-Ralph Johnson


Beware of the “Long Day of Joshua” hoax. 


For many years a story has been circulated in books, tracts and on the Internet, claiming that Scientists have discovered the long day of Joshua. 


I first read about this claim of using a computer to discover the long day of Joshua in The Bible Science Newsletter, (Caldwell Idaho) Vol. VII, #4 (April 15, 1970), p.1, “The Sun Did Stand Still.” It was sent in by Miss Hazel Brown of Baltimore, Maryland who verified it and obtained permission for reprinting. The article had appeared in THE EVENING STAR of Spencer, Indiana.


The story is attributed to Harold Hill who, while working as an engineer with Bendix Corporation and with NASA projects, heard the account and repeated it in a lecture.


Here is the article, which was later put into a tract and widely distributed:


        Did you know that the space program is busy proving that what has been called “myth” in the Bible is true? Mr. Harold Hill, President of the Curtis Engine Co. in Baltimore, Maryland, and a consultant in the space program relates the following development:


        “I think one of the most amazing things that God has for us today happened recently to our astronauts and space scientists at Green Belt, Maryland. They were checking the position of the sun, moon, and planets out in space where they would be 100 years from now. We have to know this so we don't send a satellite up and have it bump into something later on in its orbits. We have to lay out the orbits in terms of the life of the satellite, and where the planets will be so the whole thing will not bog down! They ran the computer measurement back and forth over the centuries and it came to a halt. The computer stopped and put up a red signal, which meant that there was something wrong either with the information fed into it or with the results as compared to the standards. They called in the service department to check it out and they said, “It's perfect.” The head of operations said, “What's wrong?” “Well, they have found there is a day missing in space in elapsed time.” They scratched their heads and tore their hair. There was no answer!


        One religious fellow on the team said, “You know, one time I was in Sunday School and they talked about the sun standing still.” They didn't believe him, but they didn't have any other answer so they said, “Show us.” He got a Bible and went back to the book of Joshua where they found a pretty ridiculous statement for anybody who has 'common sense.' There they found the Lord saying to Joshua, “Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand: there shall not a man of them stand before thee.” Joshua was concerned because he was surrounded by the enemy and if darkness fell they would overpower them. So Joshua asked the Lord to make the sun stand still! That's right -- “The sun stood still, and the moon stayed . . . and hasted not to go down about a whole day.” (Joshua 10:8, 12, 13) The space man said, “There is the missing day!” They checked the computers going back into the time it was written and found it was close but not close enough. The elapsed time that was missing back in Joshua's day was 23 hours and 20 minutes -- not a whole day. They read the Bible and there it was -- “about (approximately) a day.”


        These little words in the Bible are important. But they were still in trouble because if you cannot account for 40 minutes you'll still be in trouble 1,000 years from now. Forty minutes had to be found because it can be multiplied many times over in orbits. This religious fellow also remembered somewhere in the Bible where it said the sun went BACKWARDS. The space men told him he was out of his mind. But they got out the Book and read these words in II Kings: Hezekiah, on his death-bed, was visited by the prophet Isaiah who told him that he was not going to die. Hezekiah asked for a sign as proof. Isaiah said, “Do you want the sun to go ahead ten degrees?” Hezekiah said, “It's nothing for the sun to go ahead ten degrees, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees.” (II Kings 20:9-11) Isaiah spoke to the Lord and the Lord brought the shadow ten degrees backward! Ten degrees is exactly 40 minutes! Twenty three hours and 20 minutes in Joshua, plus 40 minutes in II Kings make the missing 24 hours the space travelers had to log in the logbook as being the missing day in the universe! Isn't that amazing? Our God is rubbing their noses in His Truth!?”


An extensive article disagreeing with the claim is found in the July 15, 1970 issue of Bible--Science Newsletter on page 7, The Missing Day, by John Reed, a member of the Technical Staff at Hughes Aircraft in California, and a vice president of Bible--Science Association. He analyzes the weakness of the claim in depth.


In the Bible--Science Newsletter, September 15, 1970, p.4, Joshua's Long Day, there is some further discussion.


 In the Bible Science Newsletter, VOL. VIII, #10, October 15, 1970, p.2 “Joshua's Long Day,” It claimed that a reporter heard him and “embellished the account” and furnished it to news sources. “When asked about it, Mr. Hill was unable to document his source.”


In the Bible Science Newsletter, Vol. 16, #7, July 1978, in the insert, Five Minutes with the Bible & Science, Vol., VIII #8, August, 1978, HEZEKIAH'S LONG DAY, p.3 Joshua's Long Day, another reference is made to the “computer story.” The article says, “Engineers and computer scientists discarded this explanation, claiming that computers do not operate like this at all -- a computer only prints out what is fed into it. Also, computer time is too valuable to run forward and backward. Few people accept this account and most believe that the idea was derived from Totten's theories proposed in his book [Joshua's Long Day, by C.A.L.Toten, 1890]. Totten, in turn, took some of his ideas from J. B. Dimbly of England, author of All Past Time. Dimbly tried to find exact dates in the past through moon eclipses.”


When I first read the story it brought to mind the same story that I had read some years before in a book by Harry Rimmer, D.D., Sc.D in his book, The Harmony of Science and Scriptures, copyright, 1936 by Research Science Bureau, Inc. and published as Volume One of the John Laurence Frost Memorial Library by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. of Grand Rapids Michigan, twelfth Edition, 1947. Chapter VIII. Modern Science and the Long Day of Joshua, p.251. Beginning on p.265 Dr. Rimmer recounts the story by Prof. Toten of Yale. On p.280 he cites Sir Edwin Ball, the British astronomer is quoted as finding that 24 hours had been lost out of solar time. Prof. Toten's book (1890) is cited by Rimmer (p.281) and the account follows in substantial detail as given by Mr. Hill, except for the computer and change of characters.


Here is that account:


        Sir Edwin Ball, the great British astronomer, found that twenty-four hours had been lost out of solar time. Where did that go, what was the cause of this strange lapse, and how did it happen? The answer may be expected in vain from sources of human wisdom and learning!


        There is a place, however, where the answer is found. And this place is attested by a scientist of standing. There is a book by Prof. C. A. Totten of Yale, written in 1890, which establishes the case beyond the shadow of a doubt. The condensed account of his book, briefly summarized, is as follows:


        Professor Totten wrote of a fellow-professor, an accomplished astronomer, who made the strange discovery that the earth was twenty-four hours out of schedule! That is to say, there had been twenty-four hours lost out of time. In discussing this point with his fellow-professors, Professor Totten challenged this man to investigate the question of the inspiration of the Bible. He said, “You do not believe the Bible to be the Word of God, and I do. Now here is a fine opportunity to prove whether or not the Bible is inspired. You begin to read at the very beginning and read as far as need be, and see if the Bible can account for your missing time.”


        The astronomer accepted the challenge and began to read. Some time later, when the two men chanced to meet on the campus, Professor Totten asked his friend if he had proved the question to his satisfaction. His colleague replied, “I believe I have definitely proved that the Bible is not the Word of God. In the tenth chapter of Joshua, I found the missing twenty-four hours and twenty minutes lost. If the Bible made a mistake of forty minutes, it is not the Book of God!”


        Professor Totten said, “You are right, in part at least. But does the Bible say that a whole day was lost at the time of Joshua?” So they looked and saw that the text said, “about the space of a whole day.”


        The word “about” changed the whole situation, and the astronomer took up his reading again. He read on until he came to the thirty-eighth chapter of the prophet Isaiah. In this chapter, Isaiah has left us the thrilling story of the king, Hezekiah, who was sick unto death. In response to his prayer, God promised to add fifteen more years to his life. To confirm the truth of His promise, God offered a sign. He said, “Go out in the court and look at the sundial of Ahaz. I will make the shadow on the sundial back up ten degrees!” Isaiah recounts that the king looked, and while he looked, the shadow turned backward ten degrees, by which ten degrees it had already gone down! So the accuracy of the Book was established to the satisfaction of this exacting critic.


        When the astronomer found his day of missing time thus accounted for, he laid down the Book and worshipped its Writer, saying, “Lord, I believe!”


The following is an excellent article by,

Doug Trouten is director of Evangelical Press News Service in Minneapolis, Minn.


These stories are shocking, outrageous and completely false. They are examples of hoaxes which continue to circulate in the church, even though there is no credible evidence to support them. Such hoaxes erode the credibility of Christians in a day when many legitimate threats to religious freedom exist.

30 million misled

The best-known example of this kind of hoax is the nonexistent petition to ban all religious broadcasting.

You've probably been exposed to this hoax through it's most common form: a photocopied petition, warning that "Madalyn Murray O'Hair, an atheist whose efforts successfully eliminated the use of Bible reading and prayer from all public schools, has been granted a federal hearing in Washington, D.C. The petition, R.H. 2493, would ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the Gospel on the airwaves of America."

The often-photocopied form said that 1 million signed petitions are needed in order "to defeat Mrs. O'Hair and show that there are many Christians alive and well and concerned in our country." Readers are urged to sign and mail an attached form to the FCC, and to make 10 copies of the flier to give to friends and relatives.

The hoax has generated so much response that the FCC offers religious petition as one of the options you can select with your touch-tone phone when calling the agency's consumer switchboard. That triggers a recorded message declaring that the rumors are absolutely false. The agency has received more than 30 million pieces of mail on the subject, and has worked to advise the public that the rumor is not true.

FCC spokesperson Maureen Peratino said that despite repeated efforts to kill the rumor, it remains alive and well. "It holds steady," she said. "We receive a couple million pieces of mail each year. Our consumer assistance office handles anywhere from 200 to 300 phone calls a month on this."

There isn't a petition to ban religious broadcasting, and no such petition would have a chance of succeeding, she added.

"Under the First Amendment the Commission does not involve itself in the programming content of radio and television stations," she said. "There's nothing under the First Amendment or in the Communications Act that would allow the Commission to ban any particular type of programming."

A kernel of truth

Like many rumors, the FCC hoax has a tiny kernel of truth. Once upon a time, there really was an FCC petition #2493. Presented to the FCC in December 1974, the petition by California residents Jeremy Lansman and Lorenzo Milam asked the FCC to temporarily freeze the awarding of TV and FM channels to religious and government institutions while it studied whether existing non-commercial stations were fulfilling their obligations to broadcast truly educational programming.

Their petition was denied nine months later. Richard Wiley, now a Washington, D.C., attorney whose clients include the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), was chairman of the FCC when the petition was submitted. "There was never any truth to this, and I don't think the current Commission would see religion as not being part of the public interest," he said. "That's the way we saw it when I was there, and I wouldnt expect the current Commission to see it differently."

The mail is likely to continue, according to Jan Harold Brunvand, a professor of English at the University of Utah and one of America's leading folklorists. Brunvand, author of The Vanishing Hitchhiker and other collections of urban legends, said, "I don't think it's going to die out or ever be debunked successfully. No matter how hard we try to debunk it, there will be people who haven't seen it and will help spread the rumor the next time around. These things are photocopied and can lie around in somebodys drawer for years and then be brought out again and posted on a bulletin board. The fact that it has a coupon and a petition number and address makes it seem real."

The ease with which one can respond also gives the hoax life, he added. "It's not very difficult to fill this thing out, put a stamp on an envelope and send it in. It's not asking for a lot of money, or to take radical action. People can lend their voice to the right side for the price of a stamp."

No such film

Another rumor driven by a photocopied sheet with shelf life involves an alleged film being made about the sex life of Christ. The photocopied flier, which resurfaces from time to time, claims that an organization known as "Modern People News" is planning to produce a film about the "sexual life of Jesus Christ." The flier claims that Christ will be portrayed as a homosexual, and the part of Mary Magdalene will be played by a notorious French prostitute. Concerned Christians are asked to "do everything possible to halt production of this film." (Halting the film should be easy, since theres no such film being made.)

The roots of this rumor can be traced to November 1977, when Modern People, a weekly magazine then based in Franklin Park, Ill., published an article claiming that a group of European filmmakers planned to make a film depicting Christ as a bisexual.

In a later article, the magazine reported that the producers had given up on the film. But in 1980, a letter began to be circulated claiming that such a film was being made by a group called Modern People News. A year later, the office of the Illinois Attorney General had received more than 40,000 letters opposing the film - most of them photocopies of the anonymous letter.

Procter & Gamble

The third of the "big three" rumors making the rounds in Christendom involves Procter & Gamble. In this rumor, the president of the company is falsely alleged to have appeared on Phil Donahue's

talk show and to have admitted that his company gives some of its profits to the Church of Satan, and that its familiar "moon and stars" logo is a satanic symbol. Variations have had the president of McDonald's appearing on "The Tonight Show" and Liz Claiborne appearing on "Oprah" to make similar admissions about their corporate ties to satanism.

In reality, the president of Procter & Gamble has never appeared on any talk show to discuss satanism. (Donahue once tried to get him to appear to debunk the rumor, but the company determined that being able to say he had never been on was more effective.) The company has successfully filed lawsuits over the years against a number of people who were intentionally spreading this rumor - some of whom were multi-level marketing businesspeople selling products which compete with Procter & Gamble brands.

The company has an information kit it distributes to media which includes a letter from Donahue confirming that the rumor is false, and letters from a number of religious leaders, including Jerry Falwell and an executive with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Why do we believe?

In September 1989, Bob Passantino delivered a paper at the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions Conference in Rockford, Ill., that touched on the Christian community's susceptibility to fanciful stories. Passantino listed several reasons such hoaxes take root:

·         "It fits into our world view. [The fact that] something is possible doesn't mean that it is true; and [the fact that] something exists doesn't mean every report we receive of it must be true.

·         "We accept what we're told. It's not that we don't want to be critical, but we don't always have time to check everything we're told. We forget that finding someone willing to tell us what to think about a certain situation is not the same as finding the right person to tell us what can be verified.

·         "We base our knowledge on common sense. Often common sense parallels the truth that is, what we commonly think makes sense. It may even correspond to truth, but common sense is not a trustworthy method to find truth."

·         We place too much faith in 'experts.' We seem to think that truth gets truer if someone important said it, even if that important person has no particular knowledge of that field. Believing an expert without appropriate authority and without corroborating evidence is not a trustworthy way to discern truth."

·         "We believe what makes us feel comfortable."

Larry Eskridge, a staff member of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College, agrees with Passantino's analysis of why rumors like the FCC petition hoax catch on.

"With evangelicals, [the rumors are] told to you by someone that you trust - a member of your church or a neighbor - and they tell you a story that sounds plausible, and you wouldn't think they're lying to you. They're probably not, they're just passing on what they've heard. The thing just gets passed on and on until its accepted as fact." Jeff Siemon, an area director for the apologetics and evangelism group Search Ministries, agrees that the Christian world view may predispose people to accept hoaxes.

"When we think of hoaxes that relate to conspiracies that are being concocted against Christianity - in the case of Madalyn Murray O'Hair or Procter & Gamble - this is in some sense consistent with the Biblical understanding that a great war rages at a spiritual level. Certainly there are enemies of the faith. This does not mean that these hoaxes are real, but there will be resistance and enemies of Christianity. The Christian, with an understanding of the Biblical world view, is sensitive to these kinds of responses against the Christian faith."

Beyond that, noted Siemon, part of Christianity is based on believing the unbelievable.

Passantino said it's almost impossible to debunk an attractive rumor. "Sometimes it doesnt matter what you say. People will believe it anyway," he explained. "People want to believe that Madalyn Murray O'Hair does this stuff. It fits their modern image of atheism. They see this petition, it has a number on it, it looks authentic. Pastors of churches should be responsible when they get a petition like this to call someone and see if anyone knows about it."

Passantino said the consequences of Christian gullibility in the case of the FCC petition hoax go beyond the time wasted fighting a non-existent petition.

"It's not just a stamp we're wasting," he said. "It's our credibility. Our credibility is on the line. People might think if Christians are stupid enough to fall for this falsehood, maybe early Christians were gullible enough to fall for the resurrection story. In my view, there are consequences."