Hislop's 'Babylonian Mystery Religion' Teaching Exposed and Overturned.
The Commendable Intellectual Honesty of Ralph Woodrow...
I n 1858 a Scottish minister called Alexander Hislop published a book called 'The Two Babylons'. The book's basic teaching is that modern Christianity, in its more ritualistic form (as evidenced within Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy), is entirely pagan and can be traced back to the worship of Nimrod and Semiramis and to the very worst of ancient pagan practises. I myself read this book when it was loaned to me by a friend around 1981. The book was certainly fascinating but I recall being disturbed that almost none of Hislop's claims could really be substantiated by any reputable source, although it was certainly 'meat and drink' to the gullible. I did not entirely reject Hislop's thesis but put in on the back burner for a few years with the feeling that Hislop's points were not backed up with conclusive evidence (something which Hislop himself was apparently blind to). Basically, I came to the conclusion that outrageous accusation is not the same thing as carefully compiled and decisive evidence.
Today, of course, the book is soundly rejected because of the flawed and mostly unsubstantiated mish-mash which it is. Note, for instance, what the Wikipedia Encyclopedia says about this book,
The book has been severely criticized for its lack of evidence, and in many cases its contradiction of the existing evidence: for instance, the Roman state religion before Christianity did not worship a central Mother Goddess, and Jupiter was never called "Jupiter-Puer." Likewise, Semiramis lived centuries after Nimrod, and could neither have been his mother, nor married him. Hislop also makes unacceptable linguistic connections and fanciful word plays, e.g. the letters IHS on Catholic Holy Communion wafers are alleged to stand for Egyptian deities Isis, Horus and Seth, but in reality they are an abbreviation for Ihsous, the Latin spelling of Jesus's name in Greek (Ιησους), although popularly, they stand for the Latin Iesus Hominum Salvator meaning Jesus, Savior of Mankind (which also fits the teaching of Transubstantiation, where the wafer and wine are said to become the body and blood of Christ).” (Source: Wikipedia article, Alexander Hislop. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Hislop)
I believed that - as late as 1998 - no self-respecting evangelical would wish to touch this book; imagine my astonishment, then, when one day – circa 1998 - I found this book still for sale in a highly reputable evangelical book shop! Actually, perhaps naively, even now many still cling to every (usually erroneous) word of Hislop.
Originally influenced by this error-strewn book, Ralph Woodrow wrote Babylon Mystery Religion. But this honest man has since withdrawn this book (an action which has caused him much financial loss) because of his later honest acceptance of Hislop's flaws. See Woodrow's frank and honest admission about his Hislop-inspired book and about the errors of Hislop HERE.
Here is just one brief quote from Woodrow's article to help us to note the flawed reasoning which Hislop so often used and which spread to the cults and sects:
"Some claim that round objects, such as round communion wafers, are symbols of the Sun-god. But they fail to mention that the very manna given by God was round! (Exod. 16:14). Some are ready to condemn all pillars and historical monuments as pagan. But they fail to take into account that the Lord himself appeared as a pillar of fire; and, in front of his temple, there were two large pillars (Exod. 13:21,22; 2 Chron. 3:17).”
I am not going to go further into the errors of Hislop here but would commend Woodrow's article to all, plus the book which he has now written, The Babylon Connection?, to help put right freely-admitted earlier errors (see the earlier link).
How worrying then, that even now in November 2005, when I did a Google search for 'The Two Babylons' and 'Alexander Hislop', the first 15 pages which came up were overwhelmingly in support of Hislop's position (most of these pages were from the websites of the cults and sects but some extreme fundamentalists were also represented). I finally only found about 3 references out of a few hundred which Google produced which understood that Hislop's arguments are now discredited!
Please be aware that in rejecting Hislop's wild claims about Roman Catholicism I am in no way defending error where it is present within Romanist doctrine, indeed, my whole internet ministry is based on exposing theological error (wherever it may be found), but I believe that it is vital for Christian Apologetics and Countercult ministries to ensure that they carefully substantiate all claims.
Robin A. Brace, 2005.
(Apart from the earlier link, here are other links on Hislop which I can recommend:
Babylon Boom Box
The Two Babylons/The Babylon Connection?
Introductory Critique of Hislop's 'The Two Babylons'
(This comes from a Roman Catholic source yet its criticisms of Hislop are justified).