What Is Nibiru?

From time to time we get enquiries about Planet X, often called Nibiru. This rogue planet supposedly passes through the inner solar system once every few thousand years. People have claimed that each time Nibiru does this, it causes great calamity on the earth and on other planets. Some people have linked these past catastrophes to biblical events, such as the Flood. It is very tempting for many Christians to link predicted return visits of Nibiru to the inner solar system with end-time prophecies, such as Wormwood in Revelation 8:10–11.

Before getting too excited about all this, we ought to ask a few questions. What is Nibiru? Is it real? Is it something that we ought to be worried about? Interest in Nibiru has peaked several times, most recently in 2012, so there probably will be a resurgence once again. Indeed, there is a book out now claiming that Nibiru will pass close to earth in October this year (2017). At least one website now is calling for Nibiru’s return next year, 2018. The origin of the belief in this hypothetical planet is a bit murky, but we can trace it.

Zecharia Sitchin

The word Nibiru comes from the ancient Akkadian language, meaning crossing, such as in fording a river. It also has the connotation of a transition point. It was with this meaning that Nibiru came to be used in Babylonian astronomy to refer to an equinox. But it can have other meanings, such as a reference to the constellation Libra, which was the location of the autumnal equinox in the first millennium BC. Nibiru also can refer to locations in the sky in conjunction with certain stars or planets. Nibiru is associated with the Babylonian god Marduk, which in turn is identified with the planet Jupiter.

Nibiru would have remained obscure in the modern world, if not for Zecharia Sitchin (1920–2010), a Russian-born American author. In his 1976 book, The 12th Planet (followed by six more volumes in his Earth Chronicles series), Sitchin claimed that thousands of years ago extraterrestrials from the planet Nibiruestablished the Sumerian civilization. His hypothesized planet Nibiru has a very elongated orbit with a period of 3,600 years. Nibiru spends most of the time far from the sun, well beyond the orbit of Neptune, but it enters the inner solar system once each orbital period. Collisions with some of Nibiru’s satellites and other catastrophes on earlier passes through the inner solar system created the earth, moon, the asteroid belt, and comets. Sitchen claimed that the history he revealed came from writings from Sumer and other ancient Mesopotamian civilizations; however, archaeologists and others who study the ancient Near East universally dismiss this. It is easy to identify elements of Immanuel Velikovsky’s catastrophism and Erich von Däniken’s alien astronaut thesis in Sitchen’s work.

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