Archaeologists discover entrance to Herod’s palace near Bethlehem

I love the “matter of fact” reporting, here. Why does this matter? Because it lays out more of the historical underpinnings – and the actual geography – for Matthew’s Nativity account.


Herod's palace Herod’s palace

Baptist Press reports on the story.

Full text:

Israeli archeologists have uncovered an impressive entrance to Herod’s palace at Herodium. Located only three miles southeast of Bethlehem, Herodium played an important part in the events surrounding the early life of Christ.

The December announcement by Hebrew University archeologists Roi Porat, Yakov Kalman and Rachel Chachy dovetails well with the seasonal interest in the nativity accounts of Luke and Matthew in the New Testament.

While both Luke and Matthew wrote that King Herod governed Judea during the era of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem (Luke 1:5, Matthew 2:1), they included nothing concerning Herod’s massive palace/fortress complex at nearby Herodium.

Herodium, like Herod’s other isolated palace/fortress complexes at Masada and Machaerus, was built on a mountain. To enhance its impressive scale, Herod artificially extended the height of the hill to make it the tallest mountain in the Judean desert.

While the…

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RESPONDblogs: Maybe the First Christmas was More Stressful than Restful


I love the children’s nativity at our church – it’s one of the highlights of the Christmas season for me. Tea towels have never looked more festive, shepherds have never looked more cute. It’s a time for our children to enjoy dressing up and retelling the tale of the baby born in a manger with a star overhead, and visitors coming from afar.


I love this.


And yet the actual events that are being acted out here by our kids were very different.


The Bible tells us that Shepherds came to see the baby in the manger.


“…the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the lord has told us about.’ They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.” Luke 2:15-17, NLT


Well – first of all –Mary and Joseph found themselves without any lodging following a long duty trip to Bethlehem  – this sounds horrible. Could you imagine travelling for hours on a long haul flight in Economy, only to find on arriving that your accommodation had fallen thru and you had nowhere to sleep? This was Joseph’s situation with his pregnant wife.

Next – a manger was an eating trough for animals. The poor couple found themselves needing to borrow the livestock’s eating trough to use for the baby. How do you think the animals reacted to that? Don’t you think the livestock was going to be pushing and bumping them out of the way? Stuffing their heads in to the trough…licking and chewing what they could get hold of? What a nightmare. This doesn’t sound very “calm and bright”, does it? Actually to me it sounds pretty stressful!


And then – the shepherds arrive.  In Jewish culture, Shepherds were the lowest of the low. They were people who lived outside with animals; a solitary smelly existence. David Instone-Brewer says, “When the Jews asked whether a piece of bread had gotten too mouldy or was still edible… then they would ask…well would a Shepherd eat this? If the answer was NO…if not even the even the lowest of the low would touch it … then just throw it away!” Basically, Shepherds were stigmatized in Jewish culture. And Luke’s Gospel tells us that it was shepherds who came to visit the baby Jesus first.


How do you feel when a homeless person accosts you on the street? For myself – I wish I could say I was always welcoming, and always quick to offer help to that person. But I can’t. Why? Rightly or wrongly – it often makes me feel uncomfortable when a homeless person stops me on the street. I don’t know what to say to them – I find their plight difficult to look at – and on top of all of that, sometimes it has been some time since they had a good bath or shower!


Joseph and Mary had the 1st century equivalent of poor homeless visitors coming to see their new child. Not the most auspicious of guests.


The original Nativity was stressful for the people involved, it was uncomfortable for the family and it attracted the undesirables of Jewish society.


And then on top of all of this – Matthew’s gospel tells us that…

“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of king Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.’…They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.” Matthew 2:1+11, NLT

Now – surely – we finally get someone arriving to dignify the proceedings. At last – we get kings visiting the baby Jesus? Right?

Wrong. The arrival of these people was also an awkward encounter for the family to endure. Why? Because these wise men weren’t Jews. They came from far away pagan lands, people who studied the stars. The Greek word for the wise men (Magi) is the word we use to get our word “magician”. It is thought that these individuals came from the Old Testament Babylon.

There is a historical link between Israel and Babylon, we can see this in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament.  Daniel was a Jewish man who was taken to live in pagan Babylon where life was difficult for a Jew. There were many alien customs there, there was pressure to worship the Babylonian King as a God. And – there were magicians, astrologers and wise men living there.

The Magi who visited Jesus probably came from there …a pagan country…the enemy nation…evil Babylon.  A 1st century Jew would have been very suspicious at the arrival of such a Gentile person.


So – lets summarise our nativity so far. We have stress for the family, we have uncomfortable and difficult living conditions too, we have Jewish undesirables accosting them in the Stable. And now we also have the 1st century Jewish equivalent of “the enemy” coming to say hello to them.

You know – I love the carol “Silent Night” – but I do wonder whether the events surrounding the first Nativity were anything but quiet and restful! Stressful and uncomfortable sounds like a better description to me.


And this causes two thoughts to occur to me.

FIRST – if the Nativity accounts in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels are made up stories, if the Jesus birth narratives are fabrications, if they are just intended to make Jesus seem more important than he actually was…then I don’t buy it. I don’t agree with the thought that these Nativity accounts are made up. Because I really don’t think a 1st century Jew would have written a story like this. As David Instone-Brewer suggests, “This story is so crazy, it must be true!”.

If the author wanted to impress a Jewish audience with a fabricated account, Matthew’s Gospel would probably have had the local Jewish Leaders and the Priests coming to visit the Christ child. After all – Priests and Leaders  were the people that  1st century Jewish culture esteemed and respected. So to hold up Jesus birth as an important event…you would want him to be recognized by those sorts of people. Right? Instead – what we get in both Matthew and Luke’s Nativity account is the opposite. Jewish undesirables and suspicious pagans are the one who welcome Jesus Christ into the world. That’s crazy. What’s the point of saying that? There is no point…unless it is just simply a true historical account of what really happened on that first Nativity.


SECOND – the account of Jesus life is not an easy one. Jesus is not some ancient equivalent of a Marvel superhero from today. Jesus life was difficult and scandalized from the beginning. He faced misunderstanding and stigma all his life. He lived an ordinary and hard existence. Yet at the same time – he is the most extraordinary person who has ever lived. His earthly life was surrounded by suspicion. Yet in reality, he is also God in human form…God with us. God who created the Universe and he is worshipped and adored in heaven.


“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23, NLT


So it strikes me that – when our lives feel hard, when we suffer times of pain and suspicion. When we are numbered with the undesirables in society…Jesus is standing right along with us. He knows exactly how we feel because he has had it worse himself. And if that is the case – if Jesus is standing alongside you and I in our situation right now – then it means that no one has fallen too far. No one is a lost cause. No one is irredeemable for Jesus. In fact, Jesus Christ is an expert at rescuing lost causes.


“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16, NLT


This Christmas – we might have misunderstood just how stressful and how uncomfortable the first Nativity was. But to Jesus – it really doesn’t matter. He experienced it all so that he could reach out to us in our loneliness and our brokenness and save us. That was his Father’s intention on that first Nativity. It’s still Jesus’ intention today. Why not let him reach you this Christmas?


Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11, NLT


RESPONDblogs: First Christmas Tragedy


The picture perfect Nativity scene that we see on the front of Christmas cards (remember those old things?) is a long way from what originally happened when Jesus Christ was born two thousand years ago. Life in the ancient Middle East was hard. One of Matthew’s details hints strongly at this.


“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews?…’ King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this…He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under…”

Matthew 2:1-16, NLT


It’s not a very “Christmassy” detail this … is it? Infanticide at Christmas.

Sometimes skeptics look at the Nativity accounts and shake their heads in disbelief at the slaughter of these poor innocent baby boys. There’s not one shred of evidence that this massacre ever happened…outside of Matthew’s account, of course. It’s a fantasy, put in there to make Jesus seem more important.


Well I disagree. We have lots of evidence about Herod the Great. We know that sort of man he was and why Matthew’s account of the death of the innocents is very reasonable given the setting and the people at the time. We can be sure that Matthew got the details right in his account of Jesus birth.


Rich History:

The Roman historian Josephus wrote two whole book scrolls on the life of Herod the Great. This is a rich primary source of history. Herod seems to have been a remarkable keeper of the peace between Rome and Judea between 40 BC and January 1 BC when he died (NOTE: the date of Herod’s death is indicated by the available Roman, Jewish and Astronomical documentary evidence)

His legacy included the building of theaters and stadiums; he rebuilt the great temple in Jerusalem. He is responsible for the construction of the Masada fortress on the south west corner of the Dead Sea.


Paranoid Herod:

Yet what we also learn from Josephus is that King Herod also had a decidedly paranoid streak. He had a habit of “getting rid” of people who threatened the peace, or were in danger of “rocking the boat” for him.

His family was notoriously power hungry and violent. Herod killed some of his sons, who were apparently too ambitious. And he even got rid of one of his many wives…along with his mother in law.

But possibly the biggest indicator of Herod’s character can be seen in the plans he tried to put in place for his funeral. He feared that few people in Israel would mourn his passing. And so he decided to give his subjects something to mourn about. His plan was to fill one of his stadiums full of Jewish leaders, and order them to be massacred as a “celebration” of Herod the Great’s demise. He wanted to make absolutely sure that there would be great mourning across Israel at the time of his death.


This then is the backdrop to the birth of Jesus, and the arrival of the mysterious pagan Magi who announced to Herod that they wished to worship the newborn king of the Jews. Can you see how Herod the Great might have responded to them? When Matthew says he was “deeply disturbed” at this news…this is probably putting things politely. After all – Herod WAS the king of the Jews. And he eliminated anyone who tried to replace him.


Suddenly the “spray and pray” shotgun approach that Matthew describes…kill all the newborn children of Jesus age in Bethlehem…seems right up King Herod’s gruesome street. It’s just the sort of reaction we can expect from him.


So the question then is – why is there no evidence outside of Matthew’s gospel to record it?


Herod’s Likely Reaction to Jesus’ Birth:

I’ve heard it described like this. The murder of these babies was the ancient equivalent of a mugging on a New York subway train. So much happens in New York each day – it’s unlikely that a mugger is going to hit the front of the NY Times.


Josephus had such a rich and interesting history of Herod to record – particularly his spectacularly brutal plans for the stadium and the Jewish leaders – it is unlikely that a small localized event in a little village would get a look in.


Bethlehem is understood to have been a very small village at this time. It has been estimated that only around 24 children of the relevant age would have suffered at Herod’s hand. At a time when infant mortality would have been high – this is hardly big news. Perhaps Josephus didn’t even know that it happened. But just because an event is small in scale, doesn’t mean it is not hugely significant.


So – did it happen…or didn’t it? Well just because Josephus doesn’t mention it does not mean it never happened. By the way – Luke the historian doesn’t mention it in his account either. Yet absence of evidence is NEVER evidence of absence.

And besides – we DO have evidence that these babies died. We read it in Matthew’s first century account.


Paul L Maier, Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University, has said this:

“I see not one iota of evidence here it could NOT have happened…Luke hasn’t heard about it. Remember, Matthew and Luke don’t copy from one another when it comes to the Nativity…that way they can hit it from different angles. But yes, it really happened.”


It’s not a very festive Nativity detail. It’s a minor, horrible footnote to Herod the great’s reign. Yet it is a significant event surrounding the life of Jesus and his parents. And it points to the bittersweet future to come. Journalist Tony Reinke has insightfully suggested this:

“The 1st Christian martyr was not Stephen…or Jesus…the 1st martyr in the Christian Church was the first baby that was killed in Bethlehem. And we always overlook him.”

RESPONDblogs: The Curious Case of Quirinius


In Luke’s Gospel we read that…

“At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.” Luke 2:1-3, NLT

Luke’s statement has caused problems for some people.

First of all – the historical evidence suggests that Quirinius did not begin to govern Syria until after the death of Herod in 4 BC. Now it is clear from the gospels that Herod was very much alive when Jesus was born. In that case – how can Quirinius be Governor BEFORE Jesus’ birth…if Herod was already dead when Quirinius was governor of Syria? That sounds like a circle that cannot be squared.

Second – there is internal and external Biblical evidence of a census called AFTER Quirinius took over Governorship… Luke records what might be this census that Quirinius conducted in the 6th century in Acts 5:37. But this census cannot be the same as the census mentioned in Luke chapter 2.


Does this confusion undermine the historical reliability of Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth? Does this point to Luke being guilty of sloppy history?

Well – this would be strange given the high standing Luke enjoys as a 1st century historian, and the meticulous detail we find in his Gospel and his later work on the history of the early Christian Church – the Acts of the Apostles.

Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians. – William Mitchell Ramsay


Ancient Near Eastern historians have made the following responses to the Quirinius census problems.


FIRST – these censuses did happen in these cultures at that time.

Ancient census forms have been discovered by archaeologists. An order dated AD 104 says…

“Gaius Vibius Maximum, Prefect of Egypt: Seeing that the time has come for the house to house census, it is necessary to compel all those who for any cause whatsoever are residing out of their provinces to RETURN TO THEIR OWN HOMES, that they may both carry out the regular order of the census…”

This manner of counting people might seem odd to our advanced, IT enabled 21st century society. But the Biblical + extra-Biblical evidence points to the ancient practice of census calling.


SECOND – there is evidence that there may have been more than one Syrian Governor named Quirinius.

King Herod is believed to have died in 4 BC. So Luke’s claim in chapter 2 implies that a census was called by Ceasar Augustus well before 4 BC.  If Quirinius didn’t begin ruling until AD 6…this seems like a big discrepancy on the dates recorded by Luke.

HOWEVER – John McRay, PHD and professor of New Testament and archaeology at Wheton College, says , “a coin [has been found ] with the name of Quirinius on it in very small writing. This [coin] places him as proconsul of Syria and Cilicia from 11 BC until after the death of Herod….apparently there were two Quiriniuses.”

Names in the ancient world tended to be common…often lots of people shared the same name…so it is reasonable to assume that perhaps two separate people are being referred to here as Quirinius.

In this case, perhaps two censuses occurred – a 14 year gap was apparently typical. This would suggest that an earlier census took place under the earlier Quirinius.  And this is the census that Luke refers to in his gospel.


Who cares?

Luke claims to have personally interviewed the eyewitnesses to the birth…and death of Jesus of Nazareth. He claimed to have carefully investigated everything so that he could produce an orderly account about the certainty of what occurred. Luke is claiming to record what actually happened – so the details count.

The details count – and the words of Jesus have the power to change our lives forever.

“…this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.” Luke 15:24, NLT

RESPONDblogs: Can Anything Good Come from Nazareth?


Someone challenged me recently about the historical accuracy of the accounts of the birth of Jesus. “There’s no evidence that a place called Nazareth even existed at that time in first century history!”, he said.


Well – strange as it may seem…he has got a point. Nazareth isn’t mentioned in the Old Testament, or the Jewish Talmud and it doesn’t crop up in Roman historian Josephus either. Frank Zindler has noted that it doesn’t get a mention in ancient history till about the 4th century. And skeptics have taken this fact – and turned it against the reliability of the Christian Gospels.


Yet – absence of evidence…is never evidence of absence.


Archaeology has allowed scholars to build up a profile of the town of Ancient Nazareth. It was…

“small…about sixty acres, with a maximum population of about 480 at the end of the first century.” – James Strange, University of South Florida


If Nazareth is not described in any historical documents before the 4th century – how does he know that? Archaeologists have found clues that allow a picture of Nazareth to form.



FIRST – when the Temple fell in AD70, priests were no longer needed there because it had been destroyed and so they were sent out to different towns and villages to minister there. Even as far north as Galilee.

Archaeologists have found a list written in Aramaic describing twenty-four families of priests that were relocated. And one of them was registered as having moved to Nazareth.


SECOND – archaeological digs have uncovered first century tombs in the vicinity of Nazareth. Jewish burials tended to happen outside of the town…and so these tombs would mark the outer limits of the town.

“From the tombs….it can be concluded that Nazareth was a strongly Jewish settlement in the Roman period.” – Jack Finegan, Professor Emeritus of New Testament History and Archaeology, Berkeley


THIRD – pre-Christian remains were found in 1955 under the Church of the Annunciation in present day Nazareth.

“Such findings suggest that Nazareth may have existed in Jesus’ time, but there is no doubt that it must have been a very small and insignificant place.” – Ian Wilson, Archaeologist



So what?


Well it demonstrates the historical underpinning of the Gospel accounts of Jesus. It is part of the mass of circumstantial evidence at our disposal today in the 21st century that allows our brain to say – okay. This New Testament document is historical – and I am going to read it as such.


You know – skepticism about Jesus isn’t just a 21st century phenomenon. John’s Gospel records that on one occasion, Philip went looking for Nathaniel and encouraged him to meet the

“…very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” John 1:45, NLT

And Nathaniel’s skeptical reply?

“Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathaniel. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” John 1:46, NLT


Put your skeptical mind at ease. Come and meet Jesus in the New Testament Gospels, today.

RESPONDblogs: Free Resources for Responding to Christian Skeptics


Hey there – here are some free resources to help you as you make a case for Christian faith and belief. And if you are not yet personally convinced yourself about the claims of Christ – these free resources might help you.


I’m a big fan of David Robertson’s book “The Dawkins Letters” – much recommended! C S Lewis’s important work, “The Abolition of Man”, is also there – it’s quite tough going in places and so I’ve included a brilliant video commentary on the book that helped me get his more subtle points.


I have personally checked each and every one of these links – so they are correct at time of posting. Apologies if one doesn’t work for you. Try googling the book if you run into trouble? And please let me know of any problems and I’ll update the link.


There are a mix of downloadable PDF’s (indicated in brackets) and web published book versions here.


There is no intentional copyright infringement going on here – these books have been made available online for free use. This list was first compiled by






The Dawkins Letters by David Robertson


The Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments by Ali Almossawi

This webpage took a minute or so to load for me – but it looks like a fun resource.


The Abolition of Man by C S Lewis [PDF]

I can also recommend the following commentary on “The Abolition of Man” by Benjamin McLean…it helped me grasp Lewis’s more subtle points.

The Abolition of Man Simplified, part 1

The Abolition of Man Simplified, part 2


Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock: What to Say Jehovah Witnesses When They Knock on your Door by Mike Licona


Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock: What to Say to Mormons When They Knock on Your Door by Mike Licona


Jesus: A Biblical Defense of His Deity by Josh McDowell and Bart Larson [PDF]


He Walked Among Us: Evidence for the Historical Jesus by Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson [PDF]


Josh McDowell answers Five Tough Questions by Josh McDowell [PDF]


He Walked Among Us: Evidence for the Historical Jesus by Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson [PDF]


Fifty Nobel Laureates and Other Great Scientists Who Believe in God [PDF]


The Future of Justification by John Piper [PDF]


How Do You Know the Bible is from God? by Kyle Butt [PDF]


Runaway World by Michael Green


Skeptics should Consider Christianity by Josh McDowell and Don Steward [PDF]


Skeptics who Demanded a Verdict by Josh McDowell [PDF]


Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity  edited by John Piper, Justin Taylor, and Paul Kjoss Helseth [PDF]


Confessions by St. Augustine [PDF]


Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching by St. Irenaeus


Jesus Rediscovered by Malcolm Muggeridge


St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen by W.M. Ramsey


Ten Reasons Why I Believe the Bible is the Word of God by R.A. Torrey


The Case for the Existence of God by Bert Thompson, Ph.D. [PDF]


The Islam Debate by Josh McDowell and John Gilchrist [PDF]


The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World General Editors- John Piper and Justin Taylor [PDF]


The Story of the Bible by Sir Frederic Kenyon


The Works of Flavius Josephus


Dealing with Doubt by Dr. Gary Habermas


Was Christ Born in Bethlehem? by W.M. Ramsey


Warranted Christian Belief by Dr. Alvin Plantinga


Man-The Dwelling Place of God by A.W. Tozer


The Necessity of Prayer by E.M. Bounds


The Normal Christian Life by Watchmen Nee


The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer


The Thomas Factor: Using Your Doubts to Draw Closer to God by Dr. Gary Habermas


In Six Days– Why 50 Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation, Edited by Dr. John Ashton


Natural Theology by William Paley


Refuting Evolution 1 by Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D., F.M.


Refuting Evolution 2 by Jonathan Sarfati, with Michael Matthews


Taking Back Astronomy by Jason Lisle


The Creation Answers Book by Dr. Don Batton (Contributing Editor), Dr. David Catchpoole, Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, and Dr. Carl Wieland


The Global Flood of Noah by Bert Thompson, Ph.D. [PDF]


The Mystery of Life’s Origin by Charles B. Thaxton, Walter L. Bradley, and Roger L. Olsen [PDF or Adobe Reader]


In the Shadow of Darwin, a review of the teachings of John N. Clayton by Wayne Jackson and Bert Thompson [PDF]


Logic and Fallacies of Logic by Dr. Johnson C. Philip and Dr. Saneesh Cherian [PDF]


A Treatise on Human Nature by David Hume


Brave New World by Aldous Huxley


Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky


Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard


Me, the Professor, Fuzzy, and the Meaning of Life by David Pensgard


Heretics by G.K. Chesterton


Philosophical Fragments by Soren Kierkegaard


The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton


The Predicament of Modern Man by Elton Trueblood


The Sickness Unto Death by Soren Kierkegaard


What’s Wrong with the World? by G.K. Chesterton



RESPONDblogs: God’s Plans Revealed in the Stars

Sometimes it stresses Christians out when they realize that Astrology plays a big role in the Christmas story.

My friend – and my Senior Pastor – James Burn gave a fascinating talk recently on the Mazzaroth and how the Signs of the Zodiac originally pointed to God’s plans for the redemption of mankind before it got corrupted and twisted and was used to point to our own lives. You can find his excellent talk here:




The Magi…who said…

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose,[b] and we have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2, NLT


…were astrologers from a Zoroastrian religious tradition. Why would Astrologers be numbered with the first people to meet the baby Jesus? Sounds a bit tricky for a buttoned up, Star Sign dismissing Christian believer to take!


Well – I’m not saying that we need to get into modern Astrology…and begin believing what Russell Grant tries to push on us. What I am saying…is that we have lost the original intended meaning of the Signs of the Zodiac. And the ancient literature gives us hints as to how it was originally intended to be used.


“Can you direct the movement of the stars— binding the cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the cords of Orion? Can you direct the constellations (Mazzaroth) through the seasons or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens? Do you know the laws of the universe? Can you use them to regulate the earth?” Job 38:31-33, NLT


The word Mazzaroth refers to the Signs of the Zodiac. It’s an ancient Hebrew word…going back to pre-Babylonian roots. The fact that it turns up in Job, the most ancient work of literature in the Bible, is significant.

What is interesting is that every culture has used the same 12 signs of the Zodiac…with the same stories behind them…the 12 signs of the Zodiac are thought to be over 4000 years old. In Greek, the word Zodiac is – Sodi. Which also means – THE WAY.

Are the Signs of the Zodiac the way to remember constellations of stars?  That’s what we have often been told. I never understood that reasoning, myself. What if that’s not true? What if originally…the very opposite was true. That the reason the Signs of the  Zodiac existed…had nothing to do with the specific constellations themselves…but everything to do with using the stars to help human beings to understand and be reminded of the most important story…THE WAY…God’s plan of redemption for all humanity?

The Bible points out that the stars are there to be signs.

Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. Genesis 1:14, NLT


Could it be – that this points once again to God’s creativity, his timing and his passion for communicating with us?

Here’s an abridged version of the story that plays out across the 12 Signs of the Zodiac.



Virgo – in Latin, the Virgin. Central to the Christmas story.

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin[f] will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). Isaiah 7:14, NLT

Why is she carrying a branch in one hand and wheat in the other?

Listen to me, O Jeshua the high priest, and all you other priests. You are symbols of things to come. Soon I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. Zechariah 3:8, NLT

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. John 12:24, NLT

Jesus is the one brought by the Virgin…the branch, and the kernel of wheat that dies but bears much fruit.



Libra – the scales. Humanity has been weighed, and has been found wanting.

Tekel means ‘weighed’—you have been weighed on the balances and have not measured up. Daniel 5:27, NLT

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23, NLT

How did we get into this mess?



Scorpio – warlike, representing Satan the enemy of our souls. Yet Jesus brings authority over him.

Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. Luke 10:19, NLT

Victory belongs to the Lord, not Satan. And this is communicated by the next sign.



Sagittarius – half man, half horse carrying a bow and arrow.

I looked up and saw a white horse standing there. Its rider carried a bow, and a crown was placed on his head. He rode out to win many battles and gain the victory. Revelation 6:2, NLT

Christ the conqueror is returning in triumph, in victory.




What has modern Astrology got to do with Cosmology? Not a lot! But comparing modern Cosmology with ancient Astrology…things get much more interesting.

Cosmology is revealing just how wonderful our Universe is. Our planet spins thru a Universe which is constantly in motion…heavenly bodies that are rushing thru the cosmos at an incredible rate.

Light years…gravitational forces, dark matter, red shift galaxies, black holes, relativity, 70 thousand million million million stars ……mind blowing cosmological awesomeness!

And God has put a name to each one.

He counts the stars  and calls them all by name. Psalm 147:4, NLT

Who could hope to know all those names!! Yet the names that he HAS revealed to us…explain a picture of his plan to rescue us.

Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius. A summary of God’s plans.



It is mind blowing to me that – God would place humanity on the surface of this planet at JUST THE RIGHT TIME  in the history of the Universe to be able to view these particular Zodiac Constellations  in our sky. That God would ensure our perception of our Universe …to have overlaid upon it a picture of his plans for humanity’s rescue. That sounds like the God of the Bible, to me!


Astrology – it’s not about my self-centered existence. But taken with our discoveries in Cosmology…it’s all about pointing to the staggering awesomeness of the God who writes his love for us across the sky.


The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.[a] Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. Psalm 19:1-4, NLT



RESPONDblogs: The People and Purpose Around the Virgin Birth


The Gospels teach that Jesus of Nazareth had no ordinary life. And it started right from the point of his conception.


This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18, NLT


Now  from our vantage point in the 21st Century, virgin births are no big deal. You don’t necessarily need a man…or a woman involved for conception to take place today! But we are talking the ancients here. We are referring to Jewish people who lived two thousand years ago without the benefits of modern medicine.


The Bible claims that God caused Mary to conceive for a purpose and a plan. And we can see the aftermath of that event in the people who dealt with it.



Jesus’ Home Town:

When Jesus began his public life, people that he had grown up with in his hometown were offended by him when he began teaching in the synagogue.

“He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.  Mark 6:3, NLT

It’s hard to impress the people who have known us all our lives, I guess.  Particularly in Jesus case – his teaching was revolutionary and it challenged the religious establishment. But all the hometown people saw when they looked at him, was the kid who they watch grow up with his brothers and his sisters.


They also saw something else. They called him “the Son of Mary.” This seems reasonable, given that Mary was his mother. Yet in a culture where children were named after their fathers, this would have been a real insult. But it points to the general sense of suspicion and doubt around his paternity…who was Jesus’ father?


On another occasion, Jesus was having a debate with the religious leaders around who they were following, what their spiritual heritage really was. And in the midst of this debate, they threw out the very personal and insulting barb at him,

“We aren’t illegitimate children!” John 8:41, NLT

Scandal gets around fast, right? Both of these barbed statements suggest that it was common knowledge that Jesus had been conceived before Mary and Joseph married.




We’ve also got to ask the question – why did Mary suggest such an outlandish explanation for her pregnancy? She stuck to her guns, as it were. She had not had sex with a man yet. All the same – she was pregnant.

“But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” Luke 1:34, NLT.

If we put ourselves in Mary’s sandals, it would have been so much easier to choose a different story. Right? It would have been better to have concocted some sort of story that made her look innocent. Illegitimate children were frowned upon in her society, this situation stigmatized her. She could have eased the pressure she was feeling by claiming that someone had raped her, for example. But instead – she went with the most unlikely of explanations. Why? Because she hadn’t been raped. And Joseph had not pressurized her into sex before marriage.  Her story was true.




From Joseph’s perspective, he keenly felt the stigma that this situation would bring them as a family. This would have been one of the reasons why he found himself in this situation.

“Joseph, her fiance, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.” Matthew 1:19, NLT

It would be better for them both if the marriage did not go ahead. Their reputations might somehow be salvaged. His future might be rescued! Yet Joseph went on to marry Mary. Why would he do that? Because he believed the report that God had given him. Mary was still a virgin who was bearing in her womb the Son of God conceived by the Holy Spirit.



We see the evidence pointing to the virgin birth in the pages of the New Testament. But it seems to me that – if God was able to create the Universe out of nothing – as Genesis teaches – then creating one miraculous baby is no great shakes, right? But why did he do it?


Whenever he causes something out of the ordinary to occur – he has a reason and a purpose behind it. The virgin birth had an ultimate and life changing purpose behind it for you…and for me.


I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!   Luke 2:31-32, NLT