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Your antidote to cyber-twaddle and misguided research about the ancient world. Lots of people do research on the mysteries of antiquity. Some insights are valuable; others are insanely stupid. PaleoBabble exists because insisting that conclusions be drawn from data is a coherent idea, because conjecture isn’t evidence, and because appealing to conspiracy to validate ideas is intellectually lazy.

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Mike Heiser on Reddit “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) Session Tomorrow

Posted by on Sep 3, 2015 in _NakedBible, _Paleobabble, _UFOreligions, Announcement, Unseen Realm | 0 comments

I’ll be on Reddit tomorrow at 12:30pm Pacific time for an AMA – “Ask Me Anything” – session. I’ve never been on Reddit before, so I can’t tell you much. This is a first for me. I’ve been told I’ll be for 1.5-2 hrs and will have to type my answers. Lexham / Faithlife social media marketers did the grunt work to set this up. We’re all hoping I’ll get some questions relating to content in The Unseen Realm, but folks can ask me anything.

To view the session click here.

More Evidence that So-Called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife was Forged

Posted by on Aug 28, 2015 in _Paleobabble, Ancient Texts, Apocryphal Literature, Dan Brown, Gospel of Thomas, Jesus | 5 comments

Hat tip to Mark Goodacre via Twitter for this update on the forgery. The post is by Coptologist Christian Askeland.

Podcast Interview with Mike about UFOs, ET, and Christianity

Posted by on Aug 28, 2015 in _Paleobabble, _UFOreligions, Alien Abduction, Aliens as Demons, Ancient Astronauts, ExoTheology, UFO Religions | 1 comment

Nice to have some change of (interview) pace. Check out the interview with the hosts of the Stary Time (not a misspelling) podcast.

A Word about the Angel Scroll

Posted by on Aug 7, 2015 in _NakedBible, _Paleobabble, _UFOreligions, Apocryphal Literature | 13 comments

I’ve gotten a couple questions recently about the Angel Scroll. It seems a fair number of people out there think it’s real. If that’s you, get ready to be disappointed.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, over ten years ago (probably closer to fifteen as I was still in grad school) I saw an article in the Jerusalem Post about a new ancient scroll — termed the Angel Scroll. The article gave a brief description of an alleged scroll of unknown provenance but which had begun to circulate among a handful of scholars, one of whom was Stephen Pfann. That fall of the same year I went to Orlando for the November academic meetings. I bumped into a friend of mine who was living in Jerusalem. We chatted a bit and he introduced me to the man with him, whom I had never met. It turned out that the man was Stephen Pfann. We hit it off. Stephen was quite genial. I asked him about this alleged Angel Scroll. His answer took me by surprise: “Would you like to see it?” I said sure. He said he’d let me have a look while we listened to a session, so off we went (my apologies to Bruce Waltke here — I didn’t hear a word of your lecture that hour).

We sat down and Stephen opened his briefcase. There amid the candy wrappers, pens, and sundry papers was a hand-drawn transcription of a scroll. He handed it to me. It’s been so long that I don’t quite remember if Stephen said he’d made the drawing from a photo or if he’d been given the drawing in photocopy. At any rate, he explained that the hand drawing was all there was. He’d been shown that much by a couple men who told him they had the actual scroll. They wanted him to have a look and perhaps publish it. (Stephen lives in Israel. His expertise is the Dead Sea Scrolls and epigraphy. His dissertation was on cryptic texts from Qumran). Stephen told me he wasn’t publishing anything until he saw the actual scroll and examined it for authenticity.  I sat there and perused the whole thing. I couldn’t read it all at sight, but I could read enough of the content to have my attention caught. There was one specific line that was quite odd and memorable. The scroll was at least in part apocalyptic. Jerusalem was surrounded by “thousands of sun disks.”

I can’t recall at this point (and don’t have the old files) whether I mentioned this scroll (with a slightly altered name) in the original edition of The Facade. I think I did. I know I mentioned this scroll in at least one interview — and was careful to point out that there was no verification for its authenticity. I recall L. A. Marzulli asking me about it over the phone or email (again, I don’t recall which). He said he wanted to include it in one of his novels. I only read his first one, so I don’t know if he actually did that. At any rate, I was again clear that all I saw was a transcription, not the real thing. It could have been entirely made up, and I said so — and always have. (In any event, L. A.’s novels are fiction [!]).

I usually chat with Stephen each year at the meetings. Up until about 3-4 years ago I’d ask for updates on the Angel Scroll. The answer was always the same — the men who had contacted him, and of whom Stephen demanded to see the actual scroll, never produced anything. I say up until 3-4 years ago because the last time I asked Stephen told me he had washed his hands of the whole thing. He had concluded it was all bogus since no evidence (going on ten years) had ever been produced that the scroll from which the transcription he showed me actually existed. Anyone with reasonable artistic talent and a knowledge of Hebrew paleography could draw the transcription he had in his possession and which I saw. That’s how scrolls show up in journals — a photo that usually looks awful (things a couple millennia old tend to not produce great photos) along with a hand drawing done from tracing or a good eye. It’s normal procedure. (Same for how clay tablet inscriptions are hand drawn for easier reading).

So is there an Angel Scroll? No. There is no evidence that such a scroll is real. You’re hearing that from someone who held the transcription, read through it, and has had several conversations with the guy who possesses the transcription (the only one that has ever surfaced).  If you or anyone you know or have read is saying this is a real text and assigning any “truth” to it, you shouldn’t. Without someone bringing forth an actual scroll, this text is a fiction. But, unfortunately, people like to believe in things for which no data exist. That isn’t new. It’s just sad that Christians are among the gullible. The whole thing was likely a scam designed to extract some money from a scholar or institution who collected such things. If you don’t think antiquities forgery is a problem, think again.

Vaughn, Andrew G., and Christopher A. Rollston. “The Antiquities Market, Sensationalized Textual Data, and Modern Forgeries.” Near Eastern Archaeology (2005): 61-65.

This puts me in the mood to ask Stephen about the scroll again this year just to see him roll his eyes.


Mike Interviewed on the Alexxcast

Posted by on Aug 5, 2015 in _Paleobabble, Ancient (Non-Alien) Technology, Ancient Astronauts, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Sites, archaeoastronomy - astrology | 2 comments

You can listen to the interview here. The planned subject was ancient astronaut material, but the interview wound up going in all sorts of directions.

Toward the end I talk about the importance of peer-review in scholarly publishing. I mentioned Robert Bauval’s Orion correlation theory as an example of what ought to happen — someone from an alternative perspective submits their ideas to peer review. Experts are smart enough to know if what’s being submitted is worth talking about, and Bauval has been published in journals like Discussions in Egyptology. Bauval is living proof that (in the humanities at least) the peer review process doesn’t just reflexively reject alternative ideas. Most (all?) mainstream Egyptologists don’t buy Bauval’s theory, but it was still published and has drawn a lot of interaction. Most of the interaction has occurred in journals that are not freely accessible to the public (I’ve collected at least thirty articles). But here are two examples that are publicly accessible:

G. Magli, “Akhet Khufu: Archaeo-astronomical hints at a common project of the two main pyramids of Giza, Egypt” (Akhet Khufu = “the horizon of Khufu” in ancient Egyptian)

G. Magli, “On the possible discovery of precessional effects in ancient astronomy

No aliens needed, by the way. This is all naked-eye astronomy and math.



Skeleton with Elongated Skull Discovered in Russia Excites Pseudo-Archaeologists

Posted by on Jul 29, 2015 in _Paleobabble, archaeology, Bogus History, Cult Archaeology, Giants | 14 comments

Have archaeologists unearthed the skeleton of an alien? Uh … no.  This piece by Doubtful News will tell you all you need to know. Best line:

Thanks Yahoo for, once again, making a sensational piece of garbage out of an interesting archaeological find. Why is [sic] aliens even mentioned? Oh, right… unapologetic click-baiting.

How true.

By the way, I’m still waiting for someone to show me the Bible verse where nephilim and other giant clan members had elongated skulls. (Yes, I know this skeleton wasn’t a giant. I just couldn’t resist the reminder).


An Assyrian Origin for the Trinity?

Posted by on Jul 22, 2015 in _NakedBible, _Paleobabble, Ancient Texts, PanBabylonianism | 9 comments

Some readers may be aware of claims in this regard popularized on the internet. The idea is actually fairly old, but in recent years has gained steam via the work of a credentialed Assyriologist, Simo Parpola. A few years ago I had the role of soliciting papers for an Israelite Religion section of one of the annual scholarly conferences I attend. I asked Dr. John Hilber, a friend and an Old Testament scholar, to write a paper critiquing Parpola’s work. John has a strong background in Assyriology, as his dissertation was in Assyrian prophecy and its connections to the Old Testament. While working on my divine council bibliography today, I came across my copy of that paper (it is unpublished). Readers should note that I have a number of hand-scribbled notes in the margins that will likely not be decipherable. In any event, John’s critique is worth a read. In short, Parpola is using kabbalistic ideas as a filter for his Assyriology. Not a good idea.

Hilber Monotheism in Neo-Assyrian Religion An Appraisal

A much longer critique was published by long-time professor of Akkadian and Sumerian at Johns Hokpins University, Jerrold Cooper:

Cooper Assyrian Prophecies Mesopotamian Origins of Monotheism – critique of Parpola

Hand Drawing Cuneiform

Posted by on Jul 20, 2015 in _NakedBible, _Paleobabble, Ancient Languages | 23 comments

I found this blog this morning via Twitter. It’s a new one, and begins with how to use Adobe Illustrator to trace out cuneiform tablets. I don’t have Illustrator, but if anyone in the graphic arts community knows of a similar (free) online tool for tracing like this, I’d appreciate it. I know it’s clunky with a mouse, but I might just be able to use something like this in a future MEMRA hieroglyphics course. I think it would help students learn to draw the glyphs.


Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Mike Bara: An Explanatory Illustration

Posted by on Jul 17, 2015 in _Paleobabble, _UFOreligions, Ancient Astronauts, Bogus History, Sitchin | 9 comments

One of my favorite blogs is The Emoluments of Mars. It’s the brainchild of “Expat,” who has committed himself to the mind-numbing task of critiquing the conspiratorial pseudo-science behind ideas like the “face” on Mars, glass domes on the moon, and esoteric meanings to NASA space missions (think Richard Hoagland and Mike Bara). Expat’s URL is something of an homage to Hoagland’s book, Dark Mission, detailing the alleged esoteric conspiracies behind what NASA does: Since I’m neither a scientist nor photo analyst, I depend on the work of people like Expat. Stuart Robbins’ Exposing PseudoAstronomy blog is another such resource that I’ve mentioned before.

A couple months ago Expat emailed me with the wonderful news that I’d made it into Mike Bara’s most recent literary assault on clear thinking, Ancient Aliens and Secret Societies. The email sort of got lost in the shuffle, but I thankfully found it again. Bara’s book hasn’t exactly garnered an overwhelming response (four reviews to date in five months, a several of which are hilariously brutal (“zero stars if Amazon allowed it”; “Google scholarship”; “Friends don’t let friends read Mike Bara”). That last one was good enough to steal for my post title. It says it all.

Nevertheless, I thought I’d take a look at what Expat sent. After all, this year I was privileged to be colored as a government informant by Jim Marrs. When I blogged about that honor I pointed out that Marrs’ ludicruous assertion was falsifiable by a simple phone call (he had me working on a “government funded” program dealing with Sumerian lexicography). All he needed to do was call the office for that program to learn that I hadn’t worked on that project. But hey, implying I “work for the government” in my opposition to Sitchin’s nonsensical handling of Sumerian texts (and most everything else) is more fun.

Here are excerpts from what Bara wrote on pp. 88-89 of his book. I’ll jump in at MSH.

“Other critics have attacked Sitchin more directly, arguing that his interpretations if the Sumerian texts are simply wrong …

MSH: Yes, I have said that. But Bara’s missing something (and it won’t be the last time in this short post). I’ve actually argued that Sitchin’s interpretations aren’t even to be found in the Sumerian tablets. That’s right. They aren’t even in there. You can’t call what doesn’t exist “wrong” or a screwed up translation. Ideas like the Anunnaki being from Nibiru and Nibiru being a planet beyond Pluto literally don’t exist in the Sumerian material. Now how easy would it be to show me wrong with a claim like that? Pretty easy. And so I directed people on how to test my assertion. Instead of insisting that people take my word for it, I created a screen-capture video of yours truly going to the publicly accessible Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature website to check my claims. (I wonder how many times Bara lets people follow his trail — I know Sitchin didn’t do that). Anyway, the video isn’t exciting, but it does show me showing YOU how to search for all the occurrences of “Anunnaki” gods (including the shorter name, Anunna) and return them with links for English translations. Guess what? No ancient astronaut material. Funny how that happens when you direct people to primary texts. Continuing …

… Foremost among these is Michael Heiser, a committed Christian who has made debunking Sitchin something of his life’s work …

MSH: True; I am a “committed Christian.” I’m also a Christian that makes other Christians nervous for various reasons. I’m guessing Bara never read any of my blogs and their comments. Is debunking Sitchin my life’s work? Hardly. How could I make a living doing that? It would be like trying to convince people to read Bara’s books for a living. Mike seemingly doesn’t know that I’m the guy who posted my income tax returns online back in the day to shut up William Henry when he accused me of making money off Sitchin’s name. I asked William to do the same. (Cue crickets here). And guess what? They’re still up there, Mike! Have a look.

Those were the days when I first appeared on Coast to Coast. Readers may remember that Art Bell asked if I’d debate Sitchin on his show … the lowly graduate student against the poobah of paleobabble. I said yes. Sitchin refused. Funny how that happens when you appeal to primary texts.

… Heiser and other critics are fond of pointing out that Sitchin’s interpretations of certain words and phrases are “incorrect” according to the most commonly accepted academic understandings of them …

MSH: No, they’re incorrect because they aren’t there. They have no basis in reality. (See above). Prove me wrong, Mike — run the search and find the alien Anunnaki on Nibiru. Let’s have one line of one tablet that says that.

… Sitchin taught himself Sumerian at a time when only a few people in the world knew how to read cuneiform texts …

MSH: A couple of corrections here. Sitchin didn’t know Sumerian. Nothing he produces in his books about Sumerian provide any evidence of that. His “translations” would never survive peer review. Want to test that, Mike? Tell you what. You gather Sitchin’s translations *with tablet line and citation so real Sumerian scholars can go look.* Then follow these steps:

(1) Show us [this is called fact-checking, Mike] that Sitchin’s translations are not those of someone else — that is, they did NOT come from a published anthology of English translations. If they survive that test, then …

(2) Send them to a real Sumerian scholar. Pick someone from the membership list of The International Association for Assyriology, or one of the staff at these ongoing projects in Sumerian studies: CDLI or Stephen Tinney of the Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary Project (PSD; the volume covering Anunnaki is published). I’m sure you and I can agree on who to send Sitchin’s translations to. I’ll publish the results of your efforts on my blog.

… Today people like Heiser have become more numerous and they have learned the language from academic sources such as 2006’s Sumerian Lexicon, all of which postdate Sitchin’s publication of The Twelfth Planet … … The Sumerian Lexicon is no more authoritative a source than Sitchin himself. In fact, one reviewer declared it to be ‘a book compiled by a dilettante who understands the basics of neither lexicography nor Sumerology.” …

MSH: There’s so much erroneous misdirection here. I’ll give Mike the benefit of the doubt that he’s just ignorant and not being deliberately deceptive. (That’s how nice I am). Here we go:

(1) Yes, people now learn Sumerian from “academic sources” — so did Sitchin learn with non-academic sources? No sources? The 12th Planet was published in the late seventies. There were plenty of (perish the thought) academic sources for learning Sumerian. (And I repeat: I don’t think Sitchin knew Sumerian at all). Bara’s argument here pits academic sources against … what? It puts Sitchin in the position of using inferior sources or no sources. Nice argument, Mike.

(2) You don’t learn a language by using a dictionary. You learn vocabulary that way. But languages have grammar (remember high school, Mike?) Dictionaries are not presentations of a language’s grammar: grammatical forms (morphology) and relationships (syntax). I can scarcely believe I have to point out that dictionaries don’t “do” grammar. In reality, there were plenty of academic grammars prior to the publication of the 12th Planet (late seventies). For example:

    • Stephen Langdon, A Sumerian grammar and chrestomathy (1911) – for years one of the standard learning grammars for Sumerian.
    • Kurt Schildmann, Compendium of the historical grammar of Sumerian (Grundriss der historischen Grammatik des Sumerischen) 1964-1970

But again, what is Bara’s point? That Sitchin didn’t have resources to learn Sumerian? If so, how could we trust his knowledge? If he did have sources, then … what?

(3) The “Sumerian Lexicon” Bara is referring to is Halloran’s Sumerian Lexicon (which originated as an online compilation of Sumerian terms). I know that because the reviewer’s comments are drawn from this review of Halloran. This is not the lexicon I directed readers to on my website for years. What I directed readers to is the Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary (= PSD). Here’s the image from a page that used to be on my website:


You’ll notice that the editor isn’t Halloran. So Bara is criticizing the wrong source.Here’s page 133 from the PSD that lived for many years on my site. It’s the entry for Anunnaki (and its variant forms). Notice that “those who from heaven came” or “fallen ones” (or whatever nuttiness Sitchin assigns to the term) isn’t a meaning scholars recognize:


Since it’s not the lexicon that Bara’s source is bashing, the criticism levied by that source don’t apply to the PSD (which, per the scan above, does not agree with Sitchin). The PSD is a leading lexical project for the entire field of Sumerian. The raw materials for the PSD have lived online for many years (the project was begun in 1974 – before Sitchin published the 12th Planet, by the way). The print publication of this dictionary is an ongoing project. Three volumes have been published to date (the above page comes from vol. 1). But who cares? In fact, the lexical resources that form the basis for current projects like the PSD have been around since the early 1900s. A “Sumerian expert” like Sitchin would have known that. Lexical sources like the multi-volume Materials for the Sumerian Lexicon, begun by Benno Landsberger in the 1930s, served Sumerian students well for many years.

… Heiser’s own biography states that “He has also studied Sumerian . . . independently” …

MSH: Yes, it does. Do you know why, Mike? Because I’m honest. Bara concludes that since Sitchin and I are both self-taught in Sumerian, Sitchin is just as trustworthy. This is flawed logic. I have a publicly accessible resume that proves I have studied nearly a dozen ancient languages in a formal academic setting. Know why that’s important? One word: accountability. I had to perform in the languages for experts. Sitchin has nothing like that. Where is Sitchin’s resume? Hmmm. I’m betting he had ZERO language work at any institution. In other words, no proof he studied anything. In other words, my resume offers people some basis for concluding that I did indeed study Sumerian, even on my own. The logic goes like this: “Heiser studied nearly a dozen ancient languages. It seems plausible he could have studied one more on his own time.” On what basis can we conclude Sitchin’s claim of self-study is plausible? I see none. The guy couldn’t even wrap his head around simple concepts like subject-verb agreement when it comes to Hebrew elohim (a lot easier than Sumerian). But in Bara-land (see the Emoluments blog), logic and coherence is simply not a pre-requisite.

… A number of Sicthin’s (sic – the misspelling is Bara’s) assertions have been successfully tested (or at least supported), and Heiser’s have not …

MSH: Where have any of Sitchin’s claims about extraterrestrial Anunnaki or Nibiru been tested or validated, Mike? Let’s have those studies and that data. I’ll post them.  Oh, I forgot … First you have to prove those ideas exist in the tablets. But they don’t. Again, how easy would it be to prove me wrong here by simply producing the tablet that has these claims? I can’t make it any easier, Mike. I’m telling you (and everyone else who buys Sitchin’s Anunnaki nonsense) how to falsify my claims. The data simply do not exist. You can’t validate what doesn’t exist. But let’s widen the net … show me where Sitchin’s claims about alien intervention have been validated by any expert under peer review (as opposed to authors writing for Adventures Unlimited Press).

… Heiser comes off as nothing but a Christian fundamentalist with an axe to grind. His interpretation of the words and phrases carry no more scientific weight than Sitchin’s do.”

MSH: Right. Mine carry no more weight. Except that my interpretations are based on lines in tablets that exist while Sitchin’s don’t. So all I have going for me is a little thing I like to call reality. I’ll take that. And for the record, I’m not a Christian fundamentalist. I know Bara doesn’t really know what that term means in the spectrum of Christian sub-cultures, but it needs pointing out. I spent some time in fundamentalist circles until I was ejected. I lost a job over it. I believe several things that would make fundamentalists denounce me (and they have). Just read my blog, but get an education first about what the term means in Christian circles. After that, why I’m not in those circles will be pretty clear.

So what have we learned? A few things:

1) I’d rather be called a government informant than a fundamentalist. It’s just more fun.

2) That Sitchin supposedly taught himself Sumerian by using inferior sources or no sources at all. Maybe he channeled it.

3) That Bara likes to hide data from his readers — like the fact that Sitchin’s fundamental claims don’t exist in Sumerian tablets — and that I’ve given the world the breadcrumb trail to learning that is indeed true.

4) That Sitchin is still wrong. And so is his disciple, Mike Bara.

Portent Contest Update

Posted by on Jul 12, 2015 in _NakedBible, _Paleobabble, _UFOreligions, Announcement | 0 comments

Those who have read my novel The Portent, sequel to The Facade, know that the last chapter of The Portent and a short postscript dropped a riddle on readers based on the novel’s content. There was also a companion handbook to the novel with another clue. The challenge was simple: solve the riddle, get a character named after you in the third installment. I’m happy to announce a winner — and that the contest will continue until year’s end.

Only one person out of all the entries (and you can try more than once) succeeded in solving the riddle. That isn’t unexpected. It isn’t easy. Most who tried saw quickly that the riddle had something to do with the two witnesses in Revelation 11. But that was a given element in the riddle, not the answer. It was a starting point. Conveniently (for me) the winner’s name and nickname give me four first names to choose from. In alphabetical order they are: Arnold, David, Merlin, and Michael. The winner runs a dance studio in Louisiana. Look for one of those names (or some foreign derivative, e.g., Michel is the French equivalent of Michael) in book three.

Since I’ve had only one winner and don’t have to worry about getting too many names, I’ll keep the contest open until year’s end. Keep trying!