Do Ancient Chronologies Challenge the Bible?
Part 3: The Tower of Babel
In parts 1 and 2, we saw how misunderstandings of ancient texts led to commonly held, but incorrect views. Part one demonstrated why the early date of the exodus - 1446 BC - is the correct date. Part two demonstrated that commonly held Egyptian chronology is off and identified the amount of the error at the point of the exodus by identifying the pharaoh of the Exodus. (Hint: it's not Rameses or any of the other commonly suggested pharaohs.) Here in part three we see a more egregious error: An outright denial of Biblical truth. Whereas in parts one and two those who came to the wrong conclusions likely did so honestly - by simply misunderstanding the text. But there can be no mistake here: it is clear the error here can only be arrived at by an outright denial of the biblical text - and its related teachings - at many levels. Let me give you an illustration of why this must be the case.
Suppose there's a historian writing a history of the United States of America. This historian lives in the present time - the 21st Century and has just released his history. In it, he makes the following statement:
"As amazing as it may sound, the United States of America, the country that leads the world in most areas lags in this one area: It has yet to select a location for its capitol city, much less set it up. Politicians acknowledge the need for a capitol, and have stated one will be selected, but in all these years, have yet to do so."
For the sake of demonstration, let us suppose you're an American Citizen. Every U.S. citizen living in the present age should know that the U.S. does in fact have a capitol - Washington, District of Columbia (or DC for short) and it has been the capitol since 1790 - over 200 hundred years. What then are we to make of claims from a historian - who is supposed to know the history of the U.S. - who claims the U.S. does not have a capitol when his intended audience knows that in point of fact the U.S. does have a capitol?
Two options are readily apparent. Either:
This is the choice before us when it comes to the odd history given for the Tower of Babel. But before we see why this is the case, let me offer one other concern: Many apologists today are lamenting the lack of Biblical background of many Christians today, so before we proceed, let us make sure a third option is not the case:
So we'll start with a brief review to insure none fall in the category of not having the necessary background info. That will keep the choices limited to the first two.
Following is a time line of key Biblical events pertinent to this discussion:
Briefly, here are a few concepts those pushing a revisionist history apparently hope you don't know:
It is against this background that a documentary produced under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institute attempts to advance an outrageous and obviously false revisionist history. In the documentary series Secrets episode "The Tower of Babel" the writers refuse to take the Bible at its word and propose instead another scenario. Instead of the events at Babel occurring very soon after the flood, this theory would have you believe that the tower of Babel was actually much later - a work of King Nebuchadnezzar more than a millennium later. Further and more outrageously, they propose that Jewish captives entering Babylon saw a magnificent tower - which they claim as the tower of Babel - and adopted it in their own writings. Here's how they put it:
On the face of it, such a theory makes no sense. Consider the above Biblical time line. The events of Babel happened closely after the flood. Moses wrote both Genesis (which includes the recounting of the Tower of Babel) and also the book of Deuteronomy. The book of Deuteronomy contains instructions for living in the land in a way that would gain God's blessings and avoid his wrath and curses.
Since they were just about to enter the land when Moses gave those instructions a key thing that defined the Jewish people was not yet in existence. It has often been said that the Old Testament Jews were defined by three things: the Land, the Law and the Temple. The land is what they were about to enter. The Law is what Moses gave in the first five books - the key elements of which is summarized in the book of Deuteronomy - which Moses gave originally as a sermon (or sermons) by the Jordan. (Deut 1.1) And finally the temple. Which hadn't been built yet. It couldn't have been. They weren't even in the land yet. And God makes the following promise before they enter the land:
Before they enter the land God promises to select a place for the temple, a place to "put his Name." Clearly this was written at a time when the temple did not exist. But if the scenario presented in the Smithsonian documentary is to believed we run into the conundrum I posed above about the U.S. historian and the capitol. In this case it's this passage in the Torah about the temple not being built, and given to a people who know the Jewish people have been in the land, have in fact built the temple, lost the land and the temple and they themselves taken captive. Thus it would make no sense for Moses (or anyone else for that matter) to write such a verse for people going into exile.
Neither does it make sense for a documentary to propose a theory that makes no sense. So what are they really up to? Which brings us back to our original questions above: either the writers of this documentary are charlatans and have no idea what they're talking about; or they have another agenda and are trying to promote their own revisionist history. Documentaries tend to be well researched and presented, so it's likely not for lack of knowledge that they present this scenario. Rather one of the featured experts, Dr. Finkel has let the cat out of the bag with his references to "authors" (plural) writing late - during the Babylonian captivity. Clearly he doesn't believe in a single author, namely Moses writing around the time of the exodus.
The Documentary Hypothesis
Where have we heard this idea of multiple authors writing parts of the Pentateuch relatively late before? In an old, discarded theory called the documentary hypothesis. It's main thrust is to deny Mosaic authorship, and with it, much biblical teaching and chronology in order to promote a false and discredited view of the Pentateuch and promote various false and/or anti-biblical theories. It's formally called the Graf-Wellhausen Documentary hypothesis which (unsurprisingly) has been shortened to just the documentary hypothesis. What is the Documentary Hypothesis? Here's a text book definition:
Secrets - The Tower of Babel
no doubt uses the documentary hypothesis to support the merit-less idea that the account in Genesis was
written by Jewish captives in the Babylonian exile that began in the 6th
century BC. That they disbelieve the biblical account and Mosaic
authorship is not in question - they state that themselves. And lest you miss the nonsense
of the date, they refer to either the exiles or the date at least 10 times
in the one hour show. But the scenario of the
Jewish exiles writing the account of the tower is a bridge too far even for the failed Documentary
Hypothesis. The section of the JEPD theory that the Tower of Babel account falls in -
would be a "J" document since God is called by his name -
(YaHWeH) or (YaHVeH) in the account. (J is substituted for the "y".)
The "J" documents were supposedly created much earlier than the
Babylonian exile - in 900 - 850 BC. So even an appeal to the
Documentary Hypothesis is not enough to save this godless theory. That's
the first reason to discard this theory. The second is the fact
that the Documentary Hypothesis itself has already been thoroughly
discredited. And finally and perhaps most importantly, the theory does not accurately represent what
actually happened. The Bible indicates the tower was never
finished, but the tower they present as the Tower of Babel is the
ziggurat in Babylon called Etemenanki which was finished. No match
there. One wonders why they bothered.
The Not So Obvious:
The original pun or word play is this:
The pun is on the name - Babylon -
BaBeL in Hebrew. The word play is made by changing the second B in BBL to
an L to be become BaLaL - "Confused". Babel, Balal - very easy to
remember, right? That's why it's a powerful word play. Babylon is a very
significant city to the ancient Jews. And thus such a powerful word play
is appropriate for such an important city. Just as Jonah becomes a
picture of the resurrection (Jonah 2.6), and Egypt becomes a symbol of
bondage and slavery (Ex 20.2), Babylon becomes a picture, a type of the
sinful, rebellious city (Jer 51.6). In other words the
people of Babylon were rebelling from early on, and thus the city (and
tower) of Babylon became for the original readers of the Torah, a symbol
of rebellion against God.
Duane Caldwell | February 21, 2018
1. For a selected list
of Old and New Testament passages that support Mosaic authorship of the
3. Some have narrowed
the events of the Tower of Babel to a specific date (e.g. 2242 BC - the
23rd century BC as suggested by Bodie Hodge of Answers in Genesis -
Was the Dispersion of Babel a Real Event? ) But such precision
is not necessary for our discussion here. All we really need to know is
that it followed immediately after the flood.
7. They close the
program making clear they disbelieve both Mosiac authorship and the
account in Genesis in general. The narrator speaks of the biblical
account as follows:
8.Dates referenced from Did Moses Write Genesis?,