Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Vibe of the Star of Bethlehem

Cosmic events are afoot in Bethlehem and the world needs to know about them. Seven hundred years before the Chinese invented fireworks, the only practical way of doing this is to arrange for a brand new and very bright star to appear in the skies above Bethlehem. Some argue that the star might have been a planetary alignment of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars in 6BC while others suggest that God, being God, can invent any star he wants to. Boffins agree that the star is actually a comet, a slow moving ball of rock dust, ice and gas that appears to hang in the sky, its vapour trail acting as a gigantic arrow pointing to the small Galilean town as if to say ‘Something big is happening here’. The comet is first spotted by Chinese astronomers in 5BC, adding credibility to it being ‘a star from the east’ – given that many think that the Magi came from Babylon and China is to the east of Babylon the star certainly seems to have an eastern origin. The star ‘goes ahead’ of the Magi, suggesting again that its vibe is very similar to that of a comet which travels slowly through the night skies. Like a solar powered satnav, the star guides the wise men directly to their Bethlehem Stable destination. It’s job done, the star slash comet moves off into the heavens and out of the narrative of the Bible.

General vibe of the Star of Bethlehem: He’s down here!

Factvibe: Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the star is satanic as it first leads the Magi to Herod who then plans to kill Jesus

Star

It’s work done, the Star of Bethlehem now earns its keep as a Christmas tree decoration.

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The Vibe of the Shepherds

Despite shepherds being a pretty consistent vibe throughout the Bible (they appear over 200 times) and despite Jesus himself likening himself to a good shepherd, this vibe belongs to a very special bunch of herdsmen – the shepherds tending their sheep on the outskirts of Bethlehem on the night that Jesus is born. These men are not the obvious candidates to be the first on the scene to witness cosmic events unfolding, and given that it is census time, Bethlehem is full of every kind of priest and dignitary you could possibly wish for. Still, God loves an underdog and these chaps are such underdogs that they live on the outskirts of society and keep antisocial hours while surrounding themselves with livestock. The shepherds’ life changing moment is also a world changing one – a choir of angels announces that the Messiah has been born. However, the vibe is brought quickly down to earth when the shepherds learn that the saviour of mankind can be found in a nearby stable. They hurry into the town, find Mary and Joseph and pass on everything that the angels have told them. The couple is no less surprised than the shepherds, particularly given their somewhat rustic surroundings. From then on, the shepherds disappear from the story but their vibe lives on in Christmas Carols and Renaissance paintings, despite no one actually knowing any of their names, or how many of them showed up.

General vibe of the Shepherds: Bunch of nobodies gate crash a birthday

Factvibe: Given that the weather was nice enough for sheep to stay out all night, the Nativity was probably in late summer or early autumn.

Shepherd

Despite no records existing, everyone is 100% agreed that this is exactly how a Nativity shepherd would have looked

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The Vibe of 40

The vibe of the number forty permeates the Bible like some kind of numerical muzak. Events happen for forty days or forty years as if there were no other number to choose from. Noah’s Flood? Forty days. The Israelite wanderings in the Sinai Desert? Forty years. Jesus’ Temptation in the wilderness? Forty days. Before his defeat at the hands of the shepherd boy David, the giant Goliath challenges the Israelites every day for forty days. Moses sends spies to explore the land of Israel for forty days. Eli, Saul, David and Solomon all rule for forty years. And so on and on and on – the number forty appears a staggering 146 times in the Bible. Many religious types believe that this endless sequence of events that last either forty days or years is divine coincidence, others are less certain. Forty might actually just be a Biblical way of saying ‘umpteen’ or ‘a large number of’ – a generalization that can be seen in later writing, such as in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The question remains: why forty and not, say, thirty, or fifty-five? The ancients believed that forty years constituted an epoch, or generation. Or in other words, a significant length of time between two events. Whatever the reason, the forty days or years always bring with them the vibe of some kind of godly testing, trial or punishment, the result of which is far more important than any number.

General vibe of 40: Lots of

Factvibe: Jesus predicts the fall of Jerusalem and in 70AD, exactly forty years after his execution, Roman Emperor Titus lays waste to the city.

40cake

Today, 40 is the age life begins. Back in Bible days, 40 was everywhere

The Vibe of Zadok the Priest

Immortalised in Handel’s anthem and a fixture at coronations, Zadok’s vibe begins in the days when the Israelites are still wandering in the sandy wasteland of Sinai. Aaron has a son called Eleazar who becomes a priest and sets in play a vibe that decrees that all future High Priests must be his direct descendants. Zadok is one of these chosen few and first sees action when he supports King David as he escapes from his rebellious son Absalom, offering to follow David whilst carrying the Ark of the Covenant. However, David believes that the vibe is a little too perilous for the Ark and sends Zadok back to Jerusalem. By the time David’s son, Solomon builds the first Temple in Jerusalem, Zadok is the natural choice to be its High Priest and is last heard of at the ceremony where Solomon is anointed as king. Some Bible boffins believe that Zadok the Priest gave his name to the Jewish ruling elite, the Sadducees. However, other boffins believe that the Sadducees are named after a completely different Zadok. Still, Zadok remains the most famous priest ever to have lived, which is no doubt why his vibe is such a favourite at royal weddings and other ceremonies.

General vibe of Zadok the Priest: the first Temple’s first High priest.

Factvibe: Many believe that the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by direct descendants of Zadok.

Harrison

Unlike Harrison Ford, Zadok actually set eyes on the Ark of the Covenant

The Vibe of Xerxes

Bible fans love Xerxes as he is a genuinely documented historical figure who also pops up in the Bible. As soon as he becomes king, Darius I of Persia marries a daughter of Cyrus of the Great and they have a baby boy. Despite already having a son, King Darius doesn’t want a successor who was born to him when he was just plain Darius and so when Xerxes is born in the royal palace to the daughter of a king, Darius places him first in line to the throne. Xerxes takes over from his dad in 486BC, considers himself King of Kings and rules an empire that stretches from India to Libya and Romania to Oman. He enjoys scrapping with the ancient Greeks, winning the battle of Thermopylae and losing at Salamis, both in 480BC. He also undertakes numerous ambitious building projects in Susa and Persepolis, the vibe of which can still be seen as ruins in present day Iran. In around 479BC, Xerxes becomes immortalised when his newest bride, Esther, turns out to be a fantastic diplomat and, despite the best efforts of Xerxes’ advisor, Haman, manages to prevent a holocaust against the Jews in Babylon. So grateful are the surviving Jews that Esther’s story remains in both the Jewish Tanakh and the Christian Old Testament. An ‘I was there, if only briefly’ kind of vibe.

General vibe of Xerxes: King of Persia

Factvibe: When a bridge he had ordered built across the Dardanelles washed away, Xerxes ordered that the Dardanelles (the narrow channel of water linking the Aegean with the Sea of Marmara) be whipped three hundred times.

xerxes

The “look! I’m so real here I am on a coin” vibe of Xerxes

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The Vibe of the Woman Caught in Adultery

This vibe concerns a lady who has broken Commandment Seven: thou shalt not commit adultery. It is not clear whether the woman is married to someone else, or if the man she has been caught in flagrante with is married already, or if neither of them are married. Whichever way you slice it, they are not married to each other and the woman is dragged into the Temple by angry Jews who want Jesus to unleash righteous fury upon her, and join in with them in stoning her to death. Jesus sees the show for what it is, a crass attempt to catch him out. He knows that the Jews are not outraged by the woman and her bedroom antics; if they were, why would they not have captured her before? They clearly knew where she could be found. This is simply an attempt to trap Jesus into saying something that goes against the law that every Jew holds dear. How can he not condemn the woman? After all, adultery is so hated by God that he placed it in the list given to Moses who had it inscribed onto stone tablets. However, instead of siding with the Jews, Jesus draws in the sand, possibly to divert the eyes of the crowd from the woman who, doubtless, is in a state of undress. He then asks for anyone in the crowd who has never done anything wrong to throw a rock at the woman. It is a masterstroke. In one simple act, Jesus is acknowledging both the sin of adultery and its correct punishment, yet at the same time he is challenging everyone present to take a long hard look at themselves before they judge someone else. The oldies are the first to let the rocks fall from their hands and the youngsters follow suit until the crowd has dispersed and Jesus is left with the woman who no doubt cannot believe that she is still alive. Jesus tells her to change her ways and she runs off to get dressed and make some less dangerous and better-informed life choices.

General vibe of the Woman Caught in Adultery: Judge yourself before you judge others.

Factvibe: This is the only episode in the Bible where Jesus is seen writing

mirror

A mirror. Ultimatley, this vibe suggests we all take long hard look in one.

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