Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | February 24, 2021

Did NASA Computers Verify Old Testament History?

(4 Minute Read. 24Feb2021)

Scripture records some very hard-to-explain astronomical events.

One of the most perplexing is the Long Day of Joshua around 1400 BC. To prolong daylight, Joshua commanded the sun to stand still so that the Israelite army under Joshua could complete its conquest of five Amorite armies.

Here is Joshua’s record of the event:
Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,
“O sun, stand still at Gibeon,
And O moon in the valley of Aijalon.”
So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.
(Joshua 10:12-14)

Another very unusual astronomical event occurred around 700 BC when the sun’s shadow moved backwards on a sundial (the stairway of Ahaz) for a sign to Judah’s ailing King Hezekiah that he would be healed. Scripture records that the sun’s shadow moved 10 steps backward. Depending on the sundial’s construction, a step probably represented from 1 to 30 minutes, so that time ran “backwards” for from 10 minutes to 5 hours. (Isaiah 38:1-8; 2 Kings 20:1-11)

The book of Joshua gives a detailed record of the conquest of Canaan by Israel under Joshua around 1400 BC and the subsequent division of the land among the tribes. Joshua’s account is clearly intended to be historical. Likewise Isaiah’s record of King Hezekiah’s illness, prayer, and Yahweh’s reply is a historical report.

But what are we to make of these accounts? How is it possible for the sun and moon to stand still in the sky for a full day? How can the sun move backward?

Consider how infinitely more complicated the creation of the universe recorded in Genesis 1 is than these two events. These temporary tweaks in the processes of the universe are certainly not beyond the power of the Great Creator God of the Bible who out of nothing created the sun, moon, and stars on Day Four.

Small Magellanic Cloud
One of the Milky Way’s closest galaxies

Is there any independent verification of these events? Can astronomical calculations shed any light?

NASA Computers

For decades reports have circulated in pamphlets, newspapers, and magazines that NASA computers have found Joshua’s Long Day and Hezekiah’s extra time.

Claims that astronomical calculations identified a missing day actually began in 1890 with Charles Totten, a professor of military science at Yale, in his book Joshua’s Long Day and the Dial of Ahaz. Totten based his calculation on the assumption that Creation began on Sunday September 22, 4000 BC.

In 1936 the story was resurrected in Harry Rimmer’s book The Harmony of Science and Scripture. But Rimmer provided no documentation or proof. Recent embellished versions of the story credit NASA computers with the discovery.

The NASA story runs like this. NASA astronomers were calculating positions of the sun, moon, and planets to determine safe satellite trajectories. As NASA’s computers ran to and fro over the centuries, they suddenly locked up because they hit a missing day in time. Celestial bodies were not properly situated; they were one day off in position.

Nobody could resolve the problem till one Christian scientist remembered from Sunday School that God had made the sun stand still for a day. Reportedly his skeptical colleagues reworked the data and found the missing time in Joshua’s day was 23 hours and 20 minutes. This left a discrepancy of 40 minutes which continued to abort the program.

Then the Christian remembered how God gave Hezekiah on his deathbed a sign that He would heal him by making the sun’s shadow go back ten degrees. This supposedly provided the remaining 40 minutes and now the computer program ran perfectly.

Despite its appeal, this NASA computer story is a hoax. It is not true.

The originator of the story was Baltimore engineer Harold Hill who published it in October 1969 and later repeated the story in his 1974 book Living Like a King’s Kid. Despite numerous requests, Hill never provided any documentation, and NASA has officially denied the story.

Is the NASA Computer Story Possible?

Is the story even possible? No, such verification is not mathematically possible. Using Newton’s laws of motion, astronomers can backtrack and show where celestial bodies should have been on any given day in history. But there are no historical records of precisely where they actually were at exact times on specific dates many centuries ago in order to compare with backtracked results.

To detect a missing day, it’s necessary to have a known checkpoint in time prior to the missing day. Another known checkpoint would be needed between Joshua and Hezekiah. These reference points must be known accurately with respect to position and time both by historical records and astronomical computations in order to verify “missing” or “extra” time.

Such known checkpoints do not exist. Eclipses are potential checkpoints, but the earliest recorded eclipse is 1217 BC, almost two centuries after Joshua. And ancient historians did not record the timing of eclipses within an accuracy of minutes as would be necessary for the story to be true.

Scientists do not know the exact sun and moon positions prior to Joshua’s and Hezekiah’s events. It is therefore impossible to compute changes from such unknown positions to compare with today’s known positions in order to see whether there is a “missing” day.

These astronomical events of Joshua’s and Hezekiah’s day certainly occurred. But the story of NASA computers finding these time periods is completely false. It’s an urban legend.

However, is there any historical evidence of these events? How could they have physically occurred? Read next week’s sequel Did the Sun Stand Still? to learn more about Joshua’s Long Day and Hezekiah’s Sundial Sign.

Questions to Ponder

1. What approach do you take to Biblical reports of miracles that are difficult to explain?
2. Will you “ask, seek, knock” (Matthew 7:7) for the Great Creator’s help with a seemingly impossible problem?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

For Christ and His Kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria. Alere Flammam Veritatis.

Read the sequel:
Did the Sun Stand Still?

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
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(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday February 24, 2021 A.D.

So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel. (Joshua 10:13-14)

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  1. Thank you! In this world of many untruths, it is extremely refreshing for you to communicate that our God and His word are true enough that we have no need to stretch the truth to accommodate Him!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This account has always puzzled me. I believe it because it’s God’s Word, but it’s hard to imagine how that could physically happen. For time to stop, the earth’s rotation would have to come to a screeching halt. The same for moving back ten degrees, stop, and then move forward again. One would think that the physics involved would tear up the planet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I agree, the accounts are puzzling. Like most miracles, it is nearly impossible to understand how they were accomplished. But they are not beyond the power of the One who made the universe. Next week’s blog article, Did the Sun Stand Still?, will have more about Joshua’s Long Day and Hezekiah’s Sundial Sign. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 2 people

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