The Tower of Babel and The Confusion of Tongues

The Tower of Babel and The Confusion of Tongues

Note: The following article is part of series of articles/excerpts from “MAN AND HIS PLANET – An Unauthorized History” by James E. Strickling.
More articles of this series will be posted soon.

One of the most misunderstood passages in the Old Testament is the Genesis account of the Confusion of Tongues at the Tower of Babel. This is typically viewed as an effort to explain the origin of Earth’s many diverse languages, their having arisen from a single primal tongue.  We read in Genesis 11:1-9 that

. . . the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.
And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
And they said to one another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.
And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they began to do:
and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.
So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth:and they left off to build the city.Therefore is the name of it called Babel;
because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth:and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Believers view this account (e.g., their interpretation of it) as a true historical record. Skeptics generally agree to the popular notion that the story describes the sudden creation of new languages, but they regard such a claim as being pure fantasy.

As it turns out, the believers and skeptics are both wrong. And this begs the question, “Did something unusual actually occur as remembered in the account?” And if so, what was it?

There are, in fact, numerous records from around the world that attest to the reality of some kind of language-related disturbance in mankind’s ancient history. Moreover, these records are “geographically spotty enough” to suggest multiple near-simultaneous occurrences of whatever this was. So given this reality, what can be said of its nature?

An objective reading of the biblical account reveals only that the tower-builders’ speech was “confounded.” The passage in the eleventh chapter of Genesis reads in part:

And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
. . . Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language,
that they may not understand one another’s speech.
. . . Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the
Lord did there confound the language of all the earth. * 

Likewise, the oldest known extra-biblical record (the Assyro-Babylonian account) seems to agree with this:

Babylon corruptly to sin went
and small and great mingled on the mound.
The King of the holy mound. . . .
In his anger also the secret counsel he poured out to scatter (abroad) his face he set he gave a command to make strange their speech.
. . . their progress he impeded. . . .

 The other records, transmitted orally for countless generations, are inconsistent. Some speak of “strange speech,” others of new languages.

Given the absence of a reference to new languages in what appear to be the most dependable records, those transcribed early on, another explanation is necessary.

Modern clinical studies of certain brain stimuli appear to suggest what actually happened.

The “arrest response” produced by [electrical] stimulation in the [brain’s] posterior frontal region . . . consists in the arrest of voluntary movement and may show additional features such as post-stimulation confusion, inappropriate or garbled speech . . .

Moreover, the elicitation of such effects is not restricted to direct electrical stimulation:

ELF [Extremely Low Frequency] electromagnetic fields and waves may be important biological stimuli because of their penetrability and long distance propagation . . . Their frequencies and intensities are within the ranges of processes generated by living organisms.

It is my opinion that this observed “inappropriate or garbled speech” is a contemporary example of what the Book of Genesis calls “confounded speech.” The Confusion of Tongues at the Tower of Babel can thus be demystified. It was a rather widespread natural disturbance that had nothing to do with the creation of new languages.

This of course begs the question, “What could have been the natural source of such provocative stimuli in the distant past?” Check out the reference below.

For a complete analysis with references leading to a reconstruction of the ancient event along with the likely cause, see MAN AND HIS PLANET – An Unauthorized History, by James E. Strickling, Eloquent Books, ISBN: 978-1-60693-099-1. Go to www.jimstrickling.com.




 *  Babel—“Gate of God”:  It was called Babel not because God confounded the language there, but because God confounded the language there.

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