Sometimes I imagine a parallel world where, for whatever reason, the Roman Empire never adopted Christianity and the world moved forward with Classical paganism. Would we today be plagued with Olympian fundamentalists searching atop Mount Parnassus for Deucalion’s chest? Would we be facing controversy over whether to include in textbooks the Promethean account of creating mankind from clay in a single-sex world until the arrival of Pandora? Would internet posters be complaining that mainstream academics refuse to admit the reality of the Heroic giants? The Babylonian priest Berosus told us that even before Christians started hunting for Noah’s Ark on Mt. Ararat, the Babylonians had already made a tourist attraction of the site where Utnapishtim’s (a.k.a. Xisithrus’) Ark had had supposedly come to rest. Things don’t change that much.
This is sort of the long way around introducing a bizarre piece written by our friend Scotty Roberts, organizer of the Paradigm Symposium, in his Intrepid magazine. Father Jack Ashcraft, who was featured in the August edition of Intrepid, directed me to the story. I was frankly flabbergasted by the combination of pseudoscience, outlandish claims, and journalistic sins incorporated into such a short piece. It begins inauspiciously with some rather unusual writing:
Taking a biblical story and dissecting it to lay bare all the internal organs and skeletal structure is a meticulously important process necessary in an understanding of ancient culture. Simply said, the Bible, for all of its gloriously revered tales of Jehovah God and his interactions with his human creation, spawning three of the world’s major religions, is a source point for understanding the ancient anthropology of humanity. Depending on your view of the veracity of biblical scripture, there is no shadow of doubt that it’s [sic] pages reveal stories, accounts, myths, legends and fables that mirror – or are mirrored by – a plethora of cultures in the ancient world. The importance of the bible, if not for faith and practice, is to see it as a book that demonstrates another facet of events as experienced and recounted by ancient mankind.
This paragraph sounds like it says something, but it really doesn’t. What is the “ancient culture” of the first sentence? I suppose it must be the Israelites, since the Bible won’t do much to help understand the Teotihuacan people. The Bible is “a” source for understanding ancient history, but then so are Greek mythology, the Indian Vedas, and Native American oral traditions. The final sentence is true for any ancient text.
Try this overwritten, content-free sentence about the Bible as infallible authority on for size:
While that may or may not be true, it is clear that when one takes a step back from the text of the bible, removing the sometimes rose-colored glasses of dogma and systematic theology, you can start to read between the lines and see, as it were, the vastness of the world flickering between the slats as you walk along the perimeter fence of one of the world’s most holiest of books.
The editor in me is tempted to begin crossing out unnecessary words, but I don’t think anything would be left other than a cliché. The whole article is rife with extraneous words, overwriting, misspellings, and incorrect word choices. (Not that I’m one to talk about spelling errors, but then again I don’t run a magazine.) In places, it makes it hard to understand what Roberts is trying to say since the precision of his point vanishes amidst the verbiage. For example, he discusses “Hebrew linguistics” when I believe he means to refer to the “original Hebrew text.”
All of this comes by way of introducing the old saw about the origins of Cain’s wife and whether Cain was having sex with his own relatives or whether there was a separate creation outside of Eden. Roberts asserts that when Genesis 4:17 states that Cain built a city and named it for his son Enoch, we can then read this as Uruk because of philology, though Uruk is typically identified with the Biblical Erech. That said, the identification is an old one, going back to A. H. Sayce’s Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion from 1887, where he identified the two sites not through Roberts’ attempt to change “n” to “r” but by identifying Enoch with Uruk’s Sumerian name, transliterated from the cuneiform as Unuk or Unug. This only seems close when we use the English spelling of Enoch; his Hebrew name, Hanokh, is not really so close. Some scholars such as Oxford scholar Stephanie Dalley consider that a scribal change has misattributed the building of the city to Cain when it was originally Enoch, whose son was Irad, the apparent namesake of Eridu. (Dalley, however, is prone to revisionist history: She proposed a poorly-received idea that the Hanging Gardens were based in Nineveh.)
None of this is relevant to the purpose of the article, which this far in is still not clear.
Roberts next introduces Carl Sagan’s early speculation that ancient visitations by extraterrestrials could be possible (as they remain possible but utterly without proof) in order to justify interest in whether aliens were responsible for the events of Genesis. To do so, he introduces creationist talking points that have no basis in reality, beginning with the utterly fake claim that the “missing link” is still missing—as though all the many ancient humanlike beings from the past were there merely for decoration:
So what scientists are doing, in all reality, is simply incorporating exponential leaps of faith to fill in the gaps. In a sense, science is creating a mythology of it’s [sic] very own in that it uses the human imagination to fill in the gaps in the theorized sequence of human ascendancy from primates into higher levels of sapiens.
He further asserts that humans and apes share no “95%” of their DNA but only a “woeful” 67% of their DNA, which is an utter misunderstanding of recent scientific research, which finds that while humans and non-human primates share more than 90% of their DNA, “transcription factor binding and histone modifications were identical in over 67% of regulatory elements in DNA segments that are regarded as promoter regions.” In other words, while the DNA is the same, each species expresses its genes using somewhat different mechanisms.
From his mistaken view of evolution and DNA research, Roberts suggests that “visitors from another world” supplied the variant DNA that makes humans human.
Roberts next tries to make the case that the serpent of Genesis was an alien who had sex with Eve in order to insert alien DNA into her bloodline. (And here we all thought that was what the Nephilim were up to!) To do so, he refers to the Hebrew word for serpent, nachash, which he claims means “magician” or “sorcerer.” While conventional dictionaries define the word as serpent, it derives from a verb associated with divination through the common root of “to hiss” or “to whisper.” Soothsayers hissed their prophecies and snakes, well their hissing ought to be obvious. Instead, Roberts takes this as evidence that the serpent was no snake but rather a magical extraterrestrial.
He finds variant definitions for each word in the Genesis account of the temptation of Eve, turning the “fruit” of the tree into “offspring” (i.e. fruit of the womb), “eating” as “having sex with a woman” and “touching” as “having sex with a woman.” (His definitions specify male penetrative action rather than female receptive sexual congress.) He wants us to then read the passage as referring to a sexual encounter.
Now while we are to take literally the temptation of Eve as sexual intercourse with a snake, Roberts next asserts were are to take symbolically the Tree of Knowledge, which he searches Hebrew dictionaries to relate to the use of the Hebrew word for tree as synecdoche for a door, thus creating for him a “portal” to—and I am not making this up—“the pre-Adamic races” of “the Atlantean civilization.”
Good luck proving Atlantis existed.
He then translates “pleasing to the eye” as “desirable,” “desired” as “lust,” and “took” as “marry.”
But when we plug in the new definitions into Genesis 3:6-7, it just doesn’t work right:
Original: “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
I have followed Roberts’ rules for word-substitutions exactly. If you see in it what Roberts claims, all the better for you:
What really happened in this scene in the Garden of Eden is that Eve, the mother of humanity, lost her virginity to the Serpent, as you can see that she encountered him sexually before ever having sex with her husband, Adam. And further down the passage, the text is implicit that Eve was impregnated by this encounter.
I imagine he’s hoping that we utterly ignore the surrounding language, context, and grammar and render the passage something like this:
“For God knows that when you have sex your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the offspring born of enlightenment were greatly to be desired, and she lusted to gain carnal wisdom, she took the serpent as a mate. She also came on to husband, who was with her, and he had sex with her as well, impregnating her a second time, so she was great with serpent-seed and his own.
Note very carefully the dark implication of this revisionist history: that there are two divergent “bloodlines,” one human and the other alien, and that these bloodlines can therefore justify differential power structures in which some humans are genetically distinct from others and therefore are either more or less (depending on your perspective) worthy than others. This idea that there is an elite civilizing group who are genetically distinct from the rest of humanity is deeply disturbing.
Roberts asserts that this serpent-born bloodline are the same as the fish-man Oannes (no, Roberts fails to understand the complex development of his myth, which did not originally feature any fish-people) and wise dragons—all “reptilians,” from the mythology of David Icke. He further asserts that the Sumerians developed civilization 6,000 years ago (“virtually overnight”) in order to record the explosion of Vela X into a supernova. Roberts claims—against all evidence—that the very first word recorded in Sumerian cuneiform was the word for “star god.”
His claim rests on the work of George Michanowsky, whom he falsely identifies as a “specialist in Mesopotamian astronomy.” Michanowsky was an archaeologist who conducted research in Bolivia, where he saw rock carvings he linked to the Vela X supernova. Michanowsky fell down the rabbit hole and quickly decided in The Once and Future Star (1977) that this single event was responsible for archaeological phenomena worldwide, including records of the event on Sumerian tablets dating back 6,000 years. (This would actually place them in the proto-literate period, before writing is known to have emerged c. 3300 BCE.) He asserted that Atlantis was real, was also the Isles of the Blessed before Noah’s Flood, known as Nidukki to the Sumerians as well as the later Dilmun, the paradise where Utnapishtim sits immortal.
Michanowsky was not an expert in Mesopotamian languages, and his identification of Nidukki with Dilmun derives from Sir Henry Rawlinson’s identification of the same back in the 1880s. Rawlinson correctly placed Nidukki and Dilmun in Bahrain; the Dilmun of myth as the land of farthest east probably preceded the application of the name to the real territory of Bahrain, much the way the Greeks ascribed mythological names to new lands they discovered.
In fact, Michaenowsky’s claim is so discredited that even David Childress, in Lost Cities of Atlantis, etc. (1996), didn’t believe it—and he believes everything.
If you’re curious, Roberts’ passage on Michanowsky is taken nearly verbatim and without citation from an article published by Brad Steiger, who is no paragon of scholarly virtue. Compare the two passages and see the amazing similarity:
More passages exactly coincide between the two writers, and Roberts appears to derive his ideas about the guiding force behind history—the reptilians—from the same source Steiger was writing about: Rudolf Steiner, the ex-theosophist who rewrote Blavatsky’s Theosophy. This is ironic, of course, because Steiner not only embraced the same Darwinism that Roberts rejects in favor of aliens, but also thought that all consciousness was merely the product of evolution! A consequence of this was Steiner’s belief, echoed in the idea of “dual bloodlines” that certain races were inherently more spiritually developed, while others were doomed to degeneracy, unless the individual, through force of will, escaped that fate. Of course for him the white race was the pinnacle of evolution.
Fringe history is a kaleidoscope, taking the same few fragments of borrowed ideas and constantly rearranging them into “endless forms most beautiful,” or at least most profitable.
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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