What is “The Epiphany”?

Updated: Feb 3

According to Webster’s, the following defines the word “epiphany.” [Fair Use]

Epiphany plural epiphanies – 1. capitalized : January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ 2 : an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being 3 a (1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure b : a revealing scene or moment


Let’s go over this definition.


January 6 represents the 13th day after December 25th (Christmas).  To do the math, there are 7 days from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve.  Add to that the 6 days through January 6.  Seven plus six equal thirteen.  Thus 13 days after Christmas is “The Epiphany”.


This is where the “Twelve Days of Christmas” are calculated.  Christmas Day through January 5th equals twelve days. Like the Twelve Days of Christmas, the Epiphany (capitalized) is a Church (Roman or Orthodox catholic) day of recognition that appears to have suddenly appeared in the 14th century.  Other than being explained as when some Church calendar person “had an epiphany,” this day of recognition is merely a date that symbolizes (by definitions above) “the first manifestation of Christ,” or “the baptism of Christ,” and his “sudden divine appearance,” “with sudden realization,” as “a revealing moment.”


It has absolutely no basis of reality, especially when the Gospel readings attached to that day of observance come from Matthew’s second chapter, verses 1 through 20.  While there are parts in those verses that deal with the anger of Herod and his order to kill male children, ages two and under, the majority focus is on the visit of the Magi.  There is nothing that supports the definition of (capitalized) Epiphany as being relative to when the Magi arrived in Bethlehem.


From having grasped an understanding that Christmas is a symbolic date that has nothing to do with the actual birth of baby Jesus (instead, the birth date is representative of when oneself is reborn as Jesus Christ), the “Twelve Days of Christmas” can then be seen as symbolic of the time a figurative “holy fetus” is in the metaphoric “womb” of Christians, before being born. That makes “the Epiphany” become a personal reproduction of Pentecost, when the disciples suddenly transformed into Apostles.


This can then be realized as not having anything to do with John baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River (First Sunday after the Epiphany readings), because Jesus did not need to suddenly be filled with the Holy Spirit.  We know this because the angel Gabriel pronounced his holiness at conception and birth. Jesus did not need to wait 30 years to have a Spiritual epiphany.  The rest of humanity, however,  does need many decades to come to that state of realization, where marriage to God is the only way to become truly Christian.


Webster’s (Merriam as well) also says that the Epiphany (capitalized) is associated with the first appearance of Christ to Gentiles, which the Magi represented. That is a false assumption. It is true that the Gospel readings for January 6th in many Christian church services, those that recognize the celebration of “The Epiphany,” deal with Matthew 2:1-20. Those verses do include the story of the visit of Magi to Herod, in Jerusalem, and the baby Jesus, in Bethlehem. However, it is ludicrous to assume that Gentiles went bearing gifts to an infant Jew, after travelling roughly two to three weeks from Persia.


Why would a Gentile do that?  If an assumption can be made, then one has to see that the Magi had Jewish roots and purposefully came bearing gifts, knowing to expect a royal newborn of divine origin.


This realization of the first appearance of Christ to Gentiles is much like the fabled “Rapture,” which is a manufactured tale that is completely absent from any real support, from properly translated Scriptural text. All support comes from mistranslations and incorrect paraphrases, which is akin to seeing clouds shaped like bunny rabbits.  There is nothing that states Jesus had an “epiphany,” where the root of that word (in Greek) is written.


According (once again) to Webster’s (and friends), the “Origin and Etymology of EPIPHANY” is stated to be in the 14th century. Then, it was from the Middle English usage of “epiphanie.” That word is then stemmed from “Anglo-French, from Late Latin epiphania, from Late Greek, plural, probably [an] alteration of Greek epiphaneia,” which means, “appearance, manifestation.” That Greek usage stems “from epiphainein,” which means, “to manifest.” That is a combining form word, “from epi-[“upon”] + phainein [“to show, to make visible”]” meaning “to show — more at FANCY.”


Variations of this word do appear in the New Testament[1], but other words in Greek also state the same theme of “appearance” and “manifestation.” The actual word is “epiphaneia, which means, “appearance, manifestation, and glorious display.” Paul used that and similar words, with their use being relative to Christ being born within an Apostle or Saint. Thus, this confirms the notion that an Epiphany (capitalized) is intended to show the presence of the LORD within a person (Gentile or Jew), such that the person suddenly realized he or she was Jesus Christ reborn in the flesh.


The reading of the Magi is most difficult to understand as an epiphany because Joseph is not mentioned and Mary is only named by Matthew, writing, “they saw the Child with Mary His mother.” Other than being named as “the Child,” baby Jesus could not have had a Spiritual awakening, regardless of what the Koran says about Gabriel telling Mary that Jesus would be able to speak in infancy.  Matthew did not give any indication that the holy child was suddenly transformed by the presence of the Magi.


Because Matthew wrote, “And having been divinely warned in a dream not to return to Herod,” (NASB names “God” as the divine source) the closest the Magi came to an epiphany was when they “rejoiced exceedingly” over having seen the star.  Other than that, we read,  “having fallen down, they worshipped” the child.  The story paints a clear picture that they had traveled with a purpose to see a divine birth that had been foretold.  Their joy and reverence is more a sign of their devotion to the same God as the One of Israel.


The true epiphany is for anyone who realizes “the star” was the Sun.  Surprise!  Let that image appear before your eyes.  Let the brightness of the sun in daytime manifest as that ever elusive comet or UFO or triple conjunction of planets that has given no one an epiphany.


It is the sun’s position in the sky that determines one’s astrological sign.  Everyone’s birthday is based on the placement of the sun on that day of birth.  The sun is the only “star” that moves across a backdrop of fixed stars (as seen from earth), which form the fixed constellations along the ecliptic.  The earth’s moon and the other planets of our solar (another word for “star”) system also travel that path, from zodiac sign to zodiac sign.  The sun is known astrologically as that “star” that moves approximately one degree each day, making a complete circle around the zodiac in one year.


This means the Magi were astrologers in Persia, probably trained in that art by their having been born as Jewish remnant descendants, whose ancestors went there to serve the Persian emperor in that capacity, as interpreters of heavenly signs.  Originally, their forefathers would have gone there following Cyrus the Great  freeing the Jews from Babylonian bondage.  The Magi learned the art of astrology because it was a tabernacle-temple subject – one requiring decades to master.  Thus, they were temple advisers to the King of Persia, by the time Jesus was born, with Zoroastrianism closely modeling Judaism.


The Magi knew of a prophesied Jewish Messiah, but needed to ask where that birth was foretold to occur. Place of birth is one of the important key bits of information in a natal chart (birth chart). Time (which Herod was so interested in wanting to know: “What time did you see the star?”) is another element for building a chart. Time means time of day; but the final element is date, which is a yearly timing aspect for a chart.


This means the chart of Jesus’ birth would have been calculated as much as a year in advance, which would then allow time for a well-planned caravan trip, blessed by the King of Persia, sending the Magi to travel to Judea (with many more than three camels and who knows how man wise men).  They were sent with valuable symbolic gifts that would be used to officially anoint a King of the Jews, knowing the date and time of day of that holy birth, but not sure of the place. Probably, the Magi used the coordinates of Jerusalem, which is so close to Bethlehem that their calculations would barely be off.  That would explain why they were exceedingly thrilled to see the “star was over the birth place.”


If anyone wants to get into why there are “twelve” days of Christmas, perhaps each day represents a month of the year, or sign of the zodiac.  Maybe that number “twelve” is saying (secretly) how long the Magi knew of the birth of the Messiah, before they actually got there to greet his birth with gifts?  And, by the way, they did not travel by the darkness of night, so there is another epiphany that goes along with the shepherd’s in the fields who saw the angel.


The more one explores Scripture, the more epiphanies one can experience.  Try it.  You’ll love it!


[1] 2 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 1:10; 2 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:8; and Titus 2:13.  Six occurrences.

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