The Plain Truth
by Raymond F. McNair
WHY are there so many languages in the world today? WHY not just one common
tongue? WHEN and where did mankind become multilingual? WHAT brought about
this diversity of languages? WILL the world ever have a universal language?
TODAY'S world is a DIVIDED world -- in its politics, religion, ideologies and
in its social order. It is also hopelessly divided by uncounted languages and
Thousands of Languages
According to the "Encyclopedia Americana"
there are about 3,000 to 4,000 languages in the world today.
The "Encyclopaedia Britannica" says there
are anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 languages in the world.
The truth is, nobody really knows how many
languages and dialects there are in the world. All are agreed, however,
there are at least a few thousand languages spoken by the earth's
Scores of languages (dialects) are spoken in CHINA.
INDIA has "845 distinct languages and dialects." The USSR, 112
different languages. And in West Africa approximately 60 million
natives speak over 400 languages. Perhaps that explains why Ghana has made
English its official tongue.
Each of these nations whose peoples speak different
languages or dialects are seriously handicapped -- even greatly weakened --
by their multi-language culture.
One of the chief reasons for Britain's and
America's strength is found in their one language. They have been united in
a common tongue -- the English language!
Each year, countless billions of dollars are spent
in studying foreign languages, in translating millions of books, articles,
periodicals and other reading material, and in
overcoming innumerable misunderstandings -- all brought about through
Inventors have tried to construct TRANSLATING
MACHINES to overcome the language-barrier difficulties -- but all to no
avail! The idea is to make a machine which will automatically translate
material (fed into it in the form of the spoken or written word) from one
language to another!
PHOTO CAPTION: Part of a Syro-Chinese text of a Nestorian Inscription. The
Chinese language is a problem even for the Chinese.
PHOTO CAPTION: A song in Kalmuck, one of the 112 languages in the USSR. The
Mongol Kalmucks live in the grasslands around the Volga River.
One such machine is reported to have translated the
English proverb, "Out of sight, out of mind" from English into the
German equivalent of "Invisible idiot!"
Needed -- a World Language!
Anyone who has traveled extensively in the world
has experienced the utter frustration caused by being unable to communicate
with other nationalities because of a language
barrier! Just last summer, while traveling through ten countries on the
Continent of Europe, I experienced the language barrier. The language
barrier can be embarrassing at times. It can also be very exasperating!
My wife and I and two of our friends stopped to eat
breakfast in a small cafe in Northern Italy. It so happened that none of us
spoke Italian, and the Italians at this cafe spoke not
a word of English.
Did you ever try ordering breakfast from a
foreigner who didn't understand a word you said? Well, just try it some time
and see how difficult it is!
We tried to convey to these Italians that we wanted
toast, eggs, butter, honey, milk and coffee.
Believe me, it was a most difficult task to get
those Italians to understand just good, plain English! We resorted to the
international language of gestures, and I think we even drew
pictures to try to get across our meaning. Repeatedly, the Italian waiter
would disappear into the kitchen and bring out another item of food -- only
to have us shake our heads, thereby
showing him that it wasn't what we had "asked" for.
If I recall correctly, it was not too difficult to
get across to him that we wanted eggs, milk and some of the other items. But
the sticky one was the honey! It was only with a great
deal of perseverance, and a certain amount of ingenuity, that we were at
last able to convey to this Italian what we really wanted -- honey! I think
we finally drew a picture of a bee and a piece of honeycomb. He finally got
the point, but had to inform us that he didn't have any honey. We left him a
generous tip in appreciation for his patient efforts in helping us overcome
our language difficulty.
Yes, it can be difficult -- time consuming and very
exasperating -- trying to communicate with another when neither of you
understands the other's language.
Why So Many Tongues?
WHY is the world so hopelessly divided into
thousands of languages? WHEN did the world become this way? And what
prevents the world from devising a world language which could be adopted by
all nations? Or, has this already been tried -- unsuccessfully?
Before we answer these questions, we must go back
over 4,000 years in history. The time -- soon after the Flood. The races and
families of men began to multiply. One man became especially ambitious! This
despot Nimrod began to rise above his fellow men and organize them into city
states (Gen. 10:8-11).
How many languages were there at that time?
"AND THE WHOLE EARTH WAS OF ONE LANGUAGE, AND ONE SPEECH" (Gen.
11:1) is the answer.
At that point in the history of mankind, the
various branches of the human family rebelled against the government of God.
They wanted one world of their own. "And they said to one
another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had
brick for stone, and slime [bitumen] had they for morter.
"And they said, Go to, let us build us a city
and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and LET US MAKE US A NAME [let
us become famous], lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole
earth" (verses 3, 4).
But -- their Creator, the Almighty God of heaven,
saw what man was about to do. He acted. He confounded or divided their
Why God Confused Man's Speech
But why? The answer is revealed in verses 6-9:
"And the Lord said, Behold, THE PEOPLE IS ONE [that is, they are
UNITED], and they have all ONE language; and this they BEGIN to do: and NOW
NOTHING WILL BE RESTRAINED FROM THEM, WHICH THEY HAVE IMAGINED TO DO.
"Go to," said God, "let us go down,
and there confound their language, that they may not understand one
another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the
face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city."
"Therefore is the name of it called BABEL;
because THE LORD DID THERE CONFOUND THE LANGUAGE OF ALL THE EARTH: and from
thence did the Lord SCATTER them abroad upon the face of all the
Many have read over this account. Few, however,
have really understood its terrible import!
Why did God object to the people having one
language? And why did He not want them to be "one" -- that is,
The Eternal God well understood the almost
unlimited capacity of the human mind which He himself had created! God in
heaven knew that, if these rebellious human beings remained
united, speaking ONE LANGUAGE, they would pool their mental and physical
resources -- FOR DESTRUCTIVE PURPOSES!
It was not that God objects to man's having one
language. He knew, however, that MAN WOULD, by his accumulated knowledge,
utterly destroy the whole world and all life -- if He did not intervene --
So, mercifully, Almighty God in heaven divinely
intervened in the affairs of mankind on this earth! It became necessary for
God to step in and CONFOUND or CONFUSE man's language so that the different
families (which were later to become tribes and nations) would become
hopelessly CONFUSED and DIVIDED among themselves. They would not, then, be
able to combine their scientific and technological knowledge. Had the
Creator not intervened and confounded man's language at the Tower of Babel,
men would have raced along in the acquisition of scientific knowledge.
Mankind would undoubtedly have advanced in scientific
and technological knowledge to such a degree that the nations would have
discovered how to use the atom even before the time of Christ.
God Almighty, however, ordained that He would let
man follow his own codes of ethics, devise his own human politics and
governments, establish his own forms of religion, and in general, go his own
way FOR 6,000 years. After which, God would send Jesus Christ to this earth
to rescue mankind from the brink of world suicide, and show many how to live
a life of happiness, of accomplishment, of peace and prosperity.
That divine act put an end to mankind's
"ONE" language. Man's unified efforts to build the Tower of Babel
was the signal for Almighty God to intervene and separate races and families
by giving each race and family the language which the Creator wanted that
particular people to speak. THE RACES AND NATIONS HAVE REMAINED DIVIDED
LINGUISTICALLY EVER SINCE!
Now let us see HOW mankind began, in the latter
part of the 19th Century, to try to undo God's work of confounding the
language at Babel.
ESPERANTO and Other World Languages
Johann Martin Schleyer, a German Roman Catholic
clergyman and linguistic scholar, invented a universal language, called
"Volapük". He published "Volapük" in 1880. This world
language was based "partly on English," but alas, it had many
inconsistencies and weaknesses and so its adherents gave it up as a bad
language. It was rejected!
In 1887, a Russian Jew, Lazarus Ludwig Zamenhof
("Dr. Esperanto") published his now-famous work,
"Esperanto". This artificially created language was a mixture of
European languages -- included strong elements of Latin, Italian, French,
German, English, Slavic; it has been referred to as "bad Italian."
Many will be surprised to learn that
"Esperanto" is spoken or read by about one and one-half million
"By 1950, the Esperantists could point to
5,000 published books and a number of journals. Short-wave news broadcasts
in "Esperanto" averaged 150 a month. Theirs was the only
constructed language which had a worldwide body of living speakers (about
1,500,000), was being taught in more than 600 schools by 7,000 teachers and
was being used widely in international gatherings" ("Ency.
Britannica", 1960 ed., art. "Universal Language").
The Third Assembly of the League of Nations, in
1922, even went so far as to endorse "Esperanto".
During World Wars I and II, "Esperanto"
was used for political propaganda and underground activities. It was
employed by the Red Cross and in the prisoner-of-war camps.
Many radio stations in Europe and America have
broadcast in "Esperanto".
But "Esperanto", too, was weighed in the
balance and found wanting. It has not proven to be the language which the
world was looking for. Others too have been devised and failed --
"Interlingua", "Gloria", "Ido", "Langue
Bleue", "Novial", "Udiom Neutral".
Some have advocated taking a "living"
language such as English, French, Spanish, German or Russian and making that
into an international language.
This would never work! Nationalistic jealousies and
rivalries would doom such an attempt to utter failure.
But, believe it or not, a world language -- a
universal tongue -- is coming, and soon!
God Uses Different Languages
It is common knowledge that the Old Testament
Scriptures were inspired in the HEBREW language, with a few fragmentary
portions being written in ARAMAIC.
Though the Hebrew language is expressive in many
respects, yet it has its limitations. It was not the tongue which Almighty
God wanted to use as the tool through which He would reveal to mankind the
mystery of the Kingdom of God, the Gospel or Good News of His soon-coming
GREEK became the New Testament language God chose
through which He revealed the Good News of His Kingdom to the world.
God had allowed Alexander the Great to spread the
Greek LANGUAGE and culture over much of the known world in the centuries
immediately preceding the birth of Jesus Christ. The Greek language had
taken deep root by the time Christ and the apostles began their ministry.
The New Testament was not only written in Greek, but much of the preaching
of the apostles was done in that language.
But, even the Greek language had its shortcomings.
Then God Chose English!
Strange as it may seem, Almighty God raised up the
ENGLISH language as His chief instrument through which He would publish and
proclaim the Good News of His soon-coming Kingdom to most of the world -- at
the close of this age!
But why English?
English is today the world's number one language.
"English is currently the world's most
irresistible language circling the planet at a phenomenal rate.
"SPOKEN AS FIRST LANGUAGE BY 250 MILLION
PEOPLE and as a SECOND LANGUAGE BY HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS MORE, widely
dispersed English is becoming the UNIVERSAL TONGUE OF TRADE, DIPLOMACY,
SCIENCE and SCHOLARSHIP. Pilots of all nations use it for airways
communication .... In emerging Asia and Africa, polyglot people take up
English as the only way to comprehend their neighbours. The Chinese
Communists speak English in propaganda broadcasts to East Africa. The
Russians use it in broadcasts to the Far East.
Over 60% of all the world's radio programmes are
broadcast in English, and over 70% of the world's mail is written and
addressed in the English language.
One can travel into any part of the world and
nearly always find someone who can speak English. English is being taught in
many schools, colleges and universities throughout virtually every nation on
India received her independence from Britain in
1947. In 1950, Nehru's Central Government proclaimed that HINDI would be the
official language of India from that time forward. This transition from
English to Hindi was to have been completed by 1965. But innumerable snags
were encountered by the Indian Government in its drive to make Hindi the
official language of India.
English has been the common language of the
educated Indians for over a century. About 13 million upper-class Indians
(3%) speak English fluently. If English were to be completely
abolished in India, chaos would certainly follow!
"Finally the so-called 'Save Hindi' Campaign
was called off. The announcement, significantly, was published in English.
In Parliament, Prime Minister Nehru declared that for an indefinite period
English would continue as an 'associate official language.' While Hindus
listened in silence and non-Hindi-speaking legislators cheered, Nehru termed
MAJOR WINDOW FOR US TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD.
"'We dare not close that window,' he said.
'And if we do, it will spell peril to our future.'" ("Life",
Feb. 12, 1962.)
The FRENCH language used to be the international
language of diplomacy, but English has now generally replaced it. English is
the number one language used in the United Nations. About 53 member states
receive regular transcripts of speeches and proceedings in English as
compared with twenty-seven which request drafts in the French language.
Only 65 million people now speak French as a first
language; "less than one-fourth of the U.N.'s 111 member nations still
use it in debates" ("Time", Nov. 29, 1963).
It is interesting to note that multi-dialect
Chinese is spoken by more people (about 600 million) as a PRIMARY language
than any other tongue. But the myriads of Chinese dialects make it
impossible for many of the Chinese to clearly understand one another's
In all, ABOUT 850,000,000 to 900,000,000 (nearly a
BILLION) PEOPLE EITHER READ, SPEAK OR UNDERSTAND ENGLISH! Those who speak
English cover about one-quarter of the globe.
Not only is English written, broadcast, spoken and
understood on every continent, but it has come to be the "lingua
franca", the international language of diplomacy, scholarship,
science, commerce and sport. Despite the political ferment in Arab lands of
the Middle East, English continues to be the number one language. In spite
of Egyptian animosity toward America and Britain, Cairo's "Egyptian
Gazette" recently declared: "English is not the property of
capitalist Americans, but of all the world."
The Gospel in English
Now one can clearly see WHY God has chosen the
English language as the number one language through which He would reach the
inhabitants of the earth with His Good News in this end-time age!
Through The WORLD TOMORROW broadcast and The PLAIN
TRUTH magazine, NEARLY 30 MILLION PEOPLE (nearly 1 out of 10 of all the
English-speaking peoples) ARE NOW BEING REACHED EACH WEEK WITH THE TRUE
GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST! (This very Work of God is also proclaiming the Good
News of God's Kingdom in German, French and Spanish!)
English is a fairly easy language to learn. Its
grammar is simple; it is a very versatile tongue.
It is the most expressive language in the world.
The Romance languages -- Latin, French, Spanish and Italian -- are very good
for expressing human emotions and feelings. The German language is good for
science -- and giving commands! But the English language is an all-purpose
One of the reasons for this is the simple fact that
the English language contains words from many languages. It is derived from
Hebrew, Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, German, French,
Italian, as well as miscellaneous elements of Russian, Spanish, Portuguese,
Arabic and American Indian and other tongues. This gives English a somewhat
international flavour and appeal. It has been called "a concentration
of many languages."
Though English is easy to learn, is versatile and
expressive -- yet it, too, has its weaknesses, inconsistencies and
limitations! IT IS ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGES TO SPELL
A World Language Coming -- Soon!
A world language is coming soon! The whole earth
will soon be united in one common tongue -- in peace and harmony.
Many Bible prophecies show that God will send His
Son, Jesus Christ, back to this earth before the close of this 20th Century
-- this time to prevent mankind from annihilating himself (see Mat.
24:21-22; Dan. 12:1 and Jer. 30:7).
Micah 4 and Isaiah 11 vividly picture the time when
the Kingdom of God will be established on this earth. This will be an era of
unparalleled peace, happiness and prosperity! Jesus Christ will rule the
earth for 1,000 years -- one full Millennium of worldwide, Utopian blessings
on this earth.
One of the great blessings which Almighty God will
again grant to all nations during this l,000-year rule of Christ will be a
universal, worldwide language! This is clearly revealed in
the third chapter of Zephaniah.
Notice this prophecy. God will "gather the
nations" and "assemble the kingdoms," to pour out upon them
His "fierce anger" -- because of their sins (Zeph. 3:8)! This
unmistakably clear. It refers to the same time as is portrayed in Zechariah
14 and Revelation 19 -- the time when all nations will gather to fight
against Jesus Christ -- at His second coming! They do not want any divine
authority over them. What does the victorious Christ do? Here is the answer,
in Zephaniah 3.
The time setting for Zephaniah 3:9 is millennial!
God solemnly promises, "FOR THEN WILL I TURN TO THE PEOPLE A PURE
LANGUAGE, THAT THEY MAY ALL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD, TO SERVE HIM
WITH ONE CONSENT." Yes, God Almighty is going to give all nations
"a pure language" so that they may "all" call upon
His name and serve Him in unity of purpose.
At that time, the earth shall no longer be in a
state of confusion. The world will not continue to be divided by thousands
of languages. It will not be hampered by a Babylon of tongues. God will
establish a pure, simple to learn, and effective language over the whole
What language will God establish during the
l,000-year rule of the Kingdom of God upon the earth? The Scriptures do not
directly reveal which tongue will become the universal, "pure
language"! We'll have to wait and see! But it may well be based on
English. For after all, God used Hebrew and Greek when each was an
international tongue. Today it is English. But that will not mean that a
knowledge of Greek and Hebrew will disappear!
But this we do know -- it will be a
"pure" language -- not one filled with names of pagan gods and
goddesses, and foolish superstitions -- nor vulgar expressions. The names of
the days of the week, the months of the year, and of the pagan holidays,
which masquerade as "Christian," will disappear. No more goddess
of LUCK -- no more THOR'S day (Thursday) -- no more GEMINI space shots, etc.
Through the instrumentality of a pure language -- a
universal, world language -- God will at last unite all nations under His
Utopian rule! But not until the nations first repent of
Thank God, the veritable babble of thousands of
languages is destined to vanish from the earth -- in the very near future!