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Alexander Hislop and The Two Babylons

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The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop


A popular project among some ant-Catholics is to identify the Catholic Church as the “whore of Babylon” from Revelation 17/18. The most notorious example to this in recent years was Alexander Hislop. He was a Scottish Presbyterian minister and in 1853 produced a pamphlet which in 1858 was expanded to a book. Its theme was to link the religion of ancient Babylon with that of the Catholic Church. It was full of footnotes and sketches to show extensive similarities and which gave an impression of serious scholarship.


However there are two major problems with his thesis:

Firstly his claims turned out to be bogus. He simply invented information about Babylonia which doesn’t exist. Likewise his diagrams and sketches were just a product of his imagination,


Secondly he made links without any causal evidence, avoiding more realistic causal links. For example he claimed that the Babylonians offered round wafers to their God, the same a Catholic hosts at the Catholic Mass. His Babylonian claim was false, he showed no link as to how the Catholic Church took this from Babylon, and ignored the obvious point that the Matzo bread which Jesus broke at the last supper was flat round unleavened bread. Also manna is described as round (Ex 16:14) and like wafers (Ex16:31)


As Wikipedia says: "tribute to historical inaccuracy and know-nothing religious bigotry" with "shoddy scholarship, blatant dishonesty" and a "nonsensical thesis".[3][4]



The two bits in quotation marks are referenced in footnotes [3][4] in Wikipedia as from

[3] Book Review: Plan 9 From Saturday Christian Book Reviews November 12th, 2005

[4] Book Review: Honesty is the Best Policy Christian Book Reviews November 12th, 2005


Hislop’s claims were extensively investigated by Ralph Woodrow, an evangelical minister (see more below) who completely destroyed Hislop’s claims in his book The Babylon Connection?


The reviewer of Woodrow's The Babylon Connection? says:

The Babylon Connection? is a devastating critique of Hislop and his many imitators. Almost from the first page, the shoddy scholarship, blatant dishonesty, and personal prejudices of Alexander Hislop are quite evident. By the end of the first chapter, none except those suffering from “black helicopters over America” paranoia could possibly view Hislop as anything but a crackpot and a fraud. Woodrow presses on, however, and in painstaking detail demonstrates Hislop’s lack of scholarly integrity. As one who was formerly believed Hislop to be a credible source, Woodrow understands the mindset of those fooled by this belief system and he leaves their delusions in tatters. When it is over, nothing of Hislop’s rhetorical edifice is left standing.



Despite this extensive debunking of Hislop’s claims you will find them rampant among anti-Catholic web sites, which feed off each other. Gullible Christians still assume they are true and the Catholic Church is a pagan version of Babylonian religion.


Ralph Woodrow


An Evangelical Minister, Ralph Woodrow, produced a book based largely on Hislop's called Babylon Mystery Religion, which sold widely and was translated into several languages. He says that few challenged his book. One who did was Scott Klemm, a high school history teacher in Southern California. Woodrow writes:

“Being a Christian and appreciating other things I had written, he began to show me evidence that Hislop was not a reliable historian. As a result I realised that I needed to go though Hislop's work, my basic source, and prayerfully check it out.


As I did this it became clear – Hislop's “history” was often only mythology. Even though some myths may sometimes reflect events that actually happened, an arbitrary piecing together of ancient myths cannot provide a sound basis for history.”


Woodrow went on the investigate Hislop's claims consulting many reliable sources. He wrote another book called The Babylonian Connection? in which he demolished Hislop's claims.


Woodrow says:

"Here is a list of the some of the unsubstantiated claims that are made about the religion of ancient Babylon:

• The Babylonians went to a confessional and confessed sins to priests who wore black clergy garments.

• Their king, Nimrod, was born on December 25. Round decorations on Christmas trees and round communion wafers honoured him as the Sun-god.

• Sun-worshippers went to their temples weekly, on Sunday, to worship the Sun-god.

• Nimrod’s wife was Semiramis, who claimed to be the Virgin Queen of Heaven, and was the mother of Tammuz.

• Tammuz was killed by a wild boar when he was age 40; so 40 days of Lent were set aside to honour his death.

• The Babylonians wept for him on “Good Friday.” They worshipped a cross-the initial letter of his name.

It is amazing how unsubstantiated teachings like these circulate—and are believed. One can go to any library, check any history book about ancient Babylon, none of these things will be found. They are not historically accurate, but are based on an arbitrary piecing together of bits and pieces of mythology." (my emboldening)




Woodrow is not an apologist for the Catholic Church. In his book, despite demolishing Hislop's claims, he spends one chapter criticising the Catholic Church for what he calls "excess baggage", He says "It would be more appropriate to say that "some" things have been taught in the Roman Catholic Church that "dishonour" God.....". On the other hand he also says:"..the Roman Catholic Church teaches many things that are honourable and moral."


If the Catholic Church is to be criticised it should be for real facts, real history, not the fantasies of people like Alexander Hislop.




Edited by Bede

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