In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, two stories appeared in print about a computer finding a missing day. The first is told by Harold Hill in his book, How to Live Like a King’s Kid. In Hill’s own words:
When NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center here at Greenbelt, Md. first went on the air, a horrendous technical boo-boo surfaced, causing a complete shutdown [of the computer] after less than an hour’s operation.
I was called in as an outside consultant and came up with a “quick-fix” that saved the day for them.
After things fired up I stayed around as an interested observer, to catch the very beginning of our Space Exploration activity. That was somewhere back in the sixties.
…A large team of IBM technicians was present to debug the system and get it running. No one really knew much except that it looked O.K. on paper. It was during that time that I heard about the aberration in the location of the Heavenly bodies that led to the Bible account of how the MISSING DAY incident came about.
I was not the one who came up with the Bible answer, nor do I know the names of those involved. I simply reported it as it came to me and used it in my lectures on the Bible and Science, which I frequently deliver in schools and Colleges in Science Seminars.
A Newspaper reporter in Spencer, Indiana [Mary Kathryn Bryan in 1970] came across a copy, and fed it into the major News Services. To date, I have received over 10,000 letters from all parts of the world.
Many have correctly pointed out that computers do not stop “and put up a red flag.” Some have reported that Hill has retracted his story, but that is not true. Hill still maintains its veracity even though NASA has disavowed any knowledge of him, and others have charged him with various degrees of fraud. It has also been suggested that Hill had based the story on Totten’s book, but Hill claims not to have known of the Totten book at the time. However, the main problem with Hill’s story is that it would require an independent date for some event such as an eclipse of the sun prior to Joshua’s long day. The most ancient of these observations does not go back as far as 1,000 B.C., let alone 1,500 B.C. Still, Hill’s story raised quite a bit of interest.
A second computer account of a missing day appeared in the Swedish Goteborgs Tidningen on March 15, 1981. According to that story, Stig Flodmark of the University of Stockholm had discovered that the earth’s axis had flipped on May 3, 1375 B.C. and associated that with Joshua’s long day. This proposal is the same as that of Rand who was mentioned earlier in this chapter. According to Flodmark, a Ugaritic astronomer described the event and gave the date. Flodmark refers to a book entitled Tidal Friction and the Earth’s Rotation. The comment by the author of the quoted paper, F. R. Stephenson, in summarizing the Ugaritic observation, is “Sun put to shame; went down in daytime.” This hardly describes a tippie top phenomenon, especially with Gibeon at the rotational north pole for the day, for the sun would have been circumpolar for the Ugaritic astronomer; it would not have gone “down in daytime.”
Joshua 10:13 does not stand alone in the Bible. There are several similar verses. One of those is found in Habakkuk 3:11 which states:
The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear.
Now Habakkuk 3:11 is a double reference: in the first instance, it refers to a future event foreseen by Habakkuk; and in the second instance, it refers back to the taking of Canaan, back to Joshua’s long day. As such, we may consider it as a unit with Joshua 10.
An apparent prophetic reference to Joshua’s long day is found in Job 9:7 which seems to foretell the events described in Joshua 10. It is evident that Job was most likely a contemporary of Abraham or, at least, Job lived no later than Joseph or his sons. The verse reads as follows: [God] commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars.
We noted that the entry into the Promised Land was early April of 1448 B.C. Can we ascertain the month and day of Joshua’s long day with any degree of certainty? It turns out that we can come close.
When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, it was the tenth day of the first month (Joshua 4:19), shortly before the time of the Passover which is at the time of the full moon. Now in 1448 B.C. the new moon and the first day of spring closely coincided, the first day of spring is March 19.5 at the time; so we can date the very entry into the Promised Land as Thursday, March 29, give or take a day.
The events which are described between the Passover and the battle at Gibeon all took time. The Passover celebration itself took a week; the fall of Jericho took seven days; the fall of Ai took at least four days; the construction of the altar on Mount Ebal and the copying of the law probably took a week or more; the trickery of the Gibeonites took still more time; the communication of that trickery to the Gibeonites’ neighbors and the subsequent formation of an alliance, not to mention their march to Gibeon, all took time. It is reasonable to assume that over a month passed between the celebration of the Passover and Joshua’s long day. This is entirely consistent with the geometry of sun and moon presented in Joshua 10 where the moon seems to be west of the sun and both visible in daylight. Given that the time for the event was 9:00 a.m., the moon was most likely near or after its last quarter. More specifically, then, it appears that Joshua’s long day happened somewhere between May 8 to May 15 of 1448 B.C.
It should be painfully clear by this time that not only was Joshua’s long day a real miracle, but also it presents man with a great problem: either God writes what he means and means what he writes, or he does not. Most Christian scholars over the centuries have been of the opinion that God needs them to make his truth known, that God is incapable of explaining certain matters to man without that help. This is why most churches hold tradition over the authority of the Bible. Joshua 10:12-14 strikes at the heart of this heresy.
In the twelfth verse it can be argued that when Joshua spoke, he was simply ignorant of the rotation of the earth and thus accused the sun and moon of moving. Hence he spoke geocentrically. This would not introduce an error in the Bible since this is a direct quote. All that inerrancy requires is that the quote must be an accurate quote. That’s fine and well for Joshua, but what of the thirteenth verse? Who is the writer who reports that the “sun stood still, and the moon stayed?” The Bible says that God is its author through the Holy Ghost (2 Timothy 3:16). Verses 13 and 14 of Joshua 10 present us with the point of view of the author, and the author is God himself. God cannot lie, so this point of view must be true. If the perspective is not true, then either God is lying or someone else inspired the wording. If the author is not God then who is he? And just what is that person doing putting words in God’s mouth? If this verse cannot be trusted, then how can we trust any other Bible passage? Could not the same shadow of doubt be cast onto any other particular passage of scripture? And what, then, becomes of the Bible’s witness of itself in such passages as 2 Timothy 3:16-17? Or if the commentator is God himself, is he speaking phenomenologically or anthropocentrically? Or is that impossible?
For the moment, let us assume that God is speaking either anthropocentrically or phenomenologically. Let us further suppose that this is not the only place in the Bible where God does so but that, in particular, he does so in all geocentric passages. Then what does that mean? Just what does it mean to speak anthropocentrically or phenomenologically?
Anthropocentrism literally means “man-centeredness.” In this view, God puts himself in man’s place and speaks from a human perspective. Given that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, this is not at all far-fetched, but does this really excuse the God of Truth, who is the Truth, from writing the whole truth and nothing but the truth? God forbid! Note how simply God could have avoided the contradiction between heliocentrism and geocentricity if instead he had started the thirteenth verse with: “And the earth stopped its turning…” God does not go out of his way to avoid difficult wording just for the sake of simplicity (Proverbs 1:22). Nor does He express the science of the Bible in simple terms. Take Job chapter 38, for example, where two or three “puzzling” and “poetic” passages have in, recent years, been found to be literally true; yet most of the chapter is completely above man’s comprehension. Simply put, God does not speak anthropocentrically because God is not a man.
Phenomenology is a science which deals with appearances rather than with actual existence (the study of the latter is called ontology). Phenomenology is based on the observation that appearances can be deceiving. Thus when one claims that Joshua 10:13 is phenomenological, one effectively claims that God is not presenting the situation as it actually is but only presents it as it appears to be. If the appearance is not the same as actual fact, then, in the final analysis, God is not relaying accurate information about the situation. For the sake of “convenience,” God wrote an untruth. God presented the appearance of the situation as the truth rather than presenting the truth as the truth: this is what one means when one says that the Bible speaks phenomenologically.
Phenomenological or anthropocentric: either the sun stood still or the earth stood still; either God inerrantly inspired the wording or He did not; either the Bible is trustworthy or it is not. There is no middle ground. There is no room for compromise. After all, both the anthropocentric theory of inspiration and the phenomenological-language theory are forms of accommodation where God is said to accommodate his wording to the understanding of the common man. Good though that may sound on the surface, accommodation still maintains that God goes along with the accepted story even though he really does not believe it.
The whole issue would be moot if, as the liberals and infidels claim, the Bible was written by men and not God. Belief in the human authorship of Bible earmarked the Sadducees in Christ’s day and still earmarks their spiritual descendants, the liberals, today. The Pharisees recognized the truth about the authorship of the Bible but failed to live up to that fact. When confronted by the truth of their hypocrisy they became enraged rather than repentant. Today’s Pharisee is no different, reacting with violent rage when confronted by these matters. Still, let God be true and every man a liar.
When it is all put together, we know more about Joshua’s long day than we know of most other events recorded in the Bible. The best date seems to be within four or five days either side of May 12, 1448 B.C., sometime between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. This we may conclude from plotting all of the long day, long night, and the long sunset accounts on a globe. Such extensive observations preclude the conclusion that the event was an optical illusion restricted to the land of Israel. It also disallows the notion that Joshua’s long day is fictitious, for the testimony of the people around the world is entirely consistent with its reality. That some people have tales of a long night while others tell of a long day while none have both a long day and a long night tale signifies that Joshua’s long day is not one account, originating in the mid-East, which has migrated all over the world; for if such were the case, then all nations would tell of a long day and none would tell of a long night, let alone a perfectly-placed long sunset. So we must conclude that Joshua’s long day was a real, historical event and not some fiction.
Why, despite the testimonies of various people around the globe to the reality of an extremely long day or night, and despite the geographic consistency of the data in terms of day and night, why should the majority of scholars dismiss this wealth of evidence as mere superstition? How could there be more substantial evidence? On the other hand, we shall have occasion to document examples where modern science has accepted the testimony of one individual of dubious integrity. Actually, the heliocentric/geocentric debate is not new, nor is it secret, but the stakes are high and rarely mentioned; for authority is itself at stake. Just who is authoritative and in what? If doubt can be cast on the Bible as an authority in the area of science, then that leaves scientists as the final authority in that area. All too often science is merely another form of politics with little regard for truth if the truth be not expedient. Thus it can be said quite literally that today’s science is tomorrow’s superstition. That was as true in the sixth century B.C. as it is true today.
Witness Galileo Galilei, an early and vocal proponent of heliocentrism and regarded by many as the first true physicist. In 1613 he wrote in a letter to Castelli why Joshua’s long day should not be believed:
And first I ask the adversary if he knows by what motions the sun is moved? If he does know, he must reply that it is moved with two motions, that is, an annual motion from west to east and an opposite diurnal motion from east to west. Hence, in the second place, I ask if these two movements, so diverse and almost contrary to one another, both belong to the sun and are equally its own? They are forced to answer no; that one alone is its own and particular motion, which is the annual, while the other is not the sun’s at all, but that of the highest sky, called the Prime Mobile, which sweeps along with itself the sun and the other planets and also the starry sphere, constraining them to make one revolution around the earth in 24 hours, with a motion (as I said) almost contrary to their natural and proper motions.
So I come to the third question, and ask them by which of these two motions the sun produces day and night, that is, by its own or from the Prime Mobile? It is necessary to respond that day and night are the effects of motion of the Prime Mobile, while from the proper motion of the sun not day and night, but the different seasons, and the year itself are produced.
Now if the day depends not on the sun’s motion, but on that of the Prime Mobile, who can fail to see that in order to prolong the day it is necessary to stop the Prime Mobile, and not the sun? It being therefore absolutely impossible, in the arrangement of Ptolemy and Aristotle, to stop the motion of the sun and to lengthen the day, as the Scripture affirms to have happened.
In his challenge, Galileo sets up a straw man and thus exemplifies the ignorance of the Bible which is so characteristic of humanity. True, if one ascribes the annual motion to the sun and the diurnal (daily) motion to the stars, then Galileo’s argument is correct; but the Bible does not fall into such simple traps. The Bible clearly indicates that the sun is to rule the day. This means that the daily motion is unique to the sun and has nothing to do with the annual motion. The sun’s period is exactly 24 hours. The stars’ daily motion nearly matches the sun’s period, being about 3 minutes 56 seconds less than the sun’s period. Over the course of one year, this amounts to one extra revolution about the earth, namely, the annual effect. (The north-south annual motion of the sun can be shown to be due to the difference between the sun’s period of revolution and the rotation rate of the rest of the universe.) When viewed from that perspective, Galileo’s argument falls flat on its face. Both motions are from east to west, but the sun’s motion is roughly 1/365th slower than that of the cosmos. Thus the motions are not “almost contrary” but are almost identical. Yet no theologian has ever come up with a better argument against Joshua’s long day than has Galileo at this one point.
The upshot is that there appears to be solid evidence from the Bible and from folklore around the world that there was one day which, depending upon geographical location, presented the inhabitants of the earth with an unusually long span of daylight or night. Attempts to explain this phenomenon by naturalistic means have all failed because no mechanism known to physics can absorb the earth’s spin energy and momentum (or the universe’s from a geocentric point of view) in such a short period of time without causing great upheavals such as the oceans spilling over the continents. Agnostic or atheistic scholars choose not to deal with the ancient witnesses. Such a phenomenon as Joshua’s long day can only happen with divine intervention. But then science does not claim to have all the answers: its authority is found wanting. Is the Bible, then, the final authority after all? Not if God said that the sun stopped when it was actually the earth which ceased to rotate. And that brings us to the heart of the matter.
Attempts to phenomenalize Joshua’s long day or to make it allegorical thus fail. Christians and Jewish people are presented with a real historical event in Joshua 10:12-14. The central issue from their perspective is that of inerrancy of the Bible. God wrote in verse 13 that the “sun stood still and the moon stayed.” God either meant what he wrote, or he did not. There is no excuse for God because he is the God of truth; therefore all things he says and does must reflect that fact. So God cannot utter an untruth and we must conclude that the Bible teaches, in Joshua 10:13 and elsewhere, that the universe rotates around the earth once per day, carrying the sun, moon and stars with it, regardless of what introductory astronomy texts may say. We shall see later that the advanced texts belie the introductory texts on the matter of the rotation of the earth.
For the time being, the choice is either the Bible or the introductory astronomy texts: which do you believe?