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Discovery Magazine 8/1/2006

Why are There So Many Languages? What is the Original Language?

Dear Digger Doug,

Why are there so many languages? What is the original language?—Maddie McCaleb,
Bulverde, TX.

Dear Maddie,

Thank you for writing. Languages are very interesting to study. The ability of humans to speak in words came from God. Adam and Eve (and all human beings since) were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). Among other things, that means that people were created to speak by means of language (just as God can). Animals were not created in God’s image, and cannot speak like people can speak.

Adam and Eve, and all people up to Noah’s day, spoke the same language (Genesis 11:1). We have no way of knowing what that original language was. Sometime after the Flood, God directly intervened at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11), and caused people to begin speaking several different languages. Since that time, thousands of languages and dialects have developed from the languages that God brought into existence at Babel.

Languages, just like many other things within cultures, are always changing. Words become less or more frequently used. They come to have additional meanings, or can change meanings altogether. When a person reads the word “prevent” in the King James Version (1 Thessalonians 4:15), he must understand that this word does not mean the same thing it did when this version was first produced in 1611. Then, it meant “to go before; to precede.” Today, it means “to keep from happening.”

Since the events that occurred at the Tower of Babel thousands of years ago, languages have been in a state of change. And, they are still changing today. One thing to always keep in mind is that God is unchangeable in His righteousness, goodness, mercy, and justice. He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).



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