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Where's the Star?

One of the biggest objections skeptics voice about Christianity is that the Star of Bethlehem was so bright, why is it not mentioned by anyone else? After all, people had been looking at the sky and counting stars for hundreds of years. If there had really been a strange new bright star in the sky over Bethlehem, certainly someone would have written about it.


Back in the year 1054 a star went supernova, and astronomers from the Middle East to Japan wrote about it. The remnant of that exploding star is where you’ll find the Crab Nebula, for those interested.


There are a few theories about why the Star of Bethlehem went unnoticed by nearly everyone. IMHO, the one I write about below is the most likely.


Back in September of the year 3 BC there was a conjunction between Jupiter and the star Regulus. They were so close in the nighttime sky they almost looked like they’d merged. Since those two “stars” (back then planets were known as wandering stars) were two of the brightest in the sky, that was notable to those who watched the stars. The “Wise Men” were watching.


It’s interesting to note that Jupiter is the “king planet” (the word “planet” comes from “wandering star”). Regulus is the king star, and is in the constellation Leo (the lion is the king of the jungle). And Leo has long been associated with the Hebrew tribe of Judah. All of this was known to the astronomers (wise men) in Babylon.


Because of something called “retrograde motion” (see image below), planets occasionally appear to move “backward” through the sky. This happened over the next several months, giving Jupiter and Regulus a second conjunction.


Then a third in May of 2 BC.


Retrograde motion happens all the time, and few people notice. Back in that era almost nobody would. Astronomers are among those few, but is it something to write about? Not really. Astronomers in the British Isles would look at this event and think, “Interesting. Kinda cool, really.” And that’s about it.


But the astronomers of ancient Babylon were also astrologers, looking at the night sky for signs of what’s going to happen next. So when the king planet and king star merged in the constellation Leo, they knew a “King of kings” would be born in the land of Judea. So they packed their camels and headed to the Roman Empire.


The local king, Herod, received those foreign dignitaries. They talked about a “King of kings.” Herod, who had killed many family members to maintain his authority, wanted to know specifically who the Wise Men were talking about. So he asked his religious people who had most of their texts committed to memory.


“Oh, yeah, there’s this passage that says something about a new king being born in Bethlehem.”

Herod, nobody’s fool, told these Wise Men to find out who this “King of kings” was so he could pay homage. And after an all-night bender with Herod the Wise Men wandered outside.


From Jerusalem, the local capitol, the Wise Men saw Jupiter hanging right above the horizon just before dawn, apparently hovering above the tiny town of Bethlehem. “Uh, hey, guys?” one asked the others. “Didn’t Herod’s guys say something about Bethlehem?”


“Yeah.” They looked and saw the same thing. “Let’s go look.”


And there they found the Christ child.


BONUS MATERIAL:

The Wise Men were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, so they bugged out for home without a return to Jerusalem. Herod got so ticked off he ordered the slaughter of every child in Bethlehem aged two and under.


“Why wasn’t that event talked about and recorded? Where was the news media of the day?”


Simple: Bethlehem was tiny, and there might have only been five kids killed. Significant today, but in that era there were places where children were sacrificed by parents to their gods. Even international media today ignores stories like that.


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