Posts Tagged ‘Bible’
I wasn’t sure where to post this piece of wackiness – here or at Paleobabble. This audience won (or lost) since the subject matter is so often associated with UFOs.
Something interesting popped in my blog reader this week from the Cryptomundo blog – a post by Craig Woolheater relaying a question from a Dr. Matthew Johnson. Dr. Johnson (uncertain of his field) wrote the following:
There are many theories circulating around in the Kingdom of Bigfootdom. The predominant theory is that the Bigfoot are descendants of “Gigantopithecus” which they have a fossil record for in China (i.e., Essentially, a partial jawbone and one tooth).
Another theory circulating around in the Kingdom of Bigfootdom is the idea that the Bigfoot are actually the “Nephilim” mentioned in the Old Testament. Allegedly, the “Nephilim” are supposed to be the offspring of Fallen Angels who mated with Female Humans. However, I might add that there are many other Biblical interpretations pertaining to who might be the parents of the “Nephilim” mentioned in the Old Testament.
HERE’S MY QUESTION AND I WOULD REALLY LOVE TO HEAR YOUR ANSWERS:
If the Bigfoot are really the “Nephilim” mentioned in the Old Testament (i.e., Children of Fallen Angels and Female Humans), wouldn’t that actually mean that all of God’s Angels are really Apes with wings in order to create a sentient-being who appears to be half-man and half-ape?
I’d like to answer Dr. Johnson’s question.
Yes, according to Gen 6:1-4, celestial beings (“sons of God” following the Hebrew phrasing) cohabited with human women before the flood. At least that is one reading of the passage (the most straightforward one). There are others, but we’ll stay here to answer your question.
Biblical Nephilim are certainly described as unusually tall (cp. Numbers 13:30-33; Deut 2:10-11) but they are never described as hairy or ape-like. The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) has a word for “apes” or “monkeys” (qoph; plural = qophim; see 1 Kings 10:22; 2 Chron 9:21). Semitic scholars consider it a loanword from Egyptian. No passage in the Old Testament uses this word to label any of the giant (Nephilim) clans, of which there were several.
More succinctly, Nephilim were not Bigfoot (or is it Bigfeet?).
Ordinarily I’d consider this sort of topic too absurd even for this blog, but I know that this idea is out there. It’s totally bogus and void of any biblical support. Not only is this clear from the above, but members of the giant clans are also described as “people” (Hebrew, ʿam) in the Old Testament (Emim, Anakim – see Deut 2:10-11; Deut 9:2) and as “men” (Hebrew, ‘adam; see Arba in Josh 14:15). Since these verses collectively tell is that Arba was a man, and Arba was one of the Anakim, and the Anakim descended from the Nephilim, the Nephilim were not Bigfoot/Bigfeet. Both of these Hebrew terms are used hundreds of times in the Old Testament of human beings.
Let me add a brief word to the Christian UFO community, some of whom say things like the above, thereby giving Dr. Johnson pause:
Can we stop the madness now? This isn’t rocket science. Though I have one, you don’t need a PhD in Hebrew Bible to discover any of this. A Strong’s Concordance will do it for you.
I was tempted just to leave the page of this post blank, but some might miss the joke and think there was a malfunction.
Those of you who don’t think biblical illiteracy is a problem will want to read this essay by Micah Hanks: “The Torah’s Teachings on Alien Life.” That title understandably caught my eye, since I have a PhD in Hebrew Bible.
Those of you who know what the Torah is (which wouldn’t include the essay’s author) will no doubt wonder why no passage in the Torah is quoted in the piece. Instead, we get citations from the medieval kabbalistic Zohar1 and the Sefer Habris (a presumed 12th century text). Those books aren’t in the Torah. The Torah is made up of the first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). The Torah was composed and put into its final form long before the medieval period.
The closest the article gets to ANY portion of the Bible is Judg 5:23 (also not in the Torah), part of which reads: “Cursed is Meroz … cursed are its inhabitants.” Meroz, we are told by Mr. Hanks and his source, a rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, is the name of a star, and so this verse is proof of ET life (the star had inhabitants).
Where does this idea come from? Let’s put our thinking caps on, folks.
For a little context (hey, there’s an idea — look at a verse in its context!) here’s Judges 5:19-23 in the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh translation:
19 Then the kings came, they fought:
The kings of Canaan fought
At Taanach, by Megiddo’s waters—
They got no spoil of silver.
20 The stars fought from heaven,
From their courses they fought against Sisera.
21 The torrent Kishon swept theml away,
The raging torrent, the torrent Kishon.
March on, my soul, with courage!
22 Then the horses’ hoofs pounded
As headlong galloped the steeds
23 “Curse Meroz!” said the angel of the Lord.
“Bitterly curse its inhabitants,
Because they came not to the aid of the Lord,
To the aid of the Lord among the warriors.”
In the story, Israel (the Lord’s people) are fighting against Sisera, their enemy). And so, the “stars” helped Israel but Meroz did not.
Here’s a short note from Wikipedia on Meroz in kabbalistic thought (borrowed in this instance from the Talmud):
According to the Talmud (Moed Katan 16a), Meroz is a certain planet in the stellar sphere, and because the mention of it in Judges 5:23 is preceded by the phrase, “the stars in their course fought against Sisera” (v.20), it thus follows that Meroz must be defined as a celestial body.
So, because of the word’s position in the verse - that it is mentioned next to the word “stars” - it must be a celestial body. That’s hardly sound thinking. And look at the verse. The “stars” did in fact fight for Israel and so they weren’t cursed – and so, neither would their “home planet” be getting cursed, if Meroz was their planet. Meroz is thus distinguished from these “stars.” That is, Meroz has nothing to do with these “stars” (which is why it’s cursed – the stars were favorable toward Israel; Meroz was not). The passage actually means the opposite of what Micah Hanks and Rabbi Kaplan are saying. The fact that two words appear near each other does not produce meaning — you actually have to read the text. In this case, Hanks and Rabbi Kaplan have very obviously misread it.
Meroz is a sight for which there have been a number of archaeological proposals, but which has not received a definitive identification. That’s not a mystery that lends to it being a celestial body, either, because of the preceding paragraph — Meroz is distinguished from the stars.
So what are the stars? Many scholars (and I’d be in this group) think the plainest reading of this text — which mentions the stars “in their courses” — is a reference to astrology or astrological reasoning. That is, the text reflects the belief that, to borrow a modern expression, “the stars were aligned” in the favor of Israel in this battle. That is, something in the heavens — some portent or sign — was perceived as foretelling victory or assisting in victory. Since Israel, like its neighbors, believed that her God (Yahweh) was the force behind the signs in the heavens (having created them; cf. Gen 1:14-16) and could telegraph his intentions through them.
Support for this view comes — guess where — the same chapter from which Meroz is proof-texted. Judges 5:21 tells us that a flood (and scholars believe it to be a flash flood because of regional geography) was what won the day for Israel. And so, the idea in context would be that signs in the sky (rightly or wrongly – 2nd millennium BC people didn’t know meteorology like we do) led to a weather / climate event that produced a flood that wiped out Sisera’s army. Israel won because of that event — but the slackers from Meroz never showed up, so the angel of the Lord (Yahweh in anthropomorphized form) curses them.
It’s not complicated.
Honestly, why must we force aliens into the Bible? If you like the idea (and I think it would be cool if there was ever any proof), just like the idea. Don’t distort the biblical text.
- While some of its ideas are Talmudic – also a post-biblical era – the scholarly consensus is that the Zohar is medieval or later. ↩
One of my most frequent points of irritation in the whole UFOs and religion arena is the idea that there are UFOs (as in flying spaceships) in the Bible (this is basically an Old Testament / Hebrew Bible issue, so that’s my focus here). I want people to trust me when I say, “there aren’t any . . . as in zero.” I think I deserve the trust. Hey, I’m a biblical scholar with a PhD in Hebrew Bible (where all the so-called UFOs are flying around). I have two masters degrees (one in Hebrew Bible, another in the ancient history of Egypt and Canaan). I have taught biblical studies for fifteen years. Really . . . I know there are no space ships in the Bible. I’ve seen all your “examples” and know you’re wrong. But alas, people persist.
Review of Old Turf
Now, I’m not going to spend all the space on this post to cover ground over which I’ve already labored. Elijah’s chariot of fire is not a spaceship. There are no spaceships that use horses (2 Kings 2:11). Biblical writers knew what horses were and what they looked like (really). And the chariot had fire, something else biblical writers knew of quite well. (And the last time I checked, the internal combustion engine neither existed in biblical times, nor would it be sufficient for interstellar travel. If there are aliens, they know that just like we know it). Elijah also wasn’t describing a flying disk. This is where (pardon the pun) I’m going to land in this post … in a moment.
Moving to Ezekiel’s vision . . . that wasn’t a flying saucer either. Ancient Hebrew vocabulary has all the following words in it: “round”; “disk”; “circular”; “flat”; “metal(lic)”; “silver”; etc., and yet none of them are used in the description. If you can’t read Hebrew, use a Strong’s Concordance and its dictionary and check out that claim. The Hebrew words for the above English words aren’t used in Ezekiel. The only thing close is “wheels” but that word is plural and the wheels are on the ground (Ezek 1:15), just where the pictures of Ezekiel’s vision that we have would lead you to expect.
Yes, I said we had pictures, since we do. We have ancient iconography that corresponds with great precision to what Ezekiel described. And for that reason we know he didn’t see a space craft. Ezekiel is describing a throne (Ezek 1:26; see also Daniel 7:9-10 where the same fiery throne with wheels is described). Ezekiel’s cherubim throne uses stock iconography for royal thrones in Babylon (he was at the Chebar canal, which is in Babylon, when he had the vision; Ezek 1:1-3). Since the four faces of the cherubim correspond to the cardinal points of the Babylonian zodiac the vision is describing Yahweh enthroned above the earth – the symbolism being that he controls the destinies of all nations on earth. It makes sense to use Babylonian imagery to communicate this 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; he’s real divine king). 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. Lastly, the throne vision in Ezekiel is said to be bright or shiny, but you’d expect that with burning coals of fire (Ezek 1:4, 13) since fire illuminates.
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 for . . . you guessed it . . . a basket. The writer knows what a basket looks like. He’s part of an agrarian society. It would be difficult to go through a day and NOT see a basket in that culture. And the basket isn’t in the air until two women with wings (note that they are not called angels and they are the ones flying – not the basket “UFO”) 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 spaceships.
A New Exercise
In what remains of this post (and this is its point), I’m going to illustrate how a biblical writer could have described a flying saucer (and other types of UFOs we’re familiar with) had he ever seen one. It is a myth that the biblical writer would have been rendered incapable of words had he seen a flying craft. I’m going to show you that using words found in the vocabulary of the Hebrew Bible.
Let’s first make a list of words found in the Hebrew Bible that would have been readily available for the biblical writer to use had he seen a flying saucer, or a black triangle, a “rod” UFO, or one of those gumdrop UFOs for good measure. Here’s the list, in basic transliteration used by resources like Strong’s – and I’ll include Strong’s numbers (= Str) for people who don’t know Hebrew just so they can look the words up and verify that they’re used in the Hebrew Bible. While I’d like you to trust me, I don’t want to force that on you (unlike ancient astronaut pseudo-researchers, who habitually don’t cite sources or give you “chapter and verse” of the ancient texts they talk about). Here are the Hebrew words the biblical writer could have used (definitions are from the Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Old Testament):
1. “round” or “disk” or “circular” – There are over thirty words in the Hebrew Bible that describe something round or the shape of roundness. I’ll pick a few for our purposes that would have been especially useful for describing a UFO.
Hebrew: ‘agol – (Str 5696; circular, round, i.e., pertaining to a shape that is a circle, round and without corners; 1Ki 7:23, 31,35; 10:19; 2Ch 4:2); tselil – (Str 6742; round loaf, cake ball, i.e., a processed loaf of bread, with a focus on the shape as being round or disk-shaped, and so able to roll; Jdg 7:13); sohar – (Str 5470; roundness, i.e., the concept of being round or circular, as pertaining to the shape of an object; Ge 39:20,21, 22,23; 40:3, 5); sahar – (Str 5469; roundness, i.e., the concept of being round or circular, as pertaining to the shape of an object; Song Sol 7:3); ‘ugah (Str 5692; bread-cake, i.e., a round, flat bread baked (contrasted with an oven loaf) on hot stones and turned over to bake both sides; Ge 18:6; Ex 12:39; Nu 11:8; 1Ki 17:13; 19:6; Eze 4:12; Hos 7:8); shelet – (Str 7982; small round shield, i.e., a defensive weapon to stop weapons and blows, usually made of thick, oiled, leather; 2Sa 8:7; 2Ki 11:10; 1Ch 18:7; 2Ch 23:9; SS 4:4; Jer 51:11; Eze 27:11; note: in some contexts this can refer to ornamental shields made of other materials); metsiltayim – (Str 4700; cymbals, i.e., a pair of round, metal musical percussion instruments which are struck together to make a rhythmic sound (1Ch 13:8; 15:16, 19, 28; 16:5, 42; 25:1, 6; 2Ch 5:12, 13; 29:25; Ezr 3:10; Ne 12:27).
2. “metal(lic)” or “silver”
There are over 100 words in the Hebrew Bible associated with metals or metallurgy. Again, I’ll pick a few that would have been useful. Note that in Ezekiel 1, the “expanse” (raqia‘) is not said to be metallic. The word there is “crystal” to denote a shine. It is also not said to be round. It is a platform that supports the throne, under which are cherubim with *side” wheels – what you’d need for a throne (a chair; see the parallel in Dan 7:9-10) to be mobile. The related verb raqa‘ refers to the act of making something thin (not necessarily circular) by hammering. The verb has nothing to do with roundness (and neither does the noun raqia‘ – context has to give shape information, and that is absent in Ezekiel 1).
peladot – (Str 6393; steel iron, i.e., a metal more pliable than cast iron metal, which can be polished; Nah 2:3); matil – (Str 4300; rod, stick, i.e., a solid length of wood or metal of any diameter or length, used for various tasks; Job 40:18); chashmal – (Str 2830; shining substance: (kjv, nkjv, nrsv, njb, Tanakh) amber stone or (nab) electrum (gold/silver alloy): several others have been suggested; a bluish stone, or gold, or bronze, or some kind of in-lay work; Eze 1:4, 27; 8:2); keseph – (Str 3701; silver metal (Job 28:1), note: for niv text in Pr 26:23, see 3869; 2. LN 6.68-6.82 money, i.e., a silver piece as a unit of exchange; 2Sa 18:12; 2Ki 15:20); luach – (Str 3871; 1. LN 6.54-6.67 stone tablets, i.e., a stone surface for inscribing words with a chiseling tool (Ex 24:12) . . . 3. LN 6.188-6.196 metal plate, i.e., a metal surface used for ornamental carving for ornamental adornment of a building; 1Ki 7:36); re’i – (Str 7209; mirror, i.e., a flat piece of polished metal (possibly with an ornamental handle), which makes a reflection for face and hair care; Job 37:18); qalachat – (Str 7037; cooking pot, caldron, kettle, i.e., a large, assumedly metal, vessel for cooking or boiling meats or stews; 1Sa 2:14; Mic 3:3).
3. “bright” or “shining” or “burning”
There are over two dozen terms used of the quality of shininess or shining in the Hebrew Bible. Here are several.
chashmal – see entry above under #2; tsahal - (Str 6670; make shine, make glisten, i.e., cause light to reflect off a surface efficiently and so cause a shining appearance from that object; Ps 104:15); zahar – (Str 2096; brightness, shining, i.e., have an appearance of light, implying a beauty or splendor; Eze 8:2; Da 12:3).
4. Black (color)
shachor – (Str 7838; 1. LN 79.26-79.38 black, i.e., pertaining to the color black (Lev 13:31, 37; SS 1:5; 5:11; Zec 6:2, 6); chashak – (Str 2821; 1. LN 14.53-14.62 (qal) be dark, i.e., be in a state of little or no light, with an associative meaning of gloom or depressed feelings (Job 3:9; 18:6; Ecc 12:2, 3; Isa 5:30; 13:10+), note: for niv text in Eze 30:18, see 3124; (hif) darken (Ps 105:28; 139:12; Jer 13:16; Am 5:8; 8:9+); 2. LN 79.26-79.38 (qal) be black, i.e., be the color black, as an extension of darkness as the absence of light (Ex 10:15; La 4:8+).
5. Straight side or line
mesharim – (Str 4339; 1. LN 88.12-88.23 uprightness, i.e., what conforms to a standard (1Ch 29:17); 2. LN 88.12-88.23 fairness, equity, i.e., the concept of justice in relation to a standard (Ps 9:9[EB 8]); 3. LN 79.88-79.90 straightness, i.e., a linear direction that does not deviate nor is crooked (SS 7:10[EB 9]); 4. LN 79.84-79.87 levelness, i.e., a state of not having hills or depressions (Isa 26:7); yashar (Str 3477; 1. LN 79.88-79.90 straight, i.e., pertaining to not being crooked (Eze 1:7); 2. LN 79.84-79.87 level, i.e., pertaining to not being bumpy with elevations or depressions (Jer 31:9); yosher (Str 3476; 1. LN 88.12-88.23 uprightness, i.e., the quality of conforming to a standard (Dt 9:5; 1Ki 9:4; Job 33:3, 23; Ps 25:21; 119:7; Pr 14:2; Ecc 12:10+), note: Pr 8:21 cj; 2. LN 79.88-79.90 straightness, i.e., what is not crooked, or possibly a leveling or evenness of a path (Pr 2:13; 4:11+).
I hope you get the idea. Now, here’s how you’d describe the following:
1. Standard UFO – “Behold, I looked up at the heavens and saw a round (loaf, shield); its color was silver, and it had the appearance of shining silver (or shining amber) and was moving fast (or standing still, whatever).”
2. Triangle UFO – “Behold, I looked up at the heavens and saw a great thing having three sides, each of them straight. And the appearance of the thing was black, like night.”
3. A “rod” UFO – “Behold, I looked up at the heavens and saw a rod (Hebr: matil) whose appearance was silver. And behold the rod shined brightly.”
4. A “gumdrop” UFO – “Behold, I looked up at the heavens and saw a cooking pot (qalachat) made of silver, great and shining. And behold the cooking pot’s mouth was below its base (i.e., it was upside down, for the gumdrop effect).”
Honestly, folks, this is child’s play.
I can hardly wait for some “researcher” to steal these fake “Bible verses” and put them on a website somewhere about Bible UFOs. If you see that, let me know. I’ll be glad to post links here to that site so it comes up more easily in Google and we can expose the hack who did it.
The Bellingham Herald, the local newspaper in my neck of the woods, ran an article on me today (you have to love the rocket behind me in the picture). The interview with Michelle Nolan was a lot of fun. It was fascinating — she’s a veritable walking encyclopedia on the history of comic books and science fiction. We tried to focus on several of the ideas in The Facade. I actually got several good trajectories for the sequel, The Portent, from the interview.
I hope readers will check it out!
I saw this essay from TIME Magazine pop up on Twitter today: “Dabbling in Exotheology.” The date of the essay was 1978 (unless that’s a typo). The essay opens with this question: “Can the “image of God” survive in extraterrestrial life?” An understandable one, but an ignorant one, nonetheless. Anyone who has followed my work knows I’ve lectured on this many times. The answer is “yes” (if what is meant is the survival of the doctrine). It’s “no” if what is meant that ET also has this image.
Lest I be misunderstood, I’m not saying TIME is guilty of theological ignorance. The question really is to be expected. The ignorance is to be found among the many millions of Christians and Jews who would be spooked about the confirmation of ET life because they have fundamentally misunderstood the image of God as some sort of (heretofore) human attribute, like intelligence, sentience, speech, etc. This is the way the image gets talked about all the time, but that notion is not at all coherent.
I won’t take the time or space to rehearse the content of my lectures here. The best I can do is the twelve-page essay on the image of God that I recently wrote for a study Bible published by my employer, Logos Bible Software (the article was for the Lexham Bible Dictionary, also our product, but accessible through the study Bible). Look for the section on the meaning of the image. I could have devoted twelve more pages as to why the “traditional” (attribute-based) view undermines a pro-life ethic and fails because of research in fields like artificial intelligence and animal cognition (and the theoretical study of intelligent ET life), but this will have to do. People who have a high view of Scripture and its teaching about how humans are God’s imagers (to know why I use the verbal phrasing, read my essay), an intelligent ET ought not to be any theological threat. And yet it would be, due to theological ignorance.