Tid Bits Gathered Here and There

The Star of Bethlehem

Was is a celestial Event, A Supernatural Phenomenon or a Story made up by Matthew? (Excerpt from article by Anthony F Aveni in Nov/Dec98 Archaeology)

No matter how many times Matthew’s story is told, the question remains: What exactly was this star? It may have simply been a bright star, a supernova (an old star which, in a gravitional death spasm, blazes forth for a few months before gasping its last breath of nuclear energy), of a recurrent supernova,...a constellation,..or a bright comet. Others say the great luminary was really two comets, a meteor shower or a fireball..... Combinations of sky phenomena have been suggested, including a conjunction of two or more planets, ...eclipses of Saturn and Jupiter by the moon,...the zodiacal light, a reflection of sunlight off planetary particles in the plane of the planets’ orbits or perhaps even UFO’s.

A second category avoiding any scientific accountability by positing a theophany, an aura of light surrounding God, a supernatural radiance.

A third category raises the possibility that the star is neither chronologyical nor literal and that identifying it either naturally or supernaturally serves no purpose, that it is "just a story".

Origen, a third-century gnostic, records the first attempt to give such a naturalistic account of the Star of Bethlehem. He wrote in AD 248, "We think that the star which appeared in the east...is to be classed with the comets which occasionally occur, or meteors, or jar-shaped stars.

Among modern proponents of natural explanation is the astronomical historian David Hughes. His explanation is accepted by most contemporary seekers of natural phenomena and is the one that I, too, find most convincing. Celestial events figure prominently in the Zorostrian millennial cosmology that enjoyed a revival during the stable Roman rule of the first century BC. A forerunner of Christianity, Zoroastrianism predicted a cyclic war between the forces of light and darkness. The end would come with the triumph of light, which would be followed by the day of redemption, punishment of the wicked, and the installation of the one true god. Repeated planetary conjunctions were thought to represent the beginning of successive eons that made up this cyclic world history. Hughes cites a triple conjunction (three close visual passes in a row) of Saturn and Jupiter in the constellation of Pisces in 7 BC and places the birth of the historic Jesus around October of that year. The Magi or magoi, a Middle Eastern tribe skilled in sorcery according to Herodotus, would have been recognized by Matthew as competent astrologers intimately familiar with the sky, who would have been aware that the conjunction was about to take place. A cuneiform text excavated at Sippar, a town north of Babylon known for its school of astrology records calculations and predictions of the event. Familiar with Jewish tradition, the Magi would have know that Jupiter was a lucky star and that Pisces had a strong astrological association with the Jews. Fish were the sign of redemption and would later become a well-known symbol for the Savior, and the sun moves into Pisces between winter and spring, thus contrasting the end of an old cycle with the beginning of a new one. Hughes argues that these circumstances would have given the Wise Men ample cause to make the 550 mile (three or four month) journey west to honor the newborn king. Moreover the three close passages of the two planets were spread conveniently over seven months from late May to early December, the first pass perhaps serving as a warning that something momentous was about to happen, the second as a sign to get moving, and the third as an indication that they were nearly there.

(Editor’s note: The Urantia Book also gives a different time for the event as being in the month of August. All this is definitely thought provoking and for each of you to decide for yourselves. The remainder of the article is well worth reading.)

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