Monday, April 8, 2024

Today on the Christian History Almanac, we talk about all things Christianity and Eclipses!

It is the 8th of April 2024. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac, brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.


A very happy Monday to you- a day after the second Sunday of Eastertide- I hope you had a good weekend and that Cody Rhodes finished his story. Ok, so on the weekend show, I said this wouldn’t be a mailbag day because we did a mega mailbag for the weekend show. And that is sort of right, kind of. A very dedicated long-time listener wrote me to tell me 1) there was a problem with Friday’s show on Overcast- as a reminder, if we ever have a glitch, you can always go to and listen from a browser. That 2) he was leaving to go someplace to witness the solar eclipse today, and that 3) a show on Christians and eclipses pre and post-Copernicus might be interesting.

This was interesting, and so I put my historian hat on and went looking for sources. The first things I found initially disturbed me, and then as I started to put other things together, I realized, to quote David Byrne quoting the book of Ecclesiastes, “same as it ever was”… I say this because since the dawn of recorded history there have been eclipses and there is a runaway religious impulse in us all to want to know “why”. Of course, for non-Christian religions and those better fitting a mythological mold, we get stories of animals and other baddies “swallowing” the sun, and with everyone, there is the desire to exaggerate with solar eclipses (that’s when it gets dark) lasting for hours or days… they can last about 10 minutes at most.

The stuff that disturbed me with an easy Google search was the number of ministries claiming to know what this all means… and then packaging Christian solar eclipse bundles for you to purchase. I prefer to not give oxygen to the wacky stuff, so… just know they exist. You might remember that we had a total eclipse in 2017, and the next one, which is coming seven years later, is bound to cause trouble with the numerologists. And the last one went Northwest to Southeast and this one from Texas to Maine, and so it kind of makes an X, and the middle point of the X is Carbondale, Illinois (home of the Southern Illinois Saluki’s! And a region colloquially known as “Little Egypt” and you know someones got a sermon illustration ready to go).

But here’s the good news- “same as it ever was” and interestingly enough we don’t even find rationality about such things in a post-Copernican world.

Our boy, the Venerable Bede, one of the most valuable medieval historians, noted that on the 14th of August in 733 ““almost the whole of the Sun’s disk seemed to be like a black and horrid shield.” Bede and many other Medieval historians note the eclipse from a scientific perspective- trying to note when and how long and if there was any pattern.

FYI, NASA supposes that for the past 1000 years, there have been, on average, 2.5 solar eclipses a year! It is good to remember that this isn’t a “special” event in as much as it is a “convenient” event, as most of them occur in uninhabited places because most of our world is the ocean.

In the 12th century, John of Salisbury got quite a bit cross when people claimed that eclipses were some kind of divine signal. He knew that something was obscuring the sun- whatever- but giving celestial bodies the power to change things detracts from God’s power, and if God wants to get our attention, he will.

Now, you say: I know verses from Joel, Ezekiel, Jesus, and Revelation talk about the sun going dark and how this is a symbol of a great calamity that may portend the end times… with the solar eclipse lasting at most 10 minutes that would be the shortest ever apocalypse…. You’d have to get a lot done. I don’t mean to be cheeky, because a major theme of the New Testament is “wait” and “be ready,” not “wait for the cool thing to happen and then start doing math.” But we are also reminded that the heavens declare the glory of God, and a solar eclipse happening where you can see it, or get to it, is pretty rad. Good luck to everyone going, and may I be the 128th person to tell you the obligatory “don’t look at it” warning.


The last word for today is from the daily lectionary a good word from 1 John.

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.


This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 8th of April 2024, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man who told me that if you make as much noise as possible during the eclipse, it will go away- works every time….I’m Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man without a pun or joke, but just really likes the new X-Men 97 on Disney+, I’m 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.

Subscribe to the Christian History Almanac

Subscribe to the Christian History Almanac

Subscribe (it’s free!) in your favorite podcast app.

More From 1517