The new religious movement popularly called Heaven's Gate emerged in the mid-1970s. This article argues that its two co-founders, Marshall Herff Applewhite (1932––1997) and Bonnie Lu Nettles (1928––1985), employed what I call extraterrestrial biblical hermeneutics in constructing the theological worldview of Heaven's Gate. This hermeneutics developed out of the New Age movement and its broader interest in ufology, extraterrestrial life, and alien visitation, and postulates a series of close encounters and alien visitations. Borrowing from its New Age and ufological origins, the hermeneutics assumes an extraterrestrial interest in assisting human beings to self-develop, as well as a technological materialism antithetical to supernaturalist readings of the Bible. As I argue here, this extraterrestrial biblical hermeneutics led Applewhite and Nettles to read the Bible as supporting a message of alien visitation, self-transformation, and ultimately extraterrestrial technological rapture.
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