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RADIOACTIVITY IN THE BIBLE
To the Editor of KRONOS:
In "Shamir" (KRONOS VI:1, pp. 48-50) Velikovsky offers evidence of Biblical use of radioactive materials and radiation protection. He does not, however, in the article acknowledge any prior writings along this line of thought. May I therefore draw your attention to the fact that the Swede Henry Kjellson (1891-1962) 25 years ago suggested the possibility of such a use.
Henry Kjellson was a military aircraft constructor(2) and early had an amateur interest in ancient technology. According to him, passages in several old historical documents, among them the Bible, could be read in a technical way. However, he did not publish his findings until after his retirement.
In Forntidens teknik (Technology of Ancient Time)(3) and Försvunnen teknik (Lost Technology)(4) Kjellson points to the strange preoccupation with safety-measures and damage in the passages of Exodus and other books describing the Arc of the Covenant. He believed that the passages actually described a physically dangerous structure.(5)
Now let us consider details in Kjellson's argumentation:
In Exodus 25:10-11 we read that: ". . . they shall make an arc of shittim wood . . . and . . . overlay it with pure gold, within and without . . ." That is in modern technical terms: "they shall make a huge Leyden jar..." (6)
Following this holy object, the Children of Israel, in their wanderings, kept a safety-distance of two thousand cubits (Josh. 3:4). When not transported it was shielded by a number of curtains made of linen, goats' hair, rams' skins and badgers' skins (Exod. 26:1-14; Num. 4:5-6).
The handling of the arc was meticulously regulated. Thus the sons of Aaron did the most dangerous operations and supervised the 2,750 (exposition sharing) sons of Kohath who did the hard labour of transportation (Num. 4:15, 19-20 and 34-36). In the service around the arc, alcohol (Lev. 10:9), wool and sweat causing clothes (Ezek. 44:17-18) were forbidden; and linen garments (Ezek. 44: 17), order (Ezek. 44:20, Lev. 10:6), cleanliness (Exod. 30: 19-20), and ointment (Exod. 30:30) were prescribed. When not properly shielded, the radiation from the arc caused emerods or even death (I Sam. 5). Kjellson held, without giving philological reasons, however, that the consonant text in I Sam. 6:4 should be interpreted as describing the construction by the Philistines of a new radiation shield of metal plates and tapes.(7)
A less severe radiation damage was "fretting leprosy" which could strike both living beings and dead material such as stone (Lev. 13 and 14). The radiation damage was not always unintended. Thus Uzziah (II Chron. 26:17-21) as well as Miriam (Num. 12:10) were, as a punishment, deliberately exposed to excessive radiation and became "leprous".(8)
A discharge of the Leyden jar-arc through a person's body caused immediate death. This happened as an accident to Uzzah (II Sam. 6:6-7), while Nadab and Abihu were punished this way (Lev. 10:1-2).
In what could be described as a "witch-test" (radioactive) dust from the floor of the tabernacle was used (Num. 5:17-31).(9)
A few generations after the destruction of the Temple – a time when, according to Velikovsky, the "Shamir" had become inactive – there lived a prophet called Zechariah, who participated in the reconstruction of the Temple. Zechariah tells us in 5:6-11 that he once was shown an ephah with a leaden cover, containing a woman, sitting in the midst of it, a fact that was termed "wickedness". Here Kjellson has suggested that "dangerous material" would be a better translation (in 5:7) than "woman".(10)
REFERENCES:1. For Leyden jar see The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Micropaedia, Vol. VI (1974), p. 189. For nuclear battery see Joachim Fuler, Neue Wege zur Stromerzeugung (Frankfurt am Main, 1963), pp. 11-17 and John Coleman, "Radioisotopic High-Potential, Low-Current Sources" in Nucleonics, Vol. 11, No. 12, Dec. 1953, pp. 4245.
2. Svensk Uppslagsbok (Swedish Encyclopaedia), 2nd ed. 1950, Vol 16, p. 183.
3. Henry Kjellson, Forntidens teknik (Uppsala,1956). The following page references are to third edition 1973.
4. Henry Kjellson, Försvunnen teknik (Uppsala, 1958). The following page references are to third edition 1973.
5. Ref. 3, p. 140.
6. Ref. 3, p. 127.
7. Ref. 3, p. 136.
8. Ref. 3, p. 129.
9. Ref. 4, pp. 23-24.
10. Ref. 4, pp. 21-22.
SAGAN'S IMPROBABLE PROBABILITIES
To the Editor of KRONOS:
Various examples of Sagan's slapdash scholarship were discussed in KRONOS VI:3 by S. Kogan.(1) The following sentence from Sagan's "An Analysis of Worlds in Collision" (2) provides yet another example: "Thus, the chance of Velikovsky's comet making a single full or grazing collision with the Earth within the last few thousand years is (3 x 104) / (3 x 107) = 10-3, or one chance in a thousand. . ."
One chance in a thousand is about the best probability Sagan offers Velikovsky, but the careful reader will find that Sagan's division of thirty thousand (3 x 104) by thirty million (3 x 107) 107) spurious. The demise of Sagan's generous "one chance in a thousand" is no great loss, however, since the chances improve considerably when one considers near-collisions rather than Sagan's actual impact collisions.(3)
What do Sagan's numbers represent? Thirty million evidently represents the number of years before an impact occurs, or the odds per year against an impact, but there's no clue to the meaning of 3 x 104. If it's supposed to represent "the last few thousand years", then it's wrong; it should be 3 x 103, and the quotient should be 10-4. If it's supposed to represent the number of millennia before an impact occurs, or the odds per millennium against an impact,(4) then the number seems correct but its use in this calculation is not what Sagan suggests; the quotient has nothing to do with odds or probability but is simply a mathematical truism that expresses the number of millennia per year.
Once again, the numbers Sagan rattles off don't stand up to close scrutiny.
Raymond C. Vaughan
Hamburg, N. Y.
1. S. Kogan, "Sagan vs. Sagan", KRONOS VI:3, pp. 3441.