From last week: We know the Romans thought the stars and planets were aligning to confirm Augustus was divine king and Rome the divinely appointed Empire. We know Israel had counted down the years from Gabriel's revelation that Messiah could be expected 483 years after the command to rebuild Jerusalem. Israel was expecting Messiah to make His appearance some 30 or so years before that date, 'in the fullness of time'* which is the time frame of Jesus' birth. *Galatians 4: 4
Some final star comments
Ignatius of Antioch was a disciple of the apostle John, and died a martyr about 30 years or so after John died of old age. (Ignatius was thrown to lions and mauled to death in Rome). He had written that a star had appeared in the constellation Virgo and its related constellation, Coma, the Desired, (the son of the virgin), saying, "It sparkled brilliantly above all stars." (I have a series called 'the Gospel in the Stars' with handout if interested in learning the true zodiac signs).
Contributing to the 'star' theories are these: Ptolemy, about 150 years after Jesus, said the star was only faintly visible in his time. After his time no mention is made of it. It is also written in the historian Josephus that around the time associated with the birth of Jesus there were repeated conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter in Pices, which was then known to be associated with Israel. Halley's comment was visible in 12BC, Egyptian records show a star appearing 5-2BC, and the Chinese reported a bright new star in 4BC. And so much more!
It would seem there was a star that appeared around the birth of Jesus, but which faded from view so that it is not visible in our day. This renders some modern theories rather incomplete, for they are looking back at stars and planets of that day, but there is no way to calculate for a star which was momentarily visible for that time in earth's history, but is no more.
My intent in providing this star background isn't to figure out what the Star of Bethlehem was, just that Rome saw things in the stars and planets that made them think Augustus was the divine king. Satan always counterfeits the true, and Israel was looking for the True. Who would think the Messiah, the Creator of the Universe, would be born in a stable instead of a palace? Jesus truly is what He claimed to be: "I am meek and lowly of heart." Matthew 11: 29
Now to what Luke tells us
If we can determine when Gabriel appeared to John the Baptist's father (Zechariah the priest), then we can move forward 6 months to when we are told, Gabriel visited Mary that she might be the mother of the Lord, and then move forward 9 months to Jesus' birth. So when did Gabriel appear to John the Baptist's dad?
Luke 1:5 tells us Zechariah was a priest in the course of Abijah. In I Chronicles 24 King David had organized the priests into 24 groups or courses, each course serving in a rotating manner through the year, and the course of Abijah was the 8th course. I find that interesting because 8 is the number of new beginnings, originally derived from the 8th day being the first day of the new week. John the Baptist was the start of something new...
The ancient practice was for each course to serve for 1 week in the first half of the year, and 1 week in the second half of the year. Additionally, all the courses served during Unleavened Bread/Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. (Deuteronomy 16:16)
IF Gabriel appeared to him in the spring time of service:
The first course and all the others served the first week of the sacred calendar, which is Unleavened Bread/Passover. The second course alone served the second week, and so on. In week 8 the course of Abijah served. Additionally, Zechariah would have served at Pentecost, so we add 9-10 weeks from Unleavened Bread to see when he was in the temple, which would be roughly late June time frame. Additionally, a priest could not have sexual relations for 2 weeks following his service in the temple, so that puts us to 11-12 weeks from Passover, which is the end of June or first week of July.
In Luke 1: 26-33 we are told when Elizabeth, John the Baptist's mother, was 6 months pregnant Gabriel was sent to Mary that she might agree to carrying Messiah in her womb. 6 months from July puts us in December. Going forward 9 months puts Jesus' birth in September, roughly the time of the Feast of Tabernacles.
That's IF Gabriel appeared to Zechariah during his first course of service in spring. IF Gabriel appeared to him in his autumn rotation, it would mean Jesus was born in spring, close to Unleavened Bread/Passover week. Is there cultural information as to whether 1st century Israel was looking for Messiah at Passover in spring or Tabernacles in autumn?
Besides the cultural expectations of Israel at that time, we need to look at things including the age group of children Herod ordered murdered, the life and death of Herod, when shepherds were in the fields, and more. So we'll close it out next week, until then, blessings,
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