ExoTheology & Space-Age Interpretations of the Bible

(religious implications of an inhabited universe)

Mark 13:24-32 “and the stars will be falling from heaven”

I was just thinking this morning about “stars falling from the heavens” being taken literally. The gospel reading for today was Mark 13:24-32 in which Jesus says,

“In those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven…”

It’s fairly easy to imagine what could be meant by the sun and moon being darkened — pollution and/or altered weather patterns. But since stars do not literally fall from the heavens, I’m not sure what Mark meant by that (and maybe he isn’t either! or maybe he’s just using hyperbolic non-literal apocalyptic language). It could theoretically be meteor showers. But there’s nothing unusual about meteor showers, so… Could be another effect of pollution or altered weather patterns OR fallout from some natural or man-made disaster.

Anyway… I found this interesting.

From The Press-Enterprise (San Bernadino County, California)…

meteor16.jpg1833 meteor shower’s effects are seen to this day in religion
10:31 PM PST on Sunday, November 15, 2009

By DAVID OLSON
The Press-Enterprise

The Leonid meteor shower makes its annual appearance tonight, and it’s expected to be mediocre at best. You’ll probably see a few sporadic streams of light through the sky.

But imagine multiplying those streaks of light by the tens or even hundreds of thousands. And transport yourself back to 1833, before anyone knew that meteors — commonly known as shooting stars — are tiny particles of comet debris that illuminate when they slam into the Earth’s atmosphere.

What would you have thought when you saw what appeared to be tens of thousands of stars falling from the sky? You might have thought it was the end of the world.

Many people did.

The Leonid meteor shower on the night of Nov. 12-13, 1833, was so spectacular that it helped lead to the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which now has about 17 million members worldwide and is a major presence in the Inland area.

It also was a key reason that scientists began believing that the “falling stars” were an astronomical phenomenon, not an atmospheric event as many had thought.

Observers of the meteor shower wrote that the 3 a.m. sky was almost as bright as broad daylight.

“A tempest of falling stars broke over the Earth … ” said 19th century astronomy writer Agnes Clerke, according to a NASA history of the Leonids. “The sky was scored in every direction with shining tracks and illuminated with majestic fireballs.”

Clerke estimated that 240,000 meteors were visible during nine hours. Others wrote about the celestial event.

“The whole heavens seemed in motion and suggested to some the awful grandeur of the image employed in the Apocalypse,” reads an 1888 Adventist book, Bible Readings for the Home Circle.

The book alludes to several New Testament verses that predicted “the stars shall fall from heaven” before the world would end and Jesus would return.

Many Christians in 1833 already were looking out for signs of Jesus’ return, said Jon Paulien, dean of the School of Religion at Loma Linda University, a Seventh-day Adventist institution.

The scriptures also predict a great earthquake, a day when the sun would be darkened and a time when the moon would turn red. All of those events occurred in the decades leading up to 1833.

“They’re saying one sign left, stars falling from heaven,” Paulien said. “When that comes, it’s confirmation.

“It’s a reasonable assumption,” he said. “A less scientific era would put more spiritual interpretation on events like this.”

The 1833 Leonids led some Christians to begin preparing for the return of Jesus. When that didn’t occur as predicted in the 1840s, some concluded that the meteor shower and other signs were God’s way of trying to lead people to search for a greater understanding of the Second Coming, also called the Second Advent, Paulien said.

Those who founded the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1863 were among those who took the 1833 meteor shower as a sign of the end of the world, Paulien said.

The Adventist church teaches followers to be prepared physically in addition to spiritually for Christ, which is why institutions such as Loma Linda University — one of the country’s only exclusively health-science universities — and the university’s medical center were founded, Paulien said.

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