"Christians and the Internet" newsletter
CATI, Vol. 1, No. 18:  May 5, 2000.
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 .
You'll find Phil Johnson's Bookmarks at the following address:
Phil Johnson's Bookmarks
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."
Here are the categories you'll find in his list:
 Helpful Theology Resources 
 Bad Theology 
 Really Bad Theology 
 Really, Really Bad Theology 
 Roman Catholic Resources 
Other Christian Links 
 Apologetics and Anti-Cult Literature 
 Biblical Counseling 
 Christian Periodicals 
 Churches Online 
 Gospel Tracts Online 
 Miscellaneous Christian Resources 
 Sermons (including audio files) 
 Hector Dolt's List o' Favorites TM 
Personal Links  
 Favorite WWW Sites 
 Home pages of My Friends 
 News and Magazines 
 Search Engines 
 @ wEiRd sTuFf !!? 
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
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
Selling Satan:  The Evangelical Media and the Mike Warnke
A Sobering Summer
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."
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'...."
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." 
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
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."
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 Totten’s 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 Joshua’s battle was fought--
Tuesday, July 22...."
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 (Joshua’s 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
Rimmer’s 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.
Rimmer’s 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 [Totten’s employer--BT] and in England
[Sir Edwin Ball’s home--BT], and has found nothing to verify
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.'" 
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."
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
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."
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...."
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.'"
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." 
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
"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."
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is
Copyright (C) 2000 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved.  For
permission to reproduce material from this newsletter, contact
Barry Traver at cati@traver.org.  Permission is hereby granted,
however, to pass along this issue to others, provided that (1)
no changes are made and (2) it is passed along in its entirety.
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