THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM
Hello all my fine friends out there! How has your week been? We celebrated the birth of Jesus this past weekend with my husband’s family. And even though it was not the 25th, we had a joyous and wonderful time and it was great to visit with relatives that live afar. They had all been to our place before so no one got lost on the way.
|TYPICAL DEPICTION OF THE CHRISTMAS STAR|
And God the Father wanted to make sure the magi who came to witness the coming of the Christ child did not get lost either. How? Well we all have seen depictions of the Bethlehem star. And we know “…a star went before them [the magi] …” (Matthew 2:9). So we know there was some sort of celestial event that occurred around 2000 years ago. Let’s take a deeper look.
There is no doubt that an extraordinary celestial event occurred around the time of Jesus’ birth as it is recorded in scripture. Numbers 24:7 is the first place this phenomenon is mentioned. Here scripture speaks of a new star that would announce the birth of Christ. The gospels of Mathew and Luke also mention this unusual event. But was it truly a star?
The Greek word for star is aster. We actually get our word astronomy from this Greek root and could mean any luminous point of light found in the night skies. Which of course also includes planets, supernovae, comets, asteroids entering the atmosphere or any other illuminated object in the night skies.
Which one could the star of Bethlehem be? Well a supernova , that is a star that has exploded and can be visible to the unaided eye, is the classic Christmas star we see depicted on cards and pictures and though these events are rare they do outshine all the other stars in the galaxy. And they appear this way for several months. In the same way a comet can be the brightest celestial object in the sky and can last for several weeks. However there is a big problem with both of these occurrences. Mathew 2:7 tells us the star went unnoticed by King Herod, ruler of Israel at that time; “Then Herod called the magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.”. If the star of Bethlehem indeed was a supernova or comet...then why did Herod have to ask the magi the exact time the star appeared? It would have been obvious to everyone including Herod’s celestial advisors and the ruler himself. So we can concluded the star of Bethlehem was not a supernova or comet or astroid for that matter.
So what about a conjunction of planets. “A conjunction is when a planet passes closely by a star or by another planet. Such an event would have been very meaningful to the magi,who were knowledgeable of ancient astronomy, but would likely have gone unnoticed by others. There were several interesting conjunctions around the time of Christ’s birth. Two of these were triple conjunctions; this is when a planet passes a star (or other planet), then backs up, passes it again, then reverses direction and passes the star/planet a third time.”1 Though very rare, two triple conjunctions occurred, one at 7 B.C., and another at 3 B.C. Since the exact date of Jesus’ birth is not known, both occurrences could be candidates for the Christmas star. But there are problems with these two conjunctions as neither where close enough together to produce the image of a single, bright star. When two planets do seem to merge together, it is also very rare. And there was an extraordinary conjunction with Jupiter and Venus in the year 2 B.C. But again this conjunction “does not fully match the description of the Christmas star.”2.
|CONJUNCTION OF JUPITER AND VENUS|
If you exam the scriptures carefully Mathew 2:2b states, “We saw his star in the east and have come to worship Him.” And again the star is mention in Matthew 2:9, “After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them…”. Thus the bible indicates that the magi observed the star on at least two occasions, the the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus occurred only once.
And there is another big problem with all three of these theories. “None of the above speculations fully explain how the star ‘went ahead of’ the magi nor how it ‘stood over where the child was.’ ”3 Indeed, there is no known natural phenomenon that could do this.
But then the bible does not say that the star of Bethlehem was a natural phenomenon. God can use His natural laws to accomplish what He wants. For example, as we looked at in an earlier blog, it is very likely God utilized enormous asteroids to break open the fountains of the deep during The Noachian Flood. And He guided the Israelites in their desert exile with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. And don’t forget the many plagues put upon Egypt by the Lord. So why not a unique atmospheric manifestation of God’s power that would appear as an extraordinary celestial object to announce the birth of His only begotten son. It truly would be the occasion where “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalms 19:1). And it fits the Greek description of aster⎯an illuminated object in the night sky.
But what about the magi. How did they recognize this star was special? We will look into that next week!
Until then, God bless and take care!
This week in the night skies; for everyone, today is December’s full moon! And “Saturday, December 21; Today is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and the longest day in the Southern Hemisphere. Winter in the north begins at the solstice: at 12:11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Happy Yule.”4
1-4Ham, Ken, The New Answers Book 2, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2012, pp 179-184.