Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Moon turned to blood

“In the days of Herod”, it was noted that the mention of a lunar eclipse by Josephus has been used as a means of dating the death of Herod. Since this eclipse was the only eclipse mentioned by Josephus, it was suggested that this eclipse was particularly memorable because the moon had turned to red. Humphreys and Waddington state: “‘The moon turned to blood’ is a graphic description of a lunar eclipse.”[i] Their article also demonstrated that there was a lunar eclipse on Friday April 3, 33 CE that was visible from Jerusalem. This finding makes it possible to fix the date of the crucifixion[ii] because Luke described the occurrence of an eclipse at the time of the crucifixion. “The crowd on the day of Pentecost would undoubtedly understand Peter’s words, the moon turning to blood[iii], as referring to this eclipse which they had see.”[iv]

Gerald Hawkins, the American astronomer who 'decoded' Stonehenge, explains in simple terms what happens to the Earth's moon when it is totally eclipsed:
"As totality approaches, the moon moves further into the curved edge of the Earth's shadow. The sunlight is obscured and the moon appears to be swallowed in the darkness, but it does not disappear completely. During the total phase, the moon shines very faintly in a copper color, or sometimes, a blood-red hue. Poets have often referred to this coloration as a portent of disaster. The moon is shining by sunlight that has passed through the atmosphere of the Earth. Refraction bends the pale light into the dark shadow cone. The dust in the atmosphere of the Earth scatters away the blue light, letting only the red rays pass through. Because of the dust we see a red sun at sunset and a red moon during a total eclipse."

[i] Humphreys and Waddington, The Date of the Crucifixion, JASA 37 (March 1985), 2-10.
[ii] According to Finegan’s Handbook of biblical chronology: principles of time reckoning in the ancient world and problems of chronology in the Bible, (Princeton, 1964), there are only two possible dates for the crucifixion, viz. AD 30 and AD 33. Finegan was unable to decide conclusively between them.
[iii] Act 2:20 RSV the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day.
[iv] Humphreys and Waddington.

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