Perhaps there hasn’t been more excitement about outer space since the first Apollo landing? Or, maybe, since half a century ago when H. G. Wells broadcast his War of the Worlds on radio and had thousands of Americans really believing that there was a Martian invasion of New Jersey? Either way, the news—bannered across headlines around the world—that a meteorite, a 4.2 pound rock dubbed ALH84001, supposedly from Mars, contained evidence that we are not alone in the universe, but that there could have been life on Mars, certainly created a sensation.
Ever since man could speculate about those things, he has questioned the idea of life on other planets. In our present century, as radio telescopes show us the unbelievable size of the universe, and the astronomical number of other suns that are scattered about in it, the idea that life exists only on this planet seems rather presumptuous, if not silly. It would seem like an incredible waste of space, energy and matter if this tiny earth is all there is. Nevertheless, despite the UFO craze, no one has been able to prove that life exists anywhere else in the universe, even though expansive and expensive attempts continue.
That’s why there was such a sensation over the Martian rocks. Whether or not the supposed fossil remains found in ALH84001 really prove that life existed on Mars (which is doubtful), the whole issue brings up the interesting question of whether we are alone. The answer, quite simply from a biblical perspective, is no.
While scientists spend untold millions of dollars aiming vast radio telescopes around the cosmos in hopes of getting a peep, a mutter, or tweak of evidence of life in the cosmos, the Bible clearly teaches the existence of other life in the universe.
The Book of Job, for example, which Jewish tradition assigns to Moses, thus making it one of the earliest books of the Bible, literally teems with extraterrestrial life. The first chapter talks about the day when “the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord” (Job 1:6), a verse that scholars for centuries have understood to refer to supernatural, “extraterrestrial life.” Chapter 38 talks about the “sons of the morning” singing at the creation of the world, another reference generally seen as referring to nonearthly life.
The earlier chapters of Genesis talk about “Cherubim” placed in the Garden of Eden to keep Adam and Eve out after their expulsion. The whole Hebrew Bible swarms with angels, who are beings from another part of that vast universe that exists out there. An angel came to comfort Hagar (Genesis 16:7-11), an angel stayed Abraham’s hand in the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22), an angel came to Daniel to explain to him the coming of the Messiah (Daniel 9). A quick look at any Hebrew Bible concordance would clearly show the prevalence of angels, beings from another part of the universe, in the sacred history. The Talmud talks about angels as well.
Of course, the New Testament picks up the same theme. Angels appear all through the various books. Interestingly enough, the Apostle Paul, in the book of Ephesians (3:10), talked about intelligences, not necessarily angelic, that lived in another part of the universe. “To the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” Exactly who those “principalities and powers in heavenly places” are, the Bible doesn’t say, but it could easily be those “sons of God” depicted in Job. Whoever they are, and wherever these “heavenly places” might be located, Paul clearly shows that life does exist in other parts of the universe.
The point, of course, is simple: both Christian and Jewish Scriptures clearly teach that we are not alone—that humans are not the only intelligent creatures in Creation.
Image: This self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. Public Domain
And we don’t need ALH84001 to know that, either.
Cause our hearts to understand, to discern, to comprehend, to study and to teach, to observe, to act and to fulfill all the words of Your Torah in love… ~ SIDDUR, AHAVAH RABBAH