"Christians and the Internet" newsletter CATI, Vol. 1, No. 18: May 5, 2000. _______________________________________________________________
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. PHIL JOHNSON'S BOOKMARKS: HELPFUL COMMENTS ON WEB SITES 2. "NASA COMPUTERS PROVE JOSHUA'S LONG DAY": ANOTHER HOAX? _______________________________________________________________
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is Copyright (C) 2000 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved. Past issues can be accessed on the Web at http://traver.org/cati . _______________________________________________________________
1. PHIL JOHNSON'S BOOKMARKS: HELPFUL COMMENTS ON WEB SITES
You'll find Phil Johnson's Bookmarks at the following address:
Phil Johnson's Bookmarks http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark.htm
You'll find many lists of links on the Web, but this one is different. For one thing, Phil has a helpful comment on each link in his list. For another, the comments have an attitude (which I intend as a compliment). That is, they say something useful about the site, but they also show something of Phil's engaging personality as well. You may or may not always agree with his comments, but you shouldn't find them boring! He commends good sites, warns against bad sites, and includes many sites of interest (and some that are really weird!).
Who is this Phil Johnson? His Web site provides the answer:
"First off, Phillip R. Johnson is not the Phillip Johnson who wrote Darwin on Trial. That's Phillip E. Johnson. (It's a fine book nonetheless.) Our Phil Johnson is....the executive Director of Grace to You, a Christian tape and radio ministry featuring the preaching ministry of John MacArthur. Phil has been closely associated with John MacArthur since 1981 and edits most of MacArthur's major books. Phil is an elder at Grace Community Church...as well as a trustee of The Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recordings Trust in England. He also teaches courses in writing and editing at The Master's College and Seminary. And in his spare time he sometimes does free-lance editorial work for a number of evangelical publishers.... ...Phil is a committed Calvinist--with a decidedly Baptistic bent.... [He] is also an inveterate reader and bibliophile." http://www.gty.org/~phil/bio.htm
Here are the categories you'll find in his list:
Theology Helpful Theology Resources http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/helpful.htm Bad Theology http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/bad.htm Really Bad Theology http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/realbad.htm Really, Really Bad Theology http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/xtrabad.htm Roman Catholic Resources http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/cath.htm Other Christian Links Apologetics and Anti-Cult Literature http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/apol.htm Biblical Counseling http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/counslng.htm Books http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/books.htm Christian Periodicals http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/periodcl.htm Churches Online http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/churches.htm Gospel Tracts Online http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/tracts.htm Miscellaneous Christian Resources http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/misc.htm Sermons (including audio files) http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/sermons.htm Hector Dolt's List o' Favorites TM http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/hdlist.htm Personal Links Favorite WWW Sites http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/myfaves.htm Home pages of My Friends http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/friends.htm News and Magazines http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/news.htm Search Engines http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/search.htm @ wEiRd sTuFf !!? http://www.gty.org/~phil/bookmark/weird.htm
You may also want to explore another excellent site done by the same Phil Johnson:
The Hall of Church History: Theology from a Bunch of Dead Guys http://www.gty.org/~phil/hall.htm
2. "NASA COMPUTERS PROVE JOSHUA'S LONG DAY": ANOTHER HOAX?
Christians are to be "as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16). They are not to be gullible, but they are called to follow this instruction of Scripture: "Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). According to the Ten Commandments, they are not to bear false witness, but to speak the truth.
How does this apply to the Internet? One application is that Christians must not blindly believe every email message that comes their way nor automatically pass around to others such communications that suggest that that be done, for Christians know the fallenness of mankind, one implication of which is that a surprisingly large number of such email messages often turn out to be hoaxes.
In past issues of CATI we have already looked at two examples of this. In CATI 1/2/3 we looked at the "It Takes Guts to Say 'Jesus'" hoax, and in CATI 1/11/2 we looked at the "Madeline" Murray "O'Hare" petition hoax. In this issue we'll look at the "NASA Computers Prove Joshua's Long Day" story, and you can decide whether there is sufficient evidence to decide that the story is another hoax.
The story of Joshua's long day is told in Joshua 10:1-15. The question before us is not the issue of the truth of the Biblical account (conservative Christians believe that the events in the narrative actually occurred, although they differ somewhat in their interpretation of the account) but whether the modern story is true that claims that NASA computers have confirmed the Biblical narrative.
Here's one version of the email letter, as it was sent to me last month by a CATI subscriber:
> For all you scientists out there and for all you students > who have a hard time convincing people regarding the truth > of the Bible...here's something that shows God's awesome > creation and shows that He is still in control. Did you know > that the space program is busy proving that what has been > "myth" in the Bible is true?
> Mr. Harold Hill, president of the Curtis Engine Company in > Baltimore, Maryland and a consultant in the space program, > relays the following development. I think that one of the > most amazing things that God has for us today happened > recently to our astronauts and space scientists at Green > Belt, Maryland. They were checking the position of the sun, > moon, and planets out in space where they would be 100 years > and 1000 years from now. We have to know this so we won't > send a satellite up and have it bump into something later on > its orbits. We have to lay out the orbits in terms of the > life of the satellite and where the planets will be so > the whole thing will not bog down. They ran the computer > measurement back and forth over the centuries and it came > to a halt. The computer stopped and put up a red signal, > which meant that there was something wrong either with the > information fed into it or with the results as compared to > the standards.
> They called in the service department to check it out and > they said, "What's wrong?" They found that there is a day > missing in space in elapsed time. They scratched their > heads and tore their hair. There was no answer. Finally, a > Christian man on the team said, "You know, one time I was in > Sunday school and they talked about the sun standing still." > While they didn't believe him, they didn't have an answer > either, so they said, "Show us."
> He got a Bible and went back to the book of Joshua where > they found a pretty ridiculous statement for anyone with > "common sense." There they found the Lord saying to Joshua, > "Fear them not, I have delivered them into thy hand; there > shall not a man of them stand before thee." Joshua was > concerned because he was surrounded by the enemy and if > darkness fell, they would overpower them. So Joshua asked > the Lord to make the sun stand still! "That's right, the > sun stood still and the moon stayed and hasted not to go > down about a whole day!" The astronauts and scientists said, > "There is the missing day!"
> They checked the computers going back into the time it was > written and found it was close but not close enough. The > elapsed time that was missing back in Joshua's day was 23 > hours and 20 minutes, not a whole day. They read the Bible > and there it was, "about (approximately) a whole day." These > little words in the Bible are important, but they were still > in trouble because if you cannot account for 40 minutes, > you'll still be in trouble 1000 years from now. Forty > minutes had to be found because it can be multiplied many > times over in orbits.
> As the Christian employee thought about it, he remembered > somewhere in the Bible where it said the sun went BACKWARDS. > The scientists told him he was out of his mind, but they got > out the Book and read these words in 2 Kings: Hezekiah, on > his death bed, was visited by the prophet Isaiah who told > him that he was not going to die. Hezekiah asked for a sign > as proof. Isaiah said, "Do you want the sun to go ahead 10 > degrees?" Hezekiah said, "It is nothing for the sun to go > ahead 10 degrees, but let the shadow return backwards 10 > degrees." "Isaiah spoke to the Lord and the Lord brought > the shadow ten degrees BACKWARD! 10 degrees is exactly 40 > minutes! 23 hours and 20 minutes in Joshua, plus 40 minutes > in 2 Kings made the missing day in the universe! Isn't it > amazing? God is truth!
> References: Joshua 10:8,12, & 13; 2 Kings 20:9-11
> Forward this to as many people who would think this is > equally as cool.
It does make a good story, BUT if you get such an email, do NOT forward to others, since there is NO solid evidence to support the story and there are MANY reasons to disbelieve it, as you will see shortly as we provide some of the fascinating history of the story, which -- in its various forms -- goes back over 100 years!
First, what evidence is there to support the story?
The most recent version of the story relies entirely on the credibility of one Harold Hill, who still maintains the truth of the story, but in his 1974 book How to Live Like a King's Kid (published by Logos International, the publisher of Mike Warnke's The Satan Seller and of other books NOT noted for their historical authenticity) Hill did acknowledge that (1) he did not witness the incident at NASA personally and (2) he could not remember where he first heard it. In short, NO evidence (other than Hill's claims) has ever been given as to the NASA story's authenticity. There are not even two witnesses to vouch for the story, and Hill himself was not even an eyewitness, but simply someone who heard the story and cannot remember where!
Incidentally, the story of Mike Warnke's The Satan Seller is itself also a fascinating one. You can read more about The Satan Seller hoax at the following places:
The Cornerstone Series on Mike Warnke http://www.cornerstonemag.com/warnke.htm
Selling Satan: The Evangelical Media and the Mike Warnke Scandal http://www.cornerstonepress.com/titles/warnke/
A Sobering Summer http://www.cornerstonemag.com/archives/html/csr0016a.htm
Mike Warnke's The Satan Seller was a deliberate hoax, while Harold Hill (another author published by Logos International) --although he may not necessarily be guilty of deliberate deception (let us give him the benefit of the doubt on that, since in his book How to Live Like a King's Kid he says that he doesn't remember where he heard the story)--may perhaps have simply mis-remembered significant parts of the story.
So.... First, there is no evidence (other than Harold Hill's remembrance of the story without his remembering where he had heard it) to support the story. Second, there are a number of reasons to disbelieve it. We'll consider those reasons as we look at the fascinating history of Joshua's long day as the "solution" to a "missing day" problem.
The first version of the story goes back over a hundred years and has nothing to do with astronomers or computers. Dr. Robert C. Newman--who not only teaches Bible at Biblical Seminary, but also has a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Cornell University--describes the situation in his excellent account, "Joshua's Long Day and the NASA Computers":
"[C.A.L.] Totten [was] a professor of military science at Yale from 1889 to 1892, when he resigned to spend more time on his religious studies. He was a British-Israelist, believing that the Anglo-Saxons were the lost tribes of Israel, and an Adventist, who predicted the reign of Antichrist would occur in the seven-year period 1892-99. Among his many writings is Joshua's Long Day and the Dial of Ahaz, published in 1890." http://www.biblical.edu/joshua.htm
Note: We're talking 1890's here, and the "science" that Totten taught was military science, not astronomy. As a British-israelist, he was also a Bible student, but a rather unorthodox one. His book contains no account of skeptical scientists, but he does use Joshua's long day as a solution to what he sees as a "missing day" problem in the Bible (and not a "missing day" problem in the realm of science). Let's listen to Dr. Newman tell the story:
"Totten is using an assumed date of creation -- the autumnal equinox, September 22, 4000 BC... Taking the first day of creation to be a Sunday by his understanding of Scripture, and finding that by calculating back from the present, September 22, 4000 BC would fall on a Monday, he concludes: '...it can come so by no possible mathematics without the interpolation or "intercalation" of exactly 24 hours'...." http://www.biblical.edu/joshua.htm
That date (based on similar calculations to those used by Bishop Ussher for his date of 4004 BC) is crucial to Totten's argument, but it is not a date that has many (or perhaps any?) supporters today:
"...few conservative Christians would now accept 4000 BC as the date of creation, even among those who believe the earth is much younger than geologists are willing to concede. But Totten's whole scheme depends entirely on knowing the exact day of creation." http://www.biblical.edu/joshua.htm
Note: we're not simply talking about the year of creation here, but "the exact day"!
As the title of his book suggests, Totten's solution to the problem he found involves not only the long day of Joshua (Joshua 10), but also the shadow going back 10 degrees on Ahaz's sundial in the time of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20):
"[Totten] started with this 24 hours missing, then decided from the ten degrees mentioned in the Hezekiah incident to assign 40 minutes to that event (since the sun moves about 10 degrees in 40 minutes), leaving 23 hours, 20 minutes to Joshua." http://www.biblical.edu/joshua.htm
So this was the original version of the story of Joshua's long day and Hezekiah's forty minutes: no skeptical scientists, no NASA computers, just an unusual interpretation of the Bible based on our supposedly knowing the exact day of creation:
"In summary, Totten's work has no foundation independent of the Bible, and it is questionable whether he has properly understood Scripture in regard to...the date of creation." http://www.biblical.edu/joshua.htm
We move now to a different version of the story as it is told in Harry Rimmer's 1936 book, The Harmony of Science and Scripture. At this point--in addition to the helpful essay by Dr. Newman--we'll be drawing on a helpful article, "Has NASA Discovered Joshua's 'Lost Day'?," by Dr. Bert Thompson, who has a doctorate in microbiology in addition to being a professor of Bible:
"In his 1936 book, The Harmony of Science and Scripture, Harry Rimmer devoted the entire last chapter to 'Modern Science and the Long Day of Joshua.'... Rimmer then mentioned two scientists--Sir Edwin Ball, a British astronomer, and Charles A.L. Totten, a Yale professor. He credited Ball with being the first to notice that 'twenty-four hours had been lost out of solar time.' Rimmer then asked the questions: 'Where did that go, what was the cause of this strange lapse, and how did it happen'...? In the very next paragraph, he wrote: 'There is a place, however, where the answer is found. And this place is attested by a scientist of standing. There is a book by Prof. C.A. Totten of Yale, written in 1890, which establishes the case beyond the shadow of a doubt'.... Rimmer then offered what he called a 'summary' of Tottens book where, he said, information could be found to prove exactly how the 'lost day' had been discovered. Rimmer even gave the exact day and month on which Joshuas battle was fought-- Tuesday, July 22...." http://www.thenoblesearch.org/1999c22.html
There are a number of reasons to be dissatisfied with Rimmer's version of the events, as Dr. Thompson observes:
"First, Rimmer specifically stated that he intended to 'quote from' Ball and Totten, yet none of the statements he offered was placed in quotation marks. Second, the 1890 book that Totten wrote (Joshuas Long Day and the Dial of Ahaz) never was named by Rimmer, which seems a bit odd considering that Rimmer devoted an entire chapter to this subject in his own book. Third, no bibliographic references were provided by Rimmer to the works of either Ball or Totten--again, quite unusual, seeing as how Rimmer based his entire argument on the validity of their respective cases. Fourth, numerous other writers have made serious efforts to determine the validity of Rimmers claims, as well as those of Ball and Totten, but with no success. For example, Bernard Ramm, in The Christian View of Science and Scripture [published in 1954], discussed Dr. Rimmers viewpoint and his reference to Totten. Ramm [stated] his personal conclusion regarding the documentation offered by Rimmer, Totten, and Ball...'This I have not been able to verify to my own satisfaction.... Dr. Kulp has tried to check this theory at Yale [Tottens employer--BT] and in England [Sir Edwin Balls home--BT], and has found nothing to verify it.'..." http://www.thenoblesearch.org/1999c22.html
Here is Rimmer's version, as quoted by Dr. Newman:
"There is a book by Prof. C. A. Totten of Yale, written in 1890, which establishes the case beyond the shadow of a doubt. The condensed account of his book, briefly summarized, is as follows: Professor Totten wrote of a fellow-professor, an accomplished astronomer, who made the strange discovery that the earth was twenty-four hours out of schedule!... Totten challenged this man to investigate...the Bible. He said, "...You begin to read at the very beginning and read as far as need be, and see if the Bible cannot account for your missing time.'" http://www.biblical.edu/joshua.htm
Rimmer tells a very interesting story here (which, however, he is claiming to be a "condensed account" of Totten's book):
"The astronomer accepted the challenge and began to read. Some time later...[he reported], 'I believe I have definitely proved that the Bible is not the Word of God. ...[I] found that at the time of Joshua there were only twenty-three hours and twenty minutes lost. If the Bible made a mistake of forty minutes, it is not the Book of God!' Professor Totten said, "...But does the Bible say that a whole day was lost at the time of Joshua?" So they looked and saw that the text said, 'about the space of a whole day.'... [So] the astronomer took up his reading again. He read on until he came to....the the thrilling story of....the sundial of Ahaz.... This settles the case, for ten degrees on the sundial is forty minutes on the face of the clock! So the accuracy of the Book was established to the satisfaction of this exacting critic." http://www.biblical.edu/joshua.htm
Question: how did the astronomer find that "at the time of Joshua there were only twenty-three hours and twenty minutes lost"? It is only the account of Ahaz's sundial that could be given as support that Joshua's day is forty minutes short! But that's not the major problem with Rimmer's book, as we have already seen. As Dr. Newman observes, in Totten's 1890 book Rimmer's "dramatic story of a skeptic convinced does not appear! Instead, Totten himself, a non-skeptic all along, seeks to show that a total of 24 hours are missing from past time..."
The skeptical scientist introduced in Rimmer's version has been maintained, however, in more recent versions, but has been brought up to date:
"Since 1936, the story has apparently been updated by the additions of "space age" features, including NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center scientists to replace the lone astronomer, and computers to speed up the tedious calculations." http://www.biblical.edu/joshua.htm
So we come to Mr. Harold Hill's version. Some interesting background on Hill can be found in the "Urban Myths" area of the "Ship of Fools" Web site:
"Harold Hill was a real person and he was the president of the Curtis Engine Company in Baltimore, Maryland. He had converted to Christianity as an adult and became a popular speaker among Christian groups, because he was a successful businessman, claimed to be a consultant to NASA, and did presentations on science and the Bible. One of his most popular presentations was the story of the Missing Day. Harold Hill apparently told the story without much notice until October 1969, when a columnist for a small American newspaper was told about one of his speeches and was given some notes about the Missing Day. She was so intrigued, that she wrote it up and it was published.... From that article, the Missing Day story found its way into untold numbers of magazines, newspapers, gospel tracts, books and now emails...." http://ship-of-fools.com/Myths/05Myth.html
That same article notes some problems with Hill's story:
"One problem is that apart from Harold Hill, there is no known source for the NASA story. For many years, whenever anyone wrote to him about it, he sent a form letter which said he had misplaced the source of the information, but would send everybody a copy when he found it. The source never materialized.... Further, according to a letter... from the NASA Public Affairs office in Washington, 'There is no truth to the recurring story that NASA uncovered a lost day in the movement of the Earth.'" http://ship-of-fools.com/Myths/05Myth.html
So Harold Hill is the sole witness to the truth of the NASA story (a story denied by NASA), and Hill has not presented any solid evidence in support of the story. If the story is not a deliberate hoax, it may be that Hill at some point read the distorted version of Totten's book in Rimmer's book and then "mis-remembered" what he had read (the mind can play tricks on a person, and Hill has conceded that he does not remember where he heard the story).
Incidentally, there is a significant difficulty in the claim that scientists have discovered a "missing day." To prove that there is a "missing day" means that it is possible to measure elapsed time between two fixed points in more than one way and that the result for one of the ways differs by a day from the result for the other way. But what can be used for the fixed point in time prior to Joshua?
Here's how Dr. Newman explains it:
"To detect a day missing in elapsed time, it would be necessary to have a known fixed-point in time before the day that is missing. Moreover, [Hill's] story suggests that the scientists found not only that exactly one day was missing, but that 23 hours, 20 minutes of it was lost in the time of Joshua..., and the remaining 40 minutes was lost in the time of Hezekiah.... So in this case, we need two fixed-points: one before the time of Joshua and another between the times of Joshua and Hezekiah.... The only method I know of which could produce such accuracy would be observations of eclipses of the sun, since these are total only along narrow paths and only last for a few minutes at any specific locality. But the earliest dateable eclipse of the sun occurred...after the time of Joshua.... In any case, ancient eclipse observations are not given with a accuracy of a few minutes even by local time, so confirmation of Joshua's long day by science seems to be impossible at present. This strongly suggests that the computer story is a hoax." http://www.biblical.edu/joshua.htm
The bottom line is that there is no real evidence in support of the NASA story and much evidence against it. Therefore Christians ought not to pass along the story without further clarification or confirmation.
Are there lessons to be learned from this fascinating story? Indeed there are, and we conclude this account with some thought-provoking comments from Dr. Newman:
"We would all like to see skeptics turn to Christ, and it is sometimes a temptation for us to 'bend' the truth a little to make a stronger argument. After all, the end (eternal life for someone) justifies the means (a little lie), doesn't it? No, it doesn't! This is trying to do God's work using Satan's tactics!
"In the long run, when God allows the truth to come to light, such lies only give unbelievers modern examples by which to claim that the Bible writers were guilty of the same things. Our attempt to 'help' God thus becomes an argument for unbelief. Instead, Christians should gave such zeal for the truth that unbelievers will come to see that we really have it.
"We should rebuke the Rimmers and the Hills and others who have passed on these stories. They (and we) should be careful in checking sources, especially for materials which are favorable to our position. And certainly we should not be inventing stories to make Christianity look good! There are excellent evidences for the truth of Christianity, so that those who choose to reject it will have no good answer in the day of judgment. Let us be active helping people see this while they can still turn to Jesus Christ." ________________________________________________________________
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