Thursday, May 19, 2022

Today on the Almanac, we tell the story of a historic earthquake in the Middle East and its effect on rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 19th of May 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

On the 19th of May in 363, in and around Galilee in Northern Israel, an earthquake- or a pair of earthquakes, or perhaps a flurry of earthquakes shook the area. It was likely around a 6.0, which (as a native Californian) I can tell you is significant- but especially without retrofitting and with ancient building practices.

First- a giant shoutout to the paleo- and archaeoseismologists… an entire field wherein, using journals and pottery and modern fault lines, they can establish what happened when the ground started shaking hundreds of years ago.

And, like any natural disaster, you might expect people to jump to divine conclusions- it’s human nature. Hold that point.

In 363, Emperor Constantine was dead for decades. He had brought some unity to the Empire by legalizing Christianity, but this was a period of competing emperors in the East and West, with civil war led by would-be emperors.

The tumult led to the ascension of Emperor Julian- a nephew of Constantine who had been elevated to a military role in the West- his success led him to be proclaimed emperor by his army. Before he could show his army to fight his cousin, the emperor Constantinus II, his cousin died.

So, in 361, Julian became Emperor. Julian, the outsider, had studied in the East and was more fond of Greek philosophy than Christian theology. This would be normal before Constantine, but Julian was the only avowedly non-christian emperor after Constantine. This would garner him the name: Julian the Apostate.

In 362, Julian decreed a new edict of Toleration- this one would roll back the protections offered to the Christians, revive pagan temples (and return pagan temples from Christians). The edict was designed to damage the Christian faith- but Julian thought he could do one better: reverse a Messianic prophecy.

The story goes that in 363, Julian was traveling to Persia and through Jerusalem. There he saw the ruins of the Second Temple- that is, the second Temple constructed by the Jewish People after returning from the Babylonian exile. This was the Temple that Jesus claimed would be destroyed and was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Julian decided to rebuild the Temple for the Jewish people- not only would this possibly earn him some allies in the region, but it would also be devastating to the church he left.

Many Jewish people were understandably excited, although the chief priests were ambivalent about the project- perhaps seeing the opportunism as Julian.

So- here is where the historical record gets interesting- we have several reports that the rebuilding of the temple was unsuccessful. A few pretty fantastic stories tell of wild shaking, fireballs coming from the earth, and a cross seen in the sky (or the Chi Rho- the first two letters in Jesus’ name in Greek).

Yup, it seems that this occurred on this the 19th of May in 363- the day of the massive earthquakes in Galilee.

You can imagine how the narratives, from straight supernatural miracles to natural occurrences with theological implications, play out. Others had pointed out that when Julian died, the hesitancy by Jewish leaders to rebuild the temple with Roman help led to the end of the project.

This “third temple” has apocalyptic implications for Jewish people and Christians, but it is still on hold- and has been since the end of the project, which coincided with a few major earthquakes on this, the 19th of May in 363.

The Last Word for today comes from the daily lectionary- Psalm 67:

May God be gracious to us and bless us
 and make his face shine on us—

so that your ways may be known on earth,
 your salvation among all nations.

May the peoples praise you, God;
 may all the peoples praise you.

May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
 for you rule the peoples with equity
 and guide the nations of the earth.

May the peoples praise you, God;
 may all the peoples praise you.

The land yields its harvest;
 God, our God, blesses us.

May God bless us still
 so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 19th of May 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517. org.

The show is produced by a man whose favorite Earthquakes include the 1974 film starring Charlton Heston, the 2004 song by Lil Wayne, and the late wrestler John Tenta also known as the “Avalanche” he is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man who accepts the trade-off between earthquakes and nice weather…. Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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