Total Eclipse of the Sun in 0029

A bird flies in front of a partial solar eclipse in Jerusalem photo credit REUTERS

Luke 23:44&45 “It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining.”

This a short piece which constitutes little more than a footnote. The interested reader will find it easy to reconstruct the events surrounding the crucifixion. I have not gone into the reported events narrated by Mark: ” And Jesus uttered a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. [39] And the veil of the Temple was rent in two, from the top to the bottom.  [Mk 15:37].  But no doubt some will wish to refer to this also.

As is the case of many biblical and ancient narrative, it is often difficult to separate literary convention or what might now call propaganda from historical fact. It has proven to be often the case that a given narrative requires more than a bit of effort to discover the intended message and the facts of the matter. Religious texts are,  as often as not, metaphorical. Indeed, the idea of a completely objective history is a fairly modern invention and not without its own problems. It has yet to be seen whether humans are capable of perfect objectivity.

Nevertheless, there are some physical, astrological events such as we saw in the Star of the Nativity, that can be verified, albeit with a pinch of scepticism. The story, told in three of the four Gospels, of the darkness that came upon Jerusalem when Jesus was on the cross, fits nicely with other biblical tropes of a celestial darkness as a symbol of a spiritual reality. I’m not a dedicated biblical scholar and have little interest in the minutiae of the text at this time, as it does not serve our immediate purpose.

Many scholars have fallen victim to the expected date of the crucifixion,m which we associate with Passover and sure enough, there was an eclipse in that general temporal vicinity. That was the Total Eclipse of March 0033 March 19 (Saros 59)

Naturally, ancient and medieval Christians considered this to be a miracle and there was a widespread belief that this event was one of a few in the New Testament were confirmed by non-Christian sources;. However, modern scholars have discovered no contemporary references to it outside the New Testament. itself. 

The Total Eclipse of the Sun in 0029 November 24 was quite a spectacle as shown by the image below. The path of totality, shown by the red swath, crossing from the Near East to the Straights of Hormuz and beyond couldn’t be missed. However, it is almost four years prior to the estimated date of the crucifixion.

It becomes increasingly apparent that this is the eclipse referred to, but that was not as an actual event in 0033. It is a widespread convention in Eclipse lore that momentous events are ‘foreshadowed’ four years prior to the cataclysm. This is a misconception based, I think, on two famous eclipses that were in fact approximately of 4 mins duration. The great eclipse of 1910 is case in point and was said to have been a presage of the onset of WWI.  However, the eclipse in May of that year which is credited was only visible from the Southern Hemisphere and with the exception of Austrailia was not seen in any of the of countries associated with the war that broke out in 1914. 90 was one of the years that Halley’s comet visited us and perhaps the significance of the eclipse was later conflated with that.

If this is the case, and it is difficult to argue with on the grounds of the eclipse itself, the fact that none occurred anywhere near Passover, the passage wherein the light is extinguished may very well have been a literary convention looking back to the eclipse of 0029. This merging of physical events with spiritual significance is by no means rare in ancient narratives. The core symbolism of the eclipse of the luminaries, particularly of the Sun, is the death of a great light. That would certainly include the “light of the world.”