General Question

beachbum76's avatar

According to the bible, the world flooded and only Noah and his family survived. How did the different nationalities and languages come about?

Asked by beachbum76 (624 points ) April 16th, 2011

The question is pretty specific. Please keep your answers topic related as I am asking this in general.

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35 Answers

KateTheGreat's avatar

I’m not a Christian, but somehow I know this, haha.

This explains it all.

wildpotato's avatar

Babel. Check out Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson – in thr book, he writes an inventive (but in many aspects, historically based) narrative of how it might have happened.

Jeruba's avatar

In addition to the Biblical account of the Tower of Babel there is also the simple fact that languages evolve over time and that people who are separated by distance will experience different changes in their languages, from dialects and regional accents on the one hand to completely different structures and vocabularies at the other extreme. The relationships among families of languages and the words that are very similar across language groups show those patterns of change.

Consider the regionalisms in the U.S, alone—do you say “pop” or “soda”? is it a bag or a sack? do “pin” and “pen” sound the same? and all those other cliche comparisons—and multiply them by thousands of miles and thousands of years. Who needs a tower?

bob_'s avatar

The bible is not historically accurate.

Rarebear's avatar

The Bible doesn’t have any specific explanation of how and why languages came about.

KateTheGreat's avatar

@Rarebear The whole “Tower of Babel” story in the bible actually explained how languages supposedly came about.

The bible is a bunch of rhetoric.

GladysMensch's avatar

Everyone actually speaks the same language, but God tricks our ears into hearing things differently. Just like he tricks us with Dinosaur bones.

KateTheGreat's avatar

@GladysMensch Oh really? Do we have scientific proof of this?

Rarebear's avatar

@KatetheGreat I didn’t know that. What is the story?

KateTheGreat's avatar

@Rarebear The link that I put in the first response clearly explains it. The bible passage is listed as well as some explanation of it.

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Rarebear's avatar

@KatetheGreat Sorry, I missed that.

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BeeVomit's avatar

@GladysMensch I’m sure you were just kidding about the dino bones.

I just read through much of the old testament. I don’t recall Noah ever knowing for sure that he and his family were the only ones who survived. I don’t recall that God or anyone else told them for sure that they were the sole survivors on the globe. Simply, it may have rained for quite a while in Mesopotamia, but what about in Americas? Russia? Southern Africa or New Zealand?

Yes, a flood of that magnitude may have actually happened, might have wiped out everyone in that vicinity, but there’s little historical background nor Biblical rhetoric that can prove that Noah’s family were alone on the earth after the floods abated.

Whatever did happen, it was several thousand years ago and no matter how old the story, legends often change (for the better, imo) from teller to teller. Are we to understand that one who has read the Bible takes from it a first-hand account from Noah himself to explain for the doings in that day?

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ragingloli's avatar

Yeah, the Babel fairytale.
Also, an observation: Noah was a naked drunkard who cursed one of his sons and his descendants to be the eternal slaves of one of the other sons and his descendants for seeing him naked.
And that was the best human on the planet?! I can somewhat see why God murdered them all.

gmander's avatar

Are the two sentences supposed to be linked? The first describes an event in the bible and the second asks how nationalities and languages developed but doesn’t specifically ask for the answer to be framed in relation to biblical stories. So, is the question biblically related, or about the current scientific theories of evolutionary linguistics and the development of nation states?

If it’s biblically related, read the book yourself, I’m not going to do it for you!

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Nullo's avatar

Languages got kicked off post-Flood, at Babel.

MissAnthrope's avatar

[Mod says] Hey, folks… let’s try to get things back on track here.. the discussion at hand is about the Bible, Noah and the flood, and how different languages came about.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Something weird happened in this thread, and I had to delete several responses that wouldn’t stay moderated. Apologies.

BeeVomit's avatar

@nullo, @ anyone else… Why do you believe that?

RareDenver's avatar

@BeeVomit I’m pretty sure the language part has been answered in The Tower Of Babel Story as far as different races go then some (probably racist people) would maybe look to The Mark of Cain although I’m not sure how this would explain far-eastern peoples or inuit people etc.

Nullo's avatar

@BeeVomit The story may be found in Genesis 11:1–9. Short version: Man went to make a monument to his own arrogance. God said, “Nuts to that,” and made it so that they couldn’t understand each other. Languages developed from here.

@RareDenver Some people did use the Mark of Cain as justification for Stateside slavery. Most everybody else goes with the gradual postdiluvian dissemination of Noah’s extended family. Of particular note, linguistically, is Shem, ancestor to the Semitic peoples. The range of variation in features is chalked up to (drumroll, please!) natural selection.

It is unlikely that Cain’s progeny survived the Flood. Noah was descended from Seth (Cain’s younger brother), and passage aboard the Ark was limited to himself, his wife, their kids, the kids’ wives, and their kids. The provenance of the wives was not recorded, so they might have been Cainites; again, unlikely since there was that bad blood from a few chapters before.

RareDenver's avatar

@Nullo Good point, it would have been unlikely that Cain descendants survived the flood. I wonder what ingenious ways those that have used the Mark Of Cain to justify racism in the past have gotten round this one?

ragingloli's avatar

Legend has it that he was cursed to wander the Earth forever, which would require immortality, thus he did not die in the flood and could have started anew afterwards.
Reliable sources indicate that in newer times he founded the Brotherhood of Nod, and after decades of war against the GDI, he used a communication tower built by the Scrin to leave the planet.

Nullo's avatar

@RareDenver They probably glossed over it. I believe that it’s called confirmation bias? It’s actually easy to do; the Bible has a fair few people who crop up for a chapter and are never heard from again. You tend to assume that they went about their lives and you don’t really think about them again, unless you’re making a study of that part.
For instance, I had never paused to consider the end of Cain’s lineage until you posted that post.

People forget that the Bible is structured in such a way that you get a lot out of it by using your critical thinking skills.

gmander's avatar

@Nullo – Well, I wouldn’t use it as a source of historical fact but I can’t find anything in the KJV bible to say Cain was immortal :

[11] And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand;
[12] When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
[13] And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.

It seems reasonable to me to adopt the general assumption that, for that which the bible is silent (Cain’s lifespan for example), the normal situation would apply i.e. he dies just like everyone else.

Nullo's avatar

@gmander That’s @ragingloli that you want to direct that towards. :D

BeeVomit's avatar

I’ve recently read about a spoken language, called Aymara, which encompasses many of the spoken languages in the world. Perhaps this is the “original” language? It’s currently used by the people I believe of the same name, living in the Andes.

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