NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, August 24th. Thank you for coming along with us today for The World and Everything in It! Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next today: the anniversary of a revolutionary computer operating system. Plus, a newspaper hoax that convinces readers of life on the moon.
EICHER: But first, the death of a prophet in Israel. Here’s Paul Butler.
PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin today with August 29th, AD 29. This is the traditional date of the beheading of John the Baptist.
The Gospel of Mark provides the most detailed account of the event in the scriptures. In chapter 6 the author inserts the beheading narrative after Nazareth’s rejection of Jesus—between the sending out of the 12 disciples and the feeding of the 5,000.
MARK 6: “For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for Herodias sake, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, ‘It is not lawful for thee to have your brother’s wife.’”
So Herodias wishes to kill him, but can’t as her husband, Herod Anitpas, fears John and protected him—acknowledging that John is a prophet, holy and just. On top of that, Mark says that Herod enjoys listening to John.
But on Herod’s birthday, the ruler throws a feast and invites his nobles, officers, and politically connected guests. Mark continues his account:
MARK 6: “And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said to the damsel, ‘Ask me whatever you wilt, and I will give it thee.’”
Herod swears he’ll give his step-daughter up to half his kingdom. The girl confers with her mother and returns with the demand for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. To save face, the king gives the order and hands the head of the prophet to the girl, who in turn gives it to her mother.
Mark says that the disciples of John come and take the body for burial, but the final earthly resting place of his head is a matter of great speculation. Many ancient churches and shrines across the Middle East and Europe claim to possess it, or at least parts of it: including supposed locks of his hair, and other relics associated with the beheading.
Outside the life of Christ, the story of John’s execution is one of the most common New Testament themes in religious art. Over millennia, thousands of pieces of classic and folk art from around the world feature the account.
Next, August 25th, 1835. The New York Sun publishes a series of articles announcing the discovery of life on the moon.
NEWSPAPER CLIPPING: We have just learned from an eminent publisher in the city of Edinburgh that Sir John Hershal of the Cape of Good Hope has made some astronomical discoveries of the most wonderful description.
The first article introduces readers to a supposed scientist working with a new telescope. The periodic updates describe the various animal and plant life forms, along with the bat-like humanoid creatures that live there.
LETIVIN: We need to take a step back and realize that not everything we encounter is true.
Daniel Letivin is the author of A Field Guide to Lies. Audio here from a 2016 interview with PBS Newshour. He writes about why people willingly believe lies:
LETIVIN: We don’t want to be gullibly accepting everything as true, but we don’t want to be cynically rejecting everything as false. I mean society functions because we trust one another, I trust that my plumber knows what he’s doing. But we can be skeptical, suitably skeptical…
Back to the story in 1835, as the articles appear in the newspaper, and seem to be citing reliable sources, many believe the fiction—even in the face of scientific evidence to the contrary. It becomes known as The Great Moon Hoax.
ELLA FITZGERALD: SAY IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON
And finally, August 24th, 1995:
COMMERCIAL: You’ve heard about all the fabled wonders of the information superhighway…with Windows 95, it’s easy to get on it.
Twenty five years ago today, Microsoft released Windows 95 in North America. Previous versions of the operating system required short file names, but the update introduced long file names. It also revolutionized the process of adding internal and external peripherals.
COMMERCIAL: With Windows 95, it’s a matter of plug and play. Start expanding. Start Windows 95.
Today, the Windows user interface is significantly different from Windows 95, but the operating system introduced 25 years ago has two legacies that are still prominently used today: the “start button” and the “taskbar.”
COMMERCIAL: It used to be difficult for personal computers to do more than one thing at a time. [MUSIC] Starting with Windows 95, it’s easy. Start multitasking. Start Windows 95.
That’s this week’s WORLD History Book. I’m Paul Butler.