Groundhog Day, celebrated on February 2nd, has its roots in an ancient Christian tradition known as Candlemas Day, which marks the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. On Candlemas Day, clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter, and the candles represented how long and cold the winter would be.
The choice of February 2nd is rooted in early Christian tradition and Jewish custom, which mandated a period of purification for a mother after giving birth, followed by the presentation of the child at the Temple. For a male child, this period was 40 days, and since Jesus’s birth is celebrated on December 25th, the 40th day thereafter is February 2nd.
The weather lore associated with Candlemas, however, has pre-Christian roots.
The tradition of observing weather patterns around the beginning of February can be traced back to pre-Christian times and is linked to ancient Celtic festivals, particularly Imbolc. Imbolc is celebrated on February 1st and marks the beginning of spring in the Celtic calendar. It was a time for weather divination, and the weather on Imbolc was thought to predict the weather for the coming spring and the remainder of winter. This period, falling halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, was a significant seasonal marker in many ancient agrarian cultures.
Candlemas and Weather Lore
When Christianity spread throughout Europe, many pagan traditions were Christianized or absorbed into Christian celebrations. Candlemas became one such feast where pre-existing weather lore was integrated into Christian practice. Sunny weather on February 2nd indicated more winter to come, similar to the Groundhog Day belief that if the groundhog sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.
This lore found expression in various regional aphorisms:
If Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter has another flight. If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Winter will not come again.
If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, There’ll be two winters in the year.
For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day, So far will the snow swirl until May. For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day, So far will the sunshine before May.
If the sun shines on Groundhog Day; Half the fuel and half the hay.
Germanic Influence and the Emergence of the Groundhog Tradition
The specific tradition of using an animal to predict the weather on this day is more directly traceable to Germany and surrounding regions. Before the tradition was brought to North America, Germans looked to the badger as a weather prognosticator. When German settlers arrived in North America, particularly in Pennsylvania, they adapted the tradition to use the groundhog due to the absence of badgers in their new homeland.
I told myself I’d write a progress update after the first of the year. Suddenly that’s where we’re at.
As you recall from updates 14 and 15, we had a bit of a crisis of our own creation happen toward the end of 2022 which required us to update both BookBuilder and PocketBible on every platform. We had to modify our Bible format and make sure all versions of PocketBible (with the exception of the old/current Windows versions) could read the new format.
We started with our BookBuilder and PocketBible apps for macOS, since these two share a lot of code and doing them at the same time gave us a platform on which to test our new Bible format. We held off on releasing BookBuilder in case we discovered anything we needed to fix as we rolled out the changes. We released the macOS version of PocketBible in May with updates following into June.
This allowed us to turn our attention to the Android version, which was problematic because of Google shenanigans. An initial version was released in September to address new Play Store requirements. We spent the next 6-8 weeks implementing the Bible changes and doing updates to fix various problems discovered after the release of the new version. This was our first update in 5 years for the Android app, so there were some issues.
That brought us to the Thanksgiving/Christmas season, which is our busiest time of year. There are two large tasks that I’m personally involved in because they impact code on the website — creating the 2024 editions of the Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Emerald PocketBible Library collections, and implementing the end-of-year “name your price” sale. Because these tasks have to be done every year, some of the process is automated. But it still requires a bunch of my time.
Despite the distractions, progress was made on the Windows app during this time.
The app is very close to being feature-complete, at least for the standard (non-AFS) feature set. One of the next big tasks that, oddly enough, consists of a lot of unknowns is being able to build a Windows EXE suitable for distribution.
As I’ve explained before, we do all of our development and testing on macOS. We’ve done occasional debug builds for Windows, but we’ve never been able to generate a stand-alone EXE like we’ll have to do when we release the product. So even though we’re not quite there yet, I have someone looking into those issues.
This has taken us down two dark alleys. One was compatibility problems with the versions of the Electron and Vue frameworks we’re using in the app. In order to build an executable that works, I think we’re going to need to be running newer versions of those foundational tools. Electron isn’t much of an issue, but Vue has undergone breaking changes in its most recent major update. This requires that we make significant changes just to get our code to build with that version.
The second issue is code signing. Code signing is a process that is supposed to do a couple of things. First, it assures you that the software you download from our website really is from us and not some other company pretending to be us. Second, it assures you that the code hasn’t changed between the time we signed it and the time you downloaded it. This is meant to make you safer (or at least make you feel safer). But if you think about it, code signing is arguably pointless. No malware you’ve ever been a victim of is stopped by a code signing requirement. If this requirement were lifted, all the same malware would continue to work just fine.
Anyway, signing our executable and getting it to work after it is signed has been a challenge. But we’re working on it.
To sum up, after a detour to do a lot of work on other platforms, we’re back to work; we’re close to feature-complete (at least for the standard feature set); and we’re focusing on tasks that are necessary to move from development to beta to release.
Studying the Bible can be a deeply rewarding process, but it can also feel overwhelming due to the length and complexity of the text. Here’s a simple process that you might find helpful:
Pray: Start with a prayer for understanding and wisdom. This sets the tone and prepares your heart and mind for learning.
Select a Passage: If you’re new to the Bible, it’s easiest to start with the New Testament, particularly the Gospels, before moving onto the Old Testament. If you’re a seasoned Bible reader, a topical study might be interesting.
Read: Read the passage slowly and carefully. Consider reading aloud or listening to an audio version. Reading a passage more than once can also be beneficial.
Observe: As you read, note down what stands out. Who are the main characters? What events are taking place? What are the key themes or ideas?
Interpret: Try to understand the meaning of the passage. What is the author trying to communicate? How would the original audience have understood it?
Consult Additional Resources: Use study Bibles, commentaries, or Bible dictionaries for more insights and historical/cultural context. Bible study guides or a trusted spiritual leader can also provide guidance.
Reflect: Think about how the passage applies to your life today. What lessons can you take from it? How can it influence your thoughts, actions, and attitudes?
Journal: Write down your insights, reflections, and any questions that arose during your study. This not only helps you remember what you learned, but allows you to track your spiritual growth over time.
Pray: End your study time with a prayer. You can thank God for His word and ask for help in applying what you have learned.
Share: If possible, discuss what you’ve learned with others. This could be in a Bible study group or with a mentor or friend. They can offer valuable perspectives and insights.
Remember, studying the Bible is not about how quickly you can get through it, but rather about deepening your understanding and relationship with God. Take your time, be consistent, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t understand everything right away.
I’ve been exploring how ChatGPT can help me study the Bible. ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence language model developed by OpenAI. It uses machine learning techniques to generate human-like text based on the input it receives. It’s trained on a diverse range of internet text, but it doesn’t know specific documents or sources used in its training. As a language model, it generates responses to prompts and doesn’t have beliefs, opinions, or consciousness. It’s designed to assist with a wide variety of tasks, such as answering questions, writing essays, tutoring in various subjects, translating languages, simulating characters for video games, and much more.(It wrote this description of itself.)
I asked ChatGPT how to study the Bible and it produced this article. I made only two edits — adding the bit about choosing a topical study and moving “Journal” above the second “Pray” step. I continue to be impressed with what ChatGPT can do. The topic of this particular article is simple, but it wrote it without intermingling negative comments or opinions. It even acknowledged the importance of prayer.
The image at the top of this article was generated by DALL•E 2, another artificial intelligence program developed by OpenAI. While GPT-4, the technology behind ChatGPT, is focused on understanding and generating text, DALL-E is designed to generate images from textual descriptions.
Following up on our last post, I asked ChatGPT 4 to summarize the life of Jesus as presented in the Gospels, then explain what the New Testament says our response to his life, teachings, ministry, and example should be. It generated a dozen titles for this article and I asked it to pick the best one. It picked the one you see above.
I then asked DALL•E to create an image that depicts an event in the life of Christ in a “realistic, Renaissance style” to use with this article. It seems to have depicted Jesus’ birth going on in his tomb while he teaches at some kind of a dog fight and a two lame men crawl to him to be healed. DALL•E has a ways to go, in my opinion.
The Life of Jesus
The life of Jesus Christ, as depicted in the New Testament’s four gospels, begins with His miraculous birth in Bethlehem to the Virgin Mary and her husband, Joseph. This event, heralded by angels and later celebrated by the visit of the Magi, confirms the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah.
As an adult, Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, marking the beginning of His divine mission. This event is immediately followed by a forty-day period of temptation by Satan in the desert, which Jesus resists. He then commences His ministry in Galilee, recruiting His first disciples – Peter, Andrew, James, and John.
Among the most significant events during Jesus’s ministry is the Sermon on the Mount, where He delivers profound spiritual truths and moral guidelines, including the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’s time on Earth is also marked by numerous miracles, demonstrating His divine power through acts such as healing the sick, casting out demons, feeding a multitude, and walking on water. He conveys His teachings through parables, offering lessons about the Kingdom of God, forgiveness, and love.
At one point, Jesus is transfigured on a mountaintop before Peter, James, and John, where He converses with Moses and Elijah, further affirming His divine nature. Eventually, He journeys to Jerusalem, resurrecting Lazarus from the dead along the way. His triumphant arrival in Jerusalem, marked by crowds greeting Him with palm branches, signals His role as the prophesied King.
During His final week in Jerusalem, Jesus cleanses the Temple and engages in heated debates with the Pharisees and Sadducees. He foretells His death and resurrection and, at the Last Supper, establishes the practice of sharing bread and wine as symbols of His body and blood.
The climax of Jesus’s life story unfolds with His betrayal by Judas, subsequent arrest, trial, and crucifixion under Pontius Pilate. However, death does not claim Him; on the third day, He rises from the grave, first appearing to Mary Magdalene, then to His disciples. After spending forty days further instructing His followers, Jesus ascends to heaven.
Although the Apostle Paul does not contribute directly to the gospel narratives, his epistles provide profound insights into Jesus’s teachings and their implications. Paul emphasizes Jesus’s role as the Messiah, advocating for justification through faith in Christ, the transcendence of the law by God’s grace, and the concept of the Church as the body of Christ. His teachings illuminate the transformative power of God’s love in Christ, the reconciliation between God and humanity through Jesus’s sacrifice, and the hope of eternal life offered by His resurrection.
Our Response to Jesus’ Life
In response to Jesus’ life, ministry, teachings, and example as depicted in the New Testament, there are several fundamental actions that individuals are encouraged to take.
The cornerstone of this response is faith, a deep-rooted trust in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and acceptance of His sacrifice for humanity’s sins. This faith goes beyond intellectual agreement, involving an inner commitment to Jesus as one’s savior, leading to salvation and eternal life.
Repentance is another pivotal aspect. It means turning away from sin, acknowledging our shortcomings, and striving to change our ways to align our lives more fully with God’s will. It’s an ongoing process of spiritual growth and moral improvement that Jesus’ teachings continually emphasize.
Love, as taught by Jesus, is central to the Christian response. This involves the Greatest Commandment: loving God wholeheartedly and loving our neighbors as ourselves. It means embracing kindness, compassion, and justice, reaching out to others in empathy and understanding.
Obeying Jesus’ teachings and commandments is another vital response. Adherence to His guidance involves ethical and moral conduct such as honesty, forgiveness, humility, and non-retaliation. It’s about living out the principles laid out in the Sermon on the Mount, embodying the values Jesus championed.
Jesus also calls for followership, a commitment to follow His example of humility, service, and sacrificial love. This means willingly bearing individual crosses, forsaking selfish desires, and potentially suffering for Christ.
Finally, Christians are charged with spreading the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to all people. Jesus commissioned His followers to share His message, to engage in evangelism and discipleship, leading others to faith and supporting them in their spiritual journey.
Overall, the New Testament presents a transformative response to Jesus’ life and teachings, calling for personal faith, repentance, love, obedience, followership, and commitment to sharing the gospel.
How Did it Do?
ChatGPT 4 did a good job summarizing the life of Christ and teachings of the New Testament, without adding a bunch of expected disclaimers about how opinions vary and that the authenticity of the accounts should be questioned. It also taught me and my spell-checker a new word, “followership”, which is the capacity or willingness to follow a leader.
I asked ChatGPT to recount the history of the Old Testament, without getting bogged down in the details — just focusing on the significant parts of the narrative. I then asked it for a creative but appropriate title for its work. I have to say, it pretty much nailed the assignment.
DALL•E kind of punted on generating an appropriate image, but hey; it’s just an AI so cut it some slack.
From Creation to Covenant: Unveiling the Tapestry of Ancient Israel
In the beginning, according to the Old Testament, God created the heavens and the earth, forming the world and everything in it. Adam and Eve, the first humans, were placed in the Garden of Eden but disobeyed God’s command and were banished from paradise.
The narrative then moves to the story of Noah and the Great Flood. God saw the wickedness of humanity and decided to cleanse the earth. Noah, a righteous man, built an ark and saved his family and pairs of animals from the floodwaters.
Next, the focus shifts to Abraham, who is considered the father of many nations. God made a covenant with Abraham, promising him descendants as numerous as the stars. Abraham’s son Isaac and his grandson Jacob continued the lineage.
Jacob’s twelve sons became the twelve tribes of Israel, and his son Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers but rose to power in Egypt. Through a series of events, Joseph eventually saved his family and brought them to Egypt during a severe famine.
Generations later, the Israelites became enslaved in Egypt. God raised up Moses as their leader and used him to deliver the people from bondage. Through miraculous signs and wonders, God brought about the Exodus, leading the Israelites through the Red Sea and into the wilderness.
In the wilderness, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and established a covenant with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. Moses led them on a journey towards the Promised Land, but due to disobedience and lack of faith, they wandered for forty years.
Joshua succeeded Moses as the leader, and under his command, the Israelites conquered the land of Canaan. They established themselves as a nation and settled in the Promised Land.
The Israelites went through a cycle of obedience and disobedience to God, with various judges rising to lead them during times of crisis. Eventually, they desired a king, and God anointed Saul as the first king of Israel. However, due to Saul’s disobedience, God chose David as his replacement.
David, a renowned king, established Jerusalem as the capital and desired to build a permanent dwelling place for God, but it was his son, Solomon, who built the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem.
After Solomon’s reign, the kingdom split into two: the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. The prophets played a crucial role during this time, calling the people to repentance and warning of the consequences of their actions.
The kingdoms faced threats from various empires, leading to the exile of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians and the eventual destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians. The people were taken captive to Babylon.
After seventy years, the Persians conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple under the leadership of figures like Ezra and Nehemiah.
The Old Testament concludes with prophecies of a coming Messiah who would bring salvation and establish an eternal kingdom. These prophecies set the stage for the events of the New Testament and the birth of Jesus Christ.