The Firstborn of All Creation

The privilege of the Eldest

In ancient Israel, the firstborn son was the most privileged child in the family. Responsibilities and entitlement were showered upon him. There was a price to pay for this position of honor, however. According to the Torah, the firstborn son is dedicated as a gift to the Lord. Only through God’s grace can he be “bought back” by his parents through a redemption ceremony (Exodus 13:13).

Redemption of the Firstborn

Jesus was God’s firstborn son, and thus superior to any created being. Fulfilling Jewish custom, Jesus was redeemed in the Jerusalem Temple on the thirtieth day of his life (Luke 2:22). It was here that Simeon proclaimed that Jesus would be the Messiah. At the beginning of his life, Jesus was redeemed by his parents. At the end of his life, he would redeem all of humanity.

Start Early: Learn the Bible in its Original Language

The Hebrew word for firstborn is bechor (בְּכוֹר) which comes from the root BKR (בכר) meaning “early.” When Paul says that Jesus is the “firstborn of all creation” he is highlighting this earliness. From the very beginning of creation, before anyone had ever heard of Jesus of Nazareth, God’s plan for humanity was always pointed toward Christ’s arrival. Enroll in our live, online Biblical Hebrew course and learn to read the Bible in its original Hebrew as early as possible.

3 Biblical events celebrated on Epiphany

Epiphany

Philip Kosloski01/02/22

Traditionally the feast of Epiphany was the anniversary of Jesus’ baptism, the arrival of the Magi and the wedding feast at Cana.

The feast of Epiphany (originally observed on January 6 in the Roman Rite), is one of the oldest liturgical celebrations, even before Christmas was established on December 25.

The name itself refers to the “manifestation” of Jesus during 3 particular biblical events.

Pope Benedict XVI refers to this tradition in a homily on Epiphany in 2009.

Epiphany, the “manifestation” of Our Lord Jesus Christ, is a many-faceted mystery. The Latin tradition identifies it with the visit of the Magi to the Infant Jesus in Bethlehem and thus interprets it above all as a revelation of the Messiah of Israel to the Gentiles.

The Eastern tradition on the other hand gives priority to the moment of Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan when he manifested himself as the Only-Begotten Son of the heavenly Father, consecrated by the Holy Spirit.

John’s Gospel, however, also invites us to consider as an “epiphany” the Wedding at Cana, during which, by changing the water into wine, Jesus “manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him” (Jn 2:11).

Dom Prosper Gueranger in his Liturgical Year states that it was the Church’s tradition for many centuries that these three events occurred on the same day, January 6.

But did these three mysteries really take place on this day? Is the 6th of January the real anniversary of these great events?

Gueranger explains the origins of this tradition and concludes with, “it is impossible to prove that the sixth of January was not the day [for any of these events]. For us the children of the Church it is sufficient that our Holy Mother has assigned the commemoration of these three manifestations for this Feast, we need nothing more to make us rejoice in the triple triumph of the Son of Mary.”

Basically, we can’t know for certain whether or not these events happened on the exact historical day of January 6. Yet, we can still recollect them on the feast of the Epiphany and rejoice in the manifestation of the Lord to the world.

Palestinian Authority Stealing Jesus’ Identity?

“Jesus was a Palestinian” and Other Crazy Signs that the Palestinian Authority has “Jesus Envy”
  • By Ron Cantor

Rewriting history is not just something the New York Times and the “1619 Project” are doing in America. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has been doing it since its inception (which to be clear was recently, not millenia ago!)—starting with creating a people group called “Palestinians” when no such nation of people has ever existed. And every Christmas, the PA leaders take every opportunity they can to tell people that Jesus was not a Jewish rabbi but a Palestinian prophet.

Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), recently wrote a piece for The Jerusalem Post detailing the strange obsession the PA has with “all things Jewish”—including Jesus.

“Palestinian Authority Jesus envy is just one component of the Palestinian’s obsessive Israel/Judaism envy. Indeed, PA leaders are so jealous of everything Jewish that they have created an entire Palestinian heritage in the image of Jewish heritage,” Marcus said. “The PA falsely teaches its people that Palestinians are a 5,000-year-old nation…that was invaded by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans, and yet the Palestinians survived. Jewish history, in a nutshell, is all falsified as Palestinian history.”

While the Bible clearly shows that Jesus (Yeshua) was a Jewish rabbi living in Israel and Judea, the PA doesn’t let the facts (or archaeological finds) get in the way of their narrative.

480,705 Palestinian Territories Photos and Premium High Res Pictures -  Getty Images
 

Just before Christmas, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said, “We celebrate the birth of Jesus, a Palestinian.”

985 Ramallah Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock
 

PA Government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem issued “blessings to the Christian communities…for this holiday. The holiday of the birth of the Palestinian prophet Jesus.”

It gets even more outrageous. Fatah (the terrorist group currently running the PA) posted on their Facebook page: “There is no doubt that the Jesus Christ you worship as God is the great grandfather of the Palestinian people.” What?! Even though the Bible never speaks of Jesus marrying or having children, the PA has Him having children, all of whom are Palestinian, not Jewish?

The PA official daily publication called Jesus the “forefather” of Palestinians—and they hijacked another Christian holiday, Easter (which actually is Passover originally, but that’s for another day). “Easter…is not a holiday only for Christian Palestinians but a holiday for Palestinian nationalism because Jesus is…the virtuous patriotic Palestinian forefather…The Palestinians, Jesus’s descendants, rose from the ashes, like the phoenix.”

They’ve also turned Jesus into a Palestinian terrorist. “Jesus was a messenger of Allah, and he was the first Palestinian fida’i (self-sacrificing fighter),” according to the PA daily in 2020. And consistency, of course, doesn’t matter. One senior PA leader claimed on his Facebook page that “Jesus, the Messiah, (was) the first Palestinian (even though they claim a 5,000-year history?) and the first Shahid (an Islamic martyr who goes to Islamic paradise and gets 72 virgins).”

 

This year, the PA even made up a song with some catchy lyrics— “Jesus is a Palestinian. Those (Jews) who fought him 2,000 years ago are now destroying his people.” The Mufti (religious leader) said, “Jesus was born in Palestine…Jesus is a Palestinian par excellence.”

 

Palestinian Media Watch also has documented how the PA has depicted Palestinians on a crucifix in their political cartoons. And Jesus isn’t the only Christmas figure the PA has misappropriated. They even got Santa Claus in on the act—PMW found at least seven cartoons where Santa is being abused or murdered by Israeli soldiers.

 

And Fatah is teaching all of this to the children. Waed, a magazine for children ages 6 to 15, uses this made-up history of the Palestinians to justify and incite Israel’s destruction. One article in Waed said: “Palestine underwent dozens of invasions, and many peoples entered it…In the end, Palestine fell under the Zionist occupation. The occupation will cease to exist just as what was before it ceased to exist.”

 

Marcus concludes his editorial by saying: “As long as the PA continues to deny the thousands of years of the Jewish people’s history in the land—including the fact that Jesus was a Judean—and uses this as a basis to deny Israel the right to exist, a peace process has yet to begin.”

 

Once again it is clear that Jesus the Messiah was the first victim of identity theft!

Understanding the Bible

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Understand the Bible

Approved translations of the Bible


The Bible is all around us. People hear Scripture readings in church. We have Good Samaritan (Luke 10) laws, welcome home the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), and look for the Promised Land (Exodus 3, Hebrews 11). Some biblical passages have become popular maxims, such as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12),” “Thou shalt not steal (Exodus 20:15), and “love thy neighbor” (Matthew 22:39).

Today’s Catholic is called to take an intelligent, spiritual approach to the bible.

Listed here are 10 points for fruitful Scripture reading.

  1. Bible reading is for Catholics. The Church encourages Catholics to make reading the Bible part of their daily prayer lives. Reading these inspired words, people grow deeper in their relationship with God and come to understand their place in the community God has called them to in himself.
  2. Prayer is the beginning and the end. Reading the Bible is not like reading a novel or a history book. It should begin with a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds to the Word of God. Scripture reading should end with a prayer that this Word will bear fruit in our lives, helping us to become holier and more faithful people.
  3. Get the whole story! When selecting a Bible, look for a Catholic edition. A Catholic edition will include the Church’s complete list of sacred books along with introductions and notes for understanding the text. A Catholic edition will have an imprimatur notice on the back of the title page. An imprimatur indicates that the book is free of errors in Catholic doctrine.
  4. The Bible isn’t a book. It’s a library. The Bible is a collection of 73 books written over the course of many centuries. The books include royal history, prophecy, poetry, challenging letters to struggling new faith communities, and believers’ accounts of the preaching and passion of Jesus. Knowing the genre of the book you are reading will help you understand the literary tools the author is using and the meaning the author is trying to convey.
  5. Know what the Bible is – and what it isn’t. The Bible is the story of God’s relationship with the people he has called to himself. It is not intended to be read as history text, a science book, or a political manifesto. In the Bible, God teaches us the truths that we need for the sake of our salvation.
  6. The sum is greater than the parts. Read the Bible in context. What happens before and after – even in other books – helps us to understand the true meaning of the text.
  7. The Old relates to the New. The Old Testament and the New Testament shed light on each other. While we read the Old Testament in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus, it has its own value as well. Together, these testaments help us to understand God’s plan for human beings.
  8. You do not read alone. By reading and reflecting on Sacred Scripture, Catholics join those faithful men and women who have taken God’s Word to heart and put it into practice in their lives. We read the Bible within the tradition of the Church to benefit from the holiness and wisdom of all the faithful.
  9. What is God saying to me? The Bible is not addressed only to long-dead people in a faraway land. It is addressed to each of us in our own unique situations. When we read, we need to understand what the text says and how the faithful have understood its meaning in the past. In light of this understanding, we then ask: What is God saying to me?
  10. Reading isn’t enough. If Scripture remains just words on a page, our work is not done. We need to meditate on the message and put it into action in our lives. Only then can the word be “living and effective.”(Hebrews 4:12).

Exploring the Reign of King Herod the Great

King Herod the Great ruled Judea from 37 B.C.E. until his death in 4 B.C.E. Outside of Judea, the Greeks and Romans found his charm (and his extravagant benefactions) irresistible. He generously endowed the Greek Olympic Games, sponsored building projects in prestigious cities such as Athens and Rhodes, and erected public buildings, palaces, and even entire cities, some of which still astonish visitors.

At home, however, King Herod was despised for his ruthless oppression and cruelty. His many endeavors came at a considerable cost to his Jewish subjects through heavy taxes. He executed his wife, Miriamme, because he suspected her of adultery. And he may be most well-known by biblical scholars for his order to kill all children under the age of two in and around Bethlehem shortly after the birth of Jesus.

A new special collection from Biblical Archaeology Review brings together a hand-picked selection of articles recounting the impact of King Herod’s dominion over ancient Mediterranean lands. Read about Herod the man, the cruelty that defined his rule, and learn about the archaeological explorations of his buildings, and the Roman-inspired style that came to be known as “Herodian.”

Even with his extensive fame (or infamy), little is known about Herod’s appearance. In two mosaics from the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Herod appears bearded and wearing a military costume with a blue cloak and a white diadem, framed by a nimbus (a circle of light around his head).

This kind of portrait is typical in early Christian art, but it’s important to remember that these depictions of Herod were created several hundred years after his death, since Jewish laws of the time prohibited depictions of living beings. Herod followed this law in an effort to appease his Jewish subjects, and as a result, there is no indication of any portrait of King Herod in Judea. To determine if any contemporary portraits of Herod exist, we have to leave his Judean kingdom.

In the Greco-Roman world it was traditional to honor kings and benefactors with statues. In Athens, Kos, and the Syrian sanctuary of Sia, the inscribed bases of statues erected to acknowledge Herod are well preserved. Two statues of the king were placed on the Acropolis, and a third on the Agora. But do these depict the real Herod? It is quite possible that these statues were pre-existing and the bases were re-inscribed for him.

In “Searching for Portraits of King Herod,” Ralf Krumeich and Achim Lichtenberger attempt to discover what can be known about Herod’s appearance from the scant evidence that remains.

Conquering the Sea

Photo: Courtesy of the Promontory Palace Excavations.

Architecture isn’t just about aesthetics; and for Herod it was a manifestation of power, as well as a means of extending and protecting that power. In “Building Power,” Kenneth G. Holum explores the cultural and political importance of Caesarea’s harbor, 30 miles north of modern day Tel Aviv.

The ancient harbor is notable for the remarkable engineering required to build two massive breakwaters that extended 500 yards into the Mediterranean Sea. At the time of its construction, however, the area was prized for the public buildings that included a theater, hippodrome, temple, and “Herod’s praetorium,” where the Apostle Paul stood to face judgement from the Roman Governor Festus.

An Unpleasant Death

Herod’s rule came to an end in 4 B.C.E. when he died at the age of 70. Physicians have long debated the cause of his death, but there is no disagreement that his demise was painful. In “Herod’s Horrid Death,” Nikos Kokkinos reviews historical texts and modern medical literature to diagnose the illness that led to the end of Herod’s life and reign.

We know the king’s symptoms in some detail from the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, based on the firsthand account of Herod’s daily companion Nicolaus of Damascus. In part, the text describes “an ulceration of the intestines with particularly terrible pains in the colon.” Additionally, “there was a malignancy in the abdominal area, as well as a putrefaction in the private member which was creating worms.”

Are these descriptions reliable? Are they accurate enough to form a clinical opinion of the cause of death? One thing is almost assuredly certain: Herod, reviled king of Israel, was horribly troubled in both body and mind when he finally met his end.

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