Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Star of Bethlehem

Rev. Hillary Dawes, PhD, SC-C

"...There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel..." (Numbers 24:17)

The star of Bethlehem is one of those religious mysteries of the world, that has baffled scientists, astronomers, historians, and religious scholars for centuries.   The astronomical approach of finding an actual star, that coincided with the birth of Jesus, has eluded many.  There is absolutely nothing in the astronomical record to indicate that any special luminary body was seen in the heavens at the time of Jesus' birth.   This has led some to believe that the star of Bethlehem is nothing more than Biblical myth, and that perhaps, Jesus is also a myth.  In this blog, I am going to take you back to the possible mindset of the magi of the east, who discovered this Star, which record we have of in the Bible.    

The narrative record of the star of Bethlehem is found only in the gospel of Matthew.  The narrative begins with these words.  

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,  Saying, 'Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him'" (Matthew 2: 1-2). 

The wise men from the east were magi, probably from Babylon (Daniel 2:2,13).  At the time of the Jewish diaspora in Babylon, the Hebrew scriptures and prophecies would have been available to those interested in becoming familiar with them.   One of the predictions was a rising of a Star over the land of Jacob (Israel), and also the prophecies of Daniel, who was a captive in Babylon, about a coming Messiah (Numbers 24:17; Daniel 9:25).   It should be noted too  that these magi were star-gazers or astrologists.  Astrologists are people who read the signs in the stars and other celestial bodies.  I am going to take you back to what those magi probably saw in the sky, before the appearance of the Star of Bethlehem, and how a series of signs in the sky, helped to point them towards Jerusalem.    You are going to find out how by following these signs, they ended up finding the Christ child.   
Now before I delve deeper into this study, let me just say that I am in no way am an astrologist.  I won't even pretend to be one, and what I am doing is just giving you the clues which the magi might have used, to find the Christ child.   One need to understand too that Jewish astrology is somewhat different from ordinary astrology.  Back then, astrology was the same as astronomy, and the position of stars in the universe had meaning attached to them, of spiritual importance.  It had nothing to do with reading the stars to predict one's personal fortunes or fortune-telling.   It's not different from today, when we see "blood moons" in the sky, to attach spiritual meanings to them.  Now Hagee may have been wrong about the blood moons, but that did not keep him from trying.  LOL.  I also did a  little write-up on the blood moons.  You can read about it here. 

If we accept common convention that Jesus was born anywhere from 4-6 BC, then we can go back prior to 6 BC to see what events were occurring in the heavens, that would have caused the wise men to look up, and pay close attention. 
12 BC - The appearance of Halley's comet.   Halley's comet only comes around every 75-76 years, so this was a remarkable sight to behold.    The orbit of Halley's comet was well-known in the east, as ancient documents from the Chinese and Babylonians show.  In spite of some theologians trying to make Halley's comet into the Star of Bethlehem, it does  not fit as 12 BC is too soon for the birth of Christ, and Halley's comet does not return until another 75-76 years after, so there was really nothing to 'follow.'   
7 BC - The triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces.   Jupiter and Saturn came into conjunction on May 27, October 6, and December 1 of 7 BC.   According to Babylonian astrology, the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces was predictive of  "the end of the old world order, and the birth of a new king chosen by God."  

4 BC - Exploding supernova observed by the Chinese.  You can read up about it on NASA's website.  Was this the Star of Bethlehem?  Sounds like a good fit, doesn't it?  According to Matthew though, the Star of Bethlehem was not an exploding star, but a moving star.  When the wise men could not find the Christ child, the Star appeared again, and led them to the Christ child (Matthew 2:9).  No star does that.   One thing we do know that happened in 4 BC was that this supernova event, which occurred on April 4,  was preceded by a partial lunar eclipse on March 13, 4 BC.   King Herod was very much alive on March 13, 4 BC, as he had executed a Jew by the name of Matthias, who had raised an insurrection against him,  for Herod putting the carved image of a golden eagle on the temple of God in Jerusalem, on that very day (Antiquities of the Jews 17.6.1-4).    

We need to pause at 4 BC, because nothing above seems to fit the star of Bethlehem's description.   Nothing fits, except for one other possible explanation - that star was not a star, but a host of angels.   When reading the Bible, it is very easy to fall into the trap of making the Bible into a history book, a geography book or a science book.  While those disciplines are alluded to in the Bible, the Bible is primarily a spiritual book, which main goal is to teach spiritual lessons and theological concepts.   The rising of a star in the east, which was never seen before, would have drawn the attention of the magi.   It was God's intention to lead them to the Christ child, so God opened their eyes so that they could see the glory of angels from afar, guiding them to the Christ child.   Angels are frequently referred to as stars in the Bible, so this should be of no surprise that God uses angels for this purpose (Job 38:7; Revelation 9:1; 12:4).   The host of angels seen by the shepherds on the night of Jesus' birth, would have been enough to fill the night sky with the brilliance of stars (Luke 2:8-14).   From afar, they would look like One star.    

Even today, angels are all around us.  Our eyes may not perceive them, but they are still around us to guide us along the paths of God, and to offer us protection from harm and danger.   The star of Bethlehem therefore is not an astronomical entity, but the celestial beings of God who celebrated the birth of the one true Star of Bethlehem - the Christ child.   He is the Star of Jacob, and the "bright and morning star" (Revelation 22:16).   

For more information on angels, and how God uses angels as our guides and for protection, please don't hesitate to contact me on my website.