Blood Moon — Fourth and Final Round

Previous newsletters have discussed the astronomical details of the popular “Blood Moon” eschatology.  An archive of these installments is found  here on our website.  In summary, it has been explained that the Hebrew feasts of Passover and Sukkot are given in Scripture as occurring at the Full Moons of spring and fall, respectively, while total lunar eclipses also necessarily occur during the Full Moon.  It is very common to have a lunar eclipse during these feasts, and such occurs about 1/6 of the time.  This simply represents a convergence of two lunar cycles, and is a commonplace astronomical occurrence.

Adherents of “Blood Moon” eschatology draw significance from the current “tetrad” of total lunar eclipses, in which four consecutive eclipses in 2014 and 2015 coincide with Passover and Sukkot in those years.  It is stated that previous instances of such tetrads occurred in 1492, 1948, and 1967, years which were historically significant for the state of Israel and/or the Jewish people.

However, it was shown that the “Blood Moon” eclipses of those periods actually occurred after the historically significant events, and not before.  Thus, continuing that pattern, if there were any significant historical events accompanying the current tetrad, they should have occurred in 2013 or early 2014, before the associated eclipses.  There is simply no pattern of construing the previous eclipses as being any sort of prophetic sign that would precede a notable event.  Thus, there is nothing in the previous tetrads that would suggest a notable event lying ahead in 2015 or beyond, let alone the imminent return of Jesus Christ.

In general, we’ve tried to present level-headed facts in the hopes of providing assurance to those who have been dubious of the “Blood Moon” eschatology.  It is a simple fact that our generation is not schooled in the elements of Classical Astronomy, and we today are simply naive to the commonplace astronomical basis of both eclipses and the Hebrew feasts.  It is worth noting that no such alarm or hysteria has ever been raised at any point in history over eclipses in general, nor in the previous “Blood Moon” tetrads of 1492, 1948 and 1967.  One might ask oneself why this seems so significant only now, in a time when astronomy awareness is conspicuously absent from the media and the educational establishment.

Not to be deterred, some readers have accused me of being a “scoffer” for presenting facts and offering skepticism of the current “Blood Moon” craze.  However, the context of that verse in question is as follows:

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. – 2 Peter 3:2-4

It should be noted that no doubt has been expressed in this newsletter over the glorious return of Christ, but only whether a commonplace natural phenomenon should be construed as a prophetic sign of this return.  Indeed, Jesus Himself instructed us to be “wise as serpents and as harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).  The Apostle also added that we are to “prove all things, hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).

In light of these clear teachings, I think instead that the burden of proof should reside with the persons making the claims, and also those who hold to such teachings.  We are instructed to not be “carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14).

Thankfully, most of the readers have expressed thanks for explaining the “Blood Moon” phenomenon in light of the science and history of lunar eclipses.  Nonetheless, reports have reached me of wealthy individuals who have made important investment decisions on the basis of the currently-trending “Blood Moon” and “Shemitah” teachings.  I contributed to  this white paper, which was intended to quell the fears of such investors.  However, I find it puzzling that one could be intelligent enough to become wealthy in business, yet fail to trouble oneself to consider the commonplace scientific principles that govern eclipse prediction.

In the event that the facts presented in these articles are proven wrong, and if I have led anyone astray by presuming to debunk the “Blood Moon” teaching, I heartily apologize in advance.  Trust that I will give an account of such error before the Almighty.  But if nothing comes to pass in the wake of the September 27 total lunar eclipse, regarding either Israel or second coming of Christ, then accountability should instead reside with those who made the claims.
First Century Lunar Eclipses

As further evidence of the commonplace nature of lunar eclipses, it’s worth considering that, according to NASA calculations, there were about 170 lunar eclipses that occurred from the approximate time of the Crucifixion until the end of the first century, when the canon of the New Testament had been written.

Of the 170 or so lunar eclipses in this period, many were penumbral eclipses that would not have been readily noticed.  Many other eclipses would not have been visible from Israel.  The following is a list of the 25  total or deep partial eclipses that would have readily visible from Israel during this 65 year period

Partial –  August 7, A.D. 35
Total –     January 31, A.D. 36
Total –     July 27, A.D. 36
Partial –  July 16, A.D. 37
Total –     September 7, A.D. 43
Total –     December 31, A.D. 46
Total –     October 19, A.D. 50
Total –     April 15, A.D. 51
Total –     February 11, A.D. 54
Total –     June 5, A.D. 57
Partial –  November 19, A.D. 58
Partial –  March 19, A.D. 62
Total –     May 6, A.D. 68
Partial –  October 18, A.D. 69
Total –     April 5, A.D. 79
Total –     November 9, A.D. 86
Total –     March 4, A.D. 90
Total –     August 28, A.D. 90
Partial –  August 17, A.D. 91
Total –     December 21, A.D. 93
Total –     June 17, A.D. 94
Partial –  December 10, A.D. 94
Total –     October 9, A.D. 97
Total –     February 2, A.D. 101
Total –     July 28, A.D. 101

Of the above, a few of them fall in March/April and September/October during windows that might have corresponded with the Hebrew feasts.  Others are clustered up in close periods of years, separated by long stretches.  But on average, there was about one eclipse every 2.6 years visible from Israel.  It is therefore evident that there was nothing remarkable about lunar eclipses, as known and understood by people living in those times, including the writers of the New Testament.

It is also worth considering that there is no clear indication of an eclipse, solar or lunar, in either the New Testament or elsewhere in the Bible (since, as explained previously, the prophecy of Joel does not describe a natural eclipse).  Eclipses and their causes were well-understood in the Greco-Roman world of this period, and had the LORD wished to inspire the New Testament writers to specifically mention eclipses, He certainly could have done so.  It would also follow that the LORD could just as easily have mentioned an eclipse or sequence of eclipses being construed as a prophetic sign.  The fact that there is no such indication should also make us wonder why the “Blood Moons” are only being construed as prophetically significant in the here and now.
Signs, Wonders and Hoaxes

There have been other many other times when natural phenomena have been construed as “signs in the heavens,” divine warnings of dire consequences.  Throughout the Middle Ages, signs such as solar eclipses and comets were often held to represent portents of doom.  Here’s an example, from  the writings of Gregory, the Bishop of Tours in France, circa A.D. 600:

Once on the first of October the sun was so darkened that not a quarter of it continued bright, but it looked hideous and discolored, about like a sack. Moreover a star which certain call a comet, with a ray like a sword, appeared over that country through a whole year, and the sky seemed to be on fire and many other signs were seen…. And presently the plague came, and such a carnage of the people took place through the whole district that the legions that fell could not be counted.

Surely the spread of disease has just as much a natural explanation today as do the causes of eclipses and comets.  And surely the latter is now understood to not be the cause of the former.  One of the triumphs of modern science is in demonstrating that most fearful natural phenomena have a logical explanation.  In light of this, certainly a supernatural sign should be plainly evident as an abridgement of the natural order.

Such “signs” were even encountered in more modern times.  A famous example is the outbreak of the Leonid meteor storm of November 13, 1833.  So many meteors fell so thick from the sky over the United States that it produced a general alarm among the American people.

Many people were terrified by this meteor storm, and it was widely as a fulfillment of this prophecy:

And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. – Mark 13:25

The morning dawned and everyone expected to see Jesus riding a white horse.  But that never happened.  In all fairness to the people of this time, there was not yet a scientific explanation for meteors in 1833, so they could not have been expected to know what was happening.  Though annual showers of “shooting stars” had long been observed, their causes were not yet understood.  Certainly no one recalled such a fast and furious display of meteors.

The 1833 Leonids are credited with giving impetus to the Second Great Awakening.  This meteor outburst was also significant in the histories of the Adventist movement, and also the Mormons.  The Mormon founder Joseph Smith had this to say about them:

I arose, and to my great joy, beheld the stars fall from heaven like a shower of hailstones; a literal fulfillment of the word of God, as recorded in the holy Scriptures, and a sure sign that the coming of Christ is close at hand.

Though Jesus did not return in 1833 as anticipated, the historic Leonid storm was closely studied, and resulted in a  scientific understanding of meteors.  It was learned that meteors are a swarm of “cosmic debris” left over from comets.  The Earth passes through such clouds of debris as it circles in its orbit during the same times every year, resulting in annual meteor showers.  It was learned that the Leonid swarm was particularly dense and compact, resulting in an explosive display every 33 years.  Another especially large outbreak of Leonids occurred in 1966.

Some “signs and wonders” have been manufactured!  Such are the reports of “Great Moon Hoax” of 1835, which was perhaps partially inspired by the Leonid outbreak of two years before.  This outlandish story was purportedly a satire describing a civilization of creatures living on the Moon.  People of the time believed it, and it sold lots of papers for the New York Sun.

The Great Moon Hoax came and went, and is only remembered today as a minor historical footnote.  Another piece of foolish 19th century propaganda was much more successful, and still thrives today… the cult of “Life on Mars.”  This ludicrous notion was first propagated by Percival Lowell, a wealthy astronomer who founded his own observatory in Arizona.

Lowell misconstrued the term “canali” used by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli to describe certain features observed telescopically on the surface of Mars.  Based on negligible evidence, Lowell wrote three books, starting in 1895, in which he constructed an elaborate storyline of alleged Martians that carved “canals” over the planet’s surface, to conduct water to save their dying civilization.

It’s a matter of history that Lowell’s “canals of Mars” were utterly debunked, shown to be an optical illusion, and Mars proven to be devoid of an alien civilization.  But Lowell sold a lot of books along the way, and he inspired a loyal following that persists to this day.  H.G. Wells was inspired by Lowell’s “work” to write his “War of the Worlds” in 1898.  Forty years later, another Wells by the name of Orson did a radio performance that outdid the Great Moon Hoax of the previous century in inadvertently misleading the public.

The “Life on Mars” hoax has persisted over the last 120 years, and keeps turning up like a bad penny.  Most notably in recent times was the famous “Mars rock” hoax of 1996, in which a meteoric fragment, regarded as originating on Mars, was discovered to have traces of bacteria, presumed to be of Martian origin.  As I expected at the time, this “evidence of alien life” was eventually proven to be due to bacterial contamination here on Earth.  But in the face of all evidence, the Mars devotees remain just as undeterred as the “Blood Moon” enthusiasts.  Many professional scientists, including NASA researchers, hold a type of religious faith for the promise of life on Mars.  For this reason, this hoax will probably never die out, at least not anytime soon.

It is my expectation that sometime after the lunar eclipse of September 27, 2015, the “Blood Moon” craze will quietly pass into the annals of astronomy-oriented hoaxes.  But we can be sure that others will pop up to take its place.  I’m personally expecting the Total Solar Eclipse of Monday, August 21, 2017 to be the next offering from the “End Times Theory of the Month Club.”

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