Totten, Rimmer and Harold Hill hoaxed countless Christians
 but astronomer Edward Maunder plausibly explained Joshua's Long Day

(Investigator 141, 2011 November)

Perhaps the most incredible Old Testament miracle story is that the Sun stood still:
Then spake Joshua… "Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; And thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon." And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, Until the People had avenged themselves upon their enemies… So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. (Joshua 10:12-13)

For decades sectarian Christians have distributed tracts telling about astronomers who calculated that a day was missing in world history and who found the explanation in Joshua 10. Upon further calculation the astronomers found 40 minutes still missing. They then read II Kings 20 which describes the Sun's shadow retracing its course along a stairway and this explained the missing minutes.

One group promoting this anecdote was the Children of God (of "flirty fishing" fame). Their book Treasures (1987, pp 511-512) says:

Did you know that the Space program has been proving that what had been called myth in the Bible is true? Mr. Harold Hill, President of the Curtis Engine Company in Baltimore, and a consultant in the Space program related the following:

"One of the most amazing things happened recently to our astronauts and Space scientists at Greenbelt, Maryland… They were checking the position of the sun, moon and planets out in Space where they would be 100 or 1000 years from now. We have to know this because we don't send a satellite up and have it bump into something later on in its orbits…

They ran the computer measurements back and forth over the centuries and it came to a halt. The computer stopped and flashed a red signal meaning that there was something wrong with either the information it had been fed, or the results as compared to a given standard. The service department ran a check and found nothing wrong with either, but the computer showed that there was one day missing in elapsed time in Space. They could find no answer for it.

"One religious fellow on the team recalled that the Bible mentioned a time in the Old Testament in which the sun stood still for nearly a day. They got a Bible and found … Joshua 10:13. The computers hummed as they retraced their steps to the time of Joshua, and added the time the Scriptures said the sun stood still. It was close, but not close enough. The elapsed time that was missing back in Joshua's day was 23 hours and 20 minutes…not a whole day. (The Bible said, ‘About (approximately) a whole day'.)

"These little words in the Bible are important. The scientists were still baffled. If you cannot account for 40 minutes, you will be in trouble 1000 years from now. The 40 minutes had to be found because it can be multiplied many times over in orbits of the planets. The fellow who had started the Scripture hunt remembered that the Bible also spoke about a time when the sun went backward. The Space men told him he must be out of his mind, but they got the Book and read 2 Kings 20. There Isaiah, as proof of a prophecy made to Hezekiah, asked the Lord to turn back the sun ten degrees. Ten degrees is exactly 40 minutes. Therefore, 23 hours and 20 minutes in Joshua plus 40 minutes in 2 Kings make up the 24 missing hours that the Space travellers would have to log in the log-books as being the missing day in the Universe."

Once again God is proving His divine truth as revealed in the Bible, God's Word! — Reprint From Lakeview Messenger.

Harold Hill's story appeared in many local papers throughout the USA.  

Jehovah's Witnesses (Awake! 1970, November 22, page 4) contacted Harold Hill and he replied: "I have misplaced the documentation relative to the names and places connected with the ‘Missing Day' account..." JWs then wrote to the National Aeronautics and Spaceflight Center in Maryland and received the reply: "We know nothing of Mr Harold Hill and in no way can corroborate the ‘lost day' reference in the article."

Ministry International Journal for Pastors (1970, November) also wrote to Harold Hill and the Spaceflight Centre with the same result JWs had.

Nevertheless, Mr Hill repeated the story in How to Live Like a King's Kid (Harold Hill & Irene Burk Harrell, 1974).


How do apologists who accept that no "missing day" is confirmed, but who still take Joshua literally, explain it?

Donald De Young in Astronomy and the Bible rejects poetic language, eclipse of the sun, and clouds as explanations for Joshua's long day because, "All of these explanations fall far short of the statement that there has never been another day like the one described (Joshua 10:14)."

He adds: "The details are unclear, but we know that God could have refracted the light, or slowed the earth's rotation, or stopped the entire universe — all with equal ease!"

JWs similarly claim, "If he chooses to, Jehovah can manipulate the movement of the earth so that the sun and the moon would seem motionless to an earthly observer. Or he can let the movement of the earth and the moon remain undisturbed while refracting the rays from the sun and the moon..." (Watchtower 2004, December 1)

How believable, however, are claims about what God can do if God does not demonstrate? If a man claims he can lift a building but won't lift one brick would we believe him? "Jehovah" was supposed to bring Armageddon followed by paradise on Earth in the 20th century:
Jesus was obviously speaking about those who were old enough to witness with understanding what took place when the ‘last days' began… Even if we presume that youngsters 15 years of age would be perceptive enough to realize the import of what happened in 1914, it would make the youngest of ‘this generation' nearly 70 years old today… Jesus said that the end of this wicked system would come before that generation passed away in death. (Awake! 1968 10/8 13)

Observe when this was written — 1968. In the 1980s JWs regularly called this doctrine "the creator's promise". Can a god who can't fulfil a "promise" do more difficult things like stop the Sun?

Some Christian websites quote Immanuel Velikovsky's book Worlds in Collision (1950). Velikovsky argues that the Earth's rotation was either interrupted by a comet or its axis tilted by a strong magnetic field. Velikovsky's idea was widely discussed, but dismissed as pseudoscience by astronomers, geologists, physicists, archaeologists and historians.


In 1890 — eighty years before Harold Hill — a Professor Totten provided a similar astronomical "proof" for a missing day. The Scripture of Truth by Sidney Collet (10th edition 1920) tells the story:

Sidney Collet (1920) The Scripture of Truth

Joshua's Long Day (Joshua X. 12-14).

If there is one Bible story which is cavilled at more than another, and deemed absolutely unscientific, it is probably this story of what is known as Joshua's long day; and yet there are few passages of Scripture which are supported by such remarkable corroborative evidence, both from an historical and scientific point of view, as this story is.

First of all it should be noticed that Joshua's prayer, translated, "Sun, stand thou still," should be rendered, as in the margin, "Sun, be silent," or "be inactive."

We have already seen that light is vocal, and it is generally held among scientific men that it is the action of the sun upon the earth that causes the latter to revolve upon its axis. So that Joshua's words appear to express with striking scientific accuracy exactly what, on this hypothesis, would have to take place to provide for an unusually long day—viz. the rotation of the earth upon its axis would have to be "slowed down" by a temporary diminution of the action of the sun.

Newton has demonstrated how quickly the earth-motion might be slowed down without appreciable shock to its inhabitants.

For instance, the window of many an optician's shop contains a small apparatus, with four fans, which revolve rapidly when exposed to the light—the revolution being at once considerably retarded if anything is placed against the window which interrupts the action of the sun's rays falling upon it.

Some would explain away the miracle by what is known as the refraction of light, i.e. owing to the different media, or varying densities of the gases composing the air through which the sun's rays pass, those rays become deflected or bent out of their true course, just as a walking-stick appears to be bent when partly placed in water. In this way it is possible for the sun to appear above the horizon for some time after it has really set. Many instances are on record.

But, while a slight lengthening of the day—which at most could not possibly exceed an hour—might be accounted for in this way, it is quite impossible that refraction could account for the light continuing "for about a whole day." Other explanations have also been attempted. The truth, however, is that no man really knows how this long day of Joshua's was accomplished; but it must have been accomplished somehow, for astronomy demands that something of the kind must have happened, while history declares that it actually took place.

Professor Totten, of America, has studied this subject from an astronomical point of view; and has published the result in an elaborate mathematical calculation with the following remarkable conclusion, that, by taking the equinoxes, eclipses, and transits, and working from the present time backwards to the winter solstice of Joshua's day, it is found to fall on a Wednesday; whereas, by calculating from the prime date of creation onwards to the winter solstice of Joshua's day, it is found to fall on a Tuesday; and he argues that by no possible mathematics can you avoid the conclusion that a whole day or exactly twenty-four hours has been inserted  into the world's history.

But more than this, Mr E.W. Maunder, F.R.A.S. late of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, in an article in the Sunday at Home for Feb., 1904, traces not only the spot on which Joshua must have been standing at the time, but the date and the time of day when this remarkable phenomenon took place.

The statement, too, in Joshua X.14, that "there was no day like that before it or after it," is equally accurate; for there is no room mathematically in the world's history for another such long day. Professor Totten affirms that "not before nor since…has there been a date which will harmonise with the required relative positions of the sun, moon, and earth, as conditioned in the Sacred Record."

But even this is not all. It is written in Joshua x.13, "So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day."

Now Professor Totten shows in his calculations that this long day of Joshua did not consist of the addition of a full day of twenty-four hours, but only twenty-three and one-third hours—in remarkable accord with the words, "about a whole day." While the full day which astronomy demands should be accounted for, is exactly made up by the fact that, in Hezekiah's time, the shadow on the dial of Ahaz was made to go back ten degrees, or forty minutes (2 Kings XX.II)—the balance to a minute of two-thirds of an hour wanted to make up the twenty-four hours!

Then, after a long and elaborate astronomical calculation, he says: "It is patent that the human race never lost the septenary sequence of week days, and that the Sabbath of these latter times comes down to us from Adam, through the flood, past Joshua's long day, by the dial of Ahaz, and out of the sepulchre of the Saviour, without a single lapse! No day is missing; no cycle calls for less; all call for the same, and all unite in a concert of testimony not to be shaken by any ingenuity of man or devil!" 1

But, as we have already said, this remarkable event is not only corroborated by astronomical calculation; it is also confirmed by history, and that from six independent sources, including that of Jasher's (the Upright), who was a contemporary of Joshua's and knew the facts so well that he actually wrote a separate account of it, which Joshua deliberately referred to (Josh. x.13).

Now, the three great record-keeping countries of the world were Greece, Egypt, and China, and these, with India, have all had the record of a long day.

Herodotus, "the Father of History," who lived 480 B.C., himself a Greek, has left it on record that the priests of Egypt told him of a time when "the sun had four times risen out of his usual quarter, that he had twice risen where he now sets, and twice set where he now rises."2 This is believed to be a distorted reference to Joshua's long day.

The Chinese record, which is most remarkable, occurs in the Essays of the famous Chinese Taorist philosopher and alchemist, Huainan Tzu, thus:—

"Duke Yang of Lu (B.C. 1058-1053), being engaged in a bloody battle with the army of the Han state, and fearing lest evening should close in and interfere with his victory, he raised his spear and shook it at the declining sun, which straightway went backward in the sky to the extent of 3 zodiacal signs!" (6 hours).

While the Indian account, which is equally striking, is preserved in Hamilton's Key to the Chronology of the Hindus, Vol. II, page 224, as follows:—

"It is recorded in the life of Chrishnu (the black shepherd prophet of the Hindus), that in the Cali year 1651 (which corresponds with our 1451 B.C., the very year in which Joshua entered Canaan), the sun delayed setting to hear the pious ejaculations of Akroon, who descanted on the virtues of Chrishnu, as he journeyed to Bindreben. And that, on his arrival to safety, that planet went down, making a difference of about twelve hours."

Now, it is not difficult to trace in all these strange stories the corrupted remains of the true Bible account; each country, however, substituting the name of some National Hero in the place of Joshua, while the stories themselves are naturally coloured with the necessary local conditions which the particular country required.

The fact, however, remains that, in the providence of God, we have today these independent testimonies from such widely separated parts of the world, all of which verify in a most remarkable way the truth of this ancient inspired Bible story!

1 Our Race, by Prof. Totten
2 Bohn's Classical Library, Herodotus, translated by Cary, 1865, page 152

(Pages 284-288)


Christian evangelist Harry Rimmer in The Harmony of Science and Scripture (1936) writes: "Professor Totten wrote of a fellow-professor, an accomplished astronomer, who made the strange discovery that the earth was twenty-four hours out of schedule!"

Rimmer says that Totten's fellow-professor calculated that one day is missing and therefore became convinced the Bible is inspired. Rimmer claims this story is established, "beyond a shadow of a doubt."

A Google search found Charles A.L. Totten (1851-1908), Professor of Military Tactics at Yale University. Totten resigned in 1892 because he anticipated the imminent reign of "Antichrist", and to publish Our Race a periodical (26 volumes) presenting his religious ideas. (He was an Adventist who believed in British Israelism.)

Totten also wrote Joshua's Long Day and the Dial of Ahaz: A Scientific Vindication (1890; revised 1891). Robert C. Newman (a Christian with an Astrophysics degree) obtained a copy and found that Rimmer's "dramatic story of a skeptic convinced does not appear!" (www.newmanlib.ibri/NewmanPpt/JoshuaLongDay.ppt)

You can confirm Newman's finding since Totten's book is now on the Internet. The story about an astronomer converted by calculations is not there. Rimmer apparently made this fairy tale up — unless it appears in Totten's Our Race or in another book by Collet, All About the Bible, which are both unavailable to me.

Totten's actual argument is that the world was created on Sunday, September 22, 4000 BC which the calendar dates as Monday — therefore one day  was extra long!

Totten got September 22, 4000 BC from the British Chronological Association, a Christian group led by Jabez B. Dimbleby. Dimbleby published an almanac titled All Past Time (first edition 1883) which calculated the date of creation by adding up Old Testament numbers. (Dimbleby was also a Pyramidologist — he believed that the lengths of passages of the Great Pyramid reflect Bible chronology and that the word's end was imminent; he also vehemently criticised astronomers because they treated his writings as nonsense.)

I lack Dimbleby's almanac. But it seems that the missing-day/long-day "proof" boils down to sectarian creationists disagreeing whether creation started on Sunday or Monday!


The 5-page quote from The Scripture of Truth does mention a real astronomer — "E.W. Maunder…of the Royal Observatory" — and his article in Sunday at Home (a "Family magazine for Sabbath reading"). This astronomer, however, never calculated a missing day.

Edward Walter Maunder (1851-1928), son of a minister, fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, and author of seven books, is remembered for researching sunspots and solar magnetism. Maunder's book Astronomy of the Bible (1908) has a chapter titled "Joshua's Long Day", revised from Sunday at Home.

Maunder argues that the Israelites decisively defeated the Amorites by doing a full day's march in one afternoon. Lacking watches and clocks they described their rapid pace, dramatically and poetically, as the sun standing still:
…the men of Israel, judging the events of the afternoon by the only standard within their reach, the eminently practical standard of the miles they had marched, the only conclusion of which they could arrive was…"The sun stayed in the midst of heaven and hasted not to go down about a whole day." (Maunder, 1908)


The claim that astronomy has verified Joshua's "long day" is false.

Jabez Dimbleby (in the 1880s) claimed Day One of Creation was September 22, 4000 BC. Charles Totten (1890) naively accepted this and, after assuming Creation began Sunday whereas September 22 was Monday, he concluded a long day is confirmed. Sidney Collet (1920) repeated Totten's conclusion even though astronomer Edward Maunder disagreed with it. Harry Rimmer (1936) apparently added the tale about an astronomer converted by calculations. Harold Hill around 1970 modernized the myth and hoaxed countless Christians.
(B S)