Dresden Codex & Venus Transit: Unnecessary Follow Up

English: Transit of Venus - Venus completely o...
English: Transit of Venus – Venus completely over the sun Italiano: Transito di Venere sul Sole Русский: Прохождение Венеры по диску Солнца (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Feel free and skip today’s post. The recent one about the spirit in man and artificial intelligence is more interesting, and the last one about being hacked and having an old e-mail address of mine used for evil is more functional. But today’s is about the Dresden Codex, the Venus Transit, and a bit more information than what I gave in the related section of my “Adiós 2012” post (actually titled “A 2012 Non-pocalypse Post-mortem: Lessons I Learned”).

In that post I discussed the “Every Connection I Can Make is a Good Connection!” Mistake–how just because one can draw some sort of imaginative connection to “support” your point doesn’t mean that it is a good connection to make. It can actually be completely unrelated and can even contradict your point. After pointing out the odd and baseless Jesus Christ/Bolon Yokte connection I saw a few try to make, I mentioned the Venus Transit:

“However, I saw worse. For instance, in trying to claim a connection between the Dresden Codex and 2012, I saw a claim made that the Venus Transit in 2012 establishes such a connection. Does it really? No, not in any way whatsoever, and the assertion is ridiculous on its face. Yes, the Dresden Codex apparently has astronomical Venus tables, so it is plausible that the transit that occurred in 2012 would be indicated in one of the many positions noted in the table (though I would like to see someone show that table entry to me—something I’ve never seen displayed). But this simply does not indicate that the Dresden Codex, let alone its decorative last page, is related to 2012-goofiness at all! It would be like saying that the last page of the Farmer’s Almanac is all about my birthday because, after all, my birthday is in the Almanac! Of course, so is yours, and your mother’s, your dog’s, your parakeet’s, Steven Spielberg’s, etc.”

The point is still a good one: The fact that your anniversary is one of the dates on the Cow Calendar you can buy at Chick-fil-A, for instance, does not mean that they made the calendar just for you. All 365 days are on that calendar.

However, the point can be made even more strongly. You’ll notice some margin I added to my comment, to wit: “…it is plausible that the transit that occurred in 2012 would be indicated in one of the many positions noted in the table.” However, the reason I phrased that as I did is that I have never actually seen the transit indicated in the Dresden Codex. I was simply recognizing that any hobbyist who mentioned it in a sad effort to tie the Dresden Codex to 2012 (and some did) might at least be right in saying that the transit is on the Codex in the Venus tables. But I also noted that I have never seen such a notation in my characteristically parenthetical insert: “though I would like to see someone show that table entry to me—something I’ve never seen displayed.”

Come to find out, apparently 2012’s Venus Transit is mentioned nowhere in the Dresden Codex, even in the Venus tables.

I (re)discovered this after spending a few moments cleaning out some of my iPhone’s bookmarks (I apparently bookmark webpages that I never plan to visit ever again), which included this reference to the Wikipedia page on the Venus Transit. There can be found (as of this typing, at least) a plain statement (bolding mine): “Venus was important to ancient American civilizations, in particular for the Maya, who called it Noh Ek, ‘the Great Star’ or Xux Ek, ‘the Wasp Star’; they embodied Venus in the form of the god Kukulkán (also known as or related to Gukumatz and Quetzalcoatl in other parts of Mexico). In the Dresden Codex, the Maya charted Venus’ full cycle, but despite their precise knowledge of its course, there is no mention of a transit.

Of course, however, this is Wikipedia. So, I followed the footnote provided to a publication by Bohumil Böhm and Vladimir Böhm, titled “The Dresden Codex–the book of Mayan astronomy.” There, the authors go into detail about the astronomical information in the codex as they understand it, even pointing out that the famed Goodman-Martínez-Thompson (GMT) correlation coefficient used to turn Mayan dates into modern dates does not work with the Dresden Codex — something I mentioned before, based on my discussion with a working Mayan researcher and based on widely reported news.

Their views certainly have garnered real credibility, including being published in the prestigious German astronomical journal Astronomische Nachrichten in 2008 (abstract here).

So, if this work is credible, then the conclusions are certainly damaging to those who think 2012 was special to the Maya:

  • 2012’s Venus Transit is not mentioned in the Dresden Codex.
  • If Venus is associated with Kukulkán or Quetzalcoatl and the most significant Venus event of 2012 is not mentioned, given the weird and unsubstantiated claims that 2012 was supposed to be the return of Kukulkán or Quetzalcoatl, it is doubly goofy that 2012 was something significant to the Maya and that the Dresden Codex ties to 2012.
  • And if the GMT correlation is off, then a “Mayan 2012” is all the more delusional.

There really is no significant tie between the Dresden Codex and 2012.

Now, who cares about this anymore? Well, hopefully virtually no one. 🙂 But when I came across this old bookmark, I couldn’t help adding a little more detail in a follow up to that post a couple of weeks ago, so now I have. The obsession with 2012-ology out there was anything but Christian, and many who consider themselves “scholars” compromised themselves mightily in the service of their personal pet ideas. But now that it is past, what obsessions will 2012ers fixate upon next? Regardless, I don’t expect the facts to get in their way.

A 2012 Non-pocalypse Post-mortem: Lessons I Learned

Note: As I mentioned earlier at the beginning of the year, this is the post I had been working on when the telecast came calling (along with the Charlotte weekend) in late December–about the time that my final commentary on the subject was posted (“After the Non-pocalypse” on tomorrowsworld.org). It has sat in my drafts folder like a poor, neglected child, so I thought I would wrap it up the final bits and post it. It concerns the lessons I learned while dealing with 2012-related matters for the Church, mostly about academic integrity, how easily that integrity can be lost or prostituted in the service of one’s own ideas, and how I want to be sure to never cross those lines in the future. A lot of shameful tactics were practiced by many of the various 2012-ologists I encountered over the past several years, and it was a real reminder to me how easily one can deceive himself into finding “evidence” to believe whatever he wants to believe. Jeremiah 17:9 is alive and well…

Well, December 21, 2012 went by with the whimper every rational person expected instead of the bang others feared/hoped for. But that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been profitable! It certainly has been for me.

I am really thankful that I’ve had the chance to serve by looking into the crazy matter of 2012ness and writing about it for the Church. It has been both fun and frustrating… “Fun” in that debunking stupid thinking is fun and preaching the truth is fun. Why talk about 2012-related goofiness at all? Because other people are talking about it and those people need to hear the truth like anyone else–and I enjoy every opportunity to turn someone from fables to the truth. Who wouldn’t? Yet, it has been frustrating, too. For one, the 2012-hysteria truly is junk, and it can be disheartening to see individuals so caught up in such stupidity. Also, it isn’t just the hippies and the drug users one has to wrestle against who perpetuate the nonsense, but even those who should truly know better. Some of the worst “scholarship” I have ever seen publicly displayed has been done in 2012-related work, by those who seem to be under the delusion that their methods are good, strong, and of high levels of academic integrity, when it is, instead, bad, weak, and an example of some truly shameful practices.

For one such as me, this can too easily tap into one of my weaknesses: the old “Someone’s wrong on the Internet” trap.

xkcd comic:
I totally feel this sometimes…

I’ve overcome this weakness to a great degree (though my wife would likely disagree…), and I’m thankful for God’s help in that. Having a public face of some sort has made me a desirable target for some (though not nearly to the degree that, say, Mr. Meredith, Mr. Ames, Dr. Winnail do, and admire their ability to show such Christian restraint!), and recognizing that you truly can waste an incredible amount of time countering all the sincerely-believed-yet-still-mind-bogglingly-stupid things someone might say about you is a helpful way to just get used to fact that there is and will always be falsehoods and stupidity on the Internet. Mr. Meredith told me his uncle, C. Paul Meredith, used to tell him that if respond to every attack the devil throws out at you then you will never have time to do God’s Work—an outcome that, of course, the devil would be quite pleased with. But while I have learned that to a good degree, there are things that still get to me, and when it comes to 2012-quackery, some of the shoddy “scholarship” I have seen has really pushed some of those buttons on occasion.

At the same time, dredging through countless 2012-related books for this stuff has provided a way to be exposed to a myriad of various forms of shoddy “scholarship” in a concentrated way, and in this I have learned some helpful things that I hope will make any future work I do that much more solid and well-grounded. In short, I hope I can avoid the mistakes in the many horrid examples I have seen. Here are some of those mistakes:

[EDIT: Actually, before you continue reading, I have to warn you that now that I am done making this post I see that my example listing gets pretty long! After all, shoddy scholarship is an awful lot easier to come up with than good scholarship, and 2012-ology was full of shoddy-though-(mostly)-sincere scholarship. And, since this is the last post I anticipate writing on the 2012 phenomenon, I apparently wanted it to be thorough. If you get bored half-way through and just scroll down to the end, don’t worry, I won’t blame you! – WGS]

•  The “Any Support Will Do” Mistake. For example, I’ve seen some try to claim that Bolon Yokte, the “god” referred to on Tortuguero Monument 6, which does refer to 2012 (though not in the way it is often assumed to, discussed below), is also depicted in the last page of the Dresden Codex, perhaps trying to establish some sort of connection between the Monument and the Codex. “Hey, fascinating!” I thought. “Maybe there is a connection I missed!” But when I followed the link provided to the “source” of this insight, it was nothing but a weird, rambling comment on someone’s blog (note: not even a post on the blog, just a comment) made by some conspiracy-orientated individual who clearly wasn’t concerned about good scholarship. The comment was rubbish, and the Bolon Yokte/Dresden Codex “connection” was an illusion.

(I saw something similar in a “connection” I saw a presumably Protestant, evangelical pastor tried to force on his blog between Bolon Yokte and Jesus Christ, perhaps trying (but failing) to add a 2012 context to the Chilam Balam, which has no real connection to the 2012-phenomenon, at all. The “connection” is not only nonsensical, but also the attempt to make it does nothing but illustrate a deep ignorance of how the Maya expressed themselves in their monuments, writings, and “prophecies” over the centuries—a different sort of mistake that I will mention later.)

However, when a person gets too sold on a bad idea they can become too eager for any support they can find—any “outside” confirmation that their idea is a good one, even if the “confirmation” comes from a thoroughly disreputable source. In the end, giving in to that temptation to reference such a source does nothing but hurt your credibility, and understandably so. (And, no, there is no credible “2012” connection between Bolon Yokte and the Dresden Codex. My apologies to any Bolon Yokte fans out there.)

An analogy might be this: Let’s say I really believe that NASA should go back to the moon—that we should send new manned missions and even build a base there—as a matter of national pride (motivating, unifying), national advancement (new science or a stepping stone to Mars), or even national security (doing so before other nations do)… All of which are not uncommon arguments. However, let’s say that most everyone else thinks it’s a crazy idea, a waste of money, etc. Well, if I really wanted to bolster the position, I might be tempted to say, “Many people think that going back to the moon is a good idea (http://linktosomeplace.html).” Those who don’t follow the link might be fooled. However, those who follow the link to see an example of these “Many people” would then find out that it is a link to the “The Moon is Made of Cheese” branch of the Flat Earth Society where someone made a serious comment on their forum that “We have to go to the moon again for a new harvest in this decade before we run out of Gouda or Munster!”… well, suffice it to say that those who followed the link would understandably wonder why I thought this opinion was noteworthy support for my idea….

[By the way: My apologies to the real Flat Earth Society for suggesting in my hypothetical example that some of their members might believe the Moon is made of cheese, as I know of no such individual in your organization. I hope you don’t mind, as I suspect that your members are of good humor…]

It’s a worthwhile lesson. I believe in some things that most mainstream scientists and historians certainly do not (e.g., that neo-Darwinian evolution is false, the identity of modern Israel, etc.). I am willing to differ from such academic authorities for a variety of reasons, including the fact that biblical revelation is real data which must be considered in order to establish the truth. (A consideration I will mention again, later.) And when making one’s case, it is nice to reference evidence on occasion that others of reasonable mind have drawn similar conclusions. However, it has the opposite effect when referencing discreditable sources, and, while I already knew this, my experience wading around in 2012-ology has helped emphasize this to me.

•  The “Hide My Position’s Inadequacies With Vagueness” Mistake.  I saw a good bit of this, too, in the 2012 stuff out there, though I’m happy to assume it was accidental. For instance, the Dresden Codex/Bolon Yokte non-connection was hinted by saying, “Some say…” when, in reality, virtually no one was saying that.  The same thing is sometimes done by newspaper reporters, who will say “some say that the Republicans/Democrats blah blah blah” when it really seems as though they are expressing their own opinion. Regrettably, though, as I saw it used at times in 2012-ology, it was a way to hide the inadequacies of the position by allowing the reader to think many more people held the position than actually do and by hiding the complete lack of relevance of those who do hold that position (think “The Moon is Made of Cheese” folks, above). Even if the use of a vague “some” is not intended to be misleading, the net effect is that it can be misleading, and I don’t want to be misleading even on accident. Truth is too important to handle it carelessly.

This mistake was evident, as well, in expressions like “Some scholars say…” In truth, when you look into it, the “some scholars” being referenced were sometimes simply the author, himself/herself! “After all, I’m a ‘scholar’ and I think these things, so I can claim, ‘Some scholars say this,’ because I do!” That is, truly, vagueness in the service of deception and bearing false witness. (Christ pointed out that God looks on the heart and the intent: a “technical” truth does not cover for a desire to mislead or exaggerate, even if it is subconscious.) Similarly, the “scholars” to which one might refer might be either (1) “scholars” in a completely different field (e.g., a fellow may have earned an MD in medicine or a PhD in dentistry or international affairs, but that doesn’t make his thoughts on the Maya any more relevant than your neighbor’s) or (2) dead scholars whose ideas have long been discredited. (E.g., Dr. Förstermann’s opinion about the last page of the Dresden Codex is a good example here; one might as well quote Samuel Birley Rowbotham on whether the earth is round or flat, or Erik Sandberg-Diment in the 80s on the viability of MS Windows and laptops—and, yes, I enjoyed finding that obscure reference, thank you for asking!) If I have a PhD in Sports Injury Rehabilitation and I believe that the earth is the center of the solar system, just as Ptolemy and Anaximander used to believe, am I justified in saying, “Some scholars believe that earth is the center of the solar system”?

No. No, I am not.

Now if I found some real, current scholars (other than yours truly, of course) who, based on modern research in the field, do think so, it might be justified. And if I found some scholars who used to think so (again, other than myself) and whose research hasn’t been completely discredited over the decades, I could say, “Some scholars used to believe…” But I can’t find, say, one guy, and think, “Well, I’m a scholar (in other topics) and he’s a scholar (even if he’s dead and his ideas are completely discredited), so that makes two! So I’ll write ‘Some scholars think…’” That’s bordering academic dishonesty. Better simply to say, “I believe such-and-such is so.” If I find someone who used to think so, as well, then I can say, “This view was once held by so-and-so.” But to make my position seem stronger than it is by a vague reference to “scholars”? Hard to justify. [For a related mistake, see the “Wow, I’m a Scholar on This Topic!” Mistake, below.]

May I not fall prey to that temptation. If I believe what I am writing will stand up to scrutiny, I should be brave enough to present a good picture of the facts and to avoid slight-of-hand.

•  The “They’re Ancient and Primitive So They MUST Be Right!” Mistake.  This was one of the single most irritating facets of working with the 2012 hype. Even though the Maya really did not predict virtually anything AT ALL concerning 2012, the simple impression that they did was enough to help sell the hoax to millions. As I have commented before, there seems to be a tendency among those of us in the developed world to look on ancient, indigenous peoples of the past as though they had some sort of “special wisdom” about all things that we simply don’t have today. And, to be sure, many of them did understand things we don’t; the passage of time is not enough to make a people wiser and closer to God and truth. But the instant “credibility” with which any old loopy idea can be adorned simply by associating it with an ancient people is ludicrous. “The Mayans thought the world would end in 2012? Oh, well, I guess it might be so!” Yet, do we ever hear, also, “The Mayans thought that child sacrifice was pretty awesome? Oh, well, I guess it might be so!” The ways of the Gentiles have always had a special sheen in the eyes of Israelites, it seems, and this thankfully-now-past 2012-phenomenon may have been fueled by that to a certain extent.

While I don’t see this as too much of a temptation for me, at the same time I do hate it when people assume that ancient peoples were somehow so primitive that they were virtually children compared to us “moderns” as opposed to being adult, thinking people more similar to us than we give them credit for. In that irritation, I suppose I could find a temptation to over-glamorize an ancient people. However, other than the false assertion that the ancient Maya had no sufficiently sophisticated writing system until the arrival of the Spanish with their Latin alphabet—which is silly to anyone who has bothered to look into the complexity of the Mayan syllabic glyphs and logograms—most of what I’ve seen written of the ancient Maya seems to over-glorify them.

Ancient peoples should not be put down as lesser humans than we are, yet they should not be seen as somehow superior, either. Though they did not, even if the Mayan’s had said something significant about 2012AD, what difference would it make in any way at all? No more than if the local Kiwanis Club said something about the year 3012AD.

•  The “I Think I Can Hide This with an Ellipsis (…)” Mistake.  This one is a tempting one, as well. Sometimes someone says something in some literature or in an article and the words seem to be just what you need to support your point. Yet, the context makes it clear that what they mean by what they say is not what you mean. So, how can one grab the words while hiding the difference? The strategic ellipsis, or “…”

There are, to be sure, legitimate uses for a well-placed “…” in a quotation. For instance, perhaps one wants to keep the quotation shorter and less relevant material could be removed without impacting the meaning of the statement. I could even see using a “…” to remove a part of the quotation that would distract the reader from the point at hand. That might take a judgment call, but one that needs to be made with integrity and proper purpose.

However, to use ellipses to essentially alter the meaning of text–that usage would be inappropriate and could border on (if not cross over into) bearing false witness.

And in 2012-ology, I have seen a good bit of that. I’ve seen scientists “quoted” out of magazine articles or newspaper columns as if they agree with 2012 End of Days/New Age scenarios through the use of strategic “…” placement. However, when one looks up the source of the quote and sees it in context, one finds that the scientist actually believes quite the opposite! The ellipses were placed, intentionally or not, in such a way as to change the meaning of his actual words or to make it seem he supported something he does not. Those examples were academically sloppy at best and academically dishonest at worst.

As I did before, let me create an analogous example. Let’s say I’m an atheist who believes that many of the writers of the Bible didn’t believe in God and I believe David was such a writer. Well, I could write that Psalm 53 says, “A contemplation of David… ‘There is no God.’” That would be, of course, dishonest, since the “…” hides something important: “A contemplation of David. ‘The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”’”

(For the record, I have seen this used in more than 2012-related work. I’ve seen some quote our literature, for instance, for their own purposes and use the “…” to make the quote seem more supportive of their own opinion than it truly is. In fact, I have seen entire Tomorrow’s World articles and commentaries plagiarized by individuals online while using a strategic “…” to remove a sentence or two they don’t agree with. The plagiarism is carnal and bad enough with or without the ellipses (simply citing the source, however well or poorly, is not enough to make something not plagiarism, by the way), but the strategic “…” is all the more worthy of disapprobation. Such practices are shameful, they blatantly violate at least one commandment if not two or more, and I do hope that those individuals repent of such behavior. Time will tell.)

I can see this mistake as one that is easy to make relatively innocently, but it is still a mistake, and I want to be careful to avoid it. Also, I want to avoid quoting someone to such an extent that either I risk plagiarizing them (again, listing them as the source is insufficient to prevent this) or I risk stealing internet traffic that is rightfully theirs as the originators of the content (and providing a link to their content is not enough if I quote them too heavily).

I think this would be a matter of loving my neighbor as myself—a commandment held in high esteem by the Lord (Mark 12:31) and, thus, by those who follow Him—and I would want my own words handled carefully by both those who agree with me and those who don’t.

•  The “Wow, I’m a Scholar on This Topic!” Mistake.  2012-ology was chock-full of self-appointed “scholars” who, in reality, were no more than hobbyists (or, in some cases, obsessive fanatics). “A little knowledge is dangerous,” as they say, and the abundance of 2012 “research” proved that to be true. Somehow, the fact that someone can piece together Chilam Balam quotes, references to Quetzalcoatl, Dresden Codex pictures, and various inscriptions in personally exciting ways does not make them a scholar. Rather, it simply makes them someone who can piece together Chilam Balam quotes, references to Quetzalcoatl, Dresden Codex pictures, and various inscriptions in personally exciting ways. Using original source materials does not make one a scholar or expert on how those source materials should be used.  Really, the ways I have seen disparate works, such as the Codex and the Chilam Balam, combined in complete ignorance (or, in some cases, in unjustified denial) of legitimate scholars’ work on those materials was disheartening. I believe the work I saw was innocent in the sense that it was sincere, but it was still shoddy and represented both poor academic thinking and a startling presumption of unearned expertise.

I tried to avoid this mistake in my 2012 writing, not allowing myself to believe I had become an expert on matters for which, in truth, I was simply a well-informed hobbyist. I hope I succeeded. And being a well-informed hobbyist was, indeed, more than enough to enable one to see through the wrong conclusions of the many who considered themselves to be “scholars.”

And all of this said, two additional things probably should be said, as well. One, I don’t have a problem with one who is “simply a well-informed hobbyist” standing his ground and disagreeing with established scholars. Sometimes there are reasonable grounds for doing so—a case I think Thomas Nagel makes in his anti-neo-Darwinist book, to which I referred earlier. We can’t fault some for doubting us if that’s the case, and we should be brave enough to admit the disagreement with established scholarship as opposed to pretending that we somehow represent the “mainstream” thought versus a radical or divergent view, but we don’t have to let others do our thinking for us, either. And, two, as Christians, we understand that the Bible is relevant, trustworthy information in addition to what scholars study on such issues. So, for instance, those who research history who ignore what the Bible has to say about it, in both its historical writings and its prophetic writings, are not including all relevant data, and I have no qualms with coming to different conclusions than they do. Of course, when it comes to Mayan’s supposed-beliefs about 2012, the Bible is silent: It does not say that they predicted an End of the World Event in 2012, nor does it say that they didn’t. Consequently, we have every reason in the world to defer to actual Mayan scholarship. (And, no, sifting Mayan writings for the stuff that fits our idea does not count as scholarship.)

•  The “Every Connection I Can Make is a Good Connection!” Mistake.  This can be a very tempting mistake, as well. In its most tempting form, it involves seeing “connections” that seem so reasonable to us that they simply “must” be true and then failing to do the “hard yards” to see of those connections really are justified. The example I alluded to parenthetically above about connecting Bolon Yokte on Monument 6 and Jesus Christ is a good example—the hobbyist might connect them, yet if one digs deeper one sees that such a connection is completely unjustified.

However, I saw worse. For instance, in trying to claim a connection between the Dresden Codex and 2012, I saw a claim made that the Venus Transit in 2012 establishes such a connection. Does it really? No, not in any way whatsoever, and the assertion is ridiculous on its face. Yes, the Dresden Codex apparently has astronomical Venus tables, so it is plausible that the transit that occurred in 2012 would be indicated in one of the many positions noted in the table (though I would like to see someone show that table entry to me—something I’ve never seen displayed). But this simply does not indicate that the Dresden Codex, let alone its decorative last page, is related to 2012-goofiness at all! It would be like saying that the last page of the Farmer’s Almanac is all about my birthday because, after all, my birthday is in the Almanac! Of course, so is yours, and your mother’s, your dog’s, your parakeet’s, Steven Spielberg’s, etc.

When we want to see a connection between two things desperately enough, we will see such “connections” even where they don’t exist, and they will seem reasonable to us (Jer. 17:9). Academic integrity, as well as simple honesty, will help to hold us back from banking on such “connections” if they are ultimately ungrounded—however tempting they may be. (Unless you’re Russell Crowe’s John Nash. Then…)

•  The “I Think I Can Interpret This However I’d Like” Mistake.  This happens in just about any endeavor which requires interpretation—which means virtually any endeavor in which humans are trying to understand anything. It certainly happens in Bible interpretation, and it also most certainly happened in 2012-tomfoolery.

In fact, hobbyists’ poorly interpreting Mayan writings through the filter of modern Christian apocalyptic thinking is one of the things that real Mayan scholars complained about most.  I saw it myself in many, many examples: Trying to treat the Chilam Balam as if it were fairly linear like the book of Revelation or some other sort of Christian “end of days” work, as if the cultural mindset and context behind its writing weren’t completely different; trying to tie together the Dresden Codex and the Chilam Balam in manners that violate basic research into the progression of Mayan culture through the centuries; trying to interpret Monument 6 at Tortuguero or the Comalcalco Brick apart from understanding the Mayan culture that would motivate and generate such carvings, inserting, instead, Christian or modern Western ideas completely foreign to the objects’ creators; et al.

When one bothers to look at the products of the Mayan culture through even a modicum of understanding of that culture, most of the horrible misinterpretations of those Mayan writings and carvings vanish like a vapor.

This is a mistake—interpreting things in the manner I like most—that I have made before, and I know I can be tempted to do.

And when it comes to the stack of 2012-related books I had to slog through which chose to interpret the Maya however they liked, that temptation claimed a lot of victims over the last decade. It’s a warning I appreciate: That even the best of minds can be so married to a subject that academic integrity slides in the service of, what someone once called, an “idea baby.” But trustworthy interpretive methodology should be adhered to, lest I become unmoored. And the examples 2012-ology has given me of unmoored individuals will serve as reminders in my memory banks for, hopefully, a long, long time.

I’ve learned a lot more, to be sure, but this list is getting big as it is! Given that this is the last 2012-related post I ever plan to write (though I assume we should never say “never”!), I wanted to be thorough. And I wanted to have a more positive slant than previous posts: Again, though it has been an irritating pursuit in one sense, it really has been really fun in another sense and ultimately very educational. Whether I did it well or not, I got the opportunity to use a popular “fad” to point people to God’s beautiful truth, and I got to learn many lessons, as well, about academic integrity and about making sure our stance in our writings is the most credible one to take (and, thankfully, in this case it clearly was).

And I should add that I will be forever grateful for being allowed to utter the phrases “jeweled, self-dribbling basketballs” and “self-transforming machine elves” on television. Really—a dream come true.

So, to that lone church member who first suggested to me, long ago, that I create a telecast about the 2012-hysteria: Thank you for that e-mail. I really do appreciate it, and I believe it has been a profitable effort for God’s Work—and a fun one, too.

Rediscovering my blog & final 2012 Non-pocalypse thoughts

Howdy, everyone! My apologies–wow, it’s been the better part of a month! I did not mean to abandon my blog for so long, but December was crazy busy, so my time was better spent elsewhere. I was able to tape two new Tomorrow’s World programs during that time, though, as well as attend the wonderful Charlotte weekend with my family.

Among the things I’ve been itching to post about is, believe it or not, 2012. Charlotte published my last commentary on the subject–“After the Non-pocalypse”–on December 20, and I wanted to write something here about the lessons I have learned in being, for what it’s worth, the Church’s “2012 guy” (as Mrs. Ogwyn once called me, I believe). I actually began writing something about those lessons learned over the week I was working on telecasts and during the Charlotte weekend, but it grew so large that I have not finished it and now wonder if it is worth the effort!

I did learn a great deal, though–mostly about academic integrity and how lost some can get if they don’t maintain it. Literally every modern work I saw which claimed the Maya really did predict the end of the world in 2012 did, in some way, lack academic integrity or honesty. In this matter, I am glad that God’s Church and Work avoided shabby “research” and hewed to the most credible position: That by all appearances the ancient Maya never did predict the 2012 event that New Agers and hobbyists claimed they did (or, for that matter, what the sensationalist profit-seekers at the History Channel may have claimed they did).

And, of course, I am even more pleased that we didn’t get lost in the woods, so to speak. The thing to say about 2012 is not, “Oooooo, look at what some pagans and hippies think”–rather, it is that such stuff is junk and that the Bible, alone, should be our guide concerning prophecy. In this sense, what the Mayans said or didn’t say is irrelevant.

So, now that 2012 stuff is going the way of the dodo, I can say that I am pleased the Church stood for the truth as completely as possible: Both biblical truth and academic truth. It made our position the most credible it could be and, hopefully, added power to the message we were trying to deliver (which is, of course, God’s and not ours!).

My thanks to the Church member who sent me that e-mail some years ago, now, encouraging me to do a telecast on 2012 because of the confusion he saw in his acquaintances on the matter! Now that it is over, I can say that it has been a wonderful mixture of fun and frustration and a real learning opportunity, and I am thankful to have been able to serve in this way.

But if the Inca said anything about 2014, please don’t tell me about it…

Tomorrow: One month from the non-Maya non-pocalypse

“After December 21, I am soooooo taking a vacation…”

I may be too busy to post tomorrow (currently enjoying a hotel room and a slow start to the morning!), so I thought I would post on this today. With tomorrow’s being November 21, that means we’ll be only one month away from the Great Non-Maya Non-pocalpyse.

Saw a nice admission in the news recently in a sadly pathetic story about town in France that is being forced to prevent people and reporters from flooding it as December 21 approaches because–no kidding–people believe that the mountain on which it sits contains a UFO that will rescue them from the approaching Non-Maya Non-Event of Non-Doom.  As the article says, “One online rumor holds that on this day of destruction, Pic de Bugarach [the mountain] will open up to reveal an alien spacecraft, which will save believers nearby. That has local officials worried.” Later, the article points out that they are “worried” about being overrun by “visionaries” and reporters, not little green men.

Feel free to read the article yourself at LiveScience.com: “Mayan Doomsday ‘Safe ‘Zone’ Shut Down.”  The admission to which I refer is earlier in the article:

The calendar change would not have been seen as the end of the world by the ancient Maya, scholars agree. But in New Age and other online subcultures, believers have come to expect something major on that day, with predictions ranging from a new dawn of peace and harmony to an explosive doomsday.

Scholars agree.” Indeed. As I’ve pointed out here over and over, nothing in the Maya writings (and they have possessed an elaborate writing system for many centuries, well before the Spaniards arrived with “Christianity”) nor their many, many carvings indicates that they saw December 21, 2012 in the same way that 2012-ologists do, and credible researchers today agree on this. If anything, Mayan writings say the opposite. And none of the later corrupted writings (such as the Chilam Balam) tie any of their often misunderstood “apocalyptic-style” writings to 2012 or the end of the current calendar cycle, either–again, as scholars continually try to assert to a world of New Agers and Maya-hobbyists who refuse to face facts.

Now, might something actually happen in December of 2012? We certainly are in increasingly cataclysmic times, and, yes, “something” can always happen. In fact, I can predict that no matter what happens or doesn’t happen, certain “prophets” will point to one thing or another to claim they were right: “See, I said (something sort of like) that would (possibly) happen!” or “Don’t you feel the wave of intergalactic peace and love washing over all of us?” [In the first case, we need to coin a word for such folks, as I feel bad abusing “prophet.” Maybe “probphet”? In the second case, I suspect that funny-smelling cigarettes will be passed around while such sentiments are discussed.] But it won’t be because the Maya predicted it.

If you want to know what real scholars say about the 2012 hoopla, poke around the blog here (for instance, this post). However, if you want to know what real prophecy says about the years just ahead of us, poke around hereTomorrow’s World.

Top Ten Reasons the 2012 Hype is Hype

If this guy could talk, I'm sure he would say, "Read this Top Ten List."

I noticed yesterday that my blog pops up rather high in a Google search on 2012! I don’t know if that should leave me excited or depressed. 🙂

So, I thought to myself, “Self, if folks are going to find their way here, they might as well find the truth once they arrive.” [My thanks to the late Mr. Galbreath, my high school history teacher, for that “Self…” thing. I miss you, Mr. Galbreath!]

While I recommend viewing other posts for details, perhaps this one post can give a nice summary (which I will simulblog on the “2012 Prophecy Blog”)…

Top Ten Reasons the 2012 Hype is… well… Hype

  1. 2012 is barely mentioned at all in Mayan inscriptions. (One mention on Tortuguero Monument 6—minus doomsday, mind you—and one disputed possible mention on the backside of one tile… two out of about 15,000 artifacts.)
  2. 2012 is not clearly mentioned in the Chilam Balam. (Note: the “law of the katun” is not a reference to 2012, nor to the Long Count Calendar, nor is it a “doomsday” reference.)
  3. The “water scene” in the Dresden Codex is not definitively a flood (let alone a global flood), nor is it tied in any way at all—whatever it represents—to 2012 or to the Mayan Long Count Calendar.
  4. Actual scientists who have made the Mayan culture part of their life’s work have tried again and again to explain that the Maya did not predict the end of the world in 2012. (E.g., Dr. David Stuart, Dr. Stephen Houston, Dr. Anne Pyburn, Dr. Mark van Stone, Dr. John Hoopes, Dr. Susan Milbrath, Dr. Robert Sitler, Dr. Sandra Noble, Dr. Susan Gilespie, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, et al.)
  5. 2012-hysteria is chiefly the creation of modern New Agers and professional stoners (that is, enthusiasts of hallucinogenic drugs).
  6. Predictions of a mysterious Planet X or Nibiru being on a collision course for Earth in 2012 have no basis in astronomical fact.
  7. Comments that aliens—Zeta Reticulans, what have you—have communicated to us the significance of 2012 are based on communications from “aliens.” (‘Nuff said, I hope.)
  8. The supposed “Galactic Alignment” of December 2012 is false. We’ve been in such a supposed “alignment” for many years, with many years yet to go and with nothing special about 2012 in any way.
  9. The I Ching does not give us 2012 as an end of the world or “year of transformation” in any way at all and the “novelty theory” method used to say it does by Terrence McKenna is as close to “science” as astrology is (and was obtained by McKenna, by his own admission, through the use of hallucinogenic drugs).
  10. Virtually every means by which an “end of the world” prediction has been squeezed out of the year 2012—astrology, use of hallucinogenics, “spirit guides” and channeling, worship of ancient cultures, etc.—is soundly condemned by God’s Word.

The facts aren’t in dispute: All available evidence points to the conclusion that the Maya never said anything about the world ending on 2012. As Dr. David Stuart has said on his own website, speaking of Tortuguero Monument 6, “It has nothing to do with prophecy or the supposed, dread events that await us in AD 2012. About that the Maya are notably silent…or, truth be told, a bit boring.”

The Bible—the only credible source of knowledge about the future!—makes it clear that the “end of the world” cannot happen for—at the very least—the next 3½ years (actually more), given that the Great Tribulation (followed by the Day of the Lord) has not yet begun.

This is not to say that amazing things will not happen between now and then. In a world in which the greatest national powers in existence are teetering on the abyss of instability and conditions continue to ripen for the fulfillment of countless biblical prophecies, I would expect amazing things to happen!

But that only increases the irritation caused by 2012 nonsense. When it passes without fulfilling the expectations of its adherents or matching the proclamations of its promoters, it will be one more reason the populace provides for ignoring prophecy in general. And what a shame, when so much real prophetic fulfillment is afoot.

If you would like to know the real truth about 2012, please feel free to request your own copy of our free hour-long DVD, “2012: Mystery and Truth” (listed toward the bottom in “Media”). It really is free, with no strings attached. It’s just a little something we do. (Actually, something we have to do: Matthew 10:8.) There are a number of other free materials we have related to 2012, as well, including a stream of our half-hour television program that discussed the matter (“2012, Bible Prophecy and You!”), and some commentaries and articles you can find by searching “2012” on our website. Better yet—peruse the website and read some of our materials on biblical prophecy. What the Bible has to say about the years just ahead put the 2012 hoopla to shame. Consider starting here: “Fourteen Signs Announcing Christ’s Return”

(By the way—this is my personal blog, and though I am a presenter on the Tomorrow’s World telecast this is not an official Tomorrow’s World website. However, if I can do anything to get you to go there instead of hanging out here, I am happy to do it! The Tomorrow’s World website contains enough revelatory discussion of Bible prophecy to satisfy the sweetest of prophetic sweet tooths, all of it grounded in solid biblical understanding. Concerning the Tomorrow’s World website, I am happy to say in the spirit of the (political) season, “I’m Wallace Smith, and I approve that message.” 🙂 So, check it out!)

What the Maya did & didn’t say about 2012

Well, normally at this time I write about why I do not keep Christmas, and I will still try and do that – maybe tomorrow.  However, due to the work I have done over the last few months for the Tomorrow’s World telecast, magazine article, and the new DVD we’re offering, I have a new timely topic to discuss: The so-called Mayan doomsday date of December 21, 2012.

(Of course, you will note that it would have been timelier three days ago.  But those who know me probably – and sadly – are not surprised that I would think to do this a few days late!)

Some have wondered if the free DVD (and as of a few weeks ago, we’ve had 26,000 requests for the DVD already!) is simply a copy of the television program that I did on the topic.  No, it is not – it is a brand new, specially made, hour-long program on the 2012 hysteria and the biblical response to it.  It contains a number of details that the Tomorrow’s World television program did not have.

I’ve been told that about 8 minutes of my work had to be edited out to fit the time constraints of the DVD.  In addition, there was some material that I edited out, myself, before taping to try and make the program fit to time and to focus on those things that were most important to say.  With those things in mind, I thought it might be fun to include some of that excluded content here on my blog – sort of like a “special features” section of a DVD, except that it’s just me, and I’m not that special. 🙂

I can’t include the material that editorial had to cut for time, because I do not know what that was, yet (except one item: my comments concerning 2012er Daniel Pinchbeck, and I will try to include that in a later post when I know more about what was cut).  However, I can include some of the information that I had to cut, myself.  And from what I have seen, it is hard to find a concentrated discussion of some of these items out there, so maybe this will have value to some poor 2012-deluded soul who is looking for info and may come across it.

In particular, let me expand on something that – in the end – I only had time to allude to in the final version of my DVD script.  On the DVD, I make the following comment:

“There simply is no solid, legitimate support in the Mayan writings we have today that they viewed December 21, 2012 as a coming End of the World!  While some wish to say that the Maya foresaw December 21, 2012 as the end of life as we know it on planet earth, the climatic date in all of history, we have to admit that the Maya are strangely silent about the date.  It seems that modern man is more concerned about the date than the Maya ever were!”

Before saying this I refer to three objects that sometimes get attention in this regard: Monument 6 at Tortuguero, the Dresden Codex, and the later writings of the Chilam Balam.  The first of these I had time to say a little about in the presentation, but for the latter two I had no time at all and I only mentioned them in passing.  Let me add some detail here for the curious and to explain the basis for the assertions I make in the presentation.

[Though, before I do that, conscience compels me to say three fundamental things:

(1) Even if the Mayans did predict the world would end in 2012 – and all indicators are that they did not – it would be irrelevant in the larger scheme of things.  It is the God of the Bible who declares the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10), and in the light of scripture the so-called-Mayan-but-actually-New-Age 2012 fantasies are just that: fantasies.  For mode details, request the DVD or go out to tomorrowsworld.org!

(2) Many mistakenly say that the Mayan calendar (as if they had only one) ends in December of 2012.  While likely an innocent mistake, this is false for several reasons.  For one, the Mayans had several calendars; when people speak of “the calendar” coming to an end, they are usually speaking only of what is called the Long Count Calendar, which reaches the end of a baktun in December 2012 according to many scholars.  More importantly, the Mayans, themselves, did not see even their Long Count Calendar as coming to an end.  Rather, like our own calendars at the end of a century or a millennium, their calendar simply keeps on going.  In fact, there are many Mayan inscriptions that indicate dates and anniversaries long after 2012 – an odd fact for a calendar that is supposed to “end.”

(3) Some scholars believe that the commonly used GMT correlation that equates the end of the Mayan baktun with December 21, 2012 is actually wrong and is off by several years, at least.  At least one Mesoamerican scholar has told me personally that the GMT correlation doesn’t fit several Mayan astronomical records, which would be odd if it were as correct as it is given credit for, given the special fondness the Mayans had for accurate astronomy.

OK, with those things off my chest, I can continue! 🙂 ]

Where was I before Captain Parenthetical Comment interrupted?  Oh, yes!  Details for the curious that did not make it into the DVD for lack of time…  Let me warn the reader now that some of this will seem a bit dry or esoteric — get some caffeine in you before you proceed!

•  Monument 6 at Tortuguero in the Chiapas Highlands of Mexico.  This stone work is notable as the only work discovered to date that specifically mentions 2012.  And it is also, therefore, notable in that it doesn’t say anything that indicates December 21, 2012 will be the end of the world.

The Monument 6 inscription at Tortuguero is partially eroded and no complete translation can be made.  However, according to Wikipedia (and, hey, when is that ever wrong?) the Mesoamerica Center Discussion Board for the University of Texas reports this translation: “‘The Thirteenth Bak’tun’ will be finished (on) Four Ahaw, the Third of K’ank’in. ? will occur. (It will be) the descent(?) of the Nine Support (?) God(s) to the ?.”  (The comment about “Four Ahaw” will be clearer later when I discuss the Chilam Balam.)  The scholars involved have reported that the format and words used are nothing special in that they are not uncommon and are associated with other “dedication events.”

No, Monument 6 offers nothing worthwhile for those who wish to turn December 21, 2012 into a Mayan doomsday prediction.  And, remember: it is the only direct mention of the 2012 baktun end that we have discovered to date.  Odd that if it were supposed to be the end of the world that it would be spoken of so nonchalantly, huh?

Moving on, let’s look at…

•  The Dresden Codex.  The Mayan Codices are a marvelous resource for understanding their culture and writings.  You can read more about them here if you are interested.  The Dresden Codex (Codex Dresdensis) is one of the most famous of the few codices that survive, and it is named for city in Germany in which it resides.  It is elaborate and long (a screen-folded “book” of 39 leaves & 78 pages) but is not prophetic (unlike the Paris Codex).

The Dresden Codex tends to get attention in the 2012 works I researched due to the elaborate image it bears of water pouring from the mouth of what appears to be a serpent (see image below).

Photo of Dresden Codex page

In fact, I would suspect that this might be the inspiration of the “end of the world tsunamis” in the recent “2012” movie, though I have no idea.  However, there are a few things noteworthy about this image: (1) the image is given without comment, so there is no indication that the Mayans meant for it to be a prophetic image (though it certainly could be), (2) the December 21, 2012 date is not referred to in the Dresden Codex, (3) there are good reasons to understand the Dresden Codex as, in some ways, a Mayan Almanac, which might mean that the waters indicated are simply communicating something related to agriculture.

Even if the image is meant to indicate an apocalyptic flood of Emmerichian proportions – and there is no strong evidence that I can find to indicate this – there is nothing in the codex to tie the image to 2012.

Finally, the big one…

•  The Chilam Balam.  Of the three items here mentioned, this one is of interest because (1) it does contain prophecies, and (2) it does indicate time frames (sort of) for those prophecies.  However, on both of these counts it is often misunderstood.

Rather than give the basics on the Chilam Balam here, let me defer to Wikipedia for those who want more info so that I can focus on some specific items.  Before I can discuss some passages in the Chilam Balam, there are some foundational things that have to be understood.  And, as is my wont, I will probably overexplain in unwanted detail.  (Is consistency a virtue?)

First, the books of the Chilam Balam were composed well after the Classical Mayan period – in fact, the better part of a millennium afterward.  They were written after the Spanish conquest as late as the 18th and 19th centuries, though some of the source material may go as far back as the time of the conquest in the 16th and 17th centuries (the Classical Mayan period ended around 900AD).  They are in the language of the Yucatec Maya but written with European script as opposed to the hieroglyphic-like script that the Mayans had previously used for centuries.

Secondly, the books of the Chilam Balam are clearly “corrupted” by Spanish and Catholic influence, to the point where it is often hard to pinpoint where the Maya commentary and prophecies end and the Catholic influence begins.  Read enough of them and the corruption is obvious.  It is this point on which I am probably pickier than most in that I have a difficult time calling the prophecies of the Chilam Balam “Mayan prophecies.”  In actuality, they are hybrid works, and their “culturally corrupted” nature gives me pause in using that designation.  However, it really is not an unreasonable designation, though those who hear it should always remember that there are Catholic and Spanish influences that are woven into the books and that care should be taken in identifying the writings as belonging to the people we see in documentaries and movies as the ancient Maya.  (And cultural mixings and strong Spanish/Catholic influences aside, I don’t think anyone would call Hernán Cortés the 16th century conquistador an “ancient Spaniard.”)

Lastly, as mentioned, the Chilam Balam manuscripts do contain predictions about the future, but – and this is of significance in our discussion – they do not tie those predictions to the Long Count Calendar.  Rather, the Mayan approach to prophecy focused on a different calendar: a set of 13 katuns, where a katun is 7,200 days long.  Being 7,200 days, each katun was just under 20 years long (7,200 ÷ 365.25 = 19.71), and the entire cycle of 13 katuns was a little over 256 years long (13 × 7,200 ÷ 365.25 = 256.26).

The names of the katuns are a little counterintuitive, since they have numbers in their names but the numbers do not go in the order you might expect.  The names of each of the 13 katuns (each one 7,200 days or just under 20 years long) are, in order:

  1. Katun 11 Ahau
  2. Katun 9 Ahau
  3. Katun 7 Ahau
  4. Katun 5 Ahau
  5. Katun 3 Ahau
  6. Katun 1 Ahau
  7. Katun 12 Ahau
  8. Katun 10 Ahau
  9. Katun 8 Ahau
  10. Katun 6 Ahau
  11. Katun 4 Ahau
  12. Katun 2 Ahau
  13. Katun 13 Ahau

This ordering can be illustrated by this “katun wheel” diagram, reproducing that of 16th century Catholic Bishop Diego de Landa Calderón (who, actually, was responsible for destroying a vast amount of the Mayans’ original writings in an Inquisitional auto de fé):

Image of Landa's Katun Wheel

The odd numbering (11, 9, 7, etc.) owes itself to the fact that the Mayans used a type of “week” or “month” that was 13 days long (thus the numbers 1-13 above, indicating the day of that “week”) yet they had 20 day names, the twentieth being “Ahau,” sometimes written “Ajaw.”  (You can see all 20 day names here.)  Each 7,200-day katun in the 256 year cycle was named after its very last day, and since 7,200 is divided evenly by 20, the name of that day was always the 20th day: Ahau.  However, because 7,200 is not divided evenly by 13, the number of that day differs, always falling 2 short from completing the numerical cycle of 13 days (7,200 ÷ 13 has a remainder of 11, just 2 short of a full 13).

If all of that is too mathy or confusing, don’t worry about it.  The important thing for understanding the Chilam Balam’s prophetic comments is to understand that it is based not on the Long Count Calendar, but the 256-year-long cycle of 13 katuns, and that their names are given, in order, as above.

While we modern folks place a lot of importance on the Long Count Calendar, we have to keep in mind that the Mayans were not so single-minded.  They had a variety of calendars, and the one they used depended on the purpose for which it was employed.  The calendar of primary focus in the Chilam Balam was this 256-year-long cycle of 13 katuns, which was the calendar most connected to Maya predictions – which were, in their own ways, often cyclical like the katun cycle.  What you expected to happen in a future katun was essentially a repetition of what had happened in the same katun in a previous cycle.

With this background, we can finally look at the few comments in the Chilam Balam thought by many to mention December 21, 2012 – in particular, two selections from the Chumayel Chilam Balam manuscript.  Here’s one, from the 10th chapter of Ralph Roys’ well-respected translation of the Chilam Balam of Chumayel:

“But when the law of the katun shall have run its course, then God will bring about a great deluge again which will be the end of the world. When this is over, then our Lord Jesus Christ shall descend over the valley of Jehoshaphat beside the town of Jerusalem where he redeemed us with his holy blood. He shall descend on a great cloud to bear true testimony that he was once obliged to suffer, stretched out on a cross of wood. Then shall descend in his great power and glory the true God who created heaven and earth and everything on earth. He shall descend to level off the world for the good and the bad, the conquerors and the captives.”

(I note here that Mr. Roland Emmerich may have been inspired by this passage, instead of by the Dresden Codex, in crafting his prayer-despising, religion-hating movie, but, again, I have no idea.)

First, the Catholic cultural influence must be obvious to even the most casual reader. And to Bible students, the impossibility of the prophecy (given the promise of Genesis 9:15 that God will not “bring about a great deluge again” to cause the “end of the world”) should stand out, as well.

However, the question at hand is this: Is this a prophecy about December 21, 2012?

No, it is not.  The phrase “law of the katun” is the key, as it does not refer to the Long Count Calendar, at all.  It refers to the 256-year katun calendar, as previously explained.  Specifically, it refers to the katun of that particular prophecy (the most likely scenario, based on how the phrase is used in the texts; see also footnote 106:4 of Chapter 10 of Roys’ Chumayel translation).  In this case, that would be Katun 3 Ahau, which does not include 2012, at all.  Using the standard GMT Mayan/Gregorian Calendar correlation, Katun 3 Ahau could refer to the following time periods after the Spanish conquest, each approximately 20 years (one katun) long: 1618-1638, 1874-1894, or 2131-2150.  So, either this Maya prophecy failed (no surprise, there!) or it still has another century to go before it has another chance (don’t count on it).

[EDIT, 1/8/10:  Someone has kindly pointed out that the language may indicate this happening in a katun to follow Katun 3 Ahau as opposed to in Katun 3 Ahau itself.  This certainly may be the case, though it still doesn’t bring the statement any closer to 2012 and, given the cyclical nature of the katuns, it could be any of them if this is the case.  There simply is no worthwhile evidence to attach the timing of this statement to 2012, as the remaining paragraphs discuss.]

Though this is the best attested understanding of “law of the katun” – the one indicated by the paragraph immediately preceding the prophecy which uses the exact same phrase, as well as its many other uses in the Chilam Balam – one might argue that it does not mean the law of that particular katun, but of the full 13 katun cycle.  And even though this is not the understanding best suggested by the evidence, even if this were true it would still not get us to 2012, since the current 13 katun cycle will end in mid-2052, not 2012 – almost forty years after everyone’s favorite date.

Regardless of which of the above interpretations is accurate (again, with the former being the most likely), the evidence is clear that the “law of the katun” running its course does not refer to the Long Count Calendar’s December 21, 2012 date.  It simply cannot be made to fit given all the evidence to suggest otherwise.

Now, all of this said, let me quote a part of the Chilam Balam of Chumayel that may include 2012 in its time period and which may seem end-of-the-world-ish at first glance.  This can be read in Chapter 12 of Roys’ translation:

“Katun 4 Ahau is the eleventh katun according to the count.  The katun is established at Chichen Itzá.  The settlement of the Itzá shall take place there.  The quetzal shall come, the green bird shall come.  Ah Kantenal shall come. Blood-vomit shall come.  Kukulcan shall come with them for the second time. It is the word of God.  The Itzá shall come.”

Now, Katun 4 Ahau would be the katun we are now living in, which began in 1993 and which does end in December 2012.  (The next Katun 4 Ahau would be 2249-2269 and the previous one was 1736-1756.)  Is this an “end of the world” prophecy that stands out from the rest?

Hardly.  For one, any reader of the Chilam Balam of Chumayel would note here that the text continues right after this to say what will happen in the very next katun as if life keeps on going.  In fact, a reader of the text would have to notice that the katun prophecies surrounding this one, those before and after dealing with entirely different time periods, are in many ways more dramatic.

Also, though this katun prophecy mentions “blood-vomit,” this is not the only place in the Chilam Balam in which this word occurs.  For instance, Chapter 18 of Roys’ translation also mentions “blood-vomit” (and other similarities to the prophecy above; for the Mayans, history & prophecy were repetitious cycles).  Elsewhere in the Chilam Balam (Chapter 21 of Roys) a pestilence that occurred in Katun 4 Ahau (very possibly around 1485, or the “fifth tun of that katun,” before the Spanish conquest) is chronicled and is the best candidate for the “blood-vomit” reference.  The Mayans believed that what happened in one katun would happen again when the same katun returned in the next cycle, thus it makes sense to relate the “blood-vomit” to this pestilence.  (Noteworthy is the fact that this pestilence happened towards the beginning of that katun, not on the last day.)

Regardless, to say that this passage speaks specifically of December 21, 2012 and then to say, further, that it is a prediction of the end of the world is to miss or ignore the context.  One simply cannot say that the Chilam Balam predicts the end of the world in 2012.

And there you have it! Whew, what a long post!

I know that most of you probably gave up before reaching the end, and – what can I say – I don’t blame you!  But for those of you who struggled and made it this far, let me make a final point…

It’s sort of funny.  Consider the points above about the Dresden Codex and the Chilam Balam – the result of a lot of work done to determine if the Maya did, indeed, say anything about 2012 as they are claimed to have said.  Yet, in the DVD that we’ve produced, I simply refer to these two sources in a statement only 23 words long – none of that info is in the DVD.  Why not?  Because ultimately it’s irrelevant to the point we are trying to make, though it was valuable research for me because it helped me to know I was on solid ground in my assertions.  I post all of this here only (1) to display some of the behind-the-scenes work that went on in preparing the DVD, (2) to explain why I say that “[t]here simply is no solid, legitimate support in the Mayan writings we have today that they viewed December 21, 2012 as a coming End of the World,” and (3) to demonstrate that when I say on the DVD that I have looked at these things, I really do mean it!  🙂

Finally, if you happen to have wandered onto this blog post through some sort of search engine – perhaps Googling around for 2012 info – let me give you the end of the matter: If you really want to know about the future, get your head out of the History Channel and the 2012 stuff at your local bookstore and get into your Bible.  The Bible is a tried and true source of prophetic knowledge, unlike the 2012 fantasies of New Agers and psychedelic drug users.  If you’d like help, I recommend checking out the Tomorrow’s World website.  You can also contact us through that website and request our new hour-long DVD – “2012: Mystery and Truth” – that debunks the 2012 hysteria and presents the Bible truth about the matter, and about the future, in helpful detail.  Like all of our materials, the DVD is absolutely free.

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2012, Maya experts, Tomorrow’s World, and three bowls of chili

It looks as though the new Tomorrow’s World magazine is out with my article about the “2012 phenomenon” and the Bible: “The Truth about 2012: Hollywood vs. Humanity.”

Tomorrow's World Magazine Cover

We haven’t received ours in the mail, yet, but it is up at the Tomorrow’s World website.  I’ve discussed before some of the Church’s efforts on educating concerning this matter, but maybe this is a good time to summarize, update, and discuss some behind-the-scenes details, especially since I had a wonderful, chance meeting with a Maya expert last night which provided some great confirmation.

It all began when a couple in Arkansas talked to me about the upcoming Roland Emmerich end-of-the-world flick “2012” (Mr. Emmerich seems either addicted to end-of-the-world themes or to the money such movies rake in).  The couple (M&AS) mentioned how many folks they knew were really getting caught up in the 2012 hysteria, as opposed to Bible prophecy and its message of repenting from sin.  It just so happened that the next telecast I was due to tape in Charlotte was scheduled to be broadcast on the very same weekend as the movie’s opening and seemed to me to be an opportunity for “meat in due season” — a chance to educate people about what the Bible says about things like this “2012” business and to point them in the direction of God’s word as a true and dependable authority, versus the superstitions of men (or worse).  So, I tossed out the script work that I had done to that point and refocused on the 2012 phenomenon.

The result has been an internet commentary (“2012: The Hype and the Truth”), the upcoming Tomorrow’s World telecast this month (“2012, Bible Prophecy and You”), the article in this month’s magazine (“The Truth about 2012: Hollywood vs. Humanity”), and an hour-long DVD presentation (“2012: Mystery and Truth”) that may be offered at the end of the year in the semi-annual letter.  Of all the work, the DVD was my favorite, as I had plenty of time to go into the sort of detail that none of the other formats really have room for.

On one hand, it has been a real pleasure to get to serve in this way.  It is an incredible blessing to understand the truth of God’s word and the wonder of biblical prophecy, and it is such a shame that so many can get caught up in the universe of counterfeits out there, including the 2012 hysteria, without really knowing the basis for those counterfeits.  It’s easy to be impressed with mathematical models involving the I Ching (which, as a mathematician, I find particularly detestable), supposed celestial conjunctions, and other such things until you dig deep enough to see what really lies underneath.  Then you see (1) it’s not at all what it is cracked up to be, and (2) God’s word leaves us with very clear instructions regarding such things that most seem to ignore.  (The many History Channel shows on such subjects are laughable and make things generally worse instead of better.  It seems clear that they long ago gave up any goals of being truly informative for the more lucrative approach of being prevocative and sensational.)

On the other hand, I read and digested more 2012-related garbage that I would ever want to do again.  For instance, I’m not sure if it will make the DVD, but we created a clip in which we toss book after book onto a table, each one professing to contain 2012-related wisdom, knowledge and prophecy.  Each of those books were purchased by me and used in one way or another in my research.  (The legitimate Maya-related stuff was not so bad.  One book, in particular — The Ancient Sun Kingdoms of the Americas: Aztec, Maya, Inca by Victor Wolfgang von Hagen — was very educational, even given its age.)  I’ve been aware of speculations concerning 2012 since childhood (reared on “Nova” and PBS, as I was), but I wanted to make sure I understood what was being said today on the matter by those who are driving the current phenomenon.  Truly brain draining, it was, and the sort of stuff that makes you want to shower after reading it.  I also contacted at least one person directly: Robert Bonadurer, director of the Daniel M. Soref Planetarium at the Milwaukee Public Museum, who was kind enough to explain to me the thoughts he had expressed publicly concerning the supposed “2012 alignment.”

Then, last night, I had a very random opportunity to speak at length to a Ph.D. in Mesoamerican cultures who was a Maya expert!  My family and I were at the house of one of our wonderful local elders, using hiding from “trick or treaters” as our annual excuse to hang out together and eat some great chili (I had three bowls!), and there was one guest not from our church — an acquanitance of one of our members — who wanted to speak to me about our church’s religious beliefs.  His field was anthropology and archaeology with a focus on the Mayans and related cultures, though his knowledge of history and other cultures not-so-related to the Mayans was impressive.  After he picked my brain on things biblical for a couple of hours (at least!), I wanted to pleasantly turn the tables and pick his brain concerning things Mayan, which was a real treat.

One small thing (which was a big one for me) that I appreciated was that he confirmed that the pronunciations that I tried to use in my telecast & DVD presentation were accurate.  Since most of my sources were in writing, I was unsure of my pronunciations (e.g., how to pronounce Chilam Balam, baktun, katun, etc.), though Schele & Freidl’s A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya was a big help.  My new aquaintance pointed out that of the modern varieties of Mayan dialect currently spoken, one has real legitimacy in its connection to ancient Mayan “hieroglyphics” (which really aren’t hieroglyphics, technically), and it matched my usage in the videos.  (Or at least my attempted usage; regular viewers will recognize how a touch of Texan tends to creep in here and there, not to mention the camera’s ability to hypnotize you into saying things improperly!)

But there were many other important things he was able to confirm or expand upon.  One was the sentiment of real Maya experts on the 2012 hoopla and supposed “Mayan prophecies” versus what is generally put out before the public (and it’s not looking good for 2012 devotees, I must say).  Another was something I had noticed concerning the Chilam Balam which are generally considered “Mayan” sources but are heavily corrupted by Catholic influence: I had noticed that “law of the katuns” was used by many 2012-ologists to refer to the end of the current baktun (a.k.a., December 21, 2012) when it seemed to me that it did not necessarily have this meaning.  He explained that this, indeed, was the case: the law of the katuns does not refer to the end of this current baktun.  I wanted to discuss with him the origin of Hunab ku in post-classical Mayan culture, but I think I mispronounced it as Hunabpu and we ended up discussed the Hero Twins.  (Actually, Hunab Ku is generally understood to be a Catholic invention meant to help convert the Mayans to the “Christian” faith.)

One of the most interesting things we discussed was the actual dating of 2012 as the end of the Mayan baktun.  He says that while December 21, 2012 is the most popularly accepted end date, actually there is good reason to think that it is later than this and that the commonly accepted correlation (the Goodman-Martinez-Thompson, or GMT correlation) to the Gregorian calendar has a number of faults, including eclipses and celestial events that do not line up — something that would be very odd for a people so devoted to accurately predicting and recording such events.  He mentioned the possibility of, say, 2015 as the true year, at which point I informed him that he could probably make a lot of money publishing a book pandering to those who will be disappointed after 2012 when their New Age predictions don’t pan out.  We both laughed, but mostly out of the sad recognition that it was probably true.

I don’t know how well each of his positions represent the majority of Maya scholarship (some Ph.D.-types can be almost addicted to the rush having independent theories that differ from the mainstream, it seems), but much of it lined up incredibly well with all I have found, myself, and was a nice validation of what we are explaining.  In other research, he had also come to his own conclusions about the identity of the ten “lost tribes” of Israel, which  — though done without contact with our church — correlated incredibly well with exactly what we teach of them and of the United States and Great Britain in the Living Church of God — but that is a tale for another day.  🙂

I will wrap this up here, as I actually planned on spending the day with my family instead of here with my laptop.  But seeing the 2012 article come out on the Tomorrow’s World website was exciting, and with last night’s unexpected opportunity to talk to a real Maya culture Ph.D. last night about the information we are providing the public to replace misplaced 2012 fascination with God’s powerful truth, I felt this would be a nice post to write today.

Look for the Tomorrow’s World broadcast, “2012, Bible Prophecy and You” the same week/weekend as the movie’s release: November 12-18 (our cycle is Thursday to Thursday, I believe, though our programs air on Sunday in most areas, methinks).  To find a television station showing Tomorrow’s World in your area, check out our TV Log.  And don’t fall for the super-hyped counterfeit, when the truth is so much better!

2012 DVD shoot went very well!

Well, I’ve been back from Charlotte since Friday. I thought picking a 6:30AM flight would mean that the airport would be emptier (naive, I know!), but of course, it was not. Both flights (I changed planes in Memphis) went well and without incident. Actually, I love flying, and even hanging out in airports between flights doesn’t bother me too much, though I know it can get on some people’s nerves. Like I told Mrs. Ogwyn, perhaps the first time my luggage gets lost I will find it all more annoying, but until then I suspect I will continue to love air travel.

The DVD shoot went very well, and, as usual, my hat is off to the remarkable team at “Tomorrow’s World Studios” for their professionalism and patience with me! It is a remarkable opportunity to be allowed to work with such talented folks who are, at the same time, so passionate about God’s Work. (This year’s “Behind the Work” video at the Feast should introduce you to some of them, for which I am grateful.)

I was a bit more nervous than usual about this particular shoot — not that nervousness is necessarily a bad thing. In high school my theater teacher frequently said that as long as it is not overwhelming nervousness isn’t a bad thing: it’s evidence that you care deeply about your performance and it helps your body to generate a helpful bit of extra adrenaline.

In this case, shooting a possibly hour-long DVD versus the usual half-hour (actually, less) television program was, admittedly, daunting. While I am very happy with how well it went, at the same time I tend to be fairly self-critical and I look back at how I handled certain portions and think to myself that I wish I had done a better job. Still, that’s what we pray about — that God will take our efforts, magnify them, and make them more effective and powerful than they would otherwise be! And I do appreciate how many of you told me that you you were praying about this taping; it makes such a difference, and I can’t thank you, enough.

The topic of my program — the origins of the growing “2012 hysteria” and what the Bible has to say about it — has the potential to be a very helpful topic, I think. Every time I bought books on the topic during my research, the person behind the counter seemed to have an opinion (which they happily expressed, unsolicited). One girl mentioned that she was fascinated by the topic and plans to throw and “end of the world” party on December 20, 2012. Another — a professing Christian who goes on mission trips — said that she has wondered if there was anything to it.

For the record, my involvement with the “2012 hysteria” on behalf of the church was a bit of an accident. A church member and his wife — that would be MS & AS in Arkansas (howdy, guys!) — had gone to the movies and had seen the trailer (or teaser, perhaps) to the upcoming Roland Emmerich 2012 movie and lamented that so many of his acquaintances (not in the church) were caught up in it (that is, the date and the so-called “Mayan prophecies” about it, not the movie) as opposed to actual Bible prophecy, which points to God, the truth, and the need to repent of sin. After MS wrote to me about it, I e-mailed Mr. Ames to say that I was interested in doing a telecast about it and wanted his opinion. He wrote back to tell me that not only did he think it would be a fine idea, but that it just so happened that the next program I was due to tape was already scheduled to open the exact same weekend as the 2012 movie (funny how many things “just so happen”).

So, before you know it, I had one telecast taped, an internet commentary written (“2012: The Hype and the Truth”), and, now, a Tomorrow’s World article, as well (the article should be out in the Nov-Dec 2009 issue). This particular effort, though — the DVD — came out of a dinner discussion with Mr. and Mrs. Meredith. The research I had done on the topic was much more than could be presented on one Tomorrow’s World telecast, and he thought that it might be profitable to take advantage of that research to create a larger presentation.

The DVD is a bit different in some ways than anything we’ve done before, and I must say that making it was a real learning opportunity. If there is a future opportunity to do something along these lines, I suspect that the things we’ve learned with this one will make the next one all the better. And I can say that those who watch the DVD may learn some things about the sources of the 2012 hysteria that should give them pause and help them desire to look to a “more sure word of prophecy” as opposed to what is offered by McKenna, Pinchbeck, Argüelles, Jenkins, and their cohorts in the 2012 “Pantheon of the Pseudomaya.” The truth certainly is so much better than the lie!

And, I must admit, I am delighted to be able to walk into a bookstore and not have to look for another New Age 2012 reference for a while! Walking around the New Age, so-called “Metaphysics” sections of the bookstores around my part of the Show Me state was never the most fun. I remember having to literally step over a couple of teenage girls at a Borders bookstore who had decided to camp out on the floor of the New Age aisle to pour over the occult tomes that had captured their attention. I tried to narrow my attention to those 2012 books that represented the real foundations supporting and popularizing the growing frenzy, but even then ended up buying ten or eleven books over the course of research. And narrowing down was important — the hysteria has grown to the point that Barnes and Noble has entire shelves devoted to nothing but 2012-related topics, even labeling them as such.

In fact, finding actual, scholarly research on the ancient Maya and writings by real Mesoamerican authorities was much more difficult than finding 2012-related stuff. (And this was important, too, because the fact that something is publically called “Mayan” doesn’t mean that it actually is.) I recall one incident a few months ago when I went up to the information desk of a major chain bookstore to ask for some historical works on the Maya — or even other Mesoamerican cultures, such as the Aztecs or the Incas. The poor fellow looked and looked and looked through his database findings, until he finally said, “Well, we don’t seem to have much at all… I’ve got plenty of 2012 books, though!” I kindly informed him that I’ve got more of those than I actually want and thanked him for his efforts.

Thankfully, we did come across some great Maya resources eventually – including a pronunciation guide (thanks BB!) based on Yucatan Mayan, which was very helpful. Believe it or not, as Mr. Ames helps me to see when necessary, the Texan way of saying things is not always the way other people say things!  🙂  (Perhaps in the Kingdom when Zephaniah 3:9 is fulfilled, language will be restored to its original Texan form…)

Well, that about catches everyone up! Again, my many thanks to our awesome team in Charlotte and to those of you who prayed for this filming — it really meant a lot to me and, as we all know, the incredible success we have experienced in recent years on the telecast is not due to anything special in us! Rather, Christ said it plainly, “[W]ithout Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). God willing, I will be heading off to Charlotte again in November to tape some new programs.

For now I am excited about finally being able to devote my time and resources more fully to making sure that all is ready for the Feast in Branson! So you if you are a Branson attendee and you are wondering where in the world I have been (and the 100-or-so backlogged e-mails I have tell me that might be many of you), I hope to be in touch very soon.