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From the Files of the RJ's Surrealist Research Bureau

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From the Files of the RJ's Surrealist Research Bureau

Christmas humbug and the Star of Bethlehem

In my college days an early research paper assignment over the X-mas holidays was on astronomical implications of the Nativity Gospels; i.e; the Star of Bethlehem. The results were regrettably meager, other than my referencing a classic Arthur C. Clarke story, but in studying the subject I came across a lot of distortions, errors, and outright falsehoods I’d like to share with you that fundamentalists tend to gloss over.

The first puzzle came over trying to verify King Herod’s famous slaughter of the innocents, in which Herod orders the death of all children in his kingdom under two years of age. Neither Roman records, Jewish archives or historical records such as the Antiquities of Josephus mention such an abomination, a sheer impossibility for a region under Roman rule, a tinderbox of revolution and rebellion in which the slightest spark, such as ordering the deaths of so many young kids, could lead to mass unrest.

Then there was the problem of the Census. Supposedly Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem for a Census ordered by Rome. Now Roman population and poll data from that time are fairly consistent and no poll or census data was taken there until the first in 6 C.E. and it did not require traveling to Bethlehem or anywhere. The males only (women were property and not worth recording) were required to register at their nearest village. Luke likewise mentions a Roman governor named Quinnius who did not administer Judea until long after Herod had died.

It gets worse, however, in Biblical attempts to “prove” the royal lineage from David to Jesus, for Matthew and Luke give two different lineages and they can’t both be right, even naming as grandfathers of Jesus two separate individuals (Jacob and Heli). The virgin birth? A later extrapolation, for, based on the original earliest Aramaic and Hebrew texts, the word virgin should be more accurately translated as simply “young woman”.

An early pioneer researcher and skeptic into the whole Nativity question was none other than Thomas Paine, one of the founders of the American republic, whose analysis can be found in part three of his Age of Reason. He recaps most of what I’ve just said, the implausibility of Herod’s slaughter of all of his realm’s two-year-olds and younger, the insanity of the supposed Roman Census, which would have required everyone to register at their ancestral city, thus Spaniards had to return home from Mesopotamia, north Africans to India... it would have been a logistical nightmare, one for which there’s not a scrap of historical evidence (other than the Bible).

But to return to the miraculous star of Bethlehem, which I began researching so many years ago, it was first proposed by Kepler to have been a planetary conjunction in 7 BCE. However, ancient Babylonian almanacs and stellar observations have been found since which show both that the conjunctions were not visually impressive and that they held little interest to the astronomers of their era. Halley’s Comet (among others) has also been suggested as a possible star of Bethlehem, as has a super or hyper-nova in the nearby Andromeda galaxy.

Regrettably, nothing came of my star of Bethlehem researches, other than a grade of B+. I’ll leave you, however, with a near-forgotten quote from Matthew 27:52 in which he describes, after the resurrection, an earthquake which “opened up the graves and the bodies of the dead arose and walked through the city and appeared to the inhabitants of the city.” 

Apparently these many inhabitants of Jerusalem were so unimpressed by the dead walking among them that they found no need to tell anyone else about it and such a remarkable occurrence was not recorded by a single other person in letters or histories of the time. Even Matthew falls silent after that brief mention. I mean, were they like Zombies or the Evil Dead? Did you have to cut off their heads to kill them? Inquiring minds want to know! 

‘til next time, a Merry Christmas to you all and All Homage to Xena!

“What I’m saying now I say not with the Lord’s authority but as a Fool!”

Luke in 1 Corinthians

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Jody Forest Jody Forest When he's not hidden behind the palatial gates of his Dover estate, Casa de Bozo, Jody is out using outdated and corny pickup lines on various gullible women.

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religion, Christmas, Star of Bethlehem, Bible

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