Ancient Signs in the Sky: Did a Meteorite Change the Course of Christianity 2,000 Years Ago?
This wouldn’t be the first meteorite in history to have potentially inspired worship or acted as an agent of change. In antiquity meteorites were seen as messages from the gods , or profound omens, and many cultures saw fallen meteorites as religious icons to be worshiped or as objects of protection. Jewelry and art has also been created from the space rocks.
Each year devout Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, circling the Kaaba, or black stone, and give a nod or a kiss to the meteorite that is said to rest inside the Grand Mosque. The worship of the Black Stone goes back to pre-Islamic shrines, when Semitic cultures used unusual stones to signify sites of reverence. According to Muslim belief, the stone originates from the time of Adam and the Islamic prophet Muhammad set the Black Stone in place after it fell from the skies.
A 1315 illustration inspired by the story of Muhammad and the Meccan clan elders lifting the Black Stone into place. Was the black stone a meteor from space? Public Domain
In a more modern example, after the dramatic Chelyabinsk event over Russia in 2013, the ‘Church of the Meteorite’ was set up, and the followers hold rites on the shores of Lake Chebarkul where pieces of the space rock fell.
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Some scientists regard the Conversion of Paul theory as speculation, but seem to welcome further evidence.
Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office told NewScientist, “It’s well recorded that extraterrestrial impacts have helped to shape the evolution of life on this planet. If it was a Chelyabinsk fireball that was responsible for Paul’s conversion, then obviously that had a great impact on the growth of Christianity.”
Indeed, “Some scholars call Paul the second founder of Christianity” says Justin Meggitt, religious historian at the University of Cambridge. Without the fireball, and without Paul’s conversion, perhaps Christianity would be different than it is today.
“Christianity probably would be very different without him,” Meggitt concludes.
Illumination from 1450 depicting Paul's conversion – the bright light and sound come from the sky. The event was said to change Paul, and may have changed history. Public Domain
Featured Image: Detail, The Conversion of St. Paul. Paul and companions are knocked to the ground during the profound event. Public Domain
By Liz Leafloor