After watching the documentary “The Star of Bethlehem”, we were just amazed at how God charted his whole story in the constellations. Below is just some of the information presented by Mr. Rick Larson that we wanted to discuss. Most content is taken from the BethlehemStar.com website where you can read Mr. Larson’s step-by-step process and all references to the study.
Setting the Stage
If the Star was a real historical event, why are we learning of the evidence only now? Why isn’t it common knowledge?
Johannes Kepler paved the way for rediscovery of the Star. He puzzled out the math which drives the heavens. He even used his formula to search for the Star. Thanks to Kepler, we now have the ability to locate celestial objects with great precision at any point in history and from any viewing point.
The Bible recounts that Herod learned of the Messiah’s birth from astronomers who had seen the Star of Bethlehem. He tried to kill the child, so, obviously, the Bible records that Herod was alive at Jesus’ birth.
Jewish historian, Falvious Josephus’ manuscript supports the inference that Herod died in 1 BC. Knowing this, and since Herod died shortly after Christ’s birth, our investigation turns to the skies of 3 and 2 BC.
Using Kepler’s calculations, we can create a computer model of the universe and in minutes produce thousands of sky maps. We can animate the universe in real time at any speed we choose, make months pass in moments or wind back the clock. We can view the sky precisely as it moved over Jerusalem 2000 years ago.
The Stars and the Bible
Even if you are not of a traditional Christian or Jewish faith, you might feel a bit uneasy searching for signs in the stars. Many people have concluded that there isn’t anything to astrology—or if there is something to it, it’s a “something” they want no part of. So, are we doing astrology here?
- the study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and the natural world.
- the study of the sun, moon, stars, planets and other objects and phenomena in space.
26 if I have regarded the sun in its radiance or the moon moving in splendour, 27 so that my heart was secretly enticed and my hand offered them a kiss of homage, 28 then these also would be sins to be judged, for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.Job 31:26-28
Astrology assumes that stars are causes of earthly events. The Bible assumes that they can be messages about earthly events. There is a big difference between a sign and an active agent. This is the difference between “astrology” and “astromony”.
The bottom line on the Bible and the stars: we may look to the stars for signs from God, but we are not to revere the stars themselves.
Who are these magi?
The word, ‘magi,’ which is sometimes translated ‘wise men,’ is the root from which we get our word ‘magic.’ This doesn’t make them all magicians, in the present sense of the word. Nebuchadnezer made the Jewish prophet Daniel Chief Magus of his court when Daniel was able to interpret a dream the other magi could not.
Philo, a Jewish philosopher, wrote in praise of an Eastern school of magi and their great learning and understanding of the natural world. This school may have descended from the Babylonian magi of Daniel’s day. Matthew does report that the Wise Men were from the East, and Babylon is east of Judea. So it is possible the Wise Men were of this prestigious Eastern school.
The Nine Points of Christ’s Star
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”Matthew 2:1-2
The Magis’ question gives us three points for our list of qualifications for the Star. Whatever happened in the sky indicated
- 1) birth,
- 2) kingship and
- 3) Jews.
The Greek text here says the Star was “en anatole,” meaning they saw his star rising in the east.
- 4) it must rise in the east like most other stars.
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.Matthew 2:3
Both ancient historians and the Bible make it clear that the Jews of this period expected a new Jewish ruler to arise, based upon Jewish prophecy. And it was accepted that the stars could announce such an arrival.
When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘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.’”Matthew 2:4-6
Herod took the Magis’ message as factual, and consulted the Jewish experts about the location of the birth. The fateful verse in the Book of Micah which is quoted to Herod by the Jewish experts soon resulted in the death of many little boys in Bethlehem.
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.Matthew 2:7
Two more qualifications for the Star:
- 5) It appeared at an exact time.
- 6) Herod didn’t know when it appeared. He had to ask.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 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 stopped over the place where the child was.Matthew 2:8-9
And now we have the last three qualifications for the Star:
- 7) It endured over a considerable period of time. The Magi saw it, perhaps from Babylon, traveled to Judea and saw it still.
- 8) It went ahead of them as they traveled from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. You might not realize that this doesn’t mean the Star was needed to guide the travelers to Bethlehem. Bethlehem is just five miles south of Jerusalem on the main road. They couldn’t miss it. No, the Star appears ahead of them as they trek south not so much as a guide as a further confirmation of the signs they had seen. Lastly,
- 9) The Star stopped! Can a star do that? Yes, it can, as we shall see.
What was the star?
With the nine qualifications, we can now disqualify what the star was not. If any of the nine Biblical features of the Star is absent, then the phenomenon we are examining may be interesting, but it can’t be the Biblical Star.
Not a meteor: Although dramatic, a meteor would fail most of the qualifications. It wouldn’t rise in the east and wouldn’t last long enough for the Magi to notice it’s significance let alone follow it all those miles.
Not a comet: At this time in history, comets were regarded as omens of doom and destruction, the very opposite of good tidings. A bigger problem is that there do not appear to have been any comets in 3 or 2 BC. Finally, comets are obvious things.
Not a nova: A nova, or exploding star, appears suddenly at a point in time, endures over time, rises in the east like other stars and can be spectacular. However, none appears in the ancient records for this time period. And like comets, a nova is an obvious thing.
Biblical qualification 6—that Herod had to ask when the Star appeared is a powerful clue. Anyone can glance up and see planets and stars. But, Herod didn’t know of it. A reasonable hypothesis is that the Star must have been something in the normal night sky which was striking when explained.
The Starry Dance
Our process of elimination has knocked out meteors, comets and novae as candidates. That leaves planets.
JUPITER. The name of the greatest god of Roman mythology. And the name of the largest planet of our solar system. Jupiter has been known from ages-old to the present as the King Planet. In September of 3 BC at the time of the Jewish New Year, Rosh ha-Shanah, Jupiter began movements that satisfy all nine identifying characteristics of the Star.
The Planet of Kings met the Star of Kings.
Jupiter came into a close conjunction with the star, Regulus. Regulus takes its name from the word root which yields our word ‘regal.’ The Babylonians called Regulus Sharu, which means ‘king.’ The Romans called Regulus Rex, which means ‘king.’ So to start things, at the beginning of the new Jewish year, the Planet of Kings met the Star of Kings.
Jupiter glides slowly past Regulus about every 12 years, so that event in and of itself wasn’t that significant.
In ancient times, planets like Jupiter were considered “wandering stars.” Each night Jupiter rises in the east (satisfying a second Star qualification). Each night it appears to be slightly farther east in the field of fixed stars. All of the planets move like this.
But the wandering stars exhibit another, stranger motion. Periodically, they appear to reverse course and move backward through the other stars because we watch the planets from a moving platform—Earth—hurtling around the Sun in its own orbit. Astronomers call this optical effect retrograde motion.
In 3/2 BC, Jupiter’s retrograde wandering would have called for our magus’ full attention. After Jupiter and Regulus had their kingly encounter, Jupiter continued on its path through the star field. But then it entered retrograde. It “changed its mind” and headed back to Regulus for a second conjunction. After this second pass it reversed course again for yet a third rendezvous with Regulus, a triple conjunction. A triple pass like this is more rare. Over a period of months, our watching magus would have seen the Planet of Kings dance out a halo above the Star of Kings. A coronation.
The Birth of a King
Jupiter’s interesting behavior may explain the kingly aspect of the Star. But there are nine qualifications of the Star of Bethlehem. Many are still missing. How did Jupiter’s movement relate to the Jewish nation? Where is an indication of a birth?
Jewish prophecy states that the tribe of Judah will bring forth the Messiah. The symbol of Judah’s tribe is the lion.
You are a lion’s cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness– who dares to rouse him? The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.Genesis 49:9-10
The triple conjunction—occurred within the constellation of Leo, The Lion.
But God gave us more than the magi had. In Revelation, Chapter 12, John describes a life and death drama played out in the sky: the birth of a king.
A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre…Revelation 12:1-5
Applying this to the Gospel story, the woman would represent Mary, the dragon would be Herod and the new moon is the baby, Jesus. Looking back to the 3 BC sky, we see more.
As Jupiter was beginning the coronation of Regulus, another startling symbol rose in the sky. The constellation which rises in the east behind Leo is Virgo, The Virgin. When Jupiter and Regulus were first meeting, she rose clothed in the Sun. And as John said, the moon was at her feet. It was a new moon, symbolically birthed at the feet of The Virgin.
But even this is not the whole story. These symbols could indicate a birth, but if they were interpreted to indicate the time of conception, the beginning of a human life, might there be something interesting in the sky nine months later? Indeed. In June of 2 BC, Jupiter continued the pageantry.
By the following June, Jupiter had finished crowning Regulus. The Planet of Kings traveled on through the star field toward another spectacular rendezvous, this time with Venus, the Mother Planet. Jupiter appeared to join Venus. The planets could not be distinguished with the naked eye. Jupiter completed this step of the starry dance as it was setting in the west. That evening, our Babylonian magus would have seen the spectacle of his career while facing toward Judea.
To qualify as the Star, Jupiter would have to have been ahead of the Magi as they trekked South from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Sure enough, in December of 2 BC if the Magi looked south in the wee hours, there hung the Planet of Kings over the city of Messiah’s birth.
All but one of the nine Biblical qualifications for the Star have now been plausibly satisfied, but the ninth qualification would require that Jupiter stop over Bethlehem. How could a planet do that? And did Jupiter do it?
To Stop a Star
The sky moves above Earth at half the speed of the hour hand on a common clock. Its movement is imperceptible to the naked eye. So, if all stars are always stopped, what can Matthew have meant?
Perhaps you have already anticipated the key to this final mystery: retrograde motion.
On December 25 of 2 BC as it entered retrograde, Jupiter reached full stop in its travel through the fixed stars. Magi viewing from Jerusalem would have seen it stopped in the sky above the little town of Bethlehem.
AMAZING! The first Christmas celebration WAS on December 25! We suggest you take a couple of hours and watch this movie. There is more to the story and we don’t want you to miss it.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:6