Is there astronomical evidence for the missing day of Joshua 10? I saw somewhere that there is, and once heard a preacher confirm it.
Often more harm than good is done by would-be apologists for the faith, when they twist the scientific facts and the biblical truth. Like the Shroud of Turin, much "evidence," though it is far from conclusive, is seized and forced into service far beyond what the facts warrant.
(The following piece has been adapted, with permission from the author, from "News & Notes" in Does God Exist?, pp.13-14 (March/April 1999), ed. John Clayton. John is a friend of mine, and if you are not already on his apologetics mailing list, I encourage you to sign up (it's free!): Does God Exist?, 718 East Donmoyer, South Bend IN 46614-1999).
Missing Day Study Revived
One of the bad things about the Worldwide Web is than any kook can get on it and print something that sounds credible to those who have no way of evaluating what is being said. The result is that stories get shot out in attachments to thousands of other people, and a story that is totally bogus can be circulated as truth. Religious writers are as guilty as anyone of doing this, and one of the oldest hoaxes to come around has found new life.
In the late 1960s, there was a book written by a man named Harold Hill, titled How To Be a King's Kid. This book was a collection of stories about miraculous acts of God in the 20th century. Written for a charismatic Pentecostal audience, the book contained all kinds of claims that could not be verified and which were, for the most part, the product of a very large imagination.
One of the stories in this book was about some researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) who were working with one of their satellites and discovered that there was a day missing from their data. Totally unable to explain this missing day, they supposedly turned to one of their technicians who was a student of the Bible and were amazed to find that the Bible spoke of a missing day in Joshua 10.
Unfortunately, this story was picked up and circulated in thousands of church bulletins in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Those of us who have some background in science worked hard at that time to try to get people to understand that the story was not true (and we received considerable flack for doing so). Cooler heads eventually prevailed and the story finally got buried. Now this story has been revived and is now being circulated a proof of the accuracy of the Bible.
There are so many things wrong with this story that it is hard to know where to start. Here are a few basic points:
1. NASA has no record of any such discussion or problem.
2. Harold Hill has admitted that there is no scientific basis to the story and no evidence it ever happened.
3. Computers cannot do what is described. The Y2K problem demonstrates the problem, if it does not do anything else. To go back to the time of Joshua with computers that cannot handle the year 2000 is an obvious impossibility.
4. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII dropped 10 days out of the calendar to get the solstice lined up with the religious holidays the churches at that time held sacred. People went to bed on Thursday, the 4th and woke up on Friday, the 15th. There were riots in Frankfurt by people convinced that the Pope had stolen 10 days out of their lives. All of Europe was in chaos as landlords tried to collect rent for a month that was 10 days short, and interest on savings was cut due to the shortened number of days. (For a detailed account of this, see the article in Smithsonian, March 1998, p. 48.) The point is that for someone to find a missing day when 10 days were dropped out of the calendar -- and actually there have been other similar adjustments'is ludicrous!
The problem is that people do not think about what they read in print. The more imaginative it is, the more likely it is that people are going to accept it -- especially if it supports something they already believe. There have been a lot of stories similar to this, including stories about atheists getting the government to outlaw religion from radio and television -- just as atheists have sometimes circulated stories designed to reflect negatively on religious organizations or individuals.
Education is the answer to this kind of foolishness, and responsible people on all sides of the various issues need to make sure that incorrect information is not propagated, whether it supports their views or not. (That includes you and me!)
Let's distance ourselves from poor "science," just as we refuse to involve ourselves in poor theology. For when "evidence" turns out to refute the assertions of those laying claim to it (Proverbs 18:17), more harm is brought to the cause than good.
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