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Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Star

Matthew 2:1-12  1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
3 When King Herod heard this, he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired where the Christ was to be born.
5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah,
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of My people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and learned from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 And sending them to Bethlehem, he said: “Go and search carefully for the Child, and when you find Him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship Him.”
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 until it stood over the place where the Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with great delight. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.
12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they withdrew to their country by another route.

The shepherds were out in the field “keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8), something the scholars say was likely only done in the spring when lambs were born. Thus the birth was likely in the spring, probably between 7 and 4 B.C. (not the December 25th we celebrate as Christ's birth).

In Matthew 2 the following 9 qualities of Bethlehem's Star:
It signified birth
It signified kingship
It was related to the Jewish nation
It rose "in the East"
King Herod had not been aware of it
It appeared at an exact time
It endured over time
It was in front of the Magi when they traveled south from Jerusalem to Bethlehem,
It stopped over Bethlehem.

Attorney Frederick Larson examined the biblical account:
Using astronomy software, and an article written by astronomer Craig Chester based on the work of Ernest Martin, Larson thinks all nine characteristics of the Star of Bethlehem are found in events that took place in the skies of 3-2 BC. Highlights include a triple conjunction of Jupiter, called the king planet, with the fixed star Regulus, called the king star, starting in September 3 BC. Larson believes that may be the time of Jesus' conception.
By June of 2 BC, nine months later, the human gestation period, Jupiter had continued moving in its orbit around the sun and appeared in close conjunction with Venus in June of 2 BC. In Hebrew Jupiter is called "Sedeq", meaning "righteousness", a term also used for the Messiah, and suggested that because the planet Venus represents love and fertility, so Chester had suggested astrologers would have viewed the close conjunction of Jupiter and Venus as indicating a coming new king of Israel, and Herod would have taken them seriously. Astronomer Dave Reneke independently found the June 2 BC planetary conjunction, and noted it would have appeared as a "bright beacon of light".
Jupiter next continued to move and then it stopped in its apparent retrograde motion on December 25 of 2 BC over the town of Bethlehem. Since planets in their orbits have a "stationary point", a planet moves eastward through the stars but "After it passes the opposite point in the sky from the sun, it appears to slow, come to a full stop, and move backward (westward) for some weeks. Again it slows, stops, and resumes its eastward course," said Chester. The date of December 25 that Jupiter appeared to stop while in retrograde took place in the season of Hanukkah, and is the date later chosen to celebrate Christmas. - Wikipedia, Star of Bethlehem

The conjunction or close meeting of Jupiter with two other planets, Saturn and Mars occurred in 6 and 5 B.C. In 3–2 BC, there was a series of seven conjunctions, including three between Jupiter and Regulus (a bright star in the constellation Leo) but these occurred after the death of Herod in 4 B.C.

"In the east" could also be interpreted as "at the rising." When a constellation or planet appears in the sky just before sunrise it's called a heliacal rising. Venus is heliacal star but Venus was known to astronomers and thus would not have been special by itself, but it could have been seen as significant if paired with another bright planet such as Jupiter. Craig Chester suggests it was Venus followed by a morning conjunction with Jupiter. This occurred June 17, 2 BC, but Herod likely died in 4 BC, meaning it didn't occur "in the days of Herod."

A bright meteor or “falling star” they last only seconds. It couldn't have "led" the wise men. There are no known novas or supernovas that would fit the bill.

These are only some of many theories on the Star of Bethlehem. Scholars have studied history to find astrological events that fit the 9 qualities of the Bethlehem Star. They try to pin down the historical year of Christ's birth according to the clues given in the nativity stories in the four gospels. Then they search historical records during that time to find astrological/astronomical events mentioned or described. But it probably was a supernatural event, rather than a natural event that supernaturally occurred at the time of Christ's birth.

These magi were “from the East” according to verse 1 and they are generally thought to be from Persia, which is east of Jerusalem. They seem to be the only ones who saw the star and applied significance to it. With it's appearance they knew to head west. They went to Israel’s capital city Jerusalem, to search for the King of the Jews. The magi had to ask King Herod where the King of the Jews was born, which means the star wasn’t guiding them at that time (Matthew 2:2). They rejoiced when they saw the star again as they began their journey to Bethlehem (Matthew 2:10) about 6 miles from Jerusalem. It led them to the very house Joseph and Mary lived in. It sounds like it was more of a miracle star and why wouldn't God use miraculous signs at the birth of His Son?!?

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