I have been steadfastly ignoring the news reports promoting the Rev. Barry Downing’s new book about UFOs in the Bible, but the number of them is getting ridiculous. The capper came when Mysterious Universe’s Paul Seaburn promoted the book as though it were a fresh and exciting take on the ancient alien claim. This is silly for a number of reasons, not just because Downing appeared on Ancient Aliens years ago to deliver the same message, but because his current book is a virtual rewrite of his first book on the subject, published in 1968! The claims are mostly the same, and they weren’t original then either.
“My argument is that the Exodus UFO, the pillar of cloud and fire, which appeared cloud-like during the day and glowed in the dark, used its propulsion system to split the waters of the Red Sea and save Israel from the Egyptians,” Downing writes in Biblical UFO Revelations. "I believe the best explanation for the parting of the Red Sea is that the pillar of cloud and fire was some type of spaceship, and those in charge of the spaceship planned the parting of the sea well in advance, to save Israel from the Egyptians and to keep Israel from going back to Egypt, once the Jews discovered that the whole Exodus process was not a walk in the park."
His claims are remarkably similar to religious crank John Miller’s arguments for divine flying saucers in the “Whirling Wheels” pamphlet of 1956. “These angels or space men pilot some sort of vehicle. […] Light ‘like the sun’ came from this space-ship, and its legs, no doubt landing gear, were like ‘pillars of fire.’ The whole earth was lit up by the power of the light given off by this space-ship (Rev. 18:1).” His other major claim, that Jesus was a space alien, already appeared in the cult ravings of George Van Tassel by 1960. “He said that JESUS was born of MARY, who was a space person sent here already pregnant in order to show the earth people the proper way to live,” the FBI wrote of Van Tassel in 1960.
It’s amazing, to an extent, that the same material keeps coming back again and again.
“When I published The Bible and Flying Saucers in 1968,” Downing wrote, “I had one major concern about connecting UFOs to biblical angels. The biblical view of angels was they were eternal beings, they had eternal life. My understanding of the scientific worldview at that time was that we live in a ‘running down universe,’ meaning that at some time in the future the universe will run out of energy and die. If this were true, then no one living in this universe could be eternal.”
That was his major concern?
I’m not quite sure why anyone would take Downing seriously, much less why his recycling or recycled claims continues to be re-marketed as new and exciting 50 years after the fact, and 60 years after the claims were already popular, if silly, parts of pop culture.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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