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Is The Two Babylons Reliable: Debunking The Nonsense

Ralph Woodrow's Arguments Against The Two Babylons Fails

Hislop not always right, nor altogeather wrong

Hislop was deeply convicted of the truth of the subject of his writings. And with passion and zeal he erred as all humans do. He tried too hard to be convincing. He believed what he wrote and expected his reader to do likewise with out question. I hesitate way short of being unquestionably convinced of every point. But I do agree with many of them. And I disagree with Woodrow's complete debunking of the book The Two Babylons.

Why Criticism of Woodrow's Debunking of The Two Babylons Fails

1. On the grounds of Hislop's sphere of influence and the era in which he wrote.

  • Hislop was well educated
  • A formal education of any kind in that era emphasized a good working knowledge of classical literature
  • His proximity to Edinburgh, especially at that time in history opened many doors and avenues of learning for him
  • His knowledge of classic literature, philosophy, etc. was not unusual for his time. Even the "average" well educated man of his time in some ways surpassed most modern students of today.
  • Hislop first handed out The Two Babylons in pamphlet form in Edinburgh in 1853, His subject and sources would have been "well known" to much of his intended audience
  • He studied his subject extensively.
  • His notes are extensive.

Doubtless, his proximity to Edinburgh especially at that time in history when a formal education emphasized a good working knowledge of classical literature, opened many doors and avenues of learning for him. His knowledge of classic literature, philosophy, Greek mythology ... like many of even the "average" well educated of his time in many ways far surpassed modern students of today. Lastly, Hislop first handed out The Two Babylons in pamphlet form in Edinburgh in 1853, His subject would have been "well known" to his intended audience.

Who Was Semiramis?

The identity of a woman named Semiramis being the wife of Nimrod is questionable; as I have found out in my own research of ancient history and legends while trying to develop the story lines of my own fictional stories.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (Knight), Sammuramat was the wife of Adad-nirari III (812 to 783 B.C) who reigned during the time Jehoahaz was king of Israel.

According to The Oxford Classical Dictionary:

"Semiramis in history was Sammu-ramat, wife of Shamshi-Adad V of *Assyria, mother of Adad-nirari III, with whom she campaigned against * Commagene in 805 BC. Her inscribed stelae of kings and high officials in Assur. In Greek legend, she was the daughter of the Syrian goddess Derceto at Ascalon, wife of Onnes (probably the first Sumerian sage Oannes) and then of Ninos, eponymous king of *Nineveh; she conquered '*Bactria' and built' '*Babylon' ( *Berossus denied this). In Armenian legend, she conquered *Armenia (ancient *Uratu), built a palace and waterworks, and left inscriptions."

W. Schramm. Historia 1972, 513-21; F.W. Konig, Die Persika des Ktesias von Knidos, Archiv fur Orientforschung Beiheft 18 (1972), 37-40; V. Donbaz, Annual Review of the Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia Project (1990), 5-10; Moses Khorenats'I, History of the Armenians, ed, R.W. Thomson (1978), 93-104; (Hornblower, 1383)

In this entry Sammuramat is named as the wife of the father of Adad-nirari III, the earlier reference claims her as the wife of his son. Either way the dates involved are much too late for her to have been the wife of the Biblical Nimrod. And here lies the crux of the problem, for much of Hislop's notions on ancient Babel hinges on this one point, as witnessed by the full title of the book, The Two Babylons Or The Papal Worship: Proved To Be The Worship Of Nimrod and His Wife.

There Could Well Have Been An Earlier Semiramis

There is speculation that perhaps there was an earlier Semiramis, but at this point I have not been able to even establish if Sammuramat and Semiramis are indeed the same name, one being the Assyrian form and the latter being the Greek equivalent. The truth seems to be that the name Sammuramat "…is the only Assyrian or Babylonian name discovered so far having any phonetic resemblance to that of the famous legendary queen, Semiramis." Therefore, though the two names are often cited as being interchangeable (Ann, 347; Foryan; Self), that would not seem to constitute solid proof.

In Goddesses in World Mythology, Sammuramat is stated as being interchangeable with the name Semiramis. The entry reads:

Mesopotamia; Babylonia; Assyria
Wildbirds; Creater of Life; Love and Sexuality; Unhappiness; Selfishness

A goddess queen who ruled the city of Nineveh and founded the city of Babylon.
She left the earth as a dove, and was worshiped for fertility.

When Semiramis needed a lover to replace her husband, King Ninus, after he died, she chose Ara, but Ara rejected her advances because he loved his wife, Nvard. The angry Semiramis then tried to capture Ara with a large contingent of soldiers, but they killed him by mistake. Grief-stricken, Semiramis had his body taken to her palace in hopes that his life could be restored. When he did not return from the dead, she dressed another one of her lovers in Ara's clothing, and made love to him instead. (Ann, 347)

If you are familiar with my Seeker World Stories you may recognize the fact that my story of the Seeker is based in part on the legends behind this entry. If you have any knowledge of Armenian myth, you probably recognize Ara as the name of the first legendary king of Armenia. Considering this as a whole, this passage seems to substantiate that there was a Semiramis / Sammuramat who was the Biblical wife of Nimrod, as well as a few of Hislop's other concepts of ancient Babel, including Nimrod and his wife; at least on the surface. But only as long as Ninus and Nimrod are indeed one and the same, but do we know for sure that Ninus and Nimrod are one and the same? Hislop says so. But, the only connection between the two given here is that Semiramis ruled Nineveh and "founded the city of Babylon." Is this proof? Remember, that in an earlier reference it is said that the Babylonian Historian Berosus denied that Semiramis / Sammuramat founded Babylon (Knight). Being much closer to that time period in question than we are wouldn't he be more of an authority?

One more possible hitch to Hislop's scenario is that most of the relative legends that do hint at memories of Semiramis / Sammuramat being the wife of the Biblical Nimrod - at least as far as I have been able to establish so far - seem to date back at the earliest to the Assyrians. That's perhaps a bit too late for the time of the Biblical Nimrod.

As far as the connection between Ninus and Nimrod being one and the same, that too is unsettled. In numerous examples through out his book Woodrow points out that Hislop's etymological arguments are often not on as solid a foundation as the casual reader may believe. I am no means an expert, but due to an amateur interest in etymology I have picked up a few things. Mainly, that when dealing with ancient and dead languages 'word games' are the best any one can do. Also, from the bits and pieces of morphological rules of phonetics, languages, etc. that I have picked up on, some of the 'word games,' Hislop plays in order to develop a point appear to have some rationality, while others are really grasping at straws. Perhaps, Hislop may have been on to something when he equates Nimrod to Ninus. Consider this passage in The Oxford Classical Dictionary:

"Nimrod is a corruption of Ninurta, the patron deity of Nimrud, known Biblically as ancient Calah." (Hornblower, 1045)

But even here, the connection is tenuous. I wouldn't risk my scholarly credentials on such a connection even if I had any.

On September 17, 1859, The Saturday Review, had this to say in review of Hislop's The Two Babylons:

"…the whole argument proceeds on the argument that all heathenism has a common origin. Accidental resemblances in mythological details are taken as evidence of this, and nothing is left 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' 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…" (qtd. in Woodrow, 20)

Another thought provoking point that Woodrow makes is the ramifications of the arguments made by Hislop to deem an action or symbol "pagan." He makes a strong case that by using the same methods as Hislop, we could easily call the Bible and/or God Himself pagan, by reason of how similarities in the Bible to many 'pagan religions' are extensive. A few examples mentioned in The Babylon Connection? include the practice of kneeling to pray, priests and fires that are kept lit constantly, not to mention the God of the Bible showing Himself as a burning bush and as a pillar of fire! In one of the Psalms the Lord is mentioned as having a cup in his hand just as the woman of "Mystery Babylon" in the book of Revelation. Thrones, crowns ...(Woodrow, 100-106). Woodrow also offers this bit of food for thought...

"Suppose someone criticized a brick church building, arguing that bricks came from Babylon: "And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick and burn them throughly" (Gen. 11:3). But the use of bricks is too general to make a Babylonian connection. Would a wood-frame building, covered with plaster be less Babylonian? Well, no for the Babylonians also used plaster! (Dan.5:5)." (Woodrow, 106)

Among the final arguments that Woodrow makes in his commentary on The Two Babylons, his first two opening paragraphs in chapter nine, "Excess Baggage" impressed me:

"The Pope is Nimrod’s representative, Hislop says, the head of Devil-worship, "to bring ALL its abominations into the Church, as he has done." Has the Pope brought ALL the abominations of Devil-worship into the Church? When Hislop makes extreme statements such as this, he unfortunately discredits his valid points.

Hislop says of the Roman Catholic Church, its doctrines and disciplines "in ALL essential respects, have been derived from Babylon," and that it teaches "ALL that is dishonoring to the Most High, and ruinous to the moral and spiritual welfare of mankind." The word "all," in this context, is inappropriate. Despite the "excess baggage" it has accumulated over the centuries, the Roman Catholic Church teaches many things that are honorable and moral." (Woodrow, 111)

From here Woodrow goes on to promote the practice exemplified by Paul in finding "common ground" to build upon when spreading the Gospel.

As stated earlier, The Two Babylons Or The Papal Worship: Proved To Be The Worship Of Nimrod and His Wife, by Alexander Hislop is considered a classic in the discipline of Christian Apologetics. However deserved or not, it has come under the close scrutiny and criticism by men such as Ralph Woodrow. Under my own scrutiny I have found much of said criticism against Hislop to be much too harsh. And if for no other reason, The Two Babylons, by Alexander Hislop is to be recognized for at least these two quotable sentences in the whole book:

"Surely if one thing more than another be proved in the previous pages, it is this, that the Bible is no cunningly devised fable, but that holy men of old spake and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. What can account for the marvelous unity in all the idolatrous systems of the world, but that the facts recorded in the early chapters of Genesis were real transactions, in which, as all mankind were involved, so all mankind have preserved in their various systems, distinct and undeniable memorials of them, though those who have preserved them have long lost the true key to their meaning?" (Hislop, 289-290)

There are many things that Hislop is right about. But! If the email and responses I have received thus far are any indication, the subject of religious origins, Babel and how mankind once knew the truth of God does need to be examined. But, this examination should not end at the reading of the late Rev. Alexander Hislop's, The Two Babylons Or The Papal Worship: Proved To Be The Worship Of Nimrod and His Wife, neither should it be given up after reading the book, The Babylon Connection? by Ralph Woodrow.

The subject of religious origins, what happened at the Tower of Babel; and, how various religions developed and spread in the world needs to be studied further. And! We should as Woodrow so poetically asks us to do:

"To all my brothers and sisters in Christ who feel that finding Babylonian origins for present-day customs or practices is of great importance, my advice is to move cautiously in this area, lest we major in minors. If there are things in our lives or churches that are indeed pagan or displeasing to the Lord, they should be dealt with, of course. But in attempting to defuse the confusion of Babylon, we must guard against creating a new "Babylon" of our own making (Woodrow, 32)."

My Stance On The Two Babylons As Reference Material

In conclusion, allow me to state my basic agreement with Hislop on many things in the broadest scope of his arguments in regards to the Roman Catholic Church and various other Christian Religions and Pseudo-Christian Religions, religious beginnings and origins of various belief systems in general.

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Ann, Martha and Dorothy Myers Imel. Goddesses In World Mythology: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Oxford UP, 1993.

Hislop, Rev. Alexander. The Two Babylons Or The Papal Worship: Proved To Be The Worship Of Nimrod and His Wife. Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeauz Brothers, 1959. ( Online version )

Foryan, George E. "Semiramis: Legendary Mysterious Great Queen of Assyria". November 16 1999. (now found in PDF form here external link)

Graciano, Rod. (Personal E-mail Message - quoted with permission). November 13 1999.

Knight, Kevin, ed. The Catholic Encyclopedia external link, Vol. 2, 1999. November 16 1999 .

Hornblower, Simon and Antony Spawforth, eds. The Oxford Classical Dictionary: The Ultimate Reference Work on the Classical World. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1996.

Layard, Austen Henry. Nineveh And Babylon. London: J. Murray, 1849.

Self, Bryce. "Semiramis, Queen of Babylon external link". November 16 1999.

Woodrow, Ralph. The Babylon Connection? Palm Springs, CA: Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association external link, 1997.

Special Thanks To:

Charles Kimball, the Xenophile Historian external link, Pastor Rod Graciano external link and to Helena Lehman external link, author of THE ENOCH TABLETS and THE LANGUAGE OF GOD: book series for their much welcomed input and help editing the final drafts of this review in it's original form.