Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 10, 2008
RELIGION/HISTORY: Christmas in June!

crazyeddie.jpgThe tradition of celebrating Christmas in December is, as most people familiar with the history of the early Church know, not based on a December birthday for Jesus - the Bible mentions nothing of the sort - but on accomodation of the Church calendar with the Roman traditional holidays around the winter solstice. The exact date of Christ's birth has generally been lost to history. There are two documentable historical events, however, that the Biblical narrative can be tied to - the Roman census under Caesar Augustus, and the Star of Bethlehem.

Here you can read one of the latest efforts to nail down the latter, an atronomical historian trying to pinpoint the "star" as being a particularly close conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in the night sky (such as we've been experiencing in less complete form the past few weeks - I had the kids on the lawn with the telescope a few weekends ago):

The researchers claim the 'Christmas star' was most likely a magnificent conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter, which were so close together they would have shone unusually brightly as a single "beacon of light" which appeared suddenly.

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Australian astronomer Dave Reneke used complex computer software to chart the exact positions of all celestial bodies and map the night sky as it would have appeared over the Holy Land more than 2,000 years ago.

It revealed a spectacular astronomical event around the time of Jesus's birth.

Mr Reneke says the wise men probably interpreted it as the sign they had been waiting for, and they followed the 'star' to Christ's birthplace in a stable in Bethlehem, as described in the Bible.

Generally accepted research has placed the nativity to somewhere between 3BC and 1AD.

Using the St Matthew's Gospel as a reference point, Mr Reneke pinpointed the planetary conjunction, which appeared in the constellation of Leo, to the exact date of June 17 in the year 2BC.

It's an interesting theory; such theories tend to be pretty common in Bliblical history, but as Reneke notes, astronomy is a fairly precise science, and identifying a specific astronomical event that fits so neatly with the Gospel account at least adds one small piece to a historical picture that is likely to remain somewhat elusive.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:37 AM | History • | Religion • | Science | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

The wise men should have gotten their gifts at Crazy Eddie's!

Posted by: Mark D at December 11, 2008 10:38 AM

I've heard the same thing. A lawyer who used computer software pinpointed the date in June of 2 BC as well. It's on a great DVD that you can find at http://www.bethlehemstar.net/

One thing to remember is that the "star" isn't when Jesus was born-- it's just when the Wise Men started out on their travels. On December 25th of 2 BC, if you were looking at the sky from the point of view of Jerusalem (which is where the Wise Men were at that point), Jupiter would have been stopped directly overhead Bethlehem, just as stated in the Bible. This is due to retrograde motion in the planet's orbit. This lends credence to the theory that Jesus was actually born on December 25th.

You can find all that and tons more interesting information specifically on one of the pages of that website, http://www.bethlehemstar.net/dance/dance.htm

I'd highly recommend it.

Posted by: David at December 11, 2008 4:49 PM

from The Urantia Book:
122:8 THE BIRTH OF JESUS

122:8.1 All that night Mary was restless so that neither of them slept much. By the break of day the pangs of childbirth were well in evidence, and at noon, August 21, 7 B.C., with the help and kind ministrations of women fellow travelers, Mary was delivered of a male child. Jesus of Nazareth was born into the world, was wrapped in the clothes which Mary had brought along for such a possible contingency, and laid in a near-by manger.
122:8.2 In just the same manner as all babies before that day and since have come into the world, the promised child was born; and on the eighth day, according to the Jewish practice, he was circumcised and formally named Joshua (Jesus).
122:8.3 The next day after the birth of Jesus, Joseph made his enrollment. Meeting a man they had talked with two nights previously at Jericho, Joseph was taken by him to a well-to-do friend who had a room at the inn, and who said he would gladly exchange quarters with the Nazareth couple. That afternoon they moved up to the inn, where they lived for almost three weeks until they found lodgings in the home of a distant relative of Joseph.
122:8.4 The second day after the birth of Jesus, Mary sent word to Elizabeth that her child had come and received word in return inviting Joseph up to Jerusalem to talk over all their affairs with Zacharias. The following week Joseph went to Jerusalem to confer with Zacharias. Both Zacharias and Elizabeth had become possessed with the sincere conviction that Jesus was indeed to become the Jewish deliverer, the Messiah, and that their son John was to be his chief of aides, his right-hand man of destiny. And since Mary held these same ideas, it was not difficult to prevail upon Joseph to remain in Bethlehem, the City of David, so that Jesus might grow up to become the successor of David on the throne of all Israel. Accordingly, they remained in Bethlehem more than a year, Joseph meantime working some at his carpenter's trade.
122:8.5 At the noontide birth of Jesus the seraphim of Urantia, assembled under their directors, did sing anthems of glory over the Bethlehem manger, but these utterances of praise were not heard by human ears. No shepherds nor any other mortal creatures came to pay homage to the babe of Bethlehem until the day of the arrival of certain priests from Ur, who were sent down from Jerusalem by Zacharias.
122:8.6 These priests from Mesopotamia had been told sometime before by a strange religious teacher of their country that he had had a dream in which he was informed that " the light of life " was about to appear on earth as a babe and among the Jews. And thither went these three teachers looking for this " light of life. " After many weeks of futile search in Jerusalem, they were about to return to Ur when Zacharias met them and disclosed his belief that Jesus was the object of their quest and sent them on to Bethlehem, where they found the babe and left their gifts with Mary, his earth mother. The babe was almost three weeks old at the time of their visit.
122:8.7 These wise men saw no star to guide them to Bethlehem. The beautiful legend of the star of Bethlehem originated in this way: Jesus was born August 21 at noon, 7 B.C. On May 29, 7 B.C., there occurred an extraordinary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces. And it is a remarkable astronomic fact that similar conjunctions occurred on September 29 and December 5 of the same year. Upon the basis of these extraordinary but wholly natural events the well-meaning zealots of the succeeding generation constructed the appealing legend of the star of Bethlehem and the adoring Magi led thereby to the manger, where they beheld and worshiped the newborn babe. Oriental and near-Oriental minds delight in fairy stories, and they are continually spinning such beautiful myths about the lives of their religious leaders and political heroes. In the absence of printing, when most human knowledge was passed by word of mouth from one generation to another, it was very easy for myths to become traditions and for traditions eventually to become accepted as facts.

Posted by: Daniel Love Glazer at December 12, 2008 4:32 PM
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