Can astronomy explain the biblical Star of Bethlehem?

katydid

Well-known member
https://news.yahoo.com/astronomy-explain-biblical-star-bethlehem-234358275.html

What could the 'star in the east’ be?

The astronomer in me knows that no star can do these things, nor can a comet, or Jupiter, or a supernova, or a conjunction of planets or any other actual bright object in the nighttime sky. One can claim that Matthew’s words describe a miracle, something beyond the laws of physics. But Matthew chose his words carefully and wrote “star in the east” twice, which suggests that these words hold a specific importance for his readers.

Can we find any other explanation, consistent with Matthew’s words, that doesn’t require that the laws of physics be violated and that has something to do with astronomy? The answer, amazingly, is yes.

Astrological answers to astronomical puzzles

Astronomer Michael Molnar points out that “in the east” is a literal translation of the Greek phrase en te anatole, which was a technical term used in Greek mathematical astrology 2,000 years ago. It described, very specifically, a planet that would rise above the eastern horizon just before the sun would appear. Then, just moments after the planet rises, it disappears in the bright glare of the sun in the morning sky. Except for a brief moment, no one can see this “star in the east.”


And now we need a little bit of astrology background. When the planet reappears again for the first time and rises in the morning sky just moments before the sun, for the first time in many months after having been hidden in the sun’s glare for those many months, that moment is known to astrologers as a heliacal rising. A heliacal rising, that special first reappearance of a planet, is what en te anatole referred to in ancient Greek astrology. In particular, the reappearance of a planet like Jupiter was thought by Greek astrologers to be symbolically significant for anyone born on that day.

Thus, the “star in the east” refers to an astronomical event with supposed astrological significance in the context of ancient Greek astrology.


What about the star parked directly above the first crèche? The word usually translated as “stood over” comes from the Greek word epano, which also had an important meaning in ancient astrology. It refers to a particular moment when a planet stops moving and changes apparent direction from westward to eastward motion. This occurs when the Earth, which orbits the sun more quickly than Mars or Jupiter or Saturn, catches up with, or laps, the other planet.

Together, a rare combination of astrological events (the right planet rising before the sun; the sun being in the right constellation of the zodiac; plus a number of other combinations of planetary positions considered important by astrologers) would have suggested to ancient Greek astrologers a regal horoscope and a royal birth.

Wise men looking to the skies

Molnar believes that the wise men were, in fact, very wise and mathematically adept astrologers. They also knew about the Old Testament prophecy that a new king would be born of the family of David. Most likely, they had been watching the heavens for years, waiting for alignments that would foretell the birth of this king. When they identified a powerful set of astrological portents, they decided the time was right to set out to find the prophesied leader.


If Matthew’s wise men actually undertook a journey to search for a newborn king, the bright star didn’t guide them; it only told them when to set out. And they wouldn’t have found an infant swaddled in a manger. After all, the baby was already eight months old by the time they decoded the astrological message they believed predicted the birth of a future king. The portent began on April 17 of 6 BC (with the heliacal rising of Jupiter that morning, followed, at noon, by its lunar occultation in the constellation Aries) and lasted until December 19 of 6 BC (when Jupiter stopped moving to the west, stood still briefly, and began moving to the east, as compared with the fixed background stars). By the earliest time the men could have arrived in Bethlehem, the baby Jesus would likely have been at least a toddler.
 
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david starling

Well-known member
I like the nova theory. I read that most stars that go "nova" are invisible, before they reignite and look like a bright "new" star in the Heavens. They can last as long as a few weeks before they fade.
 

waybread

Well-known member
Not really, Katydid.

It would be hard for a star, comet, or planet to single out a particular residence. (Matthew 2:9.)

Then how long would it have taken Magi from modern-day Iraq or Iran to reach Bethlehem by camel or pack train? As we know from ephemerides, the planets are in motion, and even the fixed stars rise, culminate, and set at different times and in seemingly different directions depending upon the time of year and one's topocentric position.

For Christians, I don't see that it detracts from the story to think of the star of Bethlehem as a special creation.
 

david starling

Well-known member
Not really, Katydid.

It would be hard for a star, comet, or planet to single out a particular residence. (Matthew 2:9.)

Then how long would it have taken Magi from modern-day Iraq or Iran to reach Bethlehem by camel or pack train? As we know from ephemerides, the planets are in motion, and even the fixed stars rise, culminate, and set at different times and in seemingly different directions depending upon the time of year and one's topocentric position.

For Christians, I don't see that it detracts from the story to think of the star of Bethlehem as a special creation.

It was the Age of Miracles.
 

katydid

Well-known member
Not really, Katydid.

It would be hard for a star, comet, or planet to single out a particular residence. (Matthew 2:9.)

Then how long would it have taken Magi from modern-day Iraq or Iran to reach Bethlehem by camel or pack train? As we know from ephemerides, the planets are in motion, and even the fixed stars rise, culminate, and set at different times and in seemingly different directions depending upon the time of year and one's topocentric position.

For Christians, I don't see that it detracts from the story to think of the star of Bethlehem as a special creation.

I am not sure why you said 'Not really, katydid.'

I didn't write the article. I just thought it was interesting....especially the portion I bolded...

"The portent began on April 17 of 6 BC (with the heliacal rising of Jupiter that morning, followed, at noon, by its lunar occultation in the constellation Aries) and lasted until December 19 of 6 BC (when Jupiter stopped moving to the west, stood still briefly, and began moving to the east, as compared with the fixed background star"
 

Osamenor

Staff member
Then how long would it have taken Magi from modern-day Iraq or Iran to reach Bethlehem by camel or pack train?

Iran is mostly mountains. If that's where the wise men were coming from, they wouldn't have had camels, at least not to start with. Donkeys, maybe.

What do you all think of the theory that the star was the grand conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter that occurred in Pisces in 7 BCE?
 

waybread

Well-known member
I think camels were in Iran over 2000 years ago, apparently the Bactrian camel. But I haven't made a study of them. Donkeys, for sure. Both animals need proportionally less food and water than horses.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bactrian_camel
https://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/camel-sotor

But no, I don't buy the great conjunction there. First off, were there 3 kings, 3 magi, or 3 whomever?

Then the Near East, notably the Holy Land, has a serious rainy season in late fall through early spring. It would be possible to travel overland in the rainy season, but possibly the routes would become difficult to travel at times and the skies would be overcast a lot. Summer, though hot and dry, is more hospitable to travel, and it has been noted that the Roman census (hence Joseph and Mary's travel to Bethlehem) tended to take place in summer.

The word Magi (Magus singular) has been etymologically traced to a priestly class in Persia (Iran) who were known for their astrology. If we accept that the Magi had some astrological knowledge, Matthew is one of the very few places anywhere in the Bible with credence given to astrology.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibli...med Patisar,s Hortus deliciarum (12th century)

But if the Magi were astrologers, they would have known that the visible planets Jupiter and Saturn were separate entities notwithstanding their conjunction.

This all gets complicated by various early churches' traditions about the identity of the 3 wise men, but there is no way to fact-check them.

Horoscopic astrology probably developed during the first or second centuries BCE. Primitive ephemerides were available at the time of Jesus.

Not to take anything away from Christians who prefer to see the Star of Bethlehem either as a one-off miracle or as having a primarily metaphorical inner meaning.
 

blackbery

Well-known member
They had seen a star, which shows they were astronomers – or astrologers as there was no difference back then. What was this star? Some scholars have posited that in 7BC there was a triple conjunction (when the planets catch up and overtake each other: quite a dramatic sight) of Jupiter and Saturn, in the constellation of Pisces. These three elements were linked in astrology to royalty, the messiah and the Jews respectively.


https://theconversation.com/what-the-magi-had-in-common-with-scientists-70301
 

Osamenor

Staff member
But no, I don't buy the great conjunction there. First off, were there 3 kings, 3 magi, or 3 whomever?

The Bible doesn't say. It just names three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. From that, it's been extrapolated that there were three wise men, one for each gift, but that's just conjecture. We don't actually know how many wise men there were.
 

waybread

Well-known member
Matthew is the only book in the Bible that mentions the 3 kings/Magi story and it is fraught with difficulties if we try to reconcile it with actual circumstances of the ancient world.

Take myrrh. It comes from a tree native to Saudi Arabia and parts of east Africa. Trade is a reasonable way to get it from one of those regions to someone traveling from Persia to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, but it is doubtful that one of the 3 kings/magi would have come from a myrrh-producing region because these weren't places with an astronomical/astrological tradition back then.

What is known historically about Roman census taking doesn't match up with the logistics of requiring males to return to their birthplace. Roman subjects, including the Jews, lived all over the empire. It wouldn't have been feasible for all of them to return home.

If Bethlehem was the birthplace of Joseph, why didn't he have family members or friends to take them in?

(Hint: the constellation Cancer has a central asterism Praesepe called "the manger," flanked by two stars called "the asses." Surrounding them are Virgo the Virgin, Taurus the ox, and Aries the lamb. The winter solstice occurs with the sun moving into the opposite sign of Capricorn. The supposed site of the creche scene in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is underground-- in a cave. Very symbolic of the darkest time of year.)

Katydid's linked article was really interesting, and helpful in terms of explaining how a star rising in the East could have gotten travelers to the west or south.

My problem with a planetary conjunction being the origin of the Star of Bethlehem is that the Babylonians had primitive ephemerides for centuries before the birth of Jesus. The origins of horoscopic astrology are unknown with precision but it was probably at least 100 years before the birth of Jesus. So any Magus would have known the approximate location of planets as two (or three) neared a conjunction.

I think shepherds, night watchmen, &c would have known about the planets' locations, as well.

To me, the biggest problem is that one can navigate by the stars up to a point, but not at the level of finding a particular lodging in a town-- unless the Sar of Bethlehem were miraculous, not astronomical.

I could go on in this fashion. (But won't.)

To me the Bible is a very profound book, but it is best understood metaphorically and spiritually, not literally word-for-word.
 

Osamenor

Staff member
Take myrrh. It comes from a tree native to Saudi Arabia and parts of east Africa. Trade is a reasonable way to get it from one of those regions to someone traveling from Persia to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, but it is doubtful that one of the 3 kings/magi would have come from a myrrh-producing region because these weren't places with an astronomical/astrological tradition back then.

The Bible also doesn't say where and when they got their gifts. Maybe they picked up some myrrh along the way. They could have passed through a myrrh-producing region. Or they could have run into a traveling merchant who had some. The second scenario is especially probable, since the most accessible roads were trade routes. There's no way they could have made such a trip and not encountered traders.
 

david starling

Well-known member
Matthew is the only book in the Bible that mentions the 3 kings/Magi story and it is fraught with difficulties if we try to reconcile it with actual circumstances of the ancient world.

Take myrrh. It comes from a tree native to Saudi Arabia and parts of east Africa. Trade is a reasonable way to get it from one of those regions to someone traveling from Persia to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, but it is doubtful that one of the 3 kings/magi would have come from a myrrh-producing region because these weren't places with an astronomical/astrological tradition back then.

What is known historically about Roman census taking doesn't match up with the logistics of requiring males to return to their birthplace. Roman subjects, including the Jews, lived all over the empire. It wouldn't have been feasible for all of them to return home.

If Bethlehem was the birthplace of Joseph, why didn't he have family members or friends to take them in?

(Hint: the constellation Cancer has a central asterism Praesepe called "the manger," flanked by two stars called "the asses." Surrounding them are Virgo the Virgin, Taurus the ox, and Aries the lamb. The winter solstice occurs with the sun moving into the opposite sign of Capricorn. The supposed site of the creche scene in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is underground-- in a cave. Very symbolic of the darkest time of year.)

Katydid's linked article was really interesting, and helpful in terms of explaining how a star rising in the East could have gotten travelers to the west or south.

My problem with a planetary conjunction being the origin of the Star of Bethlehem is that the Babylonians had primitive ephemerides for centuries before the birth of Jesus. The origins of horoscopic astrology are unknown with precision but it was probably at least 100 years before the birth of Jesus. So any Magus would have known the approximate location of planets as two (or three) neared a conjunction.

I think shepherds, night watchmen, &c would have known about the planets' locations, as well.

To me, the biggest problem is that one can navigate by the stars up to a point, but not at the level of finding a particular lodging in a town-- unless the Sar of Bethlehem were miraculous, not astronomical.

I could go on in this fashion. (But won't.)

To me the Bible is a very profound book, but it is best understood metaphorically and spiritually, not literally word-for-word.


A nova would have appeared to be miraculous, showing up out of nowhere, and shining brightly for a 2 week period before fading away.
 
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waybread

Well-known member
The Bible also doesn't say where and when they got their gifts. Maybe they picked up some myrrh along the way. They could have passed through a myrrh-producing region. Or they could have run into a traveling merchant who had some. The second scenario is especially probable, since the most accessible roads were trade routes. There's no way they could have made such a trip and not encountered traders.

Exactly.

However, all kinds of post-biblical traditions surround the 3 magi/kings and they don't all correlate with independent evidence.

Although Matthew doesn't refer to them as kings at all, there is a tradition that the 3 kings came from widely different countries: Persia, Arabia, and India (or Babylon) which sort-of works out the plausible origins of the gifts, but makes it hard to understand how the latter two knew any astrology and how they met up en route such that they could follow that star rising in the East. Even their names (Casper, Balthazar, Melchior) are post-biblical.

http://horoscopicastrologyblog.com/2008/12/11/the-transmission-of-hellenistic-astrology-to-india/

So far as I know, there are no extra-biblical accounts of the life of Jesus, apart from a few lines in Josephus that were probably a later insertion. Since the NT doesn't even mention a birth date for Jesus, we have to recognize that most taken-for-granted narratives about Jesus would have been conjectural, but subsequently reinforced as tradition.

It is unlikely that the Romans would have demanded extensive travel for their subjects during the Mediterranean region's winter rainy season for census purposes.
https://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/christianity/articles/when-was-jesus-really-born.aspx

(I once spent most of a year in Israel, and it sure rained a lot in winter.)

Astronomers looking for rare planetary conjunctions found them around the year 1 CE-- but in summer or autumn.

The more we follow the different traditions and possibilities, the less straightforward the story becomes. If theory A is plausible, then theory B is not.

And here we have to recognize that there are different ways to interpret the Bible-- anything from a skeptical assumption that it is a sheer fabrication to a fundamentalist insistence on taking every word literally. (Despite translation issues.) Some scholars have tried to find plausible historical and even scientific bases for the Bible, whereas in some more mystical traditions, the Bible is best understood esoterically and metaphorically.

I personally accept that there is some history in the Gospels, but that the Bible is best understood as a work of literature.

This is a really good article from PBS on current scholarship as to how the Gospel authors probably intended their works to be taken:

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/fron... 15 years after Mark,later, between 85 and 95.

If I were Christian, I would probably understand the Star of Bethlehem to refer to that inner light that guides the faithful to their savior.
 

Cary2

Banned
The reference by the Magi that his star was in the East is an astrological term. "In the East" is essentially "rising". Those primitive people, especially the onlookers who wrote Matthew, would not distinguish between planets and stars. I believe the star in the East was not a reference to the visual sign at the site of the event that was recorded in the Bible. Matthew did not understand the finer points of astrology, so his rendition of events was bound to carry some confusion.

According to Cayce, the miraculous quality of the star of Bethlehem was very much as described in the Bible. For local viewers, it was seen to move as well and to hover over the site of Jesus's birth. The announcements and singing of heavenly hosts as allegedly heard by shepherds was also confirmed by Cayce. "Peace on earth goodwill to men". Cayce frequently confirmed that the story of Jesus and the teachings of Jesus do not appeal to the "worldly wise".

There were Essenes and Essene sympathizers throughout Palestine, and, according to Cayce, the owner of the inn where Joseph and Mary were told, "there is no room in the inn" was, along with his family, an Essene sympathizer. He turned them away essentially because they attracted too much attention due to the contrast of the age of Joseph and Mary. When they first inquired at the inn, they provoked taunts and jeers from the crowd in the inn because Mary was sixteen and beautiful and Joseph was conspicuously older. The owner of the inn found alternative accommodations in the manger in order to protect the expectant couple. His young daughter had heard the stories about the coming Messiah and the stories about Mary that circulated widely in the Essene community.

The shepherds reported to the occupants of the inn the miraculous events that they had seen and heard which caused a stir, but there was so much drinking and revelry among the temporary travelers in Bethlehem that such reports were often dismissed. The shepherds followed the star to the manger. The innkeeper's young daughter also visited the manger after her chores were completed.

The miraculous events of that night would be widely reported as Jesus grew up, and many people doubted the reports while others were intrigued.

Cayce frequently declared that the Bible was factually flawed because "it had been through many hands", but he confirmed over and over again that many of the Bible's most unbelievable miracles did indeed occur. This was particularly noteworthy concerning the events that night in Bethlehem.
 

waybread

Well-known member
Hellenistic horoscopic astrology was well underway by the purported date of Jesus' birth.

The Magi were not primitive people, but would have been understood as astrologers or kings.

Some of us do not believe in Cayce's truth claims.

Anyway, Cary, you've got an interesting variant narrative.
 

Opal

Well-known member
Hi Katydid

https://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/1203.html

Here is another article, I have pasted the part of interest. Their are so many theories. I am happy to see another of us looking into the meanings astrological and astronomical. As they were, at one time one science, the secrets they hold should be plain to see.

“Let those with eyes see”

Here is what I find of interest from the link I pasted. Like to, I didn’t write it, but it is an interesting subject.

There are four main suggestions regarding the Star of Bethlehem, Johnson said. One (https://www.btinternet.com/~prgreetham/Wisemen/theory1.html) is a close approach by Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation Pisces the Fish, which happened three times during 7-6 B.C. These conjunctions were not spectacular, he said, but a triple conjunction is rare and therefore significant to astrologers. A conjunction is a close approach between two celestial objects as seen from Earth. The closer the objects come to each other, the more visually impressive and astrologically significant the event is. This explanation is currently the most popular, because it makes the common assumption that King Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.

The second suggestion (https://www.btinternet.com/~prgreetham/Wisemen/theory3.html) is the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in 2 B.C. described above. For this explanation to be true, Herod must have died at a later date than is commonly believed.

The third suggestion (https://www.eclipse.net/~molnar/) is an occultation (eclipse) of Jupiter by the moon in the constellation Aries the Ram in 6 B.C., which happened in daylight and would have been hidden by the glare of the sun. This explanation relies on astrological interpretation, with Jupiter perhaps representing the Star of Bethlehem.

The fourth suggestion (https://www.btinternet.com/~prgreetham/Wisemen/theory4.html) involves something different -- a nova in the constellation Capricornus the Goat, recorded by Chinese observers in 5 B.C. A nova is an enormous explosion at the surface of a star that is similar to a hydrogen bomb explosion, but much more powerful. The star temporarily brightens greatly, which we see as a nova. After a few days the star begins to fade, and after several months it is back to its original brightness, which may be quite faint.

"We don't know how bright the nova was, but it appeared to the ancients to be a new star," Johnson said. A faint nova would have been noticed only by those who studied the sky, such as astrologers. But it would have been significant to astrologers because it was new.
 
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Opal

Well-known member
Exactly.

However, all kinds of post-biblical traditions surround the 3 magi/kings and they don't all correlate with independent evidence.

Although Matthew doesn't refer to them as kings at all, there is a tradition that the 3 kings came from widely different countries: Persia, Arabia, and India (or Babylon) which sort-of works out the plausible origins of the gifts, but makes it hard to understand how the latter two knew any astrology and how they met up en route such that they could follow that star rising in the East. Even their names (Casper, Balthazar, Melchior) are post-biblical.

http://horoscopicastrologyblog.com/2008/12/11/the-transmission-of-hellenistic-astrology-to-india/

So far as I know, there are no extra-biblical accounts of the life of Jesus, apart from a few lines in Josephus that were probably a later insertion. Since the NT doesn't even mention a birth date for Jesus, we have to recognize that most taken-for-granted narratives about Jesus would have been conjectural, but subsequently reinforced as tradition.

It is unlikely that the Romans would have demanded extensive travel for their subjects during the Mediterranean region's winter rainy season for census purposes.
https://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/christianity/articles/when-was-jesus-really-born.aspx

(I once spent most of a year in Israel, and it sure rained a lot in winter.)

Astronomers looking for rare planetary conjunctions found them around the year 1 CE-- but in summer or autumn.

The more we follow the different traditions and possibilities, the less straightforward the story becomes. If theory A is plausible, then theory B is not.

And here we have to recognize that there are different ways to interpret the Bible-- anything from a skeptical assumption that it is a sheer fabrication to a fundamentalist insistence on taking every word literally. (Despite translation issues.) Some scholars have tried to find plausible historical and even scientific bases for the Bible, whereas in some more mystical traditions, the Bible is best understood esoterically and metaphorically.

I personally accept that there is some history in the Gospels, but that the Bible is best understood as a work of literature.

This is a really good article from PBS on current scholarship as to how the Gospel authors probably intended their works to be taken:

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/fron... 15 years after Mark,later, between 85 and 95.

If I were Christian, I would probably understand the Star of Bethlehem to refer to that inner light that guides the faithful to their savior.

Hi Waybread,

I am pretty sure, by pretty sure, I mean, I don’t know provably, that for the beginning of the Ages, it will be the winter solstice.

Right now, I am looking to the skies, to find which stars are or may be representatives of the gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. If there are stars or a constellation that represent those gifts, then they could have been rising in the East.

More food for thought.🙄
 

waybread

Well-known member
According to Rex E. Bills, The Rulership Book, gold and frankincense are ruled by the sun. Myrrh is ruled by Jupiter.

Trouble is, if you spend much time out of doors at night, you get to know where the planets are. This fall when I was taking our dog out for a quick walk at night before bedtime, Jupiter and Saturn were quite visible to the southwest. It's not like I would suddenly think they were something else as they pulled closer together.

Ditto for shepherds. If someone were stationed as a lookout at night to ensure the sheep's safety, it'd not like he would suddenly confuse two planets approaching one another for the Star of Bethlehem. Even in a town, there was no electric lighting. The average household's oil lamps didn't give off more light than was needed to see in the dark.

How planets, a supernova, or what-have-you could actually point out the right lodging amidst a village of houses &c just isn't realistic.

I maintain that the Star of Bethlehem was meant to be understood esoterically.

That's modern city folk talk.
 

Osamenor

Staff member
Trouble is, if you spend much time out of doors at night, you get to know where the planets are. This fall when I was taking our dog out for a quick walk at night before bedtime, Jupiter and Saturn were quite visible to the southwest. It's not like I would suddenly think they were something else as they pulled closer together.
Nothing in that story indicates that the wise men didn't know what the star was. They interpreted it as the newborn king's star. Jupiter meant king, and in the astrological symbolism of the time, Saturn and Pisces meant Judea and Bethlehem, in some order (I forget which). As I recall, Mars was also a place symbol, and Mars was part of the grand conjunction at some point.

That doesn't explain how it guided them to a particular residence, or how they picked those particular meanings out of all the many meanings those planets could have, but it works as a storytelling device, if the story was told to people familiar with the astrological meanings.

Ditto for shepherds. If someone were stationed as a lookout at night to ensure the sheep's safety, it'd not like he would suddenly confuse two planets approaching one another for the Star of Bethlehem. Even in a town, there was no electric lighting. The average household's oil lamps didn't give off more light than was needed to see in the dark.
The star and the shepherds don't appear in the same story. Only Matthew and Luke have nativity stories in them, and they're two different stories. Matthew's version includes the star and the wise men but not the shepherds (and not the part about the census and no room at the inn, either--in Matthew, Mary and Joseph appear to have been living in Bethlehem to begin with). Luke's includes the shepherds and the census but no wise men and no star. The annunciation the shepherds get is from an angel, not a star.
 

tikana

Well-known member
https://news.yahoo.com/astronomy-explain-biblical-star-bethlehem-234358275.html

What could the 'star in the east’ be?

The astronomer in me knows that no star can do these things, nor can a comet, or Jupiter, or a supernova, or a conjunction of planets or any other actual bright object in the nighttime sky. One can claim that Matthew’s words describe a miracle, something beyond the laws of physics. But Matthew chose his words carefully and wrote “star in the east” twice, which suggests that these words hold a specific importance for his readers.

Can we find any other explanation, consistent with Matthew’s words, that doesn’t require that the laws of physics be violated and that has something to do with astronomy? The answer, amazingly, is yes.

Astrological answers to astronomical puzzles

Astronomer Michael Molnar points out that “in the east” is a literal translation of the Greek phrase en te anatole, which was a technical term used in Greek mathematical astrology 2,000 years ago. It described, very specifically, a planet that would rise above the eastern horizon just before the sun would appear. Then, just moments after the planet rises, it disappears in the bright glare of the sun in the morning sky. Except for a brief moment, no one can see this “star in the east.”


And now we need a little bit of astrology background. When the planet reappears again for the first time and rises in the morning sky just moments before the sun, for the first time in many months after having been hidden in the sun’s glare for those many months, that moment is known to astrologers as a heliacal rising. A heliacal rising, that special first reappearance of a planet, is what en te anatole referred to in ancient Greek astrology. In particular, the reappearance of a planet like Jupiter was thought by Greek astrologers to be symbolically significant for anyone born on that day.

Thus, the “star in the east” refers to an astronomical event with supposed astrological significance in the context of ancient Greek astrology.


What about the star parked directly above the first crèche? The word usually translated as “stood over” comes from the Greek word epano, which also had an important meaning in ancient astrology. It refers to a particular moment when a planet stops moving and changes apparent direction from westward to eastward motion. This occurs when the Earth, which orbits the sun more quickly than Mars or Jupiter or Saturn, catches up with, or laps, the other planet.

Together, a rare combination of astrological events (the right planet rising before the sun; the sun being in the right constellation of the zodiac; plus a number of other combinations of planetary positions considered important by astrologers) would have suggested to ancient Greek astrologers a regal horoscope and a royal birth.

Wise men looking to the skies

Molnar believes that the wise men were, in fact, very wise and mathematically adept astrologers. They also knew about the Old Testament prophecy that a new king would be born of the family of David. Most likely, they had been watching the heavens for years, waiting for alignments that would foretell the birth of this king. When they identified a powerful set of astrological portents, they decided the time was right to set out to find the prophesied leader.


If Matthew’s wise men actually undertook a journey to search for a newborn king, the bright star didn’t guide them; it only told them when to set out. And they wouldn’t have found an infant swaddled in a manger. After all, the baby was already eight months old by the time they decoded the astrological message they believed predicted the birth of a future king. The portent began on April 17 of 6 BC (with the heliacal rising of Jupiter that morning, followed, at noon, by its lunar occultation in the constellation Aries) and lasted until December 19 of 6 BC (when Jupiter stopped moving to the west, stood still briefly, and began moving to the east, as compared with the fixed background stars). By the earliest time the men could have arrived in Bethlehem, the baby Jesus would likely have been at least a toddler.


there was a research done by modern astronomers who solved this
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hw0COIr8ZOk
 
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