This B. H. Downing UFO interview was done in a film format with fabulous visuals. Don’t miss this one!
In the third episode of Ufology Unplugged, filmmaker Paul Kimball presents an interview he conducted with Rev. Barry Downing in 2001. Downing is best known as the author of The Bible and Flying Saucers, one of the earliest and most influential works in the “ancient aliens” ouevre. In this interview he discusses his work and his theories, particularly the idea that the stories of the Bible may not be supernatural in nature but rather may represent tales of human contact with advanced extraterrestrial civilizations. (c) 2014 Winter Light Productions, Inc.
Barry has appeared numerous times as a guest expert on “Ancient Aliens.”
Here is a short segment featuring Barry Downing that talks about Moses and The Ark of the Covenant and whether there might be a connection to Ancient Aliens.
If you want to catch more of Barry H Downing on Ancient Aliens, he is featured in the following:
– The Alien Agenda (2015)
– The Great Flood (2014)
– Alien Resurrections (2014)
– Alien Breeders (2014)
– Aliens and the Lost Ark (2013)
– The Satan Conspiracy (2013)
– Strange Abductions (2013)
– Prophets and Prophecies (2013)
– Aliens and Sacred Places (2011)
– The Mission (2010)
– Chariots, Gods and Beyond (2009)
“And in the morning watch, the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the host of the Egyptians, and discomfited the host of the Egyptians, locking their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily.” (Ex. 14:24, 25)
Red Sea Briefing, by Barry H Downing
In 1968 I published the book The Bible and Flying Saucers, in which I argued that the beings we are now seeing visit our world in UFOs or flying saucers, and the beings from another world the Bible called angels, were the same reality. I also argued that a biblical UFO, called a “pillar of cloud and fire” (Ex. 13:21,22) was a spaceship which led Israel through the Exodus for forty years, and used its advanced technology to do many things, including parting the Red Sea. This essay is a brief argument that summarizes what I wrote in 1968, as well as further reflections in Chapter 4 of my book Biblical UFO Revelations (2017), in regard to the Red Sea.
I will from here on refer to the “pillar of cloud and fire” as the Exodus UFO. The text makes the interesting observation that after Israel escaped Egypt on Passover night, the Lord “did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near, for God said, ‘Lest the people repent when they see war, and return to Egypt.’ But God led the people round by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea.” (Ex. 13:17, 18)
This appears at first to be disastrous planning on the “Lord’s” part. The Egyptian chariots will soon be pursuing Israel, why take the hard way, and then be boxed in at the Red Sea? Of course the Lord saves the day with the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. Some scholars have tried to explain the parting as a “lucky wind” showing up at just the right time. But if the Exodus UFO is a spaceship, it makes more sense to suppose the parting of the Red Sea was planned ahead as a way to get rid of the Egyptians once and for all, and the extraterrestrial pilots of the UFO knew they had the technological power to do what human history remembers so well.
When Israel arrives at the Red Sea, the Egyptian army is close behind. The Exodus UFO takes defensive action. “Then the angel of God who went before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt, and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness, and the night passed without one coming near the other all night.” (Ex. 14:19,20)
Moses at this point stretched his hands out, a strong east wind blew all night, and the waters were divided. What I believe happened is that while it was dark, the Exodus UFO moved to a position directly over the Red Sea, and used some kind of technological power to part the Red Sea. This force would not only part the water, but would draw air down into the open channel, and this air would then be forced out each open end of the channel. Israel was on the west shore, facing east, they had an east wind in the face. I believe if they had been on the other shore, they would have reported a west wind. During the time they traveled through the open channel, wind is never mentioned again. What kept the walls of water in place if there was no wind?
“And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” (Ex. 14:22) Israel was amazed not only by the walls of water, but also by the dry ground. They expected to find mud where the water had been, but the ground was dry.
The wind blowing on the surface of the sea bed during the night helped dry the ground, but in many modern UFO cases, heat is reported when people are near a landed UFO, or have one fly overhead at low altitude. Whatever energy was used to part the sea, heat was probably one of the properties of that technology.
The Egyptian chariots then followed Israel into the open channel. This would get the attention of Israel. At that moment, it must have seemed like a cruel joke. God has given them this great miracle, only to have the Egyptians destroy them using the parted sea that was supposed to save them. Most of us remember, “But then the walls of water fell on the Egyptians.” And this is true. But it is not what came next. Next came what I find to be some of the most amazing verses in the Bible, because why not just end the story with falling walls of water?
We now have the Exodus UFO brought back into the story. “And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the host of the Egyptians, and discomfited the host of the Egyptians, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily; and the Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.’” (Ex. 14:24,25) Then Moses raised his hands, and the walls of water fell in on the Egyptians.
I want to draw attention to several things. Notice that the Exodus UFO is now directly over the open sea channel. When did it take this position? The text does not tell us, but I believe it moved to this position after dark. Notice this text begins “in the morning watch” so it is just getting light.
Notice also that even though Israel was now on the eastern shore, and should be safe, they are not safe. They are saved by “the Lord’s look down.” Remember this text is about 3000 years old. Israel is a shepherding culture, a chariot is hi tech from their point of view. There is no way they are going to call the Exodus UFO a spaceship, or understand its power. Nevertheless, they made a connection between some kind of invisible power from the UFO up above, and problems with the wheels of the Egyptian chariots below. What kind of problems?
The RSV translators had a problem with what is said here. They concluded the chariot wheels were stuck in mud, the Lord looked down “clogging the chariot wheels” so that they drove heavily. This is plausible.
But the Exodus text states three times Israel crossed on dry ground. Where did the mud come from? Furthermore, the RSV translators put a “q” after clogging, as a sign that they did not translate the Hebrew properly. The Hebrew says the chariot wheels were “bound” or “locked up.” This did not make sense to the RSV translators. The wheels simply stopped turning? On dry ground? Not likely.
But if the “Lord’s look down” involved a tremendous force of heat, such as was probably used to dry out the sea bed earlier, this heat could easily cause the iron hubs of the chariots, and the iron axles to become hot. Metal expands when heated. If the hubs and axles expanded too much, the wheels would lock up. And I believe that is what Israel saw, and reported, before the walls of water collapsed. If the wheels stopped rotating, the chariots would indeed “drive heavily.”
After the Red Sea, the Exodus UFO leads Israel toward Mt. Sinai, where the Ten Commandments would be given, as well as the building of the Tabernacle, and the rules forming of the Jewish priesthood, in other words, the beings in the Exodus UFO were doing all this to form the Jewish religion, and establish the Jewish nation, with its twelve tribes, with a unique identity that lasted until this day.
Although this version of the parting of the Red Sea has been available to the public for more than fifty years, it is mostly unknown and unacknowledged. It is in conflict with the accepted conservative interpretation of the Red Sea parting, that the parting was a supernatural, not a technological event.
It is also in conflict with the liberal interpretation of the parting, that it is mythology. It is a story the people of Israel made up. It never happened. Some go so far as to say Moses never existed. Of course this division between conservative and liberal mirrors our current red church/blue church American political division we know only too well.
Liberals and conservatives do not agree on much. But they agree on hating my interpretation of the parting of the Red Sea. My belief is we have to look at Exodus, and the biblical angels, from a space age point of view. It is really no ones fault we could not do this much before the year 1950. Government denials about the UFO reality have helped religious leaders be blind to what the Exodus text says. But it is now time to do what needs to be done. Religious leaders need to know what the United States government secretly knows about our extraterrestrial visitors.
How long have the aliens been here? Why are they here? We need to know if modern UFO technology could have parted the Red Sea as I have described it. Am I right to suggest that our modern aliens, and the biblical angels, are the same reality, and if so, does this reality relate to the ultimate God, the ultimate creator of the Universe? This is not truth that only secret government officials have a right to know, we all have a right to know.
~Barry H. Downing
Originally from Revista UFO Magazine and later translated into Portugese
Barry H. Downing
- Why do you give so much space to “the pillar of cloud and fire” of the Exodus in your books?
My basic thesis, in my books, “The Bible and Flying Saucers,” and “Biblical UFO Revelations,” is that the biblical angelic reports, and our modern alien and UFOs reports, refer to the same reality. But the ancient Hebrew culture was not a technical culture, therefore it did not see strange objects in the sky through technological eyes, as we do. It is also my thesis that the Jewish religion and the Christian religion were both deliberately brought about by our modern alien powers. (The 2019 50th anniversary edition of “The Bible and Flying Saucers” is now available on Amazon, both in paperback and on Kindle.)
In one sense it is not surprising that modern religious leaders have rejected this thesis, but in another sense, it is surprising. After all, if angels are extraterrestrial beings, and UFOs are ET’s, why not connect them? But, in so far as modern Christians think about angels at all, they think of them at Christmas, in the sky singing for shepherds. They hang little angel ornaments on their Christmas tree, then take down the tree, put the angels in a box, and forget about them until next year. There is a sense in which for many Christians, angels are no more real than Santa Claus.
At the same time, for many religious people, UFOs are not real either. The governments of the world say UFOs do not exist, and some naïve people may suppose a government would never lie. Thus in a religious mind set where neither angels nor UFOs are real, it makes no sense to connect angels and UFOs.
But even among many readers of this magazine, who know there is something real about our modern UFO story, what about the UFO abduction cases in Brazil that seem to involve sexual relations between humans and aliens, like the famous 1957 Antonio Vilas-Boas report? These aliens do not seem to be very angelic.
So with all these levels of resistance to my biblical UFO thesis, I needed to focus on a biblical UFO that was what we can call a “multiple witness sighting of long duration.” The pillar of cloud and fire of the Exodus was seen by thousands, according to the Bible, and it hovered in the air and led Israel from Egypt to the promised land over a period of 40 years. If we had such a modern sighting, there would be no UFO doubters left.
We need to understand how skeptical our modern age is about both God and the Bible. If you check the Wikipedia listing for Moses, you will find the claim that the consensus of modern scholars is that Moses was a literary figure like Hamlet in a Shakespeare play. Moses never existed, therefore the Exodus never happened, there was no “pillar of cloud and fire,” no parting of the Red Sea. But if the governments of the world were to announce tomorrow that UFOs are real, the aliens are real, this type of skepticism would be turned on its head.
The thing that is clear about the book of Exodus is that it makes the claim that a divine power was involved in meeting Moses at a burning bush (Ex. 3), and calling him to meet Pharaoh, announce plagues on Egypt ending with Passover, and then the Jews began their liberation journey from Egypt to the promised land.
We find this in the Bible, after the Jews leave Egypt. “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night; the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.” (Ex. 13:21, 12)
What is described is a pillar, a cylindrical hard object, cloud like in color, which glows in the dark. And the text makes the point that the UFO did not “depart from before the people.” So here we have a multi-year multi-witness UFO close encounter, with alien contact, because Moses is in frequent voice contact with a being in the UFO. Can I prove this is true? No. But I insist that this is a reasonable interpretation of the text. Those who believe UFOs are extraterrestrial should have little trouble believing that if an alien space ship were to hover in front of the Jewish people, and guide their Exodus from Egypt, and if Moses were to be in voice contact with an alien in that ship, they would also understand if the Jewish people worshipped the UFO, or the alien in it, as a divine being. The Exodus took place more than 3000 years ago, the Jews were shepherds, non-technological people.
Switching now to the present, on December 16, 2007, the New York Times and the Washington Post both ran a news story, explaining that the United States Pentagon had conducted a multi-year black budget study of UFOs, mainly based on military sightings of UFOs. Senator Harry Reid was one of the chief leaders who demanded this study. The study, directed by Luis Elizondo, concluded that some UFOs represent an advanced technology that is beyond anything we have on earth. One of the reports came from a military pilot who chased a UFO that he said looked like a Tic Tac, cylindrical in shape, white or cloud-like in color, over forty feet long, rounded on each end, with no visible means of propulsion. (Google Tic Tac UFOs to see detailed information.)
The reports include the story that one of these UFOs dove to a position near an American battle ship, and caused an indentation in the water under it, hovering about 50 feet above the water. This is an interesting report in light of my understanding of how the Red Sea parted. (Imagine researchers 3000 years from now reading about Tic Tac UFOs, and wondering what that is about. I think “pillar of cloud and fire” is a pretty good description for a bunch of shepherds.)
In any case, I believe if the ancient Israelites had seen the Tic Tac UFO, they would have called it a “pillar of cloud and fire.” That is how I connect the Bible to the present. The Exodus UFO leads Israel up to the Red Sea, which seems like really stupid leadership. The chariots of Egypt are coming up behind. Were the aliens hoping to be lucky enough to have a strong wind come along in the nick of time to part the waters?
It makes more sense to suppose that the Exodus UFO had the technology, probably the power of its propulsion system, to split the waters of the Red Sea, and save Israel. The parting of the Red Sea, which is described in Exodus 14:19-31, is a complex text, and I take over 20 pages in “The Bible and Flying Saucers” to explain it, and I am not going to condense it here.
But the parting of the Red Sea represents a strong “environmental impact statement,” meaning it shows some of the technical power of UFOs, which a simple UFO sighting does not do. Modern UFO researchers study the environment after a reported UFO landing: checking soil samples, getting a Geiger counter reading, checking leaf burns. The parting of the Red Sea tells us a lot about UFO power, as well as UFO purpose.
After the Red Sea, the Exodus UFO drops manna for Israel to eat in the wilderness, Moses meets with “the Lord” on Mt. Sinai, receives the Ten Commandments, and lots of other religious instruction. Think of the wilderness as God’s laboratory, separated from other Middle East tribes, so that the Jewish people would develop a religion that lasts until this day. The other gods are gone, Baal, Dagon, later the Roman and Greek gods like Zeus and Mars, are lost to history. The Jews were commanded to make no graven images. This was totally against the religious values of Middle Eastern culture 1000 years B.C. The message was, whatever or whoever God is, he is not physical.
I believe the aliens who started the Jewish religion were agents of God, the God who created the universe. But this is an act of faith on my part. I do not have scientific proof of this. But even if you look at the aliens who brought about the Exodus as just some ET’s who wanted to teach a little religion, you have to give them credit. The Jews, because of the Exodus, became a unique culture and religion which has withstood years of trials and rejection from the wider Gentile culture, in its many forms. While other gods have come and gone, the God of the Jews has endured. I believe the Jewish religion is an extraterrestrial religion, and that is why I devote so much space to “the pillar of cloud and fire” of the Exodus in my books.
- How do you and Eric Von Daniken agree, and how do you disagree?
Eric Von Daniken’s book “Chariots of the Gods?” and my book “The Bible and Flying Saucers” were both published in the United States in 1968. We have that in common, and both books assume that the Bible is a source of reports of extraterrestrial visitations in our past. Von Daniken’s book sold millions of copies all over the world, a few hundred thousand copies of my book are in print. My book has mostly been printed in the English version, in the USA and Europe, although there is an Italian translation (“La Bibbia ei Dischi Volanti,” translated by Federica Pompili.) In the early 1970’s a made for TV special “In Search of Ancient Astronauts” led to the popularity of Von Daniken’s book, then the History Channel, in 2009, began an “Ancient Aliens” series that produced dozens of programs based on Von Daniken’s thesis.
Although I was invited to be part of the 2009 Ancient Aliens pilot, I was always a minor voice in the series. Much of the tone of the series was agnostic, one major voice said in one program, “This is the end of the church,” and to counter that view, I always wore a clerical collar for my interviews. I was interviewed several times in New York City, about two hours each interview. My interviews became a “bucket of paint” into which the producers dipped their brush when they wanted to paint a religious point of view.
Von Daniken built his thesis, not on the Bible alone, but also on strange artifacts from our past, like the pyramids of Egypt, or the strange drawings on the Nazca Plains of Peru. He paid no attention to UFOs, whereas my book was built on modern UFO reports, which in 1968 were just beginning to be researched, including their possible connection to the Bible.
Chapter 4 of Von Daniken’s book was entitled, “Was God an Astronaut?” He begins with some comments on the creation stories in early Genesis, wondering why God says “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. “ (Gen 1:26) Why does God speak in the plural? And he is interested in the Genesis 6 passage in which the “sons of God” took human women as wives, and had children by them. Are the sons of God extraterrestrials? (Conservative Christian UFO researchers, like Chuck Missler, see these sons of God as fallen angels like those in the book of Enoch, and the aliens in the Vilas-Boas encounter would likewise be fallen angels from the point of view of those like Missler. I deal with demonic and fallen angel theories of UFOs in my book “Biblical UFO Revelations.”)
Von Daniken spends quite a bit of space looking at the story of the destruction of Sodom in Genesis 19. He recounts the visit of two angels to Lot, who warn him to get out of town with his family quickly because the city will be destroyed by the Lord. The men of Sodom try to break into Lot’s house, but are blinded by the angels. Lot’s family leaves reluctantly, and when “fire and brimstone” fall on the city, Lot’s wife turns back to look, and turns into a pillar of salt.
Von Daniken does not see the angels as supernatural beings, but rather as ancient astronauts who for some reason think the people of Sodom represent bad genetics. Von Daniken wonders why the rush to get Lot out of town? He says almighty God should not be kept to some kind of time table. He wonders if some type of bomb was pre-set to go off at a certain time. And maybe it was a nuclear weapon, which explains the smoke that went up to the sky after the bomb went off, and the heat from the weapon may have caused Lot’s wife to turn to a pillar of salt.
What Von Daniken has done here is turn what has been seen in traditional religious thinking as a supernatural event, and made it a technological event. (Modern liberal theology is more likely to see this story as mythology, of course, not as actual history.)
This is a very important form of speculation on Von Daniken’s part. For while conservatives may rejoice that he is willing to take this Sodom story so literally, unlike liberals, conservatives will not be happy that he substituted super technology for supernatural. I have likewise explained the parting of the Red Sea as a technological event, not a supernatural event. Miracles in the Bible have long been seen as proofs of the existence of God. But if the miracle was the work of technology, what happens to our understanding of God? We will return to this question again later.
Not only does Von Daniken find the Sodom story un-God-like, he dislikes the whole “chosen people thing,” dislikes that God would save Lot’s family, and destroy everyone else. Von Daniken assumes that God will be “politically correct,” God should be busy promoting a classless society. The idea that God has favorites is not a new theme, this same prejudice appears in favor of Noah, and against everyone else, which is central to the Flood Story.
It is also central to the Exodus, the whole Jewish nation is God’s chosen people, a claim that many non-Jews have found annoying. But at the Burning Bush, when God meets Moses, God makes the claim, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Ex. 3:6) Here God seems to claim historical contact with those in the Jewish past. This is an interesting claim in light of modern UFO abduction research. Some UFO researchers claim that UFO abductions run in families: if a woman is abducted, then often her mother was abducted, and her grandmother.
Thus we find at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew an extensive genealogy of Jesus connecting hm back to Abraham, establishing that Jesus is among “the chosen people.” Once Christianity becomes a Gentile religion, a religion for everyone, the importance of genealogy is diminished.
The idea of “chosen people” is not the moral problem for me that it is for Von Daniken. I remember in high school my math teacher would call on “chosen people” to go to the blackboard to work out difficult problems in front of the class. It was usually the “bright students” who were chosen for this task, and I was thankful whenever I was not chosen. When a student made a mistake, it was a source of laughter (usually silent) for the rest of the class. As we review the Exodus story, such as when the Jews made a molten calf at Mt. Sinai, this was a laughter point which makes me glad I was not part of the chosen people. Many of the people of Israel died for that blackboard error. (Ex. 32) The Jews were chosen to go to the blackboard for the sake of the rest of the class. I do not see Von Daniken’s moral problem here.
But my main problem with Von Daniken is that he is not consistent with his own method. He claims aliens were reported in the Bible, the story of Sodom is part of that evidence. And at a later point in his book he even speculates that the Ark of the Covenant was electrically charged. Why not go on to make the obvious claim: the Jewish religion was started by the aliens, on purpose. Of course he wants to claim that the angels are really ancient astronauts, he wants to secularize them, make them non-religious. But even so, secular though they may be, clearly the aliens are interested in religion, and if the whole of the Exodus was alien guided, as I suggest, then the main purpose of the Exodus was religious as we understand religion. At Mt. Sinai, Moses received from the aliens the commandments for the Jewish religion, the design for the house of worship (the Tabernacle), the proper authority of, and clothing for, the priests, the separation of a sacred space, the “Holy of Holies.” So even if we suppose the “ancient aliens” in the Bible are just a bunch of space guys with no connection to God, it is obvious that these aliens are very interested in religion. The main thing the biblical aliens gave the Jews was not some kind of advanced technology, but rather a set of commandments that established rules of justice in human conduct, and rules for proper worship of God. As it turns out, these rules have had tremendous influence on Western human history if not since the time of Moses, then certainly from the time of Jesus foreword. If the aliens just wanted to influence human history, it appears that they have succeeded.
I believe Von Daniken missed this obvious truth, based on his own theory, and by and large the History Channel “Ancient Aliens” series missed it too, but not as completely as Von Daniken. I had discussions with the producers of the Ancient Alien series, asking them to move in a more religious direction. I think from an audience point of view, the producers had reasons to resist my suggestions. Conservative Christians were very angry at the Ancient Aliens series, even made their own movie to counter the History Channel series. Moving in my direction would have made religious leaders even more angry.
- Why have religious leaders reacted so negatively to your research?
The most obvious answer is, people often resist new ideas, and religious people especially do not welcome new ideas. They like tradition, and they want people to leave tradition alone. To connect UFOs and religion is just to ask for trouble from some religious people.
But religion is too broad a term to deal with the reaction to my research. I do not remember any criticism of my work from Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist leaders. Most of my critics have been Christian, and Protestant Christian at that. I am a Protestant Christian, a Presbyterian Protestant ordained pastor. I was ordained just as the “death of God” movement was dominating Protestant theology. The first chapter of “The Bible and Flying Saucers” was titled, “Space and the Bible,” in which I talk about our modern understanding of the universe, in contrast to the old view that the earth was the center of the universe, flat, with heaven above, and hell beneath. I went on to explain that modern liberal theology said we have to give up belief in angels, miracles like the parting of the Red Sea, or the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus—these were all pre-scientific ideas that we can no longer hold.
I suggested in “The Bible and Flying Saucers” that the presence of UFOs means that many strange biblical reports may be true, and that the angels, whatever they are, may have used advanced technology to perform some of the miracles.
I had many expectations when my book was published, most of which turned out to be false.
I thought conservative Christians would thank me for restoring a scientific way for us to believe in many biblical reports that are key to our tradition, like the parting of the Red Sea, or the Ascension of Jesus to heaven. Wrong. One ordained pastor in his review of “The Bible and Flying Saucers” called it “kook book of the year.”
I thought liberal Christians, having been driven to announce that “God is dead,” would be glad to give up their dead God in favor of a scientifically revived view of the biblical tradition. Wrong. One liberal reviewer said that I had brought shame on the University of Edinburgh, where I had earned my Ph.D. in the relation between science and religion, for writing such a terrible book. (Dissertation Title: Eschatological Implications of the Understanding of Time and Space in the Thought of Isaac Newton. Google the title, this will take you to the site where the University has made the dissertation available for down load on line.)
The good news I suppose is, I have united conservative and liberal Christians against me, at least in the Protestant tradition. Roman Catholics have been more open to my views than Protestants, although not with blowing of loud trumpets. One Catholic priest on reviewing several books in my field, called mine “the best of the lot.” Catholics have a much stronger angelology than Protestants, they pray to Mary and other saints. And there are occasional reports of the Virgin Mary appearing to the faithful in modern times. So visits from angels or UFOs is not an obviously absurd idea for Catholics. (For more on my understanding of the Roman Catholic view of UFOs, see chapter 6, “UFOs and the Roman Catholic Church” in my book “Biblical UFO Revelations.”)
I am not aware of very much literature dealing with UFOs in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, and in so far as it has been considered, I think a “demonic theory of UFOs” is considered a likely explanation for alien presence in the Eastern Orthodox faith. Although there has been some Muslim interest in UFOs, I have not read any Muslim complaints about my work. Muslims do have a strong angelology, so there is room here for research, if Muslims want to do it.
There has also been some research concerning the possible alien influence on Eastern religions. Dr. Richard L. Thompson has written a book, “Alien Identities,” (1993) and has made a strong case for alien influence in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Part 2 of his book is “Vedic Parallels to UFO Phenomena.”
Thompson compares his work in Vedic literature with my biblical studies. “I can ask the reader to compare the ideas presented here with those of Barry Downing, a Christian minister with a Ph.D. in science and religion, who has written extensively about UFOs and the Bible. One point made by Downing is that UFOs may provide evidence for the reality of Biblical phenomena, such as visits by angels, that seem mythological from our modern perspective.” (p. 14)
Thompson also makes the point, “The scientific model of life is based on experiments and careful reasoning, but by reducing life to a combination of atoms, it deprives it of all higher purpose and meaning.” (p. 1) This is also the thinking of the late Harvard Professor Dr. John Mack, who in his second book on UFOs, “Passport to the Cosmos,” (1999) argued that UFOs are some kind of cosmic correction on Western culture, which has been totally dominated by left brain science, and that we need to move in a right brain, inner consciousness direction for the sake of human survival.
Dr. Mack and I spoke at a MUFON conference in California in 2000, and in later private correspondence, he told me he was surprised that a secular Jew from Harvard would have so much in common with a Presbyterian pastor from a small town in upstate New York.
The Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung, very early in the history of UFOs, wrote the book, “Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies,” so there is a long history of scientists like Carl Sagan saying UFOs are not about science, rather they are about religion, UFOs are mythology. I became a theological advisor to the Mutual UFO Network in 1972, and it took some courage for Walter Andrus Jr. to make me a consultant, because the “nuts and bolts” UFO researchers did not want religion mixed in with their pure scientific research. And when Christian fundamentalists saw what I was writing, they complained to MUFON too.
Thus, looking at the big picture, there are huge religious dimensions to the UFO field, and the scientific and religious dimensions overlap in often confusing ways. And even though religion and UFOs is my field, I am pretty sure I am the proverbial blind man, holding on to one leg of the elephant.
One issue I want to discuss further is the conflict between the technological and the supernatural. One other author who connects UFOs and the Bible is someone with a Catholic background, but not clergy. R.L. Dione wrote two books: “God Drives a Flying Saucer” (1973) and “Is God Supernatural? The 4,000-Year Misunderstanding.” (1976) Dione looks at many of the miracles in the Bible, and explains them from a technological point of view.
Ted Peters, a Lutheran theologian who has specialized in the relation between science and religion, and is also a consultant to MUFON, has argued that the UFO theologians, (Von Daniken, Downing, and Dione) have taken what we thought was supernatural, and turned it into the technological, thereby negating our understanding of God. Peters analyzes the issues in his book “UFO’s: God’s Chariots?” (1977) In my defense, I would say that the word “supernatural” is not in the Bible, and that modern missionaries fly in planes to do their work, and this does not compromise the spiritual message they deliver. Further I would say, the more technology advances, the more supernatural it looks. If Isaac Newton were to come back to life, and be shown a smart phone, he would think it supernatural.
Nevertheless, I would agree that Peters has a point. In explaining the parting of the Red Sea as a technological act, what have I done to God? And although I have never seen this point in print against me, I suspect that many conservative Christians would say the reason they believe in God is because of the miracles reported in the Bible. What I am suggesting sounds like it would be possible for some country from earth to send a space ship to another planet, and rescue some natives from something like an Egyptian slavery, part a body of water with their advanced technology, and suddenly, you have a new religion on another planet, and God has nothing to do with it.
I understand why my UFO theories have been unsettling to religious leaders. My answer is, we can only believe in God by faith, especially since God is invisible (John 1:18), God is spirit, and that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. (John 3:6) Humans are a blend of flesh and spirit. And what those like Richard Thompson and John Mack have argued is that we in the West have put too much emphasis on the flesh (science), and not enough on the spirit (religion}.
We can only believe in God by faith, not by scientific proof. Therefore our “leap of faith” has to come at some point. Whereas I understand that some made their leap of faith because of miracles, my leap of faith is that even though some miracles may have been technological, the purpose of the miracles was to point us beyond the miracles we can see in order for us to believe in the God we cannot see, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24, 25)
[I am sometimes asked, if believing in God is so important to God, why doesn’t God just show himself openly, why all these games of hide and seek, even in the stories of the resurrection of Jesus? (See Lk. 24:13-52) Why do we need a “leap of faith,” to believe in what we cannot see? My best guess is this: the Bible says we have been made in the image of God. Notice this: God has no God. So to be like God, we need to experience godlessness. At the same time, we are not God, we have not made ourselves, we face death. We need to trust by faith there is a God, and God plans an eternal future for us to avoid the despair that comes with atheism. Friedrich Nietzsche is an example of the nihilism that comes with atheism, he committed suicide in his despair. I wonder if all of Western culture is in this kind of despair, pretending we get deep meaning from all our electronic gadgets. I think of all the school shootings in America, we now take them for granted. The biggest growing religious group in America is the “nones,” those who have no religion. I cannot prove connections here. But I cannot help wondering if the governments of the world stopped lying about UFOs, instead of fear and panic about UFO truth destroying our culture, the cultural result might be one of new hope.]
In order for us to believe in an invisible God, we need mediators between our visible world and the invisible divine world. I believe UFOs are part of the mediating process. To some extent that explains why UFOs do not land openly, such as in the middle of a National Team soccer game in Brazil. There is danger that UFOs might take God’s place, and become the focus of spiritual attention, instead of being an arrow that points to God, to divine reality that is beyond us. I believe UFOs are here to remind us we live on earth, and earth is God’s greenhouse, it is not our permanent home. We die, and are transplanted to a higher reality. And we are judged by God when we die on how well we have responded to the light in the greenhouse.
Jesus is seen by Christians as the ultimate mediator. To some extent Buddha, Moses, Mohammed and the Dalai Lama can be seen as mediators. Jesus is a mediator in the sense of being a blend of the human and divine, born by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary. (Luke 1:26-38) This text has led some UFO theologians to wonder if Jesus is a hybrid, half human and half alien. This sort of speculation is heresy to orthodox theologians, who call Jesus fully human, and fully divine, perhaps because it seems blasphemous to call Jesus half of anything. In any case, for Christians Jesus is the only perfect mediator between the invisible divine world, and our very physical human world.
But I would point out that Jesus does not do his mediating in a vacuum. The whole Jewish tradition from Abraham foreword reports the visitation of angels. Sometimes these visitations were seen as God himself, as in the story of Manoah and his wife in the book of Judges. After a long conversation between Manoah and an angel, Manoah asked the name of the angel, and the angel refused to disclose it. Eventually the angel ascends to the sky in front of Manoah and his wife. And their response was, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” (Jud. 11:22)
There is an evolution in thinking about angels between the Old and New Testaments. Whereas Manoah and his wife identified the angel with God, when we get to the New Testament, we find a passage in the book of Acts where Peter is in prison, facing execution. During the night an angel enters the prison, removes the chains on Peter, leads him from the prison, and leaves Peter standing alone in the street. (Acts 12:1-19) There is no time in this story when Peter seems determined to worship the angel as God, although the whole thing might have seemed like a dream until the angel left. Peter has of course been a witness to the resurrection of Jesus, he knew angel stories went with our human future in “the kingdom of heaven” which Jesus preached.
When we look back on the early Exodus tradition, notice that at the burning (and talking) bush story, we find the text says, “the angel of the Lord” (Ex 3:2) appears to Moses, and when Moses asks the voice to identify itself, the voice says, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham” (Ex. 3:6). In this same chapter, “the angel of the Lord” and the direct voice of God seem to be interchangeable designations. The same is true of the Red Sea narrative in Exodus 14:19-31. I do not know how to interpret this. Some biblical scholars hold to a multi-source theory of the Pentateuch, meaning, two or three oral or written traditions concerning the Exodus were blended to form the single text we now have. That being the case, perhaps one text sensed God’s literal presence at the Burning Bush, another tradition, doubting that any human can see God and live, referred to the divine presence in the burning bush as an angel. In any case, I believe there is an evolution in thinking between the Old and New Testaments, and the changed thinking about “angelology” in the Old and New Testaments represents a kind of theological evolution.
My expectation is that UFOs represent a further evolution in our understanding of God, and of the biblical tradition. If in the future evidence suggests that religious thinking should move in the directions I have suggested, perhaps anger at my work by religious leaders will decrease. At least I hope so.
The following article is a question and answer document prepared for the Brazilian UFO magazine “Revista UFO,” edited by A.J. Gevaerd. It is being translated into Portuguese. If quoting from this article, please give appropriate credit. These questions came from the magazine.
- What led you to UFOlogical research?
When I was in high school, my father brought me some Donald Keyhoe Flying Saucer books from the library to read. Keyhoe seemed sincere, had a lot of interesting reports, and said that the government was trying to cover up the UFO evidence. At that time I was planning to go to college, and major in physics. This was also the beginning of America’s push to take a space ship to the moon, so space travel was on everyone’s mind.
But even though I majored in physics, and earned my degree from Hartwick College in 1960, my Christian faith drew me to become a Presbyterian pastor, so after college graduation, I attended Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, earning my divinity degree in 1963.
During my divinity studies, I became aware of the conflict between science and my Christian beliefs. One of my professors in class explained it this way. He said, “No one today believes in the Ascension of Jesus, do they? And if Jesus did not ascend to heaven, we can only suppose his bones lie buried somewhere in the middle east.”
Why don’t we believe in the Ascension (one of the major articles of the Apostles’ Creed)? Because biblical people held a primitive cosmology, with earth in the middle, and flat, heaven above, hell below. Since Copernicus we now know the earth is not flat, and heaven is not “up.” With the earth rotating on its axis, there is no up, or everywhere is up. The year I graduated from seminary, Bishop John A.T. Robinson published a book, Honest to God, which made the claim that Christians could no longer “in honesty” believe that Jesus went up to heaven, that angels fly back and forth between earth and heaven. Miracles like the parting of the Red Sea, or the Resurrection of Jesus, never happened. They were mythological stories made up by non-scientific people.
This led to “the death of God” theology of the 1960’s, the argument being that the God of the Bible was “created” by Jewish and Christian people, out of their own imaginations. We can in our scientific age no longer believe in this God.
I decided at that point that I needed to do more research on the issues of “eschatology, time and space,” eschatology being the whole Christian idea of what happens to people when we die, is there a heaven, is there life after death? If there is a heaven, where is it? How do we get there? If the angels are there, how do they get here? I did not see how I could be a Christian pastor, conduct a funeral, and say something like, “we used to believe that when we died, we went to heaven to be with Jesus, but I learned in seminary that this is not scientifically believable any more, so our dear departed person is just dead. Too bad. No need to sing a final hymn, there is nothing to sing about.”
There was little formal interest in American seminaries in the area of science and religion at the time I was in seminary. “Science is about facts, religion is make believe,” or at best religion is about values, not about the real world, seemed to be the view. So I applied to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland to earn a Ph.D. in the area of science and religion. I studied under the direction of Prof. John McIntyre, and Prof. T.F. Torrance, both excellent scholars well aware of the issues related to science and religion. (In fact, Edinburgh University now has a science and religion department, as part of the faculty of Divinity. They are a world leader in this area.)
My Ph.D. dissertation, Eschatological Implications of the Understanding of Time and Space in the Thought of Isaac Newton (1966), was approved. (The University has made my dissertation available to be down loaded on line.)
Sometime during October of 1965, I began to think about the “extraterrestrial dimensions” of the Bible, the issue of angels, and where is heaven? There were things in the Bible that seemed a little like a spaceship, like the wheels of Ezekiel (See chapter 1), or the “chariot of fire” that took Elijah up into the sky. (1 Kings 2:11)
I began to wonder if we could look at the Bible from a space age point of view, what if we think of the angels as space beings from another planet? And what if the angels do not fly to earth on wings, but rather they use advanced technology?
These thoughts had a powerful impact on me. I even considered giving up my Ph.D. work, and writing a book, but I “made a deal with God,” I would try to finish my Ph.D. work first, then do a book. That is how it worked out.
I finished my Ph.D. in May of 1966, I came back to the United States and began looking for a church where I could be a pastor. In the meantime, I was living in Rochester, New York, with my in-laws. I set up a study in their basement, on a ping pong table, and began writing The Bible and Flying Saucers, which I completed in February of 1967. After being rejected by several publishers, it was published in 1968 by J.B. Lippincott.
I listed only three UFO books in my bibliography, Frank Edwards, Flying Saucers—Serious business (1966), Donald Keyhoe, The Flying Saucer Conspiracy (1955), and Jacques Vallee, Anatomy of a Phenomenon: Unidentified Objects in Space—A Scientific Appraisal (1965). I also referred to news paper UFO reports that were available at the time. By today’s standards, UFO evidence was spotty.
As my book was reviewed by religious leaders, Christians in particular, it was strongly rejected. One pastor called it “the kook book of the year.” Although I was angry about the rejection at the time, after 50 years, I have come to understand how radical an idea my book was for religious leaders, and the last thing religious leaders want to deal with is a radical idea.
We can divide religious leaders into two groups, the conservative, and the liberal. Conservatives tend to take every word in the Bible literally, and strongly believe in the supernatural, to explain miracles. One might suppose that conservatives would be glad that I explained the parting of the Red Sea. But they were not happy, I did not turn to the supernatural to explain the parting, I said that aliens used advanced technology to part the Red Sea. So this was heresy for conservatives.
Liberals had by and large given up believing in the supernatural at all. So for them, the Red Sea never parted, Jesus never rose from the dead, or ascended to heaven. These were all religious myths. They were make believe stories made up by ancient superstitious people.
Then in my book, I argued that the Red Sea did part, Jesus did rise from the dead, aliens in spaceships were involved in all these events. We need to see the angels in the Bible as extraterrestrials with advanced technical power. Liberals thought I must be joking. And in general liberals, many of whom are college professors, have spent their careers teaching religion as mythology. They had spent their lives thinking how wise they were not to believe in things like the parting of the Red Sea, feeling very superior to conservatives. If they started believing in UFOs, who knows what would come next?
This is how religious leaders reacted to my work 50 years ago, and the conservative and liberal division is still pretty much the same. Official government denials about the existence of UFOs have given religious leaders of all convictions the ability to deny that there are serious issues relating UFOs and religion.
MUFON was formed in 1969, fifty years ago this year, and was headed by Walter Andrus, Jr. He read my book, and asked me to become a consultant in religion to MUFON in 1972. He also wanted me to write columns for what was then the monthly newsletter, Skylook, which later became the MUFON Journal.
I have published more than 20 articles over the years in the MUFON newsletter, as well as speaking at several Symposia.
Once I became a frequent publisher with MUFON, I kept up with UFO research, and tried to understand the religious dimensions to the best of my ability in spite of the fact that no religious journals were willing to publish my writings. (I tried, and was rejected frequently.) But even publishing for MUFON was not without resistance. Many who look at UFOs from only a scientific point of view did not want someone like me mixing religion in with UFO sightings, and possible alien purpose.
At the same time, Christian conservatives were loudly against me, complained to MUFON about my work. Conservative Christians who believe UFOs are real tend to believe they are either demonic, or “Fallen Angels”, (See Genesis 6). It is valid to make these arguments, and I deal with them in my most recent book, Biblical UFO Revelations (2017). But I find that most conservative Christian books about UFOs deal with the Bible badly, ignoring important UFO passages, and twisting UFO evidence in a way that is not justified, especially since the aliens, whoever they are, make it hard to know what their purpose is. The “hiddenness” of the aliens leads conservatives to argue this shows they are evil. But, God is pretty hidden, and conservatives do not think God is evil.
The above explains how I became involved in ufological research. It began with a mild interest in flying saucers when I was in high school, and then during my Ph.D. work, I began to wonder if flying saucers, or UFOs, have only shown up in modern times, or if they might have been around for hundreds of years. Of course, at about the same time, 1968, Eric Von Daniken began wondering the same thing.
- Would Jesus Christ be an alien?
I hope that everyone understands that I am an ordained minister, and that this is exactly the kind of question that if I give the “wrong” answer, could get me tried for heresy. And when my book was first published, there were a few of my fellow Presbyterian pastors who told me they thought I should be tried for heresy. It never happened, but it could have.
Ronald D. Story edited a major work, The Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrial Encounters in 2001. He invited me to write several articles for this book, which I did, such as “Demonic Theory of UFOs” and “Biblical Miracles as Super-Technology.” He also asked me to write an article on “Jesus Christ as an Extraterrestrial,” and I said no, I thought that too dangerous for me. He ended up writing it himself. Since he was not an ordained pastor, he did not have to worry about heresy trials.
But the question, was Jesus Christ an alien, needs to be considered. I hope I can give an answer that makes sense both in terms of modern UFO science, and biblical theology.
We can start by asking the question: is the New Testament record an accurate report of who Jesus was, and what he did? The answer is, we do not really know, in a scientific sense. At the same time, it is the only source of information we have about Jesus, so that is what we have to work with.
As we read through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we realize that if these books are telling the truth, then Jesus is no normal human being. He fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish, he raised Lazarus from the dead after he had been dead four days (John 11), made the blind see, the lame walk, turned water to wine, walked on water.
If these stories are true, how do we explain them? How did the biblical people explain them? They either said he was a prophet (Moses and Elijah had both done miraculous things), but some said “he is the Son of God.” The “sons of God” were understood to be the angels, who lived with God in heaven, and sometimes came to earth. So even in biblical times, the way people explained the miraculous powers which Jesus showed was to say he did not come from earth, he came from heaven, he was an extraterrestrial.
There is danger in saying this from a UFO point of view, of course, because how do we think of extraterrestrials now? In the 1950’s, people thought aliens were little green men from Mars. As our understanding grew, and we had people like Budd Hopkins investigating UFO abductions, we began to think of aliens as humanoids, sort of human, but not. Then when Whitley Strieber wrote his best selling book Communion (1987), we now “knew” aliens were short, thin, bald, with big slanted eyes.
We also had movies that frightened us, like the “Alien” series, and in “ET: the Extraterrestrial” the alien was a little being, more like a child, who wanted to go home, and had to escape from wicked government leaders (Jesus could have learned from ET). Then we had the invasion movies, like “War of the Worlds,” or with better technology, “Independence Day.” But in the end, most modern “aliens” are evil, an idea that sells more movie tickets, and the idea that we humans might be the evil ones, and that beings from outer space might come to save us (as the Bible says Jesus did,) is not popular in Hollywood.
So to see Jesus as an alien, or an extraterrestrial, does not fit well with our modern cultural visions of aliens. Many of these visions are from science fiction, of course, but they still have a powerful influence on our minds if we try to see Jesus as an alien.
Let us consider three passages of scripture: Matthew 17:1-9; Acts 1:6-11; Acts 9:1-9. In Matthew 17, we have the report of Jesus, Peter, James and John going up a high mountain, where the clothing and face of Jesus begin to glow. This is called the Transfiguration of Jesus. While this was happening, Moses and Elijah appeared. (How the disciples knew they were Moses and Elijah is not explained, but it is presumed that Jesus identified them, and knew them—from a previous life.)
While they were talking, “lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” We have several biblical UFO patterns at work here. The original “bright cloud” was the “pillar of cloud and fire” of the Exodus. This was the UFO associated with Moses. Elijah also had a UFO connection, he was taken up into the sky in a chariot of fire. Moses had been dead for centuries, Elijah never died on earth, but in New Testament thinking, we are to suppose that both Moses and Elijah are in resurrected bodies, and while it is not said, we can wonder if Jesus knew them from a previous life.
The fact that a voice came from the bright cloud should be no surprise, Moses was in conversation with God, or with an angel of God “in the cloud,” the Exodus UFO, from the beginning of the Exodus (see Exodus 13:21, 22). This same voice spoke to Moses at Mt. Sinai, giving him the many commandments of the Jewish religion.
What is made clear here is that the same extraterrestrial power that brought about the Exodus is the power behind Jesus, and what he stands for. And the words, “this is my beloved Son,” makes clear he is [a or the] Son of God, and therefore comes from the world of the angels.
Of course, Matthew, like Luke, reports Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. So if Jesus is the Son of God, an angel, how did he give up his angel status to become a baby in the womb of Mary? There is no clear biblical, or UFO answer to this question. And did he have his angel or “divine” inner identity as soon as he was born, or when he grew up, or when he was baptized? I do not know. In any case, there is a clear note of extraterrestrial involvement with Jesus in the middle of his ministry.
After Jesus was crucified, and raised from the dead, there was a period of maybe forty days where Jesus appeared to his disciples several times, but did not remain long with them. Then came the time of his ascension, reported in Acts. Jesus was giving final instructions to his disciples, “as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11).
Here is the basic Ascension story. It is no more strange than the story of Elijah being taken up into the sky in a chariot of fire. Later in the book of Acts, the disciple Philip, after he baptizes the Ethiopian Eunuch, is taken up by “the Spirit of the Lord” and carried to the distant city Azotus. (Acts 8:39, 40)
The biblical people did not talk about flying saucers, UFOs, or spaceships, and we should not expect them to. What the biblical people did believe was that there was a civilization not on earth, somewhere up in the sky, where the angels lived, and they did not fly here on wings, rather they had some kind of heavenly transportation system, which often looked like bright or glowing clouds. And in 2019, we have UFO reports like this.
The third passage is also in Acts, chapter 9. It is the story of the conversion of Saul [Paul] who was a trained Jewish religious teacher and who was a leader in arresting Christians who preached the resurrection of Jesus. Saul was given authority to go to Damascus to arrest Christians there. He was traveling with a group when suddenly a bright light hovered over him, and a voice came from the light saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul answered, “Who are you Lord?” and the voice answered, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:4-6; this same story is told in Acts chapters 22 and 26).
Here we have a bright light, no cloud mentioned, but it is some kind of transportation system that has brought Jesus from heaven, wherever that is, to this point on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus. (Why is it UFOs like to appear out in the country?)
Here is what the Bible seems to say. Was Jesus an alien, an extraterrestrial? If he wasn’t before, he is now. This is basic Christian teaching. He is now in heaven, and he will take faithful Christians to join him in the place “he has gone to prepare for us.” (John 14:1-3) He is now an extraterrestrial, and someday all his followers will be extraterrestrials, wherever heaven is. In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Wherever heaven is, it is not on earth.
The conversion of Paul was the most important conversion in the history of Christianity. At the beginning, all Christians were Jews, but there was strong opposition to Christianity among the Jews, and eventually Jewish Christianity died out. Only Gentile Christianity survived, and the Apostle Paul was the one who made Gentile Christianity into a religion that could survive separately from Judaism.
I believe it is the same extraterrestrial reality that brought about both Judaism and Christianity, and that this alien/angelic reality knew from the beginning that Judaism and Christianity would become separate religions, in spite of them both being “extraterrestrial religions” started by the same reality.
The Gospel of John more than the Synoptic Gospels displays Jesus as having an identity before his life on earth. Jesus says, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:38-40) These words explain basic Christianity. Jesus has the power to save us from death. He saves the ones who believe in him. He has been sent by God to earth from heaven for this purpose. So is Jesus Christ an alien? The Bible says he is, and he was so alien, he was crucified. Neither Jewish religious leaders, nor Roman government officials, could stand him. He was too strange.
The Nicene Creed has the words, “We believe in one God the Father……and in one Lord Jesus Christ……who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and became incarnate by the Holy Spirit.”
Traditional Christianity sees Jesus as an extraterrestrial. We can say he was an alien both in the sense that he came from another world, and that he embodied values (such as love your enemy) which really annoyed people. In that sense he was alien. And he told parables, “The kingdom of heaven is like…..a grain of mustard seed, a woman who loses a coin, a father who has 2 sons, one prodigal.” He spoke of life in a heavenly kingdom as if he had lived there, he spoke as one “having authority.” In many ways he was an alien, probably the kind of alien we would reject if he started walking the streets of our world. Or flying in our skies.
- Is there a relationship between religious passages in other cultures that you also identify as being a ufological event?
First I need to say that I am no authority about UFOs in other religious cultures. I have limited knowledge about how do deal with UFOs in the Bible, both in terms of how to deal with the Bible as an ancient document, and how to relate it to modern UFOs. For instance: Does Raymond Fowler’s careful study of the Betty Andreasson abduction case, with all its religious imagery, support my biblical studies, or is this more like demonic confusion? (See Raymond Fowler, The Andreasson Affair, 1980).
Let us start here: I Googled “UFOs and Judaism Wikipedia, “ “UFOs and Christianity Wikipedia,” “UFOs and Islam Wikipedia,” “UFOs and Hinduism Wikipedia,” and “UFOs and Buddhism Wikipedia.”
For those of us who take UFO research seriously, these seemed to me to be very good topics, well worth having a heading in Wikipedia. But no such luck, hardly even a reference to an alternative.
But there were references to related topics. For instance, Wikipedia has a heading for “Exotheology.” That is, what are the implications for theology, and the idea of God, if we meet extraterrestrials? Lutheran theologian Ted Peters is a leader in this field, who works at an American West Coast seminary. He is also a consultant to MUFON. He kind of tip toes around UFOs, not admitting they are real, but asking questions that would be asked if some day extraterrestrials showed up.
In the article, a few Christian thinkers, some Roman Catholic, were sited. The general idea is, God is creator of all, even of ET’s, if they are there.
Likewise there were a few lines putting forth a Jewish point of view. And a brief reference to Islam, and that the Qur’an may be open to the idea of multiple worlds.
In another article about the Islamic view of UFOs, the author is aware of modern quantum and string theory, the possibility of multidimensional universes, with the affirmation that whatever exists, God made it. There is also in Islam a belief in the “jinn,” a kind of invisible spiritual reality, not the same as angels.
I have seen no Islamic reference to Muhammed being taught by the angel Gabriel, and that the angel Gabriel might be an extraterrestrial, as we now understand the term. That might be Islamic heresy, but I have not seen it discussed. At the same time, Islam, which began 600 years after Christianity, has a very advanced concept of the afterlife, of heaven. How Muslim theology might, or might not, link all this to UFOs I do not know.
The heading “UFOs and Hinduism” led to UFO sightings in India. “UFOs and Buddhism Wikipedia” led to “Chen Tao,” a UFO cult started in Taiwan which is a blend of Buddhism, Taoism, and Ufology.
What Wikipedia does list however are articles on “UFO Religion and Cults.” This would include those like the “Heaven’s Gate” suicide cult, Raelism, the 1974 cult started by French race car driver Claude Vorihon, who stated he was taken into a UFO and met Jesus, Buddha and other religious leaders. There is quite a bit of biblical material in the Raelism cult, which made me wonder if Rael had read my book (1968) before he wrote his.
I received a large packet in the mail several years ago from South Korea. It was a Christian cult, focused especially on Genesis and UFOs. They obviously knew about my work.
But this is my conclusion. By and large, modern religious leaders do not try to connect their faith traditions with UFOs, and there is strong resistance to doing this, even at the secular level.
About ten years ago I wrote a scholarly paper with the title, “UFOs and Religion: Five Theories.” I focused on ways of looking at UFOs from a biblical point of view, the mythological theory, the ancient astronaut theory, new age theory, demonic theory, and angelic theory. The article was supported by good footnotes, and a friend helped me publish it on Wikipedia.
This was a substantial article, and before we even had it half on line, the “editors” began tearing it apart. The way Wikipedia works is, there are “volunteer” editors who watch anything that is put on Wikipedia. There are also paid staff on Wikipedia, who make sure obscene or other unsuitable material is not published, which might lead to libel. But the main editing is done by “the crowd,” faceless people.
As my work was attacked, there were two groups: those who thought my article was strictly “fringe” material, and therefore, not real “knowledge,” and should be totally deleted. Others said, it was a fringe topic, but was treated in a very scholarly way, and should be published.
In the end, the whole article was rejected except for two paragraphs, which were then added to an already existing article on “Ancient Astronaut Theory.”
I have no way of knowing, but I suspect that if anyone were to write an article for Wikipedia, “UFOs and Judaism,” or “UFOs and Islam,” or “UFOs and Hinduism,” the editor “watch dogs,” the conservatives in every religion, and every religion has conservatives, would make sure such an article never saw the light of day on Wikipedia. So although I am sure that there is much to be written about the possible relation between UFOs and other world religions, there are strong forces of repression at work in “the established religious world,” as well as in the secular world, of which we suppose Wikipedia is a part.
Nevertheless, I recommend the work of Dr. Richard Thompson, Alien Identities: Ancient Insights into Modern UFO Phenomena (1993). Part 2 of his book is titled, “Vedic Parallels to UFO Phenomena.” Thompson says “I can ask the reader to compare the ideas presented here with those of Barry Downing……who has written extensively about UFOs in the Bible.” (p. 14)
One of the issues where religion and UFOs overlap is in the story of the Roman Catholic miracle in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. Some shepherd children began having visions of the Virgin Mary on the 13th of the Month, for several months, and the Virgin began promising a great vision on the 13th of October, 1917. Some believed the children, some did not, but on the appointed day, thousands showed up, and what they saw was a silver disc in the sky. Whereas Roman Catholics see this as a religious miracle, many modern day UFO researchers see it as clearly a UFO event, a flying saucer. (See Ann Druffel’s article, “Fatima,” in The Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrial Encounters, p. 188 ff, and Barry Downing, Biblical UFO Revelations, p. 35)
In closing I want to refer to an article I published in the MUFON Journal, “The God Hypothesis,” (October 1988, pp. 10-13). The main argument of the article was that not only does it seem possible that UFOs have in the past caused many of our religious beliefs, but even more, we should consider the possibility that UFOs are a God-Force, that they rule the earth. I wrote, “There are many difficulties with the God hypothesis, of course. The first problem is that when we use the term God, we are thinking in Western culture of the God of Judeo-Christian tradition. Islam is also an off-shoot of this tradition.
Hinduism does not have a comparable concept of God, nor does Buddhism which grew out of Hinduism. Foster Morrison, in his article ‘UFOs—Science and Technology in the service of Magic,’ in the June issue of this Journal, says that ‘The Universe of UFOs is animistic. Exotic celestial beings travel from world to world. Life is everywhere and more diverse than in the Hindu pantheon.’”
What I am suggesting is that we need to be careful not to think of UFOs and religion in too limited terms. Modern aliens have been reported to disable the computer systems in ballistic missiles in both the USA and Russia, reports indicate that the aliens do biological tests on humans who have been abducted, stories of cattle mutilations indicate possible alien biological testing.
We need to consider this: In a broad sense, aliens in UFOs may be running Planet Earth. We humans may have some freedom, as a mother might say to her children, “Go out and play a while, but then be home for supper.” We are on a short leash.
Jacques Vallee has suggested as much in books such as Dimensions (1988) and The Invisible College (1975), he sees UFOs as a kind of control mechanism. In our secular age, we do not call such a mechanism God, but I believe we need to go further in this line of thinking. This does not contradict the Christian doctrine of angels, in my opinion, but it means theologians have to see the angels/aliens as having more authority delegated by God, and more technology to exercise that authority, than Christian theologians have ever considered up to this point.
- Let us suppose that today the governments of the world affirm that the ufological phenomenon is real, and has been occurring for millennia. Would that affect religions? And in what way?
In 2010 Richard Dolan and Bryce Zabel co-published a book entitled, A.D.. After Disclosure: The People’s Guide to Life After Contact. This book was written to answer the question, what happens in everything—politics, science, religion, education—after the governments of the world stop lying about UFOs?
I used their book as a guide to my book, Biblical UFO Revelations (2017), which focuses directly on the above question, how would government disclosure of UFO reality impact world religions? In what way? In my book, I focus entirely on the Christian response to disclosure, but I will make some preliminary comments about world religions in general.
I think Hinduism would absorb the news of alien presence with the least difficulty of all religions. Hinduism has traditionally been a polytheistic religion, with various gods functioning in different tasks. Vishnu is the creator God, but there is also a destroyer god. Hindus believe that gods can become incarnate in human form. Thus the idea that Jesus is the incarnation of God is not strange to Hindus, what is strange is that Christians should teach there is only one divine incarnation, instead of many. The idea of the incarnation of God is mostly forbidden from both a Jewish and Muslim point of view. For them God is too high and holy to take on human form.
How all these differences would mix with full UFO disclosure is indeed a serious question. Buddhism seeks enlightenment, which is a state of holiness achievable to some extent through self-denial and meditation. There are parallels between some Christian mystics and Buddhism. But in general, there is no theology in Buddhism, no understanding of God as in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The goal is to seek right living in this world. If there is an after life, we are more likely to be reunited with the “world soul” from which all human souls have come than to live with eternal self-awareness. There is no idea of individual salvation, as there is in both Christianity and Islam. Judaism is open to the idea of life after death, and individual salvation, but this idea is not part of Jewish Scripture. The idea of reincarnation, which has become popular in the West recently, is not the same as Christian and Islamic belief in resurrection of the dead. Eastern thinking supposes there is a chain of being or life, and whatever station you now have in life, it is “what you deserve,” and if you live well you will move up the chain, in each new incarnation, until you let go of your physical form, and join the world soul from which you came.
If governments were to announce that UFOs are real, we have been lying to you for over 70 years, what happens? The first religious response from all religious people would be one of anger at world governments, world authorities. They would suddenly realize that all the people they called “UFO kooks,” or “UFO nuts,” were the ones telling the truth. Religious leaders would realize the governments of the world have made them look like fools.
On the first weekend of the announcement, religious leaders of all kinds would be preparing remarks to respond to the news. And Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders would all say pretty much the same thing, “We are all shocked at the government UFO news, we realize that government leaders frequently lie, for what they call national security reasons, but this is a basic betrayal of the American people, which is supposed to be a government of the people and by the people. For us in our religious beliefs, God is still God, the holy Scriptures are still true, and we can all take comfort knowing that whatever evil, or good lies in our future, God will be our truth and our defender.”
Those might not be the exact words, but that would be the general direction. Dolan and Zabel suggest such an announcement would come on a Friday, after the stock market closed. Religious leaders would have little time to prepare a response.
And the media would first of all seek opinions from the scientific community, and political community. Did you know the government was lying? Do you think key scientists, who knew the truth, were paid to lie? Do you think the American government used “black budget money” to bribe newspaper and media people not to publish the truth?
But eventually the media would turn to religious leaders, and ask questions concerning the types of issues I have raised in The Bible and Flying Saucers and in Biblical UFO Revelations, not to mention dozens of articles and papers I have published. These religious leaders will be mostly unprepared to answer with the kind of conviction religious leaders like to have.
Did a UFO part the Red Sea?
Did aliens give Moses the Ten Commandments?
Was Jesus an alien?
Did aliens raise Jesus from the dead?
Was the angel Gabriel an alien?
Were the visions of Mohammed the result of alien contact?
Just a review of this list kind of makes one sympathetic to the government, maybe lying about UFOs was a good idea in terms of the religious impact telling UFO truth might have.
As Dolan and Zabel point out in A.D., there are many ways in which government disclosure might take place. They consider it unlikely that the governments of the world would tell us everything. They would treat us like lobsters in a pot, start us out in cool water, and turn up the heat.
If the government said, “We want to announce that the governments of the world have carried out a unified study of UFO reports, and we have concluded that some UFOs are indeed some form of advanced technology, not of this world. We suspect that these life forms have been visiting earth for thousands of years. At this time we do not know why they visit our planet, but it seems they only want to watch us, they do not want to land openly, or become involved in human politics or human affairs. They seem quite a bit more advanced than we are, both technologically, and socially, but they are willing to let us work out our life on earth together.”
If that were the announcement, what we might call a soft, warm first announcement, the religious shock would not be too great.
As we have already seen, one Roman Catholic astronomer suggested that if we were to contact aliens, we should baptize them. Protestant liberals would probably go along with this point of view, for Protestant liberals think that religion means getting along with everybody, no matter what they believe, or who they are.
At the same time, conservative Protestants would suggest that the aliens are either demonic, or Fallen Angels (as in Genesis 6), they are probably here to prey on human women, all the governments of the world should unite to oppose this evil.
Or the governments of the world might release a statement that would boil the lobster quickly. “We want to announce that after years of studying the UFO reports, we have actually made contact with the aliens, and we have good news. They are taking over, there will be no more wars, and they have the ability to monitor every human, every thought, every word we utter. There will be no more rebellion, no more stealing, no more murder. Furthermore, we have learned that the aliens have tried to bring about world peace, first through the Jewish religion, and then Christianity. They started the Jewish religion, parted the Red Sea, gave Moses the Ten Commandments. But this did not bring peace. Then they sent Jesus, who taught that we should even love our enemies. He was crucified for that kind of teaching. The world has been given the chance to learn to love as an act of freedom of our own wills, and we have rejected that chance. Now, we are going to have peace, whether we want it or not. The aliens have said so.”
I do not know of any government that would willingly make this kind of announcement, but if the aliens said that is our only choice, well, there we would be. That would boil the lobster very quickly.
I have to say that although I am in favor of UFO information being released, I also realize there are political risks, religious risks, in making this act of disclosure.
My hope has always been that enough UFO information could be released that religious leaders would begin freely to discuss what the presence of UFOs might mean for their religious traditions.
I think release of UFO information would have more radical consequences for the West as opposed to the East, it would be less shocking in India, China, and Japan, than in Europe, Latin America, and North America. What happens in the Middle East? I cannot even begin to guess.
Recent polls in the United States suggest that the fastest growing religious group is the “nones,” meaning those who have no religion. And a recent New York Times article found that according to a recent poll, people who believe in UFOs are less likely to be religious than those who do not believe in UFOs, and in reverse, those who are religious are less likely to believe in UFOs than those who are not religious. Would release of UFO information crush religious believers into unbelief? Would release of UFO information convert skeptics into religious believers? I have no idea.
But I do think if there is a way to put the lobster in the pot, and warm it gradually, that is better. Jesus once said to his disciples, “I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12) I think that wisdom applies to UFO disclosure.
- How does the Presbyterian Church view the UFOlogical phenomenon?
I will say right at the beginning, I do not know of any definitive Presbyterian Church (USA) view of ufology. I am pretty sure, given my own beliefs and publications, if there were such a view, someone would have told me.
What I can talk about is how I have been able to work as a Presbyterian Pastor, and still publish the views on UFOs and religion that I am known for, or to say the kinds of things that I have written in this Brazilian question and answer response.
I knew that the views I presented were not orthodox, and would offend many people. When my book The Bible and Flying Saucers was accepted for publication, the editor told me I was dealing with a far out topic, but I had treated the subject in an intelligent way, not a sensational way.
That is how I tried to conduct myself after the book was published. The timing of my ordination, and the publication of the book, may have been important. I was ordained on March 5, 1967, by the Presbytery of Susquehanna Valley. My book was not accepted for publication until June 1967, and published in April of 1968. I did not have to “confess” to the Presbytery (a Presbytery is like a Diocese, or Synod, in some denominations) that I was publishing a UFO book, because up to that time, my book had been rejected by several publishing houses.
Then when my book was published, the only way to “unordain me” would be to have a heresy trial. A heresy trial is very difficult, and rare. I do not remember a Presbyterian heresy trial in my lifetime.
On the other hand, if my book had been published before I was ordained, then members of the Presbytery could have stood up and said, “Do we want to ordain this UFO nut?” And I suspect the answer would have been “No.” One clergyman reviewing my book called it “kook book of the year.” And a minister in my Presbytery told me he thought I should be tried for heresy. He probably expressed his views with other clergy, but no trial happened, and I suspect that a few ministers read my book, saw that there was a clear biblical basis for many of my arguments, and where I was making scientific and biblical speculation, I made it clear it was speculation, or “wondering.” I happen to think being full of wonder is a perfectly good religious thing. [At the birth of Jesus, the shepherds told their story, “and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.” (Luke 2:18)] In any case, a heresy trial would have been difficult, and there would have been a lot of publicity. I think wiser heads prevailed, and my fellow Presbyterians decided to let me float and see where I ended up.
I must say that my best clergy friend just hated my UFO work. He loved me otherwise, and I loved him. He had me conduct his wife’s funeral, and made me promise to conduct his funeral, which I did many years later. He made me promise not to mention UFOs at his funeral. So at his funeral I said, “Vince made me promise not to mention UFOs at his funeral, so I won’t.” Maybe Vince has forgiven me on the other side.
I became an assistant pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church in Endwell, New York, in February of 1967. I became senior pastor of the same church in 1971. In the mean time, there was much public discussion in the church, and in the community, about my UFO work. Some Northminster members were offended, others were interested, but by and large, they understood that I had earned a Ph.D. degree in science and religion. I almost never talked about UFOs in my sermons. I preached in a traditional way from the Bible. So most church members saw my UFO work as a research sideline, and even though it is a little embarrassing, we can put up with it. I served Northminster for 34 years, retiring in February of 2001.
After retirement, I served as an interim pastor in several churches in Ithaca, New York, and in the Binghamton, New York area. By that time, I was seen as kind of tame, in spite of my UFO beliefs. I gave talks about my views to some area churches, but I was more likely to be asked to speak at a Rotary Club than a church.
One interesting fact is that I was asked in 1972 to become a religious consultant to MUFON, and to begin writing for MUFON publications. Walter Andrus, Jr., was the director of MUFON, and it so happened he was an ordained Presbyterian elder. In the Presbyterian system, there are three ordained positions: pastor or teaching elder, ruling elder, and deacon. The ruling elders form the Session, or board of directors, of each congregation. Each congregation sends a pastor and ruling elder to form a Presbytery. When I was ordained, there were about 50 congregations, spread over seven counties, in south central New York State, forming the Presbytery of Susquehanna Valley. It is the Presbytery that has the authority to ordain pastors. Elders and Deacons are ordained by the local congregation.
By and large I would say that my Presbyterian Church (USA) has handled my UFO work in the best way it could. Yes, people had the right to ask serious questions about my religious convictions. People had a right to wonder if I met proper Presbyterian standards for ordination. And anyone reading this question and answer article can see that I am exploring areas where there are few clear answers at this time. I wish that governments would release UFO information, if only for the selfish reason that I would then be able to say, “See, I am not such a kook after all.” But it might be that if I knew the whole UFO truth, I would not like that truth, for many reasons. So I have spent 50 years as a Presbyterian Pastor, and as a UFO researcher, looking for religious UFO connections. I am satisfied that my time has been well spent. Finally, of course, God has to be the judge of my life, not me.
ET Disclosure and Christianity
~By Dr. Barry H. Downing
Prepared for MUFON
How would undeniable recognition of ET’s affect Christianity?
I have been dealing with the question of ET’s and Christianity for over 50 years. I have to say that the words “undeniable recognition” are critical. The ability of humans to deny clear evidence is well established. Years after men landed on the moon, many conservative Christians believed the story of the moon landing was a hoax.
Furthermore, there is biblical evidence that suggests that ET’s played a powerful role in developing both the Jewish and Christian religions. As an ordained Christian pastor, I have found this evidence unsettling, so I am not surprised at the way many have resisted my interpretations of the biblical evidence.
I first published my interpretation of ET influence on the Bible in my book The Bible and Flying Saucers (1968), reprinted several times here and in Europe. And I have presented an expansion of this interpretation in many issues of the MUFON Journal, as well as addressing many MUFON symposiums.
More recently I published an analysis of how different branches of Christianity would react to UFO disclosure in my bookBiblical UFO Revelations (2017). The book includes chapters that describe the possible response to ET presence in the Roman Catholic Church, liberal Protestantism, and conservative Protestantism (which has produced both the “demonic theory” and the “fallen angel” theory). I have written no chapter on Eastern Orthodox Christianity and ET’s because I could find almost no published material for this denomination.
The Old Testament and Extraterrestrials
Christianity may be seen as a branch of Judaism. Most Christian denominations consider the Old Testament to be as divinely inspired as the New Testament. The New Testament does not make sense apart from the Old Testament. Judaism can flourish without the New Testament, but not the reverse. The Jewish celebration of Passover becomes the New Testament Last Supper and Communion service. The Ten Commandments of Moses expands to become the Sermon on the Mount of Jesus in Mathew 5-7. The way ET’s appear in the Old Testament is critical for understanding what comes in the New Testament.
In 1968 Erich von Daniken published Chariots of the Gods? which was translated into English a year later, and sold millions of copies. His argument was that much of human history has been influenced by ancient astronauts (or Ancient Aliens, as the History Channel named the series inspired by von Daniken).
Chapter 4 of his book has the title, “Was God an Astronaut?” This was at the same time an absurd and penetrating question. Christians the world over knew this was an absurd question. But in the space age, it was a question that many took seriously.
Von Daniken referred to the famous “wheels” of the prophet Ezekiel, which were described as a “wheel within a wheel,” (Ez. 1:16; all biblical quotations are from the Revised Standard Version) a description sounding to modern ears like a flying saucer. Von Daniken asks, “Who spoke to Ezekiel? What sort of beings were they?”
“They were certainly not ‘gods’ in the traditional sense of the word, or they would not have needed a vehicle to move from one place to another. This kind of locomotion seems to me to be quite incompatible with the idea of an almighty God.” (p. 39-40)
Perhaps von Daniken has in mind the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” Christian definitions of God often say God is “infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.” Jesus himself said “God is spirit, and those who worship him, must worship in spirit and in truth.” (Jn. 4:24) In another place Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Jn. 3 6) John’s Gospel further states, “No one has ever seen God, the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has made him known.” (Jn. 1:18)
If we remember key scenes from the Old Testament, we remember God speaking to Moses at the burning bush, or on Mt. Sinai giving Moses the Ten Commandments. Is there a contradiction here? God seems limited by time and space here, and is visible in some way. We need to understand that there is a kind of “theological evolution” between the Old and New Testaments.
God’s essential nature is spirit; humans are a blend of flesh and spirit (thus in Jesus the Word, the Spirit of God, became flesh), as the Creed continues, “And in Jesus Christ his only son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost……”
Then we come to the third person of the Trinity, “I believe in the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit].” God is able through the Holy Spirit to give some of his divine nature to humans.
The idea of God sharing his spirit appears during the Exodus. God asks Moses to gather seventy elders together so that God will “take some of the spirit which is upon you [Moses] and put it upon them.” (Num. 11:17) It is supposed that God’s will is to share his spirit with all flesh (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:17). The giving of the Holy Spirit reported in Acts 2, in which the disciples all spoke in many languages, is interesting from our modern point of view. In theological terms, if our modern ET’s have the Holy Spirit, should we expect them to be multi-lingual?
I mention all this because von Daniken has too limited an understanding of the Christian God. There is an invisible and almighty dimension to the God to whom Jesus prays as Father. But God can also be fully human, and be divine at the same time, as was and is the case with Jesus. (Jews and Muslims generally do not believe in the divinity of Jesus.) Likewise, the angels of God can be carriers of God’s Spirit, and can have bodies that seem very human, but at the same time, they are not God in his almighty form. What I believe is true is that when Old Testament people had contact with the angels of God, they sometimes assumed they were dealing with God in his almighty form. [This seems to be the case of Manoah and his wife, who have a series of encounters with an angel, who promises the birth of a son to be named Samson. When the angel ascends in a flame, Manoah says to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” (Jud. 13:22)]
Thus when the Ten Commandments are given to Moses at Mt. Sinai, the text begins by saying, “And God spoke all these words saying…..” (Ex. 20:1). In the New Testament book of Acts, chapter 7, the disciple Stephen gave a long speech in defense of his Christian faith, essentially a recitation of the long history of the Jewish people, and he accused the Jews of having betrayed their faith by crucifying Jesus, “you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7:53). (Paul makes the same point about angels at Sinai in Galatians 3:19.) I suspect that it had become a common belief that the being or beings who met with Moses at Sinai represented the angelic order, not God in his ultimate, and invisible spiritual form.
We find a mixture of “angelology” and God in direct contact with Moses at the burning bush. “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.” (Ex. 3:2) When Moses hears a voice calling to him, he asks the voice to identify himself. “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Ex. 3:6) So there is a mixture in the text, God mediated in angelic form, and God unmediated, speaking directly.
There are more than a thousand years separating the Exodus tradition and the New Testament. I cannot be sure what form of theological evolution took place during that time, but von Daniken makes a separation between God (almighty) and the angels of God which does not do justice to the larger biblical tradition. I admit this tradition is complex, but this complexity needs to be acknowledged if we are to explore the issues of ET’s and Christianity.
What von Daniken wants to do is separate the biblical angels from God, and turn them into godless astronauts, visiting earth for what he assumes are good scientific reasons. He argues that the biblical people were technologically primitive, and did not know better than to worship the ET’s/angels as gods. (And to some extent the History Channel “Ancient Aliens” series did the same thing. I remember a key character in the series saying, “This is the end of the church.” And he said this with joy. I appeared in ten of the “Ancient Aliens” programs, but was not much of a balance to the agnostic direction of the programs.)
Von Daniken pays special attention to the story of the destruction of Sodom in Genesis, chapter 19. Two “angels” are sent to warn Lot that destruction is coming, and they insist that the situation is urgent. Von Daniken suggests an all knowing almighty God would not be on some kind of time table, he ought to be able to delay the destruction of Sodom, unless a nuclear weapon was being set off at a particular time. “We may be as religious as our fathers, but we are certainly less credulous. With the best will in the world, we cannot imagine an omnipotent, ubiquitous, infinitely good God who is above all concepts of time and yet does not know what is going to happen.” “It is also difficult for enlightened children of this age to think of an almighty good Father who gives preference to ‘favorite children,’ such as Lot’s family, over countless others.” (p. 37) There are modern Christian theologians, like Bishop John Shelby Spong, who are offended by the biblical concept of “chosen people.” I am not so offended myself, having gladly not been one of those chosen students my math teacher sent to the black board to demonstrate a difficult problem.
What von Daniken offers as an alternative is that the “angels” at Sodom have nothing to do with God, but rather are godless astronauts on their own scientific mission. It may be that the people of Sodom represented a scientific batch of DNA gone bad, and the astronauts were just cleaning up their laboratory. Von Daniken sold millions of books because, in the space age, von Daniken’s speculations made more sense than traditional religious answers. Von Daniken fails to see that even if his angels are really “astronauts,” if they destroyed Sodom, they are acting in a God-like way. If those ancient ET’s are still with us, what power do they have over us now? If ET’s are confirmed to be present in an “undeniable” way, Christian theologians will face the task of making clear the relation between God and God’s angels. Will Christian theologians want to affirm modern ET’s as divine angels, or will they want to separate ET’s from angels, and from God, as does von Daniken? It will depend on what form our “undeniable recognition” of ET’s takes. I do not have enough ET information available at this time to make a guess. But if the biblical view of angels is valid, I would be surprised to find two sets of beings flying in our skies, angelic, and non-angelic. My basic faith is that the biblical angels, and our modern ET’s, are the same reality, which probably means both our scientific world view, and our theology, have to be revised.
Chariot of the Hebrew God
I came to the Bible with flying saucers and UFOs in mind. Von Daniken does not try to relate the modern UFO situation to the Bible. As a result, he missed a key biblical image that supports his case, but also in a sense undermines it. Von Daniken’s book takes its title Chariots of the Gods? from the idea that when ancient people saw a spaceship, and met ancient astronauts flying in them, they would worship the astronauts as gods, and their spaceship would be a chariot of the gods, with Ezekiel and his wheels providing an example.
In the book of Exodus, it is reported that after God sends many plagues on the Egyptians, the last plague killing the Egyptian first-born while “Passing Over” Jewish first-born, finally Pharaoh gives in, and lets Israel go. As Israel begins its journey, the people are met by what von Danikien would have called “The Chariot of the Hebrew God,” if he had noticed.
“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night; the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.” (Ex. 13:21,22)
We need to pay serious attention here.
What was this pillar of cloud and fire? From an ET point of view, it is a spaceship. Of course, traditional biblical studies have not seen it this way, nor could it. We did not even begin to develop the idea of flying saucers or UFOs until the 1950’s, and of course they were mostly ridiculed at the time, and denied of any interest by the United States government. We know now the government was lying, in the name of national security of course. But there was no way UFOs could have been of interest to seminary professors in endowed chairs at that time.
But what did biblical scholars say about this Exodus UFO? “The pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire set forth in mythical language the statement of vs. 17 that God led Israel. These are symbols of the divine presence. We must not so much think of them as religious adaptations of natural phenomena as of an experience of the divine presence set forth in images which may in part be derived from natural scenes.” (J. Coert Rylaarsdam, “Exodus,” Interpreter’s Bible, Vol 1, p. 931, 1952). [Later in the text, Rylaarsdam does not call the parting of the Red Sea mythology, but rather it was a natural event (an East wind parts the sea), and supernatural embellishments like walls of water were added later. (p. 935-6)]
Rylaarsdam offers reasonable interpretations for 1952, before UFOs, before we had landed on the moon. Probably a more conservative scholar would have called the pillar of cloud something supernatural, not something mythological (a human invention). And a conservative would call all of the Red Sea parting supernatural, not part nature, and part supernatural embellishment. But when we have “undeniable recognition of ET’s,” neither the mythological nor the supernatural interpretation will satisfy most people.
Much of the scholastic world now sees Exodus as mythology. Search the Wikipedia listing for Moses, and we learn that the consensus of modern scholars is that Moses was a myth, a literary figure like Hamlet in a Shakespeare play. Moses never existed, the pillar of cloud never existed, the Parting of the Red Sea never happened. But if the ET’s were to land, or the governments of the world were to stop the cover-up, then Exodus becomes what it says it is, the memory of the people of Israel under the control of a divine/extraterrestrial power. Then the question will be: What does Christian theology say now?
I am not going to repeat what is available in The Bible and Flying Saucers. In summary, the pillar of cloud appears to be similar in shape to what we have recently called, on the basis of Navy fighter pilot sightings, “Tic Tac UFOs.” It was cylindrical in shape, cloud-like during the day, but glowed in the dark.
This UFO led Israel up to the Red Sea deliberately, with the chariots of Egypt coming from behind. This seemed like foolish strategy, unless the Exodus UFO had in it the power to cause the parting of the Red Sea, and then drown the Egyptians. Whatever force field was used to part the sea, it gave straight walls of water on each side, and amazingly dried out the mud in the sea bed. “But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right and their left.” (Ex. 14:29)
After the Red Sea, the Exodus UFO led Israel toward Mt. Sinai, dropping manna, a food supply, along the way. At Mt. Sinai Moses received the commandments of the Jewish religion, including instructions for proper garb for the priesthood, and a design for the house of worship, a tent called the Tabernacle. Once the Tabernacle was built, the pillar of cloud hovered above it, perhaps staying there several days, then moving on, with Israel following. (Num. 9:15-23) The image here of following the pillar of cloud led to a favorite Christian hymn, “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah.”
There is also this interesting description of what the community of Israel noticed about the relation between Moses and the Exodus UFO (the pillar of cloud). “Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose up, and every man stood at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the door of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the door of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, every man at his tent door. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Ex. 33:8-11)
Once ET’s are no longer in doubt, most people reading this will see a spaceship, hovering above the tent of worship, then notice as the UFO moves to a position in front of the tent door, and Moses talks to an ET, as it were, face to face. Eric von Daniken will then say, “the pillar of cloud was the chariot of the Hebrew God.”
The challenge for Christian theology will be to show why the ET’s/angels involved in the Exodus are truly divine messengers, rather than godless astronauts as von Daniken has argued, and the History Channel “Ancient Aliens” series by implication has reinforced.
What von Daniken and the History Channel have missed is this. Von Daniken admits ET involvement in the Exodus, even arguing that the Ark of the Covenant was electrically charged. He says, “In Exodus 15:10 Moses relates the exact instructions which ‘God’ gave for building the Ark of the Covenant.” [(p. 40) There is a typographical error here, it should be Exodus 25:10, not 15:10. I do not know if corrections were made in later editions.]
But if as von Daniken believes ET’s were involved in the Exodus, notice what the ET’s have done. They have created a religion that has lasted 3000 years. The Ten Commandments are not about technology, or making the Ark electrically charged. The commandment not to make any graven images was an outrageous commandment for those who had grown up in a culture in which idols were the equivalent of true religion. The Exodus process created a very unique community which lives today, whether Jewish people live in Israel, or are scattered throughout the world, they have a very distinct ethnic, moral and religious identity. Of course Jews have paid dearly in human history for their uniqueness. Von Daniken missed this, and so did the History Channel.
As I was being filmed for the Ancient Aliens series, I tried to explain to the producers that they were missing the religious work of aliens in the Bible. But the series was under heavy attack from Christian fundamentalists (as I have been), and I suspect their sponsors made it clear they did not want a really divisive religious point of view in the series.
But when “undeniable recognition of ET’s” comes, I believe Christian theology will have to deal with the issues I have outlined above. There have been a few surveys among Christians, and Christian leaders, concerning possible contact with extraterrestrials. (See Victoria Alexander, “The Alexander UFO Religious Crisis Survey,” MUFON Journal, September 1994, p. 3-7, and my response, “Religious Survey,” MUFON Journal, October 1994, p. 16-17.) Usually the questions take the form, “If you were to learn that ET’s exist, how would this affect your Christian beliefs?” And the answers generally take the form, “God made us all, so I would say, let’s be friends with ET’s.” Or as one Catholic leader said, “Baptize them.” If it should turn out in the future that ET’s land and are friendly, then we can invite them to church covered dish suppers, and have them be the speaker for the evening. This would be fine with me.
But the surveys do not have the following question: “If you were to learn that ET’s exist, and that they parted the Red Sea, and raised Jesus from the dead, how would this affect your Christian beliefs?”
Although I cannot prove this, I suspect that world government leaders know that there is a possible connection between ET’s and the Christian religion. And they have no stomach for the fundamentalist reaction that would come from releasing ET information.
Linda Moulton Howe is a long time UFO researcher, specializing in cattle mutilations. She quotes one anonymous source, who claims the United States has held ET’s captive, and the aliens claim that the human race is a hybrid they have created. “They claim that all religion was created by them to hasten the formation of a civilized culture and to control the human race. The aliens have furnished proof of these claims and have a device that allows them to show audibly and visually any part of history that they or we wish to see.” (Howe, An Alien Harvest, 1989, p. 188-9.) This opens the possibility that the “facts” of the Bible are mostly true, but we have not understood the purpose of ET power in the Bible. In other words, ET purpose may not be God’s purpose as Christian theology understands it.
Before moving to the New Testament, I want to make one point. We have looked at Ezekiel’s wheels, and the pillar of cloud of the Exodus, as Old Testament examples of ET spaceships. But from a UFO point of view, Ezekiel’s close encounter was a single witness sighting. He refers to his experience as a “vision.” We do not have clear evidence of the physical reality of the Ezekiel experience.
On the other hand, the pillar of cloud was reported to be seen by thousands, and was visible to Israel for as many as forty years. This has to be the longest lasting close encounter in human history.
At the same time, from a theological point of view, Ezekiel has a minimum influence on Christian history. He is never mentioned in the New Testament. The pillar of cloud is the divine source that guides Moses, and Moses is mentioned well over seventy times in the New Testament.
Christianity would exist without Ezekiel, but it would never have existed if not for Moses, and the Exodus UFO, the pillar of cloud and fire.
Extraterrestrials, Jesus and the New Testament
I believe it was the same ET power that started the Old Testament religion that also gave us the New Testament religion, what we now call Christianity. There is far less “ET” evidence in the New Testament than in the Exodus, except that in a sense Jesus is the “ET” presence in the New Testament, not the pillar of cloud and fire.
What is clear is the New Testament sees Jesus as the Messiah, the fulfillment of what Moses had promised in the future. Peter’s speech at Pentecost (Acts 2) as well as Stephen’s speech before he was stoned (Acts 7), connect Jesus, his crucifixion and resurrection to all of Jewish history. This was a controversial message, of course, for the Roman government and Jewish religious authorities worked together to crucify Jesus. To proclaim the resurrection was to declare both Roman and Jewish authorities guilty in God’s eyes. The resurrection then becomes the fulcrum of Jewish/Christian history. If you believe in the resurrection of Jesus, you become Christian, if not, you remain Jewish.
From a scientific point of view, one could say there is less evidence of ET involvement in the New Testament than in the Old. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day did not see him as a divine messenger or authority. But there are the resurrection stories. An angel is reported to descend from heaven and roll back the stone in front of the tomb, and then sat upon it. (Mt. 28:2) Interestingly, the guards “became like dead men,” (Mt. 28:4) which is similar to some modern UFO close encounter reports in which people report being awake, able to observe what is going on, but unable to move. Jesus did not raise himself from the dead, there were ET powers involved in the resurrection.
Eventually the guards reported to the Jewish elders what had happened, and they gave the guards money saying, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” (Mt. 28:13) This may not be the first “UFO cover story” created by ruling authorities, but it is an early one!
Mark’s story of the resurrection identifies an angel as “a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe.” (Mk. 16:5). He was seen by Mary Magdalene and other women, and he told them Jesus had been raised from the dead. Both here and in Matthew the angel is identified by his bright clothing. No wings are mentioned.
In general angels seem very human. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb. 13:2) If a man knocked on my front door wearing a set of wings, I would not be “unaware” very long.
But the key resurrection stories are not about angels, but rather about Jesus proving who he was to his disciples, and making it clear things were different. John’s Gospel tells the story of the resurrected Jesus meeting Mary Magdalene in a garden outside the tomb. She does not recognize him until he speaks to her.
Later Jesus enters a room with the doors locked, and shows ten disciples his hands and side, revealing the crucifixion marks. Thomas (and Judas the betrayer) were not at this first meeting. (Jn. 20:19-25) Eight days later, Jesus appears again, this time with Thomas present. With proper viewing, Thomas believes. Jesus says, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (Jn. 20:29) Christianity is different from Judaism in the sense that you are born a Jew, if your mother is Jewish, but you become a Christian not by birth but by believing Jesus is the resurrected Messiah.
There is another strange resurrection story at the end of Luke’s Gospel. The resurrected Jesus joins two disciples walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, one named Cleopas. They did not recognize him. He talked with them, did biblical interpretation for the whole walk. They invited him to join them for their evening meal, and when he broke bread in front of them, then they recognized him. Immediately he disappeared from them, and was found later with other disciples. (Lk. 24:13-43) I will return to this resurrection story later in this article.
What these appearances did was create a group of believers who like UFO witnesses, could tell their stories, and create followers. But of course there would be doubters, and mockers. This is a story that resonates with UFO experiencers: who wants to be called a UFO nut (or a resurrection nut)? The Bible says this is divine strategy, separating believers from unbelievers.
After several resurrection appearances, the book of Acts says that Jesus had a final meeting with his disciples, and then was lifted up into the air, into a “cloud,” and he disappeared from sight. (Acts 1:1-11) This is called his Ascension, and two men “in white robes” said that he would return from heaven in the same way he went. If UFOs carry the angels of Christ, then an “undeniable recognition of ET’s” would probably be the equivalent of his Second Coming.
Oddly enough, a kind of Second Coming did occur, but its only result was the conversion of the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus. This is the most important conversion in Christian history. Saul, who became Paul, was theologically trained as a Jew, and saw Christianity as an evil heresy that needed to be stopped. He was given authority to put Christians in jail, and was on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus to arrest more Christians when a bright light hovered above him, and the group traveling with him. A voice came from the light asking why Saul was persecuting him. Saul asked, “Who are you Lord?”
The voice answered, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:5, 6) This close encounter story is repeated twice more in Acts, chapters 22 and 26. Paul becomes the key advocate for Christianity, turning Christianity from a religion of law to a religion of love and self sacrifice inspired by trust in Jesus and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. [See Paul’s letter to the Galatians concerning Paul’s conflict with Peter, and other Jewish Christians. Paul was an advocate for Gentile Christianity, which is the branch of Christianity that survived, while Jewish Christian Churches died out. “Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Gal. 3:23-25)]
Paul’s Damascus road ET encounter converted him from being an enemy of Christianity to its chief advocate. Paul was intelligent, and had been theologically trained as a Pharisee. He had the ability to develop a theology for Gentiles that Peter and the other disciples did not. Whatever truth we may find out in the future about the ET’s, they had an eye for theological talent.
One of the major New Testament UFO encounters is the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus on a mountain, with Peter, James and John as witnesses.
A “bright cloud” hovered over them, and a voice came from the cloud saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” (Mt. 17:5)
It was also reported that Moses and Elijah were there with Jesus. From a New Testament point of view, this is an early review of the idea that we are resurrected in human appearing bodies after we die. Moses had been dead for hundreds of years, Elijah did not die on earth, but was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. (2 Ki. 2:11) From a biblical point of view, those who have long been dead might now serve in an ET or angelic role. The Transfiguration story also connects Jesus to all of Jewish history, the “bright cloud” a clear reminder of the pillar of cloud and fire, and Christians therefore rightly see the Old Testament as very much part of their spiritual history, and yet clearly moving in a different direction. Jesus was not afraid to say, “You have heard that it was said…..but I say unto you.” (Mt. 5:21, 22 etc.)
I believe Jesus was part of what we might now call the ET group, what he called the kingdom of heaven. He claimed to have existed in a heavenly realm before coming to earth. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me, and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” (Jn. 6:38,39) The Nicene Creed states that Jesus, “for our salvation, came down from heaven.” From our space age point of view, Jesus is the main ET in the New Testament, who came to earth, was crucified, raised from the dead, then returned to heaven from which he came.
Jesus began his life as an ET, and returned to that life. If our modern ET’s are connected to the biblical ET’s, that is how I read the Bible. The more evidence we have of ET presence, the more strongly the Christian church will be compelled to explore the issues as I have outlined them.
One troubling note is that in our times, we hope that somehow the ET’s would bring peace on earth, or that if ET’s are involved in religion, it is for the purpose of promoting world peace. Although Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers,” that is because we live in a world of conflict, much of it religious. If, as I believe, ET’s were involved in creating both the Jewish and Christian religions, and that they knew perfectly well these religions would not be at peace with each other, I have to think that the primary purpose of both Judaism and Christianity is something deeper than to bring about world peace. Even further, if we think of the Christian Crusades of the Middle Ages, or the Protestant Reformation, then history is full of Christians fighting Christians. But if there is a deeper purpose for Christian faith than world peace, what is it?
Knocking on the Door of Christianity in the Name of ET’s
The publication of The Bible and Flying Saucers was my way of knocking on the door of Christianity, and saying, “ I think we have an issue here.” I had my publisher J.B. Lippincott mail a copy of my book to James I. McCord, President of Princeton Theological Seminary. President McCord and I had seen each other frequently when I was a student , since I was editor of the seminary newspaper, and I often needed news from his office.
He sent a warm letter of response dated February 3, 1969, the year we reached the moon. He praised much of my book, but said, “On the other hand, I lack sufficient imagination to have proper respect for UFOs. As a matter of fact, I still think airplanes are ‘against nature.’ But this skepticism did not keep me from enjoying thoroughly what you have written.” I was very thankful he took the time to write this letter.
And his skepticism points to the key concept of this article: not much is going to happen in the world of Christian theology without “undeniable recognition of ET’s.”
When my book was reviewed in the conservative Protestant journal Christianity Today, the reviewer was not so kind. Albert L. Hedrich said, “The Bible and Flying Saucers could be judged worthless but harmless were it not for the distortions it contains and the credentials of the author. He holds a doctorate in theology from the University of Edinburgh.” “Downing attempts to make the resurrection of Christ seem ‘realistic’ by suggesting that men from some other world participated in it and that the associated earthquake was caused by a UFO’s ‘anti-G’ beam.” He went on to say he hopes “that this book has a very limited circulation.” (Hedrich, Christianity Today, “Flying Saucers in the Bible,” June 21, 1968).
Liberal reviewers treated me no better. One reviewer of my book said, “Intelligent Presbyterians will be horrified to learn that the propounder of the aforementioned was awarded a Ph.D. by their denomination’s shrine of scholarship, Edinburgh University.” “This kind of thing is expected from assorted Bibliolatrists but hardly from Edinburgh PhDs.” (Lester Kinsolving, “Book Linking Bible, Saucers Is Way Out,” Houston Post, December 29, 1968). (Shamed or not, the University of Edinburgh has made my dissertation available to be downloaded on line: Eschatological Implications of the Understanding of Time and Space in the Thought of Isaac Newton.) We can see that both conservatives and liberals are horrified by my work, and I feel that I have not received proper credit for bringing them together.
The late UFO researcher Dr. John Mack, a member of the Harvard University faculty, found himself facing legal action from the university faculty when he started doing serious UFO research.
In his book, Passport to the Cosmos (1999), Mack stated his belief ET’s were trying to move human culture away from the mechanistic world view of the West, and toward a more spiritual world view of the East. He found religious symbolism in many forms of alien-human contact. We found some commonality in our work, and enjoyed contact at the 2001 MUFON Symposium in California. What we found is a kind of fearful resistance in his academic world, as well as in my world of Christian theological professionals, even to consider the UFO evidence.
I must say that in general Roman Catholic writers have been more open to my work than Protestants. In a review a Catholic Priest referred to two other books linking UFOs and the Bible, and then said, “This new treatment by Barry H. Downing, even if it is theologically ‘far out,’ is nevertheless the best of the lot.” “To give Barry Downing his due, however, it must be said that he treats the entire matter in an unsensational and reverent manner.” (Rev. Luke Farley, The Pilot, Boston, MA, August 17, 1968)
Even though I faced a lot of rejection I believed I should keep knocking on the doors of professional theologians. In December of 1984, I mailed a UFO survey to 100 Protestant and Roman Catholic theological seminaries in the United States. These surveys were addressed by name to the Dean or President of the seminary, depending on who was listed in Patterson’s American Education. The seminaries were selected to give a broad range both theologically and geographically.
I sent a covering letter, listing my UFO interest, and naming me as author of The Bible and Flying Saucers. I said I was seeking information which could be used in a publication I was preparing. By middle 1985, I had 26 returns.
I presented the questions on the front of an eight and a half by eleven sheet of paper. I hate mailed questionnaires that go on for several pages. I sent four questions.
- Do you believe it is possible some UFOs carry an intelligent reality from another world?
- If some UFOs do carry an intelligent reality from another world, what might be some consequences for Christian theology?
- Have there been any formal studies of the relation between UFOs and Christian theology in your seminary classes? (For instance, has there ever been a suggested connection between UFOs and the biblical doctrine of angels?)
- Using the Freedom of Information Act, Lawrence Fawcett and Barry J. Greenwood, in their book Clear Intent: The Government Coverup of the UFO Experience (Reference 2), have published formerly secret CIA, FBI, and other Government UFO documents. Courts have blocked the release of hundreds of pages of UFO documents in the name of national security. Can you think of any negative consequences for Christian theology of a Government policy of UFO secrecy?
In regard to the first question, I received 11 Yes, 6 No, and 9 Other answers. Even those who said it was possible, also said “but not probable.” At this time some university scientists were saying that UFOs couldn’t be ET’s because stars with habitable planets are too far away, you can’t get here from there, so these negative scientific views probably informed seminary answers in light of the accepted science of the day.
There were some who wrote “No” to question 2, many said there would be no change to Christian theology, but one wrote, “Some would deny it, some would attempt to interpret it in the light of Scripture, many would be confused and do nothing. Theology itself would result from the above mentioned people.”
Question 3 was one that drew the most negative response, asking if a connection between the Bible, angels and UFOs had been taught in seminary classes. There were 3 yes answers, 20 no answers, and 3 others. Two out of three of those who said yes were Roman Catholic seminaries. Here again I found that Roman Catholics are more open to my theology than Protestants. Catholics have a live and working angelology, whereas for liberal Protestants, angels are mythological beings, not real beings flying in spaceships (though for many liberal Protestants UFOs are probably mythology too), and conservative Protestants of course believe angels are real, because they are in the Bible. But if you have the Bible, who needs angels, who are probably hiding away somewhere with nothing to do until the trumpet blows for the Second Coming? One conservative Protestant wrote, in regarding to connecting UFOs and angels in a class, “I hope not.”
The best response came from a Roman Catholic theologian from the Archdiocese of New Orleans, V. Rev. J. Edgar Bruns, M.A., S.T.D., D. Litt. He did not just return the form, he wrote an extended letter, dated December 20, 1984, saying he thought many UFO sightings were authentic, and went on to say, “If intelligent life exists elsewhere and has not fallen from Grace, I would consider such creatures equivalent to the biblical angels.” He went on to say that the early Church Fathers, between the “3d and 7th centuries virtually taught the same thing” in regard to “Archangels, Thrones, Dominions &c,” and that this kind of information was discussed in his seminary classes. Bruns, unlike some others, did not ask that his name not be used in any published results of the survey.
Question 4 dealt with the United States government coverup of the UFO reality. A few theologians thought it would be a mistake to cover up UFO evidence, but many of them said the government understands national security issues, and their position should be respected. One of my sentences from this section was, “What is for me the most surprising result of the answers to question four is an almost universal view that might have been described in an earlier age as ‘Pharaoh knows best.’”
Included in the article, which ran about 20 pages, was a summary of the best UFO information available at the time. After the article was written, I began sending it to Christian journals for publication. Those included: Union Seminary Quarterly Review, Theology Today, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, Pacific Theological Review, Interpretation, and Theological Studies. All of them eventually rejected the article. Some rejections noted it was an unusual topic, others made no reference to the subject matter. It can be argued that my article was poorly written, and therefore rejected. I would see this as valid if these journals were busy publishing UFO theology articles by authors better qualified than I. But that does not seem to be the case.
I made the only choice that seemed to remain, I sent the article to MUFON, and it was published in the 1988 MUFON International UFO Symposium Proceedings, Lincoln, Nebraska, June 24-26, p. 38-57.
In a way the rejection of “UFOs: Four Questions for Theological Seminaries” is symbolic of what my life has been as a writer of UFO Christian Theology. I have had many other rejections, Christian magazines or journals have not been willing to publish my material. I have knocked on several doors. I was a stranger in my own home land, and MUFON took me in, and I will always be grateful. An on line website, “Strong Delusion,” owned by James Cunningham, has also been gracious enough to publish my material (sometimes much to the chagrin of other writers on the site).
But this much is clear. Here we are, more than 50 years after I published The Bible and Flying Saucers, and there just are not a lot of established theologians saying, “UFOs may be carrying the angels of God.” There are cult groups saying this type of thing, of course, such as the Heaven’s Gate cult that was following the Hale—Bopp comet in California, 39 members committing suicide during Holy Week of 1997, in order to gain salvation from the UFO following the comet. But your typical seminary professor is not saying this kind of thing.
The Roman Catholic Church has been open to UFO research, but in a limited way I think. The late Msgr. Corrado Balducci was an outspoken advocate for belief in UFOs. He appeared on Italian television saying he believed UFOs were real, and extraterrestrial, from the “natural” world, not the “supernatural” world, and therefore they were neither demons nor angels. He said his belief came from reports of so many UFO sightings. He suggested if we do not respect human eye witness reports, we might doubt the resurrection of Jesus.
It is worth noting that Balducci was a nuncio, trained to be an ambassador from the Vatican to other nations. It seems certain to me that he would have talked to other ambassadors, on a confidential level, asking what the nations of the world knew about UFOs. And he would hear that UFOs are real, and fly some kind of ET technology which the governments of the world are keeping secret. At the same time, by the rules of secret diplomacy, he would not be able to refer to his diplomatic sources.
I responded to the Balducci point of view by writing that the whole idea of the supernatural is weak, it has been a concept in theology for only about 500 years, that there is no biblical word for supernatural, and further, that our whole idea of technology is new, and modern technology would look supernatural to George Washington if he were suddenly to come to life today. (See Downing, “Balducci Interview,” MUFON Journal, September 1998, p. 16-17. Also Downing, Biblical UFO Revelations, 2017, p. 33-4.)
Daniel Sheehan is an attorney who has served several high profile cases involving the Constitution. He represented the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers Case. He was asked to assist in preparing a briefing paper for President Carter in regard to UFOs in January of 1977. At the time he was employed as Chief Counsel for the United States Jesuit Headquarters in Washington, D.C. He decided to contact the Vatican Library to see what information they had about ET presence. Much to his surprise, his request was turned down, twice. (Steven M. Greer, MD, Unacknowledged, 2017, p. 150-152) I suspect the Vatican library contains classified diplomatic UFO reports, Sheehan was not cleared to see them.
It seems likely that the Vatican has enough UFO information, some of it classified because it has come through diplomatic channels, that the Vatican could announce to the world that ET’s are real. But this reality is awkward for Catholic theology to admit. One famous Catholic miracle happened in Fatima, Portugal on October 13, 1917. A huge silver disc spinning in the sky was witnessed by a crowd of thousands. From the point of view of the Catholic Church, this was a supernatural miracle, but from the point of view of UFO researchers, it fits the description of a flying saucer. (See Downing, Biblical UFO Revelations, 2017, p. 35-6)
Here is the difficulty. I have taken the position that UFOs may carry the angels of God. From a Catholic point of view, this would mean UFOs are supernatural.
But the best evidence seems to be that UFOs are advanced technology, not supernatural. If they are not supernatural, they cannot be angels, would be the Balducci point of view. Since Balducci’s death, I do not hear a Catholic voice taking his place. If as I have argued the pillar of cloud of the Exodus is a spaceship, which used advanced technology to part the Red Sea, then it is possible that the angels are not supernatural. How do we undo hundreds of years of theology that has assumed the reality of the supernatural?
Liberal Protestantism is in a different place. By and large, as I have shown, liberal Protestantism has no interest—rather is horrified by my interest–in connecting UFOs and the Bible. By and large liberal Protestantism has given up believing in the supernatural, preferring to call events like the parting of the Red Sea or the Ascension of Jesus mythology, or poetry, not real events.
The best voice of liberal Protestantism in regard to UFOs is that of Ted Peters, a Lutheran theologian who published UFOs—God’s Chariots? Flying Saucers in Politics, Science and Religion (1977). Peters, like myself, has long been a MUFON consultant in theology, and teaches at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in California, and is editor of the journal Theology and Science.
Peters follows the lead of C.G. Jung, author of Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies (1978). (UFOs are a modern myth, but they are much more, or MUFON would not exist.) Mythology has to do with the way people respond to reality, and Peters says, “UFOs have a way of drawing out our religious sensibilities in disguised form, even when we believe ourselves to be no longer religious. Each one of us has a deep inner need to be at one with our creator and source of life.” (p. 9)
The disguised form, as Jung pointed out, is that in a scientific age, when we can no longer believe in angels as supernatural, we invent a new mythology, ET’s in spaceships. Scientists like Carl Sagan and Donald Menzel both argued that UFOs are not about science, they are a new form of religious myth created to take the place of the old religions. Menzel gave a paper at a UFO conference, “UFOs—The Modern Myth,” and Sagan “UFO’s: The Extraterrestrial and other Hypotheses.”
[Carl Sagan and Thornton Page, ed., UFO’s: A Scientific Debate (1972)]
Peters reviews my work, as well as that of von Daniken and R. L. Dione [God
Drives a Flying Saucer, (1973)] and concludes, “What is startling about the claims of von Daniken and other would be UFO theologians is that they actually humanize and trivialize God. They make natural what we believe to be supernatural. They make physical what we accept as spiritual. They say what we once thought to be extraordinary is really ordinary.” (Peters, p. 115)
I would not say there is no truth in what Peters says here. But I would point out that for Jews and Muslims, when Christians say Jesus is God, they believe we humanize and trivialize God. The problem of trivializing God is built right into the Christian doctrine of the incarnation. My argument that the pillar of cloud was a spaceship that parted the Red Sea does not make the supernatural natural, it makes the supernatural technological. And whatever the angels are, we do not know, and have never even wondered in theology, if angels might use technology.
The other issue is that neither von Daniken nor Dione distinguish between God and God’s angels. If you say “God Drives a Flying Saucer,” that trivializes God, but if you say “The Angels of God Drive Flying Saucers,” trivialization is not so obvious. For von Daniken, the ancient astronauts/angels were mistaken for gods, which I believe is a valid point, even a biblical point, as I showed in the case of Manoah and his wife. Peters does not mention any of this. (For a more extended view of Peters, see Downing, Biblical UFO Revelations, p. 49-51.)
Conservative Protestantism has mainly taken the view that if ET’s are real, they are demonic, but if not demonic, then perhaps fallen angels. There is a dark side to some UFO encounters, those putting forth the demonic theory have material to work with. UFO researcher John Keel in books such as UFOs:Operation Trojan Horse (1970) and The Mothman Prophecies (1975) reports cases of UFOs hovering over cars, frightening children, or strange phone calls coming to those who have seen UFOs, even dreams of future events that come true. For conservative Christians, these stories are evidence of demonic or paranormal powers. Clifford Wilson and John Weldon, in their book Close Encounters: A Better Explanation (1978), and Timothy J. Dailey in his book, The Millennial Deception: Angels, Aliens and the Antichrist (1995), both make the argument that UFOs are demonic.
Timothy Dailey never mentions my work, but the same cannot be said for Gary Bates, who has written Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection (2004).
Bates, like Wilson, Weldon and Dailey, sees UFOs as demonic. As key evidence, he says “many respected researchers, such as J. Allen Hynek, Jacques Vallee, John Weldon, and John Keel have noted that UFOs appear to behave deceptively.” (p. 226) Many who have had UFO contact tell falsehoods, and that is evidence of the demonic for Bates. On the other hand, there is no real “hard evidence” of UFOs at all. (He does not consider that world governments may have hard evidence.)
He says in regard to me, “[Brad] Steiger is not the only former ‘believer’ to have been deceived and to have fallen away. The Reverend Barry H. Downing is the pastor of a Presbyterian church in New York.” (p. 327) He goes on to describe the contents of The Bible and Flying Saucers, and that I am a consultant to MUFON, but I am giving out false information because “his work fails the ‘Scripture test.’”
I think it is important to notice the words “UFOs and the Evolution Connection” in his title. Bates is part of a group called “Creation Ministries International.” This group is devoted to maintaining the 6 days of creation in Genesis, and proving that Darwin’s theory of evolution is wrong. He says he believes the earth is only about 6000 years old. (p. 345) Thus he is strongly motivated to prove ET’s do not exist, in the sense of being highly evolved beings from elsewhere in the universe, thereby giving more credence to Darwin’s theory. He obviously does not take our modern scientific methods of determining the age of the earth too seriously.
In regard to UFOs being demons, I would say Bates’ theory does not meet “the Scripture test.” One of the main things about modern UFO reports is they can be seen, they are physical, they show up on radar. There is no case in the Bible where demons are seen, where they show a physical reality. They are always in a human (or animal) body. (For a broader analysis of the demonic theory of UFOs, see Downing, Biblical UFO Revelations, p. 64-77, also Downing, “Demonic Theory of UFOs,” The Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrial Encounters, ed. Ronald D. Story, 2001, p. 155-7.)
Another conservative Protestant voice has gone in another direction, suggesting that ET’s are fallen angels, in the tradition of Genesis 6 “the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair, and they took to wife each of them as they chose.” (Gen. 6:2) “Mighty men” were born of this sexual union of sons of God (angels) and human women. The apocryphal book of Enoch explains that two hundred angels disobeyed God and united with human women. With this as background, Chuck Missler and Mark Eastman explain in their book Alien Encounters: The Secret Behind the UFO Phenomenon (1997) that UFOs may carry fallen angels, the sons of God of Genesis 6.
There are various UFO encounter reports with a sexual dimension, whether involving direct human-ET sexual activity, as in the case of a twenty three year old Brazilian farmer named Antonio Villas-Boas, or stories of sperm samples being taken during UFO abductions. Thus there is UFO evidence that can support the Missler/Eastman argument. Furthermore they understand why the demonic theory of UFOs does not hold. Angels are physical, but “The nature of demons is entirely different. They are disembodied spirits that seek embodiment.” (p. 240)
In that sense, the fallen angel theory is more biblical than the Gary Bates demonic theory. Bates understands the vulnerability of his demonic theory to the fallen angel theory, and devotes a chapter to “Who were the ‘sons of God’ in Genesis 6?” (p. 360-9) His conclusion is that there are several theories about Genesis 6, and it is not clear there is a dominant one. Eric von Daniken is happy to site this Genesis 6 passage as evidence of ET involvement with human life in our ancient past (Chariots of the Gods?, p. 34-5.), which is distressful to both the Missler/Eastman point of view, as well as that of Bates.
What disturbs me about the Missler/Eastman book is not what they say, but what they leave out. How can one write a book about UFOs in relation to the Bible, and leave out the pillar of cloud of Moses, the chariot of fire of Elijah, the wheels of Ezekiel, the bright cloud at the Transfiguration of Jesus, or the bright light with the voice of Jesus on the Damascus Road? The obvious answer is, they did it. In Genesis 6, they have strained at a gnat, and ignored the camel. (See Downing, Biblical UFO Revelations, “UFOs and Conservative Protestantism: Part 2, the Fallen Angel Theory,” p. 78-88.)
There are disturbing dimensions to the modern UFO mystery, researchers like John Keel and Jacques Vallee have made that clear. The late Budd Hopkins was angry about UFO abductions, seeing the aliens as having no empathy or moral values. But I think there is a more comprehensive Christian interpretation of the UFO mystery. I believe in some sense, on behalf of God, UFOs and their ET owners rule the earth. I have explained this in my article “The God Hypothesis.” (MUFON Journal, October 1988, p. 10-13).
When UFOs intrude on human nuclear facilities, I think they are sending a message of “watch your step” to the rulers of this world. When they seem to make fun of our modern fighter jets as in the “Tick Tac UFO” encounters, this too is a warning to our modern Pharaohs in the tradition of the Bible, so that Jewish people could tell their children “in the hearing of your son and your son’s son how I have made sport of the Egyptians.” (Ex. 10:2) Our world, especially the Western world with all its nuclear weapons, and advanced technology, which holds us all hostage to fear 24/7, is the modern Egypt. We are all slaves to our modern Pharaohs and their destructive, enslaving powers.
I do not know what the ET’s are doing about our modern political situation, but I think that the Tic Tac Nimitz Encounters of November, 2004, and the public release of information about this encounter, is part of what I call “Targeted Intervention” on the part of the ET’s. The ET’s do not want to land and take over, at least that is my impression. (See Downing, “UFOs, The Bible and Targeted Intervention,” Biblical UFO Revelations, p. 138-175. This article is an appendix, first written in January 2010, and published on the website “Strong Delusion.”)
UFOs have to do primarily with the future of the earth, and how the ET’s see their responsibility in relation to the irresponsibility (formerly called sin) of the human race.
But there is I believe a specific dimension to the UFO mystery intended for Christians, and it is biblical in the sense that it is like treasure buried in a field. The question is, will Christians see the field, dig in the field, buy the field, and own the treasure.
The Stone the Builders Rejected
When Peter was arrested for healing a crippled man, he was asked by what power he healed the lame man, and he defended his actions by saying “be it known to you all and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner.” (Acts 4:10, 11)
The image of the rejected stone is from Psalm 118, a song of joy that one who has been struck down by enemies, like the nation Israel, will finally be victorious.
“I thank thee that thou hast answered me and hast become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing, it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Ps. 118:21-3)
Peter applied this image of the rejected stone, now the head cornerstone, to Jesus, crucified, and raised from the dead. It is my belief that UFOs should have been seen by Christians as a sign of hope, a sign of the presence of the angels of God. Instead Christians have mocked the very idea, or called UFOs demons, or fallen angels. UFOS are the stones that modern Christian theologians have rejected. It appears to me that the tables have been turned, as the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, if my understanding is right, now Christians have rejected the sign of Christ’s angels in the sky. This may be God’s justice for the ways Christians have mistreated Jews for centuries. In a way, I hope I am not right, otherwise the judgment of God has come upon the Christian Church. But if I am right, then the God of the Bible is very much still active in our world.
UFO abductions were slow to become a standard part of UFO research. Budd Hopkins became a leading researcher in this field, while carrying on a successful career in art in New York City. His first abduction book, Missing Time, was published in 1981. Here he noticed that people did not have conscious memories of being abducted, but they noticed missing time. Hypnosis would reveal an abduction experience within repressed memories. Hopkins also noticed that abductions happen to families, over generations. But the overall message here is that ET’s have not only technological power, but great psychological power. What are the religious ramifications of this truth? Might not ET’s implant religious images in our mind if they chose to do so?
It turns out that we already had an example of a connection between UFO abductions and religious experience, published in Raymond E. Fowler’s first book, The Andreasson Affair (1979). What began as a UFO sighting in the back of Betty (Andreasson) Luca’s Massachusetts home on January 25, 1967, led to a twenty year extended history of research, and publication, related to this and subsequent events on the part of Fowler.
Betty was in her home with her mother and father and seven children at the time (her husband, James, at the time was in the hospital, he and Betty were later divorced, and Betty married Bob Luca). The house lights began to flicker, then blinked out. A light was noticed in the back yard, Betty’s father looked out a window, and saw small human-like creatures coming toward the house. Five ET’s passed through the kitchen door without opening it, and they placed Betty’s family in some kind of suspended state. (See Mt. 28:4) Betty was taken aboard the UFO, and then began what can only be called an extended religious experience.
Betty did not consciously remember much other than the UFO landing, and the five aliens coming into her house. Sometime later, she explained some of her experience to J. Allen Hynek, a former Air Force Project Blue Book advisor, and he referred her to Massachusetts MUFON, and thereafter to Raymond Fowler, and the team he put together. The team included scientists, and a hypnotist. The group began the investigation with a scientific mind set, and were shocked when what seemed to be an encounter with ET’s turned into an experience of religious revelation. (See Raymond Fowler’s summary of his work in “Andreasson Abductions,” The Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrial Encounters, ed. Ronald D. Story, 2001, p. 59-66; also see Betty (Andreasson) Luca’s own account of her abduction experiences, following Fowler’s article. Her experiences began as a child. p. 66-8.)
The Andreasson experiences represent a thoroughly investigated sequence by a much respected MUFON group of researchers. But so far as I know, it has not had major influence on traditional Christian theology. Some conservative Christians have told me they think Betty’s experience is demonic because there is too much paranormal activity in her experience, such as out of the body reports. But Protestant Christians do not examine modern reports of divine revelation, if it is not in the Bible, they do not deal with it (called the Protestant principle of Scripture alone). Roman Catholics do investigate reports of religious visions, but since Betty is a Protestant Christian, I am not sure they would investigate her.
But I am interested in the mind set of Raymond Fowler’s team as they began their investigation. They saw MUFON as a scientific organization, they saw UFOs and ET’s as a scientific problem to be investigated. Then the religious dimension challenged their whole scientific assumption about the ET field.
In writing the Foreword to one of Fowler’s books, Whitley Strieber said, “The remarkable experience of Ray Fowler and Betty Andreasson Luca is currently one of the most intense defining points of the change of mind. The new mind acknowledges its place in the unknown; it strips away all traces of assumption and expectation and regards the universe with open eyes.” (Raymond E. Fowler, The Watchers II: Exploring UFOs and the Near-Death Experience, 1995)
I appreciate the wonder that Strieber expresses here, his sense that UFOs have created a new mind set that “strips away all traces of assumption,” but that is not how I see it. In Christianity the church carries on with no sense that the angels of God might really be in the midst of us, even though that is supposed to be part of our faith tradition. And in MUFON, I get a sense that many members do not want the religious dimension of UFOs to be given too much credence, either because that conflicts with their own religious beliefs, or that if we are going to be taken seriously by the scientific world in our UFO research, we have to keep religion out of it. So there are a lot of reasons even in MUFON that we do not want to “strip away all traces of assumption.”
When in December of 2017, the New York Times published information about a secret Pentagon UFO study, funded with black budget money, I thought there might be a reaction from Christian leaders. But I did not see any comments published in the religious magazines I read. This raises the question of what would constitute “undeniable recognition of ET’s?”
I think that religious leaders are fine with ET’s being there. Religious leaders assume that whoever they are, they have nothing to do with Christianity. ET’s are just a bunch of space guys. I think the late Stan Freidman, a lifetime MUFON researcher, suggested maybe ET’s visit earth the way we visit a zoo. Before religious leaders react to the ET situation, they will have to suppose, be shown, or have proof, of a religious connection. Even though the Raymond Fowler material suggests modern UFOs seem to have serious religious intent, seminary professors are sitting in their endowed chairs with no sense that a living Bible is flying in our skies.
Here is my Christian question. Is there anything in the Bible that might explain what seems to me to be willful blindness on the part of modern Christian theologians to the ET situation? Does Jesus have to land on the White House lawn, hold a press conference, and say “I guess you didn’t recognize me, and my angels?” Or would even this “open the minds” of Christians?
One of the more dramatic stories in Genesis is the story of Joseph and his brothers. A musical has been made about the story, “Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.” Joseph is the favorite son of his father Jacob, which causes his brothers to be jealous, and leads them to sell him to Egyptian slave traders. He has some success and some failure in Egypt, his special gift of interpreting dreams eventually gets him out of jail, and elevated to Secretary of Agriculture of Egypt, having warned Pharaoh of a coming famine. Joseph plans a grain storage program, which meant that when the famine struck, Joseph’s brothers had to come to Egypt for grain.
When his brothers arrive, he does not reveal his identity to them. He speaks only Egyptian, and uses an interpreter to talk to them. The story goes through a long process by which Joseph teases his brothers, using his dangerous authority, giving them grain, but putting their money in their grain bags, and insisting that if they come back again, that they bring younger brother Benjamin with them. (Benjamin and Joseph shared the same biological mother, the only two children born to Rachel, one of Jacob’s four wives.) Jacob was fearful of losing Benjamin too, and it took much pleading for the brothers to convince Jacob to let Benjamin join the next trip to Egypt. But Benjamin goes, Joseph secretly plants his silver cup in Benjamin’s sack of grain, and has him arrested. At this point the brothers are in deep grief, they had promised to protect Benjamin, and failed. Finally Joseph could no longer keep up his torture of revenge, and in tears he said, “I am Joseph, is my father still alive?” (Gen. 45:3) Of course the brothers were stunned, and frightened. They remembered their sin, perhaps they would be sent to death. But Joseph forgave them saying, “And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Gen. 45:5)
I believe this passage is important for our current ET situation for several reasons. Perhaps I am too Presbyterian here, but this is an early recognition of the concept of predestination. The God of the Bible plans ahead. What looked like evil, Joseph’s brothers selling him as a slave, was used by God “to preserve life.” In a similar sense, Jesus can say of those crucifying him, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” The crucifixion of Jesus is God’s plan “to preserve life,” even eternal life. In this sense, Joseph is an early Christ figure in the Old Testament.
This passage also shows the “stone that the builders rejected” principle that is a divine principle throughout biblical history. Joseph was the stone his brothers rejected, and the Egyptians did not do a lot better with him, until his ability to interpret dreams got him out of jail. Joseph had dreamed he would rule over his brothers, and the dream came true. He went from being the rejected stone, to the head corner stone. In a sense as head of the grain program, Joseph became the universal savior, he saved both Jew and Gentile, his brothers, and Egyptians.
Finally, we should notice that it was Joseph who decided when to reveal his identity to his brothers. His brothers did not figure it out on their own. As we read the story, we may think in our minds, “how could the brothers be so dense, so dumb?” Perhaps the proper answer would be, “Because it was the will of God that the brothers be blind to the truth.” Both this answer, and the concept of predestination, challenge our concept of free will, and will not be welcomed by many Christians, not to mention many ET researchers.
I want to mention that there are many instances of “the stone the builders rejected” appearing in the Bible. Moses was the stone rejected when he tried to break up a fight between two fellow Hebrews (Ex. 2:13-15), and went on to be the great leader of the Jewish people. When Samuel was sent to the house of Jesse to anoint a king to replace Saul, Jesse had eight sons, but God selected David, the youngest, to be the next king. (1 Sam. 16:6-13) And again, before David killed Goliath with his sling shot, his older brothers basically told him to stay out of sight and act his age. (1 Sam. 17:19-49) The stone the builders rejected became head of the corner.
When Jesus came, he was a disguised Messiah. In order to see him as the Messiah, one had to see through the disguise. Part of the disguise was that though he was the Son of God, from the heavenly world, he was born of a woman. He was God and human in one body. “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4:4, 5) The conception by the Holy Spirit, reported in Matthew and Luke (Mt. 1:20; Lk. 1:35), explained the dual nature of Christ, divine and human. In other words, the ET dimension of Jesus was disguised by his humanity.
And his ministry was a process of letting down his disguise in a careful way. He did not go around shouting, “I’m the Messiah, I’m the Messiah.” The only time he said directly he was the Messiah, it was considered grounds to crucify him. (Mt. 26:57-68)
He healed the blind and lame, made the deaf hear, ate with prostitutes and tax collectors. This was the “lower class” of Jewish society (as in our own.) Jesus self identified with the “rejected stones,” healed them, and raised them up. He did not preach a “classless society” as some Christians suppose, rather he preached that in the day of judgment there would be class reversal. He said it would be harder for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. In the day of judgment, “many that are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mt. 19:30)
Many of his parables preached the same message. In the Workers in the Vineyard, those hired last are paid first, when the prodigal son comes home, his father rejoices, and the older brother is not happy, the shepherd leaves the ninety nine sheep, and seeks the lost sheep, the woman with ten coins who loses one, cannot rest until she finds the lost coin. Throughout his ministry, Jesus favored the losers, the rejected stones, and promised that in the kingdom to come, they would be the head corner stone.
Jesus got the attention of the religious leaders. Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher we wish to see a sign from you.” Jesus answered, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Mt. 12:39) As Jonah was for three days and nights in the belly of the whale, so will the son of man be in the grave. Jesus understands there is an evil lust in us for ET power, to see it, and own it. (How many billions of US dollars are being spent to copy UFO technology?)
This troubles me in our UFO age. We are much like the Jewish leaders, hearing Jesus stories, like we hear UFO stories, and we want “undeniable recognition of ET’s,” and Tic Tac UFOs aside, why do UFOs kind of hang on the edge of human society? If they have something good to give us, why not come forth out of the shadows. If they are the angels of Christ, throw off your ET disguise, and let world peace begin.
On one occasion Jesus asked his disciples who the Jewish crowd was saying he was. He was asking to be identified. John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah the disciples offered as the top picks. Then he asked, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mt. 16:15) Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mt. 16:16), and Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon bar-Jona! For flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 16:17)
As we seek disclosure about UFOs, hoping our government has something to disclose, we also as Christians need to ask God to do some disclosing. Here Jesus seems to say that if it had not been the will of God, Peter would not have made this confession, he would not have “seen,” or been able to say, Jesus is the Christ.
The story is the Jewish people, for whatever reason, perhaps it was the will of God, could not see that Jesus was the Messiah, so they crucified them. Like Joseph’s brothers, who resented Joseph’s dreams that he would rule over them, both the Roman and Jewish leaders hated the threat that Jesus posed, that he might be king of the Jews. He was crucified, dead and buried. And then raised from the dead. The stone the builders rejected became the head corner stone. So it was preached, and the Jesus who started with twelve disciples, has had millions of disciples since his resurrection.
One of his reported resurrection appearances was very strange, and has already been mentioned above. Two disciples of Jesus, one named Cleopas, were on the road to Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, when Jesus joined them. They did not recognize him. He pretended not to have heard the news about the crucifixion and rumored resurrection, but as they walked he explained scripture to them, saying this was all needing to be fulfilled. He said, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Lk. 24:26) The men invited Jesus to join them for supper in Emmaus, still not recognizing him. During the meal, Jesus took bread, broke it in front of them, and then they recognized him, and he vanished from their sight. (Lk. 24:31)
Undoubtedly the two men felt foolish during that moment of revelation, as did Joseph’s brothers when Joseph self identified. But for some reason, neither Joseph’s brothers, nor the disciples on the Emmaus road, had the ability to see through the disguise of either Joseph, or Jesus. Peter was only able to confess Jesus as the Christ because it was God’s will.
How do we explain the blindness of the disciples concerning who Jesus was on the Emmaus Road? Perhaps Jesus used mind control to block the minds of his disciples. In the Betty Andreasson Luca abduction case, the ET’s used some kind of mind control to “switch off” Betty’s family, putting them in a suspended state. Betty could not remember most of her abduction, except under hypnosis. It is interesting that those skilled in hypnosis sometimes use a key word or a symbolic act either to bring the one hypnotized back to full consciousness, or even to return the person to an altered state. It appears Jesus used the “breaking of bread” as a symbolic act to bring the disciples back to full consciousness.
After Jesus self identified in Emmaus, he vanished. When Betty’s father looked out a window to see the landed UFO, he saw ET’s floating toward the house, and they seemed to “blink in and out” of reality. Jesus and the ET’s seem to have the power of mind control, and the ability to “blink in and out” of reality.
All of this makes me think about other things. I think about the many reports of UFO close encounters, and the observers remember with regret that they “forgot” to take a photo with their cell phone.
I think about a You Tube TV video of President Obama being interviewed about UFOs by Jimmy Kimmel. Kimmel tells Obama about all the things he would do if he were president to find out the truth about UFOs and aliens. And Obama says, “No you wouldn’t, because the aliens control our minds, you know.” And the audience laughs. What if the minds of Christian theologians are blocked by the ET’s from connecting ET’s and angels? If this were true, where is the moral blame for spiritual blindness? I do not like these thoughts, but I do not know how to unthink them after I think them. But I suspect that most of the time, in MUFON research, we are not thinking big enough.
I find this blend of ET reports and Scripture troubling. There are no problems here for Christians if ET’s are just a bunch of space guys, with no special connection to God, other than being part of his creation.
But if ET’s are the angels of God, there are two problems. First, the ET’s that have knocked out the computer systems in our nuclear war heads, and have flown circles around the Navy jet planes based on the USS Nimitz, in November 2004, seem to be like the God of the Old Testament, shaking his fist at our modern Pharaoh’s, warning them to watch their step. This is the God who killed the Egyptian first-born at Passover, and drowned Egyptians in the Red Sea. This is a God of military power, which Jewish people still celebrate.
This God looks mean, ruthless to our modern generation. In the words of Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous, and proud of it, a petty, unjust unforgiving control freak.” (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 2006, p. 31) One problem here is, if my analysis of Exodus is correct, the God of the Old Testament is not fiction. We need to be careful if we hear stories of UFOs shooting down military jets, if those jets have been sent to shoot down the UFOs. The Egyptians at the Red Sea undoubtedly saw the God of the Hebrews as a demonic God. From a biblical point of view, we often find that the political rulers of this world are the bad guys, up against the angels of God. Beware of those who say our modern ET’s are demonic, especially if those speaking have political power.
Second, if the ET’s are the angels of God, they are also the angels of Christ. Christ preached turn the other cheek, not an eye for an eye. Christ preached we should love our enemies, not kill them. Jesus becomes the God who is killed, not the one who kills. We need to remember that the Bible shows both the power of God, and the weakness of God. That is the message of the cross. But Christians should be looking to the skies for signs of Christ’s return, to see “the sign of the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Mt. 24:30) Not that we know when that time would be, but we should be alert.
We are not alert. I think the United States government could announce that ET’s are there, and the ET’s want us to put our nuclear weapons away, and respect the ecology of the earth, many Christians would suppose this might be a message from a bunch of outer space guys who worry about us, who have no connection to the God of Jesus. For some kind of “undeniable recognition of ET’s” to affect Christianity, other than the Second Coming of Christ, I am not sure what it might be.
Remember that Joseph and Jesus both chose the moment to self identify. In the meantime, we are left to make a faith choice, without proof. Jesus said to Thomas, blessed are those who have not seen, and believe. This is not a message most ET researchers want to hear. We want ET disclosure, not a divine game of hide and seek. But God’s faith game of hide and seek seems to be what we have.
~Dr. Barry H. Downing
Endwell, New York
This is a two part interview from 1990. Barry is being interviewed in English about The Bible and Flying Saucers. The interview is interspersed with French translations.
Part 2 of 2, continued interview of Barry H Downing in English on The Bible and Flying Saucers. (Again, the interview is interspersed with French translations.)
This is Lee Speigel’s Podcast Edge of Reality with Lee Speigel in his August 15th, 2019 episode in which he interviews Barry H Downing.
On this week's "Edge of Reality Radio," Lee Speigel will present the Rev. Dr. Barry Downing, a retired New York State Presbyterian minister, who wrote a groundbreaking book in 1968, "The Bible and Flying Saucers," with a follow-up 2017 book, "Biblical UFO Revelations." For more than 50 years, Downing has suggested how the UFO phenomenon was responsible for many events in the Bible. Downing will discuss his belief, and cite many examples, of how the angels of the Bible were, quite likely, extraterrestrials.