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Thursday, December 16, 2010
The Star of Bethlehem
The following is an excerpt from an article by Physicist and Christian Dr. Michael R. Molnar. He explains what the Star of Bethlehem was through the study of modern astronomy and ancient astrology.
Powerful evidence supports the idea that the Star of Bethlehem is based on Roman-era astrology rather than an exceptionally bright astronomical event. For Roman-era astrologers, a royal "star in the east" meant that Jupiter, the star of kings, rose exactly 12° ahead of the Sun, becoming a "Morning Star." They also believed that this produced a royal birth. Jupiter rose precisely 12° ahead of the Sun in Aries on April 17, 6 BC. In the Mathesis written by Julius Firmicus Maternus in AD 433, this Christian convert described the horoscopes of two Roman divinities. The first is for an "almost divine and immortal" person. This horoscope with Jupiter "exalted" in Cancer is undoubtedly for Emperor Augustus Caesar. The Roman Senate declared Augustus divine shortly after his death.
Firmicus then wrote about an "especially" divine and immortal person, who is probably Jesus. In this horoscope the Sun is "exalted" in Aries, accompanied by the planets Saturn and Jupiter that ruled over Aries. Most importantly, Jupiter was "in the east" with the Moon moving toward Jupiter, accompanied by the Sun and Saturn in Aries, which perfectly describes the conditions for April 17, 6 BC.
There's no proof that Jesus was born on this date, but astrologers would have associated the birth of the King of the Jews with April 17, 6 BC. As astrology lost its significance and the actual birth date was never recorded, religious fervor mythologized the Magi's star. The adoption of the pagan holiday “The Unconquered Son”, on December 25th, as Christ's birth date compounded the confusion.
Unfortunately, many astronomers and historians have ignored the historical evidence that the Star of Bethlehem was an astrologically significant event rather than a sky spectacle. Sky spectacles, like comets, fit our modern way of thinking and satisfy religious expectations. But historically incorrect theories collapse under scrutiny. Only by looking to the ancient beliefs and practices can we understand how a mundane Morning Star became the glorious Star of Bethlehem.
From Sky and Telescope Magazine, December 2008.
Retired Rutgers University astronomer Michael R. Molnar explains his full case in his book: "The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi."