May 17, 2012

You've got the Power

It’s a strange looking object. It was found in an archaeological dig outside of Bagdad. The outside is a clay fired pot approximately 5” high. At the top is a 1.5” opening. This is filled with rolled-up copper sheets which are kept in place by black pitch. It dates back to the time of Alexander the Great. Is it a weapon? Probably not. Is it a fancy place to store ancient scrolls? Perhaps. Archaeologists don’t have a way to know exactly what it was, but one theory keeps popping up. It’s a battery!

I know what you’re saying, “What in the world would a person do with a battery 2,000 years ago! They didn’t even have light bulbs”. You’d be right of course. But in 1940, Wilhelm K├Ânig, the curator of the National Museum of Iraq proposed the battery could have been use for electroplating. You’ll remember from Physics 101 that Gold Electroplating uses electricity to transfer a fine layer of gold onto another metal. Well if you fill this battery with vinegar and place the copper inside, it produces about 1.1 volts.
The modern battery was invented in the 1800s by Allesandro Volta. It’s a good thing. Otherwise we’d be measuring battery power by Achmeds instead of Volts.
Other archaeologists doubt this battery concept. So in an episode of the television show Mythbusters, the battery electroplating theory was tested. They found that it was indeed possible. They also tested a crazy theory that a series of these batteries were hooked up to the Cherubim covering the Arc of the Covenant. In this configuration if you touched the golden wings it would you a powerful electric shock displaying the power of God. But all they could muster was a tingle.
I like the theory of the Bagdad Battery. I like the idea that while they didn’t know modern chemistry these early Mesopotamians were able to do a complex chemical process. Just because they didn’t have a textbook knowledge of chemistry doesn’t mean that they weren’t smart. C.S. Lewis called this Chronological Snobbery – the belief that ancient people were dumb and unsophisticated. That’s how atheists gloss over the overwhelming evidence of the resurrection. They believe that ancient people were dumb.
People around the time of Jesus may have been unsophisticated, but they were not dumb. They knew what death looked like. And they knew that people who died did not come back again. In any culture in any time that is a miracle. And even the Bagdad Battery couldn’t have brought someone back to life. No it could only have been done by the power of God.
Pastor David Hook