Saintly Relics, Babylon & Nimrod

As a Benedictine Oblate, it was with great joy that I read this article on the discovery of ancient relics, including one of our Holy Father, St. Benedict:

The new medieval gallery at the British Museum is full of beautiful images of saints in ivory, stone, gold and wood – but invisible to visitors, it also holds the bones of 39 real saints, whose discovery came as a shock to their curator.

The relics, packed in tiny bundles of cloth including one scrap of fabric over 1,000 years old, were found when a 12th-century German portable altar was opened for the first time since it came into the British Museum collection in 1902.

The most precious was the relic of St Benedict, an Italian who in the early 6th century was credited as the father of the western monastic tradition, founding monasteries and establishing guiding principles still followed at many monasteries. The relic was wrapped in cloth that was itself an extraordinary object, a piece of silk from 8th or 9th century Byzantium.

St. Benedict is one of the Patron Saints of Europe.


There are many reliquaries in the gallery, in the form of crosses, pendants and rings, including one owned by a saint, the Georgian queen Kethevan who was executed by Shah Abbas in 1624 for refusing to convert to Islam. (H/T)

I find it interesting that at a moment when Europe is strained
socially, economically and spiritually, a relic of Benedict; Patron of Europe, turns up, as well as one from a martyr to an Islamic extremism that co-erced conversions.

There are no accidents, I don’t think.

More interesting stuff from the British Museum – albeit from November of 2008 – it seems The Tower of Babel is no myth*:

The story of the Tower of Babel stands at the heart of how we imagine architecture. . .but the British Museum’s show reveals it is a true story. The real Tower of Babel is the first thing you see as you enter the show – or rather you see its footprint. In an aerial photograph taken by Georg Gerster in 1973, the dark square mark of the tower’s foundations, and that of the staircase that ascended it, can be seen in bright dust near the fertile Euphrates. This is the site of the ancient city of Babylon in Iraq. That black square was left by a huge ziggurat, a tower whose width diminishes as it rises, invented by the architects of ancient Mesopotamia. The Bible even gets the material right: it was built of fired bricks. You can see one on display marked with the name of Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled Babylon in the sixth century BC.

And, most interestingly:

At the end of the show, the damage done to the archaeological site in the Iraq war is documented. The British Museum protested at the use of the site for a military base – the helicopters landing in the middle of such a precious site, the soldiers vandalising it in search of souvenirs. The images are chilling, as eerie and apocalyptic as anything in the show.

The site of the Tower of Babel was used as a military base in the 21st Century? Why didn’t I know that? How very interesting.

[*reader Elizabeth Anne corrects me, but hey, if there was one in the 6th century, I'm going to be open to there being one 'round 4,000 years ago! ;-)]

The reason I suppose I find it so, is because of some bizarrely coincidental emails I’ve received which mention the Tower of Babel and old Nimrod. I mean, when a thing crosses your desk in three completely unrelated ways in a matter of days, one should at least ponder it, a bit. In this case the Tower and Nimrod have crossed my desk repeatedly in the last few days – either through people who know nothing of one another and do not share the same interests or (in the last case) through my own stumblings. I found this bit on the British Museum exhibit thanks to the Benedict relic, which interested me.

Behold: the Tower of Babel – like the Pool of Siloam, the Palace of King David and much more – has been declared “real” and not just a crazy biblical myth.

Perhaps it’s only because I’m a believer, but that assertion seems like it should have been big news, doesn’t it?

You can watch a brief video on the exhibition at the British Museum, here and a wonderful slide-show here.

So, a few days ago I had someone write to me regarding this exposition on Nimrod and the T of B, by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. She wrote:

I’ve learned some tremendously liberating information about Nimrod, the tower of Babel and hunters (of men) among other details — all contained in nine little verses in Gen. 11. As taught to us last weekend by Rabbi Daniel Lapin:

1) It confirms that my fears and concerns and observations are not unique and not off-base.

2) It confirms that there is nothing new since Adam… every single story unfolding today is a remake of an ancient movie. Why that’s comforting I’m not exactly sure except it’s a reminder that the Bible, as always, contains the keys to understanding our problems as well as the keys to solving them.

3) The “Nimrod” thing is directly applicable to every breath we are taking right now. Nimrod was a real person — and — Nimrod was/is a concept. A very important, bold and enlightening concept. (The next Nimrod after No. 1, was Pharaoh.) As the Rabbi says, there is a Nimrod (or more) in every epoch. Nimrods are easy to spot if you are grounded in God’s truth. But they spam a lot of people every time they pop up. And of course they stand a much better chance of success in an anti-God atmosphere.

Nimrod never wins or completely succeeds. He is always struck down (though of course he can do a lot of damage on the way down). I found it reassuring when Lapin pointed out that people don’t actually vote for Nimrod or for socialist tyranny. They vote for “an end to world poverty” or some other fantastic lie that plays on their basic good instincts. And Nimrod knows he must conceal his true identity. He could never win if he told people he intended to enslave them to aggrandize himself.

Okay. Interesting stuff, and I admit I am curious to hear Rabbi Lapin’s ideas.

Then this person plus someone completely different, sent me images of Brueghel the Elder’s “Tower of Babel” and the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, Germany, which was completely in 1999.

I guess I can see a similarity. The first writer added:

At the very end of the Genesis 11 teaching when Lapin ties everything together, he tells the gobsmackingly true story of the European Union Parliament building…you will find Wikipedia states that the Brueghel connection to this building is an “urban legend,” but Rabbi Lapin actually took the time to track down the architect’s own account, in which the man states he was specifically instructed by the EU-nicks to use Brueghel’s painting, Tower of Babel, as a design template.

Hmmmm…well, okay. Before I subscribe to a theory though, I guess I’ll need to hear/read Lapin some more.

You must understand, my mother – an obedient daughter of the Church most days – was prone to carry on about Edgar Cayce and End Times after a few belts of the Creature. I grew up listening to wide-eyed prognostications that “the end of the world is coming” and “so-and-so is Anti-Christ!” Having had my fill of that, whiskey stays in the bottle in this house, and I rarely dip a toe into that unknowable-lake-o’-wonder. When I do it is very carefully, with equal measures skepticism and trepidation.

The second person sending me the pics – who did not mention Rabbi Lapin – wondered if the EU building’s completion in 1999 was meant to ring in a “one world” era, and he told me to look at the lapel-jewelry Bill Clinton wore to the millennium celebrations. I have no idea what that all means, and while I do remember Clinton wearing what looked like the CBS “eye” pin on his lapel, its connections to the Tower of Babel more than escapes me.

Given the amount of email I’m getting, and the news coming at us with increased speed, this stuff slipped my mind very easily, until this showed up, from New Wineskins, written March 10. It is fascinating and difficult to excerpt – you really have to go read it. Obama, Israel, Nimrod, and a Shiite text of the 17th century. Yeah…a little mind-blowing.

A month earlier, contemplating Obama’s desire to control the census via the White House, New Wineskins had written:

The Census thing is all apiece with the entire thrust of Obama’s ascendancy: willful deception, starting with self.

I just ran across this quote from the ancient Jewish historian Josephus, commenting on Nimrod, the world’s first dictator and thought it might tickle a few ideas for folks in line with the rest of the post. Josephus writes:

Nimrod persuaded mankind not to ascribe their happiness to God, but to think that his own excellency was the source of it… he soon changed things into a tyranny, thinking there was no other way to wean men from the fear of God, than by making them rely upon his own power.

Remind you of anyone?

I am not a biblical scholar, and I make connections rather warily and then often very badly. But to have all of this coincidentally crossing my desk – as well as that whacky reverse tape, it became too irresistible; I had to share it. Since I am going to be out most of Thursday, I figure…ya’ll can amuse yourselves with it, do some googling, etc, so you won’t be bored.

See how thoughtful I am? I don’t go out without making sure you have something with which to keep busy!

Unrelated: Okie’s mind is blown

And an old Elton song:

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Elizabeth Anne

    Forgive me, but I think you’ve misunderstood the story. The ziggurat they’re calling the Tower of Babel dates to the sixth century BC. There’s no way that could be the biblical Tower, which would have been destroyed in something like 2000 BC, at the latest. It’s an ancient site, and an important one, but the BBC article is implicitly assuming that the Tower of Babel story was invented AFTER the Babylonian exile.

    [Did I get that wrong? Ah, well. Not surprising. Have too much information coming at me and I'm working way too fast. The day off will do me well! - admin]

  • zapman

    If you have a copy of Google Earth, you can see satellite imagery of the tower base. Either go to 32°32’10.36″N 44°25’14.85″E or Babil, Iraq.

    You should also be able to see it in Google Maps here

  • Elizabeth Anne

    Well, it doesn’t help that the headline is sensationalistic: “Tower of Babel not a myth!” which is true to the extent that there were lots of large ziggurats made of baked brick in Babylon. But to the best of my knowledge we’ve never found one that could possibly be old enough to coincide with the account in Genesis. Of course, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

  • cardeblu

    I, too, try not to have a newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other, but these are definitely interesting times, indeed.

  • Bender B. Rodriguez

    the BBC article is implicitly assuming that the Tower of Babel story was invented AFTER the Babylonian exile

    Well, this does raise the issue of why certain events are included in the Bible. Are they included for historical reasons, scientific reasons, moral reasons, theological reasons, anthropological reasons, some other reason, or some combination of the above?

    Although the Bible does contain historical elements, it is not strictly a history book. (The fact that there are two accounts of creation, which are similar, but different, and the fact that the stories, while different, are both true, demonstrates that it is not strictly historical.) The Bible is mainly a religious book, largely for the purpose of God trying to reveal or teach us something, something about Himself, something about ourselves. And it uses a variety of methods to teach those lessons to us.

    So, what of the story of the Tower of Babel? What is the point? What are we supposed to learn from it?

    Perhaps the Bible’s placement of the story in the earliest days of civilization is relevant to the lesson, relevant to the truth that is sought to be revealed, but perhaps the timing is beside the point, in which case it may very well be that the actual Tower was, in fact, built later in history.

    I remember reading Cardinal Ratzinger discussing how the Creation accounts in Genesis did not take their final form until the time of the Babylonian exile. Maybe the same thing happened with respect to the story of the Tower and, for whatever reason, it was placed earlier in the Bible than actually happened in history.

    Or, it may be that the ruins discovered here are not the Tower at all.


    As for the relics, I would hope and pray that, having been discovered, the relics would be returned to the Church. I know it is all the rage to treat the Faith as some kind of museum piece, and perhaps someday soon we faithful will be kept in zoos for non-believers to look at in amusement, but the bones and other relics of the saints do not belong in a secular museum. Such is bordering on sacrilege.

  • Winefred

    So, shall we get together and raise an almighty fuss about “appropriation of identity” or whatever it is the aboriginal folks do to get their medicine bundles and other assorted flotsam and jetsom returned to where they came from? What business does post-Christian, creeping-Islamicized Britain have hanging onto relics of Italian Catholic saints? Let’s mount a campaign for the re-patriation of the bone-bundles to the Vatican where they belong. Perhaps Gordon Brown can present them to the Pope next time he visits. At least he can be sure of coming away with something nice in exchange, rather than a cheesy bunch of unplayable videos. Stop the cultural imperialism now!!!!

  • ultraguy

    Anchoress – Humblest thanks for the copious links.

    The first thing to come to mind reading the Benedictine relic thing was Ezekiel 37 and the valley of the dry bones… which is doubly interesting in this context because of what comes next — the famously apocalyptic chapters 38 & 39 of that book.

    AFAIK, the site of Babylon (if not the actual tower site) was used in the Iraq war. How, I don’t recall, but Saddam had been on an expensive kick to rebuild it.

    Where did he get the money? When modern Babel is funding you through the Oil-For-Corruption program, there’s plenty of extra cash for such things. (Think about a certain anti-God institution that resides in a glass tower between First Avenue and the East River in Manhattan where more languages are de-fragged in one place than anywhere else in the world today.)

    Another thing to ponder is that when we (the U.S.) gained control of the physical, historical real estate of Babylon, the debate between Biblical scholars over whether the Babylon described in Revelation is literal or symbolic became moot. It may be both. (I.e., some have talked about the U.S. as being a cultural, spiritual and economic Babylon.)

  • ultraguy

    One other quick note (apologies for 2-in-a-row)…

    You mentioned the discovery of the real Pool of Siloam, announced August 9th, 2005. That just happens to have been the same day that Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation took effect. (The precipitating issue was Israel’s unilateral ceding of lands to Israel’s sworn enemies.)

    Aug 9, 2005 is also exactly 1260 days prior to Obama’s inauguration, i.e., 3.5 (Hebrew) years, aka ‘time, times and half a time‘, a figure that comes up regularly in the apocalyptic timings outlined in Daniel and Revelation. Draw your own conclusions. I don’t know what it means either. I just know that such things are beyond coincidence.

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  • on a journey

    Hey ultraguy–re: B. Netanyahu’s resignation….hasn’t he been recently re-elected??

    Anchoress…are you enjoying this? Dropping this little coincidence” bomb and then taking a day off???

  • jakewashere

    I have come to the conclusion that I am not going to live very long.

    I have had my share of premonitions, and I am convinced that I myself, and ten million other Americans who are alive right now, will have died untimely by 2012.

    Reasons: 1. I am a Republican. 2. I do not own a house. 3. I do not own a gun. 4. Had a dream last night that I don’t want to discuss. I’ve also had dreams come true before.

    [Jake, I have actually had several emails from rational people who have had odd dreams...I'm thinking about putting up a post encouraging folks to share theirs - admin]

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