Question: How did the different languages come about?
Answer: This is a great Bible question, and it has its answer from the book of Genesis. “Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’
“But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. ‘Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’
“So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” (Genesis 11:1-9)
“11:7 confound their language. [KJV] [Confuse NKJV] In some inexplicable manner, God altered the brain/nerve/speech apparati of the Babylonian rebels to give each family unit (possibly the seventy families of Genesis 10) its own distinctive vocabulary/phonology complex. With all this, however, they all remained truly human, unchanged in basic thought processes or moral character.
“Further, their distinctive languages were still sufficiently alike that they could, with time and much effort, learn to speak each other’s languages. For some time, however, they could no longer communicate between families and, therefore, they could no longer cooperate. They were thus forced to obey God’s earlier command to scatter abroad and to fill the earth with different nations and governmental units.
“11:9 Babel. The Hebrew word babel means ‘mixed’ or ‘confusion.’ It was associated by the writer with the ‘babble’ of sounds which was the last memory held by all who scattered from the city. The word ‘babble’ is an example of onomatopoeia, a word which imitates an actual sound, and thus is essentially the same in all languages. The name Babel, therefore, does not really mean ‘gate of God,’ as later apologists claimed, but ‘confusion.'” (The Defender’s Study Bible, Dr. Henry M. Morris)
It is interesting to think about the almost full circle that we have come to today. The world today is using English as a world language. With computers English can be translated into many languages of the world. We will see a one world government develop, along with, a one world economy, and also a one world religion, Revelation 17-19. This is what happened before the Tower of Babel. After the confusion of the languages by God, the people had trouble understanding each other and so separated by families and language groups.
“As populations grew, some tribes eventually reached into every part of the world. In some instances they traveled by land bridges (Bering Strait, Malaysian Strait) which existed for perhaps a millennium during the Ice Age which followed the Flood. In other cases, they established colonies through sea exploration (the Phoenicians for example).
“All carried essentially the same Babylonian culture and pagan religion with them, unfortunately, so that Babylon is called in the New Testament “the mother of harlots and abomination (that is, “idolatries”) of the earth” (Revelation 17:5).
“At the same time, they also carried a faint remembrance of the true God and His promises, especially remembering the divine judgment of the great Flood in their traditions. Each retained knowledge of God and could see evidence of Him in both the creation and their own natures (John 1:19; Romans 1:20; 2:13-15) so they were inexcusable in their almost universal descent into the religious morass of evolutionary pantheism, astrology, Spiritism, polytheism and, finally, atheistic materialism.” (The Defender’s Study Bible)
Even though there may have only been about 70 languages to begin with, these languages became even more varied as people moved to isolated places separated from each other. There are more than 6000 (6,913) languages in the world today. More than 2,400 have some of the Bible, but of those, only 426 languages in the entire world have the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. What will it take for the whole world to have the whole Word? It will take: prayer, people, training and financial resources. This is a job for the whole Church!
“In 1999 Wycliffe came up with Vision 2025-to start a bible translation ‘in every language that needs one’ by 2025.[They] have a new program, developed by one of [their] entrepreneur linguists in Papua New Guinea, called Adapt It. This program helps translate from one language to another closely related language. Instead of having a translator go through all of the exegesis, background, and training in order to get a good first draft, the software helps to generate a first draft. If the grammar is very similar, a translator can be trained to make substitutions. .
If you want to be a part of getting the Bible into every language of the world, you can find out more about how to do this on Wycliffe’s web site, WycliffeInternational. www.wycliffe.net
Gary T. Panell
For more information email me.