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The recent occurrences of unidentified anomalous phenomena (aka unidentified flying objects) over United States airspace1 has caused some renewed interest in extraterrestrials (ETs).* Curiosity about the possibility of life beyond our planet is nothing new, and films and television shows have never shied away from the conversation. Ancient Aliens (History, 2009–) fuels the flames of speculation. The series, which is in its nineteenth season, continues to captivate viewers, so much so that it has spawned live events starring its ancient astronaut theorists.2 The series features episodes that ask viewers to consider questions about the Bible, humanity, and the potential of ET presence within the biblical narrative. For example, did Satan and other fallen angels set out to do good for humanity by revealing divine knowledge? What really happened to Moses on Mount Sinai? Was the Ark of the Covenant a toolkit full of ET power?
Maybe what’s more surprising than the series’ longevity is its veneer of credibility. The experts featured make statements that sound like they are grounded in truth. As Christians and purveyors of truth, we need to be on guard against falsehood. We are called to be prepared to give a defense for the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15). As Christians, we should consider ultimate questions, particularly ones that impact eternity. This article will help the reader sort through some of the most popular Ancient Aliens episodes featuring the Bible. It will also address the questions on many peoples’ minds: is it okay for Christians to believe in ETs, and if intelligent ETs exist, what does it mean for Christianity?
ETs in the Garden of Eden
Ancient Aliens presents the Garden narrative in a different light than you may have been taught in Sunday School. They say that “ancient legend” describes the serpent as “a humanoid form that stood erect and had arms and legs.”3 In other words, the serpent wasn’t actually a serpent. One oft-featured ancient astronaut theorist, David Childress, describes Adam and Eve’s transformation after they ate the fruit: “Suddenly, they completely change into what we would call modern people….We have in a sense an evolutionary leap from primitive humans to more modern humans who are more aware of themselves and their surroundings.”4
The series then draws a parallel between the serpent in the Garden of Eden and Enki, a god of the Anunnaki, a group of deities described in early Sumerian writings. They conclude that Enki was the serpent in the Garden. Not only that, Enki “altered human DNA in order to awaken us and to illuminate us.”5 In essence, the Fall was evolutionary and pushed humanity forward.
Satan: A Divine Conspiracy
According to Scripture, Satan is a fallen angel (see Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14). He is God’s enemy. He seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Ancient Aliens, however, paints a vastly different picture of Satan. In fact, the series plants the seed that the biblical account of the Fall and Satan’s role in it is “fanciful.”6 Alternatively, they hypothesize, the Bible leaves out a key piece of the narrative — that “Eve wants to mature….God wants to keep us in a state of perpetual innocence, infantility perhaps.”7 Satan held the key to divine knowledge and successfully tempted Eve with it. Apparently, God wanted to keep us in innocence and naïveté (thus His edict to avoid the Tree of Knowledge), but Satan challenged Him because he wanted humans to know everything.
Another theory about Satan has to do with the so-called Watchers found in the pseudepigraphal Book of Enoch, part of the ancient documents found in Qumran in 1948. The Watchers, led by Samyaza (linked to Satan), were 200 angels sent to watch over humankind. They rebelled and mated with humans.8 Ancient Aliens paints this as liberation for humanity. One ancient astronaut theorist says, “It was Satan who gave us the tools of civilization.”9 “It is quite possible,” Erich von Däniken suggests, “that our religious traditions and those who selected the old holy texts some thousands of years ago made an evil figure out of Lucifer and the devil. And maybe it was the other way around. He was the good one.”10
Noah and Moses: ETs?
Ancient Aliens has theories about Noah’s lineage, too. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls found in Qumran was the Lamech Scroll, a text that Ancient Aliens claims calls into question Noah’s parentage. Von Däniken claims that the Lamech Scroll demonstrates that Noah was the result of artificial insemination by the “guardians of the sky.”11 This is apparently evidenced by Noah’s strange appearance at birth, including the ability to light up the room with his eyes.12 The show suggests that the flood was a means to destroy genetic mistakes in the world.
As for Moses, Ancient Aliens suggests something otherworldly, too. When Moses descended from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, he had to wear a scarf across his face because “his face was radiant,” an after-effect of being in the presence of God (Exodus 34:29).13 One of the Ancient Aliens experts posits that Moses had a physical interaction with “an extraterrestrial being rather than what we would generally classify as divine.”14 They’ve removed God and replaced Him with an ET. And the illustration in the Bible of God coming down from the sky was actually not God at all — it was a UFO. Ancient astronaut theorist Nick Redfern speculates that Moses was abducted by the UFO and kept on the ship for forty days. The Ten Commandments, then, were messages of peace from ETs, not commands from our Creator.15
The Ark of the Covenant: An ET Toolkit?
Scripture says that the Ark of the Covenant housed the Ten Commandments, a pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod. It was created with specific instructions from God, and there were rules that needed to be followed regarding its transport and care. If those rules were not followed, there were consequences (e.g., Uzzah touched it and died in 2 Samuel 6:6–7, and several others died because they looked into it in 1 Samuel 6:19).
Ancient Aliens has some ideas about the purpose of the Ark of the Covenant, and as you may have guessed by now, the theories have to do with ETs. One ancient alien theorist explains that the Ark of the Covenant was a storage container for the “manna machine…a nuclear-driven device.”16 This device kept the Israelites safe and fed. David Wilcock17 suggests that the technology housed within the Ark of the Covenant was “more advanced than anything we have now.” The show emphasizes the power of the Ark of the Covenant, claiming that its power was responsible for drying up the Jordan River and for the walls of Jericho collapsing.18 The beams of fire and other destructive powers described in Scripture were due to “atomic power” housed within the Ark of the Covenant.19 Indeed, the high priests had to wear protective gear to keep themselves safe when in the presence of the Ark because it was an electric capacitor, which apparently is more plausible than it being the mercy seat of God.20 Once again, the Ancient Aliens’ experts delete God and replace Him with ETs.
Sources and Facts Matter
One phrase repeated throughout each episode is “Ancient astronaut theorists and Bible scholars say.” Who are these theorists and scholars? One example is the aforementioned von Däniken (also known as the Godfather of Ancient Astronaut Theory, though he did not discover the theory himself). He has no formal education but is considered a “world mysteries explorer.”21 Much of what is found in Ancient Aliens is based on the information found in von Däniken’s book, Chariots of the Gods? (1968).22 The book is nearly 200 pages long and does not contain a single footnote.23 Another featured ancient astronaut theorist is Rev. Barry Downing, author of The Bible and Flying Saucers (Amazon, 2019).24 He makes many claims but offers very little evidence to support those claims. Despite his Christian background, he easily replaces God with ETs in the biblical narrative. Other ancient astronaut theorists featured include Wilcock, Corey Goode,25 Giorgio Tsoukalos, and Scott Roberts, most of whom have no educational background in relevant fields like archeology (or any science) or history.
Sources are important. Where we glean our evidence and truth matters. As Christians, we believe the Bible is the Word of God. We have good evidence to believe that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus really happened.26 The ancient astronaut theory is rarely called into question, if at all, on Ancient Aliens. What the theorists say is often taken as established fact. Speculative questions are framed as conclusions.
Christianity and ETs
As of today, humans have not discovered life (rational or non-rational) anywhere else in the universe. There are good reasons to believe that we have not been visited by ETs. But with each claim of UFO belief by celebrities and politicians,27 speculation that we are not alone in the universe increases. In fact, according to Pew, more than fifty percent of Protestants and sixty-seven percent of Catholics believe in intelligent life on other planets.28 What would discovery of intelligent ETs mean for the Christian faith?
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The heavens don’t just include the sky you see above you. It is the universe and everything within it. Despite the claims we hear in Ancient Aliens, we don’t find evidence in Scripture to support the existence of intelligent ETs, and we certainly don’t read about such created beings in the creation narrative. But what if one day we did find rational, intelligent life from another world? Well, they, too, would be in need of a Savior. Philosopher Marie I. George asserts that “they would be created in grace and thus would be ordered to a supernatural end.”29 This echoes Billy Graham’s thoughts: “I firmly believe there are intelligent beings like us far away in space who worship God….Like us, they are God’s creation.”30 God does not get replaced by His creation. The reality is that we simply do not know, but it would be good to have a plan in place should the discovery of intelligent ET life happen.
We should all wonder about the things we believe. As an apologist, I encourage questions. This is how parents should be with their children. This is how Christians should be with skeptics and fellow believers. Jesus encouraged questions and deep thoughts. Questions are not bad, but good answers should be backed up by evidence. This is where Ancient Aliens fails. They present hypotheses as truth, and worse, they often present evidence that is not supported by scholars or reality.
Ancient Aliens will air its 227th episode this season. Although it’s on the History Channel, it’s not historical, and you shouldn’t buy the information it’s selling. By inserting ETs in the biblical narrative, the show removes God and His supernatural powers. They imply that God wasn’t powerful enough, so He needed help from ETs. As Christians, we should boldly proclaim, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:5). We ought to, as Jeremiah did, praise our all-powerful Creator: “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17). God doesn’t need out-of-this-world assistance to perform miracles that seem impossible. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. The universe is His, and all within it are within His power and control. Even if it turns out that rational ETs exist. Nothing is greater than He: “The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?” (Psalm 113:4–6).
Lindsey Medenwaldt is Director of Ministry Operations at Mama Bear Apologetics and serves as a consulting editor for the Christian Research Journal. She holds a Master’s in Apologetics and Ethics from Denver Seminary, a JD from St. Mary’s School of Law, and a Master’s in Public Administration from Midwestern State University.
*In this article, extraterrestrial (ET) refers to intelligent biological alien life originating outside Earth (what is often referred to as “little green men”), not non-human spiritual beings described in Scripture (angels, Satan, demons, etc.).
- See Gordon Lubold and Natalie Andrews, “Flying Objects’ Origins Remain Uncertain as Debris Recovery Continues,” Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/unidentified-flying-object-debris-search-is-hampered-by-weather-location-4cebfb3.
- An ancient astronaut theorist is someone who believes in the pseudoscientific hypothesis that extraterrestrials (ancient astronauts) visited Earth and left us advanced knowledge and technology.
- Ancient Aliens, 2021, “Biblical Proof of Alien Contact,” clip from “The Human Experiment,” Season 17, episode 5, aired September 24 on History, https://youtu.be/jMPFd8k7jGo.
- Ancient Aliens, “Biblical Proof of Alien Contact,” https://youtu.be/jMPFd8k7jGo.
- Ancient Aliens, “Biblical Proof of Alien Contact,” https://youtu.be/jMPFd8k7jGo.
- Ancient Aliens, 2013, “The Satan Conspiracy,” Season 6, episode 5, aired October 28 on History, https://youtu.be/eCbhMab-JJI.
- Kenneth L. Hanson, Ancient Aliens, “The Satan Conspiracy,” https://youtu.be/eCbhMab-JJI.
- Genesis 6:4 is mentioned, in which, according to the Book of Enoch, the Nephilim are the offspring of the angels and humans. Hank Hanegraaff rejects the idea that demons can have sex with humans because demons cannot create real bodies for themselves or produce physical offspring. They do not have creative power. See “Did demons have sexual relations with women in Genesis 6:4?” Christian Research Institute, August 5, 2022, https://www.equip.org/bible_answers/did-demons-have-sexual-relations-with-women-in-genesis-64/.
- Philip Coppens, Ancient Aliens, “The Satan Conspiracy,” https://youtu.be/eCbhMab-JJI.
- Erich von Däniken, Ancient Aliens, “The Satan Conspiracy,” https://youtu.be/eCbhMab-JJI.
- Erich von Däniken, Ancient Aliens, 2020, “Dead Sea Scrolls Reveal Noah’s True Origins,” a clip from “The Forbidden Bible, Season 16, episode 5, aired December 18 on History, https://youtu.be/ilGqr7-7jlc.
- This account is thoroughly discredited in the documentary Ancient Aliens Debunked, directed by Chris White (2012), https://youtu.be/j9w-i5oZqaQ. In fact, White shows that von Däniken made up much of what he said on Ancient Aliens about Noah.
- Scripture quotations are from the NIV.
- Philip Coppens, Ancient Aliens, 2013, “Biblical Encounter Linked to Alien Abduction,” a clip from “Strange Abductions,” Season 5, episode 9, aired February 22 on History, https://youtu.be/dG6KD-p4cfk.
- Nick Redfern, “Biblical Encounter Linked to Alien Abduction,” https://youtu.be/dG6KD-p4cfk.
- Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, Ancient Aliens, 2013, “Aliens and the Lost Ark,” Season 6, episode 10, aired on December 6 on History, https://youtu.be/8NKCiETRzJQ. The idea comes from the 1978 book, The Manna Machine (Sidgwick and Jackson), by George Sassoon and Rodney Dale.
- For more about David Wilcock, see Lindsey Medenwaldt, “Humanity’s Ascension: Assessing the History Channel’s New Age, Time Travel Guru David Wilcock,” Christian Research Journal 43, no. 3 (2021), https://www.equip.org/articles/humanitys-ascension-assessing-the-history-channels-new-age-time-travel-guru-david-wilcock/.
- “Aliens and the Lost Ark,” https://youtu.be/8NKCiETRzJQ.
- Tsoukalos, “Aliens and the Lost Ark,” https://youtu.be/8NKCiETRzJQ.
- “Aliens and the Lost Ark,” https://youtu.be/8NKCiETRzJQ.
- The AlienCon Newsletter, “Erich von Däniken: Godfather of Ancient Astronaut Theory,” Issue 54, January 24, 2023, www.aliencon.com/newsletter-archives/erich-von-daeniken-godfather-of-ancient-astronaut-theory/.
- The book was originally published in German in 1968 as Erinnerungen an die Zukunft (Econ-Verlag). Putnam published the first English edition. I have the 1999 revised English edition, published by Berkley Books, New York.
- For a response to Von Däniken and other theorists featured on Ancient Aliens, see the three-hour documentary Ancient Aliens Debunked (2012). It features Old Testament scholar Michael Heiser. Unlike what is offered by Ancient Aliens (mostly speculation), facts are given and supported with evidence. (Editor’s note: CRI does not agree with some of the late Dr. Heiser’s views concerning the angelic realm, including his interpretation of Genesis 6:4. See endnote 8 above.)
- This book has limited footnotes but no page numbers.
- See Lindsey Medenwaldt, “Corey Goode: Time-Traveling Secret Space Program Whistleblower,” Christian Research Journal 45, no. 1 (2022): 50–53; and Postmodern Realities Podcast, “Episode 287 Corey Goode: Time-Traveling Secret Space Program Whistleblower,” Christian Research Institute, May 11, 2022, https://www.equip.org/postmodern-realities/episode-287-corey-goode-time-traveling-secret-space-program-whistleblower/.
- See e.g., Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the New Testament (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2016); and Hank Hanegraaff, Resurrection (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2002).
- These voices include actors Russell Crowe and Kurt Russell, singers Elvis Presley and David Bowie, and former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.
- Becka A. Alper and Joshua Alvarado, “Religious Americans Less Likely to Believe Intelligent Life Exists on Other Planets,” Pew Research Center, July 28, 2021, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/07/28/religious-americans-less-likely-to-believe-intelligent-life-exists-on-other-planets/.
- Marie I. George, Christianity and Extraterrestrials?: A Catholic Perspective (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2005), Kindle edition, 410–11.
- Billy Graham, quoted in Ted Peters, Science, Theology, and Ethics (New York: Routledge, 2003), 126.