Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Mysterious Doctor and the Feast of Tabernacles

The Church of the Annunciation was bathed in shadows in the early evening as our small group departed through the gate into the street. The Church was devoted to Mary and the news that was given to her from the angel; even the dome of the church was shaped like the Madonna lily, a symbol of the virgin Mary. Impressions were still swirling in my mind; inside the basilica I watched a service from behind an iron grate; its liturgy chanted by priests gave me the typical Catholic feeling of a mystical mass. I then walked around the modern building with its carvings, stained glass, and mosaics depicting the Virgin from various countries; they were arrayed around the grotto where presumably Mary met the Angel. Outside, along the perimeter of the grounds, was an exhibit of poster shaped artwork from around the world depicting Mary and baby Jesus in a common pose of authority and royalty. I was especially struck by a poster where a crowned Mary stood over a stylized quarter moon, so I took a picture of it: 

It brought to mind a passage of scripture, so I paged through my pocket Bible to Revelation chapter 12:1-5 “Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.” The scene that came to mind was that this was Mary giving birth to Jesus and Herod was after him. In the heavens, Satan was waging war with the good angels behind the scene. So, while I debated about the special status given to Mary, I had to agree the symbolism was Biblical. What should I make of this?

It was the emphasis on the moon goddess from our recent visit to Turkey that was swaying me. The title “Queen of Heaven” was wrapped up in the spirit that was detected at Ephesus by some of the leaders. While Nazareth is where Mary came from, it was said by some that Ephesus is where John took her before she died. The myth that she remained sinless developed after that and with it a near worship of Mother and Child. The dragon anticipated the male child and glorified the association with the mother to perpetrate the holy pair. Was that spirit lurking here too?

As I was pondering these things, the calm was pierced by the wailing of the Muslim call to prayer. It sent shivers down my spine just as it had done the first time I heard it in Izmir, Turkey. But here it was in Nazareth. I looked down at the bottom of the hill, to the makeshift tent that was erected as a placeholder for a mosque within sight of the Church. The Muslims were staking a claim for equal access and I imagined it would lead to a lot of strife.

As the last sounds of the summons trickled away, I moved over to talk with Dr. Rothenberg, a Messianic Jew who had joined our party when we arrived in Tel Aviv. He had said a few things earlier that were enlightening to me, so I thought I’d see what he thought. But first, we waited for Dave to lead us in devotions. He did that by reading the account from Luke where Mary is approached by the angel. And then he prayed for the truth of Mary’s Son to be known in Nazareth, Israel, and the world. As we headed toward our bus, I said to Dr. Rothenberg, “May I sit with you and ask a few questions? He looked at me and said, “Why of course. We can talk as we head on over to Tiberias.”

As the bus headed down past the tent mosque, I looked back at the dome of the Basilica and thought the ancient tug of war between faiths and truth would probably not be resolved in my lifetime. Towards the edge of town, there were a few apartments with Sukkahs on their balconies. We both looked at them and I said, “the Feast of Tabernacles is going on.” “Yes”, said Dr. Rothenberg, “it’s older than Christianity or Islam and it still goes on; of course, that is as it should be.” “What did you want to talk about?” he asked as we headed on the main highway towards Tiberius. I responded, “I just wondered what you thought of all the pictures of Mary and how they relate to the woman and the dragon in Revelation 12?”

He stroked his neatly trimmed beard, and then replied, “Imagine a nice Jewish girl like that getting so much attention! But thousands of Jewish mothers through the ages have wanted to be her. Adonai is a Master at surprising people. While the first century Jews had their minds made up about what the Messiah would be like, He gave them a royal visitor in disguise. What better way to find out their true intentions?”

“As to the verse in Revelation (Ariel had his Bible open), like many prophecies there are multiple applications. Remember the poster that you photographed?” I nodded, though I hadn’t been aware he had noticed. “It illustrates the verse, ‘Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.’ What I’m about to tell you I learned from a man named Ernest Martin. I met him in Jerusalem when I was studying at the Hebrew University in 1970-71. He was involved in an archaeological dig in Jerusalem and I was a student helper with Professor Mazar. Martin had a radical new idea about where the Temple had been located and it was not on what is now called the Temple Mount. But we’ll leave that controversy for another time. He also shared some of his ideas about a new book he was finishing on The Star of Bethlehem. I in fact read it a few months back and predict it will shake up how we think about these things. Now back to the woman in the heavens.”

“The interpretation of the ‘woman clothed with the sun’ is that it describes the astrological sign of Virgo the Virgin and how she relates to the ecliptic motion of the sun and the position of the moon in the heavens. In his book, Martin proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the year of Yeshua’s birth was 3 BC. The key is to find out when an observer living in Israel would be able to see that Virgo had the sun crossing her midsection while the moon was under her feet. It turns out that there was only one day that year when this was true: the evening of September 11th; which “just happened” to be Yom Teruah, or the Feast of Trumpets. The reference to the sun and moon allows us to pinpoint within an hour or two when the birth occurred. The Creator of the Universe (Yeshua) arranged His birth to coincide exactly with the movement of the heavens and the timing of the Feast of Trumpets; this is a spectacular confirmation of the festivals. From His conception and birth to His death and resurrection, the Messiah coordinated all of His key events to the festivals.”

“But what about the ‘twelve stars above her head?’”, I asked. Ariel continued, “Dr. Martin believes this means that Virgo is the head of the 12 signs; in other words, that the Zodiac should begin with Virgo, just as the plan of redemption begins with the birth of the Messiah, and it should end with Leo, just as the Lion of the tribe of Judah will reign as King. But extending this clue to the rest of the Zodiac can get precarious. Since Satan could not do anything about the placement of the stars in the Zodiac, he rearranged the order of the signs and changed their application. We today have fallen out of knowledge of such things partly because of Satan’s deception. He has plagiarized the rightful intention of these wonders and has created a counterfeit that has turned our attention so that we equate the signs in heaven with evil. This passage in Revelation chronicles a historic event that the Magi were able to interpret on their own. The people of that time were very aware of these things; kings and commoners alike looked to the heavens. It is interesting to imagine the role that Daniel played in laying the foundation for the Magi’s awareness. Daniel made the most precise prophecies in all of the Bible about when the Messiah would come. As the time was drawing near, the heavens were putting on a spectacular show and it roused the sages from the east so much that they made a long and difficult trip to find out the source. As disconcerting as it may seem to Christians today, the birth of the Messiah was headlined in the stars and rightly understood by a secret sect of Gentiles who brought gifts which were prophetic about the role of the Jewish Messiah as prophet, priest, and king.”

“Once the birth occurs, the verses get more symbolic. Yes, it does describe Satan attacking the Messiah as a male child, but then again, it also has hints from Isaiah about a miraculous birth of a nation that occurs in one day, (he read from Isaiah) ‘Before she was in labor, she gave birth; Before her pain came, she delivered a male child. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children.’ Does it make you think of Israel in 1948? The Messiah and Israel are both called sons of God. The “sweeping away of the stars” is a remez from a passage in Daniel. Yeshua talked of a war in heaven and the fall of the dragon. Finally, Psalm 2 talks of God’s Son, the King Messiah who will break his enemies into pieces. This passage is stringing together all kinds of pearls! Did I answer your question?”

Wow, I thought to myself, how did he know all that stuff! I finally answered, “You sure did, and a whole lot more!” “Where’d you learn all of that - Doctor?”, I asked. He replied, “please call me Ariel.” “Perhaps we’ll talk about that tomorrow.” By now we had come over the mountain and were entering the streets of Tiberius. I could see the moon over the Sea of Galilee and a few stars; it was beautiful and magical, and I knew this trip was going to be special.

Note: This story is mostly true; the introduction of Ariel Rothenberg is an addition of mine; more details later.

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