Archive for May, 2009
I’ve been hesitant to write about this subject for some time, though I have addressed it a bit in Q&A sessions at conferences. My reticence is rooted in my feeling that it’s a lose-lose proposition. I’ll try and explain.
On one hand, there is a lot of uninformed talk on the “alien believer” side about how aliens are in the Bible and that they are mistaken as angels. What the Bible says about angels, so the viewpoint goes, can be said about aliens. They are really interchangeable. So we shouldn’t worry about aliens; they’re angels. This thinking is muddled, but it has what I’d call “accidental merit” that will hopefully become clear as we proceed (really, this is for Part 4, yet to come). My risk (and here’s one “loss”) is that those who want to equate aliens and angels will read this and feel they’ve won some argument when they haven’t.
On the other hand, there are Christians who believe aliens are demons and so they’ll say aliens are technically found in the Bible. This equation is meant to rule out the reality of a true alien (see Part 1 of this thread). If we’re talking about physical life forms that exist in this reality plane (this “universe” so to speak), and I suggest that there may be aliens as a separate category, many Christians won’t take that well (see Part 1 again). If we’re talking about “interdimensional” non-human life forms that exist in some other reality plane, and I suggest (like I will below) that such a life form overlaps a good deal with entities like demon, angel, and (small g) gods, that will surely bother some Christians as well. Another loss. 0-for-2.
Well, my hate mail pile has been low lately, so let’s jump in. (This is more interesting than another post on Sitchin’s nonsense anyway).
First, I don’t believe that there are space aliens in the Bible. I think what Barry Downing and those like him do to the text is truly a hermeneutical rape of the text. It’s a textbook (and almost farcical) example of reading what you want to see in the text into the text, the text be damned if it gets in the way. Just awful.
What I mean by rejecting the idea of aliens in the Bible is that I don’t see anything in the biblical text that describes a physical life form that calls this reality plane / dimension home and has these characteristics (all of which are required to have a “true” alien being):
1. It isn’t human
2. It is from a different planet than earth within our universe / dimension.
3. It has a determinate life span (it can and will die in this universe / dimension)
4. It has to maintain its existence through some means of nourishment (i.e., it isn’t a machine) and through reproduction.
5. It is subject to the laws of physics by which our universe / dimension operates.
Now, I’ve already said I don’t believe any of these are in the Bible, so that prompts the question, “why do angels, demons, gods NOT fit these criteria?” Good question. Since we are talking about these terms with the Bible as our frame of reference, the only criterion that fits is #1. We simply are not told by the Bible that angels, demons, gods exhibit characteristics 2-5. None of these entities are placed on other planets by the BIble. Living on another planet is different than the biblical idea (common to all ancient Near Eastern people) that stars and planets must be divine beings. The Bible isn’t giving us scientifically reliable information here (nor is it meant to; it isn’t the point). The reason this thought pervaded the ancient world was that (1) certain stars and planets appeared to move (moving things must be alive); and (2) stars and planets were “off earth” and so part of the divine realm (the sky / heavens) so they must be divine. This pre-scientific outlook is not the same as having angels, demons, gods be life forms that inhabit other planets. The perspective is completely different.
Additionally, the Bible never tells us that angels, demons, or gods have determinate life spans (as in an aging process moving toward death). It never tells us that they need to eat and drink (despite the fact that they can take corporeal form and do those things – the point is that their life is not dependent on these processes). It never tells us that angels, demons, and gods are subject to physical laws like embodied humans are. Even when these beings are embodied they apparently can still do things humans cannot do. I’m thinking here of displays of beyond-human power (Genesis 19:10-11) and appearing and disappearing at will (Luke 1:11; Luke 2:10-15).
What this means is that, if there are real space aliens (beings that meet the above criteria), then they cannot be demons, since demons do not conform to these criteria in biblical theology. That said, such aliens could certainly be evil and demonic (using the adjective, not the noun) and unworthy of trust in any way. It would also mean that such beings cannot be angels for the same reason. They would just be aliens, a separate category. But the point is of course moot without proof of actual aliens. If aliens are interdimensional, though, then things change. The demon equation goes back on the table (I’ll explain in part 4).
One could argue at this point, “Well, maybe the biblical writers saw aliens and just got the description wrong or didn’t process the experience of meeting aliens accurately.” This could be considered possible but there are significant gaps in the logic that make it very unlikely. One would think that we’d get at least one note from a biblical author that would fit in one of the four criteria in question. But we have no note about #s 2-5, and no mention of angels in any sort of literal flying machine that could actually fly. In this regard, Elijah’s chariot of fire is not a spaceship-unless you know of any spaceship that uses horses (2 Kings 2:11 – and people whose culture was agrarian know what horses looked like – that kind of mistake is out of the question). Elijah wasn’t describing a flying disk, either. Ancient Hebrew vocabulary has all the following words: “round”; “disk”; “circular”; “flat”; “metal(lic)”; “silver”; etc., and yet none of them are used in the description. Ezekiel’s vision was also not a space craft. We know what he saw because he uses stock iconography for royal thrones and the four beasts around the thrones are the cardinal points of the Babylonian zodiac. The book is written to exiles in Babylon by the captive Ezekiel who is in Babylon (see the first few verses of ch. 1). It makes sense to use Babylonian imagery on two levels. First, it has the effect of “dissing” Marduk, the Babylonian god (he isn’t on the throne that is Babylonian in style — Yahweh is). Second, it serves to communicate the message that Yahweh is in control of the cosmos, not Marduk, despite the fact that Jerusalem was destroyed. That’s a message the captives needed. I love when people start expounding about how Ezekiel 1 is a spaceship and then I get to ask, “So, what was the message to the captive Jews then?” The deer-in-the-headlights view isn’t far behind. The point of Ezekiel’s vision is not a flying craft. You can only get there by ignoring the data or inserting your own data (see Barry Downing for that method). Likewise, the basket with the metal lid in Zechariah 5:6-10 isn’t a UFO, either. It’s a basket (how’s that for profound). The Hebrew word is “ephah,” one of the most common, well-known words in the Hebrew vocabulary. The writer knows what a basket looks like. Again, he’s part of an agrarian society. It would be difficult to go through a day and NOT see a basket in that culture. He knows what a basket looks like, and doesn’t use any of the words noted above to describe a flying disk instead of “basket.” And the basket isn’t in the air until two women with wings (note that they are not called angels) come along and lift it into the sky. Zechariah tells us that the vision represents the removal of wickedness (which is the “name” of the woman in the basket) from the holy land and the returned exiles. It has nothing to do with flying craft and alien occupants. That has to be imported into the text (see Barry).
It would seem that angels, demons, gods function more like beings that do not by nature inhabit our reality plane, though they can interact with it, which brings us to the second option . . . for next time.
A bit of a break from the religious angle.
Those of you familiar with the tale of an alleged UFO crash in Roswell, NM, in 1947 (and of course you are if you’ve read The Facade!) will be interested in this item. One of the elements of the Roswell story concerned the recovery of metal fragments by Col. Jesse Marcel, the central figure in the controversy. Marcel reported that he had recovered pieces of metal that, when scratched or crumpled (they were very light) returned to their original form — as thought it “remembered” its original form. There have been suggestions (other than alien material) as to what this “memory metal” was. One of the more plausible is that it was an unusual nickel-titanium alloy developed here on earth as far back as 1932 called Nitinol. Well, nitinol and Roswell are back in the news with the appearance of this article in Sarasota’s Herald Tribune, by Billy Cos, with whom I had the privilege of sharing a room at the lone X-Conference I was invited to speak at. It seems certain files on nitinol are missing from the two places that should have them: the U.S. Air Force and the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, OH, where a number of experiments on nitinol were undertaken.
For those who read the article, there are several interesting things about it. FIrst, here’s a summary of the problem:
At issue are some missing reports from Battelle’s study of a nickel/titanium alloy called Nitinol, renowed for its resilience as a “memory metal.” Contracted by the U.S. Air Force to assess and exploit its compelling properties in the late 1940s, Battelle participates in or manages six national laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy, including Oak Ridge, Lawrence Livermore, and Brookhaven.
The problem is, neither Battelle nor the USAF can produce copies of what the scientific literature refers to as the “Second Progress Report on Contract AF33 (038)-3736.”
Billy goes on to write, “Bragalia suspects that’s because the data is still highly classified due to its source — a flying disc that crashed outside Roswell, N.M., in 1947.” So, Mr. Bragalia thinks that the crashed disc of Roswell fame/lore was (at least in part) composed of nitinol. Could be.
In The Facade I put forth the idea that the disc was man-made and derivative of Project: PAPERCLIP. Nick Redfern followed that trajectory (independently) in his important book, Body Snatchers in the Desert, where Nick dealt with how the Japanese Fugo program and the infamous Japanese bioweapons UNIT 731 (both of which had scientists tapped by the U.S. under PAPERCLIP) were likely both part of the plan to create a nuclear-powered flying disk after WW II. (I have reviewed Nick’s book in detail here). Note in the above paragraph that nitinol can be linked to Oak Ridge Laboratory — a place that plays a key role in Nick Redfern’s book.
Probably the main item of interest in Billy’s story is that, if nitinol is indeed the mystery “memory metal” from Roswell, then this argues very strongly against an alien craft. Why? Since nitinol was known here on earth since 1932. Billy details how Bragalia’s research uncovered a USAF vet named Ben Games, who “flew Gen. Laurence Craigie to Roswell during the furor over the alleged UFO recovery” and how Craigie had an office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 1947, where everyone agrees the Roswell debris, whatever it was, wound up. BIlly then asks:
[I]f, as skeptics contend, the thing that went down in Roswell was simply a classified but hardly exotic balloon project, why did Craigie make a hurried flight to New Mexico from Washington?
Let me suggest an answer which doesn’t involve aliens, and which makes good sense in the context of what I suggested in the Facade and, more importantly, the work Nick Redfern has done: He went because he [Craigie] knew of a highly-classified project involving a disc-shaped craft that employed the use of nitinol, a metal that had the properties described by Col. Marcel. When Craigie heard the reports and did the math, he knew that the project had to be kept under wraps and attention diverted.
Moving on, Billy’s article notes that, although some key files (specifically the “Second Progress Report” are missing, Mr. Bragalia found “four references to [nitinol's] existence in 1952, 1965, 1972, and 1984.” I’m not sure where Mr. Bragalia was looking, but there are a lot more references to nitinol in military-related literature than this. A simple search of the NASA Technical Reports database reveals 38 documents that mention nitinol. Naturally, due to NASA’s own history, the earliest is only in 1969. Interestingly enough, after wading through one of them myself, I discovered nitinol is very radiation-resistant — something that was a focus point of the work at Oak Ridge and Redfern’s reconstruction of the marriage of the FUGO project to a PAPERCLIP flying disk project.
Lastly, this statement by Billy Cox got my attention:
Curiously, Braglia says military reports announcing the unveiling of Nitinol as a memory metal cite every year from 1959 to 1963 as its point of discovery. The last word from the U.S. Naval Ordnance Lab lists its debut as 1962 or 1963.
It may not look like much, but this item suggest something very important: that a number of people who we would think SHOULD have known about nitinol and its military application (it was around since the 1930s) simultaneously betray ignorance of it. What does that mean? It means that people you’d expect to know something about a material (or a project) were not privy to information that it would seem there was no way they wouldn’t have known. One of the objections to man-made UFOs related to Roswell or the late 1940s and 50s is that “surely these projects could not have been kept from highly-placed, important people working in military aircraft projects.” My answer is of course this is possible — PAPERCLIP is Exhibit A in that regard — a project kept secret (in its actual, operative form) from even the president. Here we have several military-industrial complex scientists thinking they’ve discovered something that’s existed for decades, known by others within the same military! My, how news doesn’t travel when certain people don’t want it to.
In my first (awfully long) installment on this topic, I wrote about how it is unwise to suggest there is or can only be one Christian view of intelligent alien life, should such life be proven factual someday. In the course of that installment, I alluded to certain objections against accepting intelligent alien life for just that — being real alien life instead of demons. I want to go through potential objections in more detail in successive posts. Some of them were noted in the first installment, others will be newly introduced. Let’s jump in with one I brought up in the previous post (and I promise, this is much shorter).
OBJECTION: If there are ETs, that would mean the Bible is an errant book
I sort of poked fun at this one last time, and deservedly so, at least with respect to the naive presentation of it that is so common. It actually deserves a little more attention.
Most Christians don’t put much thought into the issue of inerrancy–it’s just assumed. Most Christians also have no idea that challenges to inerrancy are real; they are not always (or even mostly) born of the kind of nonsensical “look at these errors in the Bible” tripe you read on the internet. The web is full of thoughtless, ill-conceived, naive examples of “errancy” (“look, two gospels don’t use the same words or have all the same elements in the story I’m reading — there must be an error here”). This is the kind of thing amateurs come up with. We know in our own lives that the presence of divergent (and even apparently conflicting) details between accounts of an event need not compel the conclusion that either story is an error. For example, if I took five evening newspapers from September 12, 2001, I’d get five stories that are not identical, in spite of the magnitude of the event. Witness testimony would diverge and “not match”; if the same witness (say, Mayor Giuliani) was interviewed by at least two of the newspapers, his verbiage would not be the same, even to questions that were the same from different reporters. Now, it would take hindsight and more research to determine if any of the news stories had genuinely erroneous information in it, but we all know that everything said may be completely accurate in the context of each person’s experience or vantage point. The stories and recollections may turn out to complement each other just fine.
If alien life is ever confirmed, omission of said information does not mean that the Bible made a mistake. This is simply due to the fact that the Bible never says there are not aliens or that there cannot be aliens. It is ONE witness to reality. The fact that Christians regard it as divinely inspired does not change that truth: it is not an exhaustive record of reality on earth, heaven, or the outer heavens we call space. The Bible isn’t even an exhaustive record of things like Israel’s history, or, narrower still, Solomon’s whole reign, or Paul’s travels, etc. It is by nature limited in scope and its content is selective. When the Bible omits material that one would think is inherently relevant to its storyline, why is it that people get so disturbed over the idea that we have an errant Bible since aliens aren’t mentioned? The answer is simply that many people haven’t given the matter much thought, or seek to damage the Bible by using such witless strategies. Neither is commendable.
The recent publicity spike for the upcoming Christian Symposium on Aliens, to be held this July in Roswell, NM, has prompted me to blog about its content. This symposium focuses on the view that what people think are aliens (mostly from contactee and abductee experiences) are demons. I’m speaking at the symposium, but I’d like to be clear that I am not committed to the aliens=demons view to the point that I have excluded all other views. Now, I’m not saying that I think the aliens=demons view is wrong. It may be the answer. It also may be only one of several answers that can co-exist just fine. What I’m saying is this: There are other coherent possible answers to what an intelligent ET is (assuming ET life is ever proven) and that Christians who put all their eggs in the single basket of aliens=demons are unwise to do so.
Personally, I don’t think there is, can, or should be one particular Christian view of aliens at this point in the discussion. The sooner the Christian community admits that, the better off it will be in terms of its participation in the discussion. I’d like to unpack what I mean in a series of blogs, so here we go with Part 1. I apologize for the length, but I want to introduce the issues properly.
Hostility Toward the Aliens = Demons View
The view that aliens are demons is bound to be met with hostility. That’s understandable on a couple of levels.
1. For some, aliens are savior figures, replacements for anything that looks at all like traditional theism. Calling their saviors demons isn’t going to be taken well by that crowd.
2. Others view the aliens=demons view as an intellectual retreat or simple superstition, since the belief in beings that somehow transcend the terrestrial space-time world we occupy is nonsense. If there are aliens, they are from elsewhere in the material universe we know of, period. There are no such things as demons or angels, so to bring them into the discussion of intelligent ETs is a waste of time.
3. There’s a third group, too. Those who would entertain the idea that there are other universes or “reality planes” that are not the same as our space-time reality, but which can intersect with it. The “interdimensional” view was popularized by writers like Jacques Vallee. But (per Vallee) there is an underlying assumption that such a view is incompatible with a traditional theistic worldview–as opposed to it being just a different articulation of that religious worldview, or something co-existent with that worldview. This is unfortunate, since there is fertile ground to be cultivated here.
The old guard of ufology is filled with people who take the second view. Their minds are closed to anything they can’t grasp with their calipers. Never mind the host of philosophers down through history (yes, including people who teach at universities TODAY) who have assailed the materialist view of reality as logically troubled. Oh well. The nuts and bolts crowd has their place, and we can be grateful when they do good work in the field. On to my real thrust in this post.
Tunnel Vision on the Aliens = Demons View
The typical Christian interested in ufology has rejected all three views. There are several reasons so many Christians conclude that aliens=demons is the ONLY possibility:
(1) Believing that the question of intelligent aliens cannot or should not be separated from the abduction phenomenon. If the former cannot be separated from the latter, then whatever these beings are, they commit atrocious evil. I’ve talked to abduction researchers who have tried to argue that I’m judging the alien by my set of ethics. It just doesn’t work. If aliens are intellectually superior and aren’t demons, then it is perfectly logical to expect that the ethical quality of their behavior shoul dbe superior. Exhibit A here that this is not sophistry on my part is the mountainous pile of abduction reports that have the abducting aliens as altruistic saviors of our environment and world (“they look scary but they care so much about us and our world”). You can’t argue for an ethical motive for what they do on one hand, and yet have them deliberately harming a lesser being who can ask them — nay, beg them – to stop. If they are so intelligent (and I’m paraphrasing the famous Vallee quotation here), then they should be smart enough to create methods of studying us or helping us that don’t involve our trauma. If they can but won’t, that’s evil. To disagree here is to mark yourself as a study in the Stockholm Syndrome (and that didn’t make those captors ethical either) or to propose that it’s a valid response.
Now, if the alien question is separated from abductions (legitimately), then you can (theoretically) have both real aliens who aren’t out there committing atrocities and demonic beings who are. There are naturally other ways to parse such a dichotomy, but this will do for now. Yet many Christians are resistant to allow that “alien” and “demon” could be separate ontological categories. Why? The answer may be ….
2. Alien messages during “contact” and/or “abduction” are very anti-Christ or anti-theistic. This will sound foreign to those who are in love with “revisionist views of Jesus,” like the New Age Christ, or people who think Dan Brown and Michael Baigent know something about New Testament theology. They don’t. The reasoning here is that, since these alien messages are so antithetical to New Testament theology (and they are), aliens must be demonic. Anyone who is familiar with New Testament theology (and I speak here of the biblical text, not denominational creeds or claims about truth) and who has read very deeply into abduction literature knows there are profound incompatibilities between what the NT says about Jesus and these alleged alien communications. That this is so demonstrably true is what has led me on this blog to write a series on Msgr. Corrado Balducci (Balducci’s Conundrum), who speaks as though he’s never read any of the stuff, and ends up endorsing ideas that repudiate his own theological commitments.
The theology of abduction narratives is a legitimate gripe for Christians to have with the alien idea, but it is not in and of itself proof that aliens=demons. While I oppose the theological content of alien messages as unbiblical, I can introduce you to lots of PEOPLE who have the same ideas, and of course you wouldn’t be meeting a demon. Again, theoretically, it may be that there is another intelligent race out there that (a) doesn’t know anything about biblical theology or (b) doesn’t buy it. Christians (and non-Christians as well) seem to think it would be the death knell of biblical theology if there were aliens out there who knew about it and didn’t believe it. This is both philosophically and theologically incoherent. Philosophically, a gap in intelligence means nothing with respect to ontological truth. I can put a PhD up against a toddler, and just because the PhD doesn’t believe in X and the toddler does believe in X does not mean that the PhD’s disbelief is proof or even evidence that X is false. It’s just that we PERCEIVE the falsity of A on the basis of appearances (“that guy has a PhD”). Appearances do not = ontological reality. For the sake of the discussion, God could have created ETs and not told them anything about his plans for earth, which involved the Bible. Or, he could have told them long ago and they forgot, or became arrogant, dismissing their creator as real, and come up with their own ideas to displace Him (something we see on earth among intelligent beings all the time). Theologically, biblical theology teaches that God created intelligent non-human beings to whom the truth of the gospel was at best obtuse, and to whom the redemption offered through Christ was not available. I speak here of angels, of course.1
3. A certain brand of biblical literalism compels many Christians to assert that only the alien=demon view is “biblical.”
This one covers the “well, the Bible doesn’t say anything about aliens, so there can’t be any aliens, or else the Bible is wrong” position. Yeah. The Bible doesn’t mention the known planets, either. Oops. It doesn’t talk about microwaves, sunspots, television, chicken curry, or the Red Sox. Guess the Bible is wrong all the time. This way of thinking is alarmingly naive (that’s the nicest phrase I can think of without just saying it’s stupid).
More serious is the notion that (alleged) alien behavior in abduction reports mirrors what went on in Genesis 6:1-4 with the fallen sons of God. I would agree that, if what people report in alien abductions is real (i.e., that they are indeed physically sexually violated by a non-human entity), then such a thing would mime the kind of thing that is described in Genesis 6. But notice how this point of literalism assumes an unbreakable connection between aliens and abductions. If (see above) an ET reality were separable (even among presumed “ET species”) from abduction trauma, then Genesis 6 loses explanatory power and validity in terms of a reason to oppose the idea that there are aliens. It would only apply (hypothetically) to where it would apply — it would be of no use across the board, and would be a misuse of Scripture. See below for more on this.
4. Commitment to an un-nuanced literalist view of end times held by many Christians interested in ufology. Now, the issue of the merits/flaws, coherence/incoherence of an exclusively literalist eschatology (“end times”) is beyond our discussion here. ALL views of eschatology are based primarily on presuppositions to certain questions; that is, NONE of them is self-evident from the biblical text, despite proponents wanting that to be the case. (And what is “literalism” anyway?) I only raise the issue since many Christians tie the question of aliens (married as it is to abductions) to their view of end times, so much so that it makes me wonder which one parses which.
There are typically two passages used to defend tying aliens (and again, by virtue of the sexual violation of alien abduction accounts) to the end times: Daniel 2:43 and Matthew 24:36-38 (cp. Luke 17:26-27). Without getting bogged down in too many details, Daniel 2:43 occurs amid a description of a prophecy about a succession of ancient empires, described as parts of a great image / statue. Literalists agree that these kingdoms (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome) came as prophesied. Even though the last of these kingdoms, described as the feet of the statue that were made of mixed iron and clay, is Rome (accepted by basically every Daniel interpreter, liberal or fundamentalist), what is said about this last kingdom is frequently re-applied to a presumed “revived Roman empire” that is presumably described in the book of Revelation. This “new empire” to come had an unusual characteristic (or so it is thought) described in Daniel 2:43 — “As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.” Literally, the Aramaic here has “they will mingle themselves with the seed of men.” These “mixed marriages” or “mixed mingling” are taken to refer to alien-human intercourse in the eschatology of many who hold to an aliens=demons view. The justification of this interpretation is usually that the phrase is unusual or doesn’t occur anywhere else, or that the prhase “seed of men” is very odd (well, what other kind of seed is there?). These are bogus arguments with respect to the Hebrew text. Those who think the phrase doesn’t occur anywhere else can only make that argument if they are doing their work in English Bibles. Sorry, but the Bible wasn’t given to us in English. It was given in Hebrew, Aramaic (this passage), and Greek. If one searches the entire Hebrew and Aramaic text of the Old Testament for all occurrences where the root word “seed” (zera’) occurs in a phrase followed by any of the words for “mankind” (‘ish, ‘enosh, ‘adam – see the screens shot of my search below), you get two other occurrences besides Daniel 2:43.
The first of these two additional occurrences is 1 Sam 1:11, where the child Hannah prays for is described as “a seed of man” (it’s a Hebrew idiom for “son”) and Jer 31:27, where God promises to return the “seed of men” and the “seed of beasts” to Israel and Judah (a promise of blessing that the land, soon to be emptied and destroyed, will be repopulated (see the context of 31:23-26). For our purposes, the noteworthy parallel is 1 Samuel 1:11. The boy Samuel wasn’t an extraterrestrial (!) so that sort of ruins the point being made by that interpretation of Dan. 2:43. That verse has other problems. Who are the “they” who will mingle their seed with the seed of men? Are there hints we are dealing with ETs or demons in the context of Daniel 2 prior to v. 43? No. In biblical theology, intermarriage between people groups (which is NOT synonymous with biological race as we think of it) is always viewed unfavorably, especially by Israelites, but also as a general bad behavior of non-Israelites. In other words, it’s viewed as self-destructive behavior, mostly because of the view held throughout the ancient world that intermarriage dilutes culture, which can only have ill effects on society and empire.
In regard to Matthew 24:36-38, here is the passage (ESV):
37 ?For as were the days of Noah, ?so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 ?For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, ?marrying and giving in marriage, until ?the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, ?so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
The key phrase is the “marrying and giving in marriage.” In the Old Testament, the flood narrative is Genesis 6-8. That narrative is introduced by Genesis 6:1-4, the account of the sons of God. The argument is made that Matthew 24:36-38 teaches us that, just as in the days of Noah, when the sons of God were having sexual relations with human women, so shall the days be when the son of man (Jesus) returns. There are a number of problems with this view, and I will try to distill them here. My point is NOT to say that the aliens=demons literalist view (hereafter, ADLV) is impossible or should be rejected. (Perhaps it can be articulated better without certain fallacies or without over-reaching the biblical data). Rather, I’m saying that those who take this view should be honest with its difficulties (and, so, its uncertainties). I’m just advocating honesty, which is an important part of a Christian ethic.
First, the ADLV would have us believe that the phrase “marrying and giving in marriage” must only refer to the demonic marriages of Genesis 6:1-4. If it refers to other marriages (normal human ones) then the argument fails or (at best) loses a lot of steam. I think it would be quite fallacious to assume that Jesus was referring to only those marriages, since (a) we know people were getting married left and right during the days of Noah — humanity still needed to reproduce the species – and (b) Jesus uses the same phrasing to speak of humans in his own time period having normal marriages (Luke 20:34-35).
Second, the combination of “marrying and giving in marriage” with “eating and drinking” strongly suggests that the phrase, as used by Jesus, is generic (= “having a good time, oblivious to care of life”) and not a specific reference to Genesis 6:1-4, which does NOT have this phrase in it.
Third, the fallen divine beings and their sexual relationships with women occurred well before the flood. According to the biblical account, the flood was preceded by the events of Gen 6:1-4 by at least 120 years. If 1 Enoch is to be trusted, the sons of God activity occurred beginning with the “days of Yared” [the proper name Yared can be translated as "the coming down" - i.e., when the angels "came down" to earth, as Enoch describes, to commit the sexual transgressions]. In biblical chronology this was centuries before the flood.
Fourth, The Bible never actually tells us that the sexual sins in Gen 6:1-4 was the CAUSE (or even primary cause) for sending the flood. For sure it tells us the sons of God were punished (and that was before the flood, too, at least according to 1 Enoch and 2 Peter cites this punishment). Genesis 6:5 tells us the flood was punishment for HUMAN sins of all types. The literal biblical sequence is this: (a) sons of God cohabit with human women, which was a transgression; (b) they have offspring, known as nephilim-giants; (c) humanity is overblown with wickedness; (d) God sends the flood as judgment for human wickedness. The book of 1 Enoch puts extra information before (a) and in between (b) and (c) the sons of God corrupt humanity with forbidden knowledge of various sorts] and (c) and (d) [the giants go on a rampage, killing humans]. My point is that 1 Enoch clearly has humankind being corrupted by the sons of God and the giants to the point where the flood was the solution. NEITHER ancient book (Genesis, 1 Enoch) has the sin of the sons of God as the exclusive reason for the flood. At best (or worst) it is a precursor to the flood judgment, which is squarely directed at evil humanity, not the sons of God or their offspring. Those two groups are put forth as agents of corruption of humanity. THIS point, in my view, ought to be the focus of the ALDV, not that aliens are going to be used to explain the rapture, or that the antichrist is busy creating alien-human hybrids for an army, or something like that.
I would hope it’s clear that ET life isn’t needed to parse biblical eschatology (end times), but the two are so tightly woven by some that to suggest another view of aliens might feel like an attack on a view of eschatology. When that happens, a demonic view of aliens has become non-negotiable. But if a rigidly literalistic brand of Christian eschatology is flawed, then its incorporation of aliens (or demons disguised as aliens) will also fail. Given that eschatology is in large part about presuppositions — assumptions BROUGHT TO the text — and not the biblical text itself, this is pretty shaky ground. I know Christians who read this will think that isn’t true, but it is. Everybody cheats when they need to in this area. Having taught all of these views for years, I know it’s true and ought to be admitted as true (there are good reasons why the believing Church hasn’t agreed on eschatology for a couple millennia — it’s not about one group “believing the Bible” and other groups refusing to do so).
Hope this generates some discussion.
- 1 Peter 1:10-12;1 Cor. 2:7-8 (“rulers” = archons); 2 Peter 2:4. ↩
Readers will find this recent (2007) scholarly article on “Paleo-SETI” / ancient astronaut beliefs of interest. Such articles are not common in academic circles. It’s 25 pages. The first half overviews the beliefs of major ancient writers (mostly von Daniken), which is predictable. The second half gets into what motivates those who espouse such beliefs. You may want to skip ahead to page 15 to the sub-heading, “Paleo-SETI philosophy or secular exo-theology?” Here are some excerpts to get you to read it:
It would demand a separate essay to analyze Erich von Däniken’s own spiritual background and involvement behind his Ancient Astronaut narrations. In his early books one can still find many references to Madame Blavatsky, for example, and it is clearly not wrong to count him among the technological strand of modern esotericism.
Blavatsky? Theosophy? Where have we seen that before? . . . Hmmm . . . Oh–yeah, my blog posts on Corrado Balducci. Wow, what a coincidence.
it should be kept in mind that the Ancient Astronaut myth is always a ‘broken’ myth; it is a mythic narration which is typical of the fantastic literary genres of modernity: narratives where the ‘supernatural’ is always ‘explained’ – explained away in rational terms. In the same style
as modern fantasy literature’s rational, immanent explanations of mysterious places, ghosts and ‘paranormal’ events, the Ancient Astronaut narrations always come up with a rational, immanent (though space alien) and ‘technological’ explanation of mysterious architecture, alleged ‘gods’, sacred scriptures and visions. How, then, does a socially organized new religion cope with such a modern ‘broken’ myth?
I think this last excerpt says a lot about why people make ancient astronauts their new faith (my emphasis added):
To many of our contemporaries, at least, the mysterious conspiracy story about Ancient Astronaut gods seems to appear more plausible and understandable than traditional religious interpretations of the texts – and much more plausible and understandable than straightforward academic scientific interpretations. The Ancient Astronaut narrations knit our specific late-modern mode of being-in-the-world together with lay-people’s attempt at a new search for the fundamental truth of myth: they still ‘want to believe’, and they find it plausible that a pre-astronautic “truth is somewhere out there”, yet to be discovered by mainstream society. The
self-evident technological possibilities of our age (and much more beyond that) are projected back into a remote past, and the result is a shining mirror of us, and of our time.