Finally, Von Daniken enters a world I’m quite familiar with. In his chapter Was God An Astronaut? he primarily focuses on the bible, particularly the book of Genesis. As his past chapters have gone, it’s to no surprise that he takes a very hard, literal understanding of the text in order to develop his arguments. In other cases, he’s just flat-out wrong.
He begins the chapter by saying:
“Genesis, for example, begins with the creation of the earth, which is reported with absolute geological accuracy. But how did the chronicler know that minerals preceded plants and plants preceded animals?”
Absolute geological accuracy? Sure, one of the biblical accounts of creation describe the creation of earth, then water, and finally plant life. Von Daniken seems to have forgotten, however, that, according to Genesis, the creation of plant life preceded the creation of light. Plant life was able to grow without light? I guess all things are possible through aliens…err, I mean god.
He then goes on to ask the reader, if there was just a single god, why does Genesis 1:26 present the creation of man in a plural form? He writes:
“Why does God speak in the plural? Why does he say “us,” not “me,” why “our,” and not “my”? One would think that the one and only God ought to address mankind in the singular, not in the plural.”
He also makes a statement later on, claiming ancient Israel had only one god. He’s clearly wrong. Yahweh is the god of Judaism, which evidently branched from ancient Canaanite polytheism around the time Genesis was written; this may also explain why Genesis 1:26 is written in plural form.
Von Daniken then jumps right into the story of Lot, the angels, and Sodom and Gomorra. He alludes to his idea that these angels were most-likely aliens, saving Lot before destroying the cities with nuclear weapons. He writes:
“But since the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan, we know the kind of damage such bombs cause and that living creatures exposed to direct radiation die or become incurably ill. Let us imagine for a moment that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed according to plan, i.e., deliberately, by a nuclear explosion. Perhaps–let us speculate a little further-the “angels” simply wanted to destroy some dangerous fissionable material and at the same time to make sure of wiping out a human brood they found unpleasant. The time for the destruction was fixed. Those who were to escape it-such as the Lot family-had to stay a few miles from the center of the explosion in the mountains, for the rock faces would naturally absorb the powerful dangerous rays.”
Seems presumptuous, but who can blame him? Von Daniken believes aliens visited earth well before he studied the bible. It’s not the story of Lot that proves aliens visited earth; Von Daniken’s belief in aliens proves the Lot story to be true for him. This is not how one comes to a rational conclusion.
He then claims the book of Ezekiel describes the landing of a craft. He writes:
“Ezekiel gives precise details of the landing of this vehicle. He describes a craft that comes from the north, emitting rays and gleaming and raising a gigantic cloud of desert sand. Now the God of the Old Testament was supposed to be omnipotent. Then why does this almighty God have to come hurtling up from a particular direction? Cannot he be anywhere he wants without all this noise and fuss?”
He does make an argument I’d agree with; Yahweh, if he is as he’s been described, is rather limited in his powers throughout the bible which contradict his nature as believed by so many theists. To me, these texts are merely stories, not reflecting truth. But I separate, greatly, with him on his conclusion. On another note, I think Von Daniken’s claims limit the power of a race of beings. Isn’t it strange that aliens, who traversed the galaxy for whatever reason, flew spacecraft similar to the design of alien spacecraft from 1950 alien flicks? Why must they travel in a craft Von Daniken is already well familiar with from pop culture?
But what’s really the icing on the cake? Von Daniken thinks the “craft” Ezekiel witnessed was a helicopter. He writes:
“To our present way of thinking what he saw was one of those special vehicles the Americans use in the desert and swampy terrain. Ezekiel observed that the wheels rose from the ground simultaneously with the winged creatures. He was quite right. Naturally the wheels of a multipurpose vehicle, say an amphibious helicopter, do not stay on the ground when it takes off.”
Would Von Daniken come to that conclusion if amphibious helicopters were never developed? No, he wouldn’t even entertain that idea; but it works if you’re purposefully looking for things to confirm your preconceived beliefs.
He applies the same line of logic when he claims the Ark of the Covenant was a device used by Moses to communicate with aliens. He writes:
“If we reconstruct it today according to the instructions handed down by Moses, an electric conductor of several hundred volts is produced. The border and golden crown would have served to charge the condenser which was formed by the gold plates and a positive and negative conductor. If, in addition, one of the two cherubim on the mercy seat acted as a magnet, the loudspeaker–perhaps even a kind of set for communication between Moses and the spaceship–was perfect. The details of the construction of the Ark of the Covenant can be read in the Bible in their entirety. Without actually consulting Exodus, I seem to remember that the Ark was often surrounded by flashing sparks and that Moses made use of this “transmitter” whenever he needed help and advice. Moses heard the voice of his Lord, but he never saw him face to face.”
This would have been a tremendous feat, but if it were true, it has escaped history entirely; non-biblical sources relating to the Ark of the Covenant do not exist. Yes, gold is an excellent conductor. But in its description, it fails to describe how the energy would have been produced. Many replicas have been developed with astounding accuracy, none of which spontaneously produced electricity. And about the loud speaker idea? God supposedly talks to Moses all throughout the bible without a loudspeaker being needed. Why, all of a sudden, would he need one if he was around the ark? So Moses could communicate with an alien craft? I sometimes wonder why I started this endeavor.
Had Von Daniken actually consulted scholars on this issue, he’d have a better idea regarding its context. He’s just as guilty of being dishonest as Young Earth Creationists. The bible is an interesting piece of literature. It served an ignorant population and anyone who takes its contents literal today is as equally ignorant; even more so, I would say, since we can now debunk almost every naturalistic claim presented within its binding. Currently, Von Daniken’s credibility level still rests at zero.
Next blog: Gilgamesh and the Alien