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Professor Paul Mirecki: 10 Interesting Points of Info Related to Solar Eclipses

Monday, August 28, 2017

Professor Mirecki teaches REL 124: Understanding the Bible + other religious studies courses

  1. The ancient writers refer to the Sun, Moon and stars becoming darkened, or losing their light.
  2. They never refer back to a specific past darkening that had been observed.
  3. Biblical references to the darkening of the Sun, Moon and stars are all divinatory and predictive about future “darkenings”.
  4. The ancient biblical writers had no concept of eclipse, which is a modern word (based on the ancient Greek word ekleipsis “to vanish”) used to reference the scientific understanding of the phenomenon, and not the ancient idea of a “darkening” or “vanishing”.
  5. A good analogy for the ancient and biblical view of a solar eclipse is that the Sun is like a 1000-watt light bulb that is suddenly dimmed down to 20-watts. They understood the Sun lost light (“darkens”), not that the moon interrupted their line of sight and put them in its shadow.
  6. According to the Book of Genesis the Sun, Moon and stars were placed in the sky “for signs and seasons” (1:14). Thus, their purpose was understood to be primarily for divination and calendar making.
  7. Some biblical passages refer to the sky being darkened for three hours (Mark 15:33) and as much as three days (Exodus 10:21-23). These are probably not referring to what we know as solar eclipses, as the Sun is not mentioned. Instead there is an unusual darkening of the sky, in one case so dark that people could not even see each other, which does not occur even in a total solar eclipse.
  8. Some passages refer to the Sun being darkened for as much as three hours (Luke 23:44-45) and even “a third of the day” or four hours (Revelation 8:12).
  9. In the last 4000 years, the longest solar eclipse lasted for 7 minutes, 28 seconds. It happened 15 June 743 BCE and would have been visible across southern Africa. In the future, on 16 July 2186, a longer eclipse with a maximum duration of 7 minutes, 29 seconds will be visible across northern South America.
  10. Essential biblical passages are Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15; Amos 8:9; Matthew 24:29; 27:45; Mark 13:24; 15:33; Luke 23:44; and Revelation 6:12; 8:12).

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