Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wetness, Holy Innocents, observed

It is snowing here, not far from Florida, on this date. Snowflakes act like tracer rounds for the rain, though -- illuminating the wind, providing clothing for the invisible snaking columns of air. We think they blow on us, when they are simply swerving on their way from ground to sky or sky to ground.

It's hardly a Christmas sweater, or a gang in Christmas sweaters, but it is still an unusual thing in the tropical Gulf of Oil.

The day has a religious feast associated with it. The XM/Sirius music channel has reminded me of the fact that today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents (well, ok, so it's day after tomorrow). Those who, strangely, want to deny the historicity of Jesus (and I mean that it's strange; none of the early opponents of Christianity, who would have had every opportunity, did so; in fact, none of the early historians had any trouble at all) speak of the difficulty of Matthew's account, and yet the story is far more logical than moderns think.

Let's take those Magi. We call them that as if it were a nationality. It's not. It's a job title. You know it better as "magician" or "magus." Get between those two concepts. They were wise men and magic doers. What they really were was Parthians. That means they were Zoroastrians. That means they watched the sky quite a bit. They were monotheists with a religion that still exists.

Here's where things get 'logical.' Prior to the birth of Jesus, there had been multiple efforts at resisting Rome throughout the near east. The only successful one had been Mithridatus. His birth had been attended with a comet. He wore a comet in his crown, in fact. His title was "king of kings." (That, by the way, is a job title, too. It's rather like "commander in chief." It means that he was the king who commanded other kings in a military alliance against Rome.) See The Poison King for a great deal on this (it gets a thumbs up from this reviewer). To the Romans, comets signified disaster. To the Zoroastrians, they signified fire from the skies -- the divine coming to touch the earth -- the birth of a great king or savior.

So, if there was a new star, the Romans would have been either afraid or filled with dread, and they surely wouldn't be eager to write it down with joy. On the other hand, the Parthians, who were in need of a new Mithridatus, would look for which country the star appeared in and go to find the new king of kings.

Herod Antipas was a weird cat. He was halfway Roman but halfway Jewish. He knew that the people didn't like him, that they saw him as a traitor, and he never had an easy rule. If a comet appeared, and if it was in the astrological house of the Jews, he would have been mightily afraid. All the other near eastern kings would be looking for a successor to himself. I.e. there would be not only a rebel inside his kingdom, but one that the other military powers to his east would support.

That's scary.

As for the Romans, they would hardly notice or care. Judea was important for them, but they were petrified of another Mithridatus as well. They were also petrified of another Spartacus. Their tax farmers had increased brutality behind them, and they were readier than ever to ignore a bit of blood.

My point is this: if there was a new star, the rest follows very, very logically, including the slaughter of the innocents. That is all one needs. However, instead of considering history, which includes awareness of culture, politics, and religion, the people who wish to disprove the story of the nativity in the Gospel take their own contemporary empiricist assumptions about meteors and stars and their meaning, their own Romanized culture, and project backward, even as they claim that a lack of evidence is evidence of a lack.

The snow has stopped.

My miracle this Christmas was seeing a great improvement in the one I care for. There will never be "better," but there is a lessening of the "much worse." There are times, indeed, when the world grows very thin.

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