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  960 A.D. (approx): Harald Bluetooth Believes He Has Seen Proof

 

  

 

 

An ancient depiction of Harald Bluetooth from the Jelling Stones in Denmark.  Those stones are a very important landmark in Denmark!

 

  "Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm.  He said to his advisers, "Didn't we throw three men, bound, into the fire?"

  "Yes, of course, Your Majesty," they replied to the king.

  He exclaimed, "Look!  I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods."

  Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and called:  "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God - come out."  So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire.  

 When the satraps, prefects, governors, and the kings advisers gathered around, they saw that the fire had no affect on the bodies of these men:  not a hair on their heads was singed, their robes were unaffected, and there was no smell of fire on them.  Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, "Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!  He sent His angel and rescued His servants who trusted in Him.  They violated the king's command and risked their lives rather than serve or worship any God except their own God."   Daniel 3:  24-28   

    

   The Danes as they're known today were a Viking people in days of old.  And they were some of the most feared of them all.  Their incursions into France and England, for instance, were the stuff of legend.....or from other people's points of view, the stuff of nightmare.  They were especially tough to deal with because they were experienced sea farers, sea fighters, and land warriors combined, but were also devious strategists, and politically wiley.  If you made a deal with a Danish invader, whether it was kept or not was always up for grabs.  Yet they often offered to leave, for the right price.  It was a tough conundrum for a besieged people or city.  You could pay them, and they might leave or they might not.  But if you fought them, they might win or they might not.

  I still remember an account pretty well that I read in a book by Seumas MacManus about Irish history.  The Danish Vikings invaded and held land in Ireland.  So did the Norwegian Vikings.  And sometimes they battled each other in Ireland, these Danish and Norwegian Vikings.  So, one account was written by a monk who came towards an Irish town in the cold winter and saw smoke rising.  When he came close he saw that there had been a battle between Danes and Norwegians.  The Norwegians had lost this one, and their corpses and those of the Danes who had fallen in defeating them lay about on the frosty ground.

  To celebrate, the Danes had slaughtered some of the livestock in the town and they were feasting.  They had built some support structures made of wooden poles lashed together with ropes, sort of like the frame of a children's swingset, to elevate the carcasses of the animals as they hung roasting above the fire.  But the ground was frozen too hard for digging, so to keep the legs of their structures from splaying, they had shoved the bottoms of the 4 poles on each of these 'barbeque structures' into the torn open abdomens of dead Norwegians. 

  The monk said the Norwegian carcasses, laying so close to the fire, were cooking at about the same rate as the animals, sizzling and popping and hissing as they did so.  It nauseated him and he asked one of the Danes if that wasn't a pretty barbaric way to treat a dead man.  He said the Dane just laughed, and said something like , "They'd  have done the same to us if they had won."  The Viking age wasn't for the faint hearted I guess. 

   Yet the Danish people have a very nice 'other side' that's actually far more common and far more representative of their national character today.  And it probably was back then as well.  They are a very talented and intellectual people.  They are great farmers.  They are skilled harvesters of the seas bounty.  They seem very serious, thoughtful, and reflective when I've met them and spoken with them.  They are into 'cozy'.  And it was probably this side of their people that best embraced Christianity.  But, unfortunately, it was that other side that held the power back in the Viking days of their nation, say between 700 A.D. - 900 something A.D.  If you wanted to successfully bring Christianity to the Danish people you had to bring it through their 'Jarls', or Kings.

   Yet all men are of God and Jesus, so among all men, some respond.  It is known that a man from England named Willibrord came to Danish controlled Friesia and spoke of Jesus, though not with so much success, in about 712 A.D.  But he was allowed to take 30 young Danish men back home with him to learn of Jesus in a college setting.  They would probably have made their way back home to Denmark, those 30 young men, and planted seeds.  But as for what the 30 young men ever actually went on to do, I did not find out.     

  More than 150 years later, in about 860 A.D., the first Christian church building was constructed in Denmark.  A missionary named Ansgar from a German region caused it to happen.  And in this time period more Danes learned about Jesus.  But though the name of Jesus was known in Denmark, the pagan Nordic gods were also worshipped widely.

  Then sometime around the 960's A.D., in this period of blended but increasingly Christian religious beliefs, there was a large gathering of Danes at an event called a 'thing', which is like a fair, and their King, Harald Bluetooth was present.  Harald had a very Pagan father named Grom, and a Christian mother named Thyre.  At the 'thing' a debate broke out among a number of those who were gathered and it became a very heated and hotly contested arguement, catching the general attention of the crowd.  There was not supposed to be any conflicts or violence at a 'thing'.  They were a peaceful gathering and that was enforced! 

  The arguement was about Jesus.  Some were saying that he was the only God to be worshipped.  Others said that he was only one of a number of gods, and that Jesus's signs and actions were not as powerful as some of those of the old gods.

  The King was there listening, hearing it all.  A Christian Priest named Poppo was also there at the gathering, and he stepped into the argument in front of them all and adamently declared words to the affect that there was 'only one true God, with His son being Jesus the Christ, and the Holy Spirit being His Spirit' .  And he also said that 'the other things that the Danes worshipped as gods were in fact no more than trolls.'  (Trolls were thought an evil creature!) 

  This apparently brought the group to a tense silence for a moment, so the King, Harald Bluetooth (probably called Bluetooth because during about this time in historysome Danish Sea Raiders liked to paint colored bands on some of their front teeth when they went raiding) asked this Poppo if he was willing to confirm this statement of faith in Jesus at the risk of his life?  Poppo is said to have answered without hesitation that he was willing to do so.  So, the King commanded it to be so!

  Bluetooth ordered the Priest taken hostage for the remainder of the night.  The next day the people involved with the arguement along with whoever else may have stayed to watch all gathered to see Poppo's faith in Jesus be publically put to the 'test of red hot iron'. 

   A substantial chunk of iron was heated over a forge until it glowed fiery hot.  Then the King had Poppo brought forward before the people and released.  He told Poppo to ask Jesus to protect him from harm, as he (Poppo) grabbed hold of the chunk of blazing hot iron with his bare hands and carried it around.  We can imagine that many eyes watched intently to see the results.  I would have!

   And it is part of Danish Christian history to this day that Poppo boldly grabbed onto the searing hot iron, and lifted it up.  He then carried it around, letting whoever wished see what was happening, and he continued holding it until the King was satisfied that it had been far too long to escape great damage to his flesh.  He directed Poppo to put it down, and the entire crowd, the King included, saw Poppo display his hands for the inspection of those gathered.  They were entirely unharmed.

   Then Harald Bluetooth was satisfied, and it is said that the crowd was too. 

   There were moving sagas about the old 'gods', making claims to great feats that they had performed, and mighty doings that they had accomplished.  But everyone knew from experience that though those gods were said to exist they didn't seem to do much when you called upon them.  But this God's power they had seen.  With their own eyes they witnessed what the risen Son of God named Jesus could do to protect those who called upon Him.  It  was done openly and none could deny they had seen it.  Poppo stood before them untouched.

   Harald Bluetooth announced that he was convinced.  He became Christian and was baptised.  He also ordered that Christ alone would be worshipped as God by his people the Danes.  (Whether or not all the people obeyed him immediately I doubt, but he proclaimed it as a matter of record). 

   Harald also had a large carving of Jesus, with outstretched arms, sculpted, to show people that He was the true God.  (A well intended gesture, but God is against carved idols as the scriptures say clearly!)

   And in the Danish city of Jelling, once a royal Danish city, Harald had a stone memorial erected, still standing today, which reads (translated to English, of course):

" King Harald had this memorial made for his father Grom and his mother Thyre.  The same Harald that conquered all of Norway and Denmark, and made the Danes Christian." 

     Today, through an interesting avenue of communications technology that Harald might never have foreseen, the name Blue Tooth is still known.  But King Harald helped facilitate a much more important sort of communication during his nearly 30 year reign:  the renewal of communication between men and their Maker.  Jesus does things in the most interesting ways! 

Harald Bluetooth's Jelling Memorial Stone concerning Christianity.  Way to go, Denmark!!

A Jelling Stone - Denmark's Birth Certificate!

         

      

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