The 400 years of “silence” between the closing of the book of Malachi and the birth of Christ is not due to God’s inactivity but rather to no prophet speaking under divine inspiration. The writings during this time, like any other, depict the distinct intervention of God’s hand in the affairs of men. Though not inspired or on par with Scripture, these books called Apocrypha contain important events such as the miraculous story of Hanukkah recorded in 1st and 2nd Maccabees.
Martin Luther described the Apocrypha as “books which are not regarded as equal to the holy Scriputres, and yet are profitable and good to read.” In the Preface to the Geneva Bible, brought by the Pilgrims to Plymouth, the Apocryphal writings were described as “not received by a common consent to be read and expounded publicly in the Church… to prove any point of Christian religion save in so much as they had the consent of the other scriptures called canonical to confirm the same.” However, “as books proceeding from godly men they were received to be read for the advancement and furtherance of the knowledge of history and for the instruction of godly manners.”
Why would a Christian priest in Rome in the 3rd century A.D. be imprisoned, tortured and threatened with death just for standing up for marriage, secretly marrying soldiers to their brides? When we think of Valentine’s Day today, we think of romance, whether serious or trite, but we rarely think of the fact that February 14 denotes the day (in 269 AD) when Valentine (his last name) was beheaded for his faith!
January 1 as New Year’s Day was first celebrated in 46 B.C. when the Julian calendar took effect. The traditional Roman calendar, first established in the 7th century B.C. was based on the lunar cycle. Various politicians would add days to extend their own political terms and thus it was frequently corrupted. Julius Caesar, the new Roman dictator, named the new calendar after himself. Instead of the lunar cycle, he followed the solar cycle. So what can we learn about the new year that could enlighten us today?