The Two Babylons is an anti-Catholic conspiracy theory based religious pamphlet produced initially by the Scottish theologian and Presbyterian Alexander Hislop in 1853. It was later expanded in 1858 and finally published as a book in 1919. Its central theme is its allegation that the Catholic Church is a veiled continuation of the pagan religion of Babylon, the veiled paganism being the product of a millennia old conspiracy. It has been recognized by scholars as discredited and has been called a "tribute to historical inaccuracy and know-nothing religious bigotry" with "shoddy scholarship, blatant dishonesty" and a "nonsensical thesis".
Although scholarship has shown the picture presented by Hislop to be absurd and based on an exceedingly poor understanding of historical Babylon and its religion, his book remains popular among some fundamentalist protestant Christians.
Although extensively footnoted, giving the impression of reliability, commentators (in particular Ralph Woodrow) have stated that there are numerous misconceptions, fabrications and grave factual errors in the document, and that this book follows the line of thought of works like: Martin Luther - On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520), Titus Oates - An Exact Discovery of the Mystery of Iniquity as it is now in Practice amongst the Jesuits (1679), Conyers Middleton - Letter from Rome (1729).
Hislop's view identified the Biblical figure of Nimrod with the Mesopotamian ruler Ninus. Based on this connection, and on readings of the older legends, he created a new image of Nimrod as a central part of his theory that the Catholic Church grew from Babylonian paganism.
A summary of his ideas follows:
According to ancient Egyptian and Babylonian traditions, his mother was Semiramis; sometimes Semiramis is referred to as the mother of Nimrod, and sometimes as his wife, leading to the belief that Nimrod married his mother. Also according to these traditions, Semiramis, who rose to greatness because of her son, was presented with a difficulty when her son died; so, instead she pronounced him to be a god so that she herself would become a goddess.
One story says that after Nimrod was killed, Semiramis claimed that an evergreen tree sprouted from a tree stump, which she said indicated the entry of new life into the deceased Nimrod; every year on the anniversary of Nimrod's birth (December 25) they would leave gifts at this evergreen tree. This is presented by some as a possible explanation the origin of the Christmas tree.
Even though Semiramis claimed to be a virgin she had another son, named Tammuz given the title Orion which translates "seed of the woman" (a reference to the oral traditions of the first chapters of genesis which had not been written but were oral tradition at the time), who she said was the reincarnation of Nimrod. She became known as the "Virgin Mother", "Holy Mother" and the "Queen of Heaven" and was symbolized by the Moon. So began the worship of Semiramis and the child-god, and the whole paraphernalia of the Babylonian religious system.
After the decline of Babylon, the religion was transported to Egypt where the people worshipped Isis and her son Osiris (otherwise known as Horus). This deity has the same name and origin (the name Osiris as well as Orion literally translates seed of the woman) The same mother and child deities appeared in Pagan Rome as Fortuna and Jupiter, and in Greece as Ceres, the Great Mother, with the babe at her breast, or as Irene, the goddess of Peace, with the boy Plutus in her arms.
The obvious similarities are accredited to be derivations in much ancient religion, not just the obvious of Greek and Roman classics, but Canaan religions such as Asherah, Baal, and others who have similar pantheons.
Catholicism and Babylonian mystery religion
Hislop starts by comparing the Babylonian mystery religions to the Catholic Church. He attempts to link them by quoting Revelation 17:4-5:
4And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
5And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. "
In particular he emphasises the "MYSTERY" part of the verse and the golden cup that the woman holds. Hislop draws an analogy between the Babylonian religious ceremonies and Catholic practices. The Babylonians required the participants in ceremonies to be initiated into their "mysteries" by drinking "mysterious beverages", which Hislop says dulled the partaker and opened him to concepts he would not accept in a normal state, so the analogy he makes with the Catholic Church is that the priesthood gradually introduced to Christianity concepts that the original Christians would not have accepted. He further notes that, in 1825, Pope Leo XII released a Jubilee medallion with an image of the Pope on one side and an image of a woman — representing the Catholic Church — with a cross in one hand and a cup in the other hand. Hislop then provides alleged evidence that the Catholic Church has introduced foreign concepts such as priest celibacy and the confessional. He cites evidence that several graves in the Roman catacombs have inscriptions that show that priests and elders were married, and alleges that the system of Catholic confessional was borrowed from the Babylonians and is contrary to James 5:16:
" 16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
Hislop concludes the first chapter by observing that in much the same way that
"Chaldean priests were believed to be alone in possessing the key to the understanding of the Mythology of Babylon, a key handed down to them from primeval antiquity, so the priests of Rome set themselves up to be the sole interpreters of Scripture; they claimed to be alone in having the true tradition, transmitted from age to age, without which it was impossible to arrive at the true meaning of that tradition."
Trinity in Unity
After an involved explanation of how the Babylonian culture of idolatry influenced the Ancient Greeks in chapter 2, section 1, Hislop states that there is unity in the Godhead and then diverts attention to a discussion of his understanding of Hinduism and its relation to Genesis and Exodus. Hislop then gives evidence that concept of the Trinity existed in Babylonia (they employed the use of the equilateral triangle), in Hinduism (he states Indian Hindus represented their god with a statue that has three heads on one body under the name "Eko Deva Trimurtti") and in Buddhism (he states that Japanese Buddhists worshiped an image of Buddha that had three heads and that had the name "San Pao Fuh").
Hislop focuses on the Babylonian understanding of the trinity. He explains that he believes the hieroglyphic meaning of the circle is zero, and that zero also signified "the seed" to the Babylonians. He cites Austen Henry Layard and concludes that "the triune emblem of the supreme Assyrian divinity shows clearly what had been the original patriarchal faith. First, there is the head of the old man; next, there is the zero, or circle, for "the seed"; and lastly, the wings and tail of the bird or dove; showing, though blasphemously, the unity of Father, Seed, or Son, and Holy Ghost."
Hislop himself, however, did not reject the concept of the Trinity as held by most Christians. Rather, he affirmed the basic concept of the Tri-Unity of God as so common because it was part of the human psyche. "While overlaid with idolatry, the recognition of a Trinity was universal in all the ancient nations of the world, proving how deep mated in the human race was the primeval doctrine on this subject, which comes out so distinctly in Genesis." (p. 18) He also calls Trinitarianism "the original patriarchal faith" and teaches that Assyrian, Babylonian, Hindu, and other trinities or triads are corruptions of the original human religion.
The Mother and Child, and the Original of the Child
In chapter 2, section 2, Hislop contradicts the writings of all Orthodox and Catholic church fathers on the subject (i.e. Chrysostom, Basil, Athansius, John of Damascus) and alleges that in the same way that first persons in the Godhead (or rather, the Father) was not worshiped by the Babylonians or the Indian Hindus, the Catholic Church no longer worships the Father but instead - according to Hislop's allegations - emphasizes worship of the Mother and the Child. He alleges that the Babylonians "worshiped a Goddess Mother and a Son, who was represented in pictures and in images as an infant or child in his mother's arms" and that "[in] Egypt, the Mother and the Child were worshiped under the names of Isis and Osiris". Further similarities are noted in other cultures: in India, as Isi and Iswara; in Asia, as Cybele and Deoius; in Pagan Rome, as Fortuna (mythology) and Jupiter-puer, or Jupiter, the boy; in Greece, as Ceres, the Great Mother, with the babe at her breast, or as Irene, the goddess of Peace, with the boy Plutus in her arms; and in Tibet, in China, and Japan where Hislop says that "Jesuit missionaries were astonished to find the counterpart of Madonna and her child as devoutly worshiped as in Papal Rome itself; Shing Moo, the Holy Mother in China, and a glory around her, exactly as if a Roman Catholic artist had been employed to set her up.".
The Child in Assyria
Further on in section 2, under a new subsection entitled "The Child in Assyria", Hislop explores the relationship of the ancient Babylonian mother and child and their similarities to the Catholic Church. He alleges that the Babylonian mother, who he says was worshipped as Rhea by other nations, was Semiramis. He further says that the son of Semiramis is Tammuz (from the Bible), or otherwise known as Bacchus by other classical writers. Hislop then notes that Ninus, the son of Belus or Bel, was the husband of Semiramis and thus Ninus was both the son and husband of Semiramis. Later in his text Hislop attempts to show how as Rhea was Semiramis this accounts for the confusion caused by the relationship between Isis and Osiris, who he says was represented in Egypt as both son and husband of his mother and thus the reason why the Indian god Isawara is represented as a baby at the breast of his wife, Isi or Parvati.
Hislop says that Gnaeus Pompeius Trogus, a 1st century BC Roman historian, states that Ninus was king of the Assyrians, and thus he is clearly Nimrod. He backs up his hypothesis with accounts of Diodorus Siculus and on the basis of Genesis 10:11, where he says that Asshur was expelled by Nimrod and setup a kingdom that competed with him. Under the assumption that Ninus was Nimrod, and that Ninus is the son of Bel (who was said to have founded Babylon), Hislop states that Bel /Belus must have been Cush as Genesis 10:8 says that "Cush begat Nimrod". From this he says that Cush is the son of Ham, or by his Egyptian name Hermes, or also known as Mercury. Hermes, says Hislop, was the original "prophet of idolatry" who caused the division of languages in Genesis 11. He says that the pagans recognised Hermes as the interpreter of the Gods.
Furthermore, Hislop links Janus (the Roman god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings) to Cush, who he identifies as Bel "The Confounder", via Janus's symbol, the club. He says the ancients called Janus "Chaos" and then states that this is the real origin of Vulcan's Hammer (which he connects to Jeremiah 50:23 — "How broken and shattered is the hammer of the whole earth! How desolate is Babylon among the nations!"). Hislop connects the Hebrew word used for scattering, Hephaitz, with the Greek form of the word Hephaizt, which he then connects to Hephaistos to Vulcan, "The father of the gods." (it appears that Hislop made a mistake here, because Vulcan was son of Jupiter and Juno). Further, from these ideas he concludes that as "Hephaistos [was] the name of the ringleader in the first rebellion" he states compares the similarity of Hephaistos to Bel, the "Confounder of tongues".
Hislop comes to the conclusion that Bel/Belus founded Babylon but Ninus or Nimrod built the city, and that as the historical Bel is Cush then the identity of Ninus and Nimrod are confirmed.
The Child In Egypt
Hislop identifies the Egyptian version of the story as the divine family of Osiris, Isis and Horus, with Horus representing the Son and Osiris (God of the dead) representing Nimrod
The evangelical minister Ralph Woodrow, drawing heavily on Hislop's book, made the case, which he no longer holds, in his book Babylon Mystery Religion that Catholicism was a syncretic religion that had evolved from pagan Babylon. Mr. Woodrow, after realizing how flawed Hislop's book was, recanted the error of his own book (Babylon Mystery Religion) and decried its and Hislop's errors and false connections.
Hislop's work has been described by Bill Ellis as "sketchy knowledge of Middle Eastern antiquity with a vivid imagination."
A history teacher challenged Woodrow, and called the integrity of Hislop's research into question. Mr. Woodrow began to diligently research the subject, and as he explored the theories of Hislop, began to discover that those ideas were either fraudulent, mis-interpretations, or had created false relationships where none actually existed. Eventually, Ralph Woodrow felt compelled to remove his own book from print, and later wrote a second book "The Babylon Connection?" to further explain and refute Hislop's (and his own) mistaken ideas. Woodrow had now become a critic of Hislop's 'pagan' theories.
My original book had some valuable information in it. But it also contained certain teachings that were made popular in a book many years ago, THE TWO BABYLONS, by Alexander Hislop. This book claims that the very religion of ancient Babylon, under the leadership of Nimrod and his wife, was later disguised with Christian-sounding names, becoming the Catholic Church. Thus, two “Babylons”—one ancient and one modern. Proof for this is sought by citing numerous similarities in paganism. The problem with this method is this: in many cases there is no connection.
Mr. Woodrow went to the original source documents and found that the analogies, links, and suppositions that Hislop had made were strained and unfounded.
Because Hislop wrote in the mid-1800s the books he refers to or quotes are now quite old. I made considerable effort to find these old books and to check Hislop's references; books such as Layard's Nineveh and Its Remains, Kitto's Cyclopeidia of Biblical Literature, Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians, as well as old editions of Pausanias, Pliny, Tacitus, Herodotus and many more. When I checked his footnote references, in numerous cases I discovered they do not support his claims.
As I did this [research], it became clear-Hislop's "history" was often only mythology... an arbitrary piecing together of ancient myths can not provide a sound basis for history. Take enough tribes, enough tales, enough time, jump from one time to another, from one country to another, pick and choose similarities-why anything could be "proved"!
Woodrow also shows how Hislop's creative numerology (which he describes as no more than mere superstition) could be used to make almost any name 'add up' to the mark of the beast, including the name "The Rev Alexander Hislop." Woodrow reclaims (from supposed pagan origins) candles and lamps (which are used by Jews in the Old Testament), he also defends the practice of anointing with oil "...anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." (James 5:14, 15 & Mat 6:13). Woodrow demonstrates the faulty logic that claims a Church steeple is a phallic symbol and the tower of Babel. According to Herodotus 425 BC. Babel was a ziggurat shape, looking nothing like a steeple. (pg 28)
While seeking to condemn the paganism of Catholicism, Hislop produced his own myths. Hislop theorized that Nimrod, Adonis, Apollo, Attes, Ball-zebub, Bacchus, Cupid, Dagon, Hercules, Janus, Linus, Lucifer, Mars, Merodach, Mithra, Moloch, Narcissus, Oannes, Oden, Orion, Osiris, Pluto, Saturn, Teitan, Typhon, Vulcan, Wotan, and Zoroaster were all one and the same. By mixing myths, Hislop supposed that Semiramis was the wife of Nimrod and was the same as Aphrodite, Artemis, Astarte, Aurora, Bellona, Ceres, Diana, Easter, Irene, Iris, Juno, Mylitta, Proserpine, Rhea, Venus, and Vesta.
Hislop taught that Tammuz (whom he says was Nimrod) was born on December 25, and that this is the origin of the date on which Christmas is observed. Yet his supposed proof for this is taken out of context. Having taught that Isis and her infant son Horus were the Egyptian version of Semiramis and her son Tammuz he cites a reference that the son of Isis was born "about the time of the winter solstice." When we actually look up the reference he gives for this (Wilkinson’s Ancient Egyptians, vol. 4, 405), the son of Isis who was born "about the time of the winter solstice was not Horus, her older son, but Harpocrates. The reference also explains this was a premature birth, causing him to be lame, and that the Egyptians celebrated the feast of his mother’s delivery in spring. Taken in context, this has nothing to do with a December celebration or with Christmas as it is known today.
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 Encyclopedia Britannica, The Americana, The Jewish Encyclopedia, The Catholic Encyclopedia, The Worldbook Encyclopedia – 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.
In another appeal to Wilkinson, Hislop says that a Lent of 40 days was observed in Egypt (which Catholicism celebrates). But when we look up the reference, Wilkinson says Egyptian fasts "lasted for seven to forty-two days, and sometimes even a longer period: during which time they abstained entirely from animal food, from herbs and vegetables, and above all from the indulgence of the passions" (Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians vol. 1, 278) With as much credibility, we could say they fasted 7 days, 10 days, 12 days, or 42 days. Hislop’s claim appears to have validity only because he used partial information.
If we based claims on partial information, we could even prove from the Bible there is not God: "…’There is no God’" (Ps. 14:1). When the entire statement is read, however, it has a different meaning: "The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’"
Scathing comparisons of the Catholic Church to pagan religions are still made in the tracts, comic books, movies, and other media produced by Jack T. Chick's publication company, Chick Publications. The specific description of Semiramis and her eventual return as Mary is made in the tract "Why is Mary Crying?"
- Grabbe, Lester L. Can a 'history of Israel' be Written? p. 28, 1997, Continuum International Publishing Group
-  Christian Book Reviews November 12th, 2005
- Book Review: Plan 9 From Saturday Christian Book Reviews November 12th, 2005
- Book Review: Honesty is the Best Policy Christian Book Reviews November 12th, 2005
- Michael Barkun Religion and the Racist Right, pp. 192-193, UNC Press 1997
- Michael Barkun A Culture of Conspiracy, p. 210, Univ. of California Press 1997
- Woodrow, Ralph BOOK REVIEW - The Two Babylons: A Case Study in Poor Methodology Christian Research Institute, Vol. 22, No. 2, 2000
- Woodrow, Ralph BOOK REVIEW - The Two Babylons:A Case Study in Poor Methodology Christian Research Institute, Vol. 22, No. 2, 2000
- Bill Ellis Raising the Devil, p. 135, University Press of Kentucky 2000
- The Two Babylons (text online)
- Tracking the First Pagans
- An exact discovery of the mystery of iniquity as it is now in practice amongst the Jesuits, text courtesy of U of Toronto and Microsoft