Lately, I've become somewhat fascinated by Bethlehem's Star... It was last week that I attended an interesting lecture for laymen by theologian Geurt Henk van Kooten and the rather familiar astronomer Peter Barthel ;-) here in Groningen's beautiful Academy Building. The lecture basically summarized outcomes of the multidisciplinary colloquium that both gentlemen had organized in October. This colloquium had brought together experts from a variety of disciplines from all over the world to better understand why Matthew's birth narrative involves wise men from the East who follow a Star of Wonder.
In connection with his studies of ancient coins, astronomer Michael Molnar found that a very rare astrological event took place in the region of Judea and Syria around the time of Christ's birth. Interestingly, this event did not evolve around a star, but around the planet Jupiter. On the morning of April 17, 6 B.C., Jupiter appeared in the constellation of Aries the ram. Not only was Aries the astrological symbol of Judea, but Molnar also argues that astrological discourse at the time considered Jupiter to be the regal planet. Even more interesting is the fact that later that morning, Jupiter was briefly hidden behind the moon. Molnar published the book "The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi" about his findings.
Last week's lecture raised so many interesting questions. Most of all, it got me thinking about the relationship between narrative and meaning. Why is Matthew's birth story so different from the story Luke wrote? Did Matthew sensibly use these astrological events in his versions of the story to ascribe meaning to the birth of Jesus, at the same time recalling certain historical facts? It all reminded me of what historian Hayden White wrote about the importance of narrativity in history:
"Narrative is a metacode, a human universal on the basis of which transcultural messages about the nature of a shared reality can be transmitted."
Enough to think about, I dare say...
On another note, here's a short holiday (gift) guide to pass the holiday cheer!
- Sunday Suppers, a beautiful cookbook by Karen Mordechai focuses on simple gatherings of friends and family. This would make a perfect Christmas gift...
- ... or maybe a fragrant hand balm?
- The Amber and Olibanum scented candle from Sissy Boy is my new favorite for the holiday season.
- Having a hard time looking for a perfect gift for him? How about the Mason Jar Cocktail Shaker? The creators of the shaker also have some great recipes on their blog such as this one with bourbon, rum, and vanilla ice cream. Yum... Or would a Homemade Gin Kit suit your loved one better?
- A monogram Christmas ornament is definitely on my wish list as are these mid-century modern trivets.
- I want to try and make this beautiful advent garland! I bought the old-fashioned candle clip holders at ToyToy here in Groningen. I just decorated our front door with some mistletoe and pretty white ribbon.
- Don't you think a pretty glass jar filled with homemade granola is a sweet Christmas gift for someone? For that holiday touch, add some dried cranberries to the granola and tie a simple twine around the jar. Same goes for these honey-roasted nuts by Jamie Oliver.
- Oh, I just so love listening to the Downton Abbey Christmas Album that my husband got me as an early Christmas gift.
- This mashed potato recipe by 101 cookbooks looks very delightful...