I gave the following address at Emerson College on December 24th 2017, during the Christmas Festival organised by the Anthroposophical Society in Sussex. Since I first got to know the Oberufer Christmas Plays by acting in them some years ago, I’ve been aware of the timeless wisdom that they contain about human beings and our situation here on Earth. As I’ve referred to some of these themes in earlier blog posts, I apologise for the repetition here; but partly excuse myself because I have added some further thoughts in this address.
Throughout the Advent period and up until the end of the school Autumn term, teachers and other staff in Steiner Waldorf schools around the world are to be found busy in rehearsals for one or more of three Christmas plays, which they perform as a kind of gift to the pupils, their families and friends over the holiday period.
These plays – the Paradise Play, the Shepherds’ Play and the Kings’ Play – are known as the Oberufer Christmas Plays, after an island in the Upper Danube where these plays were first noted down and collected by one of Rudolf Steiner’s university professors, Karl Julius Schroer.
For those of you who’ve not come across them before, what are these plays about? The first one, called The Paradise Play, is quite short and tells the story as described in the book of Genesis of the creation of the world and the subsequent expulsion from Paradise of Adam and Eve, after they had succumbed to Satan’s strategem to get them to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the one tree in the Garden of Eden that God had forbidden to them. Today, Christmas Eve, is I believe called the Feast of Adam and Eve in the Catholic Church, and the Christmas tree, of which we have a lovely example here, is sometimes called the Paradise Tree, and it represents the Garden of Eden. The Paradise Play is usually performed just before Christmas together with the second play, the Shepherds’ Play, which tells the story of the proclamation of the Birth of Jesus to the shepherds in the field. This is the nativity story as told in the Gospel According to St Luke. We’ve recently seen a performance of the Shepherds’ Play at Michael Hall school on 14th and 15th December. The third play, the Kings Play, tells of the visit of the three wise men, the Magi , to the birthplace of Baby Jesus, and then of the murderous atrocities of Herod in his attempt to destroy the boy he assumed would take over his throne, and it is traditionally performed on 6th January, the feast of Epiphany. This is the nativity story as told in the Gospel According to St Matthew.
Of course, Christmas in our own time has become a secular rather than a religious holiday – you’ve probably noticed that many people now prefer to say “Season’s Greetings” rather than “Merry Christmas.” I saw recently a cartoon in a newspaper, which showed two people looking at a nativity scene in a shop window. One person was saying to the other: “Now that’s what I call really tasteless, bringing Jesus into Christmas!”
But there was a time when Christmas was not primarily about over-indulgence and conspicuous consumption. For Rudolf Steiner, who grew up in the rural Austro-Hungarian villages during the latter part of the 19th century, Christmas was still a time which was not primarily about consumerism, but was instead a festival when love, philanthropy and what you might call “right living” was given a fresh impetus in human hearts. As Christmas approached, these villages were suffused by a mood Steiner later described as a kind of magical breath that filled the homes and streets with joyful, hopeful anticipation. Even the poorest peasant householder would dedicate a corner of their dwelling to a nativity scene made from figures they had carved themselves from wood.
As a boy, Steiner would see these nativity scenes when visiting his neighbours. It’s easy for us to forget that he was born into the rural working-class and this was the milieu in which he grew up. As an adult, he expressed his empathy with poor working people as a natural result of having grown up among them. The villagers of Steiner’s childhood not only decorated their homes with nativity scenes but they also took part in traditional seasonal pageants. On Christmas Eve they would re-enact the biblical stories of Adam and Eve and the expulsion from Paradise; and on Christmas Day the story of the Shepherds as told in the Gospel of St Luke. Despite their simple settings, props and costumes, the villagers took these plays very seriously, with preparations beginning at the end of the harvest season and with rehearsals taking place by lantern and candlelight. The actors were men and boys only, including those playing the roles of Mary and the angel. Those taking part in the plays had to observe certain rules and uphold high moral standards.
Steiner tells us that from his own observations of knowing the people involved, there were what he calls “utterly good-for-nothing fellows who would not dare to be dissolute as the days shortened. At Christmas time those who were invariably the most quarrelsome, quarrelled less and those who quarrelled only now and then stopped quarrelling altogether. A real power was active in souls at that time of the year and these feelings abounded everywhere during the weeks immediately before the Holy Night.” Steiner went on to say that “anyone who has lived among village people knows what the first rule of conduct signifies. The first rule was that during the whole period of preparation none of the actors might visit a brothel.” (I trust that the Waldorf teachers today are showing similar restraint.) A second rule was that no-one was allowed to sing bawdy songs or get drunk and the boys taking part were expected to be God-fearing and be capable of absorbing into their character the essence of the Christmas mood. The actors were also obliged to learn how to speak in strict rhythm and rehearse every movement and gesture in minute detail.
So when in later life Steiner was introduced to the Oberufer Christmas plays by his university professor Karl Julius Schroer, he immediately recognised what he described as the same “warm, magical breath of the Christmas mood” that he remembered from the village plays of his childhood. Schroer had collected these three plays in the local dialect from the island community of Oberufer in the Danube, where they had been performed for hundreds of years. Nowadays, as I mentioned, these plays are performed during the Christmas season at Steiner Waldorf schools around the world.
I think we can be fairly sure that Steiner further adapted Schroer’s texts of these plays. We may also assume that Steiner brought out and strengthened the ancient wisdom inherent in the plays. Now Steiner was perhaps one of the busiest people there has ever been – he must have been under greater time pressure than any of us can imagine, as the work he packed into his 63 years would have been more than enough for ten ordinary people. And yet we know that he gave much time and attention to the rehearsal and production of the plays at Dornach, and he provided a spoken introduction to every performance whenever he could. So what was it about these plays that was important enough to make Steiner want to attend hundreds of rehearsals and many performances over the course of his years at Dornach?
When I worked in a Steiner school and sometimes took part in these plays, I found there to be a special, intangible quality about acting in them. It may sound fanciful but I experienced this almost as a blessing, a sense of grace. I found this particularly to be the case when playing Balthasar in the Kings’ play, but also when playing God in the Paradise play (typecasting, some might say). Of course, those playing the Devil or Herod might have quite a different experience!
There is real wisdom in each of these plays and the text repays careful study and attention. Take the Paradise Play, for example, and the final speech that God makes just after Adam and Eve have been cast out of Paradise and after he has rebuked Satan for beguiling Adam and Eve into tasting the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. It’s both powerful and thought-provoking:
“See now this Adam, such wealth he has won
Like to a god he is become
Knowledge he has of Evil and Good
He can lift up his hand on high
Whereby he liveth eternally”
I was playing the part, so I had to try to make sense of these lines. They reminded me of an earlier scene in the play, just after God has created Adam, and is showing him the Earth for the first time. God says to Adam:
“The earth with hills and mountains steep
I give thee – fishes of the deep and
Birds of Air, that by this hand I made,
I give to thy command.
Share thou with me my domination
And be the lord of all creation.”
God is inviting Adam to become a co-creator, the steward of the Earth, although a steward who is so far lacking in the wisdom to run things properly.
So what do those last two lines I quoted earlier mean, when God says that Adam “can lift up his hand on high, Whereby he liveth eternally”? Through Satan’s cunning, Adam has acquired premature knowledge of good and evil, before he was evolutionarily ready to take this on, but in doing this, Adam has also taken on the potential to become a god.
The image of Adam lifting his hand on high (and surely it’s his right hand he lifts) reminded me of a king with orb and sceptre. Picture a king with a sceptre in his right hand, which is used for directing and willing and with the orb in his left hand, which is used for receiving and holding – so Adam has become like a God or a co-creator with God and who now must learn to use his power with wisdom, which implies that there will be all kinds of painful lessons to be learned as mistakes are made along the way. And isn’t that a perfect image of humankind today, as we grapple with cloning and nuclear energy and genetic modification and all kinds of new technologies? We have the godlike powers but we are still trying to learn the godlike wisdom to use them properly.
What lies behind these plays? We could perhaps say that the Paradise Play is to do with the forces of Will, depicting as it does the beginning of Humankind.
We might say that the Shepherds’ Play is about Feeling and the light that gives warmth to simple shepherds’ hearts. It’s about empathy, the wisdom of the heart, the caring for one another that the birth of Jesus will reinforce and strengthen throughout the world.
And we could say that the Kings’ Play is about Thinking – and indeed it seems to me the play most closely aligned to anthroposophy, because the Three Kings are a kind of image of the seeking after of higher spiritual knowledge or the truths of esoteric Christianity. The Kings’ Play is traditionally performed at Epiphany on 6th January.
Epiphany comes from a Greek word meaning “manifestation” or “vision of God” and in the Christian tradition it refers to the visit to the newborn Jesus child in the stable at Bethlehem by the Three Kings; or in other words, the revelation of God the Son as a human being to the Three Kings or Magi. Epiphany is sometimes called the Festival of the Three Kings for this reason, and Rudolf Steiner had some interesting things to say about it. He said that in our present time less importance is attached to Epiphany than to the Christmas festival itself but in the future, Epiphany will assume greater and greater significance as we begin to understand its symbolism.
The Shepherds’ Play and the Kings Play are telling us of two proclamations of the birth of Jesus: the Shepherds’ Play shows us that one proclamation is made to the shepherds in the fields, as told in the Gospel According to St Luke; while the Kings’ Play shows us the proclamation made to the three Magi from the East, who follow a star leading them to the Jesus child. This is the Nativity as related in the Gospel According to St Matthew.
So these plays are showing us two ways in which higher knowledge came to exceptional individuals in earlier times. Individuals such as the simple shepherds in the fields who with their great purity and kindness of heart still possessed a certain power of clairvoyance that came over them like a dream.
And the Kings’ Play shows us that there were individuals who had reached the heights of learning, like the three Magi from the East, in whom the ancient faculty of gazing into the how and why of cosmic happenings had been preserved.
Let’s take a closer look at the knowledge possessed by the three Magi. It’s clearly indicated in the Kings’ Play that these Magi (another word for spiritual masters or initiates), were able to read the secrets of the movements of the stars. This ancient knowledge of the secrets of the stars also contained the secrets of happenings in the world of human beings.
Steiner posed the question: “What has become of the wisdom possessed by the Magi?” And his answer was that it has become the mathematical astronomy of today. However, unlike today’s astronomers, the Magi were able to gaze at the world of the stars, not only with their eyes but also with their inner vision and their esoteric knowledge and thus they were able to see the secrets of the universe and of humankind. In a way we can scarcely understand today, the Magi could also perceive the stars talking to them. However in our present age, today’s mathematics has become pure abstraction, says Steiner, but he also says that the same forces that are unfolded in mathematical thinking can again be filled with life, enriched and intensified in imaginative perception. Then, from our own inner forces, we can once again behold the heavens through inner perception, inner vision, as the Magi discerned the secrets of the Christ child.
Perhaps it is thoughts like these that prompted Steiner to give the following meditative verse at Christmas 1923:
The stars once spoke to Man.
It is world destiny that they are silent now.
To be aware of this silence
Can become pain for Earthly Man.
But in the deepening silence
There grows and ripens
What Man speaks to the stars.
To be aware of this speaking
Can become strength for Spirit Man.
In our present age, the verse seems to suggest, we need to recognise that the spiritual world has withdrawn from us in order to advance the next step of our own evolutionary journey. In Steiner’s account of how humanity is evolving, since the 15th century we have lost the atavistic sense of clairvoyance which we used to have, and thus lost our awareness of the connection with the spiritual world. This was a necessary but very dangerous step in the evolution of humankind. It was necessary because as humans we have the unique privilege of developing freewill, which could only happen by entering an age in which our connection with the divine-spiritual beings and their will for our future appeared to be severed. And it was dangerous because this apparent severance from spirit existence has given the adversarial powers an opportunity they didn’t have before, which is to convince human beings through our science and technology that physical, material reality is the only reality; and thus to thwart our true destiny, which is to evolve, aeons from now, into what Steiner called the Tenth Hierarchy, a new angelic order of spiritual freedom and spiritual love.
But even in this present age we are not alone, however; help is all around us. We must find the courage and imagination to speak to the stars and re-establish our links with the spiritual world; but this time in full consciousness.
Turning to the Magi themselves, one of them is portrayed as a Moor, an African; the second as a white man, a European; and the third as an Asian from India. And about this Steiner says something which I find very moving (and which gives the lie to those misguided people who accuse him of racism):
“What must never be forgotten is that the proclamations to the Shepherds and to the Kings contained a message for all mankind – for the earth is common to all. In that the revelation to the shepherds was from the earth, it was a revelation that may not be differentiated according to nationality. And in that the Magi received the proclamation of the sun and heavens, this too was a revelation destined for all mankind. For when the sun has shone upon the territory of one people, it shines upon the territory of another. The heavens are common to all; the earth is common to all. The impulse of the ‘human universal’ is in very truth quickened by Christianity. Such is the aspect of Christmas revealed by the twofold proclamation.”
But there are two other kings in the Kings’ Play – Jesus and Herod. And they open up two different worlds before us: one which promotes the development of humanity in a good way; and the other world, which is served by the adversarial powers and in which Herod represents the diabolical element. Unlike Jesus, and unlike the three Magi, who are working out of love, or more precisely, who are applying the intelligence of their hearts to their knowledge of the stars, Herod is working out of the opposite of love.
What is the opposite of love? Not hate. No, the true opposite of love is fear. Herod is afraid. He is afraid of losing his throne to this new-born king, whom he assumes will be a temporal rather than a spiritual ruler. And out of Herod’s fear, and his ignorance of spiritual laws, he is willing to commit the most terrible atrocity imaginable: the mass slaughter of all boy-children in his kingdom under the age of two.
Actually, one feels almost sorry for Herod, who in his fear and ignorance is preparing a truly appalling karma for his future lives. In the play, Mary appears to Herod in a vision and tries to warn him about what he is doing to himself:
“Great King, to Mercy mend your mind
Lest grief come suddenly behind;
If so much guiltless blood you shed
What call you, King, on your own head?”
But Herod is not to be dissuaded from his terrible crime and orders his servants to kill all the children, “to make the children’s blood gush out.”
And at this point, I can’t help but ask myself what has changed in the last 2000 years? Still today we have rulers who are acting out of fear and ignorance rather than a heart-filled wisdom. A prime example is president Assad in Syria, where the death toll of his own Syrian people in the conflict is around 500,000, together with over 6 million internally displaced people and another 5 million seeking refuge abroad. We could multiply these examples in other conflicts around the world.
Why is this, I wonder? Why is it that so many politicians and leaders today still lack “the light that gives warmth to simple shepherds’ hearts, the light that enlightens the wise heads of kings?” Why are so many of them, to use a 19thcentury term that deserves to be revived, such moral imbeciles?
Whatever the answers to those questions, each of us can help to improve matters. None of us is powerless – our thoughts, our example, our prayers, our daily interactions with other people can all help to create a better future, even if the numbers of those working consciously for good sometimes seem like an impossibly diluted homeopathic dose within the great mass of humankind.
And of course, we can also go to see the Oberufer Christmas plays, to remind ourselves of what remains true and good in the face of evil. We’ve missed the Paradise, and Shepherds plays for this year, but we can still see the Kings Play, which is being performed at Michael Hall on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th January at 7.30pm; and then on Sunday 14th at 5.00pm.
Thank you for listening – very best wishes for a peaceful and restful time during these Holy Nights and in the New Year ahead.
33 responses to “The timeless wisdom of the Oberufer Christmas plays”
I have seen the plays several times in Europe and have been suitably impressed. Here in Argentina the plays are not performed (as far as I know) mostly because we are in mid summer here and the school year ends the beginning of December. I wonder if anywhere else below the equator (Australia, New Zealand) the plays are performed.
Christ, Frank. What does it mean to live in Argentina. Why would anyone want to live there unless they wanted to infuse the community about Rudolf Steiner?
Don’t you think that this is why you went there as an expatriate sometime in the 1950’s? It is all good. Jeremy is a great figure who had a past with parents who honored him as a son, and he got to experience these events in the threefold plays, which he is talking about today.
Personally, my experience is with two parents; one Christian, the mother of course, and the other an atheist, who suffered during wwii. The between story makes me want to thank Jeremy Smith for having wonderful parents, and why he can tell this story at Christmas.
Thanks Jeremy and thanks too Frank and Steve. i too am a Southerner, albeit born here. The Oberufer plays are new to me in their Steiner and Waldorf contexts but this piece immediately urges me to find a way to incorporate this wisdom into our hemisphere and our cultural life.
Dear Jeremy, you align Assad with Herod, is not this a media construct, a fable convenue to assist in further western expropriation of oilfields and pipeline routes? Or are you seeing Herod in his facial features?
Genie oil (directors including Cheney, Murdoch and Rothschild) has via Israel claims on oil leases extending into disputed territory in,…can you guess,..Syria? And has had for a few years!
To my mind the pre-emptive strike is the new embodiment of herodian fear.. ..It is incestuosly wed to megalomanic economic rapacity.
Are you aware of Docherty and MacGregor’s “Hidden History of WW1”? It confirms all Steiner’s indications about the great war and opens a window to the modus operandi that still continues to this day, globally.
I am pleased to make your aquaintance and wish you no offence,
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The Syrian situation has become so complicated that it doesn’t lend itself to a straightforward assignment of blame to one side or another. Nor do I have any illusions about the West’s capacity for utterly immoral actions in pursuit of oil or influence or arms sales etc. But I think it is fair to say that the present Syrian conflict had its origins in the Arab Spring uprisings which toppled the Tunisian and Egyptian presidents in 2011 and which then spread to Syria. That March, peaceful protests erupted in Syria as well, after 15 boys were detained and tortured for having written graffiti in support of the Arab Spring. One of the boys, 13-year-old Hamza al-Khateeb, was killed after having been brutally tortured. The Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded to the protests by killing hundreds of demonstrators and imprisoning many more. In July 2011, defectors from the military announced the formation of the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group aiming to overthrow the government, and Syria began to slide into civil war. The whole disastrous thing has grown from Assad’s initial Herod-style response to some protests from a few teenagers, so I feel that the comparison I made was valid. Steiner of course wanted anthroposophists to see the reality behind world events and the news headlines, but this is not always easy! There is of course much more that could be said – about Russia under Putin, about ISIL, about superpower rivalry and manoeuvring, about Israel etc. – but I don’t think that Assad can escape the lion’s share of the blame for what has happened in Syria.
There are many versions to everything these days – that’s the challenge of the consciousness soul, to find the needle of truth in the haystack of lies. Here is one version that tells a different story about Syria. I hope this link works for you – many of my links to other such documents are ‘ sorry, no longer available’.
PS – thanks for the post Jeremy – makes me wish we were living back in more innocent times, at least for the Christmas season.
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Thanks lilliana and jeremy for your contrasting explanations.
The things that come to my mind are; Wesley Clarke’s ” I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail” and the report he blew the whistle on, “take out seven countries in five years”. (early 2000s)
“Arab Spring” and “colour revolutions”,..they had me believing them for years,… maybe till Libya/gadafi details emerged,.. shedding an appalling light on the whole spectacle.
Nurse Nayirah’s “they took the babies out of the incubators, then took the incubators and left the babies to die on the cold floor” tears,….
the recent italian expose’ ,.. $5000 US for each of the maidan snipers,…
…. all of this fits with lilian’s newsbud video,….
the fall of the spirits of darkness,… supra human intelligence (scheming, plotting, double-crossing) ,,… power plays for the compromised,…heartless,.. but extraordinarily clever and deceptive.
Pilger’s point that the real war is on for our allegiances, once thats won, then the physical war has no opposition.
Ganser’s point that war and lies go side by side…
Mainstream (for profit) media having to comply with funders(advertisers)
Mainstream (public) media having to comply with government (and their funders)
These are some of the bigger picture things that are like stars in the firmament of my emerging world view. they seem coherrent.
Kind regards and best wishes for the new year.
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On the alternative version (contrasting explanation, fake news) of the Massacre of the Innocents in Kuwait in 1990:
“The Nayirah testimony was a false testimony given before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on October 10, 1990 by a 15-year-old girl who provided only her first name, Nayirah. ….
In 1992, it was revealed that Nayirah’s last name was al-Ṣabaḥ and that she was the daughter of Saud Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States. Furthermore, it was revealed that her testimony was organized as part of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait public relations campaign which was run by an American public relations firm Hill & Knowlton for the Kuwaiti government.” wiki/Nayirah_testimony
In reviewing your address again I cannot resist making a comment about an important distinction between the Shepherds Play, and the Kings Play. In truth, they are about two distinct Jesus boys. Obviously, tradition has combined these two plays, much as the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew tell of two specific children, but Christian theology has combined them into the one child born at the Winter solstice in Bethlehem to parents from Nazareth.
Thus, the Kings Play is truly about a child that is unknown to traditional Christian history, unless we pay heed to supersensible research. This is the Solomon Jesus child, who as Zarathustra at the time of Abraham, devoted himself to the physical-hereditary bloodline of the 42 generations. This would see his birth at the Summer solstice, and announced by a Star; a star that the Three Wise-men of the East saw and signified that the true King of the Jews had been born.
Now, these three can be found in the Book of Daniel, where they were certain so-called “Sons of Israel” who were initiated by that Chaldean teacher, Zarathos, and came out with new names, Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego. They survived the fiery furnace, which helped in converting King Nebuchadnezzar, c. 586 BC.
They reincarnated as Balthasar, Caspar, and Melchior, in order to eventually find and visit the reincarnated Zarathustra in his home in Bethlehem. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When they bypassed Herod on the way back to Persia, this caused Herod to invoke his decree to kill all male children two years and younger. So, the father, Joseph, took the boy and his mother, Mary, into Egypt for a time, until Herod was proclaimed dead, and then in returning to Bethlehem, received an inspiration to go to Nazareth instead, and that is how these two boys lived as neighbors for ten years.
Maybe Steiner didn’t want to disrupt the sentimental flow of the plays with specific nuances, but he certainly outlined the distinctions in his various lectures on the gospels, and the nature of esoteric Christianity. I love this time of year because it is deep. I almost feel buried with the earth.
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As Steve indicates it is wonderful to be able to contemplate the Christmas stories in the light of the insights Steiner brought.
It is a great blessing to know and see the plays performed. I did not get to see them this year but was blessed to hear Britten’s ‘Ceremony of Carols’ sung by the girl’s choir in St. Alban’s Cathedral. The last words of the piece are copied below.
“Deo gracias! Deo gracias!
Adam lay ibounden, bounden in a bond;
For thousand winter, thought he not too long.
Deo gracias! Deo gracias!
And all was for an appil, and appeil that he tok,
As clerkès finden weitten in their book.
Deo gracias! Deo gracias!
Ne had the appil takè ben, the appil takè ben,
Ne haddè never our lady, a ben hevenè quene.
Blessèd be the time that appil takè was.
Therefore we moun singen.
Deo gracias! Deo gracias!”
(Words: 15th Century Anon.)
A crude translation of the last 5 lines would be –
‘If the apple had not been taken, the apple not taken,
Then Our Lady would never have been Queen of Heaven.
Blessed be the time that apple was taken,
So let us sing,
Thanks be to God, Thanks be to God.’
I.e., without the initiative of Eve we would not have the Wisdom of Sofia to warm, guide and inspire us.
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Apparently, Herod the Great had died before the Nazareth child was born. Steinmann (2009) in particular has thought that Herod died in 1 B.C., and Herod’s heirs backdated their reigns to 4 or 3 B.C..
The two Jesus boys were born a few months apart; June and December. The child born in Bethlehem to parents from Nazareth, returned there immediately, according to the Gospel of Luke.
It was the child born in Bethlehem and remained in Bethlehem that was the focus of the three wise men, who first saw the star signifying birth, and then the movement some months later, signifying place of residence. This is what caused them to inquire of Herod, according to the Gospel of Matthew. So, we are looking at a time-span, and why Herod ordered the murder of all two year old boys and younger in Bethlehem and its environs. This is why the father of the Bethlehem Jesus was told to take his wife and child into Egypt for a time, and then in returning home after the death of Herod, was further inspired to go further into Israel [because of Archelaus], and make Nazareth the new home.
It is Jewish history that confounds all of this for the simple reason that when these two children were born a new age began, “Anno Domini”, and a veritable starting point for the incarnation of the Messiah, which would occur in 30 AD.
Thus, 1 BC can easily become 3 AD for the death of Herod. No one disputes that he died. Yet, even Josephus, the renowned Jewish historian who was born the year that Tiberius died, c. 37 AD, could find no evidence of a so-called “massacre of the innocents.” Yet, knowing about Caiaphas, High Priest at the time of Christ, we can gather why so much testimony of a living Christ no longer exists. His plot to make, “one man die for the nation”, failed miserably.
Still, John the Baptist, who was born six months before the Nazareth child, didn’t have to flee from Herod the Great, or, alternatively, was protected by the Jewish priesthood.
For Steiner the Bethlehem massacre was a matter of fact (‘this riddle will become intelligible’):
“The Jesus of St. Matthew’s Gospel was taken to Egypt by his parents, and John, supposedly, was born shortly before or about the same time. According to the usual view, John remained in Palestine, but in that case he would certainly have been a victim of Herod’s murderous deed. You see how necessary it is to devote serious thought to these things; for if all the children of two years old and younger were actually put to death at that time, John would have been one of them. But this riddle will become intelligible if, in the light of the facts disclosed by the Akashic Chronicle, you realize that the events related in the Gospels of St. Luke and St. Matthew did not take place at the same time.”
Herod was not informed by the Magi that they had seen the Star, signifying the birth of the true King of the Jews, until they were searching for a child of about two years of age. This is when Bethlehem was first determined by Herod’s priests to be the place where the child lived. Soon after they visited the child, the father, Joseph, took son and mother into Egypt for a short period of time.
Upon returning to Israel after Herod’s death, Joseph still felt that Bethlehem was not safe, and chose the town of Nazareth in Galilee to live.
The birth of John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus of Nazareth, and elder by six months, was in the hill country that surrounded Nazareth. His birth went entirely undetected. Jesus of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem because of the census required, but returned to Nazareth to live. Never were these two in any danger; only the child who lived in Bethlehem, and taken to Egypt, and who would come to live in Nazareth, as well.
Doesn’t Luke 1:39 and 65 say Judea:
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.
65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things.
Steve, you stated: The birth of John the Baptist … was in the hill country that surrounded Nazareth. I read: in the hill country of Judea (Luke 1).
Suggested by Steinmann’s scholarly chronology of Herod’s death in 1 B.C., one evangelical harmonisation scheme of three children with traditional birth dates would be:
Jan. 6, 1 B.C. Birth of the Bethlehem child, and Flight into Egypt (Matth. 1)
Jan. 10, 1 B.C. Herod’s death (lunar eclipse) in Jericho
Jun. 24, 1 B.C. Birth of John the Baptist in the hill country of Judea (Luke 1)
Dec. 24, 1 B.C. Birth of the Nazareth child in Bethlehem, and return to Galilee (Luke 1)
Yet, Steinmann’s chronology obviously takes no account of Matthew: 2. It is clear, in closely reading this chapter, that an interval of time proceeds from the first seeing of the star, until the magi visit a small boy in Bethlehem, and then decline to tell Herod of the home. Joseph has been alerted by now to take child and mother into Egypt.
Four days from the birth of Jesus to the death of Herod?
Rather remarkable, I think, is the pace of birth events in Matthew’s account, separated by two dreams (two nights) in 2:12 and 2:13 (and later in 2:19). And, from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is only 9 km. The described time span could be four days.
For Herod’s death in 1 B.C., see the CC priest Ormond Edwards (1972), and already the scholars Florian Riess (1880) and Emil Schürer (1896) in Steiner’s time.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways;
80 And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
Chapter two of Matthew covers two years time. An infant was not taken into Egypt, but rather, a two year old child.
16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.
Distance from Bethlehem to Egypt is 400 miles. On foot, that would take several weeks. It is here that Joseph was informed of the death of Herod, and the threat of Herod Archelaus.
Yes, the ‘two years’ (“in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi”) would be a next issue. It seems to refer to: “We saw his star when it rose …” (Matth. 2:2) and “… the exact time the star had appeared.” (2:7), not to the actual age of the child.
Apparently, for Steiner it was a spiritual star: “What had come to pass physically through Abraham is now re-enacted spiritually. The star which the Magi follow moves in spiritual fashion along the path once travelled by Abraham. Etc.” GA0117/19091109
The Magi spiritually saw the star, when it rose in Chaldea, two years before their arrival in Jerusalem and before the birth of the child (“until the star stopped” 2:9). Herod’s day of death was undetermined (“… until the death of Herod” 2:15 and “After Herod died, …” 2:19), and his successor was only known in Israel (2:22).
It can be shown astronomically that on 17 June 2 BC, a close alignment of the planets Jupiter and Venus [occult Mercury] took place. This is what the Magi first saw as a kind of stationary star; the partial occlusion of two planets. And this signified that the King of the Jews had been born.
Several months later, maybe eighteen months even, one of the members of this alignment, Jupiter, began to move in the evening sky, and they saw this as the sign that would take them to the place where the child lived. Now, it takes Jupiter 12 years to make an entire revolution of the ecliptic, and so by the time that the Magi began to actually follow the planet, it had entered the sign of Leo, and this compelled them to seek out Herod in Jerusalem to find out from his priests where the child would be found, i.e., Bethlehem. What made the house stand out as the one was Jupiter in the sign of Leo with the bright star Regulus giving an added brilliance. They entered a house where a blond-haired two -year old boy was sitting on his mother’s lap.
Was it blond- or dark-haired?
The well-known astronomical Martin-Larson chronology (conjunction of Jupiter and Venus on June 17 of 2 BC), connected to the birth of the Bethlehem child, complicates things further. When Herod died early in 1 BC (Riess, Edwards, Steinmann), the following birth of John the Baptist and the birth of the Nazareth child would be very late and not ‘a few months’ later, as Steiner indicated in view of Herod’s atrocities.
“The Nathan Jesus was born after the Bethlehem massacre; so too was John. Although the interval was only a matter of months, it was long enough to make these facts possible.”(GA0114/19090919)
Luke 2 begins with the pivotal moment:
“Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.”
This census was for the purpose of marking the beginning of the new age of “anno Domini”, and wherein the two Jesus boys were born. Luke 1 indicates that in the days of Herod, King of Judea, the birth of John, and the birth of Jesus of Nazareth were foretold. Thus, Herod was alive when these births occurred.
What makes this all problematical is the resistance of the Jews to accept the transition from 1 BC to the new era of A.D., or ‘Anno Domini’, the year of the Lord. Emperor Augustus correctly saw the beginning of a new age on earth, and this is why the census was being conducted. Josephus is a good example of a latter-day Jewish historian determined to erase any evidence of the advent of Christianity at this turning-point of time. Because the evidence of Herod’s massacre of the two-year old’s had already been destroyed, this also has the effect of obscuring when Herod died. Of course, Josephus writes elaborately of Herod’s funeral! This is called: “history retained”.
Rudolf Steiner makes a fundamental error in reading the akashic record here:
“The Nathan Jesus was born after the Bethlehem massacre; so too was John. Although the interval was only a matter of months, it was long enough to make these facts possible.”(GA0114/19090919)
There can be no doubt that Jesus of Nazareth lived in Nazareth for about two years before the Solomon Jesus child was brought there. They then grew up as neighbors for ten years. This is corroborated by Steiner’s later lectures, The Fifth Gospel, GA148.
…who was “engaged” to him and who was with child…” A loaded translation. (Emil Bock wrote: “…mit Maria seinem Weibe” Weibe can mean woman or wife; in this case obviously wife. Even if she had become pregnant before copulation (“sin”), Joseph certainly would have married her by then.
“Thus, Herod was alive when these births occurred.”
In Edward’s Herodian chronology, Herod was alive during these proclamations (Luke 1), but he had died (on January 28 of 1 BC) when these births (in a priestly and in a royal family) occurred and the royal Bethlehem child returned from Egypt.
In the astronomical chronology the three births already had taken place in the year 2 BC when Herod was still alive. After Herod had died on January 28 of 1 BC, the royal Bethlehem family returned from Egypt. Following Steiner’s account, Herod’s atrocities then would have happened in the week between June 17 of 2 BC and the birth of John the Baptist on June 24 of 2 BC.
Conception and Birth of Solomon Jesus Child: Matthew 1:
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.
This family would go on to have six more children, all born by the normal bio-genetic process. They would eventually become step brothers and sisters of the Nathan Jesus, who would be an only child, born of a virgin engaged to the carpenter Joseph of Nazareth.
I would like to congratulate the contributions of Ton Major and Steve Hale. It is a pity that everything they say does not escape from simple and vain historicism.
Well , the non-historicistic part here is the recognition of the anthroposophical framework of three births and two messiahs (Steiner, Edwards, Smith, Powell) or the acceptance of the standard academic view with one messiah (Riess, Schürer, Martin, Larson, Steinmann).
Dear Ton. You know: intelligence has great aspects to guide the soul. My opinion is that any display of intelligence should serve to predispose the personality to locate its forces in an active life, not in the dead story. We admit the validity of certain historical data, but these lose their validity when they become more important, since by insisting on them the possible links with the soul are simply lost.
(It is my opinion, not binding).
“In the Old Testament there are, for instance, two prophecies: one in the apocryphal Books of Enoch pointing more to the Nathan Messiah of the priestly line, and the other in the Psalms referring to the Messiah of the kingly line.” GA0114/19090919
There is only one messiah, who entered the prepared sheaths of Jesus of Nazareth at the Baptism. This is when the Zarathustra-Ego left Jesus after eighteen years [12-30], and became the “Master Jesus”, immortal and indestructible, ….
“Having indwelt the body of the Nathan Jesus from the twelfth to the thirtieth year, the Zarathustra-Ego was hence-forth outside that body and another Being descended into it. This happened, as all the Gospels relate, at the Baptism by John in the Jordan, when an Ego of untold sublimity entered into the Nathan Jesus in place of the Zarathustra-Ego.”
“Thus from the time of the Baptism, the Nathan Jesus was filled with the Christ Being as is indicated in the words contained in the earlier Gospel records: ‘This is my well-beloved Son; this day have I begotten Him!’ — meaning: the Son of Heaven, the Christ, is now begotten — ” GA114/19090921
Steiner continued his lecture (CW 114) with a description of ‘the other stream’, the historical Buddhism-stream (cf. the Shepherd’s Play):
“… for the Nathan Jesus-child had to be worked upon not only by the Zarathustra-Ego but also by the lofty spiritual power we have characterized as the Nirmanakaya of Buddha. From the child’s birth until his twelfth year this power worked chiefly from outside.”