Category Archives: Journey of Faith

The Star of Bethlehem Revisited

I love the Star of Bethlehem. It’s a magical combination of science, history, and faith. I’m writing a new book, a work of fiction, and one of the chapters is about the Star. I’ve reproduced the latest draft of that chapter below. It’s a rough draft, so please let me know if you have any suggestions for improvement.

The scene is dinner Christmas Eve, at a mansion in Greenwich Connecticut. Here’s the characters in this chapter:

John – family patriarch, one of the richest persons in the world, dying of cancer.

Mary – John’s wife.

Ashley – their daughter, who teaches math at MIT.

Hajid – Ashley’s husband, who teaches physics at Harvard.

Rebecca – Ashley and Hajid’s daughter, nine years old and totally, totally adorable.

Mark – John and Mary’s oldest son, who is an entrepreneur in San Francisco.

Matthew – John and Mary’s youngest son, who was a drug addict, went to prison, and almost overdosed.

Imani – Matthew’s girlfriend, a Black nurse from the South Bronx who knows the Bible and the history of the birth of Jesus.

I hope you enjoy it. Merry Christmas!

Chapter 24

They were back in the dining room for strawberry shortcake, with real whipped cream of course, lots of it. Nobody ever said Mary skimped on whipped cream. John was tired, very tired, felt weak, very weak, but it was strawberry shortcake, so he sat up and ate. For some things you push yourself. Even more important perhaps, although food was certainly of great importance, but perhaps even more important, no it really was more important, he was feeling kind of dizzy so things weren’t so clear, was that the family was together, and it was Christmas Eve. Pretty service, but this God stuff was confusing, damn confusing. Wait. Did Imani say something about when Jesus was born and the Star? That could be interesting. Maybe ask.

“Imani, tell us when Jesus was born and about the Star,” said John. If you don’t mind.”

John saw Imani look to Mary for permission. Mary nodded as a sign that Imani should go ahead.

“The short version or the long version?”

John smiled. “Maybe the medium version. The medium short version.”

“Okay. I went to a talk. Then I read books and watched videos. It makes sense, it all fits together.”

John saw Imani was feeling a bit at home, getting over the culture shock, trying to get over years of prejudice against people with money. And if one thing was obvious, it was that Imani loved talking about the Bible.

“People have tried to figure it out for two thousand years,” said Imani. “Two thousand years. There’s lots, tons, dozens of different theories. I’m going to tell you what I think.” John saw Imani glance at Ashley and Hajid. “There’s a lot of different theories, but I hope you’ll let me tell you how I see it.”

John could see Imani didn’t want to be interrupted, challenged, by the education elites. Imani’s got street smarts, thought John. It was something he’d come to respect from a thousand deals. Some people (and he thought of himself as one) have street smarts, intelligence and wisdom they didn’t learn at school. Could be interesting, he thought. Could be fun. Ghetto girl versus the education snobs. A little like David versus Goliath. He expected Ashley and Hajid to challenge Imani. Did Imani have a chance?

“The starting question,” said Imani, “is when did King Herod die? This is Herod the Great.”

“Why was he great?” asked Rebecca. John smiled. Rebecca was intensely curious. She got that from him.

“Super question,” said Imani, “but your grandfather asked for a short version.”

John saw Imani pause. No one spoke, so Imani continued.

“People used to think Herod died in 4 BC,” said Imani, “but we now know there was a copying error in an ancient book. The earliest copies of that book tell us Herod died in 1 BC.” Imani paused, and looked again at Ashley. “At least that’s what I think. Some people with fancy degrees don’t agree.”

Priceless, thought John, priceless.

Imani continued. “When you look at the ancient skies using computers, and we know Jesus was born before Herod died, you will see that on June 17, 2 BC, and we know the exact date here, the exact date and time, Jupiter and Venus touched each other in the sky. It’s called a ‘planetary conjunction.’ Jupiter and Venus are the brightest planets, the brightest objects in the sky after the sun and the moon. Jupiter and Venus touched each other, you might say kissed each other. It must have been amazing. You wish you were there to see it.”

“Does that happen often?” asked Rebecca.

“No,” said Imani. “It’s only happened three times in the past two thousand years, and June 17, 2 BC is the only time the conjunction was visible from the Middle East. It may have been the closest, the most spectacular conjunction ever. NASA supercomputers have verified this. It’s true, it happened. That’s part of the story of the Star of Bethlehem, what the wise men saw. But it’s only part.”

Ashley couldn’t help herself. “But Imani, and I don’t mean to be critical in the slightest, not one bit, how kind of you to tell us this story, but it seems a stretch to say that, just because two planets get near each other in the sky, and you’re right that’s called a conjunction, very good for you, nicely done, that just because they get near each other in the sky, that means Jesus was born that night. Planets move. Even if it happened as you say, and by the way I agree modern computers can show us what the ancient skies looked like at any time from any place on Earth, you did a good job on that too, it seems a stretch to say that proves Jesus was born that night. Of course, that’s if Jesus was a real person.”

John saw Imani blink with shock, as if Ashley had hit her with a bucket of cold water. Ashley had thrown down the gauntlet. The fight was on. If Jesus was a real person? If? Watch out Ashley, John thought. You just stepped on a hornet’s nest. John saw Imani take a deep breath, sit up straight, square her shoulders, and glare at Ashley. Imani was visibly angry.

“First,” Imani said loudly, “I didn’t say it proves anything. But now we’ve got a date. Now we can put pieces together. For how it all fits you need the longer version.”

“Second, as for Jesus being a real person, perhaps you should read the Roman records. Or study history. Those would be nice subjects to learn something about. Jesus changed the world more than any other person.”

Priceless, thought John, absolutely totally perfectly priceless. Ashley walked right into it. Imani was not going to back down. Now John had to hear more. He was innately curious. That’s where Rebecca got it from. His side of the family.

“Now you’ve got to give us the long version,” said John. “I’m staying awake for this.” He had finished his strawberry shortcake, had asked for and gotten more whipped cream, but even though desert was over, and he sure was dizzy and exhausted, the cancer and the wine and the drugs were still partying, he had to hear more. “Hit us with your best shot, lay it on. Details. I always thought the Star of Bethlehem was a myth, made up, you know sort of like …” John stopped. He was going to say Santa Claus, but he stopped. “Like a made-up story.”

“You got it” said Imani. “Put your seat belt on.” Imani smiled at him. They were becoming friends.

“The wise men, and let’s use the word in the Bible, the Magi, came from Saba, a city that is now called Saveh. It’s sixty miles southwest of Tehran, in present-day Iran. It was a key city in the Parthian empire. The Parthians were tough, one of the great empires of the ancient world, an empire that lasted for almost five hundred years, a single dynasty. They were never conquered by Rome. They didn’t practice the Jewish religion, but they had Jewish blood, and they knew Jewish history and the Old Testament. They knew the prophecies about the Messiah. Their Kings claimed they were entitled to rule because they were descended from the line of David.”

Imani paused. She didn’t get interrupted by Ashley, but she did by John. “How do we know Saba’s the place?”

“Marco Polo,” answered Imani. “The Venetian trader who made it to China and back, and wrote what he saw. Marco Polo saw their tombs. He saw the tombs of the Magi in Saba. He gave details, said the tombs were of great size and beauty, said the bodies were well-preserved, and he even gave the names of the Magi. He wrote that the Magi left from Saba when they went to find the baby Jesus.”

“Couldn’t that have been added later into Marco Polo’s manuscript?” asked Ashley.

John saw Imani make a face. She glared at Ashley. Imani was not going to back down. “You can always make up stuff, and come up with a theory that denies Jesus, denies the living God. You have free will, you can make stuff up. I’m trying to keep it short. Do you mind if I keep going?”

Wow, thought John, wow.

Imani continued. “You need to know a little about the Magi and the Parthian empire. The Magi were royal astronomers and the top advisors. If you know Daniel, the Daniel who survived being thrown into the lion den when God shut the mouths of the lions, after that Daniel became the leader of the Magi, that was five hundred years earlier.” Imani turned and smiled at Matthew. “They were like Jedi knights. Very powerful, very smart, and they knew astronomy. They could predict solar and lunar ellipses, when planets would get close to each other, and they knew Jewish history.”

Ashley couldn’t help herself. “I don’t think the Magi could possibly know in advance where planets would be.”

“Then you’ve never heard of the Antikythera mechanism,” said Imani. “The world’s oldest analog computer. Found in a shipwreck off the coast of Greece, in a ship that sank two centuries before the birth of Jesus.”

Praise the Lord, thought John, praise the Lord. Imani was eating Ashley’s lunch, besting her at every turn.

Imani continued. “Now the stage is set. We’ve got powerful royal astronomers, possibly the smartest people in the world, brilliant people with centuries of knowledge and access to the full resources of their empire. They know the Bible and they watch the skies carefully, very carefully. Now we use modern computers, and look at what they saw two thousand years ago.”

John saw Imani pause and look around the room. Imani was taking charge. You go girl.

John saw Imani look straight at Ashley. “This is going to get technical,” said Imani. “Try to keep up.”

Priceless, thought John, perfectly priceless.

“Go back nine months earlier, to September of 3 BC. The Magi see a triple conjunction of Jupiter and the star Regulus. The Babylonians called this star “Sharru,” meaning “the King.” Jupiter, as everyone back then knew, was the King Planet. Jupiter passed Regulus three times, and traced a crown above it. Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation of Leo the lion. The Bible compares the Israelite Tribe of Judah, the tribe of King David and Jesus, with a lion. This triple conjunction of the two kings happens only twice every 83 years.

I’m loving this, thought John. Not sure I’m following it, but I’m loving it.

Imani was on a roll. “On September 11, 3 BC, as the triple conjunction begins, the Sun rises in the womb of the virgin in the constellation Virgo. At the foot of the Sun is a slim crescent moon. Of course the constellation wasn’t visible when the Sun was up. You normally can’t see stars in the daylight, would you agree with that Professor Hajid?”

John could see Hajid did not like being called out. “Yes,” said Hajid. “Of course! Everybody knows that.”

“But the Magi know it, they totally know it, they know the king planet, and remember planets were thought of a moving stars in those stars in those days, so it’s all stars to them, they know that the king moving star and the king fixed star have just done a dance, traced a crown, in the womb of a Virgin. These guys have instruments and skills we can hardly imagine.” John saw Imani turn again to Ashley. “You should read about the Antikythera mechanism,” said Imani. “It would be a nice addition to your education.”

John almost burst out laughing.

Imani continued. “Okay, and again please try to keep up professors, the Sun appears here only one day every year, and the moon has this shape one day each lunar cycle.” Imani looked at Hajid. “That’s 29 days, right professor? All signs point to the coming birth of a great king in Judah. This was the date of Christ’s conception, this is the blessed day the Angel Gabriel appears to Mary.[1]

There was no stopping Imani. “And nine months later it happened. The greatest event in history. The most important event for every human being until the day Jesus comes again. On June 17, 2 BC, nine months after the king planet Jupiter, the king moving star, traces a crown around the king fixed star, nine months later Jupiter and Venus meet in the sky. For the Magi Venus symbolizes femininity, the perfect woman. The planets combine. Together, they’re the brightest “star” anyone alive had ever seen, the brightest object ever after the Sun and the Moon that anyone alive then, or anyone alive for the entire Parthian Empire, has ever seen. It was visible in the West, in the direction of Judah, towards Israel, for an hour after sunset. Jesus Christ is born.”

Imani continued. “And here’s a fact that blows me away, that makes me scream with adoration for the living God, a fact that modern computers have confirmed, this planetary conjunction, this meeting of Venus and Jupiter, takes place again in the constellation of Virgo the Virgin. Get it? The conception occurs in the womb of the virgin, and the Jesus is born from the womb of the virgin. The sacrificial “lamb of God” is born in Bethlehem, where Jesse and David raised sacrificial lambs for the Temple in Jerusalem, five miles up the main road. Jesus is born in the early summer, not winter, during the birthing season for the sacrificial lambs. The shepherds who cared for those lambs were out in the warmer weather sleeping with the flocks during birthing season. Jesus is born, and Joseph and Mary wrap him in swaddling clothes.”

“What are swaddling clothes,” asked Rebecca.

John saw Imani look at Rebecca and smile. “Great question, thanks,” said Imani. “Swaddling clothes were old, used, garments that had been worn by rabbis. They were rags, but sacred rags. The sacrificial lambs that Jesse and David and others raised in Bethlehem were clumsy little critters. To be a sacrificial lamb for the temple in Jerusalem, they had to be perfect. So when a sacrificial lamb was born the shepherds would wrap the lamb in swaddling clothes, in rags that had been worn by men of faith, to keep it from hurting itself, to keep it perfect.

Imani kept going. “Imagine you’re a shepherd that night. An angel pops out of the sky, and you are much afraid. But the angel tells you not to worry, and that you need to get yourself to Bethlehem, where you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths in the very place where some of the sacrificial lambs are born. You go quickly, you run, and you cannot believe what you find. He’s there, the living God. You see a baby born in the building where the difficult births of sacrificial lambs took place, a human baby in the same place, wrapped in holy rags just like the shepherds wrapped a newborn baby lamb to protect it. It is wonder, it is a miracle, beyond words. Two thousand years of prophecy are beginning to come true. Jesus, the sacrificial lamb of God, is sent by God to pay for our sins, an offering by God to the human race, an offering for peace between us and God. God is just, a price has to be paid for the sin of Adam and Eve and of every person ever born, and only God can pay it. So God pays it himself, he sends Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus is born exactly like a sacrificial lamb, in the same town and in the same place and wrapped in the same way, as a sacrificial lamb. For the important stuff God doesn’t mess around. He puts in layers and layers of symbols to help us understand. The shepherds out in the fields know this. They see a human child, wrapped in used priestly garments, in swaddling cloths, in a place where sacrificial lambs are born.

Imani was getting a little repetitive, and John could see Imani knew that. But Imani kept going. “Now let’s go back to the Magi, the royal astronomers who see Jupiter and Venus touch each other on June 17, 2 BC. You can just imagine. You wish you were there. The Magi are stunned. It all fits. The stars tell them a great king has been born, born in Judah, the king they’ve been expecting for centuries, a king of virgin birth. Could this be the Messiah? They’ve got to check it out, they’ve got to see for themselves. They decide to make a very dangerous journey. They’ve got to go 1200 miles over mountains, through bandits, and into enemy territory, into land controlled by Rome. The Romans and the Parthians hate each other, and it’s going to be very dangerous. The Magi can’t call a taxi and they can’t hire a private jet. They spend months getting ready, and to go 1200 miles by camels and horses is going to take two months, maybe longer. They pack gold, frankincense, and myrrh to give to Jesus, really valuable stuff, gifts to give a great king. And they assemble an army.[2] Maybe hundreds, maybe thousands, of trained and armed soldiers. They put all this together, and they head out, they travel West, towards Jerusalem, they travel in the direction where they saw Jupiter and Venus kiss in the sky. As they travel Jupiter stays ahead of them in the Western sky, it points the way. They follow the Star, the planet Jupiter, as they travel to Jesus.”

John saw Imani took a breath, and look around. Nobody was challenging Imani now.

“They get to Jerusalem late December, 2 BC. They leave the army outside the city, they’re not trying to conquer anything, and they ask to see Herod. They put it to him, point-blank, right in Herod’s face — “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” You wish you were there. Herod the Great is an arrogant, psychopathic murderer. Herod killed two of his own sons because he was afraid they might take his throne. The Magi walk up to a murderously paranoid ruler, Herod the Great, and ask to see the new king, the real king. They tell Herod they “saw his star when it rose.”

Imani was hitting on all cylinders, rolling full steam. “The Magi are showing off; they are bragging. They’re dishing Herod, they’re throwing it in his face! They are saying that, because of their advanced knowledge of astronomy, they knew Jupiter and Venus were going to meet, and they knew exactly where to look for it rising in the morning sky, in the daylight as it rose. This historic conjunction was bright enough to be visible in broad daylight, if you knew where to look. Would you agree, Professor Hajid, that this conjunction would have been visible to the naked eye, if you knew exactly where to look and blocked out the sun?”

John heard Hajid mumble. “Maybe.”

Imani continued. “It’s so cool. The Magi are bragging, showing off, showing Herod what they’ve got. They have skills, knowledge, star smarts far beyond anything Herod, or anyone else in the Roman Empire, had at that time. They are royal astronomers, from a powerful empire, and they are bragging about their sophistication. Herod didn’t even know the conjunction had occurred, he had no clue; he had to ask his advisors later what heck the Magi were talking about. Herod is clueless, and he’s got some of the smartest people in the world talking to him.”

Imani again looked at Hajid. “And that proves the Star wasn’t a comet or supernova or anything like that. Herod didn’t know about the conjunction. If it was a comet or a supernova he would have known about it. But Herod had no clue.”

“Herod wants to kill the Magi, kill them right then and there, for their impertinence, for daring to ask where the real king is. He’s Herod the Great, and he’s just been royally dished. But he’s got to be nice. There’s an army outside the city. Herod is scared of the Parthians. He knows that, fifty years earlier, the Romans invaded Parthia with seven legions, 40,000 elite trained soldiers, elite trained troops that had conquered the Mediterranean world. The army was put together by the richest Roman ever, a guy named Crassus, who wanted to be the Roman version of Alexander the Great. The Parthian king sent 8,000 fighters, mostly archers on horseback, to slow down the Roman legions, to buy time while he formed a larger army. He shouldn’t have worried. The outnumbered Parthians destroyed the Romans. Ten thousand Roman soldiers were killed, ten thousand were captured, and the rest ran for their lives, ran like the Philistines did after David killed Goliath. Crassus was killed.”

Imani paused. She should get back to the story, thought John. Imani did. “But back to Herod. Herod can’t start a new war. So what does he do? He smiles, he fakes it, he plays nice. He says that’s so wonderful, how truly nice of you to let me know, thanks so much my new friends, please do go and find this sweet kid and tell me where he is. Yeah, says Herod, I can’t wait to worship this kid too, so you smart guys go and find him, and I’ll be right behind you to worship him. You go ahead, I’ll be right behind. Herod lies, it’s bullshit. Herod knows he will kill this baby the moment he is found. Ain’t no snotty babe in a manger going to bring down Herod the Great.”

“The Magi leave. They saw Herod was clueless, but the Magi do have a clue. They know where the Son of God made flesh was born. They know the words of the prophet Micah, 700 hundred years earlier, when he foretold Jesus would be born in Bethlehem.” Imani looked at Rebecca. “That’s the prophet whose name sounds like a stone.”

Imani was wrapping up. “The Magi head south to Bethlehem. It’s the evening of December 25, 2 BC, and they’re only five miles away. Remember the Magi know the skies. Now here’s something that will stop you cold. On that date, that exact date, on December 25 of the year 2 BC, Jupiter goes into retrograde motion. Jupiter stops in the sky, it stops moving against the background stars. The Star of Bethlehem stops in the sky, and it’s south of them, straight ahead, as they head down the main road. They follow the Star to Jesus.”

Imani took a deep breath. “Finally. The Magi arrive at the house where Jesus is. Jesus is now six months old, the original Greek uses the Greek word for toddler. And the Bible tells us that the Magi arrive after Jesus was born, and that Jesus was staying in a house at that time. The Magi walk into a house of dirt-poor peasants. They see Jesus with Mary his mother. Immediately, in an instant, they fall down and worship Jesus. Can you imagine? You wish you were there. These Jedi knights, these royal advisors, the elite of the Parthian empire, the smartest people on the planet, fall down to worship the baby Jesus. They saw the Star in daylight, as it rose, they watched the planets kiss in the sky, they have come all this way, 1200 miles, with servants and a private army, to fall down and worship Jesus. They sure didn’t do that when they met Herod. But Jesus is no ordinary king, and they know it. They fall down and worship Jesus, the living God, the Word made flesh. They’re top guns, they represent the Parthian empire, they’re the intellectual elite of the ancient world. They throw themselves down on the dirt floor of a peasant house, and they worship Jesus. They offer gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They came 1200 miles for this moment. They fall down before the most powerful king ever, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and they worship Jesus. You wish you were there. They offer gifts. It’s the first Christmas. They hand Mary the first Christmas gifts. You wish you were there.”

Imani hit Ashley with a smile of victory. “And that’s how I say it went down. Any questions?”

Silence. Golden silence. “One more thing,” said Imani. “The heavens are like a clock. God knew, when He flung the universe into existence, exactly when and where Jesus would be born.”

Magnificent! A performance for the ages. John was blown away by the power of Imani’s faith, what she knew, and how she knit it together. He pushed back his chair to stand up. His legs were weak, so he grabbed both arms to push himself up. Imani deserved a standing ovation, and he was going to start it.

He didn’t make it. He lost consciousness on the way up, fell on his left side, knocked over the chair, and hit the floor hard.

1. Compare this also to the vision in Revelation 12:1-2: “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.”

2. Isaiah foretold, 700 years earlier, that the Magi would arrive with hundreds of camels. He also foretold two of the three gifts they would bring. From the sixth verse of the 60th chapter:

A multitude of camels shall cover you,
  the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
  all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
  and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD.

Abraham the Astronomer

I am a fan of the website Watch Jerusalem. I copy below one of their articles. It is a fantastic story that combines astronomy, mathematics, history, and the Bible. Click here for the original article if you are interested.

History records a man who lived 10 generations after a great flood who used celestial science to prove the existence of God. He was a skilled scientist, astronomer and mathematician. His astronomical discoveries shook the foundations of Babylonian religion. He heavily influenced Egyptian and Mesopotamian scientific thought. He led armies that altered the course of world history. And all this took place before he became the forefather of the Arab, Turk and Israelite peoples!

This man’s name was Abraham. Yes, the astounding evidence of both biblical and secular history proves that the patriarch Abraham was not only real; he exerted tremendous influence on the entire ancient world!

This influence is recounted in the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus, the Babylonian historian Berossus, the Roman historian Eusebius and others. These records reveal that Abraham used mathematics and astronomy to discredit the pagan priesthood of his time and to prove the existence of the one true God.

Chief Scientist of the Chaldeans

Abraham was born in the city of Ur, in the land of the Chaldees, sometime in the early second millennium B.C.E. This city was then near the outskirts of the rapidly expanding Old Babylonian Empire. The pagan Babylonian priesthood publicly taught the masses to believe that the sun, moon, stars and planets were gods. These priests used their knowledge of astronomy to predict the movements of the heavenly bodies, deceiving the masses into thinking they could communicate with the gods of the Babylonian pantheon (Israel Smith Clare, The Standard History of the World, Vol. 1).

This was the political climate into which Abraham was born.

Now consider the record of third-century B.C.E. Babylonian historian Berossus: “In the 10th generation after the Flood, there was among the Chaldeans a man righteous and great, and skillful in the celestial science” (emphasis added throughout). While Berossus doesn’t give this great scientist a name, first-century Jewish historian Josephus tells us that Berossus was writing about Abraham.

There is even an ancient hymn cited by Clement of Alexandria (second century C.E.) about “a certain unique man, an offshoot from far back of the race of the Chaldeans.” This man was “knowledgeable about the path of the star and how the movement of the sphere goes around the Earth, both in circular fashion, but each on its own axis.” The poem related that this chief scientist of the Chaldeans was the only man of his era to see Zeus, “the ruler of mortal men.”

Of course, ancient Greek poets tended to call the chief god of any religion by the name Zeus. The fact that this poem speaks of a Chaldean scientist who had a special relationship with “the mighty God” isn’t coincidence!

Fourth-century C.E. Roman historian Eusebius cited an earlier source by a man named Eupolemus (second century B.C.E.), titled Concerning the Jews of Assyria. Quoting this source, Eusebius says Abraham “surpassed all men in nobility and wisdom, who was also the inventor of astronomy and the Chaldaic art, and pleased God well by his zeal towards religion.”

Josephus further records that as a young man, Abraham “determined to renew and to change the opinion all men happened then to have concerning God; for he was the first that ventured to publish this notion, that there was but one God, the Creator of the universe” (Antiquities of the Jews, 1.7.1).

Abraham was teaching the people of Chaldea about the one true Creator!

Babylonian Mystery Religion

The Babylonian priesthood established after the Flood by Nimrod and Semiramis was teaching the masses to believe that the sun, moon, stars and planets were manifestations of the gods. They deceived people into thinking priests could communicate with these gods. In addition to being a scientist, however, Abraham was a great teacher. He taught the people physics and mathematics, and showed them that celestial bodies moved according to preordained laws.

Josephus paraphrases Abraham’s words: “If these bodies had power of their own, they would certainly take care of their own regular motions; but since they do not preserve such regularity, they make it plain, that in so far as they cooperate to our advantage, they do it not of their own abilities, but as they are subservient to Him that commands them, to whom alone we ought justly to offer our honor and thanksgiving” (ibid).

Abraham taught the Chaldeans what the priests secretly knew: The movements of the stars and other heavenly bodies are one of the greatest proofs of God’s existence. The presence of law demands the presence of a lawgiver!

Abraham taught that the stars and planets were only physical objects created by the one true God. What many historians are unwilling to admit is that Abraham possessed advanced astronomical knowledge that would not be rediscovered for thousands of years. Josephus further records that Abraham wasn’t the first astronomer in his family. The study of astronomy originated with Seth, the third son of Adam. He wrote that “God gave [those who lived before the Flood] such long life that they might perfect those things which they had invented in astronomy” (Antiquities, 1.3.9).

Other records, such as Jean Lemaire de Belges’s Illustrations of Gaul and Peculiarities of Troy (1513), indicate that Noah had knowledge of maritime astronomy involving navigating by the stars, and that he established a college in ancient Armenia to teach religion and astronomy. This noble and elderly patriarch likely brought knowledge of mathematics, astronomy and other sciences from one side of the Flood to the other, passing it down from generation to generation to Abraham!

Father of the Faithful

When the pagan Babylonian priests gained power and influence, they lost patience with Abraham and his teachings about the one true God. Josephus records that the Chaldeans and other peoples of Mesopotamia “raised a tumult” against Abraham, forcing him to flee the country. Unlike the priests of this Babylonian mystery religion, Abraham refused to teach lies to receive the praise of men. These pagan religious leaders would have killed Abraham for publishing the truth and likely did kill his older brother Haran. The Bible records only that “Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees” (Genesis 11:28). Josephus adds that a monument was erected in Haran’s honor, and that “Terah [hated] Chaldea, on account of his mourning for Haran” (Antiquities, 1.6.5).

While Terah himself fell into idol worship, Abraham never lost faith in the existence of the great Creator of the universe.

To recount all the various histories of the things Abraham suffered during this period would fill many pages. Through his trials and tribulations, however, Abraham stayed faithful to his belief in God. And when Abraham was 75 years old, God Himself actually appeared to him and spoke to him to make a covenant that would change the course of history!

I hope you will agree this historical background on Abraham is wondrous. What resonates with me is that, around 4,000 years ago, Abraham used science and mathematics to show others the existence of God. That is what I have tried to do in my books.

May the Lord bless you and hold you in the palm of his hand.

Doug Ell

Proofs of God

It’s been six and a half years since my first book, Counting To God – A Personal Journey Through Science to Belief — was published. It “counts” through seven areas of modern science, seven areas where experimental evidence confirms the existence of God. I consulted with top scientists to make sure everything was correct. I did my best to present the overwhelming case, based on recent discoveries in the last few decades, that all life was created and designed, and this universe was designed. To date, no one has ever challenged me on any of the science; no one has ever suggested I got any of the facts or analysis wrong.

But I was told my book was not an easy read. “Put in more pictures,” said my minister. I worked on how to make the subject fun and enjoyable. The result is my new book – Proofs of God: A Conversation Between Doubt and Reason – recently published by Covenant Books. It is now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble (and on Ingram for retailers), although as of now the full details are not on the links. An e-book version should be out in the next month or so. Click here for the Amazon listing.

As the title suggests, it’s a dialogue between two characters – Doubt and Reason. They argue, they tease, they joke, they challenge. I hired a cartoonist/illustrator to create a dozen or so illustrations. Boxes highlight key quotes and concepts. I kept it short, 133 pages with large font. Over the internet, I found a cover designer in Eastern Europe (not sure exactly where she lives, but she did a great job).

Proofs of God

In my view, the book absolutely does prove the existence of God. I show, using numbers (no formulas, just simple powers of ten), common sense, and logic, that there is no explanation for the technology of life other than it was designed. I show the “cumulative selection” argument used to get around this is nonsense; I show why Darwin’s theory has no scientific basis and is plainly rejected by the evidence; and I show that life and this universe could not have arisen by chance. If you’ve ever wanted a short, easy-to-read book on the scientific evidence for God, this could be your book.

The publisher wanted to price it at $19.95, but I talked them down to $11.95. For that I had to give up on color illustrations, but the illustrations are still powerful. I will donate any profits to Christian causes. If you like the book, please help me by recommending it to others and please, please give me a good review on Amazon. It’s amazing how helpful good reviews can be.

Did I mention that it makes a good Christmas gift?

Thanks for reading,
Doug Ell

Is Genesis History?

Last month I gave a talk in Florida on the book of Genesis. The subject was whether key events in Genesis, including Adam and Eve and a global flood, actually took place. The 53 minute video is below if you are interested.

As you may know, my views are contrary to what you read in the newspaper. If you are not open to a different interpretation of the scientific evidence, you should not watch this video.

The Garden of Eden

Where was the Garden of Eden? I get asked that question sometimes when I give a talk. Over the years, I’ve changed my response.

The second chapter of Genesis records that “God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” Genesis 2:8. In the garden was the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9. “A river went out of Eden to water the garden,” and divided into four rivers: Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates. Genesis 2:10-14.

Today the Tigris and Euphrates are major rivers that flow from Turkey through Iraq. Does this mean the Garden of Eden was in Iraq, or perhaps at the headquarters of the rivers in the mountains in Turkey? I think not.

The reuse of names from the Bible is common, so the reuse of old names proves nothing. Today, there is no place of Earth where one river divides into four. And one cannot ignore the Flood of Noah. The Flood obliterated the prior landscape; today, much of the Middle East is covered with two miles of sedentary rock; rock laid down by the receding waters of the Flood. Yes, the ark landed in the mountains of Turkey, mountains pushed up by the volcanic activity accompanying the Flood, as were all mountain ranges on Earth. But the Bible doesn’t say where the ark was built, and the ark was severely tossed during the months of the Flood. The Ark could have come from anywhere, and its landing place in the mountains of Turkey does not help locate where it came from, much less suggest the location of the Garden of Eden.

But the Bible does give a powerful clue. The more I study the Bible, and I certainly have a long way to go in that process, the more I find recurrent themes and patterns. These themes and patterns connect and unify the Bible. I am told there are 1800 connections between the Old and New Testaments, prophecies of things to come and references back to prior sections.

Of all these themes and connections, the most important relate to the life and death of Jesus. The overriding metanarrative of Christianity is Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Resurrection. The Fall came after Adam and Eve stole from the tree of God, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Redemption came after Jesus had died on the “tree” of man, on a wooden cross of suffering and death.

Is it possible both trees were located on the same spot? I think yes! God placed Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, five miles south of Jerusalem, where the sacrificial lambs for the Temple were raised. There is tremendous symbolism in this: Jesus, the “sacrificial lamb of God,” was born in the town where the sacrificial lambs of man were raised. Jesus was born in a manger, probably a cave, exactly as a newborn sacrificial lamb. Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes. Sacrificial lambs had to be perfect and, to protect the clumsy critters from injuring themselves, the shepherds would wrap them in swaddling clothes, probably scraps of used priestly garments.

If God went through all that trouble to connect the birth of Jesus with his mission to be the sacrificial Lamb of God, why wouldn’t he connect Jesus’ death? By dying on the “tree” of man, by giving himself to the tree of man, Jesus healed the break that occurred when Adam and Eve stole from the tree of God. If the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was an apple, then in a sense Jesus put the apple back on the tree, he paid the price with his life.

Is it possible that both trees were located on about the same spot? Yes! Why would God choose any other place? No other location would so powerfully connect Jesus’ death to his mission.

If you demand scientific evidence for the location of Eden, you will find none. But if you look at the Bible as a whole, if you realize it is connected from the beginning to end, then I suggest only one place fits. I suggest the Garden of Eden was located below present-day Jerusalem.

Thanks for reading.
Doug Ell

Is Genesis History?

If you follow my posts, you probably know I love the new scientific evidence for the literal truth of the Book of Genesis – a real Adam and Eve, a real Noah, and a real Flood.

In January, I gave two 45-minute talks on “Is Genesis History?” You can view them here:

I discussed scientific flaws in the “old-earth” paradigm, and did my best to summarize the overwhelming new DNA, geological, and astronomical evidence. I also explained why I believe this issue is important to Christians.

I hope you enjoy the videos. I would appreciate feedback – what you like, what you don’t like or follow, what I could do better. I hope to speak on this subject in other places, and would appreciate suggestions on forums.

Modern science reveals God and the truth of the Bible. I urge you to share the good news. Together, we can bring hope and defeat the Atheist paradigm of a meaningless universe.

Thanks for reading.

Doug Ell

All The Writers

Flavius Josephus was an exceptional man. He lead a rebellion against Rome, yet convinced the Romans to let him live, and became the historian for General (and later Emperor) Vespasian. He was known for his intellect. Joseph Scaliger, one of the most brilliant and critical reviewers of history to ever live, a man who reconciled ancient calendars and histories, wrote:

Josephus is the most diligent and the greatest lover of truth of all writers; nor are we afraid to affirm of him, that it is more safe to believe, not only as to the affairs of the Jews, but also as to those that are foreign to them, than all the Greek and Latin writers; and this, because his fidelity and his compass of learning are everywhere conspicuous.

Josephus’ most famous work is The Antiquities of the Jews, which he wrote in his later years, when he was the Emperor’s historian. Antiquities is a history of the Jewish people. It follows the Old Testament, but with many added details. For example, after a description of the Flood, and Noah’s Ark coming to rest, Josephus writes: “The Armenians call this place (Apobaterion) The Place of Descent; for the ark being saved in that place, its remains are shown there by the inhabitants to this day.”

That is an astonishing statement—the name of the place where the Ark came to rest, and the claim that remains were still present. But I am even more astonished by Josephus’ next paragraph:

Now all the writers of barbarian histories make mention of this flood and of the ark; among them is Berosus the Chaledean; for when he is describing the circumstances of the flood, he goes on thus: — “It is said there is still some part of this ship in Armenia, at the mountain of the Cordyaeans; and that some people carry off pieces of the bitumen, which they take away, and use chiefly as amulets for the averting of mischiefs.” Hieronymus the Egyptian, also, who wrote the Phoenician Antiquities, and Mnaseas, and a great many more, make mention of the same. Nay, Nicolaus of Damascus, in his ninety-sixth book, hath a particular relation about them, where he speaks thus: — “There is a great mountain in Armenia …”

The emphasis above is mine—all the writers. Josephus had access to all books in all libraries in the Roman Empire. These are non-Jewish historians, and he doesn’t just claim that some of them refer to Noah’s Flood and the Ark, he claims all of them do. He names prominent historians. Nicolaus of Damascus was the tutor of the children of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra; he wrote 144 books, almost all of which are now lost.

Few today, even religious people, accept the Flood of Noah. The unanimous testimony of all the ancient writers is ignored. The silent testimony of the geological record—of sedimentary rock (rock created from watery deposits) on every continent, often miles deep—is ignored. We are told that those layers of rock in the Grand Canyon were laid down tens or even millions of years apart—even though there is no erosion or plant debris between them.

But let’s get back to Josephus, and his statement that “all the writers” of ancient histories refer to the Flood? What are we to make of that? Why would Josephus lie? Why would he make up something? Why would the even more ancient historians he notes make up details about the Flood?

To a historian, credibility and accuracy are important, perhaps everything. I see no reason why Josephus would lie, nor do I see any reason why other ancient historians would lie. How can our modern world ignore Josephus, and ignore all the other writers of ancient histories?

The Flood was a real event, and Genesis records the true history of humanity.

Thanks for reading.

Caesar Proclaimed the Resurrection

My last post was prompted by an article from the Associates for Biblical Research. While poking around their website, I learned an astonishing fact.

In the late 1800’s, a French collector acquired an ancient stone from Nazareth. The stone, now in the Louvre in Paris, is a marble tablet about 24 inches by 15 inches. It contains an edict by Emperor Claudius (AD 41-54) ordering the death penalty for stealing bodies from Jewish tombs. Bodies?. Grave robbers steal valuables, not bodies. Why would stealing bodies from Jewish tombs, a pathetically trivial subject for the Empire, merit an imperial decree?

Below I quote the Book of Matthew. This comes immediately after the death of Jesus on the cross:

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.”
So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

The scene is set. Jesus is dead. Powerful Jewish leaders, the chief Priests and Pharisees, post their top guards and make the “tomb as secure as [they] know how.”

Now back to Matthew.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”

This is the key event of the Christian faith. Jesus is risen. Matthew tells us the cover-up began immediately.

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

That’s the cover-up. Tell everyone a totally disorganized group of backwoods, uneducated disciples came in while the elite guards were sleeping, and not only were able to unseal a large stone but, even more amazing, were able to do it without waking the guards. Not a believable cover-up story, but that is the best they could come up with. The empty tomb was on public display; they couldn’t deny that.

As the Book of Ecclesiastes says, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Government propaganda lies are not new. Almost two thousand years ago, the Emperor of Rome, then the most powerful person in the world, tried to prop up this absurd story that uneducated peasants snuck by an elite guard and opened a sealed tomb while the guards were sleeping! Emperor Claudius probably issued the edict when he took control in 41 AD, at the request of his childhood friend, Jewish King Herod Agrippa I. That’s just eight years after the Resurrection. The authorities wanted to control the situation. Tensions between the Romans and the Jews were high, partly because just before his death Caligula (whose assassination brought Claudius to power) had ordered that his statute be placed in the Temple in Jerusalem. Also, the news of Jesus’s Resurrection had spread, Jesus had appeared to hundreds of people (500 at one time, according to St. Paul), and the Romans and Jewish leaders were trying to control what they perceived as a serious political threat. No doubt as news of the Resurrection spread travelers came to Nazareth to learn more about Jesus.

The cover-up continues to this day. Notoriously anti-God Wikipedia writes. “As the original location of the stone is unknown, no clear argument can be made for the stone to be a Roman response to the empty tomb story.” Seriously? They can’t figure out the argument? What else could the Roman edict be about? And exactly what difference does it make what spot in or near Nazareth the stone originally occupied? Nazareth was an absolute no place in the Roman Empire, a small backward town on the wrong side of the tracks. To find an edict from a Roman Emperor anywhere in the vicinity, with a message so clearly aimed at denying the Resurrection, is astonishing.

The Resurrection is the most documented event in the ancient world. It changed the world more than any other event. As Billy Graham said: “There is more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than there is that Julius Caesar ever lived.” Without the Resurrection, there is no reason why all (but one) of his disciples chose to suffer a brutal death rather than deny Jesus. No one dies for a lie. There is no other explanation for the growth of the Christian church.

Even Caesar proclaimed the Resurrection! He affirmed the most important event in history. He just didn’t mean to do it.

Thanks for reading.

Doug Ell

The Old Testament and the Chronology Back to Adam

I recently learned there are different versions of the Old Testament. One is the Masoretic Text, or MT. The MT was put into its present form in the 10th century by Talmudic scholars. Another version is the Septaugint, which means 70 in Latin, also known as the LXX. The LXX was created much earlier, perhaps around 250 BC by Hebrew scholars at the request of King Ptolemy II of Egypt. It is the first translation of the Bible, and is written in Greek.

Opinions differ on which is more reliable. The Orthodox Church leans toward the LXX. The New Testament contains quotes from the LXX. However, some believe the LXX omits parts of the books of Job and Jeremiah. The Old Testament in today’s Christian Bible is a translation of the MT.

The two versions have different chronologies going back to Adam. For the most part, the list of patriarchs is the same. For the most part, the life spans of the patriarchs are the same. The key difference is in “begetting” ages, the time elapsed from one generation to another. For example, in the LXX Seth is born when Adam is 230, and Adam lives another 700 years after Seth’s birth, for a total of 930 years. In the MT Seth is born when Adam is 130, and Adam lives another 800 years after Seth’s birth, again for a total of 930 years. If it were just Adam, you might think this a simple mistake. However, this exact 100-year difference in the space between generations appears for 12 patriarchs (six before the Flood, six after), and, in the case of Nahor, Abraham’s grandfather, there is a difference of 50 years. This is no accident. Someone or some group deliberately either added 1250 years to the time going back to Adam, or shortened that time by 1250 years.

Scholars have debated which chronology is accurate for two thousand years. Most ancient Christian scholars argued for the originality of the LXX’s primeval chronology, and that consensus lasted over 14 centuries until the Reformation.

The Winter 2018 issue of Bible and Spade, the magazine of Associates for Biblical Research, contains an excellent article on this conundrum by Henry B. Smith Jr. He concludes “the MT’s primeval chronology was deliberately reduced in the second century AD by 1250 years.”

Why? Smith provides a motive. Around 150 BC, an unknown author deceptively claiming to be Moses penned the Book of Jubilees. In Hebrew tradition a jubilee is a period of 49 years. Jubilees rewrites Biblical history into periods of 49 years. In Jubilees, Joshua enters and conquers Canaan on the 50th Jubilee since creation, or exactly 2450 years after creation. To make this work, the author had to do some serious cutting, and slashed 1250 years off the begetting ages.

Jubilees claimed to be a new revelation, originally written ages before on “heavenly tablets” that pre-dated the Torah. Jubilees was extremely popular, and considered authoritative in some early traditions. Smith suggests Jubilees induced Hebrew scholars to adopt lower begetting ages.

Jubilees proposed lower begetting ages than found in the LXX, and the MT authors ultimately adopted many of them. For the first five patriarchs, from Adam to Mahalalel, the MT slices exactly 100 years off the begetting age, as was done in Jubilees. However, for three of the next four patriarchs –Jared, Methuselah, and Lamech – the begetting ages were not reduced. Why not? Smith suggests that the authors of the MT realized that these additional reductions would result in patriarchs (other than Noah and his sons) living beyond the Flood.

One of Smith’s most compelling arguments is that the longer chronology in the LXX is affirmed by at least four independent ancient works. One of these is Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus, who was a very careful historian. Smith writes: “All reliable external witnesses before AD 100 outside rabbinic influence unanimously testify to the longer chronology.”

This is deep subject, and I can offer only a glimpse of the issues and arguments. I have brutally oversimplified. There are many issues in the chronology back to Adam. However, the 1250-year difference in the begetting ages between the MT and the LXX is the most important. Some try to discredit the LXX, because in some later copies Methuselah lives beyond the Flood, but that has been shown to be a copying error from early versions.

Associates for Biblical Research uses archeology to confirm the biblical record. Smith’s article is important because under the MT chronology there isn’t enough time. If the Flood occurred around 2500 BC, as some might place it based on the MT, many of the dates established by archeological findings and historical records don’t work well. Smith dates the Flood at 3298 BC, and Creation at 5554 BC. These dates leave adequate time for repopulation after the Flood, the Tower of Babel, and the spread of humanity.

I must note I find this post disturbing. I am suggesting the Bible in your house is not completely accurate. I don’t like that, and it doesn’t feel right. I am not telling you what to believe. My goal is to give you facts you may not be aware of, and let you decide.

This post doesn’t contradict in any way the enormous evidence of modern science that the universe and life were designed. This post doesn’t contradict in any way the overwhelming scientific evidence the Earth is young. In past posts I have touched on some of that, such as dinosaur “soft tissue,” Flood memories in societies around the world, and strong DNA evidence. With the LXX chronology, we get times that agree with the archeological and historical evidence.

Thanks for reading.

Doug Ell

Full Strength Christianity

Christianity is on the decline. A recent poll found the percentage of Americans professing to be Christians declined by 7. 8% between 2007 and 2014. I’m back from Europe, where I was able to visit churches and cathedrals. Some took a century or more to build; they represent the greatest architecture and art of the Middle Ages; they are increasingly empty.

To what do we attribute this loss of faith? Our “popular” media twists true science and often mocks belief. Our tax dollars are used to indoctrinate children in the Darwinian delusion that technology so advanced we cannot understand it (like the human brain) arose by accident. Our scientists invent nonsense theories, theories without a shred of evidence, to remove God from the creation of the universe and the creation of life.

Sadly, many churches share the blame. Many offer watered-down Christianity. Some acquiesce to the contradictions of “theistic evolution,” they embrace the Darwinian delusion of technology by accident, yet try to convince people God is in control. Some treat Adam and Eve, and Noah and the flood, as fable. Some even question the divinity of Jesus.

This retreat can lead to spiritual death. I quote now from an Atheist. His starting premise is wrong, but his logic from that false premise is compelling:

The most devastating thing though that biology did to Christianity was the discovery of biological evolution. Now that we know that Adam and Eve never were real people the central myth of Christianity is destroyed. If there never was an Adam and Eve there never was original sin. If there never was an original sin there is no need of salvation. If there is no need of salvation there is no need of a savior. And I submit that puts Jesus, historical or otherwise, into the ranks of the unemployed. I think that evolution is absolutely the death knell of Christianity.

Do you see my point? Without the metanarrative, the overarching theme, of Creation – Fall – Redemption, what is the purpose of the cross? How can Jesus be the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45) if there was no first Adam? The Christian faith is diluted to something like “please love your neighbor and do good things. ” Why get out of bed on Sunday for that?

Another way of looking at it, as a friend pointed out to me, is if you don’t believe that Adam and Eve were real people, at what point do you start believing the Bible? Until recently, I didn’t grasp this logical problem. I would not consider the evidence for Adam and Eve, and Noah and the flood, just as many will not consider the overwhelming scientific evidence for the existence of God. I was afraid others might think me crazy. Now that my eyes are open, I am astonished by the evidence.

If you haven’t seen it, I recommend “Is Genesis History?” which is available on Netflix. It will answer many of your questions and concerns.

I have learned to embrace the Bible as the literal word of God. When my eyes were opened to the true evidence, I felt a great peace. When I learned I could trust the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, from sin to salvation, I was overjoyed.

I invite you to take Christianity full strength. Full strength Christianity can satisfy your soul. Overall, Bible-based churches with full strength Christianity are growing. This is great news. Modern science increasingly, with new discoveries every year, backstops full strength Christianity. In recent posts I’ve touched on DNA evidence of Adam and Eve, and memories of Noah and the flood. There is so much more that supports the literal truth of the Bible.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate the work of many of you to share the good news of true science. Together we can change the world.