Christmas 1968 changed the world. In the world’s most watched live television broadcast of that time, three astronauts, Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders, read the first ten verses of Genesis as they witnessed the first ever earthrise.
Apollo 8 was launched on 21st December, 1968. Over its next 68 hours it travelled to the moon, orbiting the moon for the first of ten orbits. It was on this first orbit, on Christmas Eve that the television broadcast was made and the Bible was read to a worldwide audience of close to one billion people in over 64 countries.
At that time that equated to almost one in four people on Earth hearing the creation account of the Creator God speaking all things into existence from nothing.
The start of the Bible begins the journey for the whole Bible salvation story, culminating in Jesus. Genesis chapter 1 explains that before time and space there was God. From the darkness God brought light and the universe was brought into being.
A glance at the photo from Apollo 8 looking back to earth shows a small blue planet surrounded in darkness. It is a fitting image to explain the creation account. While the creation of the universe is described as “good” throughout Genesis chapter 1, the climax of the whole account is seen in the creation of humanity.
This is described as “very good” and is a fitting end to a story about order from chaos and a people made to be image bearers of God and to have “dominion” (KJV) or be under-shepherds over God’s creation.
In the lead up to this momentous lunar sunrise event the astronauts had instructions to prepare a speech “of significance” to commemorate humanity’s first trip to the moon. They debated various speeches such as poetry on peace, a political speech around the Vietnam war or a general Christmas greeting.
Finally, one of the wives of one of the astronauts suggested the creation account as a fitting tribute to the heavens and the earth created by God’s loving power. It was written on fire-proof paper and was included in the official flight manual to be read on the live broadcast as the spaceship came around from the dark side of the moon for the first time.
It is amazing to consider that the words of God were read from the moon and heard throughout the earth to one in four humans. The attached photo is from United States Postal Service who produced this commemorative postage stamp in 1969.
In a strange twist, the Scripture reading had such an impact that an American atheist organisation tried to sue NASA for reading the Bible. They argued that there should be a separation of church and state. NASA was a government organisation and therefore should not be overtly reading the Bible. The attempt was thrown out of court.
Apollo 8's successful mission to orbit the moon paved the way for Apollo 11 to make their trip to take humanity to the lunar floor. It is interesting to note that during that trip astronaut Buzz Aldrin partook in the Lord’s Supper in his lunar capsule when he had landed.
Hear the audio recording from Apollo 8 here:
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover1.html