b-greek-digest V1 #784

b-greek-digest             Saturday, 15 July 1995       Volume 01 : Number 784

In this issue:

        Re: Irenaeus and age of Jesus
        Re: Irenaeus and age of Jesus
        Re: Lucian Rescension 
        Jesus teaching in Greek?
        Jesus teaching in Greek?, p. II
        Re: Irenaeus and age of Jesus
        DSS Reference 
        the greek jesus
        Re: the greek jesus 
        Astronomy and the Nativity
        Re: the greek jesus


From: Greg Doudna <gdoudna@ednet1.osl.or.gov>
Date: Thu, 13 Jul 1995 23:29:24 -0700
Subject: Re: Irenaeus and age of Jesus

Greg Jordan wrote:
> Eusebius himself did not believe Jesus lived to be more than
> about 34 years old.

Correct: the tradition that appears in Irenaeus did not become
dominant.  It is not explicit in John whereas Luke's 30-year
age figure is explicit.

> I did not see in Lori's posting of Irenaeus anywhere where he
> claims to be quoting the tradition of Papias . . . sources
> close to John (Polycarp more likely than Papias?), unnamed
> and uncited . . .

Correct, but Irenaeus elsewhere draws frequently from Papias
and so far as I am aware this is the most common scholarly
assumption.  The mention of others besides John seems to
correspond with Papias's preface claims of multiple informants.
Still you are right that it is an inference to see Papias here--
but Irenaeaus is drawing from something and it sounds like
something that would come from Papias.

> . . . and who knows if Irenaeus is reading into them just as
> he is reading into the gospels.

It has been suggested that whatever Irenaeus is citing is
generated entirely from John 8:57, but this does not account
for the claim that John, and all the apostles, taught this.
Granted, this is probabilities here, but I think it seems
most likely to most commentators that Irenaeus is drawing
from Papias.

> Plus, Irenaeus's date would put about 20 extra years onto
> Jesus's ministry . . .

Not at all!  A tradition of the age of Jesus when teaching says
nothing about how long that teaching lasted.  Nor does it
do anything necessarily other than move a birth-date earlier--
but who knows what that was anyway.

The age of Jesus (as distinguished from the date of Jesus's
teaching or the dates of Paul) is of no historical 
consequence that I can see.  But I do wonder why there is
such *certainty* over Luke's tradition of the age of Jesus.
If Luke has Jesus born in 6 CE and about 30 years old in 
28 CE, this is not what I call a wholly reliable source.
The real problem, of course, is what *is* a reliable source
on such matters.

Greg Doudna
West Linn, Oregon

- --


From: "Carl W. Conrad" <cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu>
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 1995 06:26:04 -0500
Subject: Re: Irenaeus and age of Jesus

At 11:29 PM 7/13/95, Greg Doudna wrote:
>The age of Jesus (as distinguished from the date of Jesus's
>teaching or the dates of Paul) is of no historical
>consequence that I can see.  But I do wonder why there is
>such *certainty* over Luke's tradition of the age of Jesus.
>If Luke has Jesus born in 6 CE and about 30 years old in
>28 CE, this is not what I call a wholly reliable source.
>The real problem, of course, is what *is* a reliable source
>on such matters.

Conzelmann's original redaction-critical study of Luke (the one with the
bland English title, "Theology of St. Luke" replacing the marvelous German
"Die Mitte der Zeit") is certainly outdated in many respects, but I
remember my shock on reading through his discussion of Luke's questionable
dating and questionable Palestinian geography as being sharply at odds with
his initial programmatic claim to be rigorous and thorough in his
historical recounting of the facts. Do we perhaps generally take that
initial programmatic claim too seriously and has ecclesiastical tradition
accepted uncritically the Lucan chronology of Jesus' birth, age when he
began his adult ministry, and particularly the final sequence of
crucifixion, rising, 40 days to ascension, Pentecost & coming of the
spirit--as opposed, say, to John's assertion that the spirit was given to
the disciples on the evening of Easter Sunday and his apparent equation of
resurrection and ascension?

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu  OR cwc@oui.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/


From: Tim McLay <nstn1533@fox.nstn.ca>
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 95 10:47:53 -0400
Subject: Re: Lucian Rescension 


>I could use some assistance. What can you tell me about a rescension
>of the Greek text taking place in the 2nd or 3rd century supposedly
>by Lucian? I remember reading about this I think in Pickering's book
>on Identity of NT Text but it seems that Gordon Fee took issue with
>this idea. What is the best source of information on this supposed
>rescension? What are the arguments pro or con for such a rescension?

Though there is never agreement about such things there is an inability to 
isolate such a recension in many areas of the Greek Bible.  Eg. John 
Wevers could not isolate L for his work on the Goettingen Penteteuch.  Al 
Pietersma cannot find one in the Psalms either (see Proto-Lucien and the 
Greek Psalter, VT 28, 66-72), contrary to the earlier work of Rahlfs.  
An important article for the evidence of the recension is by B. 
Metzger in Chapters in the History of New Testament textual criticism, 
Leiden, 1963, but has to be read in the light of the above mentioned.  
Also see Some Reflections on the Antiochian Text of the Septuagint, by N. 
Fernandez Marcos, in Studien zur Septuaginta, ed. Fraenkel, Quast, 
Wevers, Vanden. & Ruprecht, 1990 who does find Lucien in Samuel-Kings; The 
Septuagint and Modern Study, by S Jellicoe as intro. and Tov has an 
article in Revue Biblique 1979.

Tim McLay

 Tim McLay              
 Halifax, NS                        


From: "David B. Gowler" <dgowler@minerva.cis.yale.edu>
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 1995 15:18:40 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Jesus teaching in Greek?

The common assumption is that Jesus' lingua franca was Aramaic -- I, for 
example, "cut my academic teeth" on the works of Dalman, Black, Jeremias, 

Over 20 years ago, Bob Funk, among others, argued that many parables were
constructed (by Jesus) in Greek.  Stanley Porter, among others, has
recently taken up this claim (e.g., *Tyndale Bulletin* 44). 

Since Hengel's work, myriads of studies have shown the Hellenistic
influences in Palestine in the first century CE.  Hence it is possible
that Jesus could have spoken Aramiac, Greek, and Hebrew (as Luke 4 would
want us to believe). The Gospels themselves, without question, show
progymnastic rhetoric in their composition (put too simply, an
intermediate level of education in Greek). 

Question:  How convinced are members of b-greek by the *text-based, 
linguistic* arguments of Funk, Porter, and others (e.g., the Sheffield 
Press book a couple of years ago) concerning Jesus teaching in Greek?  I 
have my own suspicions, but I will reserve them for now.

I am especially interested in work on the parables with *text-based*

You can reply off list, if you wish.



David B. Gowler
Associate Professor of Religion
Chowan College
Summer address (until Aug 11):


From: "David B. Gowler" <dgowler@minerva.cis.yale.edu>
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 1995 15:33:48 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Jesus teaching in Greek?, p. II

On Fri, 14 Jul 1995, David B. Gowler wrote:

> The common assumption is that Jesus' lingua franca was Aramaic -- I, for 
> example, "cut my academic teeth" on the works of Dalman, Black, Jeremias, 
> etc.
> Question:  How convinced are members of b-greek by the *text-based, 
> linguistic* arguments of Funk, Porter, and others (e.g., the Sheffield 
> Press book a couple of years ago) concerning Jesus teaching in Greek?  I 
> have my own suspicions, but I will reserve them for now.

A clarification:  Jesus certainly spoke Aramaic.  No one disagrees (cf.
the Aramaic in the Gospels).  But these scholars argue -- from the texts
- -- that Jesus *sometimes* taught in Greek. 


David B. Gowler
Associate Professor of Religion
Chowan College
Summer address (until Aug 11):


From: "Larry W. Hurtado" <hurtado@cc.umanitoba.ca>
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 1995 14:41:33 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Re: Irenaeus and age of Jesus

On Thu, 13 Jul 1995, Mark O'Brien wrote:

> Original message sent on Thu, Jul 13  3:04 AM by hurtado@cc.umanitoba.ca (Larry
> W. Hurtado) :
> <much snipping>
> > Papias' statement that he always preferred direct (oral)
> > testimony to written texts is merely a Hellenistic 
> > commonplace--a rhetorical device commonly used among 
> > Hellenistic historians (and those acquainted with hellenistic 
> > historical rhetoric) to claim validity for what they then 
> > deliver.
> I was wondering whether you would think this also applies to the preamble in
> Luke's gospel then?

Yup.  In fact, the whole of Lk 1:1-4 shows an acquaintance with literary 
conventions and rhetoric of the author's time.  Again, see Aune's book 
for further discussion of the literary environment.  To say that an 
author uses rhetorical conventions doesn't necessarily mean he's lying; 
it only means that we should be aware of the "conventionality" of what he 
is saying in assessing what he says.

Larry Hurtado, Religion, Univ. of Manitoba


From: Paul Moser <PMOSER@cpua.it.luc.edu>
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 95 14:55 CDT
Subject: DSS Reference 

Given all the unbridled speculation circulating about
the fragments from Qumran Cave 4, listmembers might benefit
from: Otto Betz and Rainer Riesner, *Jesus, Qumran, and
the Vatican* (New York: Crossroad, 1994).  Chapters 6
("Does a Qumran Text speak of a Crucified Messiah?")
and 9 ("What is the Significance of the Qumran Texts
for Understanding Jesus of Nazareth?") are a breath
of fresh air.  Chapter 8 considers whether 7Q5 is
Mark 6:52-53.  The book is for a wide audience but is
nonetheless responsible.  It throws a lot of cold water
on recent speculations by Robert Eisenman and others.--
Paul Moser, Loyola University of Chicago.


From: Mikeal Parsons <PARSONSM@baylor.edu>
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 1995 15:05:57 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: the greek jesus

i suppose, in addition, to the linguistic (funk, porter) and general historical
arguments (hengel), one would need to assess the material evidence for the
presence of greek in roman palestine. the little book by eric myers and
james strange is a rather non-technical entree into this stuff.  they argue
for example (_archaeology, the rabbis and early christianity, p. 65):
"Looking at the known figures concerning ossuary inscriptions, we find that
out of a corpus of 194 inscribed ossuaries, 26 percent are inscribed in Hebrew
or Aramaic, 9 percent are in Greek and a semitic language, and 64 percent
are inscribed in Greek alone.  This is important data for estimating the 
relative frequency of these three languages." (by the way these inscriptions
date from the first centuries b.c.e. and c.e.). they then devote ten pages or
so (78-88) to a detailed discussion of the pervasiveness of the greek language
in various inscriptions, etc. from Roman Palestine.  one would infer from
this evidence and other such material finds (doesn't strange make a strong
case for the widespread usage of greek in galilee on the basis of his 
finds at sepphoris?) that jesus did in fact know and speak (?) greek, as
did the disciples (which throws all those arguments against the authorship
of 1 peter out the window based on the inability of an unlearned fisherman
knowing greek! if of course you give weight to this evidence).  whether or
not the gospels present jesus' teaching from a (literary or oral) greek source
seems to me to be a related but distinct question.
mikeal parsons
baylor university


From: Kenneth Litwak <kenneth@sybase.com>
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 95 14:12:28 PDT
Subject: Re: the greek jesus 

   While I tend to agree with Mikeal Parsons in his view that Greek was
probably well-used and agree with Porter, et al., on its use, it has
been objected (when I mentioned similar evidence on Ioudaios) that
only those with power or money (don't those always go together?) would
have been able to afford ossuary inscriptions and the like, os this tells
us little about the general populace.  I am not sure how valid this is,
so I'd like to hear from those with more expertise in this regard.

Ken Litwak
Emeryville, CA
Soon to be of GTU, Bezerkley, CA


From: Timothy Bratton <bratton@acc.jc.edu>
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 1995 22:13:36 -35900
Subject: Astronomy and the Nativity

Dr. Timothy L. Bratton			bratton@acc.jc.edu
Department of History/Pol. Science	work: 1-701-252-3467, ext. 2022 
6006 Jamestown College			home: 1-701-252-8895
Jamestown, ND 58405		        home phone/fax: 1-701-252-7507

To Readers of B-Greek:
     I have followed with considerable interest the recent
discussion (July 10-13) about the dating of Jesus's birth,
especially Greg Doudna's provocative thesis that the "Star of
Bethlehem" was the return of Halley's Comet in 11 B.C.  As an
amateur astronomer who has used computer simulations to check out
various candidates for the "Star," I wrote an article for my
local newspaper back in Dec. 1988 about such theories.  I have
reproduced the article below, save for some recent corrections
and additions.  Since it was intended originally for popular
consumption, it has few footnotes; I shall attempt to restore
these later if somebody wishes exact citations.  Other authors
may offer slightly different dates for planetary conjunctions,
since these are defined as the times whenever two objects share
the same celestial latitudes _or_ longitudes.  Some software
programs actually record _appulses_, the closest approach of two
heavenly bodies to each other, even if they never share the same
coordinates.  I believe that LodeStar Professional, the program
which I preferred to use, records appulses.

                "What Was the Star of Bethlehem?"
                  A Special to the *Jamestown Sun*

     The only Biblical account of the Star appears in Matthew
2:1-11, 16 (*New English Bible* translation):
     "Jesus was born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of
Herod.  After his birth astrologers [in the original Greek, _magoi_
= _Magi_, Zoroastrian Persian priests) from the east arrived in
Jerusalem, asking, 'Where is the child who is born to be king of
the Jews?  We observed the rising of his star (_aster_), and we
have come to pay him homage.' King Herod was greatly perturbed
when he heard this; and so was the whole of Jerusalem.  He called
a meeting of the chief priests and lawyers of the Jewish people,
and put before them the question: 'Where is it that the Messiah
is to be born?'  'At Bethlehem in Judaea,' they replied; and they
referred him to the prophecy which reads: 'Bethlehem in the land
of Judah, you are far from least in the eyes of the rulers of
Judah; for out of you shall come a leader to be the shepherd of
my people Israel.'
     "Herod next called the astrologers to meet him in private,
and ascertained from them the time when the star had appeared. 
He then sent them on to Bethlehem. . . ."
     "They set out at the king's bidding; and the star which they
had seen at its rising went ahead of them until it stopped above
the place where the child lay.  At the sight of the star they
were overjoyed."
     "When Herod saw how the astrologers had tricked him he fell
into a passion, and gave orders for the massacre of all children
in Bethlehem and its neighborhood, of the age of two years or
less, corresponding with the time he had ascertained from the

     This account raises several interesting points.  First,
everybody in Palestine seemed to have been oblivious to the
star's presence until foreign astrologers pointed it out to them.
King Herod even had to ask them when the celestial portent had
appeared.  Furthermore, the object may have been in the sky for
some time, since Herod felt obligated to slay every male child
"of two years or less" to make sure that this range would have
included the Messiah.  What astronomical phenomena have been
suggested as the "Star of Bethlehem"?
     1. Meteor showers appear to come from a common point in the
sky, the radiant.  However, since all constellations rotate about
Polaris, the Pole Star, there is no way that even a spectacular
meteor shower could have remained stationary above Bethlehem --
especially during the two years or so it took the Magi to find
Jesus.  Surely other sources would have mentioned any great
showers.  As Joan A. Moore remarked in her book, *Astronomy in the
Bible*, "Few people put serious belief in the idea that the
Christmas star was some type of meteor."
     2. A comet was suggested first as a possible candidate for
the "Star" by the early Christian theologian Origen (A.D. 185-
254).  You might say that he "origenated" the idea. . . .
Impressed by the visitation of the same comet in the late summer
of 1301, Giotto di Bondone decided to depict it as the "Star" in
his painting of the Nativity in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua,
helping to popularize this notion [Richard Flaste _et als_., *The
New York Times Guide to the Return of Halley's Comet*, pp. 47-49]. 
After Edmund Halley proved that "his" comet was periodic,
scholars were tempted to invoke Halley's Comet as the prime
candidate, simply because it was the best-known and most
spectacular of the lot [Nigel Calder, *The Comet Is Coming*, p.
20].  However, Halley's Comet was seen only for two months in 12
B.C., from August 26 to October 20.  Comets also move from night
to night, and cannot remain stationary above any spot because of
the Earth's rotation -- a point noted by E.P. Sanders, *The
Historical Figure of Jesus*, p. 55.  Far from being regarded as a
favorable portent, the comet was treated as an evil omen; its
arrival coincided with the death of Augustus Caesar's right-hand
man, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.  Karlis Kaufmanis of the Univ. of
Minnesota remarked that "comets were known as messengers of
calamity.  It's unlikely anyone at the time would have associated
one with the coming of the Messiah" [David Stamps, "What Was the
Star of Bethlehem?", *National Wildlife* 26 (Dec. 1987/Jan. 1988):
18-19].  It _was_ a spectacular object, its tail covering about 100
degrees of sky.  This was a Type I passage, with the comet coming
closest to Earth while inbound towards the Sun and prior to
perihelion on October 5, 12 B.C.  It appeared as a slowly
brightening object in the morning skies, was well situated for
viewing by the northern hemisphere, and vanished into the Sun's
glare [source: John Bortle and Charles S. Morris, "Brighter
Aspects for Halley's Comet," *Sky & Telescope* (Jan. 1984) 67:9-
12].  The Magi could not have reached Palestine in only two
months, and it certainly would be surprising that Herod and his
court would not have seen such a spectacular object when Roman
and Chinese sources recorded it.  I'm afraid Greg may be flogging
a dead horse here.
     3. Zodiacal light is a faint cone of light rising from the
direction of the Sun after sunset or before sunrise; it consists
of minute dust particles reflecting sunlight.  On clear and
moonless nights, the zodiacal light may be brighter than the
Milky Way, and can account for a third of total sky light.  Since
the dust particles follow the plane of the ecliptic, they are
best seen when the ecliptic is nearly perpendicular -- as it is
in February to March, when the shepherds would have been "in the
fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night."  However, the
zodiacal light was not recorded by any astronomer until 1683,
when Giovanni Cassini (1625-1712) first described it.  It is also
doubtful that such a faint light would have been sufficient to
guide the Wise Men specifically to Bethlehem over more than a
month or two.
     4. Novas or supernovas would have been sufficiently
impressive, but they too would have rotated with the Earth, and
would have been noticed by Babylonian and Chinese astronomers. 
In fact, Chinese sources recorded no novas between 134 B.C. and
A.D. 173.
     5. Ball lightning can hover in the air, and can appear as
globes of light; however, it is a short-lived phenomenon, and
could not have been persistent enough to have guided the Magi to
Bethlehem over two years.
     6. The green planet Uranus, usually just at the threshold of 
naked-eye visibility at 6th magnitude, would have spent most of 7
B.C. to the southeast of the "Circlet" of Pisces, the Fishes.
Because Pisces is a faint constellation, Uranus might have stood
out more than usual in September, when both it and the Earth were
on the same side of the Sun and relatively close together.  Had
astrologers noticed this "new" star moving erratically within
Pisces, they might have taken this as an indication of remarkable
happenings.  However, this theory has its weaknesses.  In 7 B.C.
Earth came no closer than 1.79 billion miles to Uranus, and at a
magnitude of 6.1, the planet still was barely visible to the
naked eye.  So faint and unimpressive is Uranus that William
Herschel (1738-1822) only realized that it was a planet in 1781
- -- although 22 earlier observers had looked at that world without
realizing its significance between 1690 and 1771!  Given the
failings of 18th-century astronomers, it is difficult to credit
Babylonian astrologers with the discovery of Uranus, especially
since no mention of such a novel moving star appeared in any
contemporary tablets.  However, something else of interest _was_
transpiring in Pisces.
     7. Planetary conjunctions are the best bet.  The Jews did
not believe in astrology, since it was incompatible with Yahweh's
role as sole master of the universe and would have denied free
will to individuals.  Greco-Romans did believe in astrology, but
their interpretation of celestial events differed from
Zoroastrian astrology on several points.  Hence a conjunction
might have had a significance to Zoroastrians that everyone else
would have missed, including King Herod and his advisors.  A
strong candidate, which was recorded in surviving Babylonian
tablets from Sippur, was the triple conjunction of Jupiter and
Saturn in Pisces during 7 B.C.
     The first close approach of the two planets took place on
May 29th, 7 B.C. (Julian calendar; this would have been May 23 on
the modern Gregorian system), when these worlds were merely 0.981
degree apart.  They would have been morning objects, rising
around 1:25 a.m. local Babylonian time.  Jupiter, moving at 8.12
miles per second, overtook slower Saturn (6 miles per sec.), with
the Earth (18.5 miles/sec.) approaching them from behind.  In
Zoroastrian astronomy, Pisces was associated with messiahs (the
principle of self-denial).  The Jewish scholar Isaac Abrabanel
(1437-1508) recorded a rabbinical tradition that "a similar
conjunction took place in Pisces three years previous to the
birth of Moses, and they anticipated another at their Messiah's
advent" [Richard H. Allen, *Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning*, p.
341].  Accordingly, Pisces became the constellation linked with
the destiny of the Jews.  Jupiter was associated with royalty,
power and religion.  Saturn was associated with asceticism,
creative thought (the _Logos_?), and the fight against injustice,
for Saturn was the planet least likely to be budged from its
path.  Some astrologers associated specific planets, as well as
constellations, with the destinies of nations, and Saturn was the
ruling planet of Judah. All these traits pointed at the coming of
the Jewish Messiah, especially when the two planets approached
each other two more times within the same year.
     As the Earth overtook Jupiter, the giant planet appeared to
shift backwards in its orbit (retrograde motion), approaching
Saturn again in October.  The LodeStar Professional (Zephyr
Services) software program calculates that the two planets were
0.985 degree apart on October 19 (Gregorian date = 10/13/-7),
when both worlds would have been high above the southern horizon
around 10:45 p.m. local Babylonian time.
     The last close encounter of the two planets took place on
November 31 (Gregorian date = 11/23/-7), when the Earth had
pulled far enough ahead of the two outer planets that they
appeared to resume their normal eastward (prograde) motion. 
Zephyr Service's Astrosearch program calculates their closest
separation as 1.038 degree.  
     Many astronomers have accepted these three Jupiter-Saturn 
conjunctions as the most appropriate candidate for the Star of 
Bethlehem.  If so, accepting the tradition that Jesus died
between 30 and 33 years of age (that argument's being hashed out
by you folks right now!), the closest year that would have
qualified as that of the Crucifixion would have been A.D. 29.  If
Jesus lived to be 40, then the most appropriate year for the
Crucifixion would have been A.D. 33.
     Yet another spectacular conjunction, took place the very
next year.  This gathering could be regarded as an astrological
confirmation of the earlier Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions, although
a few scholars have accepted the new event as the "Star of
Bethlehem" in its own right.   Jupiter and Mars were joined by
the planet Mars; all three worlds were no more than 6.8 degrees
apart from each other on February 20, 6 B.C. (Julian calendar). 
All these bodies had drifted back into Pisces, reinforcing the
Persian belief that something tremendous would happen in Judea. 
Triple conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn happen only once every
125 years; a close encounter of these planets with Mars occurs
once every 800 years!  Astrologers regarded Mars as the planet of
war, courage, will power, force, and military leadership --
traits not inappropriate for the new David who was expected to
overthrow Israel's enemies.
     Recently Roger Sinnott, the associate editor of the magazine
*Sky & Telescope*, proposed another conjunction as the prime
candidate -- an occultation (covering) of bright white Jupiter by
the crescent Moon in the early evening of March 20, 6 B.C.  An
article about this new theory appeared in the Jan. 1992 issue of
*S&T*, pages 37-39.  After approaching the Moon, Jupiter would have
disappeared abruptly, followed about an hour later by its equally
abrupt reappearance on the other side of the Moon.  Presumably
the "kingly" aspects of Jovian astrology would have been invoked
here, although the Messianic symbolism was weaker than in the
Pisces conjunction.
     Earlier, Sinnott had found another planetary conjunction
that might have qualified as the "Star of Bethlehem," which he
described in *Sky & Telescope* (July, 1986).  At 9:45 p.m. local
standard time on June 17, 2 B.C., Venus and Jupiter would have
been merely 0.011 degree apart as they were setting only 4
degrees above Babylon's WNW horizon.  If any of you witnessed the
close approach (within 2 degrees) of Venus and Jupiter, the two
brightest planets in the sky, in early March, 1988, you can
imagine how impressive these two bodies must have been less than
a degree apart from each other.  Sinnott claims that this "would
have been the most spectacular planetary conjunction visible from
the Near East between 12 B.C. and A.D. 7."  However, there are
some astrological problems with this conjunction.  Mesopotamians
regarded Venus as the goddess of sexual love, which seems
inappropriate when applied to Jesus.  On the positive side, Venus
was associated with peace, grace, good will, and faithfulness.
     Even more astonishingly, there was yet another close
planetary conjunction that same year, which I ran across quite by
accident while using LodeStar Professional to check out Sinnott's
observations.  At 6:52:42 p.m. local Babylonian standard time on
August 26, 2 B.C., Mars and Jupiter were only 0.106 degree apart! 
As "morning stars," they would not have been visible to Persian
astrologers until shortly before daybreak the next day, but this
still would have been an impressive sight.  To add to the
spectacle, Mercury would have been to the conjoined planets'
lower left, and Venus would have been rising on the horizon about
10 degrees to their right at 5 a.m. local time, August 27, 2
B.C.!  Four out of the five known planets known to the ancients,
except for Saturn, would have been in the same region of the sky! 
In brief, there were enough striking events transpiring in 2 B.C.
that the Magi may have felt that the year was being singled out
for their special attention.  
     An objection to this 2 B.C. dating rises from the writings
of the Romano-Jewish historian Josephus (A.D. 37-100), who said
that King Herod died soon after a (partial) lunar eclipse, which
was assumed to be that of March 12, 4 B.C.  This seemed to prove
that Jesus had to be born before that date.  However, Sinnott has
noted that there was a total lunar eclipse visible from Israel on
Jan. 9, 1 B.C., and that Herod might have clung to life until
after that date.  Ernest Martin of the Foundation for Biblical
Research in Pasadena has argued that Herod was merely _demoted_
in 4 B.C., "which for kings usually coincides with death"; Herod
could have lived on, politically "dead" but physically alive,
until 1 B.C. [see George Lovi, "Some Recent Thoughts on the Star
of Bethlehem," *Sky & Telescope* 68 (Dec. 1984): 537-38].
     There was also an encounter in August, 3 B.C., in which
Venus and Jupiter passed within 0.2 degree of each other.  In
fact, Sinnott has calculated that there were 200 planetary
conjunctions and 20 multiple groupings of planets between 12 B.C.
and A.D. 7!  This is summarized in his article, "Thoughts on the
Star of Bethlehem," *Sky & Telescope* 36 (1968): 384ff.
     Having noticed either conjunction, the Magi, who had learned
about the Hebrew religion during the "Babylonian Captivity" of
Judah, would have jumped to the conclusion that the Messiah had
been born.  Hebrew Scripture, in turn, would have directed them
to Bethlehem, which at that time was a tiny village.  It is
entirely possible that the Christ could have been the only male
child of Davidic descent born there within a two-year period.
     Even though astrology has no scientific basis, it is
important in explaining the mental processes of ancient Near
Eastern peoples, who (with the noticeable exception of the
Hebrews) did.  The triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn,
coupled with a later visit by Mars, appears to have more direct
astrological significance than the Jupiter-Venus or Jupiter-Moon
encounter, impressive though they may have been.  At the least, a
planetary conjunction appears to be the best explanation for the
Star of Bethlehem, although one is hard pressed to choose between
these candidates.  7 B.C. and 2 B.C. strike me as the two most
plausible years for the Nativity, but I would be unwilling to
speculate beyond that.
     Why did Matthew alone describe the "Star of Bethlehem"?  As
somebody writing for a predominantly Jewish audience, trying to
convince it that Jesus was the promised Messiah, Matthew may have
been more willing than the other three evangelists to invoke as
much evidence, including alien astrology, to prove Christ's
exalted status.


From: Ken Penner <kpenner@mail.unixg.ubc.ca>
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 1995 22:09:14 -0800
Subject: Re: the greek jesus

On 14 Jul 95 at 15:05, Mikeal Parsons wrote:

> one would infer from this evidence and other such material
> finds (doesn't strange make a strong case for the widespread
> usage of greek in galilee on the basis of his finds at
> sepphoris?) that jesus did in fact know and speak (?) greek,
> as did the disciples (which throws all those arguments
> against the authorship of 1 peter out the window based on the
> inability of an unlearned fisherman knowing greek! if of
> course you give weight to this evidence).  

I thought that the arguments against an uneducated Galilean
having written 1 Peter were based more on the sophisticated
style of the composition than on its language (Greek). I still
have a hard time reading it.

Ken Penner
Regent College, Vancouver



End of b-greek-digest V1 #784


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