Skeptics Annotated Bible A Response

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#39 - How many languages were there before the Tower of Babel was built?

Response by Wendell Leahy

The skeptic's befuddlement:

There was only one language.
"And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech." Genesis 11:1
"And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language.... Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.... Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth:" Genesis 11:6-9

There were many languages.
"By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands, every one after his tongue." Genesis 10:5
"These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues." Genesis 10:20
"These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues." Genesis 10:31

Chapters 10 and 11 are not given in chronological order. Genesis chapter 10 gives the genealogies of Noah’s sons and their generations.

The chronological order given is first 1) the tower of Babel 2) the confusion of languages (chapter 10 gives the generations of Noah - with each their own tongue).

Chapter 10 follows the tower of Babel and tells us of different language. Genesis 11 tells us how the different languages originated.

Evidence that the chronological order is verified:
a) Babel is already mentioned in chapter 10, prior to its description in chapter 11: 10:10: And the beginning of his kingdom (Nimrod) was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
b) Peleg is mentioned as an eyewitness to the division of languages in chapter 10: 10:25: And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother's name was Joktan.