Star of Bethlehem
The Star of Bethlehem has become an icon of Christmas. During the holiday season, it is traditionally placed upon Christmas trees or positioned above the baby Jesus in manger scenes. This star was a light that oriental scientists followed from distant countries (possibly Persia, Saba, and, Sheba) to the exact place where Jesus lived in Bethlehem.
Many astronomers have attempted to provide a naturalistic explanation for the Christmas Star. Some say that the star was a convergence of astronomical bodies, or a supernova. The alternative to this kind of naturalistic explanation is to believe that God caused something supernatural to happen.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “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.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 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.’ ” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 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. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:1-21
The Star Went Ahead of Them
Matthew 2:9 states "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." The Scripture makes clear, that star "went ahead of them," implying motion, and a continuing action in leading them. To actively lead them, the star had to change direction as they moved on the ground, as they followed the road over the hills of Judea toward Bethlehem. The star had to always direct them towards Bethlehem.
No astronomical object or grouping of planets could go before them, pointing the way, as the Scripture describes. Astronomical objects can not change direction reacting to our motion on the ground. Astronomical objects follow the same path as the stars, rising in the east and setting in the west, as the Earth turns. (Planets move only slowly against the background of stars, the name planet meaning "wanderer").
Astronomical objects don't point in the same direction for many hours or days at a time, they rise, come to maximum altitude, and then they set. The only astronomical object that can stay fixed on the sky is the north star, Polaris. But Bethlehem is not to the north as you leave Jerusalem, and the wise men were clearly not so foolish as to follow the north star.
Since the Scriptures tell us that the star "went ahead of them, till it came and stood over where the young child was," and no astronomical object could have gone before them as the Scripture says; we are therefore forced to either accept the supernatural, or to discount or modify the Scriptures to obtain agreement with a naturalistic model.
Herod's Advisors Were Watching
We know from Matthew 2:3-4 that Herod gathered the chief priests and the scribes of Jerusalem, the wisest men of his kingdom, and enquired of them regarding the star; and that Herod and all of Jerusalem was disturbed (verse 3). So the wise men of Jerusalem were watching. If the Christmas Star had been seen by the priests, by the scribes, or by the servants of Herod, then they also would have followed the Star to Bethlehem; and they would have brought the child back to Jerusalem, or killed Him if they could. But the Star was not seen by the servants of Herod, so they couldn't follow what they didn't see. This shows us that the wise men from the East, who were believers and worshipers of the one true God, who waited for the true King of Israel, they saw the Star. But the wicked and unbelieving servants of Herod, who were also looking, couldn't see His star. This clearly illustrates the supernatural essence of the Christmas Star.
The Star Then Stood Over the House
Suddenly there was a change in the stars' motion. Again in verse 9 we read that, the star "stood over where the young child was." The description is of a clear change, from leading and going before them, to lead the way; to standing still, and by standing affirming that they had found the child, which they had traveled so far to see.
An astronomical object can't point to a particular place on Earth. To see this, consider the Moon. As seen from opposite sides of the Earth, the Moon shifts against the background of distant stars by less than two degrees, about one finger at arms length. You can verify this by watching the Moon as you travel on a long straight road. The Moon will remain in the same direction, except for its slow motion across the sky with the stars. Since the Moon is our closest neighbor in space, it is clear that no object at the distance of the Moon or beyond could point the wise men to a particular house within the village of Bethlehem.
The Star Had to be near the Ground
To point to a particular house within the village, by standing over the house as the Scripture says, the star when seen from different locations inside the village would have to change position against the background of stars. For this to happen the Christmas star had to be within the Earth's atmosphere and close to the ground, perhaps only a few hundred meters up. This requires a genuine miracle, like the pillar of fire and of smoke which led the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years. The Scriptures tell us that the pillar of fire and smoke was the glory of God, clothed in cloud to protect the children of Israel. So should we be surprised to find the glory of God leading the wise men to the savior of the world, Jesus the Christ. There is always the possibility that the star was indeed like the pillar pointing at the house, or that the star shown a light on the ground, illuminating the house. Even if such were the case the "star" was likely within the Earth's atmosphere.
All these clearly show the supernatural nature of the Christmas Star. There is simply no astronomical explanation that fits.
- The leading of the Star,
- The inability of Herod's servants to see or follow the Star even while the wise men saw it easily;
- The fact that the Star "stood over where the young child was," and
- Clearly pointed to a particular house in the village of Bethlehem;
The following events have been proposed as leading the Magi to believe the King of Kings was to be born in Judea.
- In August of 3 B.C., Jupiter went into conjunction with Venus. This may have caused the Magi to watch for further signs;
- In September of 3 B.C., Jupiter (The King of planets), went through a triple conjunction with Regulus (the King of Stars). It came within a degree of Regulus, passed it, then appeared to reverse direction, again came within one degree, then reversed direction again, and came within a degree of it a third time. The Magi may have inferred that this symbolized the "King of Kings."
- This triple conjunction occurred in the constellation of Leo, the lion. The Magi may have inferred that this symbolized the Lion of Judah.
- After Jupiter finished its triple conjunction, it continued on its path through the star-field until it came into conjunction with Venus in the Western sky, again in the constellation of Leo. When in conjunction, the two planets would have appeared to be one extremely bright star. Because the conjunction occurred in the western sky, this may have led the Magi to travel west;
- On December 25 of 2 BC Jupiter entered retrograde, reaching full stop in its travel through the fixed stars. If the Magi were viewing it from Jerusalem they would have seen it stopped in the sky above Bethlehem.
The magnetic dipole moment of Jupiter is so high that according to Russell Humphreys's model for planetary magnetic field formation, God formed Jupiter from water molecules and aligned all of them for maximum additive effect, rather than the twenty-five percent that seems to have been His usual pattern. This suggests that God had special plans for Jupiter at the time that He created that planet. Jupiter's participation in a triple conjunction with Regulus thus appears far less coincidental in this light. (Rick Larson, the proponent of the triple-conjunction model, demonstrated no awareness of Humphreys' magnetic-field model or of the significance of the tremendous magnetic dipole moment of Jupiter.)
- The Christmas Star: Was it Astronomical or Was it a Miracle? by Daniel Harris PhD
- Humphreys, D. R. "The Creation of Planetary Magnetic Fields." Creation Research Society Quarterly 21(3), December 1984. Accessed April 29, 2008.
- The Christmas Star by Hugh Ross
- The Star of Bethlehem: An Astronomical and Historical Perspective By Susan S. Carroll
- Star of Wonder by Mary Barron. National Catholic Reporter. December 27, 2002)
- Star Witness by Henry Morris, Acts & Facts, Dec 1, 1985
- What Was the Star? by Rick Larson
- The Star of Bethlehem - Audio lecture by Rick Larson
- Science tests theories on the Star of Bethlehem Frank D. Roylance. December 25, 2007.