Here's a provocative post:
That's very interesting. However, I don't think the scientific or exegetical evidence justifies the conclusion:
i) To ancient readers, wouldn't a blood red moon automatically connote a lunar eclipse? Isn't that the association it would ordinarily trigger?
ii) In principle, there are different things that can block sunlight. However, when sun and moon are paired, with unusual optical effects attributed to both, surely that would suggest a solar and lunar eclipse.
And that's an accurate description of both. In a solar eclipse, the sun turns black (except for a fiery halo or annulus), while the moon turns red.
iii) As for volcanic eruptions, how would volcanic ash have a differential effect on sunlight and moonlight? It would block out both, right?
iv) Even assuming, moreover, that it had a differential effect, if it's thick enough to block out sunlight, it will be more than thick enough to block out moonlight. The sun is far brighter than the moon, so what blocks sunlight will certainly block moonlight–which is dimmer to begin with.
And if it's thin enough to let some light filter through, that would be sunlight rather than moonlight.
v) Although the NASA pictures are spectacular, they don't show a blackened sun and a reddened moon.
vi) Didn't ancient people regard solar and lunar eclipses as very ominous (in both senses of the word). They took celestial prodigies seriously.
vii) Perhaps Alan's unstated objection is that it's physically impossible to have a solar and lunar eclipse simultaneously, inasmuch as sun, moon, and earth must occupy different relative positions respectively:
In a solar eclipse, the moon comes between the sun and the earth: sun>moon>earth
In a lunar eclipse, the earth comes between the sun and the moon: sun>earth>moon
But that just means the imagery isn't realistic. It's stock, eschatological imagery. Indeed, John saw this in a vision.
viii) Finally, I'll conclude with some eyewitness accounts of volcanic ash:
Susan La Riviere, Yakima
Once the new year of 1980 hit, seismologists and volcanologists became alerted to steam coming out of Mount St. Helens’ dome. Small earthquakes were noted and citizens were warned that there might be a volcanic eruption within the year. Here in Yakima, we were not warned about emergency precautions to take if an eruption happened. Although volcanic activity was part of our conversations, no one seriously considered that the mountain would explode.
On Sunday morning, May 18, 1980, I was on the phone talking long distance to my parents who were visiting relatives in south Louisiana. I said, “It looks like a terrible dust storm is coming from the west. The sky is black in that direction and it isn’t yet noon. I also heard some thunder so we might get ... Mom? Dad? Are you there?” All phone connections were cut off. I heard a loud clap of what sounded like thunder, the windows shuttered and a storm of darkness surrounded the house. We could not see the street lamp at the corner of Barge and North 36th Avenue.
The television was not working, but KIT radio announcers came in clearly with news about the volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens. We were told to fill the bathtub with water because it was unknown if the ash was radioactive. Farmers were warned to shelter their animals, and owners of domestic animals were instructed to bring all the pets into the house. The sky rained sand the rest of May 18.
Water did not wash the sand from roofs. Instead, the sand absorbed the water and the combined weight caused many roofs to collapse. Yakima was buried in sand and the sky was filled with powdered ash for many months.
Glenn Rice, Yakima
On May 18, 1980, my family was on the way to a summer home in the Cascades. As we approached the “Y” at the intersection of Highway 12 and State Route 410, the sky became dark with clouds, wind, dust, thunder and lightning. This was different because the air also smelled of sulfur. I said, “Turn the radio on; something is happening.” And indeed it was! We turned around, and it took an hour and a half to return to Yakima because of poor visibility. The sun seemingly set in the east, it was dark, the streetlights came on, the birds were silent and the crickets were out.
Ramona Murray, Selah
May 18, 1980, looked like the beginning of a beautiful spring day in the Wenas Valley. The hay fields looked good on our cattle ranch and our cattle were grazing on the other side of the hill.
Suddenly, the sky turned black with red and green lightning and something was falling from the sky. We thought it was rain, but it was ash. Mount St. Helens had erupted.
The sparrows clustered by our rooftop near the porch light. Thank goodness the power stayed on and radio station KIT kept us informed.
In the afternoon, my husband, Austin, and our son Dave tied kerchiefs over their noses, took flashlights and left in the pickup to see about our cattle. The cattle had broken down the fence and were coming home. One cow died.
My daughter Valerie and I went to bed for a while. At about 7:30 p.m., the ash stopped falling and the sky was light. We stepped outside. It smelled like a chemical lab and it looked like the moon. Everything was gray. A red tailed hawk was searching in the sky, cawing. The little bantam rooster was crowing. These were welcome sounds.
Nancy M. Burgess, Yakima
I went out to take the covers off the tomatoes, and when I went in, I told my wife, “There’s a big storm coming. A really black cloud in the southwest is heading our way.”
Later, at church, we were sitting in the choir, and the ash started falling like rain on the slanted window above us. Our priest told us not to worry. He had been in Italy during World War II and Mount Vesuvius had erupted. He said this was not nearly as bad. He was the only one who didn’t make it home.
When we got home, I went next door to check on my 80-year-old mom. I was worried she would be frightened. Instead, she had set out all of her candles and filled the bathtub with water.
My sister in New York told me later that she had tried to call our mom when she heard about the eruption. The operator told her that all circuits were down and that Yakima had been wiped out. She was frantic before she finally got through to me.
I was in the State Patrol. It was my day off, but all off-duty personnel had been called in to work. They sent me out to the Naches junction to turn back any cars heading up toward the mountains. We stopped one car, and the man said his kids were camping up that way and nobody was going to keep him from going to find them. We let him pass.
Lightning was flashing all around us, but it wasn’t like it usually is. This lightning flashed horizontally. The hair on our heads was standing straight up. It was really pretty scary. We finally went into the gas station to get out of the ash and wind.