Discount Epiphany

Discount Epiphany January 6, 2015

I saw this on Episcopal Church Memes on Facebook, and thought I'd share it. There are a few serious thoughts that come to mind about it. One is that the way we spend, or refrain from spending, says a lot about what we really value. Another is that, in the ancient world, there really weren't inexpensive ways to have shiny metal, or deal with odors, and so in a sense, we don't really need gold, frankincense, or myrrh, because we have far less expensive alternatives. Far from being “cheap” in the first century, if we were to time travel and bring back aluminium foil, potpourri, and baby oil, I am sure that people would find them impressive!


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  • arcseconds

    Aluminium would have been absolutely remarkable to the ancient world: light, strong, and practically uncorrodeable. It was totally unable to be produced using anything available at the time.

    In the 1880s, before the development of the Hall-Héroult elecrolytic process, aluminium was more expensive than gold. Even then it was regarded as a kind of sci-fi metal.

    So, yeah, if you went back in time with a supply of aluminium, and were able to work it, then it would be worth massive amounts. Vastly more than gold perhaps given the limited supply. Providing some substantial amount to the baby Jesus would be impressive indeed.

    And we use it as a disposable foil…

    • histrogeek

      The top of the Washington Monument was originally supposed to be aluminum, as a sign of national wealth. Now that would just look cheap.

      • arcseconds

        I thought it was aluminium…

  • I’m reminded of a bit Garrison Keillor did many years ago, wherein the folks in Lake Woebegon believed one of the Magi was Lutheran, because Myrrh, they said, was short for ‘hamyrrh’, an archaic form of the phrase “hamburger hot dish”. Clearly, his wife had suggested he bring something practical and made a casserole rather than the flashy gold and frankincense his buddies were taking.