December 24, 2010

The Star Of Bethlehem

Although Scripture forbids man from worshipping heavenly bodies (astrology is part of this idolatry), the Bible is replete with references to observations of the stars for evidence of portentous events. In that smoke does not cause a fire, yet it supplies information to an observer that a fire exists, so God has deemed that the night skies may offer such insight into Heavenly events.

I speak of the Star of Bethlehem.

What transpired to drive the Magi to visit Herod? What observations were so acute and unusual that they would seek permission to leave their rulers and travel to a distant, occupied land where they were sure they would find … a King? Before we explore this parody, we must acknowledge the works of several men who give credence to this ancient riddle.

First, Flavius Josephus. He was a Pharisee born in 37 AD. He fought against the Roman occupation of Israel and was captured by Roman forces. An intelligent man, he was retained as a translator by Vespasian (a future Roman Emperor) and worked with Vespasian’s son, Titus, who eventually besieged and overthrew Jerusalem in 70 AD. In his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus writes of Jesus and John the Baptist; he also chronicles that King Herod died in 1 BC. There was a miscopy of his writings in 1544 AD that improperly attributed the year of Herod’s death to 4 BC. Recent research has uncovered this mistake. King Herod died in 1 BC. Thus the Magi had to visit Herod prior to his death, most likely 2 or 3 BC.

Next we turn our attention to the works of Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) and Tycho Brahe (1546-1601). Brahe invited the younger Kepler to Prague to join him in his studies of the solar system after Kepler was expelled from Austria. Kepler was one of the greatest mathematical geniuses of all time who used Brahe’s precise measurements of the stars and planets to develop his First, Second and Third Laws of Planetary Motion. These calculations are still used today by NASA.

We now have the basis for determining the events surrounding the appearance of a mysterious heavenly body that the Magi followed to find a King. We have an approximate date set and a series of mathematical formulas that can accurately place any heavenly body with respect to the earth’s orbit for any given period of time. And we have computers that can calculate these positions in seconds. For under $40 you can purchase software used for determining planetary motion and perform these calculations for yourself; there are even free downloads.

There are criteria for this story that must be addressed:

What was the Bethlehem Star? It had to be a planet. No supernovas were recorded in any culture at this time. It could not have been a meteorite or a comet as it would not have been observed for months on end or appear to change direction. Stars simply do not move about in such manner as to excite earth bound observers. Planets were once called wandering stars as they exhibit behavior which, due to the changing positions of the earth and the observed planet, have them appear to be moving backwards, or in retrograde.

Which planet? It had to be Jupiter. This is the largest planet in the solar system and is visible to the naked eye (as are Venus and Mars which are far smaller). Indeed, starting in September of 3 BC, at the beginning of the Jewish New Year, Rosh ha-Shanah, Jupiter began its dance. It appeared in conjunction with a star that was commonly associated with kingship – Regulus. The Romans called this star Rex and the Babylonians called it “Sharu” or King. In and of itself, this conjunction (the two bodies appear to touch) was not extraordinary; Jupiter does this every 12 years. But something extraordinary did happen. Jupiter went into retrograde; it circled back towards Regulus and touched it again, and again. Over a period of months between 3 and 2 BC, three times did the King of the Planets appear in conjunction with the King of the Stars. That got someone’s attention.

Where did the heavenly conjunction occur? Perhaps the Magi were familiar with the Jewish culture, perhaps not, but they did seek out the King of Israel in their search for a King so we can assume that they were completely aware of the circumstances of the conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus occurring in the constellation of Leo, the Lion.This is also the same animal that symbolizes the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:9-10), Jesus’ tribe.

Jewish cosmology was also well developed and they were undoubtably aware of this body of knowledge. Astrological signs and constellations used in the East were developed centuries prior to these events by the Babylonians.

But there was another conjunction. By June of 2 BC, Jupiter has finished its dance with Regulus. Now it headed towards another meeting – with Venus, the Virgin. This time the conjunction was so close that Jupiter appeared to join with Venus. It was spectacular. The combined brightness of these two planets was never recorded before. To that time, no one had ever seen anything like these combined events. The Magi must have been enthralled.

It had to appear in the West. As the Magi were approaching Israel from the east, this marvelous heavenly apparition was before them - to the West. When these conditions were explained by the Magi to Herod, he was not enthralled; he was frightened. He asked the Magi to locate the child for he had already made plans. Matthew, 2:1-7

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

Perhaps Herod was aware of the slaughter of “eligible” children in the city of Rome in 63 BC when it was foretold to the Roman Senate by so-called magi that heavenly omens signified the birth of a new leader (Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum: Divus Augustus (94). Whatever the circumstance, Herod slew perhaps thousands of Jewish children in an effort to retain his kingdom from the promised Messiah as foretold by Scripture and heavenly interpretations of the Magi.

But there is one more element that needs to be explained. The Star of Bethlehem (Jupiter) appeared to stop over Bethlehem. Once again Kepler’s Laws come into play. Jupiter’s orbit again went into retrograde and appeared to be stopped directly over the town of Bethlehem as the Magi traveled south from Jerusalem, a distance of only six miles.

The date was December 25, 2 BC.

Was this so hard for the Master of the Universe to arrange? No, it was less than child's play. What was hard was to empty Heaven and place His only Son at the mercy of Man as payment for our sin. Perhaps we will never know how hard that was.

To all my dear friends at GNN, Merry Christmas.

For more information see here, here and here.

December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas: The Holiday of the Divine Surprise

Greetings, Goomba denizens. Here's hoping you and yours make time to enjoy this holiday season. Congress has gone home now. Can a brother get an "Amen?!!?"

One of the reasons I have always loved Christmas is that is requires the world -- believers and unbelievers alike -- to stop for a moment and acknowledge the Babe of Bethlehem. It's a day when most of us seem to know the courteous and respectful thing to do. And -- unless we're the NBA that goes about business as usual -- we all pause, yes, some of us even seem to rise out of respect as Jesus enters the room to get some of His due.

Whether Christian or not, we sense there's a magic to this time of year. The winter snow, the lights, the old songs that endure, the people we love, the longing for tradition and the glue that makes life worth living ... all draw us to Christmas. We instinctively know that something real is here, something that transcends the traffic, the hurrying, and the presents.

The Christmas Story is far better than fiction. I mean, if you break it down, the birth of the Savior under the circumstances documented in the Bible was one of the most scandalous and improbable events of history. Indeed, Jesus's whole life and ministry was like that, the most riveting page-turner of all time. The account of all of this in and of itself bespeaks of divine authorship.

It seems God loves to surprise. With the capability of thunder, He speaks in a whisper. Though he can win in a rout, He loves to come from behind at the last moment. As the inventor of hope, He delights in restoring it when all seems lost. As a King and Ruler, He appears as a lowly babe ... a carpenter, and a servant. No wonder so many missed Him.

Yes, I believe God has a sense of humor and surprise ... and irony ... and plot ... and real purpose. You know, I even think He makes appearances at shopping malls. I mean, if He can land in a manger, all things are possible.

If you have seen the following video, well, take another look and listen. If you have yet to see it, enjoy it and remember that the God of the Universe came on Christmas to our lonely and desolated beachhead here ... at the most improbable time and under the most impossible of circumstances ... on the greatest mission of all time. And, well, the end of the book is even better.

A now, a final word this Christmas ...

Wherever you are tonight, no matter the circumstance or the darkness of the night ... Christmas means there is hope. Your mind may try to rationalize this beautiful truth away, but let it roll over you instead. Christ parachuted into this mess when a solution seemed a galaxy away.

It -- rather He -- was right there before our eyes in swaddling cloths.

What a pleasant surprise indeed.

Merry Christmas and God bless you all.

Rhod! Sig94! DC! Our daily staff meetings, from now on, will be held in the Conference Room. We will all miss the bottomless bowl of potato salad.

My weekly copy of Hotel Chatter arrived in
the mailbox this morning, and it contained
a lead story sure to catch the attention of every
Goomba News Network journalist.

We're not the biggest fans of hotel buffets as we prefer the privacy and pampering of in-room dining (when we can afford it!) but this latest scare tactic news has given us yet another reason to be wary of the all-you-can-eat spreads at hotels and resorts.

Apparently, terrorists were targeting the buffets and salad bars of U.S. hotels for food poisoning and a very deadly kind of poisoning too.
A plan to put poisons such as ricin and cyanide into buffets and salad bars was exposed earlier this year, CBS News reported, adding that Homeland Security officials have held meetings with the Agriculture Department and representatives for the hotel and restaurant industries.

Today's Goomba PSA

Nick and Sig squabbled about this today over morning coffee. Goomba insisted upon it. Sig thought it would tarnish GNN. Goomba said it was impossible for our audience to think lesss of us.

DC and I went out for breakfast.

December 22, 2010

You know, if battling all these Christmas shoppers weren't enough to really get you in a ticked off state of mind ...

Try to get a load of this lame duck Congress. What a sham. The Obama Admin makes a mockery of all things American. Good grief. What a disgrace to ratify a treaty ... a treaty ... in a lame-duck and sneak around under the cover of a Christmas night and repeal DADT.

That's right, by golly. Get your sexual proclivities blessed by the feds and grab Obama some political capital all at once. But this capital is like everything else coming out of this government -- it's borrowed.

Words fail me to describe the loathesome behavior of this government.

But at least Michelle has hit the road ... Did you get a gander at the size of the snack bag?

And the Bamster ... not far behind.

Yes ...


Retiring Moderate Senator Arlen Specter

GNN - Only occasionally (like Arlen Specter) do we take an ideological stance here at GNN. But I'll do it now, in the case of Senator Arlen Specter, and his self-justifying retirment speech on the Senate floor last night. Specter said that his speech would be his "closing argument" for his grandiosity, and went on to prove the axiom that self-interest causes the private sector to succeed, and guarantees that the public sector will fail.

Thinly disguising himself as an honest man, Specter threw together a defense of his permanent treachery to all sides of the political arguments of the past 30 years. Having properly earned the loathing of almost everyone in both parties, Specter went on to cite their contempt as proof of his own virtue. He closes his career the way he lived it: As a truly impressive and shameless revisionist and liar.

Specter is also hallucinating when he describes himself as a moderate. In his fictional taxonomy of the House and Senate, "Moderates" are always at the summit of the classifications, with liberals below them, followed by Democrats. pages, janitors, crack whores, Republicans, conservatives and Tea Partiers.

Specter absorbed these loony prejudices so deeply - and for so long - that he conjures a lost Senate where everyone was like Himself. Now he whines that "...the days of lively debate [and civility] are gone" but can't notice that moderates, if such creatures even exist, don't, by definition, engage in lively debate, or that he was one of the most partisan and ugly hacks for his own advancement in a Senate famous for that brand of buffoon. He's an artist at the synthesis of lies, fallcy and self-delusion, and we're happy to see him gone.

Apparently he's writing a book, probably about himself, which is a guaranteed remainder. Why not? He was remaindered from the new post-Reid and post-Obama world of revulsion with the political class. Beat it, you bum. You make me sick.

December 21, 2010

My Big Fat Liberal Problem

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D-WV): "There's a little bug inside of me which wants to get the FCC to say to FOX and to MSNBC: 'Out. Off. End. Goodbye.' It would be a big favor to political discourse; our ability to do our work here in Congress, and to the American people, to be able to talk with each other and have some faith in their government and more importantly, in their future."

My liberal recidivism is a real problem. Every day I re-offend. Fortunately I don’t hurt anyone, but I’ll never be clean. Once you’ve gilded yourself with the cheap foil of liberalism, it’s nearly impossible to scrape it off completely. It’s probably something in the way that “progressive” simplifications makes life easier, and less complicated.

The lure of liberalism is that it promises to shrink the plank in your own eye to a mote, and make you so good there's no need to test any of your values . I never believed that liberalism is propelled by guilt. It’s an evasion of guilt, and the humility that causes guilt. It's not a belief-system, it's layers and layers of sentimentality made worse by arrogance .

Just today I slipped into radicalism, when I saw the video above. Jay Rockefeller always incites disgust in me that a truly sane society doesn't, at the very least, tax detestable newts like him out of existence, deny them public office, or more sensibly, banish them to a tree-less rock pile or desert. Additional torture in these wastelands would be provided by their interactions with each other. Imagine the sticky self-importance of Prince Charles chatting with that jackass, Robert Kennedy Jr. But I can't do any of those things, nor would I if I had the power to do so.

But I know, and LL Beanbrains like Jay Rockefeller know too, that the combination of unearned wealth and political power is a kind of acid; it eats away at the legitimacy of wealthy officeholders unless they support a redistributionist dogma for the potentially envious. The main danger to the great personal fortunes is not agitated recovering liberals like me, but restive under-classes.

Joe Kennedy figured this out, as did the Robber Barons and their heirs. Collectivism is for thee, not me, and a happy drone is a harmless drone. To preserve the fortune, define "the rich" down to include the visible upper-middle class; buy off the poor with taxes from the middle-class, and deflect the realization that success or failure is a personal, not a social, process, and has nothing to do with " injustice".

But even worse than the original cynicism is the thing that, for example, Jay Rockefeller has become. He actually believes the crap his class has shovelled on us for two generations. From there, it’s just a quick sidestep to authoritarianism and/or totalitarianism. If he had his way, you would just shut up!

SPAIN: Muslim child tortured by his geography teacher

Muslim pupil offended by the word 'jamón' in class in Cádiz

The parents of a Muslim boy who attends a secondary school in La Línea, Cádiz province, have reported their son’s teacher for an incident in the boy’s geography class which the child said caused him offence as a Muslim.

The teacher, José Reyes Fernández, with more than 20 years in the profession, was explaining to the class how the cold climate in Trevélez, Granada province, aided in the curing of the village’s most famous local product, jamón serrano. The boy told his teacher that hearing the word ‘ham’ in class was offensive to him because of his religion and asked his geography teacher to stop referring to the product which caused him offence.

El Mundo newspaper reports that the boy’s parents then reported the teacher to both the National Police and to the courts. They placed a denuncia against the teacher for psychological ill-treatment in the context of xenophobia and racism.


December 20, 2010

Roman woman? Four feet tall? Four hundred and forty pounds? Aunt Etta?

The Sea Gave Her Back
A long-lost Roman statue buried for thousands of years has been unearthed by massive winter storms that have lashed the coast of Israel this week.

The mysterious white-marble figure of a woman in toga and 'beautifully detailed' sandals was found in the remains of a cliff that crumbled under the force of 60mph winds and enormous 40ft waves.

The statue, which lacks a head and arms, is about 4ft tall and weighs 440lbs. It was found at the ancient port of Ashkelon, around 20 miles south of Tel Aviv.

It dates back to the Roman occupation of what was western Judea, between 1,800 and 2,000 years ago.