It has been exactly 50 years since Erich Von Daniken hypothesized in his controversial work Chariots of the Gods that the Bible proves ancient man met with aliens, adopting new technologies from extraterrestrials. Many Biblical prophecies are, according to Von Daniken, UFO sightings described in Biblical terms. His startling theory sought to challenge the way we see ourselves in the universe and in relation to God.
Though controversial and much-contested, his theory (called paleo-contact) is popular with his 62 million readers. Von Daniken based this theory on structures and artifacts that represented higher technological knowledge than was presumed to have existed at the times they were manufactured. He cites depictions in cave drawings, clay tablets, and other archaeological findings to support his theory of alien contact.
Von Daniken is a compulsive world traveler and has investigated many of the world’s more perplexing sites: the Giza Pyramids, the Moai stone heads of Easter Island, Stonehenge, Pumapunku, and many others. But the real inspiration for his theories comes from the Bible.
Raised as a Roman Catholic, he attended the Saint-Michel International Catholic School in Fribourg, Switzerland. Bible studies led him to look towards the heavens, but his conclusions were not those the priests had intended.
As he told Breaking Israel News, “That’s where it all started…I am still a deep believer in God, although I don’t know what God is.”
He claims the Bible is replete with cases of extraterrestrial contact. He cites Enoch, who lived before the great flood (Genesis 5:24). Enoch and the prophet Elijah were the only two people described as being “taken” without dying. In Elijah’s case, he was taken by a “chariot of fire and horses of fire” that “went up to heaven in a whirlwind”. These, Von Daniken explained, were alien abductions.
The title of his first book was based on the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of a celestial chariot. Von Daniken believed the vision the prophet described in the first chapter was actually an extraterrestrial spacecraft. Classical Biblical commentaries say the measurements of Ezekiel’s Temple refer to a future temple.
“The Temple was not a Temple after all,” Von Daniken explained to Breaking Israel News, “Ezekiel was describing the space station.”
According to Von Daniken, the revelation of God at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19), the pivotal event in Jewish history, was the launch of a massive rocket, accompanied by sound and fury, that required all of the gathered people to distance themselves or be vaporized by the massive blast.
Taking paleo-contact a giant step further, his latest theory posits that when the extraterrestrials left the earth thousands of years ago, they didn’t just leave behind pyramids and other perplexing artifacts.
“Jews believe you are the ‘chosen people’ and I believe, yes, you are the chosen people but not in the way you believe,” he told Breaking Israel News. “Many Nobel prize winners are Jewish because you have something different in your DNA which comes from the extraterrestrials.”
Von Daniken explained that Jews were chosen, not by God, but by extraterrestrials. Ancient astronauts came to earth and manipulated the DNA of Biblical Israelites to make them and their Jewish offspring more intelligent.
Von Daniken’s theories are contested by numerous scientists and he has been accused of using faulty techniques to draw untenable conclusions. More important than the scientific implications are the religious implications of his theories.
Dr. David Weintraub, professor of astronomy at Vanderbilt University and the author of Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal With It?, is uniquely qualified to answer questions on the subject of religions and extraterrestrials, a field known as exotheology. Breaking Israel News asked him for his opinion of Von Daniken’s work.
“From a religious perspective, Von Daniken’s interpretations may be valid, but it would be presumptuous to say they have scientific backing,” Weintraub said.
“Arhennius, a great chemist from the 19th century, suggested that life could have originated off the Earth and bacteria, or a sprinkling of genetic material could have been transported to Earth via a comet or asteroid,” Weintraub explained. “This idea, known as panspermia, did not originate with Arhennius and is still debated by serious scholars, but there is no evidence that it involved extraterrestrials coming to earth.”
He continued, “Modern scholars have shown how ancient peoples, using the tools we know they had, could have erected the pyramids, the Easter Island statues, the monoliths at Stonehenge. Human cultures 4,000 years ago had more than enough knowledge of astronomy to orient their structures in such a way as to be aligned with particular celestial events.”
He suggested that one possible explanation for Von Daniken’s theory is an inherent disinclination to believe that ancient and non-western cultures could have realistically achieved what they did without modern thought and technology. “We tend to have an extreme prejudice that says ancient people were unintelligent, and anybody outside western culture was incapable of significant achievements,” Weintraub stated.
“The ancient Romans and Greeks were great engineers and didn’t need aliens to help build the amazing structures that we can still see today. It can be presumed ancient Egyptians Easter Islanders were great engineers. Perhaps, because they are not western, white Europeans, there is an unconscious racial and cultural prejudice that overrides logic.”