Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Missing Years of Jesus

Last week, Roger posted an interesting question about Jesus.  He said, "Why is it we celebrate his birth and then nothing is said or written about him until he is an adult?  Or did I miss something along the way?"

I've had similar thoughts from time-to-time and so have other people over the years, so I figured I'd share what I know.

There are really three questions Roger is asking.  The first is, why do we celebrate his birth?  This is a good question.  Early Christians didn't celebrate his birth, they celebrated his resurrection from the dead.  Certainly the early Jews did not celebrate birthdays (and their lunisolar calendar makes it difficult to do so anyway with leap months and all).  The early Christians didn't celebrate the birth dates of saints, preferring instead their death dates, so since virtually no one was celebrating birthdays, it makes sense that the calendar date of Jesus' birth wasn't recorded.  We do know from the Bible that he probably wasn't born December 25.  It's recorded that shepherds were keeping watch over their sheep at night, which in Israel it's too cold to do most Decembers.  Using other markers like the birth of John the Baptist, the Roman census, etc., it's probably safe to assume that Jesus was born during the months of August to September.  So why December 25?  Well, the pagans had their feast day of Saturnalia that day and the Roman Catholic church wanted to put a stop to it, so they kind of party crashed Saturnalia and in the year 440 proclaimed the birth of Jesus to be the same day.  Many dissenting Christians (e.g., Protestants including Puritans) resented all the trappings and excesses, so they tended to shun the holiday.  In fact in parts of Colonial America it was against the law to celebrate the day as it had been earlier in Cromwell's England.  George Washington knew that the Hessian soldiers would most likely be drunk on Christmas, so he chose that day for a surprise attack (and to most American soldiers it was just another day).  Christmas got a big boost from Dicken's Christmas Carol and along with immigration from Europe, Americans began celebrating Christmas in larger numbers during the 1850s.  The answer to why we celebrate his birth and why we do it the way we do is probably just tradition of a modern origin.

Roger's second question (which was really combined with the first), which I'll paraphrase, was, why is nothing said of Jesus between the time he was born and the time he was an adult?  Actually, there are a couple of little snapshots of his life growing up if you look closely.  We know his family was from the town of Nazareth (in Northern Israel).  Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem (closer to Jerusalem) for a Roman census and when they got there Mary gave birth to Jesus.

Sometime before age two, the Magi (or wise men) from the East came to visit Jesus.  We know that it wasn't the night he was born since he was born in a manger (where the shepherds visited) and the Bible records that by the time the Magi visited Jesus, the family had moved from the manger to a house.

(More likely where the Magi were when Jesus was born)

(Less likely where the Magi were)

The word used to describe Jesus in Greek is "daidion" which is a young child and not a baby, which would have been the word, "brephos," so there was definitely a time lapse involved.  King Herod had earlier inquired from the Magi when they first started following the star and when he realized that they had departed the country without returning to him, he ordered the killing of all the young boys aged two and under in the town of Bethlehem, so we can assume that Herod believed that Jesus would have been two or younger.

(Herod was one crazy bad man)

Joseph had been warned by an angel that Herod was going to try and kill the baby, so the family fled ahead of the baby massacre to Egypt and the family lived there until Herod died.

Returning to Israel (when Jesus was a young child) after Herod's death, Joseph learned that Herod's son was ruling in his father's place, so the family settled away from Jerusalem back in Nazareth where they thought they would be more safe.

Jesus lived a pretty normal life in Nazareth, the son of a carpenter, probably learning the carpentry trade.

At age 12, there is an account of his family taking a trip to Jerusalem.  When it was time to go home, Joseph and Mary assumed he was traveling back with extended family, but when they couldn't find him among them, they returned somewhat panicked to Jerusalem and found him three days later in the Jewish Temple discussing theology with the elders.

There is a period of time in Jesus' life, from age 12 to age 30, so 18 years time, sometimes called the "lost years" or "missing years."  Most people don't realize that apart from his birth, almost everything Jesus is known for occurred between age 30 and 33.  The Bible doesn't tell us what Jesus was doing between age 12 and age 30, but we can assume that they were pretty ordinary considering that after Jesus had started his ministry (between 30 and 33) he returned to Nazareth where the people were wondering where the local boy they knew had acquired the ability to perform miracles and teach so well.

They said, "Isn't this the carpenter's son?  Isn't his mother Mary, and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?  And aren't all his sisters with us?  Where did he get all these things?"  Their reaction leads to a few natural assumptions on my part.  First of all, it appears from several places that Joseph, the father, was dead by the time Jesus was 30 and before he died, Joseph and Mary had other children (at least four other boys and at a minimum of two girls), Jesus being the firstborn of Mary.  Since he had spent the greater portion of his youth until age 30 just hanging out in Nazareth, he was known to many as Jesus the Nazarene.

Roger's last question, "Or did I miss something along the way?" is a pretty natural one.  Because Jesus is such an important figure in world history, it's pretty normal for people to want to have more information on his life.  There were four major books in the Bible written about Jesus' life (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).  Within a few hundred years, there were several fictional accounts written about Jesus by a group called the Gnostics.  Christianity has from its earliest day been open to everyone, but the Gnostics were into hidden knowledge or secret learning and creating some pretty wild stories about Jesus doing miracles as a kid fit their belief system better than the generally known account of Jesus.

Sometime in the future I'll have to talk about miracles, because that seems to be a big deal for some people, but miracles in the Bible seem to happen mostly around the times that new teaching is being revealed and then they seem to be less common at other times.  It seems as though Jesus may have performed no miracles for the first 30 years of his life and then performed many miracles in the three years he was actively teaching.

Love the questions in the postings on the blogs.  I try to read everything and will respond as I have time.  I really wish there were a better way to discuss ideas amongst posters on this blog.  As a teacher I really enjoy the teaching learning process.  I hope open and interesting thoughts keep coming.  Thanks, Roger.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Flood Leaves with Leaves

The other day, I posted some photos of Avila Beach covered in apples.  This was the result of a flooded orchard that had been stripped of its fruit with the resulting debris washing up on the beach in the same manner as seaweed.

We were back at Avila today and I noticed something equally odd.  I found a different apple orchard that had flooded, but instead of taking the fruit, the water had removed all the leaves from the trees, but left the apples on the branches.

This produced the very odd scene shown in these photos I took.  Rows upon rows of trees with only the fruit remaining.  It was so funny looking, almost like they were decorative topiaries instead of living plants.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Washington Crossing the Delaware

Most people are familiar with Emanuel Leutze's famous painting Washington Crossing the Delaware.  It commemorates the famous crossing of the river 234 years ago yesterday in preparation of his surprise attack on the Hessian soldiers at Trenton, New Jersey.

This morning, on the website Boston 1775, the less famous poem, Washington Crossing the Delaware, was highlighted.  The poem is a sonnet written in 1936 by David Shulman, an eccentric wordsmith and champion Scrabble player.  Here is his work:

A hard, howling, tossing water scene.
Strong tide was washing hero clean.
"How cold!" Weather stings as in anger.
O Silent night shows war ace danger!
The cold waters swashing on in rage.
Redcoats warn slow his hint engage.
When star general's action wish'd "Go!"
He saw his ragged continentals row.
Ah, he stands - sailor crew went going.
And so this general watches rowing.
He hastens - winter again grows cold.
A wet crew gain Hessian stronghold.
George can't lose war with's hands in;
He's astern - so go alight, crew, and win!

If you're like me, you're probably thinking, "So what!  I've read better poetry."  True, but the amazing thing about this work is it's an anagram (scrambled letters rearranged) of the phrase "Washington Crossing the Delaware," each and every line!

Shulman, the founder of the American Cryptogram Association, did all of this before computers could even assist him in his effort.  He was noted in his day for sending in corrections to the Oxford English Dictionary, considered the authority on the English language and it's origins.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


The mystery theme for today is "Savior of the world."

Who could I be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  All those who guess correctly and place their trust in him will be given eternal life.

Okay, obviously it's Jesus.  He fascinates me more than any other person in history.  His coming was foretold by Hebrew prophets hundreds of years before his birth, but he came in a most unusual way.  Born to a poor virgin in an insignificant corner of the Roman Empire, his arrival was overlooked by those who should have been watching, but announced by angels to shepherds in the night.

What I like about the picture above is that it seems a little more real to me than many of the tinseled renditions.  No glowing baby, no halo – rather dark and dirty and ordinary.  Most people didn't recognize Jesus as anyone special.  The Bible says there was nothing about his appearance to attract people to him, but many were drawn to him.  Full of compassion, he spent his life teaching people how to love God and each other.

Although normal in appearance, he spoke with authority and challenged the rich and powerful.  He claimed to be God in a human body and was mocked for his beliefs and yet he healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk, and brought the dead back to life.

He was loved by the unlovable and outcasts and was hated by the religious officials of his day.  He was falsely accused in the night, tried, and executed, but he willingly submitted to a humiliating and painful death, offering himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Proving himself to be God, he rose from the dead and then returned to Heaven promising to come again one day to judge the earth.

I know Jesus was probably not born on December 25, but I can't think of a more appropriate reason to celebrate a special day.

I would like to wish all my readers, but especially my regulars and posters, a most joyful and tender Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tobacco Mosaic Disease

Did you know that the first virus was discovered by the Dutch microbologist Martinus Beijerinck in 1898?  Beijerinck used filtration experiments to prove that something smaller than a bacterium caused tobacco mosaic disease in plants.

(Beijerinck in his lab)

The tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) infects a variety of plants including tobacco, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and many more, but does not infect animals.  It has been responsible for up to two percent of North Carolina's tobacco loss every year and is particularly terrible for greenhouse crop growers.

(Tobacco Mosaic Disease)

Although this virus has been known for over 100 years, recently scientists have discovered a new use for this terrible pathogen.  You see, TMV nanorods are the right size and shape to bond to lithium battery electrodes, thereby dramatically increasing the surface area of the electrode.  TMV is self-replicating, self-assembling and can bind to metal without a bonding agent.

So what does this mean in practical terms?  It may mean that we could produce batteries of the same size that can hold 10 times the charge.  Your cell phone could run for a week or more without needing to be charged.  You could use your laptop all day without plugging in and it could stay running in sleep mode for the better part of a year.  Environmentally, it means that we might need much less energy production for the same result!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rain Rain Go Away

More rain for us out here, 9.5 inches since Friday!  We're in the middle of some storm!  The governor has finally declared a state of emergency for our county.

Having three boys, we were going a little stir crazy, so we went out to check on the grandparents' home in Avila Beach as they're away visiting cousins in New Mexico.  Here are a few shots from that visit.

After checking on the house to make sure everything was okay, we took a quick swim in the community pool.  From the log book, it looked like no one had been to the pool in two days.

(Tim and Jonathan about to receive a surprise cannonball from their father)

We stayed until it started raining again, but before we got back to the house it hailed on us!  That's just a step away from snow!  So we took a quick trip down to the beach to check out the surf.

Along the way we caught a pretty nifty rainbow.

(Tim and Andrew above Avila Beach)

(Double rainbow over the yacht club)

Along the beach we encountered a sight I've never seen, thousands of washed up apples!

(Impromptu Christmas tree with apple decorations)

(Jonathan with his drift-gourd collection)

So we drove up the road to figure out where all the produce came from.  We eventually found the aptly named Creekside Farms.

(The source of the beached apples)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Times

It's still raining out here, so I went back to the attic and scanned one of my more favorite family photos out of the album.  These are my grandparents, Dick and Marymac.  I absolutely love the carefree pose.  I can't tell what event they were at.  It may be a Christmas or New Year Party as the nearby photos seem to indicate winter time.  It may also be a wedding, but I didn't notice any shots of the bride or groom.  Wherever they are, everyone seems to be having a ball!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Wet West Coast

Wow, we're getting some kind of storm!  The last couple days have seen more than 200% of our average monthly rainfall.

So much rain has come down so quickly that it's starting to flood the lower areas.  The boys got a big kick out of the bike path (now a swimming pond).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Salmon P. Chase

Congratulations to Mathan, winner of yesterday's contest!

Salmon Portland Chase was our Person-of-Mystery.  He's a bit of a historical asterisk as far as I'm concerned (although perhaps more appropriately he should be remembered as a semicolon, as I'll explain later).

There are a few interesting things about his life.  For starters, his name – Salmon Portland.  He would sound more like a fish if the names were reversed, but I digress.  If you think Salmon is an interesting name, his father was named Ithmar Chase, but Ithmar died when Salmon was nine years old, so Salmon was actually raised by his uncle, Philander Chase (an Episcopal Bishop).

(Philander Chase)

Salmon P. Chase fit the early profile of a career politician, good schools, law school, and move to Washington D.C.  In 1830 he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he continued to practice law.  Then in 1835, following the death of his first wife, Chase became more sincere about his religious faith and became involved in abolitionism and the defense of fugitive slaves.  Chase's position was that slavery was a state law and not federally supported, so if a slave left the jurisdiction of a slave state, he was then under the law of whatever jurisdiction he found himself.

His abolition work also found Chase a member of the Semi-Colon Club, a literary circle of writers in Cincinnati.  It was the Semi-Colon Club that inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe to write Uncle Tom's Cabin.

(Harriet Beecher Stowe)

Politically, Chase had a mercurial career.  Elected first as a Whig, in 1841, he became the leader of the Liberty Party in Ohio.  In 1848, he led the effort to combine the Liberty Party with the Barnburners and in 1849 he was elected to the Senate on the resulting Free Soil Party ticket.  By 1854 he was involved in trying to unite the Whigs with the liberal Democrats to form the Republican Party and was elected as the first Republican Governor of Ohio in 1856.  He was a nominee for President in 1860, but could not gain enough votes and eventually swung his support to Abraham Lincoln.  The same year he was returned to the Senate as a Republican, but resigned after three days to join the Lincoln Cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury.  Under his tenure, the first federal currency appeared, and Chase had his face put on the money in an effort to further his political career.  Although ambitious, he is also remembered for suggesting that "In God We Trust" be placed on our money.

(Chase on his $1 note)

Chase kept a diary during the Civil War years and his notes provide some of the best inside knowledge of the events around the Emancipation Proclamation.

(Lincoln Cabinet – Chase standing on left)

During his time under Lincoln, he continually tried to politically best Lincoln by thrice threatening resignation as Treasury Secretary.  Following the 1864 election Lincoln finally accepted his fourth threat, but to appease the Radical Republicans, he nominated Chase to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court after Roger Taney died.

Chase made an attempt to gain the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1868, but was again passed over.  In 1870, three years before his death he helped found the Liberal Republican Party.  He died in 1873 while still serving on the Supreme Court.

From 1929 to 1945, the United States issued high-denomination notes - primarily used in bank transactions.  Chase appears on the $10,000 note.  Starting in 1969, these bills were removed from circulation, but 336 $10,000 bills remain in circulation today.  I'm still hoping I accidentally get one in change sometime!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


The mystery theme for today is "Money."

Who could I be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  The first correct post will be declared the winner.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Japanese Occupation Currency

The other day, Mathan posted a comment asking if I'd ever seen Japanese Pesos.  This is the money that was printed by Imperial Japan for use in occupied Philippines during World War II.  My grandfather was a supply officer on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific and brought home a small collection of bills that interested him.

(Japanese Half Guilder)

Perhaps you noticed, this blog has a number of readers from the Netherlands, so instead of posting a Peso, I've decided to post a half guilder from the occupied Dutch East Indies.

(Japanese Half Guilder - Reverse)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Funny Money

Okay, so just the other day, I received a five dollar bill in change.  I was in a hurry and as the clerk was putting it in my hand and I just caught a quick glimpse of it.  I thought to myself, "Boy, I can't believe how quickly I forgot how different the old bills looked."

(Funny Fin - obverse)

When I had a minute, I took it out of my pocket and I finally figured out why it looked so odd, it was a 1950 series note.  Not altogether different before the last redesign, but just enough to seem funny to my eye.  According to the Internet, paper bills last about 19 months in circulation.  I wonder where this one was for so long.

(Funny Fin - reverse)

My kids got a kick out of checking it out.  One thing you might notice if you look closely, "In God We Trust," is missing.  That wasn't added until 1963.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Eadweard Muybridge

Yesterday's Person-of-Mystery was Eadweard Muybridge, a man whose life was full of genius, artistry, passion, adventure, murder, bitterness, curiosity, and betrayal – a flamboyant character that one contemporary described as "Walt Whitman ready to play King Lear."

Muybridge was born Edward Muggeridge, in Kingston upon Thames (in Southwest London), in 1830.  Over the course of his life, he changed the spelling of his name several times, eventually settling on Eadweard Muybridge.

In 1855, Muybridge immigrated to San Francisco, where he worked as a bookseller, but in 1860, he suffered a terrible head injury during a fall from a stagecoach.  For four days he lay in a coma and then for three months after awaking, he had double vision and could not smell, taste, or hear.  He returned to England between 1861 and 1866, during which time he learned photography.

(Yosemite Falls by Muybridge)

Returning to San Francisco he began a new career as a photographer and quickly gained a reputation for his landscape photographs.  Often using the pseudonym "Helios," Muybridge was one of the earliest photographers of Yosemite Valley (although much of his work were recreations of Carleton Watkins' slightly earlier photos) and these images would win Muybridge the gold medal at the Vienna exhibition in 1873.  Muybridge was served as the photographer of record for the US Army during the Modoc War.

(Muybridge photo of Albert Bierstadt painting indians in Yosemite)

The early 1870s would be a pivotal time in Muybridge's life and career.  In 1871, he met and married Flora Downs Shallcross, a 21 year old divorcee, and a former photography assistant.  Early the next year, he made the acquaintance of Leland Stanford, when he came to take photographs of his mansion.  Stanford was the wealthy former president of the Central Pacific Railroad, and former Governor of California, who had developed a keen interest in horse racing.  At the time, one of the most contentious issues of the day was if a galloping horse ever had all four legs off the ground at once.  Stanford took the position that the legs did leave the ground and hired Muybridge to try and prove it with his photography. Muybridge told Stanford, it couldn't be done (photography of the day required a typical 15 to 60 second minimum exposure), but Stanford believed that with enough money and effort, Muybridge could accomplish the task, a task that unbeknownst to either would eventually require five years and $50,000.

(Flora Muybridge)

Stanford became both friend and benefactor to Muybridge with Muybridge coming up with ideas and bouncing them off Stanford and Stanford directing Muybridge to try different approaches.  Muybridge was one of the few people who could call on Stanford unannounced and receive an immediate audience.

(Leland Stanford)

There were a number of setbacks in the equine research, apart from the technical aspects (which were daunting), was the birth of a son in April of 1874, Floredo Helios Muybridge.  Around the time of the birth, Mrs. Muybridge had formed an acquaintance with a certain Major Harry Larkyns, an English adventurer of sorts who had spent considerable time in Australia.  By all accounts, Larkyns was young, dashing, charming, the opposite of Flora's mature and business-like husband.  Becoming suspicious of Larkyns' friendship, Muybridge sent his wife and son to stay with Flora's mother in Portland, Oregon.

Within a short time, Eadweard received devastating news.  A female friend of Flora's came by Muybridge's studio and gave him some letters that Flora had mailed to her with the intent of her friend delivering the enclosed notes to Larkyns.  Naturally, Muybridge was sad and angry.  However, the crushing blow came when the same lady returned a couple weeks later with a new note.  This one contained a photo of his son which Flora had captioned, "Little Harry."  Muybridge openly wailed and wept and then collapsed in grief.

Larkyns was at the time working at the Yellow Jacket Mine where he was employed making a map of the Calistoga Mining District.  Muybridge took a train and wagon to Napa County where he arrived on the evening of October 18, 1874.  He proceeded to the hotel and called for Larkyns.  When Larkyns came down the hallway towards the front door, Larkyns approached him and said, "I have brought a message from my wife, take it!"  With those words he pulled a pistol on Larkyns and fired a shot through his heart dropping him instantly.

Muybridge was arrested and thrown in jail.  Hearing the news, his friend Leland Stanford organized and payed for Eadweard's defense.  His lawyers claimed that the injury Muybridge had received in the 1860 fall from the stagecoach had damaged his brain (proved by his altered demeanor since the fall).  Flora's clear betrayal had been too much for his weakened brain to endure.  The jury eventually tossed out the insanity defense, but ruled it justifiable homicide and declared Muybridge not guilty.

After the acquittal, Flora sued for divorce, but died of typhoid fever before the divorce case could be heard.  Muybridge, believing his son was not his own disowned him and placed him in an orphanage.  Perhaps tragically, in later years, many would remark on how Floredo bore an uncanny resemblance to his father Eadweard.  In an attempt to put the whole affair behind him, Eadweard took off on a photographic excursion of Latin America.

When he returned, Muybridge again set out to try and confirm Stanford's gait theory.  In late 1877, Muybridge was able to capture a photo of a horse with all legs airborne at Sacramento's Union Park racetrack, proving Stanford's theory.

(Animated Sequence of Muybridge Photos)

In 1878, Stanford invited the press to the Palo Alto Stock Farm, where Muybridge had rigged a series of cameras to wires set to expose Stanford's horse as it would break the tripwires.  The 21 cameras were positioned opposite a white canvas at a 20° angle marked with lines to show horizontal and vertical positioning.  The series of images was an immediate sensation.  Stanford was hailed as the man with the idea and Muybridge as the man who transformed Stanford's ideas into reality.

(Muybridge setting up at the Palo Alto track)

Soon, Muybridge took his photo sequences and applied them to a common toy called a zoetrope.  A zoetrope was a spinning disk with different drawn images creating the illusion of movement for one person.  Muybridge took his photos and had them applied to a glass plate that was then spun behind a projector allowing his photographs to be shown to a large audience.  His invention was dubbed the zoopraxiscope which many consider the forerunner to motion pictures.  Muybridge took his zoopraxiscope show on the road, wowing audiences first in America and then in Europe all paid for by Leland Stanford.


Then in 1882, Stanford financed and published a book that permanently ruptured the Stanford-Muybridge partnership.  The Horse in Motion as Shown by Instantaneous Photography was written by another of Stanford's friends, Dr. J.D.B. Stillman.  In the book, Muybridge's photos were substituted for drawings and engravings based on his photos.  Although it centered nearly entirely on Muybridge's work, he was left off the title page and only fleetingly referred to as a Stanford employee.

Muybridge felt as though Stanford was trying to rob him of his rightful recognition and sued in court over what he believed was an intentional slight.  The case was eventually thrown out, but the friendship never restored.  But public recognition of his work with Stanford had already landed Muybridge a two year study with a new benefactor, the University of Pennsylvania.  Using 36 cameras simultaneously, Muybridge and assistants photographed animals and people engaged in almost every conceivable activity.

(Muybridge with athlete)

He continued lecture tours through the 1890s, even delivering a series of lectures at Zoopraxigraphical Hall during the Columbian Exposition.  After the Columbian Exposition ended, he returned to England where he published several books on his photographic work and tinkered on a number of side projects.  He died in 1904 of a heart attack while digging a scale model of the Great Lakes in his backyard.

(Zoopraxigraphical Hall)

And just in case you happen to find yourself at the Tate Britain Museum in London, there is an exhibition of Muybridge's work on display until January 16, 2011.  The museum even created their very own free iPhone app that allows you to mimic his work with your own camera (downloadable HERE).