Tag Archives: science and Bible

The Epiphany: The Magi and the Christmas Star

Matthew 2:1-2, 9-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”

And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.

The Oxford Dictionaries defines “ephiphany” (with a small “e”) as “a moment of sudden revelation or insight” and “a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being”. The word “Epiphany” (with a capital “E”) refers to “the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi”.

Today is the great feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the Magi — an event that had been foretold in Isaiah 60:1-6 some 800 years before the birth of Christ.

Isaiah 60:1-6

Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you….
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you….
Then…the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the Lord.

The Magi were wise men — non-Hebrew pagans from the East. Bearing gifts fit for a king — those of gold, frankincense, and myrrh — their coming to Jerusalem to pay homage to “the king of the Jews” shows that they seek in the messianic light of the Christmas star, the one who will be king of all nations.

It is noteworthy that the first creatures to see the newborn Jesus were his human parents, Mary and Joseph; angels on high; humble farm animals; lowly shepherds; and Gentiles — the Magi.

The Epiphany, therefore, signifies the manifestation of Jesus as Son of God and Savior of the world — not just the Old Testament‘s oft-prophesied messiah of the Jews. God is not a tribal deity, exclusive to only the so-called “chosen people”. Jesus the Christ came for Jews and Gentiles. He came for all of us, no matter our race, gender, language, country, or creed.

As St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians 3:6:

[T]he Gentiles are coheirs,
members of the same body,
and copartners in the promise
in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Noteworthy also is the fact that the Magi, as the first Gentiles to find Jesus, were also the first Gentiles to receive His salvific grace. As recounted in Matthew 2:12:

And having been warned in a dream
not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country
by another way.

By the way, astronomers, using software programs reproducing the night sky exactly as it was thousands of years ago, have determined there really was a Christmas Star or Star of Bethlehem. David Reneke, news editor of Australia’s Sky and Space Magazine, said: “We found out something startling. It looks like the ‘Christmas star’ really did exist.”

It’s generally accepted by most researchers that Christ was born between 3 BC and 1 AD. On 12 August, 3 BC, Jupiter and Venus appeared very close together just before sunrise, appearing as bright morning stars. It would have been visible in the eastern dawn sky of the Middle East from about 3:45 to 5:20 a.m.

But it didn’t stop there. The crowning touch came ten months later, on 17 June 2 BC, Venus and Jupiter joined up again in the constellation Leo. This time the two planets were so close that, without the use of our modern optical aids, they would have looked like one single, brilliant star.

Venus is known as the planet of love; Jupiter as the planet of kings; and Leo denotes royalty and power.

See these other cases of science confirming Biblical accounts:

May the joy of the Epiphany and the peace and love of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, be with you!

~Eowyn

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Sunday Devotional: The annihilation of Sodom and Gomorrah

Genesis 18:20-32

In those days, the LORD said:
“The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great,
and their sin so grave,
that I must go down and see whether or not their actions
fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me.
I mean to find out.”

While Abraham’s visitors walked on farther toward Sodom,
the LORD remained standing before Abraham.
Then Abraham drew nearer and said:
“Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty?
Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city;
would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it
for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it?
Far be it from you to do such a thing,
to make the innocent die with the guilty
so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike!
Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?”
The LORD replied,
“If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom,
I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
Abraham spoke up again:
“See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord,
though I am but dust and ashes!
What if there are five less than fifty innocent people?
Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?”
He answered, “I will not destroy it, if I find forty-five there.”
But Abraham persisted, saying “What if only forty are found there?”
He replied, “I will forbear doing it for the sake of the forty.”
Then Abraham said, “Let not my Lord grow impatient if I go on.
What if only thirty are found there?”
He replied, “I will forbear doing it if I can find but thirty there.”
Still Abraham went on,
“Since I have thus dared to speak to my Lord,
what if there are no more than twenty?”
The LORD answered, “I will not destroy it, for the sake of the twenty.”
But he still persisted:
“Please, let not my Lord grow angry if I speak up this last time.
What if there are at least ten there?”
He replied, “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it.”

But not even ten innocent people could be found in Sodom and Gomorrah.

And so, as recounted in Genesis 19:

17 And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.

24 Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven;

25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

Did you know that in 2011, archeologists had found evidence of the total annihilation of ancient Sodom and Gomorrah by a catastrophic “heat event”(“rained…brimstone and fire”) sometime in the late Bronze Age, ca. 1,600 BC?

That “fiery, civilization-ending cataclysm” covered Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as many satellite towns and villages (“those cities, and all the plain”), in heavy ash and rendered the entire area uninhabitable (“all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground”) for the next 600 years.

See my post of July 29, 2012, “Archeologists find evidence of the obliteration of Sodom-Gomorrah“.

St. Paul counseled us in Philippians 2:13 to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” for, as Proverbs 1:7 and 14:27 instruct and warn us:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.

May the peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~Eowyn

See these other scientific confirmations of the Bible:

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Bible vindicated by recent discovery of farming along Sea of Galilee 23,000 years ago

Genesis 4:1-3 says: “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LordAnd she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.”
Dr. Hugh Ross writes for Reasons to Believe, Sept. 10, 2015, that:

A continuing source of challenges to the Bible’s credibility and authority is the claim in Genesis 4 that the first humans were engaging in agriculture and soon thereafter even in metallurgy. Skeptics point out the complete lack of archeological evidence that humans previous to the Neolithic Revolution participated in any kind of agriculture or metalwork.

The Neolithic Era (néos is “new”; líthos is “stone”) or New Stone Age, the last part of the Stone Age, was a period in the development of humankind that first began about 10,200 BC in some parts of the Middle East (and later in other parts of the world)ending between 4,500 and 2,000 BC.
The Neolithic commenced with the beginning of farming, which produced the “Neolithic Revolution”. It ended when metal tools became widespread (in the Copper Age or Bronze Age; or, in some geographical regions, in the Iron Age). In other words, the Neolithic Revolution was the beginning of human civilization, enabled by farming and the domestication of animals, which led to villages, towns, specialized agriculture, the manufacturing of household goods, and trade.
Dr. Ross continues that, until a recent discovery, archeological and DNA evidence had placed the Neolithic Revolution in the Persian Gulf region and Mesopotamia about 12,000 years ago. But the biblical accounts of the Garden of Eden and Noah’s flood imply that humans were living in the Persian Gulf region during much of the last ice age. Antarctic and Greenland ice cores establish that the last ice age persisted from 12,000 to 120,000 years ago.
Sea of Galilee-MAP
Now, a research team in Israel has found evidence that humans living along the shore of the Sea of Galilee 23,000 years ago were cultivating wild cereals, i.e., they were “tillers of the ground” 11,000 years before the beginning of the Neolithic Revolution. 
The members of the research team are Ainit Snir, Dani Nadel, Iris Groman-Yaroslavski, Yoel Melamed, Marcelo Sternberg, Ofer Bar-Yosef, and Ehud Weiss.
Below is the abstract of Snir, et al.‘s article, “The Origin of Cultivation and Proto-Weeds: Long Before Neolithic Farming,” in the peer-reviewed journal Plos One (July 22, 2015):

Weeds are currently present in a wide range of ecosystems worldwide. Although the beginning of their evolution is largely unknown, researchers assumed that they developed in tandem with cultivation since the appearance of agricultural habitats some 12,000 years ago. These rapidly-evolving plants invaded the human disturbed areas and thrived in the new habitat. Here we present unprecedented new findings of the presence of “proto-weeds” and small-scale trial cultivation in Ohalo II, a 23,000-year-old hunter-gatherers’ sedentary camp on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Israel. We examined the plant remains retrieved from the site (ca. 150,000 specimens), placing particular emphasis on the search for evidence of plant cultivation by Ohalo II people and the presence of weed species. The archaeobotanically-rich plant assemblage demonstrates extensive human gathering of over 140 plant species and food preparation by grinding wild wheat and barley. Among these, we identified 13 well-known current weeds mixed with numerous seeds of wild emmer, barley, and oat. This collection provides the earliest evidence of a human-disturbed environment—at least 11 millennia before the onset of agriculture—that provided the conditions for the development of “proto-weeds”, a prerequisite for weed evolution. Finally, we suggest that their presence indicates the earliest, small-scale attempt to cultivate wild cereals seen in the archaeological record.

Dr. Ross concludes:

The [Israeli] team’s discovery also answers the skeptics’ challenge to the credibility of claims in Genesis 4 about the technological achievements of the earliest humans. We now have evidence sustaining the compatibility of biblical and archeological data on the civilization achievements of early humans.

See also these other cases of the confluence of science and faith:

~Éowyn

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