No comets, novae, or supernovae are recorded for 6 B.C., the estimated year of Christ’s birth. But there was one odd celestial event that stargazing Wise Men might have observed and thought to be the Star of Bethlehem. Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn came close together in a small triangle, as they do once every 805 … Read more
The Jewish spiritual movement was founded by Israel ben Eliezer, now better known as the Ba’al Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name). He was a healer and holy man who lived in the Ukraine (c. 1700-1760).
The wooden chest that contained God’s laws as presented to Moses was taken on its last trip to Jerusalem by King David. Eventually King Solomon put it in the Temple. It disappeared when the Temple was destroyed in 586 B.C.
It could have been any kind of snake that tempted Eve, or none at all. Eve was tempted by a “serpent”, which, in Biblical times, could refer to any creeping animal, particularly if it was venomous. Thus, Eve could have been tempted by anything from a snake to a salamander to a crocodile.
The word avatar means the human incarnation of a god to a Hindu. The word is most frequently applied to the 10 incarnations of Vishnu, the benevolent god of sun and light. His most famous avatars are: Krishna, Rama, and Buddha.
Noah’s Ark was 300 by 50 by 30 cubits, according to Genesis 6:15. One cubit equals 18 inches.
These personifications of war, the Four Horsemen, appear in the Book of Revelation 6:1-8. They are: Conquest, Slaughter, Famine, and Death, riding horses that are, respectively, white, red, black, and green.
Genesis 4:13-15 explains that the mark was placed on Cain to protect him from anyone who might want to kill him in retaliation for his murder of Abel. The mark was not itself meant as a punishment.
Tradition gives the names of the two thieves crucified at the same time as Jesus Christ as Dismas’ and Gestas. The New Testament does not say.
The Ten Commandments vary according to religion and denomination. In the Jewish tradition, the Ten Commandments (based on Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21) are as follows: 1. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 2. You shall have no other god to set against … Read more
Muslims start their calendar from Friday, July 16, A.D. 622. This was the day that Muhammad and his early followers made their hijrah, or emigration, from Mecca to Medina. They were forced to leave Mecca because of opposition to Muhammad’s teachings.
Brahman is, in Hinduism, the great power of the universe, or “world spirit.” In the Upanishads, it also refers to a person’s spirit. A Brahmin is a member of the priesthood, or varna, in the Hindu social system.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that cleanliness is next to godliness. It came from John Wesley (1703-1791), the British theologian who founded Methodism.
Gethsemane was the garden where Jesus was visited by an angel and betrayed by Judas. It was located on the western slope of the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem.
Ambrose, bishop of Milan, introduced hymn-singing into Christian churches in A.D. 386. When was incense introduced? Incense was introduced in A.D. 500.
The practice of using a string of knots or beads as a memory aid in prayer was developed long before the time of Christ. It was popularized among Catholics in the twelfth century by Saint Dominic of Spain, founder of the Dominican order. The word rosary may come from one of two sources: the early … Read more
The “ends of man” are the four basic goals of Hinduism: Dharma. Religious Duty Artha. Earthly Gain Kama. Physical Pleasure Moksha. Spiritual Liberation
Peter, one of Jesus’ 12 apostles, was the first bishop of the Christian church in Rome, the office now referred to as the papacy. After Peter’s execution by the Romans in A.D. 67, Linus became bishop of Rome. Anacletus (also known as Cletus) succeeded him in about A.D. 76.
As outlined in Exodus 7-12 and recounted every year in the Passover ritual, the plagues God sent to free the Jews from bondage in Egypt were: 1. The Waters Turned to Blood 2. The Frogs 3. The Gnats (or Lice) 4. The Flies 5. The Pestilence (murrain, which killed the cattle) 6. The Boils 7. … Read more
Muslims of central and western Asia use prayer rugs to cover the ground while they pray. The rugs feature a distinctive arch-shaped design, a prayer niche, or mihrtib, on one end of the carpet. The mihrab must be pointed toward Mecca while the person is praying.
Tibetan Buddhists developed the prayer wheel as a substitute for the repeated recitation of mantras (syllables or verses of mystical power). The wheel is a hollow metal cylinder mounted on a rod, with the mantra written on a roll of paper inside the cylinder. The Buddhist turns the wheel by hand; each turn is believed … Read more
As of the early 1980s, there were seven churches in the United States that ordained women: They were the United Methodist Church, the United Presbyterian Church, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church, and the Southern Baptist Convention.
Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad lies 45 miles inland from the Red Sea in southwestern Saudi Arabia. Its 300,000 inhabitants are all Muslims; non-Muslims are prohibited. Over 2 million Muslims annually make the pilgrimage to the city.
Nirvana is not a place but a state of bliss to which Buddhists aspire. In Sanskrit it means the “going out” of a light. Early Buddhists used the word to describe the extinction of the fires of cravings. Valhalla, in Norse mythology, is the heavenly hall of slain heroes. It also represents a state of … Read more
Christ was probably born in 6 B.C. We know because the Bible suggests that Christ was at least two years old when King Herod died. Herod, we know from other sources, died in 4 B.C.
Yes, a raven and a dove. In Genesis 8:7-8, they are the birds Noah sent out to see if the waters had begun to subside: And he sent forth a raven, which went to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. Also he sent forth a dove from him, to … Read more
These are the eight elements that the Buddha thought were essential to enlightenment and liberation. They are the eight elements of the Buddhist Eightfold Path. They are: right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
In November 1908, the Superior Hotel in Iron Mountain, Montana, became the first hotel to have Bibles placed in all its rooms by the Gideons. The Gideons were an organization for Christian business travelers founded in 1899 by Samuel Eugene Hill. By 1975, the Gideons had placed more than 10 million Bibles in hotels, hospitals, … Read more
Yes, Jews can be excommunicated. The Hebrew word for excommunication is herem. it involves the cutting of all religious, social, and business ties with someone considered dangerous to the community. One of the most famous cases of herem involved the seventeenth-century Dutch philosopher Spinoza.
The secret fraternal order of Free and Acceptable Masons has its origins in communities of actual stoneworkers, the masons who built cathedrals in the Middle Ages. Eventually, lodges in need of new members started admitting non-masons, and from these lodges modern Freemasonry developed.
The Bug Bible was the name given to Coverdale’s Bible of 1535 because it translated Psalm 91:5 as “Thou shalt not nede to be afrayed for eny bugges by night.” The more common translation for the same Hebrew word (for example, in the King James Version) is “terror.”
The Immaculate Conception does not refer to Christ’s being born of a virgin. Instead, it is the Roman Catholic belief that Mary was without original sin from the moment of her conception.
Parts of the Mishnah, a compilation of oral law, date back to earliest Jewish history. The Mishnah was completed by about A.D. 200. The Talmud, which records academic discussion and judicial thought, consists of two parts: the Mishnah and the Gemara, a commentary on the Mishna. The Palestinian Talmud was completed by about A.D. 400; … Read more
The canonical hours are times of day set aside for prayer. As specified by church regulations, the divisions of the day are: matins, lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers, and compline.
There are about 2,500 saints with feast days, 200 fewer than in the earlier years of the twentieth century. In 1969, the Vatican removed the feast days of over 200 saints from the liturgical calendar because they were of only regional interest or because there were no records of whether the saints had lived. Among … Read more
The official name of the celibate sect the Shakers is the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing. Derived from the Quakers, the “Shaking Quaker” sect was established in America in 1774 by Ann Lee and reached its height, in the 1840s with a membership of 6,000. Shaker refers to the involuntary movements made … Read more
In Christian theology, seraphim are the angels nearest to God; cherubim sit just below them. Seraphim have three pairs of wings; cherubim, one or two pairs. There are nine choirs of angels in all. From highest to lowest, they are: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels, and angels.
Gehenna is the Greek form of the Hebrew Ge Hinnom, or “Valley of Hinnom.” This was a valley west and south of Jerusalem where children were sacrificed in flames to the Ammonite god Moloch from the tenth through seventh centuries B.C. In Jewish and Christian thought, it became another name for the place where the … Read more
As described in Leviticus 16:1-27, part of a Hebrew ritual on the Day of Atonement involved the presentation of two male goats at the altar of the tabernacle. After lots were cast, one goat was sacrificed to the Lord; the other, the scapegoat, was set aside for Azazel, an evil spirit of the wilderness. The … Read more
Islam is Arabic for “surrender,” or “submission,” to the will of God. A Muslim is “one who surrenders.”
Pope John, Gregory, Benedict, and Clement, in that order. There have been 23 Johns (and 2 John Pauls), 16 Gregorys, 15 Benedicts, and 14 Clements.