Day 845: The Red Side Of The Moon

originally published April 24, 2014

Stargazers with a curious mind, a tolerance for late night wakefulness and who weren’t locked beneath the astronomical cock-block of an overcast sky got to witness a spectacular lunar eclipse last week. It was a crimson marvel, a humbling reminder of a universe beyond petulant cat videos and the frustrating television antics of Jon Cryer, Ashton Kutcher and the Halfling they keep chained up in their basement (I’ve never actually seen the show). But was it simply a glorious spectacle, or did it *mean* something?

If you’ve spent any time among the amply-zealotted nutjob crowd then you know that someone must have ascribed some catastrophic significance to the eclipse, in particular because it was the first in a tetrad – a quartet of full-on lunar eclipses that will take place between now and September 2015.

Four full eclipses in two years? Surely that must be an occurrence so fantastically rare that even the most jaded and skeptical among us should pull ourselves up from our hearty breakfast of Sugar-Frosted Reason-O’s and smoked logic-sausage and take note, right?

Actually, there will be eight tetrads occurring throughout the 21st century. But once you slap the obsidian tarp of unflinching dogma overtop these eclipses, it’s easy to spot the deeper meaning.

If you’re the type who believes our species should be beyond ascribing prophecies to the fact that shorter light wavelengths get dispersed while longer ones refract through the earth’s atmosphere to cast a red glow on an eclipsed moon, then congratulations! You have a firmer grasp on logic than pastors John Hagee and Mark Biltz.

You see, the significance lies not simply in the quartet of scarlet moons in the sky, but in the fact that all four of them coincide with the important Jewish festivals of Passover and Sukkot. This fact might rattle your brain a little, but it’s important to remember that these festivals are in sync with the lunar calendar, which makes this phenomenon somewhat less rare than one might think. As for a religious tetrad foretelling something big? Well, here’s the evidence:

There have been eight instances over the past 2000 years in which the four eclipses of a tetrad have coincided with the big-honcho Jewish holidays. Hagee and Biltz want us to believe that this astronomical occurrence will herald a significant change in Jewish history. The tetrad of 1493-94 happened right around the time the Jews were exiled from Spain. The 1949-50 tetrad went down just as Israel was declared a country. And the 1967-68 event synched up with the Six Day War. That’s the last three times the eclipses have meshed with the Jewish holidays. That must mean something!

Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that stuff is happening (usually bad stuff) to alter Jewish history all the time. Yes, the Six-Day War began roughly two months after the first lunar eclipse in 1967. But the Jews were booted from Spain in 1492 and Israel became a thing in 1948 – both occurred before the eclipse cycle had begun. Sometimes the facts aren’t as flexible as dogmatic prophecy would like them to be.

So what do these two pastors predict will be the outcome of this current four-pack of shadowed moons?

Mark Biltz was the first to develop his theory. In 2008 he began prophesizing that the Second Coming of Jesus would happen in the fall of 2015 when this cycle came to an end. He spread the word over Youtube and as we’ve seen so often with fads of questionable merit, the public grabbed hold of the notion and made it a thing. There’s a passage in the Bible (Joel 2:31 for those who like to pick nits) that states that the moon will turn to blood before Jesus comes back. Biltz also claims that the “sun will be turned into darkness” part from later in that passage probably refers to the partial solar eclipse in September, 2015. I’m not certain how a partial solar eclipse equals darkness though.

Pastor John Hagee takes a more pragmatic approach in his 2013 book on the topic. His concern is not Jesus’s return visit; he believes Iran will acquire full-tilt nuclear capabilities next year, and that the event that changes Jewish history will either be the use of those nuclear weapons on Israel or Israel’s active suppression of the new threat.

Hagee’s book, Four Blood Moons, spent more than 150 days on’s Top 150 list, which proves that we as a society need to be a lot more discriminating about how we spend our money. But really it’s only a tiny contingent of Christians who have bought into this nonsense.

Three out of four of these so-called prophecy eclipses won’t even be visible in the Middle East. One sixth of all lunar eclipses lands on either Passover or Sukkot, and once we factor in the reality that astronomical events have no impact on our piddly little earth-lives, I think we can let this one drift into the dust-heap.

It’s not the first time a lunar eclipse has meant something, history-wise though.

On June 30, 1503, Christopher Columbus found himself stranded in Jamaica, and not in that awesome way where you missed your flight and now you have to spend one more night at the hotel soaking your liver in delicious rum beverages. No, for Chris it was more a matter of running short on food, and while the local indigenous tribes were happy to help him out, a few instances of Chris’s crew cheating and stealing from the natives put an end to that.

Columbus responded by telling the natives that they had angered his god, and his god would display his miffed-ness by making the moon appear “inflamed with wrath”. I should point out that Chris had uncovered his almanac prior to this threat, and he was using his knowledge of an upcoming lunar eclipse to manipulate the locals. But you’d probably guessed that.

The scam worked, the natives came running with supplies, pleading for his god to back off. Chris went to fake-pray by himself, and returned to announce his god’s forgiveness right at the precise moment the eclipsed moon returned to its normal hue.

There’s a good lesson in this. To those few who actually believe the four-peat of eclipses means the end times are nigh, guess what: you are those clueless indigenous natives. And Chris Columbus is that guy selling you the info about his angry god at $49.95 plus shipping and handling.


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