In a post entitled “The Long Day of Joshua: Fact or Fiction,” faux Bible scholar Robert Clifton Robinson argues that despite “critics of the Bible” claiming otherwise, the miraculous scene wherein Yahweh causes the sun and moon to “stand still” in Joshua 10:12-13 not only actually happened but is corroborated by historical evidence.
Slowing the Rotation or Stopping It?
Robinson begins with a scientific fact: the earth rotates at 1,000 miles per hour. That is, at the equator, the planet rotates at a pace of around 1,000 miles per hour. Next, he posits that if the earth’s rotation slowed to 500 miles per hour, “[t]he sun would appear to stand still.” Would people living on earth notice this change in rotation? Robinson offers two seemingly contradictory responses to this query. On the one hand, no one would “notice this slow down in rotation, with the exception of an increase in earthquakes, storms and wind speed.” On the other hand, he writes, “The only perceivable change would be the sun slowing in its progression into darkness and result in a much longer day.”
There are a few difficulties with Robinson’s apologetic here. The first is scientific. Suppose you are in a car driving down Main Street at 80mph. The speed limit, however, is actually 40mph and when you see a police car tucked behind a building, obviously trying to catch speeders like yourself, you immediately slam on the brakes to get your speed down to 40mph. What happens to you, any potential passengers, and any unsecured items in your car? You all violently lurch forward. Why? Because while the car was travelling 80mph, so was everything in it. Since an object in motion tends to stay in motion until acted upon by another force, your activation of the brakes caused a sudden change in velocity that your body must adjust to. And so, you lurch forward, grateful for your seatbelt.
As I sit here and type this post, I am travelling about 1,000mph with the rotation of the earth. If all of a sudden, the earth’s rotation slowed to just 500mph, what would happen? Would “[t]he only perceivable change” be that the sun in the sky would slow its motion? Not hardly. Like in the example above, because I am travelling 1,000mph with the rotation of the earth, any sudden change in speed would be problematic to say the least. I would be violently sent moving in the direction of rotation at 1,000mph until another force slowed me down. And at that speed, any force that slowed me down would result in my death. For the consequences of reduced rotation speed to be anything but deadly, there would have to be a gradual change in the speed, a change that would take millions if not billions of years. Incidentally, this is right now happening since the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun are working to slow the rotation of the earth. But this reduction in speed is so small as to be imperceptible by our senses. What this means, then, is that Robinson’s proposal is simply untenable. If God slowed down the rotation of the earth by half so Joshua could kill a bunch of Amorites, he would have ended up killing Amorites, Israelites, and virtually everyone else on the planet too. While this would not have gone unnoticed, there would have been no one around afterwards to write about it.
But the text of Joshua 10:12-13 doesn’t say that God merely slowed the sun. In the first part of v. 13 we read, “And the sun stood still [wayyiddōm], and the moon stopped [ʿāmād].” In his commentary on the text, Thomas Dozeman observes that the term used to describe the sun’s cessation of movement, the verb dāmam, is used in 1 Samuel 14:9 where Jonathan anticipates that the Philistines will tell him and his armor bearer, “Wait [dōmmû] until we come to you.” The idea isn’t that Jonathan would slowly creep toward the Philistines but that he would stop movement altogether. Interestingly, Jonathan tells his armor bearer that should the Philistines order them to stop, “then we will stand still in our place, and we will not go up to them.” The verb rendered in the NRSV as “stand still” is ʿāmadnû, a Qal perfect form of ʿāmad, the same verb that appears as a Qal imperfect in the second half of Joshua 10:13 where we read that “the sun stopped [yaʿămōd] in midheaven.”
It should go without saying that if slowing down the earth’s rotation would result in catastrophic loss of life that stopping it entirely would be equally as devastating. But it is interesting that, at least from my perspective, Robinson would bother to argue against what the text of Joshua says. I’m sure that he believes that by changing it he rescues it from the absurdity of what it posits. But he gets the science wrong and so ends up in the fire while jumping from the frying pan. Yet there is even more wrong with Robinson’s understanding of this passage.
A Stationary Earth
Robinson (and myself) writes from the perspective of a modern person who knows quite well that the sun doesn’t go around the earth and that the periods of day and night are caused by the rotation of the earth on its axis. But why think the author of Joshua knew this? Whoever they were, they lived in the ancient Near East where virtually everyone believed that the sun, moon, and stars orbited the earth and not vice versa. The earth didn’t rotate and thereby produce day and night. Rather, the sun, moon, and stars orbited the earth and did so. And this makes sense of the assumed worldview of the author of Joshua. The text doesn’t say that the earth “stood still” but that the sun did. If it had, this would be an entirely different conversation.
I’m not sure if Robinson would acknowledge any of this. His motivated reading of the Bible precludes understanding it in its ancient context. Yet I know of no better way to read and understand these ancient texts other than in their ancient context. It fits the data better.
I will admit that when I first started to read Robinson’s post, I expected to find a reference to the oft repeated but entirely made-up claim that NASA “found” Joshua’s long day, thereby vindicating the biblical text. I had heard this story when I was a kid and eventually found out that it was a complete fabrication. To his credit, Robinson doesn’t do this. Instead, he claims that there is corroborating evidence for the story in the form of legends from other ancient cultures. Here is what he says:
There is also evidence from ethnology in other cultures around the world, that there was a long day? In the writings of the ancient Chinese there is a legend of a long day. The Incas of Peru and the Aztecs of Mexico also have a similar record. The Babylonians and Persians record a story of a day that was miraculously extended. Herodotus describes that while in Egypt, a priest showed him their temple records which describes a day that was twice the length of any day that was ever recorded.
What first stuck out to me about this quote was that Robinson offers no citations for any of this: no endnote offering us a reputable historian of the ancient Incas, no quotation from Babylonian annals, and no specific reference to a passage in Herodotus’s Histories. Whenever I see an apologist act this allergic to providing proper documentation, a red flag immediately goes up.
But to quote Will Ferrell’s impersonation of the late and great Harry Caray, “I’m curious like a cat. I have a couple of friends that call me Whiskers.” So, I took to trying to find at least the passage in Herodotus that mentions this. As I perused the index to one of the printed editions I own and read specifically sections in Book Two of his work, I came up short. It’s possible that I missed it; I am, after all, fallible. But it’s also possible that it simply isn’t there or that it is an example of misreading the text. In any case, I then took to the Internet to see what I could find there. Unfortunately, while I found similar claims about Herodotus, I found nothing that would take me to a specific passage in Histories. How frustrating!
Intuiting that something strange was afoot, I highlighted the entire quote from Robinson’s piece and plugged it into Google. The first hit was to Robinson’s piece, but the second was to an entry at the website blueletterbible.org. In a piece covering Joshua’s long day, Don Stewart, a Christian author I’ve never heard of, has this to say:
There is indisputable evidence from the modern science of ethnology that such an event occurred as Joshua records. In the ancient Chinese writings there is a legend of a long day. The Incas of Peru and the Aztecs of Mexico have a like record. There is a Babylonian and Persian legend of a day that was miraculously extended. Herodotus, an ancient historian, recounts that while in Egypt, priest showed him their temple records, and that he read of a day which was twice the natural length of any day that had ever been recorded (Robert Boyd, Boyd’s Bible Handbook, pp. 122,123).
At first, I thought Stewart was merely summarizing Boyd’s work but then I was able to find a copy of Boyd’s Bible Handbook and discovered that he was actually quoting it directly. Boyd, in turn, seems to be dependent upon the work of Harry Rimmer who in his The Harmony of Science and Scripture writes,
We have indisputable evidence from the modern science of ethnology that such an event occurred as Joshua records. Briefly we may summarize this section by saying that in the ancient Chinese writings there is a legend of a long day. The Incas of Peru and the Aztecs of Mexico have a like record, and there is a Babylonian and a Persian legend of a day that was miraculously extended. Another section of China contributes an account of the day that was miraculously prolonged, in the reign of Emperor Yeo. Herodotus recounts that the priests of Egypt showed him their temple records, and that there he read a strange account of a day that was twice the natural length.
Neither Boyd nor Rimmer provide any specific references and so, at least with the Herodotus anecdote, there is nothing to go on.
As interesting as it would have been to find such a reference, there is something else going on that is more fascinating still. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the quotation from Robinson’s piece and the one from Stewart’s FAQ from blueletterbible.org.
|There is also evidence from ethnology in other cultures around the world, that there was a long day?||There is indisputable evidence from the modern science of ethnology that such an event occurred as Joshua records.|
|In the writings of the ancient Chinese there is a legend of a long day.||In the ancient Chinese writings there is a legend of a long day.|
|The Incas of Peru and the Aztecs of Mexico also have a similar record.||The Incas of Peru and the Aztecs of Mexico have a like record.|
|The Babylonians and Persians record a story of a day that was miraculously extended.||There is a Babylonian and Persian legend of a day that was miraculously extended.|
|Herodotus describes that while in Egypt, a priest showed him their temple records which describes a day that was twice the length of any day that was ever recorded.||Herodotus, an ancient historian, recounts that while in Egypt, priest showed him their temple records, and that he read of a daywhich was twice thenatural length of any day that had ever beenrecorded.|
The similarities are uncanny, but there is only one reason for such a similarity: Robinson has committed plagiarism. But from whom? Is he lifting from Stewart or from Boyd whom Stewart is quoting?
It took me a minute to figure it out but I’m fairly certain it is from Stewart. Stewart is quoting from Boyd’s work and offers attribution, but he makes one mistake. In discussing Herodotus, he writes that “priest showed him their temple records.” “Priest.” Not a priest. Not the priest. Just “priest.” But then he uses the phrase “their records,” suggesting that it wasn’t a single priest but more than one who aided Herodotus. And if you look back at Stewart’s source in Boyd you find that Boyd had written that “priests showed him their temple records.” Stewart just forget the s. Why does this make me fairly certain Robinson is lifting from Stewart rather than Boyd directly? Because of Robinson’s phrasing: “Herodotus describes that while in Egypt, a priest showed him their temple records” (emphasis mine). Noting the awkwardness of Stewart’s wording, he changes it so it reads more smoothly. As smooth as it may be, it is clear that Robinson has tried to pass off Stewart’s (and by extension Boyd’s) words as his own. It also explains why he doesn’t provide any substantive evidence for the claim of corroboration: he couldn’t find it in his source material!
Finding plagiarism in the works of Christian apologists isn’t surprising to me. SJ Thomason, for example, has been caught in the act multiple times. Instead, there is an interesting juxtaposition between Robinson’s rhetoric concerning his unbelieving interlocutors and his own practice. In a recent post, he claimed that people like Joel Baden, Joshua Bowen, Paul from Paulogia, and myself espouse the view that “the only reliable sources for New Testament criticism are atheists” and we thereby “deceive unsuspecting readers with [our] unprovable assertions about the Bible.” I’ve never made such a claim and I never would. But Robinson is not above lying for Jesus, especially to elevate his own status as a “scholar.” He claims that I am trying to “deceive” people and yet here he is lifting the words of Don Stewart and pretending they’re his own. That is deception.
Robert Clifton Robinson is, I dare say, a hypocrite.
 Robert Clifton Robinson, “The Long Day of Joshua: Fact or Fiction?” (n.d.), robertcliftonrobinson.com.
 Rhett Herman, “How fast is the Earth moving?” (10.26.98), scientificamerican.com.
 Thomas B. Dozeman, Joshua 1-12: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press 2015), 432-433.
 Ironically enough, the creationist organization Answers in Genesis has a decent overview and take down of this claim over at their website. See Danny R. Faulkner, “Have NASA Computers Proved Joshua’s Long Day?” (5.27.16), answersingenesis.org.
 E.g., “Joshua’s Long Day” (n.d.), geocentricity.com; Chauncey Kinnamon, “’And the Sun Stood Still’ – Joshua 10:13: Was Joshua’s Long Day a Myth, a Legend…or a Historical Fact?” (4.18), fortifyingaremnant.com.
 Don Stewart, “Did the Sun Actually Stand Still in Joshua’s Long Day?” (n.d.), blueletterbible.org.
 Robert T. Boyd, Boyd’s Bible Handbook (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1983), 122-123.
 Harry Rimmer, The Harmony of Science and Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1936), 269.
 See my post, “Caught in the Act: SJ Thomason Is at It Again” (2.11.20), amateurexegete.com.
 Robert Clifton Robinson, “Impeaching the Atheist Assertion of Genocide in the Bible” (1.7.23), robertcliftonrobinson.com.
7 thoughts on “Apologetic Plagiarism: Robert Clifton Robinson on Joshua’s Long Day”
1. Given RCR’s penchant for routinely recycling his own work in various contexts, I’m not terribly surprised to see him doing the same with others’ content on occasion. Might be fun to run some of his blog posts through plagiarism detection software.
Sloppily or deceptively appropriating other folks’ words and ideas does seem to occur with some frequency among fundagelical apologists/advocates. You’ve discussed SJ Thomason, and Warren Throckmorton (among other Christians with integrity) has written about any number of evangelical authors whose writings clearly lift from earlier sources–often verbatim–without quotation marks or proper attribution. Come to think of it, one of my first assignments as a junior attorney back in [REDACTED] was to help the partner defending Jimmy Swaggart in a copyright infringement lawsuit.
2. “In a recent post, he claimed that people like Joel Baden, Joshua Bowen, Paul from Paulogia, and myself espouse the view that ‘the only reliable sources for New Testament criticism are atheists’ and we thereby ‘deceive unsuspecting readers with [our] unprovable assertions about the Bible.' I’ve never made such a claim and I never would.”
Nor have the other three fellas, I’m quite sure, and RCR’s flapdoodle is absurd on its face. Might the occasional angry Internet atheist assert something along these lines? Entirely possible. But no atheist with a modicum of intellectual rigor and care would categorically rule out a work of biblical scholarship on the sole grounds that the author is a believer.
Methinks RCR projecteth a bit here. Does he accept that scholars of any belief system (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, None, whatever) can provide solid biblical scholarship, which should stand or fall on its own merits? Or–as a I suspect–does he believe “the only reliable sources for New Testament criticism” are his fellow evangelicals/fundamentalists?
LikeLiked by 1 person
On point #2, well said. It is almost assuredly projection. And he is known for setting himself up as the “scholar” people should trust. So yeah, projection through and through.
On point #1, there’s something about evangelicals and a lack of novelty and originality. I think for apologists this is especially acute since they’re often not trained in any relevant field of study except apologetics and so can only regurgitate what they’ve heard or seen. Then they end up plagiarizing.