This month’s issue of the Fortean Times (July 2014) took me a while to get to, both because I was busy reading 1177 B.C. and because the features weren’t terribly interesting to me. There was, however, a brief story about a couple in Vancouver who bought a rundown house and found in the garage a full-scale replica of the Ark of the Covenant, wired for electricity with electrodes all over the lid! Apparently someone had read Erich von Däniken’s claims about the religious container’s supposed electric properties and wanted to try it for himself.
The book reviews, fortunately, were especially helpful this month. First up, Pete Brookesmith calls out Nick Pope for a sloppy, slipshod, and misleading volume on the Encounter in Rendelsham Forest (Thistle Publishing, 2014), which recycles the long-debunked UFO encounter in quest of what Brookesmith believes is Pope’s long-range plan to become the go-to expert on Rendelsham, as Stanton Friedman made his name off Roswell. Brookesmith catalogs a litany of Pope’s logical errors, particularly in failing to address inconsistencies in witness testimony, as well as his purposeful omission of skeptical explanation for various facets of the “encounter.” But here’s the kicker, referencing radiation readings:
The ‘abnormality’ of the radiation readings that Pope harps on about has been debunked by the manufacturers of the equipment used—and their conclusions broadcast in a TV programme in which Pope himself appeared. Was his mind elsewhere while the cameras were on him? If not, why does he mislead his readers?
That’s a great question. But I think we all know the answer to that.
In the next book review Noel Rooney reviews Ahmed Osman’s The Lost City of Exodus (Bear & Co., 2014), and notes a problem I’ve found with Bear & Co.’s books, as well as New Page Books: They are atrociously edited, rife with proofreading, editing, and formatting errors, and generally an unpleasant reading experience.
Rooney is sympathetic to fringe views, and he believes that there is no good evidence for or against the claim that the Exodus really happened. He therefore finds Osman’s efforts to tie the Exodus to Akhenaten as plausible as archaeology’s conclusion that no evidence exists to suggest that the Exodus of the Bible actually occurred as described. Nevertheless, Rooney is not shy about noting that Osman has a somewhat unsavory background (which Osman himself admits), including what Rooney describes as “racist” prejudice. Osman concludes that the Joseph of Genesis was Akhenaten’s advisor Yuya (an idea that the reviewer says, wrongly, was taken over from Immanuel Velikovsky, who actually identified him with Yatu under Amenemhet III) and argues that the Hebrews were involved in the affairs of the city of Zarw (Tjaru), but we really don’t have to even go into this. Osman also believes that Jesus was really Joshua who was also Tutankhamun, with Christ a fiction crafted from a misinterpretation of Joshua during the Middle Ages! (Oh, he also wants to overturn all historical chronology, too.) That should tell you everything you need to know about the seriousness of his claims.
The following review finds Jerry Glover blasting Andrew Collins for his Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods (Bear & Co., 2014). In the book, Collins argues that the site was built by the Swiderians, whom he identifies as the intellectual heirs of the Solutreans (at 35 centuries’ remove!). He therefore argues that the site is astronomical in nature, focused on the constellation of Cygnus, and—oh yes, wait for it—built by the NEPHILIM! Let’s parse this one carefully: The Swiderians, Collins says, were Neanderthal-human hybrids who had elongated skulls and snake-like eyes, passing into Near Eastern myth (8,000 years later!) as the Nephilim-Watchers of Jewish legend and the Anunnaki of Sumerian and Babylonian lore.
Neither culture described the Watchers or Anunnaki as having elongated skulls. Believe me, I’ve read nearly every scrap of ancient writing about the Watchers ever written, and there isn’t anything about elongated skulls.
Glover says that the final third of the book attempts to locate the Garden of Eden in (ancient) Armenia, but he wasn’t able to evaluate it because the “maze of arcane references” required too much research to fully understand.
I was curious about this Nephilim idea, so I did a little bit of research. I read an interview in which Collins described his beliefs:
It is my belief that the trafficking between the suspected ruling elite and the peoples of Upper Mesopotamia is the story found in the Book of Enoch, where beings called Watchers are said to have gone amongst (sic) mortal kind giving them the forbidden arts and sciences of heaven. […] I believe there is strong evidence to suggest that the Watchers, and their offspring the Nephilim, were indeed the shamanic elite that founded the early Neolithioc (sic) cult centres of Upper Mesopotamia.
He goes on to say that Göbekli Tepe is the “key” to understanding the Eden narrative from Genesis, particularly in the appearance of a carving of a snake at the ancient temple:
Here in the Old Testament it symbolizes the knowledge of awareness that Adam and Eve are naked, and that they should cover themselves. I feel it is a metaphor for the manner in which the incoming ruling elite of Upper Mesopotamia, the suspected Watchers of the Book of Enoch, gave mortal kind forbidden knowledge, which forever changed the way they thought about life. However, it was a case of too much knowledge too soon, and so Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden, which we know to have been a real kingdom focused on Lake Van, a huge inland sea in Eastern Turkey.
This is my favorite part of Collins’s argument: We are to assume an underlying historical basis for the Book of Enoch, but we are to see it as not literally true but rather cloaked in metaphor—a metaphor that can only be unraveled by applying Collins’s own theories back onto the text to discover the historical basis Collins originally assumed must exist based on reading the texts! Thus having “proved” the historicity of the text, Collins can then pick and choose elements of the text to us to interpret various historical facts to generate “support” for his own theories, which were (of course) the warrant for his original textual interpretation. It’s rather a closed loop based on few facts and much speculation.
There is obviously a huge problem in using texts from the early centuries BCE as evidence for events that occurred 8,000-10,000 years earlier. The Greeks, for example, were demonstrably wrong about events just 1,000-2,000 years before their own time; there was, for example, no Dorian invasion at the fall of the Mycenaeans. Yet we are to believe that Enoch records accurate enough information to reconstruct the Paleolithic?
It’s funny, really, the lengths fringe writers go to try to find some rationalization for why specific Biblical narratives are somehow scientifically true. Imagine if they put half the effort into searching for the real Pandora, or investigating where the Hero Twins really went when they entered Xibalba. Why do we get no books on the Buddha’s secret trip to the Levant to match the countless tomes on Jesus’ alleged (and fictional) tutelage in India? And yet so many writers want to come up with reasons why Adam and Eve had to have lived, or why the giants of Genesis 6:4 must have walked the earth—even when those writers are vastly at odds with any conceivable religious interpretation of the Bible. Collins is very much a euhemerist, one who wants to find a putatively scientific and rational reason to keep believing the old texts.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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