Monday, December 24, 2012

Star of Bethlehem

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Much has been said about what the Star of Bethlehem might be, but perhaps the most interesting stuff about it has been put forth by the folks at If you’ve got time to kill, read the articles of this site. Among other things, they say that whatever occurred in the sky had to fit these criteria:
  1. The star indicated birth (confer Matthew 2:2)
  2. The star indicated kingship (confer Matthew 2:2)
  3. It had a Jewish connection (confer Matthew 2:2)
  4. The star rose in the east (confer Matthew 2:2, where the Greek suggests the star rising in the east as opposed to the Magi seeing it while they were in the east)
  5. It appeared at an exact time (confer Matthew 2:7)
  6. Herod didn’t know when it appeared (confer Matthew 2:7), he had to ask.
  7. The star endured over a considerable period of time (confer Matthew 2:8-9)
  8. It went ahead of them as they traveled from Jerusalem to Bethlehem (confer Matthew 2:8-9)
  9. The star stopped (confer Matthew 2:8-9)
From these clues and some knowledge about history, first-century culture, and astronomy, we get some ideas about how the Magi—people who among other things studied the stars—might think they had seen a celestial sign that the King of the Jews was to be born. What follows later in the Star of Bethlehem website (e.g. how the celestial events signified a king) might strike some Christians as being too close to astrology, which is popularly condemned in modern Christian circles. Jupiter was known as the King Planet, which when viewed from the night sky touched the Regulus star (a star that signified royalty) three times within an unusually short span of time, and so forth.

Again, this might strike some Christians as being too close to astrology, but a few points should be kept in mind. Frist, celestial signs are apparent in the Bible. Remember some terminology about the moon turning red (Joel 2:31, Revelation 6:12)? That refers to a total lunar eclipse, where the moon really does appear red (checkout this NASA video; see also this page on the lunar eclipse’s interesting connection to Christ’s crucifixion). Similarly, some believe that the talk about the sun turning to darkness (Joel 2:31, Revelation 6:12) refers to a solar eclipse, or perhaps something a bit more mundate (see this article on this part of Joel 2:31’s possible relevance to Christ’s crucifixion). So there do appear to be at least some cases where celestial signs are legitimate. Second, remember that these Magi folk study the stars and clearly did see a star as a sign that the King of the Jews had come. So celestial phenomena signifying the King of the Jews is unavoidable if we’re to take Scripture seriously here, and at worst it’ll be a matter of degree regarding what is appropriate celestial interpretation by these apparently God-fearing Magi.

Anyway, I watched the video some time ago, and fellow Christians might want to consider watching the Star of Bethlehem DVD themselves. The coinciding of celestial events the DVD goes over seems so remarkable I think it might even be useful for apologetics.

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