I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I love Ancient Aliens, the show presenting the theory that humanity was visited in the past by aliens, who in turn shaped the world that we know today. It’s not only entertaining but intriguing because of how it highlights the mysteries of our world. Yet the interpretations of these mysteries elicit a wince.
Despite being on the History Channel, it’s aptly categorized as “science fiction.” Among many of their logical leaps, the one they take with ancient texts is a fine example of cherry-picking. Theologically speaking, when they cite ancient texts and the Bible as evidence for extraterrestrial life, they completely disregard the possibility that actual spiritual (i.e., supernatural) truths are contained inside.
The Focus of the Bible
The Bible doesn’t explicitly mention aliens (what a surprise), but rather focuses the lens of reality on Christ. Further, it’s a book addressed to inhabitants of Earth about their fallen nature and the subsequent plan for salvation. Extraterrestrials are simply not mentioned in the Bible because the subject was unneeded.
However, that doesn’t mean the Bible’s framework cannot incorporate aliens. Indeed, just because the Earth’s spherical nature, the heliocentricity of our solar system, and the distance to the stars aren’t in the Bible doesn’t thwart its truth. They have rightly found their place within the Biblical worldview, and so will every scientific discovery of our universe.
Colossians 1:16 & Deuteronomy 4:19
Enter the Being that Stan Lee could never create:
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (Col. 1:16)
This is perhaps the best verse in the Bible that addresses the extraterrestrial phenomenon. Why? Because it addresses the Source of life.
If you know the creator of something to be trustworthy, then that something’s existence should not cause us to doubt that the creator knows what he’s doing. In other words, if Jesus actually created aliens, then trusting Jesus about it is the wise thing to do.
Whatever SETI discovers (or whatever happens to span the ridiculous distances between habitable worlds just to visit us), Colossians 1:16 ought to govern the Church’s application of extraterrestrial relations.
Moses reminds us to maintain this focus, not turning from the Source of the stars (and what they may hold):
“Beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven” (Deut. 4:19).
The most often cited passage for proof of aliens, or specifically UFOs, is Ezekiel 1. It’s the vision of “the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (1:28). Instead of jumping to the stars with a conclusion, here are some simple observations to make this passage clearer:
First, being a vision, it should not be seen as an actual representation of reality. Ezekiel frequently employs the phrase, “it looked like,” to describe what he witnessed. This means the depictions of the four beasts (1:5-14) and the “wheels within wheels” (1:16) should not be taken scientifically, but poetically. Further, this vision is categorized as apocalyptic literature, a genre easily recognized by “rich symbolism that draws heavily on mythological motifs” (IVP Bible Backgrounds Commentary).
Second, the four beasts that supposedly pilot the flying saucers are conveniently reminiscent of the hybrid creatures in Assyrian and Babylonian iconographic and glyphic deceptions–art which Ezekiel would’ve been quite familiar with. Like the Bible’s use of Leviathan, the prophet’s use of these depictions could be an example of subversion, the taking cultural motifs and applying them to the Lord.
Third, the number “four” is repeated twelve times in verses 5-21, indicating a clear significance. What does it signify? The whole Earth. This is similar to how Daniel, a contemporary of Ezekiel, used “four” to indicate the whole Earth (the “four winds”; Dan. 7:2). Ezekiel is using this cultural motif to describe
Fourth, the “rims of the wheels filled with eyes” (1:18) are probably not spaceship windows but mere indications of God’s omniscience. The Assyrians used “eye stones” to adorn the tiara of the divine statutes of Nabu, the god of wisdom. Ezekiel could be using this motif to describe God’s ability to “see” all, being both perfectly wise and just.
Fifth, even if this passage actually depicts an alien visit, then consider verses 26-28. Who is this? Who’s in charge? Jesus Christ (compare with Dan. 7:13-14). And now we’re back to Colossians 1:16 because aliens, if they exist, serve the same Creator that we do.
Ephesians 6:12 & The Supernatural Nature of Reality
What is in the Bible is the nature of the unseen realm. Hugh Ross from Reasons to Believe, a ministry that targets the scientific side of apologetics, and Michael Heiser, author of The Unseen Realm, both classify the extraterrestrial phenomenon as a supernatural category.
It makes sense, for the Bible is riddled with supernatural elements, Ephesians 6:12 being the clearest verse on the matter: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Even so, the extraterrestrial phenomenon remains a mystery to both science and religion. Like the unquantifiable enormity of space, the alien mystery reinforces the notion that God’s Creation is vast, and perhaps one day it will surprise us.
Conclusion: The Creator of Life!
As Science continues to unravel the mysteries of God’s creation and as SETI relentlessly seeks ET, Christians can remain convinced that Jesus Christ is the crux of the universe. A stumbling block and foolishness to unbelievers (1 Cor. 1:23), he ought to be central to the believer’s understanding of intelligent life everywhere and the role those bearing the image of God have in the universe’s story. As John rightly says of him:
“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing
made that was made” (John 1:3).
Bodi, Daniel. “Ezekiel.” In Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, 400-517. Edited by John H. Walton Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.
Walton, John H., Victor H. Matthews and Mark W. Chavalas. The IVP Bible Background Commentary. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.