Back in the 1970’s a major sensation was brought about by a television show entitled “In Search of Ancient Astronauts.” The source of this program watched by millions of people was the book Chariots of the Gods?, authored by Erich von Daniken. Needless to say, the presentation stimulated, shocked, excited, and even enraged, but surely did not leave any thinking person uninterested.
The television show and the book postulate that extraterrestrial intelligent life landed on Earth one or more times in the distant past intervening in the affairs of early man. According to von Daniken the evidence demonstrating this contact between beings from outer space and humans is found in the vast reservoir of Earth’s unexplainable historic and prehistoric phenomena. Challenging most of the classical archeological and anthropological explanations of ancient human history, von Daniken boldly reinterpreted the artifacts, the myths, the “prehistoric” drawings, the ancient documents, the monoliths, the ruins of antiquity, and so on, as evidence indicating a time millennia ago when beings from other worlds descended to Earth making contact with earthlings and changing the course of history. Since many undoubtedly viewed the program without having read Chariots of the Gods, or its sequel, Gods from Outer Space, which expanded upon the author’s original premise, many were no doubt confused by the viability of his interpretations. Regardless of the controversial nature of von Daniken’s writings they have captivated a very large audience and have had an enormous influence on the thinking of many in regard to extraterrestrial life.
For the Bible believing Christian the first question that comes to mind, and appropriately so, is the issue of how such ideas square with Christianity and Bible doctrines. In other words, can believers accept these profound suggestions without doing violence to Biblical truths? Many other ideas along the lines of von Daniken have since been popularized to one degree or another since the early 1970’s. It is in light of this phenomena that the following discussion seems to be in order. Even though this analysis is not intended to be exhaustive it should be sufficient to shed light on some very interesting and important distinctions between some of von Daniken’s tenets and certain statements in the Bible.
The following two paragraphs, briefly quoted from Chariots of the Gods?, summarize von Daniken’s basic thesis:
“Dim, as yet undefinable ages ago an unknown spaceship discovered our planet. The crew of the spaceship soon found that the earth had all the prerequisites for intelligent life to develop. Obviously the ‘man’ of those times was no Homo Sapiens but something rather different. The spacemen artificially fertilized some female members of this species, put them into a deep sleep, so ancient legends say, and departed. Thousands of years later the space travelers returned and found scattered specimens of the genus Homo Sapiens. They repeated their .breeding experiment several times until finally they produced a creature intelligent enough to have the rules of society imparted to it. The people of that age were still barbaric. Because there was a danger that they might retrogress and mate with animals again, the space travelers destroyed the unsuccessful specimens or took them with them to settle them on other continents. The first communities and the first skills came into being; rock faces and cave walls were painted, pottery was discovered, and the first attempts at architecture were made.
These first men had tremendous respect for the space travelers. Because they came from somewhere absolutely unknown and then returned there again, they were the ‘gods’ to them. For some mysterious reason the ‘gods’ were interested in passing on their intelligence. They took care of the creatures they bred; they wanted to protect them from corruption and preserve them from evil. They wanted to ensure that their community developed constructively. They wiped out the freaks and saw to it that the remainder received the basic requirements for a society capable of development.”
Such a history seems shocking indeed to our sensibilities. Yet, it has had an inestimable influence on modern thinking. Certainly it demands investigation, especially in a Biblical light.
At the outset, von Daniken assumes the correctness of evolution and constructs his ideas around that premise. The theory of evolution, although, stands in direct contradiction to Biblical truth as well as scientific laws such as the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Thus his premise is untenable from either a Biblical or scientific perspective.
Equally important as von Daniken’s underlying presupposition of evolution is his statement that the aliens interbred with the earthlings. Repulsive as it may sound, von Daniken records legend upon legend ~m one civilization to another whose records tell of the ‘gods’ interbreeding with humans. The reasonable question is where did such a universal idea come from? It came from actual historic fact!
Von Daniken is correct in some areas, i.e., that the Earth was indeed visited by beings from outer space. Furthermore, these beings did, in fact, arrive on at least two different occasions; and their visitation truly did significantly influence the course of human history, and they did interbreed with humans. These beings, however, were angels, not “aliens from outer space”. The specific account involving them is recorded in the sixth chapter of Genesis.
From the account in Genesis 6:1-4 reams of mythology have been generated. The New Testament also makes note of this event in three key passages: I Peter 3:19, 20; II Peter 2:4-6; and Jude 1:6-7. The facts of the case are simple and the supporting arguments are too many and varied to detail each one in this writing, but the event may be summarized as follows:
1. Angelic beings (“sons of God”) came to Earth, lustfully desiring the attractive daughters of men (Genesis 6:2).
2. They took whomever they chose as wives (Genesis 6:2).
3. This angelic intervention occurred not only before but also after the time of Noah’s Flood (Genesis 6:4).
4. The offspring from these unlawful unions were physical giants (Nephalim – “fallen ones” – in the Hebrew) (Genesis 6:4).
5. The fallen angels who committed this sin were incarcerated in Tartarus where they now await judgment (II Peter 2:4 Greek).
6. Only a portion of the angels who originally fell with Lucifer committed this atrocity, since all who thus sinned were imprisoned, but there are other fallen angels who are not bound (Jude 1:6).
7. The sin of the angels was the same as that of Sodom and Gomorra; i.e., they gave themselves to fornication, specifically going after a different kind of flesh (Jude 1:7).
There are many who have fought against or tried to refute the “angelic” interpretation of Genesis 6, but the supporting lines of argument throughout the Scripture are too tightly woven to allow any other interpretation to be so reasonable. In addition to the Bible itself there are extra-Biblical evidences of giants among the historic traditions of various cultures in the world. Furthermore, there has been found confirming evidence in the fossil record of “human” giants at various places in the world in the past. Some have argued that angels have no flesh; they are spirits. Indeed they are, but from the Old Testament to the New, angels have had the ability to materialize into a variety of human forms when they were called upon to deal with mankind. The passage in Genesis 18 and 19 is a classic example.
The two “men” who accompanied the Lord to visit Abraham had feet to be washed (18:4), bodies to rest (18:4), mouths and stomachs with which to eat food (18:5, 8), faces (18:22), and legs on which to stand and walk (18:2, 22). By the time they had traveled from Abraham to Sodom to find Lot, they still had feet – which, by the way, needed washing again (19:1, 2), they were hungry enough to eat another meal (1 9:3), and their bodies appeared sufficiently like humans that the men of the town desired to have them for the purpose of homosexuality (19:4-5)! Yet these were angels (19:1,15); they had simply taken on a human body, which they later cast aside, for the job they were given to do. The author of Hebrews also makes a pointed comment about angels in human form: “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: For thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:1,2). One will search in vain for any indication that this ability to materialize a human form does not apply to the fallen angels as well as the good angels.
Another popular argument against the angelic view has been gleaned from verses such as Matthew 22:30, construing them to teach that angels have no sex. Such a statement is, although, never made. It is only said that they do not marry; it comments neither on their ability to marry, nor specifically on the status of fallen angels, since only the good angels are mentioned.
Dr. Scofield’s note on Genesis 6:4 in the Scofield Reference Bible has caused much unfortunate misunderstanding on this passage and is replete with careless oversimplifications. His note reads as follows:
“Some hold that these ‘sons of God’ were the ‘angels which kept not their first estate’ (Jude 6). It is asserted that this title in the Old Testament is exclusively used of angels. But this is an error (Isaiah 43:6). Angels are spoken of in a sexless way. No female angels are mentioned in scripture, and we are expressly told that marriage is unknown among angels (Matthew 22.30). The uniform Hebrew and Christian interpretation has been that verse 2 marks a breaking down of the separation between the godly line of Seth and the godless line of Cain, and so the failure of the testimony to Jehovah committed to the line of Seth (Genesis 4:26). For apostasy there is no remedy but judgment (Isaiah 1:2-7, 24, 25; Hebrews 6:4-8; 10:26-31). Noah, ‘a preacher of righteousness,’ is given 120 years, but he won no convert, and the judgment predicted by his great-grandfather fell (Jude 1:14,15; Genesis 7:11).”
Some of the mistakes in this note need to be recognized. First, the precise term “sons of God” is used only of angelic beings in the Old Testament, Isaiah 43:6 notwithstanding. It does not occur there. Adam, a direct creation of God and not a derivative creature such as through birth, is singularly referred to as a “son of God” in the genealogies of Luke (Luke 3:38). Secondly, angels are not spoken of in a sexless way; the fact that angels are consistently masculine, and never feminine, is one proof that is too obvious. Thirdly, the uniform Hebrew and Christian interpretation was not the Sethite view which Scofield claims. On the contrary, the historical interpretation of Genesis 6 was uniformly that the “sons of God” were angels until the fourth century A.D. when heresy regarding angelic beings brought about a shift to the Sethite view. Josephus and many of the early Church fathers record a consistent testimony at this point. The Sethite view, which Dr. Scofield and many others have favored, just does not hold up under a sensible analysis. The following list, for example, clearly bears this out:
1. If the Sethites were so godly, why did they choose to marry the “ungodly’ Canite women?
2. Genesis 4:26 does not state that Seth’s line was godly, and Cain’s ungodly (by silent implication).
3. Why did physical giants result from these spiritually “mixed” marriages?
4. Why were the giant offspring always evil?
5. Why don’t evil, physical giants result today from the marriage of a saved man and an unsaved woman if they did then?
6. Why should all the Sethite men be godly and all the Canite women be ungodly? What about the Sethite women and the Canite men? Weren’t there any?
7. God says the whole Earth was full of men’s wickedness (Genesis 6:5). Where is the godly line here?
8. Why does the corruption extend to “all flesh” even including the animals if only Cainites and Sethites were involved?
9. Why does the same problem recur after the Flood when there are no Sethites and Cainites to intermingle?
10. Why are the giants not human beings, as testified by the fact that twice God says they will never be resurrected (Isaiah 26:14, Psalm 88:10), yet all human beings, both saved and lost, will be resurrected by Jesus Christ (John 5:28, 29)?
The answer is clear. Genesis 6:1-4 records a unique intervention of certain fallen angels into the affairs of humanity. They intervened by inbreeding with women, and their horrendous offspring – part-angel and part-human were doomed to genetic failure and judgment. This was an attempt on the part of Satan to pollute the “seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15) so that no conqueror could eventually come and defeat him. The elaborate plan almost succeeded, but God spared Noah, keeping him unpolluted, “perfect in his generations” (Genesis 6:9), thereby preserving the way for Jesus Christ to be the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15.
Though this most strategic aspect of Satan’s agenda was foiled, the angelic interbreeding wrought havoc to this Earth. Wickedness became so widespread, even into the animal world, that God had to send the judgment of Noah’s flood. The actual existence of the “mythological” figures of the satyr (goat-man) and centaur (horse-man), for example, are monstrosities which likely have an historic basis in fact. Demonic meddling in animal genetics could very well have brought about the grotesque assemblages of the “gods” that we read about in ancient mythology. When the outbreak occurred again, after the Flood, God imprisoned the wicked spirits in Tartarus and omnipotently brought the outbreak to an end.
The darkened heart of the unbeliever, nevertheless, was a ripe place for Satan and his demons to sustain the memory of these fallen angels. The angels had become gods. They were to be worshipped. They had come from the stars. They had imparted “life” to humans. They had performed spectacular miracles, and revealed great truths, never before imagined. They had returned to the stars (according to Satan’s delusion), but not before they left a promise to come again! Such are the themes of so many stories and beliefs around the world that the masterful counterfeit of Christian truth is almost frightening. A perfect example of all this is recorded in Acts 14:8-13 where Paul and Barnabas are assumed by the Lycaonians to be human manifestations of their gods who had come down to do miracles. God’s work was attributed to demons.
This is the event von Daniken interprets as ancient astronauts from outer space. As was said before, he is right about beings coming from other worlds to interbreed with humans, and the legacy of mythology he records or alludes to is a most impressive display of the universality of this belief in the ancient world. His assertions, though, are at best, part truths, and they only succeed as a masterful counterfeit of the real truth of the Bible. In contrast to von Daniken’s concepts the following list shows what the Bible teaches regarding such matters:
1. The aliens were fallen angels, not other men from a technically advanced civilization.
2. The forced interbreeding was evil and brought degenerating consequences. It was not beneficial for accelerating evolution.
3. The aliens were intelligent but depraved beings on a mission of destruction and opposition to God; they were not beings of superior morality who desired to impart their concept of godliness to a struggling, embryonic world.
4. The learning and wisdom which these evil angels imparted to men doubtless took many forms – art, science, architecture, etc. The revelations of these beings primarily served to elevate them into the place of receiving worship as gods. Their intervention directed men away from the true God; it was not designed to facilitate social development.
5. According to von Daniken, the aliens destroyed humans who “reverted” to such evil practices as cohabiting with animals. The fact may well be that the aliens taught men to do this by example! In any case, why should the aliens condemn and kill men for doing the same thing that they themselves did with humans?
6. Legends recorded in Chariots of the Gods? say that these ancient astronauts promised to one day return from the stars, as they came the first time.. .a perfect counterfeit of the second coming of Christ.
7. In preparation for their return, the gods taught men to prepare for corporeal rebirth, i.e.; that their physical bodies would be awakened from death unto new life by the gods when they returned. The counterfeit of Biblical life after death and the uniqueness of Christ’s power to resurrect is evident. From this demonic doctrine we understand the elaborate preparations of the Egyptians and others for restored physical life after a long death.
8. The angels evidently directed the attention of men to the stars – not as a demonstration of the glory of the true God (Psalms 19:1), but because that was their home. Specific deities became associated with certain astronomical bodies, their motions became important, and thus their influence over humans would always be remembered. Today, it is called astrology.
9. According to von Daniken, the aliens returned to the stars. According to the Bible, the aliens were imprisoned in Tartarus, in the center of the Earth, and will have no more activity until they are released for judgment after the Millennium.
10. Mythology records that the aliens came to Earth in “spaceships” of various designs: and why not? It would seem that spirit beings would not need such crafts to reach Earth, but what better way to counterfeit such Biblical events as Elijah and the fiery chariot, Isaiah’s vision (Isaiah 6), Ezekiel’s “air transportation” from Babylon to Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8), Daniel and the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7), Paul’s trip to the third heaven (II Corinthians 12), John’s trip to heaven (Revelation 4), and others.
In summary it must be said that von Daniken has done a good service in compiling such a long list of the world’s puzzling phenomena. How accurate his facts are, how careful his translations of various texts, legends and myths are, etc. cannot be readily known, since most of his specific assertions are undocumented. Nevertheless he records a stimulating and exciting list of oddities.
From a Biblical perspective, though, the interpretations of van Daniken proposes in both his books can only be regarded in one way – as a subtle and elaborate counterfeit of the truth. He has succeeded in turning the treacherous and abominable demonic activities in the days of Noah into a respectable, exciting, and intellectually feasible explanation of ancient human history. Multiplied pages of his books are filled with anti-Biblical, anti-God ideas. Sometimes they are disguised in intellectual hypothesizing; sometimes they are so blatant that the God of Israel is nothing more than a loudspeaker on an electrical communications box designed by the astronauts (the Ark of the Covenant). Such teachings can only rank as “doctrines of demons” (I Timothy 4:1).
Indeed, intelligent alien beings did come to Earth from outer space. Yes, they did breed with human women. Yes, they did give birth to a new kind of offspring – not Homo Sapiens – but a part-angel, part-human, freak hybrid strain of giants; and yes they did change the course of mankind in this world. In the wake of their activity, they left a legacy of unrestrained wickedness so intense that people the world over seem to have effaced its horror from their history by remembering it only as fanciful mythology of bygone golden ages. For this, “…God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment” (II Peter 2:4).