What Was the Star of Bethlehem?
- Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Even if a star passes overhead at the latitude of Bethlehem, the text clearly states that the Star of Bethlehem "stood over where the child was." After talking to Herod, the wise men knew they were going to Bethlehem, but the text suggests that the Star led them to the actual location of Jesus, not just the city.
The text of Matthew 2:9 clearly describes an object that "went before" the wise men and "stood over" a precise location. This is not a description of a natural celestial body. Also, any natural object would pass briefly through the zenith, but would not "stand over" a place, at least not for longer than a moment. A "star" as described in Scripture would have to move around in space, and hold a geosynchronous position in the sky against the apparent motion of the sky due to Earth's rotation.
As mentioned many times in the Update and in our Signs & Seasons curriculum, classical astronomy was well understood for centuries before the New Testament period, and anyone reading the text at that time would likely understand that the object that led the wise men to young Jesus was not a natural celestial object.
Scholars and other modern "wise men" can sort all this out by bogging down with semantics or creatively interpreting the passage. Either way, as we've seen, Scripture does not supply very much detail, secular history does not offer much support, and science does not offer a plausible naturalistic explanation.
Given all the above, I just choose to stick with a simple acceptance of the Biblical text and don't attempt to reconcile it with naturalistic speculations. As for me and my house, we choose to understand the Star of Bethlehem to be a supernatural event that guided the wise men, like the angelic hosts that directed the shepherds to the manger.
This article is from the Classical Astronomy Update, a free email newsletter for Christian homeschoolers. Jay Ryan is also the author of "Signs & Seasons," an astronomy homeschool curriculum. For more information, visit his web site www.ClassicalAstronomy.com.
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