Johannes Kepler was born today in 1571. Using the work of Tycho Brahe, he confirmed and expanded Copernicus’ theories that the sun was the center of the planetary system and not the earth (which ran counter to official teaching at the time). Kepler was at the forefront of what would become the Scientific Revolution and an understanding of the principles and the laws of planetary motion that were further confirmed by Newton almost 70 years later. Kepler lived during a period when the understanding of everything in Europe was changing: religion, society, finance, and cosmology. The Reformation was taking place, the crusades had exposed Europe to other complex cultures, free markets were developing, and the globe had been circumnavigated.
From the Gospel of Luke:
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the upper room.
From the Gospel of Matthew:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
From the Apocalypse of John:
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.
The Gospel of Luke records a revelatory and visionary event that happened in the life of a young Jewish girl name Miriam (Mary), who lived in the northern hill country of Judea, called “the Galil” (Galilee). The Jewish people have been conquered, occupied, and oppressed by the Romans for about 40 years when this event takes place:
The word of YHWH to Isaiah the Prophet:
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
The Menorah is mentioned in two passages in the NT: once in Hebrews (9:2) and then in the opening vision of Revelation. In this latter apocalyptic vision, the menorah. with its seven lamps, is identified with the seven churches to whom the vision is directed, with each receiving a message to its angel or messenger (Greek angelos means “messenger”). These churches were all located in the western region of modern day Turkey. It is notable that the One in the vision is seen as being “in the midst” and “walking among the lampstands”.
This week’s Torah reading is Vayeira (וַיֵּרָ֤א—”And he appeared”) Genesis 18:1-22:24. It includes the promise that Sarah would have a son, Isaac or Yitzak—a boy named “laughter” because Sarah (who was 90 in the biblical narrative) laughed when she heard it. I suppose, in this regard, he could have easily been called named Yivkeh, “weeping”.
On this day in 63 BCE, Gaius Octavius Thurinus was born. When he was nineteen, he would become the adopted heir of his great-uncle, Julius Caesar. We know him as Octavianus or Caesar Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome.
Later during his reign, his birth was celebrated as that of a Savior, as is recorded in the Greek Priene Calendar Inscription:
Continue reading →
A group I meet with on Thursday nights has been studying the Gospel of John, and as we’ve progressed I’ve been working my way through it in Greek, trying to do my own translation. What I’ve found is that I have great sympathy and empathy for Bible translators, who (among a multitude of other struggles) are so often forced to take all the nuanced options in original languages and reduce them to one. Or they have to take wordplays in one language and try to figure out solutions for making them work in translation (or not). Sometimes, however, I wonder “Why did they make that translation choice!?” because for one reason or other it just doesn’t make sense to me. One of those passages is John 15:1-4. Continue reading →
There’s this piece gaining momentum on Facebook status updates that was written by Tony Perkins with the Family Research Council. In it, Perkins tells the story of one Tuscon pastor’s failed attempt to get aid to the unaccompanied and undocumented minors being held at the Nogales Placement Center in Arizona, and then uses this anecdotal story as evidence to accuse the US government (specifically, President Obama) of “banning” the church from helping. He says: Continue reading →
Two scholars, Bart Ehrman and Craig Evans, are having a debate over Ehrman’s positioni in his recently released How Jesus Became God that Jesus’ body would not have been buried. Evans makes the case otherwise.
While I agree with Evan’s position that Jesus was, in fact, buried, Ehrman is a good scholar, and this post on his blog describing crucifixion is well written. Here is an important snippet: