Could it have been this culture hero who brought civilization to North America? He may have landed in Mannahatta, which became Manhattan. With a slight vowel change, Mona was the center of Druid power. This spiritual nourishment was also physical nourishment. It became a substitute name for the Christian Eucharist host.

Mana/Manna may not be the only Hebrew/Hawaiian connection. The Hebrew word for priest is Kohen, and it is a family name as Kahane. In Hawaii a kahuna is a medicine man or priest. He may be a powerful man as well, as in Big Kahuna. There are some who believe Hawaiians were part of the lost tribes of Israel. The number of customs of the Hawaiians corresponding to Hebrew practices is large and includes circumcision, offering of first-fruits to the gods, and the custom of chiefs washing their hands at meals. The Hawaiians share a story of a man swallowed by a sea creature who survived, a deluge where man saved the animals, like Noah, and others.

In the event of this early Diaspora, the Hebrews might have been responsible for carrying their name far and wide. They may have called themselves after the five times great-grandfather of Abraham, Eber. Going west the Semite peoples crossed Iberia (now Spain and Portugal). The Romans called the Iberian Peninsula Hispania, but its original name meant “the crossing.” The Ebro River remains on the map today. Their destination might have been the modern day Ireland recorded as Hibernia and the Hebrides of Scotland’s west coast. The city of York was then named until the Norman invasion. Literally hundreds of place names exist or existed in Europe, including the Kingdom of Iberia in Georgia.

In Ireland, once Hibernia, is the goddess Danaan, and her people are called the Tuatha de Danaan. In nearby Scandinavia the male god was Donar who became Thor. Among his people are the Danes. Circa 1200 BC, the Shardan sea peoples who settled Sardinia invaded the Mediterranean. In Israel one of the lost tribes was that of Dan. Further east in India is Danu the mother of the gods. In Russia is Dennitsa the wife of the moon god. In Siberia they are the Din People and in America the Navajo called themselves Dineh. Many Rivers share the name of gods, such as the Danube, the Don, Dneister and the Jordan.


The Science of Language

Students of linguistics admit that they mostly rely on theories; however, one language stretched from India to England that is called Proto-Indo-European (PIE). Thirteen hundred and sixty four words common over that great distance, point to its being a reality. (Today most people use about 5,000 words in their vocabulary). Even older than PIE is the concept of a Nostratic language that covered the planet. In this theory, words shared in the PIE language are held in common with places as far away as the Aleutian Islands off Alaska.

Linguistic students believe that fifty thousand years ago humans could only pronounce the letter “a”. They believe that circa thirty thousand years ago Cro-Magnon man spoke and communicated. Then twenty thousand years ago, a Nostratic language, which may have had its base in eastern Africa, spread throughout the world.

Linguists believe in many cases that the several thousand languages today share numerous words for basic concepts, body parts, family relationships, and aspects of the natural world. And proponents of the theory show how it is demonstrated.

The most common word for mother is “ma.” It may be one of the first words. The sound made during breast-feeding is this “m” sound. “M” as a nasal consonant is closely related to that one other nasal consonant “n”. Together they are a basis for the other basic mother, mom and nana words. “M” words may have given us milk and moon.

In the Far East, Ma expressed the concept of a maternal clan. In Egypt, Maat was a goddess who personified Truth. Maat weighed a man’s soul against a feather. Among the Greeks, Maia was the wife of Pan. Maya vocabulary included Maia as an important deity. The Iranian moon goddess was Ma or Almah. In Hebrew the sacred letter M and A made the Mem- Aleph a holy sign incorporating birth and fluid. A Hindu sage was called a Mahatma, which literally means “Great Mother” although it would in modern times be considered masculine.


The Moon

One universal word was for the moon goddess. According to historian Joseph Campbell, on the Sinai peninsula, sacrifices were made to her as the mother goddess. This was pre-2000 BC. On the Ile de Sein near Carnac was a druid oracle. Nine priestesses had a sacred vase that could predict the future. The Seine River was Dea Sequana; at the source of the river was a Gallo-Roman sanctuary to the goddess. In Ireland Sinann was the granddaughter of the Sea God Ler. The river Shannon preserves her name. The Sumerian god Sin was the son of a sea goddess, Tiamat. Tiamat gives her son the “tablets of law.” Sin names are found all over the planet. Sinchu in China, Singu in Burma, Sinneh in Iran, Singida in Tanzania, and Sinto on Corsica. The list it long. The Chimu people of Peru and Colombia had a moon-god, SinAn; like the Irish goddess, a river, the Sinu preserves this name. At the same time eastern Semites had a moon god Sin.

Women’s names like Cindy and Cynthia employ the “sin” prefix; and in Finland and Norway, Synne is a popular girl’s name. But at some point Sin became bad. It was “sinister” a word shared with being left-handed. The real original sin, it has been argued, was wishing to be like God.

Zecharia Sitchin questions the use of “us” in God’s statement in Genesis. This first book has the Elohim, the plural for El, deciding to go down to Earth to see the people they created. The “us” in “Let us go down,” Sitchin thought, would actually be members of that alien race of people. The travelers from the stars had planted a seed that created through genetics a new race of man on Earth, humans. Sitchin further theorizes that from the start, their creation was not content being anything less than their creators.

The story of Adam and Eve eating the apple, said Sitchin, was actually an attempt by humans to get the fruit of the tree of knowledge. This first sin caused them to be forced out of what was called Eden. The Sumerian word was E.DIN meaning E (home) of the DIN (people).

Despite losing their first home, the humans prospered and never lost their curiosity over just what the “gods” could do. They saw their overlords ascending and descending from the skies and decided they would build a lofty tower to accomplish the same. Sitchin refers to it as a launch tower, but most depictions are simply a tower that can be climbed. He says that certain rebel gods sought to help them.

Whatever the case, the gods became angry. A column preserved for thousands of years describes Enlil, possibly the strongest of the gods, as resorting to force. He destroyed the tower and caused man’s speech to become confounded, so they could no longer plot against his power. The word for Babylon in Hebrew is Babel, and it gave us the word ‘babble,’ for anything not understood.

It is significant because Bab-ili meant Gateway to the Gods in the Akkadian language. Sitchin describes the event in The Wars of Gods and Men.

The belief in a universal formation of language may not be hard to accept with literally thousands of words shared around the world. The belief in such an original language being broken into thousands of tongues by a catastrophic global event may be hard to accept, but there are two basic catastrophe theories that might account for both the shared words and the amounts of various languages.

The first is the Flood as recalled in Genesis. The second is the sinking of the continent of Atlantis. Ignatius Donnelly writing in Atlantis the Antediluvian World goes to great lengths in comparing Mayan words and letters to Phoenician and Egyptian characters. Historians consider both the flood story and the sinking of Atlantis to be myths. The confounding of a universal language by an angry group of extraterrestrial gods may also be equally difficult to accept. But the story of one universal tongue is one theme that unites them all.

CAPTIONS: The Tower of Babel, Marten van Valckenborch, 1595.

Ptolemy’s first European Map: Insulae Albion Et Hibernia, Old Great Britain.

Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Thomas Cole, 1828.

By Steven Sora