Was the Star of Bethlehem myth or fact? I am greatly indebted to Wayne Taylor of Louisiana for pointing me to Rick Larson’s excellent video on this subject. It is yet another example of modern science supporting belief in God.
Computers today can reproduce how the sky looked from any point on Earth at any time in history. Armed with this new knowledge, here is a spectacular theory that supports every claim in the Bible. To shorten this, I’ll give you the events in chronological order, and you can go back yourself to check how these match exactly up with the Biblical statements in the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, and with dozens of other Biblical references and historical facts. I haven’t personally been able to confirm all the details, but I have summarized the theory below.
Mid-September, 3 BC – Babylonian astronomers, the best in the world at that time, who are probably of Jewish descent (remnants of the Babylonian captivity), witness a spectacular triple conjunction of Jupiter (known to the ancients as the “King Planet”) and the star Regulus. The Babylonians called this star “Sharru,” meaning “the King”, and Regulus was also known as the “King” star by the Romans). Jupiter passes Regulus three times, and traces a crown above it. Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation of Leo the lion. The Bible in different places compares the Israelite Tribe of Judah, the tribe of King David and Jesus, with a lion. This triple conjunction of the two kings is a very rare event, and suggests at least that something kingly is going on or is about to happen in Judah. This could be the date of Christ’s conception, where the Angel Gabriel appears to Mary. Remember that planets in those days were thought of as wandering stars, because they appeared to move around the heavens.
February 5, 2 BC – The Roman Senate orders an empire-wide census. Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem, the town of King David, to be counted.
June 17, 2 BC – Nine months after the Jupiter/Regulus conjunction, the King Planet Jupiter joins the planet Venus, universally associated with femininity, in conjunction. This is the closest alignment of Jupiter and Venus in thousands of years on each side of this date. The planets are so close that they appear to the naked eye to be touching. It is the brightest “star” the Babylonian astronomers will ever see. This conjunction takes place in the constellation of Virgo the Virgin. Jesus is born. The sacrificial “lamb of God” is born in Bethlehem, which is where thousands of sacrificial lambs that were bred for the Temple at Jerusalem were born. He is born in the late spring, not winter, and the shepherds who cared for those lambs were out in the warmer weather sleeping with the flocks during birthing season.
Late December 2 BC – The Babylonian astronomers, known as “magi” or wise men, arrive with their entourage in Jerusalem. It’s a long and difficult journey, and there was doubtless time needed to prepare. They ask Herod “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star [rising] in the East, and have come to worship him.” Herod doesn’t have a clue. (This shows the star was not a comet or supernova.) Herod asks his priests where the Messiah is to be born, and they quote him the Old Testament prediction of Bethlehem of Judea. Herod tells the magi to go and report back.
December 25, 2 BC – The magi leave Jerusalem and head due south to Bethlehem, only five miles away. Jupiter is directly south on this date as they walk out of Jerusalem, and they get to Bethlehem by following the “star.” On this exact date Jupiter goes into retrograde motion, it appears to “stop” its wandering among the stars. The magi bring gifts; it is the first Christmas. Jesus is no longer a newborn infant; the original Greek refers to him as a toddler at this point.
The heavens operate like clockwork. For these cosmic events to have accompanied the birth of Jesus, God had to have known the exact dates when the Solar System was created 5 billion years ago, and perhaps when God flung the universe into existence 14 billion years ago.