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On the evening of Jan. 20 and early morning Jan. 21, the moon will undergo a total eclipse visible over all of the Americas. Today such a spectacle provides good opportunities to judge the clarity of our atmosphere based on the brightness and color of the eclipsed moon, to observe the Earth's shadow passing over prominent lunar craters, and to simply stare into the sky at a beautiful celestial show.
But eclipses in the ancient (and not so ancient) past often terrified onlookers, who viewed them as evil omens. Sometimes they were used as benchmarks to date historical events, and one eclipse helped to better understand a now well-known concept of meteorology.
Order - Date - Time - Birth - Christ
In order to try and date the time of the birth of Christ, biblical scholars have tried first to date the death of King Herod, with whom the Wise Men consulted before their visitation with Jesus. According to the first century Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus, Herod was said to have died after an eclipse of the moon visible from Jerusalem ... and the birth of Jesus must have occurred before the death of Herod.
The eclipse is supposed to have happened before Passover, so it would seem logical that we must search for an eclipse of the moon before the end of March, some have theorized (though Passover can also start in April). From lists of eclipses there is one that occurred on March 13, 4 B.C., and many have cited that the birth of Christ must have preceded that time. But this eclipse occurred at 5:40 a.m. local time in Jerusalem and was only 36 percent partial. Would this eclipse have been a good benchmark for Josephus?
Josephus - Event - Hours - Jan - BC
Perhaps Josephus was referring to a more dramatic event. In the after-midnight hours of Jan. 10, 1 B.C. there was...
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