ExoTheology & Space-Age Interpretations of the Bible

(religious implications of an inhabited universe)

Category Archives: SETI / Extraterrestrial Life

C.S. Lewis on travel in outer space, extraterrestrials (May 1963)

This is from an interview with C.S. Lewis, done in May of 1963, six or so months before Lewis died. It’s from C. S. Lewis on Heaven, Earth and Outer Space By Sherwood Eliot Wirt. “Once we find ourselves spiritually awakened, we can go to outer space and take the good things with us.” I love that.

Wirt: Do you think there will be widespread travel in space?

Lewis: “I look forward with horror to contact with the other inhabited planets, if there are such. We would only transport to them all of our sin and our acquisitiveness, and establish a new colonialism. I can’t bear to think of it. But if we on earth were to get right with God, of course, all would be changed. Once we find ourselves spiritually awakened, we can go to outer space and take the good things with us. That is quite a different matter.”

 

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van Gemert: “there is a ‘galactic club,’ an established network of old advanced civilizations, and […] Earth is under a certain ‘quarantine.'”

Nice article on the question of extraterrestrials and the possibility of interstellar travel: The ETH and the Likelihood of Interstellar Travel by Jean van Gemert.

Gemert explains one of his views:

This author favors hypothesis three, that there is a “galactic club,” an established network of old advanced civilizations, and that Earth is under a certain “quarantine.”

And here’s Gemert’s conclusion / summary:

Assessment of the feasibility of interstellar travel indicates that it should be easily accomplished by an advanced society. Arguments, such as that they would not have had enough time to find us yet because of the number of stars to visit, are seen to be implausible [Hart, 1975; Jones 1976, 1995; Hoerner, 1995]. Neither technical feasibility, nor energetics, economics, and social factors are likely to prevent interstellar travel or slow the colonization of the galaxy [Papagiannis op. cit., 1980]. The probabilities appear to be heavily in favor of aliens turning up on our doorstep, which I suspect they may already have.

Judges 5:23 Meroz = “clear proof … for extraterrestrial life”?

In a previous post, I noted that, according to Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, both the Talmud and the Zohar interpret Meroz (a place mentioned in Judges 5:23) as a star — and, more than that, a star with inhabitants (presumably on a orbiting planet). As Kaplan puts it, “the fact that Scripture states, “Cursed is Meroz… cursed are its inhabitants” is clear proof from the words of our Sages for extraterrestrial life.”

That possible connection fascinated me, so I did a little research. So far I can’t find any support from mainstream scholarly sources for any connection between Meroz and the heavens. They all put it as a town in northern Palestine, though they are uncertain exactly where it was or much else about it.

Here’s the passage, Judges 5:19-23 (NRSV).

19 “The kings came, they fought;
then fought the kings of Canaan,
at Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo;
they got no spoils of silver.
20 The stars fought from heaven,
from their courses they fought against Sisera.
21 The torrent Kishon swept them away,
the onrushing torrent, the torrent Kishon.
March on, my soul, with might!
22 “Then loud beat the horses’ hoofs
with the galloping, galloping of his steeds.
23 “Curse Meroz, says the angel of the Lord,
curse bitterly its inhabitants,
because they did not come to the help of the Lord,
to the help of the Lord against the mighty.

For example, Avraham Negev says of Meroz: “Eusebius (Onom. 128:4–6, 12–13) states that in his time there was a village by the name of Marous, Merrous, 12 miles from Beth-Shean, near Dothan, and mistakenly identifies it with Meiron.” [Avraham Negev, The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, 3rd ed. (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1990).]

There’s not much help either in Hebrew lexicons. Here’s the entry in Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon: “מֵרוֹז (prob. for מֶאֱרוֹז, مَأْرَزُ refuge, from the root אָרַז, ارز to draw in, to betake oneself), [Meroz]” [Gesenius, Wilhelm and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003.]

The author of the Wikipedia entry on Meroz points again to the Talmudic view: “According to the Talmud (Moed Katan 16a), Meroz is a certain planet in the stellar sphere, and because the mention of it in Judges 5:23 is preceded by the phrase, “the stars in their course fought against Sisera” (v.20), it thus follows that Meroz must be defined as a celestial body. This mysterious ‘Meroz’ may not only be the name of a star, but also may allude to an unidentified group of outworld inhabitants somewhere in the second heaven (outer space) to which failed in their willingness to assist the righteous in a war against the wicked, and hence cursed by the angel of God.”

Ah! At least here there’s some possible reason [in the Biblical text itself] for the idea that Meroz is a star – i.e., the reference in verse 20 to how “The stars fought from heaven, from their courses they fought against Sisera” (NRSV).

But most commentators seem to be taking verse 20 as poetic, as a poetic way of saying that the Israelites got help from the weather (which in turn they interpreted as God or heaven helping them). The Open Bible (1998) says, “A poetic description of a miracle of weather on Israel’s behalf. Out of the heavens came torrential rains causing flash floods.” And the KJV Bible Commentary (1997) says, “The intervention of heaven is poetically phrased as the stars in their courses which fought against Sisera. Jehovah is viewed here as controlling the process of nature itself, a common Israelite belief throughout the Old Testament era.”

Good ol’ J. Vernon McGee disagrees and takes it all a bit more literally: “I don’t believe this is merely a poetic expression. My feeling is that it could truly be said that heaven, that God was against this enemy. [Thru the Bible Commentary, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), Jdg 5:20.]

So, in the end, I still can’t find any connection between “Meroz” and “star.” Probably, if I knew more about the Talmud and the Zohar, I might understand why those sages might make that connection. I’ll keep looking.

NIV 2011 translators point out that “alien” now means “extraterrestrial being”

Here’s something (only) tangentially related to space-age interpretations of the Bible. I wanted to find out what changes the translators had made for their 2011 update of the 1984 NIV. And the first thing I came across was this example of the changes they made due to changes in the English language.

Who would have guessed in the 1970s that, within a few decades, an ‟alien” would mean, thanks to the influence of ET and other movies and TV shows, an ‟extraterrestrial being”? In the updated NIV, ‟alien” has been replaced with ‟foreigner” or similar words in order to communicate the intention of God’s Word accurately to contemporary English readers. See, for instance, Genesis 23:4: ‟I am a foreigner and stranger among you . . . ”

Torah reaches extraterrestrials (from a Midrash for Col. Ilan Ramon and other shuttle astronauts lost in 2003)

This is the ending to a midrash written for Col. Ilan Ramon and the six others who died when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry, back in 2003.

What a wonderful thought. I love this.

A MIDRASH IN MEMORY OF ILAN RAMON Z”L BY HAZZAN MELANIE FINE (COPYRIGHT 2003 BY HAZZAN MELANIE FINE), posted on schechter.edu.

[Ramon] took this Torah up into space, for to him, “This scroll symbolizes, more than anything, the ability of the Jewish people to survive everything, including horrible periods, and go from darkest days to days of hope and faith in the future.”

And though neither he, nor this Torah, nor his six crewmates, returned to earth, we can be assured that all seven souls returned to God, who created them, and that the letters of the Torah, written in deep black ink, soared among the stars and cast a heavenly light among all of God’s creations, chanting “The earth is Adonai’s and its fullness, the world and those who inhabit it.” [Psalm 24:1] And that somewhere, somehow, in a galaxy far, far away, some extra-terrestrial bar mitzvah tutor is teaching some extra-terrestrial being: “Mercha tipcha munach etnachta, mercha tipcha mercha sof pasuk. That’s how it goes. Trust me. I got it straight from this Torah scroll that came whizzing by me early one morning, much to my surprise.”

And that’s where Moshe interrupted God: “You really expect me to believe this story? That one day, human beings are going to ascend to your holy mountain, that they’ll actually fly into space, like the angels?” And God shushed him: “Moshe, my dear boy. After I freed you from Egypt, split the Red Sea, provided manna for you in the wilderness, when are you going to learn? With God, all things are possible!”

Simon Conway Morris: extraterrestrials will likely be like us

Professor Simon Conway Morris on the question of what ET life will be like (dissimilar or similar to us)…

Aliens according to some people will be genuinely alien. […] I think evolution is by and large constrained. […] [after minute 3] I would argue that effectively life has so few options that in fact if you want to learn how to swim, how to fly, how to walk, if you want to learn how to breathe, if you want even to learn how to reproduce, even things which go down to rather settled business about why we have sexes and things like that, even the nature of the chromosomes on this planet actually have various sorts of predictabilities about them. And I’m taking a gamble here[…]. But I think that when we do detect alien life, it will be well, strikingly embarrassingly, well, it’ll be like us.

Technological AND SPIRITUAL advancement

from If Mars Attacks …Do we have an alien-contact contingency plan?
By Juliet LapidosPosted Friday, July 16, 2010, at 5:56 PM ET

[…]

Many scientists, including Stephen Hawking, believe that contact with intelligent aliens would end badly for us—we’d be the Native Americans to the alien Europeans. “I imagine they might exist in massive ships,” Hawking said recently, “having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonizes whatever planets they can reach.”

Lacking official protocol, those worried about first contact can turn to the very unofficial Introduction to Planetary Defense: A Study of Modern Warfare Applied to Extra-Terrestrial Invasion. Like Hawking, the authors believe humans would play the part of Native Americans circa 1492. They also think that, in light of the sluggish global response to natural disasters, there’s little indication that we could react effectively to invasion. Since we’ll probably be technologically outmatched, the best defense strategy would be guerilla warfare.

[…]

I thought about this fear before — i.e., that aliens may well come in massive ships with super-advanced technology and try to take us over malevolently. But it seems no one (that I’ve seen) is talking about the spiritual nature of these ETs. The whole focus of the discussion is on technology: the ETs have it and we don’t; thus we ought to be frightened. But there are other types of advancement than technological advancement. There’s spiritual advancement.

So when I read this article (above) just now, I appreciated this comment:

Jonathan Taylor
Regarding “Slate”‘s article on planning for an alien invasion, you are missing an obvious detail in asking the question at all. Any alien invaders must master at least interplanetary travel, if not inter-stellar travel, and no society can do that while remaining warrior-minded. Humanity has proven that a society intent on violence will spend so much of its energy killing its own kind, there won’t be enough resources left to colonize their own moon, much less build an interplanetary fleet and take war to other worlds. In order to fund research into space travel, the only place humanity could find the funding would be its global military budgets, which must be spent to facilitate killing other humans. Space travellers will be peaceful entities. They visit Earth, see that we have not evolved beyond the us-good/them-bad, kill-them-all-and-let-God-sort-them-out mentality. With no one to hear their message of peace, they just leave. And they will continue to do so until humanity matures, if we can find a way to avoid rendering ourselves extinct.
Yesterday [July 17, 2010], 9:52:44 PM

“…dismayed by the lack of Klingon colonists as far as the eye can see”

The part about civilizations thriving the more they join with each other is interesting (see below).

from “Where Are the Aliens? Fermi Paradox Redux” by Seth Shostak (The Huffington Post, August 8, 2010):

His [Fermi’s] meaning seems to have been the following: A simple calculation (surely one that Fermi could manage between two bites of a sandwich) shows that colonizing every star system in our galaxy would only take a few tens of millions of years. Since the Milky Way is more than ten billion years old, what Fermi realized was that, if extraterrestrial life is commonplace, there’s been more than enough time for an ambitious society to spread out and build their own United Federation of Planets. But we don’t see any evidence for a galactic empire, other than on Star Trek re-runs. Does that mean that Homo sapiens is the smartest species within 100 thousand light-years?

That would be remarkable and, judging by my daily interaction with said species, scary. I have always thought it much more likely that the cosmos is replete with thinking beings. After all, my day job is to look for them.

[…] Read more of this post

“[one-third of respondents] suppose that aliens have already visited our planet”

Wonder how representative these figures are — i.e., of, say, North Americans.

Two-thirds believe in extraterrestrial civilisation, polls shows

ČTK | 29 December 2010

Prague, Dec 28 (CTK) – Over two-thirds of Czechs or 70.7 percent believe in the existence of extraterrestrial intelligent forms of life but almost a half of them are not interested in meeting them, according to an Internet poll conducted by the SANEP agency and released to CTK.

Two-fifths of the polled are of the view that the contact with an extraterrestrial civilisation might be fatal for humankind.

Over one-third of respondents think that aliens visited the Earth in the past. More than one-fifth of the polled believe that people will meet them in the future.

However, only 37 percent expressed interest in meeting them, while 46.8 percent do not want to meet them. Almost the same share of people think that such a meeting will not occur in the next 100 years.

A total of 45.9 percent do not consider it necessary to prepare specially for a possible meeting with an extraterrestrial intelligent form of life and 40 percent fear that such a contact might be fatal for humankind.

Almost a half of the polled or 48.8 percent share the view that the future of man does not depend on space colonisation.

A total of 54.9 percent are interested in the phenomena that may have been created by advanced extraterrestrial orms of life.

However, 66.6 percent are sceptical about the statements by people who are convinced they have seen aliens or have been kidnapped by them.

Over one-third of respondents reject the possibility of previous contacts between the Earth and an extraterrestrial form of life, while almost the same share of people suppose that aliens have already visited our planet.

The poll was conducted on 9053 inhabitants of the Czech Republic aged 18-69 years on December 8-15.

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