HISTORY OF THE DIET OF WORMS: MARTIN LUTHER ON TRIAL OVER 500 YEARS AGO
Over five hundred years ago today, April 17, 1521, Martin Luther appeared on trial before the most powerful ruler in Europe, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
While the name may sound unappetizing, the Diet of Worms was a formal imperial deliberative assembly in the German city of Worms called to have Martin Luther either reaffirm or renounce his teachings. In German, it’s called the “Reichstag zu Worms.”
Following Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Door on October 31, 1517, several debates, diets, and disputations occurred where Luther was unsuccessful in convincing the Roman Catholic Church of the correctness of his views. His excommunication in early 1521 removed him from communion with the church he had dedicated his life to 16 years earlier as a monk.
Today in Boston, Massachusetts, is the running of the Boston Marathon, beginning at the start line in Hopkinton at 10:00 AM and following the race route into Boston.
This is the oldest and longest-running (no pun intended) annual marathon event, at least in the Western World. It began in 1897, the year following the reintroduction of the marathon competition into the first modern Olympics in 1896. Due to United States’ involvement in World War I in 1918, a military relay race was held instead.
In 2021 the race featured only 20,000 runners due to the Coronavirus. In 2020, the event was virtual for the same reason. Otherwise, this large event typically features over 30,000 participants from all 50 states and over a hundred countries — and half a million spectators — and is one of more than 800 marathons held each year worldwide.
It differs from other marathons in that it requires a qualifying time from another marathon, run within a limited date range on a particular type of course. The Boston Marathon is held annually on Patriots’ Day — which used to be fixed on April 19, signifying the beginning of the Revolutionary War — but is now held on the third Monday in April.
This year, in an unprecedented action not seen since 2021’s unprecedented action, or the unprecedented action of the year before, the Internal Revenue Service has extended the deadline for Federal Income Tax filing for individual tax filers.
This year, instead of being due today, April 15, the new deadline for individual tax filers is April 18, but not because of the Coronavirus pandemic this time!
For those keeping track… and all accountants do: The April 15th deadline for individual tax returns was extended to July 15 in 2020 and May 15 in 2021.
HISTORY OF THE CIVIL WAR: FIRST SHOT?
On April 12, 1861, the first formal hostilities of the American Civil War occurred when Confederate troops attacked the military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina.
The Fort, located in Charleston harbor, was a coastal fortification built after the War of 1812 as part of the U.S. coastal fortification system. After over 30 years in the building, it still was not finished when the first attack rang out in 1861.
The First Shot of the Civil War
South Carolina had already declared its secession from the Union four months earlier. Repeated requests by the state for the federal soldiers to evacuate had been ignored. One last request on April 11 was declined, and nearby Fort Johnson opened fire on Fort Sumter. For 34 continuous hours, Confederate batteries fired upon Fort Sumter starting, it is reported, at 4:30 AM.
You may be asking yourself,
“Self,” you ask, “where are they now?“
And well you might ask. What happened to our players AFTER the events in the Easter story?
You may remember that I had said Antipas‘ taking his brother’s wife Herodias as his wife led to his ruin. It led to his exile and death. Her ambition pushed him where he would not have otherwise gone. Antipas’ nephew and Herodias’ brother, Herod Agrippa (who we meet in the New Testament book the Acts of the Apostles as one of the early persecutors of the new church) had spent and borrowed much money while he was in Palestine.
Herodias suggested that her husband Antipas help her brother Agrippa financially, but they argued. Agrippa lived much of his time in Rome and was a close friend of the future Emperor Gaius (the infamous Caligula). While riding in a chariot with Caligula, Agrippa commented that he could not wait until the then Emperor Tiberius was no longer Caesar so that Caligula might have his rightful place. A loyal slave overhearing this relayed it to Tiberius, who had Agrippa imprisoned.
The most joyous of Christian festivals and one of the first celebrated by Christians across the Roman Empire commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is set on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox.
Meaning of the word Easter
There are several theories about where we got the word Easter.
The first is that when Christianity reached the Teutonic peoples, it incorporated many of their heathen (“of the heath”) rites into the great Christian feast day, according to the Venerable Bede. He was a monk who wrote the first history of Christianity in England. Easter month corresponds to April. Bede suggested that it had been dedicated to Eostre, or Ostara, the Teutonic goddess of Spring and fertility. (more…)
For centuries pilgrims have walked the Via Dolorosa, “the way of sorrow” in Jerusalem, following the path Jesus took on Good Friday. Starting at the judgment seat of Pilate at the Antonia Fortress in the eastern part of the city immediately north of the Temple, the path follows 14 “Stations of the Cross” to the ultimate location at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of the crucifixion and burial.
Several years ago, I walked this road. Though historically anachronistic, some of these roads did not exist during the time of Christ; nevertheless, it leaves one with a profound sense of historical gravitas.
Crucifixion on Good Friday
Following Pilate‘s sentence, Jesus was led away to be crucified. Crucifixion was a form of torture and execution developed by the Persians between 300-400 B.C. and practiced by many ancient societies, including Carthage, India, Scythia, Assyria, and Germanic tribes. The Phoenicians were probably the first to use a transverse cross beam rather than just an upright stake in the ground. From the Phoenicians, the Romans adopted this practice as the primary means of execution of rebellious slaves and provincials who were not Roman citizens. (more…)
THE TRIAL OF JESUS
Beginning Thursday night and extending into Friday morning of Holy Week, the trial of Jesus, which led to his crucifixion, was, in reality, a series of about half a dozen trials distributed across several locations in Jerusalem.
Some of these locations are captured in the tradition of the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrow, a series of sites that Christian pilgrims take through the streets of modern Jerusalem commemorating the last hours before Jesus arrived at Golgotha on Good Friday.
HISTORY OF PASSOVER
For 2023, sunset tonight, April 5, marks the beginning of Passover. Exodus 12 in the Hebrew Bible tells the story of Passover from the life of Moses. Ten plagues were visited upon the Egyptian pharaoh (starring Yul Brenner in “The Ten Commandments,” but he was much better in “The King and I“) to get his attention to release the Children of Israel from bondage.
The final plague was the death of the first-born son visited upon the land by the angel of death. The Jews were to smear the blood of a sacrificed lamb upon their doorposts so that the angel of death would “Passover” them unharmed. Pharaoh relented and released the Israelites. The Israelite slaves took the road out of Egypt; the Greek for “road out” is Exodus.
Seder of Passover
In making their hasty exit, the Jews did not have time to let their bread rise, so in commemoration, they celebrate the Passover Seder (“order”) meal with unleavened bread (matzo), bitter herbs, and roast lamb to be eaten in traveling garb.
The term Passover is often used interchangeably with the term Feast of Unleavened Bread, at least in St. Luke’s Gospel (Chapter 22:1,) though the first century Pharisees marked the seven-day feast to begin on the day after Passover. Nevertheless, only unleavened bread was eaten during the seven-day celebration following Passover. In present-day celebrations, all yeast is to be removed from a Jewish house during this time.
Amid the bustle of Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter, Maundy Thursday is easy to overlook. Few calendars label it, and some churches don’t observe it at all, though it may be the oldest of the Holy Week observances. It’s worth asking why and how generations of Christians have revered this day.
The Middle English word “Maundy” comes from the Latin mandatum, meaning “command.” The reference is Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 13:34:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.“
Jesus spoke those words at the Last Supper, which took place the Thursday before Easter.
HISTORY OF THE SANHEDRIN
The Greek word Συνέδριον, sunedrion, means literally “sitting together” and is usually translated as “council.” It is referred to in the New Testament alternately as “the Great Law-Court,” “the Court of Seventy-One,” and “the rulers and elders and scribes.”
It was the supreme theocratic court of the Jews. It reflected the local autonomy that the Greek and later, the Roman powers granted the Jewish nation during their successive sovereignty over the Land of Israel.
Origin of the Sanhedrin
Its origin can be traced back as far as 200 B.C. during the “Intertestamental Period,” that period extending about 400 years after the close of the Old Testament to the beginning of the New Testament writings. We hear about it during the Hasmonean period, following the Maccabean Revolt — which you can read more about in the History of Chanukah — and there are references to it in the Mishnah section of the Talmud. But there is no reference to this body in the original Old Testament. The council had about 70 members, plus the ruling high priest. Three professional groups composed the council:
- High priests — the acting high priest and former high priests, and members of the chief-priestly families
- Elders — tribal and family heads of the people and the priesthood
- Scribes — legal professionals
HISTORY OF PALM SUNDAY
The week we now call Holy Week or Passion Week starts this weekend with Palm Sunday. Why was this week so important that three of the gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) devote a full third of their contents to reporting this week, and The Fourth Gospel (John) dedicates its entire last half?
Jerusalem, which had an average population of about 50,000 at the time of Jesus, had at least tripled in size because of the influx of pilgrims celebrating the Jewish holiday Passover. Early Sunday morning, Jesus made his dramatic public entry into the city. This was the end of any privacy and safety his ministry had afforded previously. It marked the beginning of an inevitable collision course with the religious and political authorities: both Jewish and Roman. (more…)