Erich von Daniken - of 'ancient astronaut' fame (though hardly the one and only in that field, he wasn't the first to think up the 'ancient astronaut' idea, but he really helped to popularize it) - has had many best selling book titles exploring that theme, when translated into English (von Daniken was Swiss) became known as "Chariots of the Gods"; "Gods from Outer Space" and several others of like ilk. Presumably the 'gods' refer to the general run of polytheistic gods. But the back jacket cover of my "Chariots of the Gods" tome he asks the question 'was God an astronaut?' presumably the monotheistic God. Of course the plural gods could incorporate the singular God. In any event, the index to either of these first two noted volumes doesn't mention Jesus Christ (hereafter J.C.). I suspect the main reason why, was that von Daniken focused more on archaeology and artefacts, and there just isn't much in the way of J.C. archaeology and artefacts. I personally think mythology offers an equally if not better field in which to play, and there's a lot of J.C. mythology. The question I now ask, was J.C. an 'ancient astronaut'?
If you're a rational being you probably tend to think all things supernatural (ghosts, telekinesis, astrology, deities, etc.) are a load of codswallop. On the other hand, you, as a rational being, probably acknowledge there's historical evidence that J.C. existed, though that's not accepted by all scholars. If so, if you think J.C. really existed, you have a problem since J.C. is considered by the multitudes to be a supernatural being. But, that paradox can be resolved, not just by denying J.C.'s very existence, but somehow attributing J.C.'s so-called supernatural abilities in a more, well not so much a down-to-earth way as in an up-to-space context. The very question explains all - was J.C. an 'ancient astronaut'? That is, was J.C., instead of a supernatural being, an extraterrestrial being?
Let's start at the beginning.
We have no idea what date J.C. was 'born', if a virgin birth can be interpreted as being somehow naturally born. The 25th of December is a pure invention on the part of the Christian Church - even the exact year is uncertain. The so-called 'Star of Bethlehem' is of little use. Despite speculation that the 'star' was a conjunction of two or more stellar and/or planetary objects, the 'star' would still resolve itself into two or more points of light, even though apparently in very close proximity. Further, that two or three individual points of light connection would also have been obvious to observers in the days and weeks before (as the points of light grew closer together) and after (as they drew apart again). A supernovae or a comet would have been visible for many days' even weeks. A 'shooting star' would visually last way too short an interval. No, the 'star' must have been a one-off short duration event. Let's call a spade a spade here - the 'star' was a classic UFO sighting!
Piling on the speculation, let's say our UFO was, say if not the Starship Heaven (the extraterrestrial and 'ancient astronaut' God's spacecraft), at least a shuttlecraft from same. If the infant J.C. were, in a manner of speaking 'beamed down', well that would be something akin to a 'virgin birth'. Modern UFO abduction lore would suggest that our modern aliens, the greys say, do have some sort of beaming technology.
Now it's my understanding that there is quite some considerable 'missing time' gap between J.C.'s early years, and the start of his 'ministry' at roughly age 30 or thereabouts. J.C. apparently went walkabout for quite a while and any official J.C. biography will have a large timeline gap in it. That a person of such importance as to attract a crowd at his 'virgin' birth, the messiah, the Son of God, could just vanish for years on end just staggers the imagination. The question is where did J.C. go for all those years? Perhaps he returned home for a bit of R&R, or reflection. My best guess is that J.C. returned home (somewhere out there) for instruction, training and overall preparedness for what was to come, that is, his 'ministry' or whatever. Again, it is strange that someone of his historical stature would have just vanished off the face of the planet for quite some considerable time.
Then we have the so-called 'miracles of Jesus' which tend to fall into four categories: exorcisms; control over nature; medical cures; and raising the dead;. Even if J.C. existed, there's no consensus that he performed anything supernatural as in miracles. In fact, just one general miracle is mentioned in all four of the Gospels - feeding the multitudes with loaves and fishes on apparently two occasions. That might be explainable - a simple cell phone call to God on the Starship Heaven - "Hey Daddy, can you beam me down some more supplies please?" Somehow along the line, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John overlooked one or more of J.C.'s other miraculous accomplishments. In fact, slightly less than half of J.C.'s miracles merit only a single mention from one of the four Gospels. Further, many of J.C.'s miracles seem pretty trivial like walking on water and cursing a fig tree. Anyway, I don't see anything here that's beyond the technical capabilities of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization.
Exorcisms - even ordinary Catholic priests can cast out a minor demon or two, but of course if there no such thing as demons then there's nothing to actually exorcise. Instead, just use the application of a bit of mumbo-jumbo; the power of suggestion; the application of a bit of pop psychology - that should do the trick. The placebo effect 'cures' the demonized.
Control over nature - well nothing a bit of slight-of-hand coupled with some sophisticated technology, including the 'beam me up Scotty' variety couldn't accomplish. Sure, some of J.C.'s miracles appear impressive, but if Matthew, Mark, Luke and/or John could witness some 20th and 21st Century technology, what tales I'm sure they would spin!
Cures - nothing modern medicine couldn't handle. To the simple peasants of 2000 years ago, from their point of view, our 21st Century MD's do a bang up job in cures for probably most of the ailments that would have inflicted them.
Raising the dead - or was it walking up the sleeping as J.C. himself admitted in one of only three such cases involving him? Actually, and again from the perspective of 2000 years down the track, our modern medical technology does a reasonable job in resurrections of the apparently (i.e. - those under general anaesthesia) and sometimes even clinically dead, via the use of electric heart thumpers, administering oxygen, etc. Then there's that other J.C. resurrection - J.C.'s own return to the 'living'. If J.C. appeared to people post execution, well it's amazing what holographic projections can do, especially if you have no concept of hologram technology. Of course maybe the extraterrestrial medical technology available on the Starship Heaven could resurrect the dead or the fact that J.C. was an extraterrestrial - he didn't have purely human physiology - might also explain it.
One other thought at this particular juncture comes to mind. One often repeated theme in mythology when it comes to the gods is the conflict between father and son. Sooner or later, the son grows up and ultimately poses a threat to daddy and daddy's power. Gods were known to plot against their own kids, sometimes swallowing their newborn in order to prevent any further on down-the-track rivalry for power with their legitimate heirs. Daddy gods could be and often were jealous of their own offspring. So what about the relationship between J.C. and God?
Well our monotheistic God is indeed a jealous God by His own admission via the Ten Commandments, so it stands to reason that He's going to be miffed that His son J.C. has stolen His limelight. That is, J.C. had achieved better P.R. overall and perhaps a greater following than God Himself commanded 2000 years ago. However, God laughs last and best because obviously J.C. didn't get to follow Dad home, alive at least, since he of course met his waterloo nearly 20 centuries ago. One would think that an all-powerful God could have easily saved His son from execution via The Cross, if He had wanted to. However, allowing the execution to go ahead was a really easy and guilt-free way of eliminating a future rival. Actually our extraterrestrial 'God' wasn't totally without compassion for His executed son (the straw that broke the camel's back?), so before departing He no doubt 'beamed' J.C.'s body aboard His Starship Heaven, and in so doing explains J.C.'s resurrection and his empty tomb!
What I'm speculating here is that God has left the building. The basis for suggesting this is that even if you take the evidence for God's existence as revealed in the Bible at face value - burning bushes, pillars of salt, universal floods, etc. there has been nothing one can hang one's hat on for the past several thousand years in the way of evidence for God. No interviews, no photographs, no new Commandments, no verified miracles that God and only a God could preform, total and apparent willful ignoring of the pope's prayers for all the sorts of things popes go on and on about (like praying for world peace - a futile gesture if ever there was one), etc. Now, if God were really not God, but 'God', an extraterrestrial, well Starship Heaven and crew might have left the building (Planet Earth) eons ago and sought greener pastures. I mean God's Old Testament temper tantrums got Him nowhere; we still take His name in vain and curse Him "God damn it"; His Ten Commandments are often ignored by the great unwashed; J.C. seems to get more press coverage and positive P.R. as noted above; God has lots of competition from other deities, as well as other goods and services that rival His. I mean God can no more compete with prime time reality television and rap music and cell phones and iPods and the Internet's MySpace and Facebook, than J.C. can now compete with consumerism and commercialism on the 25th of December! No, I think 'God' (the extraterrestrial since I don't believe the supernatural God exists) has voluntarily give humanity the 'big finger' and taken his bat and ball and gone home to sulk. Or perhaps 'God' has been involuntarily exiled. I mean if 'God' exists, then perhaps the 'gods' must also exist, and because there are many, many 'gods', (in this context God is outnumbered many thousands upon thousands to one) well I mean even the schoolyard bully can be sent packing with tail tucked between legs if enough of the bullied gang up and fight back. There's no love lost between God and the gods since God ascended the Top Dog throne and Commanded that the gods be considered persona non-grata.
However, that aside, J.C.'s 'mission' seems to have been somewhat akin to our terrestrial missionaries who spread out to the four 'corners' of the globe, including way too often knocking on your door; spreading the 'good word' (although often that's often different words for different missionaries). So, J.C. comes to Earth (probably via Dad's Starship Heaven) to spread the good news about intelligent life in space, our 'space brothers', which was totally misinterpreted and moulded into a supernatural context by our ancient ancestors. That's understandable - J.C.'s strutting his high tech stuff wouldn't be comprehensible to the masses 2000+ years ago.
I've deliberately used the phrase 'space brothers' above, because I want to make a connection between J.C. as an angelic-like extraterrestrial being, and the way more recent (1950's) contactees who claimed to have had personal contact with and messages from angelic-like extraterrestrial beings, often called by the contactees our 'space brothers' who have come to Earth in their 'flying saucers*'.
The contactees were often bucketed as total loonies back then (in the 50's) by the mainstream, even mainstream people interested in extraterrestrial life and UFOs, including myself. That's no less so today if someone is still foolish enough to mention them - like me here and now. But a question remains on the grounds of 'innocent until proven guilty', did the contactees (collectively) invent these angelic-like extraterrestrial beings with the intent of fraud; or to have some fun and hoax the public and pull the wool over their unsuspecting eyes; or perhaps they just, collectively, had some serious mental issues, say delusions of sorts. Or, perhaps the contactees were relating the truth as they thought they had experienced it, when perhaps the angelic-like extraterrestrial beings were being less than 100% honest with them for reasons best known to themselves, though one can speculate.
In the light of J.C. as a role model, passing himself off as a deity acceptable to the populace rather than as a technologically advanced extraterrestrial which might be beyond the comprehension of that same populace, so too in the 1950's our 'space brothers' only told as much of their story as would be comprehensible to the relatively simple people of that era. Now truthfully, the contactees (George Adamski say as an example of the general contactee stereotype) were relatively simple folk. They weren't university deans, or theoretical physicists, or four-star generals, or diplomatic statesmen and legal eagles and MD's, etc. That brings up an obvious question, why would our 'space brothers' bother with the great unwashed when they could just as easily land on the White House lawn and be addressing Congress within hours? Well, back to J.C. as template, the contactees, simple folk, were the sort of folk that - if you believe traditional Biblical J.C. mythology - J.C. would have associated with. However, the contactees were fed enough bovine fertilizer that their idealistic philosophical messages got buried along with their tall tales of trips to Venus and Saturn, etc., where the 'space brothers' lived. Although then again, you have that angelic-like ancient Near Eastern goddess Inanna or Inana (Ishtar) identified with the celestial planet Venus, so who knows where the 'gods' have actually set up camp!
Or did those 50's idealistic 'space brother' philosophical messages really get buried? Perhaps our 'space brothers' are a bit more clued than given credit for.
I can't help but wonder, maybe it's no coincidence that almost immediately following the heyday of the contactees came the era of the Hippies and counterculture with their idealistic philosophical concepts (influences which have filtered down to this very day and age) of "hell no, we won't go"; burn your draft card; bra-burning; flower-power; love; peace; brotherhood (and sisterhood); the dawning of the Age of Aquarius; free love, drop in, tune out, etc. You can't help but feel that the Biblical J.C. as generally described, wouldn't have fitted right into that picture. J.C. might have been more at home with people who smoked pot and attended Woodstock than lunching with politicians and generals smoking cigars, drinking scotch-on-the-rocks and sanctioning the dropping of napalm and Agent Orange on Vietnam.
So, was J.C. an 'ancient astronaut'? Only you can be the judge.
*Contactees didn't use the term UFOs or the phrase 'unidentified flying objects' because to them there was nothing unidentified about them.
Science librarian; retired.
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