Why a 300-Year-Old Latin Book from Germany Almost Certainly Does Not Depict a Flying Saucer
It’s been a long time since we’ve had an ancient astronaut claim in the “classic” style, so I was delighted to see that The Black Vault is getting rather excited over a 1716 book that it says “clearly has a flying saucer shaped craft depicted in it’s (sic) cover art.” This turned out to be a fun, old-school example of ignorance bubbling up into ancient astronaut theories.
For those of you who don’t know, The Black Vault, run by John Greenewald, Jr., is an online clearinghouse for declassified government documents related to the paranormal and conspiracy theories. Greenewald has run the site since 1996, and he served as a talking head on the Unsealed: Alien Files television series, where he speculated baselessly on ancient astronaut claims. I once described his discussion of ancient astronauts and ancient history as “sub-Childress levels of banal commentary about subjects he plainly doesn’t understand.” Things haven’t changed much over the three years since I wrote that.
In a blog post yesterday, Greenewald (whom I presume to be the author of the Black Vault’s articles) said that he received emails from a man who wished to remain anonymous. He had found, so he said, an old book that depicted a flying saucer on its title page. Skeptics dismissed the picture as an illustration of Psalm 84, but he was convinced that it actually shows a flying saucer.
Most of my skeptical friends dismissed this as a religious reference to the shield of God as quoted in Ps 84. But an associate who spoke Latin found a reference in the book that describes the sighting of a UFO in the classical saucer shape. I think this is important since there is a general dismissal of historical illustrations that are easily interpreted as some type of flying craft (Jung notwithstanding).
Greenewald “confirmed” that the book in question is real and asked his readers to explain what the object in the illustration actually is.
The same material had been posted the Unexplained Mysteries forum in mid-August and seems to be the origin point for this particular claim.
Take a look at the title page image from the Liber de Coloribus Coeli, published in 1716. The book was written by Johann Caspar Funk (1680-1729), and it is a discussion of weather events and how they affect the color of the sky. The volume was produced in Ulm, a Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.
The artist illustrating the title page was kind enough to label the image, so there is no question about what it represents. It clear states that it is a picture illustrating Psalm 84 v. 12. Here, the numbering is off, and it is actually showing an image from the preceding verse, verse 11: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Verse numbering varied, so perhaps it refers to a German edition with different numbering. This text appears in the Vulgate and Septuagint as Ps. 83:12, but oddly enough is completely mistranslated in the Catholic Douay Bible English translation of the Vulgate of 1609-1610 as “For God loveth mercy and truth,” despite the Vulgate having the correct text.
What we see in the picture is the Holy Spirit in the form of a shield bearing the image of the sun. Note that the shield is protecting the small bird on the rock from arrow-shaped lightning bolts coming down from a stormy sky. This is not just the artistic whim of the illustrator. We see written next to the shield the motto “Defendor benigne” (“benignly I am protected”), which belongs to the publisher, Daniel Bartholomäi (or Bartholomae or Bartholomaeus) (1674-1761), who used it in his publications as his mark and motto. The motto reinforces the image in referring back to Psalm 84, which it paraphrases, and the bird is either the swallow or the sparrow protected by God in Psalm 84:3: “Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself.”
This image has nothing to do with Johann Funk and is instead the mark of the publisher, who used it on some of his other publications as well, taking the place of the monogram he used elsewhere. (The monogram appears in miniature in the lower right of this image.)
I regret that I don’t know more about Bartholomae to know why he chose that particular Psalm for his logo, but there is no doubt that the image illustrates a biblical text and not a flying saucer. Nevertheless, the picture itself tells us exactly what it is, and it is only the biblical ignorance of ancient astronaut theorists that prevent them from recognizing and understanding symbolism when they see it.
As for the claim that Funk’s text contains a description of a flying saucer, I am unable to confirm it or refute it. The book is hundreds of pages long, and I obviously cannot read the entire thing in hopes of finding a single word or sentence in it. In a quick scan, I found a few references to discs in the sky, but they referred to the appearance of the sun’s disc or the moon’s. But since the author talks of many and varied weather phenomena, including refractions and mirages, there might well be a mention of flying objects in the sky somewhere. The trouble is that the person making the claim—Greenewald’s correspondent—is remembering something someone told him secondhand after leafing through the book “many decades ago,” and there is no way to know whether that memory is accurate without reading every word of the book. If the claimant would like to say where in the book that reference is, I’d be happy to look at it.
9/7/2016 12:07:02 pm
9/7/2016 08:20:45 pm
Jason Colavito only dislikes my off topic messages and deletes them.
9/7/2016 09:17:16 pm
I like pie.
9/11/2016 12:20:46 pm
I like π.
You stand absent knowledge yet trash others. There are writings far older than the scrolls edited into a bible used for control and wealth. These writings go much further into detail than any scroll written 2-4 thousand years later. I suggest long nights researching the Archeology and DNA facts suppressed by these hoarders of wealth. Until you do. You are the one absent truth.
9/7/2016 01:06:36 pm
publisher's logos are arare stuy in themselves; thia is a fine sample of early work
9/7/2016 01:08:27 pm
"historical illustrations that are easily interpreted as some type of flying craft (Jung notwithstanding)"
9/9/2016 12:00:07 am
The image speaks for itself-a flying disc shaped object..
9/7/2016 03:06:27 pm
"The artist illustrating the title page was kind enough to label the image, so there is no question about what it represents."
9/7/2016 04:14:01 pm
Let me see if I can decipher the code. PS...Postdiluvian Saucer, since it is flying over the flood. 84...1984, Big Brother is hiding the truth. V...The shape of the formation that UFOs often fly. 12... The number of months each year that we are thwarted from finding out the real facts of our hidden history. How'd I do?
9/7/2016 08:12:33 pm
I like it, Kathleen can bring up the fucking Flood and nobody else is allowed to follow up on it,
9/7/2016 08:13:33 pm
The Flood is fucking off topic,
9/7/2016 09:35:13 pm
She's commenting on the image under discussion, not the Flood. Do you see the difference?
9/8/2016 08:18:28 am
I belatedly spotted "Defendor Benigne"
9/7/2016 04:31:47 pm
"an associate who spoke Latin found a reference in the book that describes the sighting of a UFO in the classical saucer shape."
9/7/2016 06:06:23 pm
It all starts to make sense when you realize the bird is in fact an alien.
9/7/2016 08:14:39 pm
There is no bird,
9/7/2016 09:40:16 pm
Sure there is, and being a nice guy, I give you the bird !
terry the censor
9/8/2016 12:35:04 am
Templar Secrets, your insane bitterness is off-topic.
An Over-Educated Grunt
9/8/2016 07:42:59 am
Other than the one sitting on a rock about 75% of the way to the right and halfway up, this statement is correct. Assuming that this is in fact the Flood, we can even identify the bird as the raven that didn't return, since it's obviously not carrying a branch.
terry the censor
9/8/2016 12:33:52 am
> it is a picture illustrating Psalm 84 v. 12. Here, the numbering is off...
9/8/2016 10:16:40 am
You can safely delete the "Almost" in the title of this entry because the image is clearly not a flying saucer, rather it's an artistic representation of the protecting shield of God. Flying saucers do not have a humanized image of our sun on them, they have lots of blinking lights.
9/9/2016 03:53:37 am
I thought it could also be an oblique reference to the story of the ancile in Ovid's Fasti III : three lightning bolts, a round shield falling from the sky...
9/11/2016 05:51:15 am
"Verse numbering varied, so perhaps it refers to a German edition with different numbering..."
9/11/2016 06:08:16 pm
I believe what is being deduced in the article written by Jason is accurate, but I also see something rather interesting in the image itself. If ancient peoples didn't actually understand the science of climate and weather change, they imperceptibly deduced it by the rather strange depiction of what happens when lightening hits a cloud cover and clears the way for a few rays of sunshine to come through. It is, as far as I know without further research, a scientifically understood phenomena, and even though the ancient writer had no "real" knowledge of the scientific principle, I believe the image reflects a subconscious understanding of something one doesn't actually know he/she knows about. It is a drawing of a view of reality, and proposed as a reason to believe in religious dogma. First steps perhaps in trying to understand and categorize the natural world? Problem is, it only took about four thousand more years to figure things out.
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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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