The Bible as Science Fiction

IO9 suggests that it is time for sci-fi versions of familiar Bible stories. That could be interesting. If one ventures outside the Bible slightly, one gets books like 1 Enoch which already fit the genre. Enoch’s “ascension” shows the same sort of pre-modern cosmology I talked about in my last post, although the parallels make it more natural to talk about his “abduction”.

Of course, the Left Behind movie also fits the genre – when I watched it (before teaching a course on Revelation, since I suspected I might get asked about the series by students), I kept expecting Mulder and Scully to show up and investigate what was going on.

All kidding aside, however, this provides a nice opportunity to ask a key question raised by the last few posts. How do you “translate” stories from the Bible into your own worldview today? How do you update the cosmology, if at all? It is one thing to notice the differences between the ancient cosmology assumed by the authors of the Bible and our own. It is another to figure out how (if at all) one can bridge the gap and appreciate the message expressed in the context of that ancient worldview, and perhaps even re-express its meaning for our time.

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  • I started writing the story of the Magi as science fiction—instead of priests from a strange heathen land they were scientists from a planet that placed a very high value on science.I didn’t finish it though, mainly because it sucked.I do like retelling Bible stories in modern settings, though, and they’re not always that bad. The way we translate the ideas of cosmology is one of the most important things in the process. It becomes doubly interesting when the characters learn something new about their own place in God’s cosmos, which happens very frequently in the gospels.

  • I think the connections between Luke’s account of the ascension and the Enochic and other apocalyptic literature are interesting. After all, the whole stream of material surrounding Enoch, Moses, Elijah, etc. is founded on the belief that these men did not die and go to heaven in the usual sense. The fact that the early Christians would claim this about a man they knew had died cries out for an explanation. If we don’t accept the one they offered, we need a convincing alternative, and no matter what that explanation is liable to be either speculative, fanciful or both.

  • Wade G.

    James,I take the Biblical stories symbolically and so for me there is little point in attempting to update the cosmology for modern use. The symbols that the ancients used are relevant today, I think, without having to make an effort to conform the cosmology expressed to our modern one. I think that because I believe the writings to be addressing our deepest human concerns about life, death, love and such and I think our deepest concerns remain relatively constant as long as we are still human beings. Losing paradise due to a wrongful act resonates as strongly today as it ever has and apple and snake are (a very important) vehicle of the message – not the message itself.I do believe, however, that it is important to try to figure out the cosmology the authors of these ancient texts assumed. The authors are writing very deeply and profoundly about the anxieties and joys of being and there is great complexity to what they are saying. The more you understand their cosmology the more sense the symbols they were using make. It is exciting to listen to April as she (almost daily) makes discoveries and more connections regarding the Gospel of Judas and the cosmology of the ancients. And I am sure what is true of it is true of other texts as well – they get richer the more you know and can connect into about the universal world view behind the text.Wade

  • Speaking of FICTION, note the frantic movement of Christians the past five years or so to denounce mega-bestselling fictional novels like The Da Vinci Code, which I think is due to the fact that the church’s own mega-bestseller, the Gospels, has more in common with Dan Brown’s novel than the church would like to admit. Both Dan Brown’s mega-bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, along with the New Testament, obtained a wide readership and featured characters and plots that were engrossing for their day, and both explicitly promise to unveil hidden truths. The Gospels read like a first-century “Da Vinci Code” novel, featuring wild pesher and midrashic interpretations of “riddles and clues” that God allegedly left in ancient Hebrew books written centuries before Jesus was born, yet such clues were deciphered by N.T. authors to be “prophecies foretelling” Jesus’ arrival, specific deeds, death and resurrection. The earliest Gospel, “Mark,” even speaks mysteriously about Jesus being secretive about his true identity. Sounds similar to the plot of Dan Brown’s mystery novel, especially since the alleged “prophecies about Jesus” were lifted (sometimes a mere half verse at a time) from the O.T. and based on the most tenuous of alleged connections, or even based on making some stories of Jesus up just to make suit or fit the O.T. verses! [Google: Jeff Lowder’s “The Fabulous Prophecies of the Messiah;” and “Fiddler Zvi” and his online “Messiah and Tanakh” page.] Portions of both The Da Vinci Code, and the New Testament, involve names and places that are known from history, while other portions contain errors, and still others are probably legendary or even lies.

  • I’ve been pushing the science fiction bible thing for years. Glad the world is finally catching up… :)I’ll be working on my next Old Testament Space Opera for NaNoWriMo, so if anyone’s interested there may be an exceprt or two on my blog over the next few weeks.

  • Hi James. You may find a story I’ve developed titled First World interesting from a combination of science fiction and the Bible. The general premise behind FW is what NASA covered up during the Apollo space program that is now unraveling in the year 2018 on the eve of the next space race to the moon between China and the United States. Part of the back story brings together the ancient astronaut theory, along with antediluvian lifespans and the genetic linking of contemporary characters to the Apostles. I’ve produced a 25 min short film version and am working in securing production for the feature length version. Our trailer and short can be found on IMDB at and our official web site Enjoy.Mark

  • I think the history of Western literature and art is already replete with examples of people translating Biblical stories and symbols into their own contemporary worldview, for better and for worse… That is to say, we don’t really have to set about doing it formally.

  • Anonymous

    The Bible stories already ARE science fiction stories told from a Bronze Age perspective.

  • I have always thought of the Bible as inspiration for science fiction stories. It has everything from the speculative to paranormal. Even more incredible, I think the people from that era really believed the stories, making them all the more intriguing. It really makes you wonder…thousands of miles apart, people are writing testimonials about creatures coming out of the sky (as depicted in non biblical texts and artwork too), floods, demons, and so on. It’s pretty cool.