My FAQ page exists to answer the questions most commonly posed to me in email, as well as to provide more accurate information about what I think than found elsewhere on the web (e.g., Wikipedia, blogs, etc.). I did not write my Wikipedia entry, and the mental giants at Wikipedia won't let me edit it. I'm sorry, Wiki-wizards, but I really am an authority on me. I'm just saying.
I've done a lot of interviews and do them for a couple of reasons. I'm a believer that scholars should serve the public interest. Too many scholars ignore strange subjects and bogus research that fascinates people whose worldview revolves around such ideas. They claim they're too busy or it's not important. I can't think of anything much more potentially paradigm-shifting than the question of whether there is extraterrestrial life or whether aliens came to earth in antiquity (i.e., the ancient astronaut strangeness). The issues takes you into religion, politics, physics, metaphysics, etc., and potentially redefine reality as we know it. I don't like seeing people base their worldviews on ideas that are demonstrably wrong. People should not be duped, and scholars and scientists who know better should not stand on the sidelines allowing them to be duped.
Spiritually speaking, I want to minister to those whose experience has caused them to feel abandoned by their church or synagogue because their spiritual leadership isn't intellectually equipped to help them, or fears real interaction with the supernatural. And if there is a scientifically verifiable ET reality that can be divorced from demonic entities, and that reality has intersected with our own, the public has a right to know about it (at least at the "yes" or "no" level). The Church also needs to understand how its theology can accommodate it (since it's spent so much time laughing at it or ignoring it).
I've found there are basically five kinds of people involved in UFO research and the UFO community at large: (1) the nuts and bolts scientists - they are dealing with questions of interstellar travel, the possibility of ET life, and propulsion issues. The religious dimensions of the issue are barely on their radar. They typically have already dismissed God because of their faith in evolution (and their failure to discern the philosophical incoherence of an uncreated or self-created universe). A good number in this category are also politically active for the cause, but should not be confused with # 5 below. (2) The UFO or abduction experiencer who wants to keep their Judeo-Christian faith but is struggling with that. These are the people who have some experience and have tried in vain to get help from their pastor or other Christian friends to process the experience, to fit it into their faith worldview. They may or may not leave the organized church, but they surely are left on their own to deal with the experience. They rely on alternative sources of information and fellow experiencers to make spiritual sense out of it. They are vulnerable to nonsense like that of Zecharia Sitchin since some see it as the only way to make sense of things from their Bible. They are also vulnerable to redefining their faith in Gnostic terms. (3) The UFO or abduction experiencer who rejects the faith afterward, and who becomes antagonistic toward the faith. These people often operate out of anger toward the Church and may become openly hostile toward it. (4) The people who see the UFO / ET issue as the platform they've wanted for years to vent their hatred toward Christianity and make money while doing it. These are the self-styled pseudo-scholars in the movement (usually with respect to ancient texts that they can't actually translate). This crowd treats those of the Judeo-Christian faith with contempt and ridicule. These are the people whose bluff needs to be publicly called. (NOTE: I don't put Sitchin in this category since he doesn't seem overtly hostile to Christianity or traditional Judaism). (5) The "New Agers" who want to use the UFO issue for a religion, for left-wing political purposes, or to become avatars in their own time and mind. They see ET as their saviors in just about every way.
I'm guessing most of you in the Christian realm (academic or not) will consequently understand why I do this. If not, please feel free to email me and tell me why I should let the people in this community continue on in their Christ-less or God-less worldview, or why I should refuse to help them in their spiritual struggle.
No. (Does watching my kids grow up count?)
Yes, but only occasionally. You would have to contact me about it. My schedule is tight. I do not require an honorarium, though it is appreciated. I do require all expenses paid.
Yes, this is true. The request was made in 2002 as I recall. I of course agreed immediately. As far as why Sitchin never agreed, I think the answer would be that he wasn't stupid. He had nothing to gain and a lot to lose. But it was nice of Art to ask.
Yes. I blog on biblical studies at my Naked Bible blog. I plan to start podcasting via that blog early in 2012. There are also some videos of classes I have taught where I go to church. Lastly, you can click on "Research Papers" on this site and get to a few things.
No, and no. I'm also not Jewish, either by faith or ethnicity. I'm also not an ascended master (yes, I've been asked that; I defer that one to my wife).
The Paranormal, UFOs and The Facade
Yes, if they are published and if I'm interested. I I only do that for my UFO Religions blog. O don't review manuscripts sent to me in any form. Here are titles of interest I have reviewed in the past:
Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection, by Gary Bates (Master Books, 2005)
Lights in the Sky & Little Green Men: A Rational Christian Look at UFOs and Extraterrestrials, by Hugh Ross, Kenneth Samples, and Mark Clark (NavPress)
Body Snatchers in the Desert: The Horrible Truth at the Heart of the Roswell Story, by Nick Redfern (Paraview-Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, 2005)
Wonders in the Sky: Unexplained Aerial Objects from Antiquity to Modern Times, by Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck (Tarcher / Penguin, 2009)
Mirage Men: An Adventure into Paranoia, Espionage, Psychological Warfare, and UFOs, by Mark Pilkington and John Lundberg (Skyhorse Publishing, 2010)
Final Events and the Secret Government Group on Demonic UFOs and the Afterlife, by Nick Redfern (Anomalist Books, 2010)
No. I know of no credible scientific confirmation that extraterrestrial life either has existed or does exist. Equations (like the ridiculously overblown Drake Equation) are not evidence for aliens. I reject the idea that the Bible affirms aliens (disguised as angels). ET life forms would be biological entities that need to perpetuate their species, draw nutrition, and are subject to dimensional laws of physics or else they would die. The Bible does not describe angels this way. Until science verifies (rather than speculates about) an intelligent ET life form, I see no reason to affirm their existence.
No, and this would extend from my answer to the previous question. However, I do think most people who claim to have had this experience are not lying or hoaxing. I believe they experienced something, but I see no reason to conclude alien abduction is the correct way to parse the experience.
My research into what is called "alien abduction" leads me to conclude that there are a range of possible explanations (in no particular order):
(1) Direct demonization of people; I think that is rare, however. Joe Jordan and his CE4 Research group have this as the focus of their work with abductees.
(3) Abductions by military personnel (i.e., MILABS) who implant an alien screen memory into the victim's mind, using technology that has been known (and further developed) since the 70s. One researcher to watch here is Leah Haley. Leah has recently concluded, after years of work with abductees, that it has nothing to do with extraterrestrials.
(4) Abductions where the victim's mind replaces their actual traumatizer with the alien - traumatization; that is, where the victim responds by what is known in psychology as dissociative identity disorder (DID) - what used to be called multiple personality disorder. This may or may note involve ritual traumatization by cults or other groups. I know several people who work with DID survivors.
I am well aware of the work of scholars in alien abduction research, like the late Dr. John Mack of Harvard and Dr. David Jacobs (Temple University) on the subject, but what I'd need to believe we were really dealing with aliens would be (a) actual evidence there are real aliens and (b) some sort of hybrid offspring -- again, tested and verified by a credible laboratory. I don't expect any such thing to be brought forth. I also think that the recent Emma Woods incident (see here -- it is a large file) has tarnished Jacobs' work beyond the inherent criticisms of repressed memory therapies.
You'll find some of the best academic reading available on the subject in the papers from the 1992 MIT Conference on the alien abduction phenomenon: Alien Discussions : Proceedings of the Abduction Study Conference Held at M.I.T.
No. I think the idea is nonsense. In any event, it's a claim that demands empirical evidence (e.g., some sort of biological proof). The fact that xeno-transplantation exists in labs today is not proof of this for two simple reasons: (1) Logic - that a scientific capability exists is quite different from a particular application of that ability -- those are two different things. For example: wireless technology exists; the idea that my neighbor is using his iPhone to talk to aliens is a different situation altogether. (2) You'd need alien (or "demonic") DNA for this presumed hybrid. So where's the proof for that? You can't use something that doesn't exist to argue in favor of something else you believe exists but no one has proven exists.
I considered the late David Flynn a friend and a Christian brother. I'm glad I got to meet Dave and spend time with him on several occasions. Dave was sensitive to the fact that the work he did could be (and of course was) misunderstood. Dave was a Christian in the broadly evangelical sense, but didn't really fit anywhere in terms of organized religion. He was not a Gnostic, though he knew some would perceive his work that way. I understand Gnosticism, and Dave was an opponent of Gnosticism and its cosmology. All that said, I didn't share (and don't) Dave's research approaches and conclusions in several respects. I didn't share his eschatology (those who know me are wondering now if I share anyone's eschatology - I'm actually not sure). I say that with respect to the general approach (e.g., pre-trib rapture) or his specific use of numerology and Bible codes in its articulation. I think Bible codes are myths. (For those interested, I've spent a good deal of time writing about why I don't like any of the eschatological systems). As such, I don't agree with a lot that was in Dave's book about the temple. Since I also reject the idea that there is an artificial face on Mars, I'd reject that part of Dave's work as well (e.g., his book on Cydonia). I don't believe that Mars specifically has anything to do with biblical eschatology or biblical theology. Though Dave shared a good relationship (so far as I could see or know) with Richard Hoagland because of the latter's belief in artificial structures on Mars, Dave and Richard did not share the same worldview. Dave attributed artificiality on Mars to evil/demonic entities (Watchers - hence the name of his website), not extraterrestrials as Richard would think of them. Lastly, in Dave's defense, I still think his work valuable. Dave was unique in that he had the knowledge base and intuitive power to think as ancient and medieval occultists did -- he could follow their thinking on things like sacred geometry (Christian forms or otherwise), architecture, gematria, and symbolism. This sort of knowledge is rare today, especially among those who are Christians. Dave's work was and is very useful for understanding how those committed to occult views process information in the Bible and other ancient texts, as well as in events of the past and present. In that regard, Dave was a unique resource for Christian apologetic dialogue with those committed to such worldviews. Dave's website consistently used this knowledge to point people to Jesus as messiah. Dave and I would disagree as to how much (if any) of that information was useful now for interpreting the Bible correctly.
How do you handle the plural pronouns in Gen 1:26 ("Let us create humankind in our image...")? Doesn't that verse show we were made by aliens like von Daniken and Sitchin insist?
Yes. FATE Magazine named Mike to its list of "The 100 Most Influential People in UFOlogy" in 2005.
Here are my "must reads" for the subject of UFOs:
UFOs and the National Security State: Chronology of a Coverup, 1941-1973, by Richard Dolan
UFOs and the National Security State: The Coverup Exposed: 1973-1991, by Richard Dolan
These volumes by Dolan are among the best for documenting the U.S. government’s burning interest in UFOs and its deliberate duplicity in informing the public about that interest. Rich is an academic (runner-up for a Rhodes scholarship as a grad student) and a careful researcher. If I had to pick one book to recommend to someone who said "convince me UFOs are worth looking into," Rich's first book would be it, or perhaps the shorter work by Leslie Kean below.
Leslie Kean's book is of the same quality as Dolan's with respect to the information provided, but lacks the scale.
The UFO Enigma: A New Review of the Physical Evidence, ed. Peter Sturrock, PhD.
Also quite good. If you think there is no physical evidence for UFOs, you are uninformed. This book isn't about fuzzy photographs.
Passport to Magonia : On UFOs, Folklore, and Parallel Worlds by Jacques Vallee, PhD
The above title by Vallee is one of his early efforts at dealing with his view that "aliens" may not be truly extraterrestrial - but entities of a spiritual or inter-dimensional nature. The following three titles by Vallee are a trilogy and, as you can tell by the titles, reveal his less-than-optimistic verdict about the "goodness" of the visitors. Vallee's works are especially significant since he has no religious axe to grind. One caveat: Jason Colavito has recently shown that Vallee tends to contrive aliens in ancient texts or interpret such texts poorly. I'd agree (Vallee was no text scholar for sure), but I appreciate Vallee's work for his willingness to articulate the sinister aspects of the UFO underworld.
Dimensions: A Casebook of Alien Contact by Jacques Vallee, PhD
Confrontations: A Scientist's Search for Alien Contact by Jacques Vallee, PhD
Revelations: Alien Contact and Human Deception by Jacques Vallee, PhD
UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse by John Keel (Putnam, 1970)
A classic by the author of The Mothman Prophecies. Like Vallee, Keel argues strongly that UFOs are a demonic presence--and he is not a Christian.
A fascinating look at how the government systematically used now-deceased electrical physicist Paul Bennewitz to perpetuate disinformation about UFOs. Various government agencies fed Bennewitz him lies to keep him believing in an imminent alien invasion until he was completely discredited and utterly insane. Eventually, author and UFO researcher Bill Moore was recruited to help in the disinformation campaign.
My answer here is about which sites are doing research and which ones are waxing eloquent about aliens (for which there is no proof). Here are the web resources I find most useful:
This is the motherlode for genuine government documents relating to the UFO phenomenon. The site consists of its owner's scanned Freedom of Information Act requests, the scanned responses, and text-conversions of those scans. Literally tens of thousands of pages (most of which are unspectacular) demonstrate both the military's disingenuous attitude toward the UFO phenomenon and its own documented experiences.
Leslie Kean's UFOs on the Record Research Site
CUFOS (Dr. J. Allen Hynek's Center for UFO Studies)
This site reports on UFO news. There's pretty much a sighting a day, every day, though who knows what they actually are. It also provides good coverage to UFO research news of importance.
Not much. I can't think of a more data-starved belief than ancient astronauts (non sequiturs and anecdotes are not data). As for Zecharia Sitchin, I actually don't think he knew any ancient languages. He probably knew modern Hebrew, but reading ability and grammatical analysis (exegesis and philology) of ancient texts is entirely different. Think about it. You can sight-read English if you're reading this now -- but can you analyze the grammar? Can you talk intelligently about verb tenses, syntax, modifiers, etc.? Reading and academic analysis are quite different. I don't believe Sitchin could any such thing in any ancient language. His books suggest that much. I have a whole website devoted to Sitchin's nonsense, and have blogged a number of times about the myth of ancient astronauts. I also appeared in a free three-hour documentary (2012) devoted to debunking the ancient aliens mythology passed off as research on the History Channel (affectionately thought of as the Fantasy Channel). I highly recommend that documentary. For a list of links that address many common false proofs for ancient aliens (e.g., the "helicopters" in Egyptian hieroglyphs), go here. Jason Colavito's blog is also excellent for debunking the ancient astronaut fantasy.
Yes, that's true. You can read about the testing and findings here for free (scroll to the bottom of the link).
Biblical Studies and Divine Council
Yes, I really am. You can read my CV here. Try not to yawn.
The Hebrew word elohim is morphologically plural (that is, it's "shaped" as a plural, or "spelled" as a plural). However, in roughly 2,200 cases (by far over 90% of the biblical occurrences), the word elohim is used as a proper name for the ONE God of Israel. We know this because it's a cold, hard fact from the text. In those 2,200 or so cases, elohim is the subject of a SINGULAR verb (all languages have subject-verb agreement) or is referred to by a SINGULAR pronoun (him, his). Don't take my word for it; you can see the data for yourself here.
What this means is that, most of the time in the Hebrew Bible, although elohim has plural FORM, it's MEANING is singular. It all depends on the sentence in which it's found and the surrounding grammar and context. We have words like this in English. If I say "sheep", by itself you can't tell if I am referring to one sheep or more than one sheep. I need to put it in a sentence where the grammar tells you what is meant. "The sheep is lost" refers to ONE sheep since "is" = a singular verb form. "The sheep are lost" refers to more than one sheep because the verb form is plural.
I don't accept the Sethite interpretation (that the sons of God in Gen 6:1-4 are the line of Seth marrying with the line of Cain). It simply has no merit. It cannot account for the morphology of the Hebrew term nephilim (see here for that). It is contradicted by the New Testament (Jude, 2 Peter 2, which presuppose an angelic sin that is compared to the sexual transgressions of Sodom). This view was not held by anyone, Jew or Christian, prior to the 3rd century A.D. and is internally contradictory (e.g., the only godly people around at the time were men . . . really?). There are a number of decent critiques of this view on the Internet (e.g., here, and note that inclusion here does not necessarily mean endorsement of the entire articulation). Nephilim are clearly cast as giants in the Old Testament, though I do not believe any such people were taller than unusually tall people of today (see here). Skeletal remains of alleged giants are unpersuasive, since they are typically fakes and, more importantly, have never undergone scientific analysis. Without the science, there is no more validity to them than reports of aliens. In my view there are two possible ways to take the biblical texts about giants. First, they describe literal giants (again, I'm not talking anything more than 6.5-8 feet, like today) that were produced by divine agency with human women. If divine activity was involved, the language may described sexual encounter (angels, and even God, assume flesh in the Bible and do things flesh does, but which are not needed by such a being, like eat - see Gen 18-19). However, the language of Genesis 6 may be a euphemism for divine intervention to produce offspring. Second, there is what scholars would call the mytho-poetic view - basically, that biblical writers saw the nephilim and enemy giant offspring of the land of Canaan as the spawn of the gods of other nations - but they were not literally (biologically) such. Think of Israelites as an analogy. In a very real sense, from Isaac on down the line, Israelites are the offspring of Yahweh, because in the biblical story (Gen 12-17) he enabled Abraham and Sarah to conceive. Isaac's conception was supernaturally brought about. But they were not the biological offspring of Yahweh; he intervened in their biological origin. The biblical writers may have presumed that the large occupants of significant portions of the land promised to them by Yahweh were "fathered" by other gods by similar intervention. The language of Genesis 6 and its connection to the Anakim of Canaan (Num 13:32-33) would be the way to express that belief. Recall that, in the biblical storyline, just prior to the call of Abraham Yahweh had divided the nations and set them under the administration of other lesser elohim ("sons of God"; see Deut 32:8-9 [reading with LXX and the Dead Sea Scrolls); Deut 4:19-20). Click here for a pre-edited version of my published article, "Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God," Bibliotheca Sacra 158 (Jan-March 2001): 52-74.
The best introductory resource is my divine council website. As far as published resources, there are many good scholarly articles, but nothing for the layperson. The closest one comes to that are dictionary articles in the following sources that will be in any Christian college library and many public libraries (see below):
"Assembly, Divine" in Anchor Bible Dictionary
"Divine Council" (by yours truly) in InterVarsity Press's Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry and Writings
"Divine Council" (also by yours truly) in InterVarsity Press's Dictionary of the Old Testament: The Prophets
"Council" in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible
"Sons of God" in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible
Beyond these, there are some excerpts from a book draft I'm working on at my divine council website. The article linked above can also be mined for bibliography in the footnotes. Those resources will be advanced, scholarly monographs and journal articles.
I believe the biblical text makes a distinction between disembodied human spirits and disembodied non-human spirits (see here for the data). The latter would fall into the "demon" category as we think of it, thought the Old Testament only uses the word "demon" twice, and not specifically in the context of mediums ("mistress of the 'ob, in biblical parlance). But a malevolent non-human spirit seems conceptually the same as demons of later biblical literature. As far as disembodied human spirits goes, other than the case of Samuel (1 Sam 28:13), there is no proof that God sends them back to interact with humans (and that would be his choice; human solicitation of the disembodied human dead was forbidden in the Bible). It may be that God allows a departed loved one to "say goodbye" to other loved ones, but that would be up to God. We have no way of correctly parsing such experiences (and I have heard about several of these first hand, from pastors and other friends and relatives), so we should not assume we can know what's going on in light of the little said on the subject in the Bible. My advice is let such an event be what it is and not pursue it or make it part of one's faith.
Yes. I blog on biblical studies at my Naked Bible blog. I plan to start podcasting via that blog early in 2012. There are also some videos of classes I have taught where I go to church. Mike also offers online courses in ancient languages at his MEMRA institute.
I don't like any of the systems of Christian eschatology. They all cheat when they need to in order to create the appearance of coherence. There is truth in all of them, and bogus thinking in all of them. Consequently, I don't care to embrace any of them and don't care if that irritates people utterly absorbed by them. I taught dispensationalism and covenant theology on the college level for five years, so yes, I've heard or read all the arguments and know them backward and forward. When I say all the systems cheat and are driven by interpretive decisions brought to the text (as opposed to being derived from the text) I know what I'm talking about. Your latest personal study isn't going to change that, so don't send it to me. As I noted on my Contact page disclaimer, I'm just trying to be honest with you. See my Naked Bible blog series on why an obsession with end times is a waste of time. I believe biblical eschatology is deliberately cryptic. It was for the disciples and it is for us as well. What I believe about eschatology is related to the larger "divine council worldview" of biblical theology (defined: the center of biblical theology is about God's rule in our realm and the unseen realm through his council imagers - human and non-human alike). In other words, the divine council is a much bigger deal than Psalm 82. No area of biblical theology is untouched by it. Demonstrating that is what I view as, academically, my life's work. That's why I've compiled a 230-page bibliography on all things related to divine council motifs and biblical theology as my scholarly launching pad. Every data point of this divine council worldview is peer-reviewed, but no one has done the synthesis. That's my life's work. All I can say here about its eschatology is that I believe Jesus will return and that the final form of the kingdom will be the new earth. That is not premillennialism as that term is normally defined (1000 years is too narrow and short for my reading of biblical theology). The idea of a rapture is anything but self-evident in the text. It depends on a series of interpretive choices made by those who believe in it and then go back to the texts to "prove" it (and that's the problem with most eschatology; see the link to the above blog series). Certain ideas in pop eschatology are indeed nonsense. I'm embarrassed by what some "Bible teachers" say about end times. To quote myself, The Harbinger is an ode to biblical illiteracy. So is the idea that President Obama is the antichrist, and that 666 points to a Muslim antichrist. These teachings are demonstrably bogus.