Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Vibe of the Apocrypha

Crammed between the Old and New Testament and often forgotten altogether, the Apocrypha has an ‘almost made it but not quite’ vibe. That’s not to say that the Apocryphal vibes aren’t taken seriously – many were considered authentic enough to stay in the Bible until as recently as three hundred years ago. Some mention characters who also appear in the real Bible, some are written by people whose books appear in the Bible, others seem a little far fetched. However, their general absence from most Bibles suggests a ‘could try harder’ vibe, or even a vibe of not being one hundred per cent on the money. The word ‘apocryphal’ suggests a story that has no truth to it and is itself a product of the Apocrypha not being an official part of the Bible. As for the books themselves, 1 and 2 Esdras is really just the book of Ezra over again plus some visions that appeared to the scribe. The book of Tobit details Tobit’s adventures with the angel Raphael, Judith seduces her way into her enemy’s tent and chops his head off, we have a few extra chapters from the book of Esther, some more proverbs from the Books of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, Baruch is written by Jeremiah’s scribe, Song of the Three Children refers to the three young men who survived the Fiery Furnace, Susannah survives a sex scandal in which she is wrongly accused, Bel and the Dragon concerns a god (Bel) who Daniel refuses to worship and a dragon (yes, a dragon) who he slays, a king apologises for worshipping other gods in the Prayer of Manasseh and 1 and 2 Maccabees describe the Jews’ revolt against the Greeks and their defeat of the Syrians under their rebel leader Judas Maccabeus. All in all, a racy bunch of vibes whose shoes still weren’t quite shiny enough to be let into the Bible by those who make the rules.

General vibe of the Apocrypha: The Bible’s also-rans

Factvibe: There are no phrases in everyday use that have been taken from the Apocrypha

Earthsea-dragon

The Apocrypha has everything it. Even dragons.

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The Vibe of Aaron

Brother of Moses, High Priest and worker of miracles, Aaron still manages to blend into the background of the Bible. Left behind by his mother Miriam when she is dragged off to Pharaoh’s palace to look after his baby brother, Moses, he clearly harbours no bad feelings and is happy to jump into action as Moses’ spokesman and PA. As well as being the mouthpiece for his tongue-tied brother, Aaron is chosen to be the High Priest for the Israelites as they wander in the Sinai desert in search of the Promised Land. As priest, Aaron must wear an elaborate costume, arguably one of the most intricate suits of clothing ever made. The vibe is that God, being God, deserves the very best. And sadly, this is where Aaron lets God and himself down. While Moses is having a lengthy one-to-one with God on the top of Mount Sinai, the Israelites get homesick for their years of captivity in Egypt and force Aaron to construct an idol made of gold. Fortunately for him, his little brother is on such good terms with God that he persuades him not to destroy everyone. Aaron also has in his possession a staff that has magical powers, a little like a Biblical light saber. To demonstrate to Pharaoh that God is with the Israelites, Aaron’s staff turns into a snake. Later, Aaron waves his rod like a wizard’s wand and brings plagues on Egypt. Finally, the stick blossoms and sprouts almonds, suggesting that Aaron and his descendants should be Israel’s High Priests forever. Sadly for Aaron, as he and Moses get impatient with God for not bringing them into the Promised Land sooner, they both die before they get there. A useful, behind the scenes stage management vibe, albeit a bit of a shabby one.

General vibe of Aaron: Moses’ big brother

Factvibe: Along with the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments and some manna, Aaron’s rod now resides in the Ark of the Covenant (wherever that may be)

Almonds

Almonds. One of the many amazing by-products of Aaron’s magical walking stick

The Vibe of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

These three vibes are packed carefully in camels’ saddlebags and transported across the Arabian Desert to Bethlehem by an unspecified number of mysterious astrologers known only as the Magi. The vibes are expensive – gold is as rare in Bible times as it is now and frankincense and myrrh are also precious and hard to come by.  These are gifts that are suitable for a king, and the Magi could be forgiven for thinking that something as grandiose as the Star of Bethlehem must be, at the very least, the portent of a royal birth. Gold is expensive yet universal, but frankincense and myrrh are much harder to find: both are aromatic tree resins whose vibe is found only in the southern Arabian Peninsular and in the northern part of East Africa. However, Bible boffins believe that these are not just high status gifts for a king, the gold, frankincense and myrrh have a special symbolism too. As the ultimate precious metal, gold represents kingship and Jesus is later heralded as King of the Jews. Frankincense is a specially consecrated perfume, one of the few that is allowed to be burned in the Temple and so it may be seen as a nod to Jesus’ eventual role as ultimate High Priest. Myrrh was used during the process of embalming and this gift can therefore be seen as a flash forward to Jesus’ death. History doesn’t relate the reaction of Mary and Joseph to such extraordinarily opulent gifts, or whether the Baby Jesus enjoyed playing with them.

General vibe of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh: The first Christmas presents.

Factvibe: In 243BC, Greek king, Seleucus II Callinicus, presented gold, frankincense and myrrh to the god Apollo at the temple in Miletus.

Myrrh2

So this is what myrrh actually looks like. Who knew?