In my last post about the various ways that the Star of Bethlehem from the Gospel of Matthew had been imagined, I talked about the folks that thought it was some sort of alien craft or UFO. When I wrote it, my best efforts to find the earliest claim to that came from Rev. Barry Downing in 1968. However, Jason Colavito had discovered a slightly older reference. From there, I continued the search.
The book that Jason had noted was Flying Saucer Occupants (1967) by Coral and Jim Lorenzen. The authors were looking into a number of 20th century tales of people seeing aliens, including the story from Barney and Betty Hill. So why was the Star brought up at all? Google Books only allows snippets, just enough so I knew that there was a Star reference, but I had to look at a physical copy, and my library had that in its rare book collection. If you know about rare book collections, you know that librarians are serious when it comes to preserving materials, so there was some time between learning of the book and actually getting to see it. Along with this volume, I compared what I found there with Downing’s book to see what similar sources they had.
In Lorenzens’s book, they thought they had accumulated enough evidence to show that we have been visited by otherworldly beings. Some of those claims are described here. Following up from that, they then talked about how there needs to be consideration of psychic phenomena and the interpretations of myth from Immanuel Velikovsky. The psychic bit was because numerous contactees thought they had some sort of non-audible communication with the beings. When it came to Velikovsky, what made the Lorenzens interested was how he looked at biblical stories and made them into something real rather than just stories. Basically, the authors wanted to ask “what if the Bible stories were true” in some way.
And then they asked about numerous biblical events or concepts having an alien analogue. Perhaps the Kingdom of Heaven is an ET organization (or organizations). Perhaps Adam and Eve symbolize colonization of the planet. Or perhaps the many angels and their covenants with humans were human-alien interactions. Oh, and perhaps there is a psychic connection in these stories from the Bible; in particular, they wonder if psychosis comes from repression or confusion over alien psychic contact and spiritual processes.
In these speculative questions, there is also the speculation that the Star of Bethlehem was a flying saucer.
But these speculations do not appear to have just happened without input by others. And by others, I don’t mean the psychic aliens. The Lorenzens also cite the book Flying Saucers through the Ages (1965) by Paul Thomas. On Google scholar, the book has rather few citations, fewer than the Lorenzens book, and that may be in part because the book was originally written in French. I cannot find much about Thomas online, and not all of the books that Google claims cite the above volume actually do.
Perhaps part of the problem finding anything on Paul Thomas is that it’s a pseudonym. He was actually a French music composer named Paul Misraki. He wrote his book in 1962, titled Les Extraterrestres, and he only owned up to the authorship years later when he thought it would not damage his career in music. He was apparently an influence on a more famous ufologist, Jacques Fabrice Vallée. How influential I cannot say, but of the volumes I can examine on Google books, none talk about the Star of Bethlehem. Even though he seems comfortable with the idea that Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, had a close encounter with ET.
Nonetheless, Google provides some snippets of this book as well, and it does appear that Misraki believed the Star was an alien craft. So perhaps this is the earliest reference to the Star as a UFO. To be more sure, I have requested the book via interlibrary loan, so I’ll provide an update later if I find something interesting.
In the mean time, I can get a bit of potential info on the contents of the book. One person on eBay is selling a copy and the cover provides the following:
This is a book which will appeal to Christians who wonder if they can believe in Flying Saucers and at the same time remain loyal to their faith
Perhaps then, Misraki had the same sort of impetus to connection the Star with a UFO. It could make sense of religious texts and still save them from being “just myths”.
But one question to ask is how independent were Downing and Misraki (or the Lorenzens)? As noted before, Downing wrote before people like von Daniken became big, and when looking at Downing’s bibliography there are no references to Misraki (or Thomas) or Lorenzen. Downing does talk about previous books that make UFO-Bible connections, such as Frank Edward’s Flying Saucers–Serious Business (1966) and Morris Jessup’s The UFO and the Bible (1956), but neither volume brings up the Star. Considering the small number of citations of Misraki and how even Vallée did not push this idea in his books (best I can tell), along with Downing not citing him, that seems to be satisfactory enough reason to think that Downing and Misraki came to their beliefs independently. They had the same sort of impetus to form such a belief. The same perhaps can be said of Robert Dione, for in his 1969 book God Drives a Flying Saucers he also believes the Star to be a UFO, and making the Bible into a bunch of stories about space aliens means the Christian religion can still have spiritual significance.
As I noted in my previous post, these sorts of ideas are reminiscent of what a number of Protestants had done back in the 19th century making all of the miracles of the Bible into misunderstood natural events. Before it was what a 19th century scholar could imagine. Now it can be space aliens, and that makes things easier. With ET tech, you can pretty much do every sort of miraculous thing as described. Basically, you just have to apply Clarke’s Third Law. That’s a well-worn trope in fiction, but it seems to be what is happening in at least some of this UFO research.
I still need to do some digging, but I think Misraki’s book from 1962 is the earliest association of the Star of Bethlehem and a flying saucer. And it appears that Misraki, Downing, and Dione all had a similar motivation to come to this conclusion: spiritual. In fact, in an interview from a few years ago on Coast to Coast AM, Downing also said that without God we don’t have morality. That sounds a lot like the motivation of creationists.