Was Jesus Christ born on December 25? Dr Taylor Marshall says “Yes, Christ was born on the historical day of December 25 in the year 1BC. Dr Taylor Marshall explains using the Church Fathers and the Gospel of Saint Luke.
This is a sample class from my online Catholic Curriculum “Early Church Fathers History” offered by the New Saint Thomas Institute. You can join for a limited time today for 47/month (and receive 7 more Courses thrown in) at:
This is a sample class from my online Catholic Curriculum “Early Church Fathers History” offered by the New Saint Thomas Institute. You can join for a limited time today for 47/month (and receive 7 more Courses thrown in) at:
I just returned from the Caribbean. As I listened to the music Bob Marley and the local reggae music, I tuned in with my theological ear. Certain lyrics stood out to me, for example, this line from Marley’s “Get Up Stand Up” (1973):
We sick an’ tired of-a your ism-skism game – Dyin’ ‘n’ goin’ to heaven in-a Jesus’ name, Lord. We know when we understand: Almighty God is a living man.
So who is this “living man” who is God? Is it Christ or someone else? Hmm.
Bob Marley depicted as Saint George on his final album “Confrontation”
So I read through the lyrics and read up on Rastafari theology and its appropriation of Christian Messianism. Since most people interface Rastafari beliefs via Bob Marley’s music, I’ll examine Rastafari theology through the lens of Bob Marley. And so to begin, we should recognize that Marley experienced three theological periods during his life:
Roman Catholic – from his birth in 1945 till 1966 when he was 21. His father was a white Jamaican captain derived from England. His mother was a Jamaican girl. He was 59. She was 18. His father died of a heart attack at age 70, when Bob was 10 years old. It seems that his mother was a Catholic.
Rastafari – At age 21, Marley married Rita Anderson, a Rastafarian. Marley wholeheartedly adopted the Rastafarian identity and theology. This period lasts from 1966 (age 21) till about 1979.
Ethiopian Orthodox – Marley became less enthusiastic about the Rastafari movement, especially after the death of Haile Selassie in 1975 (more on that below). By 1978 Marley’s music is less political, less militant, and less Rasta. Themes of love begin to dominate the music. Beginning 1979-1980, Marley sought membership within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church of Haile Selassie. Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq baptized Bob Marley into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, giving him the name Berhane Selassie, on 4 November 1980. Marley died of cancer seven months later on 11 May 1981 and received an Ethiopian Orthodox funeral.
101 Intro to Rastafari Messianic Theological:
Trinitarian. Rastafari are traditionally Trinitarian and worship God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. They tend to depict Jesus as black and reject European depictions of Christ. As we will see below, they also see King Haile Selassie as a reincarnation or avatar of Jesus Christ. Some more advanced Rastafarians hold that God has had four avatars: Moses, Elijah, Jesus, and Haile Selassie.
They read the Old and New Testament. They tend to quote the King James Version.
Ethiopia is Politico-Prophetic. Rastafari read the Bible in a way to see the African nation of Ethiopia as playing a prophetic role in religious action and political justice. This is why the Rasta movement is defined by the colors of the Ethiopian flag.
Ethiopic Messianism. They also believe that King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba had a baby together and that this child established a Davidic-Solomonic Messianic royal dynasty in Ethiopia.
Pan-African. Rastafari theology is a religious Pan-African movement that looked forward to: a) the unification of all African nations; and B) the return of all dispersed Africans back to Africa. Ethiopia will be the instrument of this reunion.
King Haile Selassie as Messiah. Rastafarian name themselves after Ras Tafari Makonnen (Ras means “Duke”), the baptismal name of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Ethiopia. They believe that “Ras Tafari” or “Haile Selassie” is the heir of the Davidic-Solomonic promises and that his celebrated coronation on 2 November 1930 was an apocalyptic and prophetic event signaling redemption for Africa and all dispersed Africans. The movement identified King Haile Selassie as “Messianic” or “the Messiah” or “Jesus reincarnate” or “divine” or “Jah.” King Haile Selassie was named Man of the Year in 1936, thus increasing expectation:
Smoking cannabis was a cultural Jamaican practice. By association it became a defining element of Afro-Caribbean identity and Rastafarian spirituality. Rastafarian identified the “healing leaves” of Revelation 22:2 as cannabis: “and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
Dreadlocks. The growing of dreadlocks is Biblically inspired by the Nazarite vow of Numbers 6: 5–6: “During the entire period of their Nazarite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the LORD is over; they must let their hair grow long.”
Concubinage and Polygamy. Rastafarians hold David and Solomon as their spiritual fathers. Following their example, they allow for polygamy and concubinage. The Rastafarian women (like Bob Marley’s wife Rita) allowed their husbands to sleep with other women as they saw fit. Marital monogamy is not binding because it was not binding for David or Solomon.
Origin of Rastafari Theology
Beginning in 1930, Jamaican (Protestant) preachers began to describe the coronation of King Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia as the fulfillment of Revelation (5:2–5; 19:16), Daniel (7:3), and the Book of Psalms (68:31).
Jamaicans began to see themselves as supporting the “black king of Ethiopia” and not the “white king of England.” Supporters of Ras Tafari began to be identified as Rastafarians.
In 1935, Jamaican preacher Leonard Howell published the tract The Promised Key which explained that Emperor Haile Selassie (Ras Tafari) was the Messiah, that Black people were the chosen people, and they would soon be repatriated to Ethiopia and experience political and economic prosperity. The tract is the founding document of Rastafarian belief and marks the move from seeing Haile Selassie as merely prophetic to “the divine Messiah.”
Leonard Howell taught that there are 6 principles to Rastafari theology: (1) hatred for the White race; (2) the complete superiority of the Black race; (3) revenge on Whites for their wickedness; (4) the negation, persecution, and humiliation of the government of Jamaica; (5) preparation to go back to Africa; and (6) acknowledging Emperor Haile Selassie as the Supreme Being and only ruler of Black people
Haile Selassie visited Jamaica for the first time in August 1966, with crowds of Rastas assembling to meet him at the airport.
The death of Haile Selassie in 1975 lead to alternative conspiracies about a faked death, his resurrection, his second coming, or to his spiritual force being released into the world. However, as no Pan-African change materialized, the Rastafari movement lost momentum. Among black communities, rap replaced Rasta-style reggae as the musical force for revolution and political change. However, Rastafarian imagery and language continues to dominate pro-African movements in the West. The emphasis on Haile Selassie has mostly been exchanged for militant Socialism and the deification of the individual.
Bob Marley as Rastafarian and then as Ethiopian Orthodox:
As stated above, Bob Marley became Rastafarian in 1966 at age 21. Here’s his album cover with the The Wailers from 1965 with no signs of Rastafarian identity, with Bob Marley centered:
With their second album in 1966, they became political and took on a guerrilla revolution identity.
“I Shot the Sheriff” was released in 1973 on their sixth LP Burnin’. The album reached 151 on Billboard 200. The next year in 1974, Eric Clapton covered “I Shot the Sheriff” and it was a number one hit. This lifted Bob Marley and the Wailers into fame as fans desired to buy/listen to the original version. All of Marley’s subsequent albums did well, as he peaked in 1977 with the LP Exodus. By 1980 he was playing Madison Square Garden in NYC.
In 1977, Marley had been diagnosed with a malignant skin cancer on his toe. Doctors suggested full amputation of the toe. Marley kept the toe. On 21 September 1980, he learned that the cancer spread to his brain. He played his last concert on 23 September 1980 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
At this last live concert he sang: “We know when we over-stand: Almighty God is a living man.” It’s not clear if he was merely honoring the original lyrics, or whether he still actually believed that the now-deceased King Haile Sellasie was still God Almighty. Probably the former.
About 40 days after receiving his terminal cancer diagnosis, Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq baptized Bob Marley into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on 4 November 1980. Afterward he cried for half an hour.
Bob Marley died of brain cancer on 11 May 1981.
Here is a full YouTube video with Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq, the one who baptized Bob Marley into the Orthodox Church. He explicitly states that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is NOT Rastafarian:
2:50 Abuna Yesehaq says that 20,000 Rastafarians were baptized into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but no all remained. From the video, it seems that Abuna Yesehaq did not require the newly baptized to renounced their Rasta beliefs. If so, this is troubling.
3:40 Abuna Yesehaq says that Haile Selassie was a member of Ethiopian Orthodox Church and denied he was divine.
4:20 Haile Selassie sent Abuna Yesehaq to convert Rastas in Jamaica.
5:50 Abuna Yesehaq says dreadlocks are okay
7:05 Abuna Yesehaq says “I baptized Bob Marley”
8:00 Abuna Yesehaq explains three differences with Roman Catholics: papal infallibility, miaphysite nature of Christ, procession of Holy Spirit.
10:40 Abuna Yesehaq explains how Bob Marley wanted to learn and conform to Orthodox practice, especially with regard to concubinage and polygamy.
11:30 Abuna Yesehaq told Bob Marley to be monogamous.
11:46 Abuna Yesehaq explains how Bob Marley cried for half and hour after baptism.
12:30 His wife Rita Marely was baptized with her children in Ethiopian Orthodox Church in 1973.
13:15 Bob Marley assented that Jesus crucified not Selassie is Christ.
It remains unclear whether Bob Marley repudiated his belief that Selassie but this interview seems to indicate that he did so and that he died a faithful member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Question: Do you have any questions about Rastafarian beliefs? Or do you have any more information about the beliefs or conversion of Bob Marley? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Did Mary die and enter a tomb to later be resurrected and assumed into Heaven? Or did God immediately raise up her body into Heaven?
You might be surprised to learn that Catholic iconography, saints, Eastern liturgy, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and even Pope Pius XII taught that she first died and then her body was assumed into Heaven. But her “death” was different. Let’s discover the distinction. Here’s a video I produced on the topic:
Our Lord Jesus Christ founded a New Israel with Himself as Davidic King and with Twelve Apostles initiating the new Twelve Tribes of Israel. This is the Messianic Kingdom of the Church.
As one who connects the Old Testament features to Catholic dogma (see this book: The Crucified Rabbi), I’ve always been painfully aware that the term “apostle” doesn’t have a slick connection to Old Testament kingdom language.
Pagan “Boat” Sources for the Term Apostle:
In pagan Greek sources (such as in the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus), ἀπόστολος (apostolos) refers to a political or military delegate or messenger. ἀπόστολος also refers to the commander of a naval force.
In fact, στόλος refers to a naval division or to a colony. So an ἀπόστολος is one who travels out to these naval colonies. Sometimes ἀπόστολος is used to refer to a formal naval dispatch or to an export license to/from these colonies.
So when the New Testament authors adopt this Greek term, they are not merely referring to a local rabbi or preacher. They are using a term that referred to diplomats who traveled to the farrest ends of the earth. It’s a global or catholic term.
Pauline Sources for the Term:
The term ἀπόστολος appears only once in the Greet Septuagint (Greek version of Old Testament) at 1 Kings 14:6 where ἀπόστολος is a translation of the Hebrew שָׁלוּחַ (sha-lach). The term appears 79 times in the New Testament – 68 of which are found in the writings of Paul and his disciple Luke.
It seems that originally ἀπόστολος referred to each of the original Twelve Apostles. However, Saint Paul opened the term to include himself, Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and Timothy and Silvanus (1 Thessalonians 2:7). Paul also speaks of false apostles in 2 Corinthians.
In Hebrews, Luke/Paul identify Jesus as “the apostle and high priest of our confession” (Heb 3:1). In this context, apostleship is associated with the high priesthood. This is our biggest hint into how early Christians understood the term ἀπόστολος. It was missionary and priestly. Just as an ἀπόστολος origianlly referred to naval delegates to colonies, so a high priest bridges over water as a pontifex, a bridge builder between God and man.
According to Paul, apostles surpass the various other offices within the Church of “teachers, evangelists, and prophets” (διδάσκαλος, εὐαγγελιστής, προφήτης). In the mind of Paul, an apostle is more than these three. I would argue, that for Paul an apostle is all three of these at once while also being priestly diplomats for Christ.
Are Apostles Political or Priestly?
At first glance into a Greek dictionary, the term ἀπόστολος seems political or mercantile. It’s a civil title. However, the Christians looked to King Melchizedek and King David as “priest kings” or “liturgical kings” as the prototypes for King Jesus. So the political realm collapses into the priestly liturgical realm. This is why Christ is both establishing a “kingdom” (political) and also building at “temple” (priestly). He is king and pontiff. And so also, his political ministers are both political and cultic. The ἀπόστολος is a naval delegate for foreign colonies throughout the world but he is also a sacrificial priest who offers the Gentiles to God as sacrifice and who offers the Eucharist as sacrifice.
Apostles on a Boat:
One final related topic. I couldn’t help but noticed that in Acts, the vivid scenes of Paul traveling by ship may in fact be intentionally recounted with detail to bolster Paul’s identity as ἀπόστολος. In the Greek mind, the ἀπόστολος is primarily naval and thus Paul is literally fulfilling his role as ἀπόστολος (maybe better so than the Twelve!). Also, the stories of Saint James Zebedee going to and from (posthumously) to Spain by boat ratifies James as a true apostle for Jesus. And let’s not forget all the “Jesus in a boat” scenes from the Gospels!
I’m reading Viking Norse Cosmology. I got into it while writing Storm of Fire and Blood depicting Saint George in northern Europe, as well as Saint Christopher (and Saint Nicholas) as historical types of an authentic and Christian “Odin.”
The Norse creation myths are interesting and entertaining. Yet they is also ridiculous. Fire and ice converge to make an evil giant. Another giant spring from that giant’s left armpit sweat. His right foot breeding with his left foot and makes another giant.
Odin and the gods chop him up to create planet earth. They pulverize his bones to create sand and extract the giant’s teeth to make mountains and rocky crags.
At this point you realize the profound scientific and philosophical accuracy of Hebrew cosmology in Genesis 1-3 and John 1.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
Compare this to the recitation of the Norse Viking creation myth:
Philosophically, the Norse creation myth lacks what the Jewish creation account has: God speaking and creating through His Word (John 1). This makes the universe into a rational construct. It isn’t the recycling of a giant’s mutilated body. It is the result of the spoken word. A word goes forth from God and “bang” there is space and time.
It is remarkable how well our scientific knowledge about the expanding universe maps on to the account in Genesis. Even the progressive creation of the vegetable and animal species lacks the fantastical accounts.
The Norse myths are fun but I don’t see how a modern man could honestly assent to them – even in an extremely allegorical way. Meanwhile the account in Genesis, with man formed from the earth, is quite on point.
I’m writing a commentary on Romans for the New Saint Thomas Institute, and I’ve been going over his passages on salvation and damnation. I’m certainly not the first to notice it, but Paul never once mentions “hell” or “hades” or “gehenna” in his epistles. This is interesting, because our Lord Jesus Christ speaks about hell all the time. Yet Paul does not mention the word once.
Don’t take this too far. Saint Paul speaks plenty of human damnation and believes in punishment in the afterlife. For example:
“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed…But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Rom 2:5, 8)
“If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Gal 1:8-9).
“He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among those who have believed.” (2 Thess 1:8-10)
“All will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” (2 Thes 2:12)
My belief is that Paul is does not use the language of “Hades” because it conjures ideas of Homer and Virgil in Roman audiences. And he does not use the language of “Gehenna” because it’s an exclusively Jewish idea. So “eternal condemnation” and “fire” are his favorite categories for Gentile audiences.
There is a lot of crazy stuff on the internet (and bookstores) on Saint Paul. If you want a concise Catholic commentary on all the writings of Saint Paul, please check out this book: The Catholic Perspective on Paul.
Saint Athanasius rightfully taught us that the Word/Son of the Father is the rational principle that holds the entire created universe together. For this reason, the Word cannot be created. He stands over creation from all eternity.
Check out this profound insight from Saint Athanasius about the relationship between the Word of the Father and the created universe:
He is God, the living and creative God of the universe, the Word of the good God, who is God in his own right. The Word is different from all created things: he is the unique Word belonging only to the good Father. This is the Word that created this whole world and enlightens it by his loving wisdom. He who is the good Word of the good Father produced the order in all creation, joining opposites together, and forming from them one harmonious sound. He is God, one and only-begotten, who proceeds in goodness from the Father as from the fountain of goodness, and gives order, direction and unity to creation. (Discourse Against the Pagans)
Consider the most complicated mathematical problems, the rate of gravity, the structure of DNA sequences, the speed of light, the chemical compounds of substances, the expanding universe, etc. All these things are designed, controlled, measured, and governed constantly by the divine Word of God.
Even before Christ entered the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, He was perfectly guiding and controlling the universe like a conductor over all reality.
But the Son of God does not simply govern over. He is not merely a conductor of trillion piece orchestra. He is also intimately present in every person, instrument, note, chord, and sound. He lives and moves in all of creation as the rational binding principle of everything. Here is Saint Athanasius again:
The almighty and most holy Word of the Father pervades the whole of reality, everywhere unfolding his power and shining on all things visible and invisible. He sustains it all and binds it all together in himself. He leaves nothing devoid of his power but gives life and keeps it in being throughout all of creation and in each individual creature.
This is not “pantheism,” which is the heresy that “God is everything,” or that “my pencil is God, and my table is God, and that tree is God.”
Rather, this is the Christian mystery of Word of God as the measure, ratio, and animator of every single created element and force in the universe.
While we enjoy our lives and our salvation through the Son of God Jesus Christ, He is also tending to that black hole light years away, and perfectly spinning the 69 (known) moons of Jupiter. He delights in the presence of the Father as He builds and holds the galaxies (and the molecular structure of your lunch) together.
We Christians rightly focus on the historical Jesus Christ as the Crucified Rabbi who died and resurrected for our sins, but we should also follow the awe of Saint Athanasius in seeing Him as the personal order of everything that ever was, is now, and ever shall be.
The modern feminist/socialist objects to the traditional Israelite structure of the family: the male father is the head of the wife and the children.
Instead, we observe the media’s depiction of the father is a comical dolt. The children laugh at him. The mother goes around his back. Sitcoms and films are replete with foolish fathers who justify the claim that there is no hierarchy in family.
Society tells all men to “man up” and marry but as soon as he does, he is presumed to become an embarrassing caricature of manhood, as someone resembling Homer Simpson or George McFly from Back to the Future:
We find the perfect familiar order (and corrective to our times) in the Holy Family, which conforms perfectly with divine law and natural law. Moreover, God in providential irony set up the Holy Family so that the most wise and meritorious members of the family submit to the less wise and meritorious.
Here’s the breakdown:
Jesus Christ (Divine Logos and Son of God) submits to Mary and Joseph.
Mary (Immaculate Conception and Mother of God) submits to Joseph.
Joseph (neither divine person like Christ nor immaculate like Mary) is the Head of Holy Family.
If merit, grace, or dignity were the criteria for leadership and headship, clearly it would be Joseph at the bottom of the leadership chain. But not so. God honors the natural order of fathers in the family and he recognizes Joseph as the leader. Although Joseph is least gifted and least worthy, he is nonetheless submitted to and obeyed by the Divine Jesus and the Immaculate Mary.
Children often test their fathers: Is he truly a great man? Do I truly want to follow him? Wives do the same: Did I marry the right man? Is he the hero that chose me and swept me off my feet or is he George McFly?
We all question our leaders. For this reason, fathers should strive to be excellent and fulfill their mission in life. This earns respect from wives and children. It quiets their worries about whether he is the great man that they hope him to be. However, no man is perfect. Jesus and Mary were greater than Joseph, and yet they were patient with him as he understood less than they did.
If any man in history were comparatively outclassed by his wife and child, it was Saint Joseph. This is an example to all families. The father of the home should be honored as the head of the wife and head of the family – even if he is less holy, less wise, less prudent, less pious than his mother and children: because that was once the case with Saint Joseph.
No doubt, the comments will be filled with testimonies such as: “My father was evil and he did XYZ.” I grant that these deep fractures exist in countless famliies. There are fathers out there that earn a score of F-.
But let’s be honest, many (most?) fathers out there are scoring As, Bs, and Cs on their report card. They work hard. The pay for Christmas. They tell bedtime stories. They play catch and teach children how to swim. They pay for insurance and health care. They fix the car. They live the faith. They take the family to church. They spend time investing in their children. They respect and love their wives. They are the oak.
So if your husband/father is scoring a B+ in your mind (and you think you’re scoring an A+), be like Mary and Joseph and honor him anyway as chosen by God to be your unworthy leader. The soul of a man is fueled by respect. I have no doubt that the soul of Joseph was rocket-boosted to highest heaven by the fuel of respect poured into him by his betters: by his wife Mary and his foster son Jesus.
Happy Feast of Holy Family. May Jesus protect all families from the Devil and from the Herods of the world,