Don't Believe Everything You Read
Despite the obvious errors of Hislop's conclusions and the arbitrary nature of his method, a number of prominent theologians (not to mention a vast number of Christadelphians) continue to support the Hislopean conspiracy theory. Hislop’s impressive list of references and illustrations (most of them entirely irrelevant) are quite intimidating to the untrained eye, just as the historical pedigree of Roman Catholic theology can often dazzle the most hardened Protestant.
In 1966, Ralph Woodrow of the Ralph Woodrow Evangelical Association (USA) wrote a book entitled Babylon Mystery Religion
, which stridently defended Hislop’s conclusions. Unimpeded by an academic background in the fields of history and mythology, and unrestrained by any formal qualifications as a critic in either
field, Woodrow became a one-man marching band for The Two Babylons
and its facile misrepresentation of the Roman Catholic system.
With breathtaking naïveté, he hailed the Hislopean thesis as a definitive refutation of Catholicism. In time he actually came to consider himself as an expert in pagan mythology. The reality however, was that Woodrow was merely an expert in the study of Hislop - and nothing else.
20th Century historians have since reconsidered Hislop’s thesis and found it wanting - but for those who had rashly nailed the Hislopean flag to their masts, it was far too late. In a series of embarrassing retractions, Woodrow abandoned his original views and wrote a second book – The Babylon Connection?
- in which he confessed that his previous studies had been shallow and unprofessional:
As time went on, however, I began to hear rumblings that Hislop was not a reliable historian, I heard this from a history teacher and in letters from people who heard this perspective expressed on the Bible Answer Man radio program. Even the Worldwide Church of God began to take a second look at the subject. As a result, I realized I needed to go back through Hislop’s work, my basic source, and prayerfully check it out.
As I did this, it became clear: Hislop’s "history" was often only an arbitrary piecing together of ancient myths. He claimed Nimrod was a big, ugly, deformed black man. His wife, Semiramis, was a beautiful white woman with blond hair and blue eyes. But she was a backslider known for her immoral lifestyle, the inventor of soprano singing and the originator of priestly celibacy.
He said that the Babylonians baptized in water, believing it had virtue because Nimrod and Semiramis suffered for them in water; that Noah’s son Shem killed Nimrod; that Semiramis was killed when one of her sons cut off her head, and so on. I realized that no recognized history book substantiated these and many other claims.
The subtitle for Hislop’s book is "The Papal Worship Proved to Be the Worship of Nimrod and His Wife." Yet when I went to reference works such as the Encyclopædia Britannica, The Americana, The Jewish Encyclopædia, The Catholic Encyclopædia, The Worldbook Encyclopædia - carefully reading their articles on "Nimrod" and "Semiramis" - not one said anything about Nimrod and Semiramis being husband and wife. They did not even live in the same century. Nor is there any basis for Semiramis being the mother of Tammuz.
I realized these ideas were all Hislop’s inventions.
After considerable work in finding old reference books to which Hislop referred, it was not uncommon to find things taken out of context. He sought to link the round communion wafers of the Roman Catholic Church with paganism, for example, by citing Wilkinson's ANCIENT EGYPTIANS.
But Wilkinson also said the Egyptians used oval and triangular cakes, folded cakes, cakes shaped like leaves, animals, a crocodile's head, etc. But Hislop did not mention this. His claims about the cross symbol, the letters I.H.S., candles, and halos were also in error.
Because many of these teachings were interwoven in my book, it could not simply be a case of producing a revised edition. Honesty, despite the financial loss to our ministry, demanded a correction of this teaching. For this reason, we now publish a 128-page book "THE BABYLON CONNECTION?" which explains all that is involved in this, and includes 60 illustrations and 400 footnote references.
We believe the best way to combat errors in the Roman Catholic Church (or any other group) is by the Scriptures themselves - not by trying to find pagan parallels in ancient mythology. Things that are indeed pagan should be rejected, of course; but we should not brand things as being pagan when this is really not the case.
From Woodrow’s own Website: http://www.ralphwoodrow.org/
Woodrow's honesty is deserving of our respect. He had a great deal to lose by debunking his own book - and the fact that this was done as soon as possible, speaks volumes about his integrity.
Are Christadelphians prepared to be equally honest with themselves, and abandon the broken reed that is Alexander Hislop? Are we prepared to admit that many of us have believed (and taught) an erroneous theory which has no legitimate basis in fact? Are we prepared to admit that we were wrong, and seek to correct the error wherever it may still be found in our community?
Speaking as a former Hislop afficionado
, I pray that we are.