For many years there has been cirulating a story that NASA, allmost by accident, has proved that the Bible story about when Joshua asked God to stop the sun, and the story when Hezekiah asked God to turn the sun back 10 degrees is true. But did they actually prove that?
Here is a story that I was alerted to today:
It may sound unbelievable but it seems that NASA’s latest discoveries have brought about some new information regarding the Bible’s stories, finally confirming that everything written in the Bible is actually true! Mr. Harold Hill, president of the Curtis Engine Company in Baltimore, MD, and a consultant in the space program related the following development:
I think one of the most amazing things that God has for us today happened recently to our astronauts and space scientists at Greenbelt, MD. They were checking the position of the sun, moon and planets out in space where they would be 100 years and 1000 years from now. We have to know this so we don't send a satellite up and have it bump into something later on in its orbits. We have to lay out the orbit in terms of the life of the satellite, and where the planets will be so the whole thing will not bog down! They ran the computer measurement back and forth over the centuries and it came to a halt. The computer stopped and put up a red signal, which meant that there was something wrong, either in the «info» fed into it, or with the results as compared to the standards. They called in the service department to check it out and they said «it's perfect.» The IBM head of operations said «What's wrong?» «Well, we have found that there is a day missing in space in elapsed time.» They scratched their heads and tore their heir. There was no answer.
One religious follow in the team said, «You know, One time I was in Sunday School and they talked about the sun standing still.» They didn't believe him, but they didn't have any other answer so they said, «Show us.» So he got a Bible and went back to the book of Joshua where they found a pretty ridiculous statement for anybody who has «common sense.» There they found the Lord saying to Joshua, «Fear them not, I have delivered them into your hand, there shall not a man of them stand before thee.» Joshua was concerned because he was surrounded by the enemy and, if darkness fell, they would overpower him. So Joshua asked the Lord to make the sun stand still! That's right! The sun stood still and the moon stayed... and hastened not to go down a whole day! Well, they checked the computers, going back into the time it was written and found it was close but not close enough. The elapsed time that was missing back in Joshua's day was 23 hours and 20 minutes - not a whole day. They read the Bible and there it said «about (approximately) a day.»
These little words in the Bible are important. But they were still in trouble because, if you cannot account for 40 minutes, you'll be in trouble 1000 years from now. Forty minutes had to be found because it can be multiplied many times over in orbits. Well this religious fellow also remembered somewhere in the Bible it said the sun went backwards. The spacemen told him he was out of his mind. But they got out the book and they read these words in 2 Kings 20: Hezekiah, on his death-bed, was visited by the prophet Isaiah, who told him that he was going to die. Hezekiah did not believe him and asked for a sign as proof. Isaiah said, «Do you want the sun to go ahead ten degrees?» Hezekiah said, «it is nothing for the sun to go ahead ten degrees, but let the shadow return backwards ten degrees.» Isaiah spoke to the Lord and the Lord brought the shadow ten degrees backward! Ten degrees is exactly 40 minutes! 23 hours and 20 minutes in Joshua, plus 40 minutes in 2 Kings make the missing day in the universe.
Isn't that amazing! Our God is rubbing their noses in his TRUTH. That's right.
Many Christians are excited about the story, but others are asking «is it really true?» Such a question may sound like a lack of faith to some, but without rejecting the biblical accounts, an attempt to investigate this story is just obedience to the apostle's commands «Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good» (1 Thess 5:21) and «Whatsoever things are true ... think on these things» (Philipians 4:8). So let us ask, «Is the story true?»
William Willoughby, the religion editor of the Washington, DC Evening Star and an evangelical who is seeking to have creation taught in the public schools, wrote an article on the NASA computer story in his «Washington Perspective» column of August 8, 1970. He had contacted NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center at Greenbelt MD and was told that no one there knew of any such event having occurred. So many people have written NASA about the story that they have printed up a special form-letter to answer them.
Willoughby also contacted Harold Hill in Baltimore. Hill sticks to his story, which he claims to have on good authority, but he says he cannot locate his documentation.
These facts by themselves cast something of a shadow on the story, but the doubt increases when certain details of the story itself are examined. Mention is made of «a day missing in space in elapsed time,» but nothing is said about how this day was discovered, except that a computer found it. But computers cannot do any calculations that humans cannot do, nor do they «know» anything that we don't. Their real advantages are speed and accuracy.
This story is purely fictional. Computers do not have the ability to make such a discovery, and every effort to contact the scientists allegedly involved has resulted in either failure or denial. The July 1989 Bible-Science Newsletter carries an excellent article that debunks this farce (Bartz, 1989, p. 12).
Also, this story dates back loong before NASA was created. What if I told you it dates back to 1690. That is long before electricity, let alone computers.
In his Harmony of Science and Scripture , published 1936, Harry Rimmer recounts the following Story (pp 281-282):
There is a book by Prof C. A. Totten of Yale, written in 1690, which establishes the case beyond the shadow of a doubt. The condensed account of his book, briefly summarized is as follows:
Professor Totten wrote of a fellow-professor, an accomplished astronomer, who made the strange discovery that the earth was twenty-four hours out of schedule! That is to say, there had been twenty-four hours lost out of time. In discussing this point with his follow-professor, Professor Totten challenged this man to investigate the question of the inspiration of the Bible. He said, «You do not believe the Bible to be the word of God, and I do. Now here is a fine opportunity to prove whether or not the Bible is inspired. You begin to read at the very beginning and read as far as need be, and see if the Bible cannot account for your missing time.»
The astronomer accepted the challenge and began to read. Some time later, when the two men chanced to meet on the campus, Professor Totten asked his friend if he had proved the question to his satisfaction. His colleague replied, «I believe I have definitely proved that the Bible is not the word of God. In the tenth chapter of Joshua, I found the missing twenty-four hours accounted for. Then I went back and checked up on my figures, and found that at the time of Joshua there were only twenty-three hours and twenty minutes lost. If the Bible made a mistake of forty minutes, it is not the Book of God!»
Professor Totten said, «You are right in part at least. But does the Bible say that a whole day was lost at the time of Joshua?» So they looked and saw that the text said, «about the space of a whole day.»
The word «about» changed the whole situation, and the astronomer took up his reading again. He read on until he came to the thirty-eighth chapter of the prophet Isaiah. In this chapter, Isaiah has left us the thrilling story of the king Hezekiah, who was sick unto death. In response to his prayer, God promised to add fifteen more years to his life. To confirm the truth of His promise, God offered a sign. He said, «Go out in the court and look at the sundial of Ahaz. I will make the shadow on the sundial back up ten degrees!» Isaiah recounts that the king looked, and while he looked, the shadow turned backward ten degrees, by which ten degrees it had already gone down! This settles the case, for ten degrees on the sundial is forty minutes on the face of the clock! So the accuracy of the Book was established to the satisfaction of this exacting critic.
Comparing this account with the NASA computer story, notice that both include the same three numbers: a whole day missing overall; 23 hours and 20 minutes lost at the time of Joshua; and 40 minutes at the time of Hezekiah. Here too, we have a dramatic, but rather different story of how a skeptic is brought to see the truth of Scripture.
Does this story have any lessons for us as Christens? I think so. We would all like to see skeptics turn to Christ and it is sometimes a temptation for us to «bend» the truth a little to make a stronger argument. After all, the end (eternal life for someone) justifies the means (a little lie), does it not? No, it does not! This is trying to do God's work using Satan's tactics!
In the long run, when God allows the truth to come to light, such lies only give unbelievers modem examples by which to claim that the Bible writers were guilty of the same things. Our attempt to «help» God thus becomes an argument for unbelief. Instead, Christians should have such zeal for the truth that unbelievers will come to see that we really have it. We should rebuke the Rimmers and the Hills and others who have passed on these stories. They (and we) should be careful in checking sources, especially for materials which are favorable to our position. And certainly we should not be inventing stories to make Christianity look good! God does not need us to spread lies in order to make Him look good.