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Friday, December 12, 2008

The Babylon Connection

I have finished reading “The Babylon Connection” by Ralph Woodrow, and I wish to share my thoughts on it with you, if you will bear with me.

“The Babylon Connection” is 9 chapters, 119 pages, of very easy to read information countering Alexander Hislop and his book “The Two Babylons”. This is no deep scholarly work given to verbosity and headiness. Even though there was an under-tone of sarcasm, I still found the information to be more than valuable.

If you are unfamiliar with Alexander Hislop’s book (and I don’t know how you could possibly not be familiar with it) I will sum it up for you: the Catholic Church is the biblical entity called ‘Babylon the Great’,the Pope is the Antichrist, Protestants are harlots, and all of the traditions of the churches come from ancient Babylon. In fact, the subtitle of Hislop’s book is “The Papal worship proved to be the worship of Nimrod and his wife.”
And this is a pillar in the theology of Herbert Armstrong, right next to British-Israelism.

Woodrow was once a firm believer in Hislop and probably his greatest proponent. He had written a book based on Hislop’s, entitled “Babylonian Mystery Religion”. After being challenged by one Mr. Scott Klemm, Woodrow began to research and understand the flawed nature of how Hislop came to his conclusions. Woodrow wrote “The Babylon Connection” in response to what he had learned. He points out the many flaws, contradictions, errors, and even lies which Hislop left strewn about in his book. Woodrow’s point in writing the book was not to prove or disprove the claim that the Catholic Church had absorbed many pagan practices. His point was that Hislop’s research was so entirely farcical that it could in no way be trusted. I think Woodrow was quite convincing towards this goal.

What it comes down to is that Hislop took ancient myths from around the world, or even artistic renderings of mythical figures, distorted the information to his liking, and then attributed it to Nimrod… oh, and Semiramis… and Cain, Noah, Adam, Satan, and a host of other people. For example, on pages 7 through 9, Woodrow lists FIFTY NINE separate mythological, Biblical, and historical figures that Hislop claims are other names for Nimrod. If taking three pages to list the various identities of Nimrod isn’t fantastical enough for you, Hislop simultaneously attributes those very same identities to other people.

One example is in that Hislop in various pages of his book referred to Semiramis as being Nimrod’s wife, and again his daughter, and again his mother, and again that Nimrod had two mothers, and again nine mothers. And this is history? Woodrow counters with evidence that Semiramis and Nimrod did not even live in the same century together!

Another example would be this quote from page 21 of Woodrow’s book:
“Hislop says Nimrod was the ‘Father of the gods’; Cush, Nimrod’s father, was the ‘Father of the gods’; Kronos was the ‘Father of the gods’ – all of these statements being found on page 32 [of The Two Babylons]! On page 277 he says Pluto, the god of Hell, was the ‘Father of the gods’. On page 164 he says Seb was the ‘Father of the gods.’ On page 27 he says Vulcan was the ‘Father of the gods.’ On page 299 he says Saturn was the ‘Father of the gods,’ who ‘was in one aspect just our first parent Adam!’ Does any of this make sense?”

I would have to conclude no!

Let’s see… what else doesn’t make sense? Woodrow shows Hislop to be false when states the Catholic traditions were begun by Nimrod and Semiramis. Remember, Hislop claims almost all Catholic traditions started in ancient Babylon – including Christmas, Easter, steeples, the fish symbol, candles, relics, a round communion wafer (emphasis on the round), halos, confession, a mother and child, a trinity, the bright clothes of the Pope, the dark vestments of the priesthood, and a whole host of other such things. Not only that, but the very rites of Christianity itself Hislop attributes to Nimrod - including anointing with oil, baptism for the remission of sins, a suffering savior, and the cross.

Woodrow quotes an article from ‘The Saturday Review’ printed September 17th, 1859. This article speaks about Hislop’s book. I found it so compelling, I would like to quote it here.

“In the first place, his whole superstructure is raised upon nothing. Our earliest authority for the history of Semiramis wrote about the commencement of the Christian era, and the historian from whom he drew his information lived from fifteen hundred to two thousand years after the date Which Mr. Hislop assigns to the great Assyrian Queen. The most lying legend which the Vatican has ever endorsed stands on better authority than the history which is now the ground of a charge against it.
”Secondly, the whole argument proceeds upon the assumption that all heathenism has a common origin. Accidental resemblances in mythological details are taken as evidence of this, and nothing is allowed for the natural working of the human mind.
“Thirdly, Mr. Hislop’s method of reasoning would make anything of anything. By the aid of obscure passages in third-rate historians [sic], groundless assumptions of identity, and etymological torturing of roots, all that we know, and all that we believe, may be converted…into something totally different.
“Fourthly, Mr. Hislop’s argument proves too much. He finds not only the corruptions of Popery, but the fundamental articles of the Christian Faith, in his hypothetical Babylonian system…
“We take leave of Mr. Hislop and his work with the remark that we never before quite knew the folly of which ignorant or half-learned bigotry is capable.”

Indeed! Couldn’t have said it better myself. Now, if only the COGs would read this!! I lost track of how many times Hislop was quoted in the Living Church of God’s material which they sent me.

Speaking of “etymological torturing”, one thing Herbert Armstrong was well known for is completely bogus word etymology.  Take a word, find something else that sounds similar – no matter where the word is from – and draw a conclusion. Voila! Instant etymology. We are all familiar with how Armstrong tried to link the Pope to the word “Lateinos” and thus the number 666. In the final paragraphs of page 2 from the February 1938 Plain Truth magazine, under the section heading “Was Mussolini Reared By A Witch?”, Herbert Armstrong made the following comment, “His title, ‘Il Duce’, is derived from the Saxon word ‘duce,’ meaning ‘DEMON.’” What garbage! I'm calling this. “Il Duce” actually means “the Commander”, and it is taken from the Latin work “ducem”, from which we get the word Duke. 
Deceptive etymology is an honored tradition of Armstrongism. Herman Hoeh was a master at this kind of twisted nonsense. If anyone could excel Hislop, it would be Hoeh. Also, I once personally heard Steven M. Collins claim the Biblical “Javan” is in fact “Japan”; and he based his claim almost entirely on the sound of the words. Never mind “Japan” and “Japanese” are American words. The Japanese call themselves Nahon-jin, they speak Nahon-go, and they are from the land of Nippon - which sounds nothing like Javan. Biblical Javan is associated with Greece by most Biblical scholars. Woodrow points out how Hislop does this sort of thing time and time again.

To make a long story short, why does it even concern me? Well, because Herbert Armstrong so adamantly fed his church Hislop’s swill. He raised it nearly to par with scripture. Not only that, but many splinter groups (though not all, to their credit) continue the tradition – decades after Hislop was proven to be wholly unreliable. As I mentioned before, I have recently received booklets from COGs that all but base their whole argument on Hislop’s folly. If it were just Hislop, that would be one thing. But his material in the hands of Herbert Armstrong makes this stuff dangerous.

Did I fail to mention it is entirely based upon this abject nonsense that the COGs foment an unbroken history of condemnation against the entirety of mainstream Christianity? True!
Before HWA got sucked into Hislop's lies he used to praise Luther and Calvin as messengers from God.
Now they call the Pope the Antichrist for crying out loud! They claim he is destined to burn in Gehenna. They do everything they can to tie the office to the numbers 666. They claim the Protestant churches are the harlot daughter churches of Babylon the Great Harlot in Rome, and Christ does not listen to their prayers. Rarely if ever do they use the term “Christian” when relating to anyone but themselves, preferring the derogatory term “so-called Christians”.
And why debase several billion people against the clear teachings of the New Testament? Hislop.

I used to believe this stuff. I used to say these terrible things. That is why I feel it necessary to write this. God forgive me. My fellow Christians forgive me. I was deceived!

And kudos to Ralph Woodrow for his book. You can get one for $8 on


Byker Bob said...

Hislop really had a profound and lasting influence on everyone who endured experiences with Armstrongism and WCG. And it wasn't just the anti-Catholic rhetoric, either. I've seen self professed atheists and agnostics reverse Hislop's methodology, and utilize it to analyze Jesus Christ, and to label Jesus as a fabrication of the Catholic Church, based on earlier pagan myths of Horus, and others. That is just as ignorant, yet they can't even realize what they are doing. It's so sad.

This is core stuff you are exposing, and I hope that it will help people who are still mired in the cult. I've found that the Armstrongite stalwarts will defend their British Israelism almost to the death, so would have to conclude that they will take a similar approach to Hislop. In so many cases, people simply want to believe what they believe. They are what a human resources retirement plan director would call "fully vested".


xHWA said...

Oh, indeed, Bob.
I had a close friend in another COG. Closer than a friend; more like a brother. I love him more than myself. Nothing hurts me more about leaving that church than losing his friendship, and his family's. I can't wait for the day when we can get back together. Well, this person has so incredibly much invested in Armstrongism, he actually agrees with me more often than not, but he simply cannot accept what is plainly in his sight because of what a great amount he's sacrificed over the years. He is fully vested. It's sad indeed. But with Christ all things are possible. I have hope.

I have sacrificed and scraped and clawed to hold onto Armstrong. But my sacrifices were relatively small. I count it both a loss and a fair price for what I got to experience. It's been a wild and fantastic ride! For me, the gaining of Christ at last is worth what I paid. I think I wouldn't appreciate it nearly as much had I not sacrificed as I did to get here. And I intend to keep hacking away at that 'core stuff' so others can join us in this blessing.

Keep comin' back, Bob. I value your input.

The Third Witness said...

Thanks for featuring that book, xHWA. I must order a copy. I used to have a copy of Woodrow’s earlier book, “Babylon Mystery Religion” (bought it in a respectable Christian bookshop, too, if I’m not mistaken…) Hislop’s “authoritative volume” (as HWA described it) proved more elusive, but I once got it on inter-library loan many years ago. Years later, I nearly bought a copy when visiting the bookshop at the (then) headquarters of the British-Israel-World Federation in London. (Interesting that you mentioned BI in your post, isn’t it?) They also stocked the Ferrar Fenton translation of the Bible, which I’d never seen on sale anywhere else…

To go off-topic for a moment (but staying within the scope of your blog), I ended up just buying a few “covenant message” magazines, a booklet called “The Pig And You!” and a couple of second-hand books, including “Digest of the Divine Law.” In the latter, I discovered what had inspired Dr. Hoeh to write in an article the words “a masterpiece of legislation” about the creation of credit without perpetuation of debt in the Mosaic Law – the original version said “a masterpiece of divine legislation”. You’ll also be interested to know, if you didn’t already, that there was (and probably still is) a teaching within the BI movement against eating mushrooms, based on a verse in the Old Testament. That was certainly a new one on me.

It can be challenging trying to learn how to think soundly and determine who really knows what they’re talking about and who doesn’t (especially when it involves people who have already gained your trust for unrelated and, in fact, irrelevant reasons). Truth can certainly be painful; we all know that. But it’s important, because it can also “make you free.” We’ve all got a lot to learn. And one of the most encouraging things is that many of us realize that fact! Let’s keep trying to speak – and seek – the truth in love as best we can.

xHWA said...

Third Witness, I am wondering if it's possible for you to say something that isn't interesting. You always have something insightful to say.

You're very welcome. Glad it was of use to you. It is odd that BI and Hislop are so closely related. Which is the chicken and which the egg?
No eating mushrooms, eh? Seems to me that's precisely what they've been eating.

I wonder if Hoeh was also engaged in the "borrowing" of others' material without asking - as HWA was?

Keep up the good work, TW. God bless!

xHWA said...

I have a funny feeling that Brother Michael would like me to mention his study on Christmas - which, if you're interested, you can find here:
Christmas and the Christian

Brother Michael would like to let everyone know he feels that Christmas is still pagan in origin, no matter what Hislop and Woodrow have to say. I can respect that.

Byker Bob said...

I respect everyone's freedom of opinion, too. But, heh, I hope Brother Michael realizes that the pagans drank water!

Paul tells us not to judge one another on the keeping of days. Apparently there is to be great freedom in Christianity.