Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Santa's clock is six months out.

Apparently, science has been studying religion again. Specifically, the star that was supposed to lead the Wise Men to the birth of Christ.

It seems that there was a bright conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on 17th June, 2BC. That's not far out. Certainly, since the calculation of our current calendar took place long after the BC/AD changeover year but long before the invention of computers, an error of two years is pretty good.

Finding that there was a 'star' at that time does not, of course, prove that it's all true but it does show that at least part of the story is accurate. Whether there were wise men and whether they followed that star or not, there certainly was an unusually bright 'star' in the sky at around the right time.

I am always intrigued to find scientists studying something they generally deny exists. There are some religious scientists but these astronomers, I think, are not. That these scientists are not students of religion is clear:

'December is an arbitrary date we have accepted but it doesn't really mean that is when it happened.

No, the date was chosen deliberately by the early Church to override an important pagan festival that was already in place, at the winter solstice and the three days after that. It never actually had anything to do with the birth of Christ. Just like Easter (a fertility festival) and Halloween (a cleansing ritual at the end of harvest: Celtic New Year), and others, the Church dates were set deliberately to swamp out the older religions. The dates don't mean a thing.

What this does mean, for those of you looking forward to Christmas, is that you've missed it. Sorry. It was six months ago.

Well, probably, anyway.

2 comments:

Southern Writer said...

"I am always intrigued to find scientists studying something they generally deny exists."

Great point. I've always been puzzled and amused by the fact that the Bible warns against "soothsaying" (and other forms of divination, depending on the version), and yet it's well known that the magi were astrologers. I once found an excellent bit in the Catholic Bible about it online, but the next time I looked, it had been changed.

As an astrologer, I really don't understand that the search led to a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, other than scientists (who know little or nothing about astrology) merely looked for a conjunction of two major planets around the time Christ was born. Granted, the skies lacked the pollution that fades the brilliance of stars now, but I would think they would look for a conjunction of the two most brilliant planets -- Jupiter and Venus (as observed only a few days ago). Hello????? The meaning of those two would be much more fitting as well. They are the two beneficents. Jupiter enlarges anything it contacts, and Venus represents love. A combination of these two would translate as Great Love. And no greater love has been known to the world. Saturn, on the one hand can mean stability and responsibility, maturity and tradition, but on the other it represents pain, loss, suffering, sorrow and delay. Okay, maybe those can be associated with the death of Christ, but let's get the little guy born first. I agree, the birth of Christ has been sadly mis-timed.

Romulus Crowe said...

They're astronomers - so they see things from an outside-Earth perspective most of the time. So they'd look at the two biggest planets.

It might not have occurred to them to track Venus because as far as they're concerned it's just a litle planet.

Without street lights, Venus (and everything else) is much brighter. There are still a few places even in the UK where you can get away from town lights at night. Without that, and if the pollution wasn't there, the night sky would have a very different look.

I don't think most modern astronomers think that way. They use things like Hubble to ignore atmospheric effects - they might not consider that the view from Earth 2000 years ago would be very different.

The wise men, as astrologers, would have known about conjunctions and their meanings. It wouldn't have come as a surprise to them, and it would have to be a conjunction that would incite them to set off in search of this new King.

On that basis, your Venus/Jupiter combination makes more sense (I think, not knowing too much about it).

It's also worth noting that, in furthering their aims of peace and love to all mankind, the early Church would have burned both of us at the stake. Some of the more fundamentalist groups still would.

I don't go to church. Too dangerous.

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