The diversity of languages raises one intriguing question as to the origin of this phenomenon. If humans are one species how is the overwhelming diversity of spoken languages explained? The Bible posits in Genesis that a group of humans attempted to build a tower tall enough to reach heaven and by so doing to make a name for themselves. God did not look kindly on this endeavor, and to stop it he confounded their language so they could no longer communicate with each other, and hence the diversity of languages was created. But is this account true and accurate? This essay will review some of the testable and verifiable evidence that can prove this story. As always readers are encouraged to add their comments and questions

The Biblical Narrative Genesis Chapter 10 provides the genealogy of Noah and his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, after the great flood. Verses 3 and 4 list the sons and grandsons of Japheth. Verse 5 states ?By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations. ? In other words these offspring were each a progenitor of a nation with its land and own language. Verses 6 through 19 lists the sons, grandsons and some great grandsons of Ham and the nations and cities they founded after the Great Flood. Verse 20 concludes regarding the lineage of Ham ?These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations?. So again these individuals founded nations and countries each with their own language. Verse 22 through 29 lists five generations from Shem (a son of Noah). One great grandson of Shem was Peleg and it is stated in verse 25 that ?for in his days was the earth divided;? though the actual nature of this division is not clarified. Like the other lineages we are told of Shems?s descendants in verse 31 ?These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations. ? So it is not clear at this point whether the languages of these nations who descended from various relatives of Noah were existing at this point in time (after the flood) or if they will begin to exist after the impeding Tower of Babel incident, possibly the event mentioned that occurred during the day of Peleg, a great grandson of Shem. It turns out Peleg is a direct ancestor of Abraham and subsequently Jesus. But verse 32 comes to the rescue and concludes chapter 10 and clarifies the issue as follows, ?These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth AFTER THE FLOOD? (emphasis mine). The only defense at this stage is to speculate that the narratives of Chapter 10 and Chapter 11 are not in chronological order. In other words these genealogy details should have been written in Chapter 11 after the Tower of Babel incident when the new languages appeared, but there is no justification for this notion, or any other reference or evidence to support such a claim, which would refute or chronologically rearrange verses 5, 20, and 31.

We may safely assume the narrative of Chapter 11 picks up from where Chapter 10 ended. So Genesis Chapter 11 verse 1; ?And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.? But it has been mentioned three times in Chapter 10 that the descendants of Noah?s sons who founded nations lived in different countries and had their own languages. So this is a major problem for the Tower of Babel story.

The Historical Context From Noah to the last generation mentioned before the Tower of Babel event is a total of five generations, or four if we assume the earth-being-divided event witnessed by Peleg is the Tower of Babel incident. Assuming 100 years per generation in those days we can deduce 400 ? 500 years from Noah to the Tower of Babel. Also from Adam to Noah is nine generations. Assuming 100 ? 200 years per generation we have 900 ? 1800 years from Adam to Noah. Adding the time from Noah to the Tower of Babel we have 1300 ? 2300 years from Adam to the Tower of Babel. Now if the earth is approximately 8,000 years old as posited by Christian and Jewish theologians, then the Tower of Babel incident occurred at around 4700 ? 3700 BC. At this point we shall review some of the documented historical events from the ancient era within this timeframe and see if they are consistent with the date of the Tower of Babel.

Babylonian culture flourishes in Mesopotamia. Cultivation methods for rice documented in Indochina First cultivation of maize recorded by the Aztecs in Mexico The plough is invented in China The Egyptians and Sumerians extract silver from ore The Egyptians develop the first iron tools Training of horses for transportation is invented in Ukraine Hindu scriptures are complete and practiced in India The invention of alcoholic beverages in western Iran Fishing nets and hooks invented by the Australian Aborigines

The sample list of events were recorded by different cultures with distinct languages and writing systems, therefore the Tower of Babel narrative in the bible does not fit with the documented historical record. In other words it can be proved easily that at and before the time of the Tower of Babel, assuming it truly happened, there was not one single common language spoken by all humans as claimed in Genesis.

The Logic and Inferences of the Narrative Genesis 11:4 ?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.? Tower?s are built vertically upwards, towards the sky. The narrative is therefore implying that heaven is somewhere in the sky. Is this true? Today humans have travelled beyond the sky into outer space and no heavenly abode has been seen. But more importantly the direction of the sky at one location of the earth may be the exact opposite direction from another point because of the spherical shape of the earth, and the earth itself rotates endlessly. If an observer was standing in space and looking at two towers, one built in Ghana and the other built in Australia they would be pointing in the opposite direction, secondly if the one in Ghana is assumed to be the correct one, then the one in Australia would appear upside down. It is interesting that this secondary school level geometry was unknown to an omniscient author. God then descends to earth to inspect the project then returns to his abode then comes back a second time to confound the language. So apparently the first time the omniscient being was unaware of the construction project or was unable to observe it correctly so had to personally visit the site to verify. God condemns the project because if left alone humans will then be unrestrained to do whatever they imagine can be done. Let us pause for a moment and consider some of the innovations and technology humans have developed at this point in time that are several orders of magnitude more sophisticated than a tall tower made of bricks and mortar.

Electricity (1850s) Nuclear energy and atomic weapons (1930s) Extraction of petroleum products (started by the Babylonians) Sequencing of DNA (1960s) Cloning of animals and potentially humans (started 2001) Development of Artificial Lifeforms (started 2010) Space travel and space probes (started 1957) Computers and information technology Advanced scientific theories such as Evolution, Big bang cosmology and others. Vaccines and cutting edge medical science (started 1700s) Particle accelerators (started 1920s) Refrigeration and air conditioning (artificial weather) (started 1800s) And an almost endless list of others. These are all results of human endeavor and inquiry and from the mindset that they can be done, or were imagined to be possible and then done. And yet the omnipotent creator has not intervened to stop any of them yet he finds a stone tower a dangerous enterprise for human restraint.

The Scientific View of Language The origin of language itself has so far been traced back to the human ancestor species Homo Habilis who was a tool maker, and hunter gatherer, who lived in small groups and used various signs and gestures to communicate with one another. As humans evolved further adaptations such as increased brain size and improved reasoning capabilities as well as development in the vocal tract facilitated the use of speech and the development of spoken communication. Current evidence suggests that it was Homo Erectus, a direct ancestor of Homo Sapiens that first used language as we know it today.

The diversity of language can be explained by human populations migrating to new sometimes isolated habitats and developing new words to describe new food sources and the new methods invented to catch and harvest them. The field of evolutionary linguistics studies the history of these processes in great detail.

The change in language continues to this day. All over the world younger generations speak differently from older generations. If we are to listen to the archives of say the BBC and compare to that of the newsreaders today we may think they are from totally different and unrelated nationalities. The English spoken by Shakespeare would be unintelligible today. The presence of accents for example is another evidence for the continuing change of language. Using English as an example, the accents of Ghanaians, Americans, Scottish etc all tell the story of the unique historical and prevailing circumstances regarding that accent for example the neighboring languages that have influenced them, the immigrants who added new words, terms, speech styles and mannerisms, the influence of the media and education on how words are pronounced or how they are used etc etc.

The Conclusion So at this juncture we can authoritatively address the question of the legitimacy of the Tower Babel story in the Bible. From the Biblical narrative perspective the story contradicts itself. In terms of its historicity the story is not supported and is not consistent with other recorded historical events at the time. The logic and inferences of the narrative regarding why God stopped the project also do not add up or make any sense. From the scientific proof of the origin and diversity of language, the story is unproven and lacks any testable evidence. It can be concluded that the Tower of Babel story of Genesis chapter 11 is unlikely to be true, and is definitely not the explanation why we have the diversity of languages in the world today.

Source: online