Recently, a correspondent of mine e-mailed me an article I’ve seen on occasion for the past 40 years.
The article claimed that NASA scientists at Goddard Space Flight Center, while calculating orbits of planets and satellites, had “proven” that the long day of Joshua (Joshua 10, when God made the sun stand still) and the reversal of the sun’s motion for Hezekiah (2 Kings 20) had occurred, because it was necessary for NASA to take those events into consideration in doing orbital calculations.
The version she planned to include in her weekly column for a small-town, mid-American weekly newspaper was the same I recall reading in church bulletins and mimeographed letters from the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Fortunately (as we do for each other), she sent it to me to vet. Why? Because it is false. NASA never did any such thing, and there is no way to DO any such thing, nor any need to do so, unless someone invents a time machine. But for more than 40 years, people – for the most part well-meaning people – have been spreading this rumor as truth: spreading lies.
I found, to my amusement, that the tale is much older than even my childhood, and was first concocted in 1890. So, for more than 120 years, this false claim has been harming the cause of Christ.
Many people have debunked it over the years, and now it is my turn. But one advantage I have in 2011, over 1969, is the Internet. Yes, the Internet helps to spread this falsehood, but it also helps to defeat things like this. In the 1960s and 1970s, unless we were fortunate enough to hear from someone else who had done the research and found the story to be bogus (and such rebuttals never are as well-distributed as the original myth), it would have taken weeks or months of research and letter-writing and phone-calling to find the evidence to show that it was a lie. Today, it takes about 10 minutes to search on-line and find articles debunking the story and telling its history, far more ably than I could do.
Here are some websites about it, which you can share with your correspondents when they mail or e-mail this to you, or when a well-meaning church bulletin or newsletter editor includes it in their publication.
Why is this important?
Obviously, if we are trying to preach the truth of the Gospel, we dare not unwittingly spread lies and myths.
Second, this urban legend has already been used by many atheists and infidels to try to “debunk” Christianity and the Bible, among them Steven Jay Gould.
Of course, these enemies of Christ assume uniformitarianism (as long as it is convenient for them) and reject anything supernatural, especially the power of Almighty God to do what He wills with His universe.
Third, we must understand that false claims about the Bible and its proofs can weaken or destroy the faith of many, and prevent them from being taught things that are true. We must not seek to prove God’s Word, only to have it backfire because the example we use does not even exist.
NASA does not need to prove the validity of two events in the Old Testament for us to believe that God can do things like this. Nor should we ever forget that “If God could do this then, how much more can He do for us today, if we only read and believe His word,” to quote my correspondent.
We have far too many proofs in history, archeology, and the Bible itself that the events in the Old Testament, as well as those in the New, did happen and that God is the Creator and His Son is the Savior, and His promises and powers are vast and true.