Thursday, 13 April 2017

Friday 3 April 33 AD, 3 p.m.: the Crucifixion?

Scholars have previously looked at astronomical, historical and Biblical evidence and been unable to agree on the dates of Christ’s birth and Crucifixion to better than within than a few years. Nor have they known what to make of the reference to the star of Bethlehem in Matthew chapter 2 – was it a comet, a supernova or a planetary conjunction or a spiritual light? 

But as techniques of investigation improve this
situation is fast changing and I invite you to look at the YouTube video (endorsed by senior staff from NASA and the American Association for the Advancement of Science).

The following is derived mainly from this video and you may find it useful to read before and after watching - a kind of summary.

On the video Rick Larson explains  how he went about investigating these questions using

  • Computer simulations of the night sky seen from Jerusalem and Babylon in the first decade BC
  • Reasonable assumptions about the Magi based on the records of Philo of Alexander (15 BC to 50 AD), a Jewish philosopher

  • Careful reading of the biblical accounts of the conception, birth, ministry and Crucifixion of Jesus
  • The accurate prophecy of Daniel while a captive in Babylon
  • Historical records of the Jewish king Herod and the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate

  • Traditional Jewish feast dates (e.g. the Crucifixion must have been in a year in which Preparation Day fell on a Friday)

  • Astrological symbolism in the ancient world (including Roman and Biblical)

Putting it all together he arrives at entirely credible conclusions about the dates of history’s most important events. (NB: the dates giving Jesus’s life as appearing to occur before His birth arise from the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. It has long been agreed that Jesus was born some time in the first decade BC.)

Subsequent evaluations of Larson's analysis by scholars are unable to seriously question this work. It seems to me, as a layman, that the conclusions reached below rest primarily on the assumption that the Jewish historian Josephus (writing around 90 AD) gave 1 BC as the date of Herod the Great's death, since it narrows down the date of Christ's birth. Traditionally, there has been a consensus that Herod died in 4 BC but looking into it as far as I am able it appears that the earlier Josephus manuscripts do indeed give a date of 1 BC. Apparently, there was a misprint in subsequent copies. The evidence is, I understand, in the British Museum.

September 3 BC: The conception.

The Magi (wise men or astrologers, probably known as the Eastern School)) in Babylon would have seen the king planet Jupiter making a triple pass of Regulus, the king star of Leo (the symbol of the tribe of Judah; see, for example, Rev 5:5), also known as Rex by the Romans and Sharu (king) by the Magi. They would also have seen Virgo rising with the new crescent moon at her feet, reflecting the startling imagery of Rev 12:1-2. Larson confesses that much of Revelation is incomprehensible  and makes the point that it deals with past and future events. My view is that prophecies are rarely unambiguous until after the event, at which juncture they become understandable and serve to strengthen faith in the existence of order in God's overall plan which 'surpasses all understanding'. [I have recently read a commentary on Revelation by Bishop Tom Wright and he makes the point that much of the imagery refers to simultaneously existing aspects of reality, not a sequence of events (e.g. when each of the 7 trumpets is blown it portrays a different aspect).]

June 2 BC: the birth

Venus the mother planet was in conjunction with Jupiter the King. Venus is the brightest object in the sky, besides the sun and moon, while Jupiter is the second brightest. The two of them close together in the sky, appearing to be one, would have been a brilliant spectacle for the Magi as they looked west towards Judea from Babylon. 

Later in 2 BC: the Magi arrive in Jerusalem

They announced that the King of the Jews had been born, causing widespread puzzlement, sceptism and rejoicing by the Jews and paranoia by King Herod.

December 2 BC: the Magi visit the Messiah

As the Magi moved south from Jerusalem towards Bethlehem Jupiter would appear to be stationary in the sky over Bethlehem because of its retrograde motion, as calculated by the computer model, in accord with Matthew chapter 2.

3 April 33 AD: the Crucifixion

The accuracy of this date derives from the recorded fact that the event occurred at a particular time on the Jewish calendar of feasts and festivals. It also corresponds to Daniel’s prophecy (9:25) and circumstantial evidence in the Annals of Tacitus. Biblical data on the length of Christ’s ministry also helps tie it down.  Matthew gives the time of physical death as about 3 p.m. At this time the computer simulation shows that the moon was eclipsed, and would have appeared blood red as it rose above the horizon that evening at the feet of Virgo, in accord with biblical references which Larson gives (e.g. Acts 2:14-21, which quotes the Prophet Joel).

Quoting Larson:

the moon rose already in eclipse, already bloody, fulfilling Joel’s vision. Necessarily, this means that the eclipse commenced before moonrise. With software we can look below the horizon and see Earth’s shadow begin the eclipse. When we do, we find that at 3 PM, as Jesus was breathing his last on the cross, the moon was going to blood. 

The sky at Christ’s birth can be viewed as a kind of visual poetry, with the new moon symbolically “birthed” at the foot of Virgo, the virgin. To complete that celestial poem, on the night of Jesus’ death the moon had returned to the foot of the virgin. But now it was a full moon. A life fully lived, blotted out in blood.

The references in Matthew and Mark to the darkening of the sky  and to earthquakes are thought to be related to  terrestrial phenomena known to have occurred in the area. This is being investigated. Incidentally, in my view it is often the timing of biblical events which has a supernatural significance, rather than the event itself. On the other hand at least one quantum physicist investigating the Shroud of Turin claims to have found evidence of an event horizon associated with the cloth. If the cloth is genuinely associated with the Resurrection of Christ this would support the belief that the whole universe was affected, in a sense reborn (the Cosmic Christ, a belief which stretches back to the early Christian mystics).

  The DVD ends with a computer simulation showing what an astronaut standing on the earth-side of the moon would have seen in the sky at the time of Jesus’s physical death.  I don’t want to give this away but the position is of enormous biblical significance.

The website and DVD explain all this and much more. The research is attracting a lot of interest and is ongoing.

What all this means to me as a Christian I am not sure. I had always assumed that such a degree of certainty would never be reached and in a sense the details do not matter. Yet if further research makes this irrefutable it will strongly suggest that events in human history are indeed synchronized to the clockwork unfolding of the universe. It is already becoming accepted that much of the living world is governed by biological clocks, certainly in plants, and that these are even synchronised to each other - so why not the whole biosphere? Could there be a master clock that governs the unfolding of the entire cosmos? A kind of elementary particle, the U-bit , which interacts with every particle in the universe has already been discussed in an article in the New Scientist.

 These relationships between human history and the aspects of the stars suggest a profound cosmic significance in the manifestation of the Creator in our world and the unfolding of the entire Creation. Should the latest investigations and analysis of the  Turin Shroud prove it to be  genuinely the burial shroud of Jesus and to exhibit unique, scientifically inexplicable   physical properties, the reality of the Resurrection, it would seem to me, should get through to the entire human race more vividly and significantly than ever. 

What this would mean for the humanity no mortal could possibly know but it won't stop people like me speculating.

Author 2077: Knights of Peace
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