Jewish Leadership – Recognition of the Messiah?

Jewish leadership acknowledged the supernatural abilities and authority of Jesus of Nazareth…some even recognized him as the Messiah. It began at the time of his birth.

Magi saw signs that a special King of the Jews was to be born and began a quest traveling hundreds of miles not knowing exactly where to find him. None other than King Herod gave the Magi the birth location of the Messiah as it was provided to him by the Jewish religious experts.

Herod’s question to the chief priests and scribes was simple – where is the Christ (Greek for Messiah) to be born?  His question was based not on “if,” rather an assumption of fact asking “where” the Messiah was to be born? Their answer:  “In Bethlehem of Judea.”[1] Accordingly, Herod sent the Magi to Bethlehem where they did indeed find the child, Jesus.

Eight days after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary took him to the Temple in Jerusalem a few miles away to comply with the Jewish laws to formally name him, to be circumcised, offer a sacrifice and for his father to bless him.[2] Simeon met them in the Temple, took the babe in his arms and blessed Jesus, too, saying:

LK 2:30-32 “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (NIV)

Previously Simeon had received a vision that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.  Upon seeing the baby Jesus, Simeon acknowledged to God that His promise had been fulfilled and he was now ready to die. Before the new family left, Simeon foretold what to expect for the life of their child, Jesus:

LK 2:34-35 “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (NIV)

Anna was a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel of the Asher tribe. Her husband had died after only seven years of marriage leaving her a widow for the next 84 years. Living a reclusive life, she never left the Temple fasting and praying day and night.[3]

Seeing Joseph, Mary and Jesus, Anna came up to them and began giving thanks to God. The prophetess then spoke of Jesus to all who came into the Temple interested in the “redemption of Jerusalem.”

Several groups of Jewish religious leaders are referenced in the Gospels, usually in opposition to Jesus – the rulers of the Sanhedrin, the High Priest, the Pharisees, the Herodians, the chief priests, the legal experts and the elders. While opposing him as a threat to fundamental Judaism, they acknowledged the supernatural abilities and powers of Jesus inadvertently corroborating that he possessed the characteristics of the prophesied Messiah.[4]

Sanhedrin was the ruling political body of the Jewish theocracy.[5] The High Priest was the head of the Sanhedrin and political leader of all the Jewish people.[6] Pharisees were one of three predominate religious factions in Jerusalem and most noticeable throughout Judea.[7]

Scribes were the legal experts of Jewish law, the lawyers of the day.[8] Chief priests were religious leaders from the Temple and members of the Sanhedrin.[9] Elders were valued in Jewish society for their wisdom in consultations.[10] Herodians were a minor religious faction although they shared a common enemy of Jesus.[11]

Chief priests, legal experts and elders acknowledged Jesus had the supernatural power and authority to cast out demons and to perform “signs” often translated as “miracles.” [12] Asking Jesus to identify the authority of his power “to do these things,” they could not answer a legal riddle posed to them and, in return, Jesus neither answered their question.[13]

Pharisees were the primary nemesis of Jesus in the Gospels. Inexplicably, they viewed Jesus as being on their level calling him “teacher” who taught “the way of God in truth” and took offense when Jesus dared to eat with the “sinners.”[14] Admitting Jesus performed “signs” so amazing that “the whole world has gone after him,” they sought to kill him.[15]

Arresting Jesus, the Jewish leadership put him on trial when he admitted under oath to being the “Son of God.” The High Priest in charge of the trial, Caiaphas, reacted to the admission by tearing his clothes in a customary display of grief for hearing blasphemy exclaiming, “Why do we still need witnesses?”[16]

Not all the Jewish leadership shared the same disdainful views of Jesus. In one instance, Jesus was invited to dinner by a Pharisee named Simon.[17] While dining, an uninvited guest – a local woman “sinner” – washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and hair. Jesus forgave her many sins causing Simon and his guests to wonder who is Jesus to be able to forgive sins?[18]

Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were identified as Jewish rulers who followed Jesus.[19] Nicodemus had met secretly with Jesus and once pushed back on unfair accusations of his ruling peers.[20] Joseph asked Pilate for the crucified body of Jesus and both Jewish rulers together buried him in Joseph’s unused tomb.[21]

King Herod believed as a result of the Magi’s visit and his royal Jewish council that the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem. At the Temple, a Jewish prophetess and a priest recognized baby Jesus as the Messiah. Later, archenemies of Jesus acknowledged his supernatural abilities to heal, perform other miracles, and his authority of power over evil. Was Jesus the prophesied Messiah?

 

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REFERENCES:

[1] Matthew 2:5.
[2] Luke 2:21-33.
[3] Luke 2:36-38.
[4] Matthew 12:9; Mark 11:18; Luke 6:6-11; John 11:46-48. Sanhedrin 49b. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. 1935-1948. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_49.html “Chief Priests.” Encyclopedia.com. 2019. <https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/chief-priests>
[5] “Sanhedrin.” JewishEncyclopedia.com. 2011. <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12291-portalis-comte-joseph-marie>
[6] “High Priest.” JewishEncyclopedia.com. 2011. <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7689-high-priest>
[7] “Pharisees.” JewishEncyclopedia.com. 2011. <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articl s/12050-perushim>
[8] “Scribes.” JewishEncyclopedia.com. 2011. <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13831-sofer>
[9] “Chief Priests.” Encyclopedia.com. 2019. <https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/chief-priests>
[10]“Elder.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2021. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/elder>
[11] “Herodians.” JewishEncyclopedia.com. 2011.  <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7605-herodians>
[12] Mark 2:6; 3:22; Luke 6:7; John 11:47.
[13] Matthew 21:23; Mark 11:28.
[14] Matthew 22:16; Mark 2:13-16. Luke 5:30, 7:39, 15:2: John 8:3.
[15] Matthew 12:9, 22:15; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 5:21, 6:2, 11, 11:53; John 7:31-32, 11:47-50; 12:19.=
[16] Mark 14:61-63. NET, NRSV. CR Matthew 26:63-65; Luke 22:70-71. O’Neal, Sam. Learn Religions. 2019. <https://www.learnreligions.com/why-people-in-the-bible-tore-their-clothes-363391>
[17] Luke 7:44.
[18] Luke 7:36-35.
[19] John 3:1, 7:50-51, 19:38-39
[20] John 7:50-51.
[21] Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38-42.

What Signs Did the Magi See As “His Star”?

Magi saw “His star” signaling the birth of the “King of the Jews” – something so moving they walked hundreds of miles to “worship” him. What did the Magi see? Clearly, in the Jesus of Nazareth Nativity as described by Matthew, the Magi had read signs in the night sky saying to King Herod:

MT 2:1-2 “…‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’” (NASB, NKJV)

MT 2:9-10 “…behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them…When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. (NKJV)

Astrology, astronomy or was it something else?[1] Astrology is the belief that celestial bodies influence a person’s journey in life where horoscopes define a personality, successes, sorrows, challenges – a life’s destiny.[2] Astronomy is a science where positions of stars and planets follow a predictive path that can be charted past, present and future – no mystical meaning in the science.[3]

Zoroastrian theology of the Magi did not believe astrology determined a person’s future, rather a person’s spirit was chosen through a chain of decisions by the age of 15. It was a freewill choice result.[4] On the other hand, the Magi believed every planet has a significance.[5]

Going back millennia from the Assyrians and Babylonians down through the Greeks and Romans, planet-stars and certain fixed stars had names of gods varing by culture and language.[6] As these symbolic celestial bodies moved through the night sky, stargazer Magi viewed their interactions as having earthly significance.[7] Through a series of signs a story unfolded where one sign was associated with the next ultimately portraying a particular outcome.[8]

Unknown to many, Hebrew scholars have long accepted a belief that during creation God instilled the 12 constellations with influences in world events.[9] Man abused this knowledge by worshiping the stars instead of God thus He made it a forbidden practice.[10]

“The study of the universe as a whole was, like all other sciences in olden times, held in closest connection with religion, and was cultivated in the interest of the latter. The starworld was to the heathen an object of worship, but not to the Jews, whether national or Hellenized. With this reverence there was connected a superstition that the stars determined the destiny of man…It is obvious, therefore, that the Astronomy of the Talmudists [Jewish biblical sages] could not be an independent science any more than that of the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, or of all other nations of antiquity or of the medieval ages: it was a department of knowledge belonging to theology.”[11] –Jewish Encyclopedia

Knowing how the Magi and the Hebrews viewed the constellations, the planets, their meaning and significance of their interactions serves as a key to solving the mystery of “His star.” By tying this information to the incredible factual astronomy events that played out on the night’s stage during the final years of the BC era, several theories  emerge that could possibly identify the star.

One is the comet star theory when two comets were observed, first in 5 BC lasting for 70 days and then a second tailless comet visible during a single night on April 24, 4 BC.[12] Another theory cites ancient Chinese records telling of a nova burst in the constellation Aquila the Eagle in 5 BC.

The comet theory has to overcome the fact that these were distinctly two very different visual events – one comet with a tail lasting for weeks; the other without a tail lasting for a single night. A nova is an explosion of a star creating a temporary brightening of the star before it fades back to a fainter state.[13] The nova theory is challenging in that it was a one-star, one-time event.

A popular theory is based on a series of conjunctions during the 7-6 BC timeframe involving very close proximity Jupiter-Saturn triple conjunctions. The trifecta took place inside the constellation Pisces, the Fish, on May 29, September 29 and December 5 of 7 BC and was followed by a massing of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in 6 BC.[14] Jupiter and Saturn also twice came into close conjunction with the Moon.[15] Problematic for this scenario is that it does not offer an explanation for a single “star” having to rely heavily on astrological interpretation.

Rarity would be a factor since the Jupiter-Saturn triple conjunction was only the third since 562 BC. The scenario also had Babylonian astrology implications by taking place inside the constellation Pisces known to the Babylonians as Nunu.[16]

Pisces the Fish constellation, considered to be the house of Jupiter, is associated with water and rain making the Earth fruitful.[17] In the Hebrew Zodiac, Pisces is the twelfth sign called Dagim that falls in the twelfth Jewish month of Adar, and is one of the three constellations of the East.[18] Dagim represents fertility and pregnancy; a blessing. Adar is the month of joy holding the last holiday of the year, Purim, the celebration of hidden miracles and sets the stage for the month Nisan and the Passover.[19]

One starry scenario theory took place in 3-2 BC hitting squarely on several points, one that provides an astronomy science explanation for “His star;” matches the 2 BC timeline for the Caesar Augustus Pater Patriae registration decree; and deftly fits with the Magi’s view of cosmic signs. Seven extraordinarily close-proximity conjunctions tell an intriguing allegorical story that cannot be easily ignored.

An 18-month series of rare conjunctions began in 3 BC with the .67˚ Saturn-Mercury conjunction. Saturn was known as Ninib, Babylonian god of fertility, and Mercury as Nebo, “the messenger of the gods,” the god of record-keeping and scribe who delivered messages to the mortals.[20] In this scene, the messenger to mortals and the scribe record-keeper god met with the fertility god.

Three weeks later came the .12˚ conjunction between Saturn and Venus who was the Babylonian’s divine personification of the goddess Ishtar, a composite goddess who had many attributes. Venus was the queen of heaven, the mother goddess, the goddess of love, marriage and childbirth.[21] Here, figuratively the god of fertility had met with the goddess queen.

Two months later, queen Venus made extremely close contact with its .07˚ conjunction with Jupiter, the king planet known to the Babylonians as Marduk, the patron god of creation.[22] The symbolic coming together of the king and queen is modestly obvious. Would the Magi have seen this as the sign of a royal conception? The two would meet again 9 months later.

Perhaps the Wise Men could have chalked this all up to coincidence…until a month later. In just a half-tick of the comic clock, they saw where king Jupiter left his visitation with queen Venus to begin a triple conjunction with the star Regulus.

Considered to be the king of stars that ruled the affairs of the heavens, Regulus was to the Persians the leader of the Four Royal stars, the four Guardians of Heaven.[23] As the brightest and chief star in the center of the constellation Leo the Lion, Regulus was known as the Heart of the Lion.[24] The star’s Babylonian name was “Sharru,” meaning the ‘breast, heart’ of the lion; in Hebrew, Sharru-ukin means “king; legitimate, true.”[25]

Leo is considered to be a royal constellation because of its status at the head of the Zodiac calendar dominated by king star Regulus and its direct path to the sun.[26] Well-known to the stargazers of the ancient world, Leo was called “Ser” or “Shī” by the Persians and “Arū” by the Babylonians, all meaning Lion.[27]

Over the next eight months since the Jupiter-Venus conjunction, Jupiter’s triple conjunction path revolved around Regulus where, in essence, the king planet circled a ring around the king star of the heavens. Taking place in the heart of Leo the Lion, the natal sign of Judah, this triple conjunction may have signaled the Magi where to find the newborn king of Israel.[28]

Jupiter moved from circling Regulus directly back to a reunion with Venus, 9 months since the last, for the striking appearance of a partial overlapping conjunction on June 17, 2 BC. Not a surprise to the Magi who would have anticipated its appearance, yet if this second Jupiter-Venus Conjunction was the second appearance of “His star” while the Magi were in Jerusalem, they reacted with “exceedingly great joy” when they actually saw it.

Appearing unannounced at the palace of Herod, the King did not question the declaration of the Magi whose centuries old reputation preceded them – renowned for their expertise in reading the stars and, according to Plato, as “king makers.”[29] Herod acted on the Magi’s information as fact, consulted with Jewish religious experts on prophecy, then focused his attention on Bethlehem wanting to know when “His star” had appeared.

Was the sign of “His Star” announced by the Magi to King Herod in his Judean palace actually the conjunctions of Jupiter and Venus in 3 and 2 BC?

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REFERENCES:

[1] Clevenger, John. “Astronomy, Astrology, and the Star of Bethlehem.”  Lake County (Illinois) Astronomical Society. 2012. <http://www.lcas-astronomy.org/articles/display.php?filename=the_christmas_star&category=miscellaneous>
[2] “astrology.” Merriam-Webster. 2018. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/astrology> “astrology.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2018. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/astrology>
[3] “astronomy.” Merriam-Webster. 2018. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/astronomy> “astronomy.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2018. <https://www.britannica.com/science/astronomy>  Redd, Nola Taylor. Space.com. 2017. <https://www.space.com/16014-astronomy.html>
[4] Eduljee, K. E. “Is Zoroastrianism a Religion, Philosophy, Way-of-Life…? The Spirit.” Zoroastrian Heritage. 2011. <http://zoroastrianheritage.blogspot.com/2011/05/is-zoroastrianism-religion-philosophy.html>  Eduljee, K. E.  “Introduction. Zoroastrianism & Astrology.” n.d. <http://zoroastrianastrology.blogspot.com/>
[5] “Every Planet Has a Meaning.” Magi Society. Lesson 3. 2008. <http://www.magiastrology.com/lesson1.html>
[6]   Eduljee, K. E. “Zoroastrian-Persian Influence on Greek Philosophy and Sciences.”  Zoroastrian Heritage. 2011. <http://zoroastrianheritage.blogspot.com/2011/04/zoroastrian-influence-on-greek.html>  Eduljee, K. E. “Astrology & Zoroastrianism,” Zoroastrian Heritage. 2011. <http://zoroastrianheritage.blogspot.com/2011/04/astrology-zoroastrianism.html>
[7] Eduljee, K. E. “Greek Perceptions of Zoroaster, Zoroastrianism & the Magi.” #2, #33. Zoroastrian Heritage. 2011. <http://zoroastrianheritage.blogspot.com/2011/04/greek-perceptions-of-zoroaster.html> “Magi Astronomy.” Magi Society. 2008. <http://www.magiastrology.com/lesson3.html> Humphreys, Colin J. “The Star of Bethlehem – a Comet in 5 BC – And the Date and Birth of Christ.” pp 390-391. SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS). 1991. <http://adsbit.harvard.edu//full/1991QJRAS..32..389H/0000391.000.html>
[8] Dickinson, David. “Is This Month’s Jupiter-Venus Pair Really a Star of Bethlehem Stand In?” Universe Today. October 14, 2015. <https://www.universetoday.com/122738/is-this-months-jupiter-venus-pair-really-a-star-of-bethlehem-stand-in/>  Roberts, Courtney. The Star of the Magi: The Mystery That Heralded the Coming of Christ. pp. 70-71. <https://books.google.com/books?id=480FI6lj3UkC&pg=PA145&lpg=PA145&dq=magi+signs+in+the+sky&source=bl&ots=wQlvIonSLe&sig=yX-toR4CMY1JnebNxQjvYVpHHnc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj9vsaQlonfAhUInKwKHYG5D144FBDoATABegQICBAB#v=onepage&q=magi&f=false>
[9] “Astrology.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2008. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/astrology>  Jacobs, Lewis. “Jewish Astrology.” My Jewish Learning. 2018. <https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/jewish-astrology/> “Jewish Calendar: Months of the Jewish Year.” Bukharian Jews USA. 2010. Matrix: “Hebrew Months and the Zodiac.” <http://www.bjewsusa.com/jewish_calendar_03.htm>  Borschel-Dan, Amanda. “As planets align, some see return of Jesus’ Star of Bethlehem.” Times of Israel. 26 October 2015. < https://www.timesofisrael.com/as-planets-align-some-see-return-of-jesus-star-of-bethlehem/>
[10] Deuteronomy 4:19.  “Astronomy.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/2052-astronomy>  “star-worship.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13990-star-worship>  Krane, Lloyd. “Adar and the signs of the Zodiac.” Jewish Magazine. 2008.  <http://www.jewishmag.com/121mag/adar-mazel-sign/adar-mazel-sign.htm>
[11] Bold text and brackets added by author. “astronomy.”  Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011.
[12] Everitt, Henry.  “The Star of Bethlehem – A Chronology of the Life of Jesus.” Duke University|Department of Physics. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society 32, p. 389 (1991).  <http://www.phy.duke.edu/~everitt/StarofBethlehem.pdf>  Strobel, Nick. “The Star of Bethlehem – An Astronomical Perspective.” Astronomy Notes. 2011. <http://www.astronomynotes.com/history/bethlehem-star.html>  “Star of Bethlehem may have been planets Jupiter and Venus.”. IU News Room. Dec. 2003.  <http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/1203.html&t=Star%20of%20Bethlehem%20may%20have%20been%20planets%20Jupiter%20and%20Venus>  Mosley, John. “Common Errors in ‘Star of Bethlehem’ Planetarium Shows.” International Planetarium Society Inc. Reprinted from the Planetarian. 1981. <http://www.ips-planetarium.org/?page=a_mosley1981>  Humphreys, Colin J. “The Star of Bethlehem – a Comet in 5 BC – And the Date and Birth of Christ.” pp 390-391.
[13] “Star of Bethlehem may have been planets Jupiter and Venus.” IU News Room.
[14] “Star of Bethlehem may have been planets Jupiter and Venus.” IU News Room.  Mosley. “Common Errors in ‘Star of Bethlehem’ Planetarium Shows.”  Clevenger, John.  “Astronomy, Astrology, and the Star of Bethlehem.”  Greetham, Phil. The Nativity Pages. 2005. Index. <https://web.archive.org/web/20121011231348/http://www.btinternet.com/~prgreetham/Wisemen/theory.html>  “Astronomy, Astrology, and the Star of Bethlehem.”  Flescher, Eric and Sessions, Larry. “Ten ‘Star’ of Bethlehem Myths: Part II.” Space.com. 2001. <http://web.archive.org/web/20041205014757/http://space.com:80/SpaceReportersNetworkAstronomyDiscoveries/flescher_Xmasstar2_122601.html>
[15] Molnar, Michael R. “Revealing the Star of Bethlehem.” 2015.  <https://web.archive.org/web/20160624012358/http://www.eclipse.net/~molnar/>  Clevenger. “Astronomy, Astrology, and the Star of Bethlehem.” Pratt, John P.  “The Star of Bethlehem’s Forerunner.” JohnPratt.com. Reprinted from Meridian Magazine. 2000.  <http://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/lds/meridian/2000/xmas_star.html> Fazekas, Andrew. “Christmas Star Mystery Continues.” National Geographic Daily News. 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20170808084630/http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/12/081224-star-bethlehem.html>
[16] Kidger, Mark R.  The Star of Bethlehem: an Astronomer’s View. 1999. pp 254-256. <http://books.google.com/books?id=_ISv1gPQJV4C&lpg=PA25&ots=WsfPW9KFFR&dq=anatole%2C%20greek%2C%20magi&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=anatole,20greek,%20magi&f=false>  MacKenzie, Donald A. Myths of Babylonia and Assyria. 1915. Chapter XIII. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/mba/mba19.htm>  “Marduk.” New World Encyclopedia. 2014. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Marduk>  “Marduk.”  The 1911 Classic Encyclopedia. <https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/1911_Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica/Marduk> Leverington, David. Babylon to Voyager and Beyond – A History of Planetary Astronomy. 2003. Chapter 1.2.  <http://assets.cambridge.org/97805218/08408/sample/9780521808408ws.pdf>  “Ancient Assyrian/Babylonian Cuneiform.” Virtualsecrets.com. n.d.  <http://www.virtualsecrets.com/assyrian.html> Allen, Richard Hinckley. Star Names and Their Meanings. pp 337, 341. 1899.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=5xQuAAAAIAAJ&dq=Hinckley%2C%20Star%20Names%20and%20Their%20Meanings&pg=PP2#v=onepage&q=Hinckley,%20Star%20Names%20and%20Their%20Meanings&f=false> Rosenberg.  The “Star of the Messiah” Reconsidered. pp 105-106.  Nolle, Richard. “The Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction.” Astropro.com. 1998. <http://www.astropro.com/features/tables/geo/ju-sa/ju000sa.html>;
[17] Rosenberg.  The “Star of the Messiah” Reconsidered. p 106.
[18] “The Month of Adar.” Bukharian Jews USA. 2010. <http://www.bjewsusa.com/jewish_calendar_03_12.htm>  Ullman, Yirmiyahu. “The Zodiac.” Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum College.  26 Nov. 2005.  <http://ohr.edu/yhiy/article.php/2394>  “Adar.”  International Center for Tzfat Kabbalah. Tzfat-Kabbalah.org.  n.d. <http://www.tzfat-kabbalah.org/whatis.asp?p=510>  “Pisces.” Dictionary.com. 2018. <https://www.dictionary.com/browse/pisces>  Ford, Dominic. “The Constellation Pisces.” In-The-Sky.org. 2018. <https://in-the-sky.org/data/constellation.php?id=67>  “astronomy.” Jewish Encyclopedia.
[19] “Jewish Calendar:  Months of the Jewish Year.” Bukharian Jews USA.  Dovid, Avrohom. “Almanac of Important Jewish and Biblical Dates.” ThirdTemple.com. “Adar.’” n.d.  <http://www.thirdtemple.com/JewishTime/adar.html>  Heller, Rebbetzin Tzipporah. “The Choice of Adar.” n.d. <http://www.aish.com/h/pur/b/The_Choice_of_Adar.html>  “Adar.”  International Center for Tzfat Kabbalah.  “Purim.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12448-purim>
[20] “Mesopotamia.” Messenger|MEcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging. 2014. http://archive.is/kBVO>  Cain, Fraser. “How Did Mercury Get Its Name ?”  Universe Today. 2010.  <http://www.universetoday.com/66432/how-did-mercury-get-its-name>  Leverington. Babylon to Voyager and Beyond – A History of Planetary Astronomy. Chapter 1.2. “Ancient Assyrian/Babylonian Cuneiform.”  Virtualsecrets.com.
[21] MacKenzie. Myths of Babylonia and Assyria.  Allen. Star Names and Their Meanings. p 274.  “Venus.” Myth Encyclopedia.  Myths and Legends of the World. 2014.  <http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Tr-Wa/Venus.html>  Leverington.  “Babylon to Voyager and Beyond – A History of Planetary Astronomy. Chapter 1.2.  McCormack.  “Ancient Assyrian/Babylonian Cuneiform.”
[22] MacKenzie,  Myths of Babylonia and Assyria. Chapter XIII.   “Marduk.”  New World Encyclopedia.  “Marduk.”  The 1911 Classic Encyclopedia.   Leverington. Babylon to Voyager and Beyond – A History of Planetary Astronomy. Chapter 1.2.   McCormack. “Ancient Assyrian/Babylonian Cuneiform.”  “Jupiter.”  WyzAnt.com. 2014. <http://www.wyzant.com/resources/lessons/english/etymology/planets/jupiter>
[23] Allen. Star Names and Their Meanings. pp 255-257.   Olcott, William Tyler.  Star Lore of All Ages. 1911.  Reprinted 2017. pp 233-238.  Google Books. <http://books.google.com/books?id=PN7JxXoB1c8C&lpg=PP1&ots=SRZwDRc6dW&dq=Star%20Lore%20of%20All%20Ages&pg=PA233#v=onepage&q=&f=false>  Kaulins, Andis. “MUL.APIN – Sumerian Akkadian Astronomy.” LexiLine: History of Civilization. Section #13. 2013. <http://www.lexiline.com/lexiline/lexi182.htm>
[24] Allen. Star Names and Their Meanings.  pp 256-257.
[25] Allen. Star Names and Their Meanings. pp 255.  Olcott.  Star Lore of All Ages. p 237.
“Regulus.” Constellation Guide. 2015. <https://www.constellation-guide.com/regulus/> “Sargon.” Behind the Name. 2018. <https://www.behindthename.com/name/sargon>
[26] Martin.  The Star of Bethlehem. Chapter 1.  Pratt, John P.  “Coordinates for the Constellations.” JohnPratt.com. 2001. <http://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/sidereal/sidereal.html>  Martin.  The Star of Bethlehem. Chapter 1. Olson, Ross.“Summary of Conjunctions of Planets (“wandering stars”).” 1997.  Twin Cities Creation Science Association. n.d. < http://www.tccsa.tc/articles/star_dates.html>  Olcott.  Star Lore of All Ages. pp 236-237.
[27] Allen. Star Names and Their Meanings.  p253.
[28] Genesis 49:8-10; Numbers 23:3-9, 21-24.  Strobel. “The Star of Bethlehem – An Astronomical Perspective.”  Carroll. “The Star of Bethlehem: An Astronomical and Historical Perspective.”
[29] Plato. Republic. Book 9, Section 572e. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0168:book=9:section=572e&highlight=magi>

The Star of Bethlehem and Astronomy – Was There a Star?

Many have wondered if “His star” observed by the Magi really existed. If astronomy can corroborate Matthew’s Gospel, it would also establish the birthday timeline for Jesus of Nazareth.

Only Matthew’s Nativity account of Jesus’ birth references the star, yet it holds two compelling clues that can be compared with factual astronomy data produced by NASA astronomers, professors, experts and others. According to Matthew, the Magi saw “His star” twice; first in their homeland, then again in Jerusalem – how can a star appear, disappear and reappear again months later?

MT2:1-2 “…‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’” (NASB, NKJV)

MT 2:9-10 “When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them…When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. (NKJV)

Astronomy as a science began thousands of years ago with the Assyrians and Chaldeans who charted star and planetary positions and developed the ability to calculate their advance movement in the night skies. Magi were expert astronomers who used this same knowledge and skills. Today’s modern science community considers this ancient expertise to be remarkable.[1]

After thousands of years, major advancements in scientific astronomy began in the 1600s with Johannes Kepler’s formulation of the Three Laws of Planetary Motion.[2] In the 1960s, Bryant Tuckerman took Kepler’s breakthrough to the next level using the then highly advanced IBM 704 vacuum-tube computer to calculate the alignment of planetary stars going back millennia, even down to specific to global regions such as the Babylonian/Baghdad time zone.[3]

A simple fact known to the Magi astronomers:  fixed stars hold their positions while planet-stars normally appear and disappear during their rotation around the Sun. Movement cannot be visually seen at any given moment; rather, changes in position can be observed in periodic views of the night sky or from night to night.

Eventually a moving planet will briefly appear on a single night in close visual proximity with another planet or fixed star known as a conjunction. A separation of less than 1° proximity is considered a rare conjunction event.[4] Putting the degree proximity into perspective, the pinkie fingernail on a fully extended arm held towards the night sky covers about 1°; the moon covers about ½ of a degree.[5]

A single conjunction today is newsworthy such as when UniverseToday.com touted a 3° separation between Venus and Jupiter in 2012.[6] It was a close 3° – chances of witnessing just one conjunction of merely 1° proximity can be a once in a lifetime opportunity.[7] Imagine the excitement if there were seven conjunctions of less than 1° separation in 18 months?

It happened.

Extraordinary planetary conjunctions were exceptionally prolific during the final seven years of the BC era. Among them, from May, 3 BC, through June, 2 BC, were seven sensational, rare conjunctions:

3 BC: [8]

May 19:  Saturn-Mercury conjunction of only .67°/40′ (arc minutes) 

June 12:  Saturn-Venus conjunction of only .12°/7.2′

August 12:  Jupiter-Venus conjunction of only .07°/4.2′

September 14:  1st of Jupiter triple conjunction with Regulus of only .33°/19.8′

2 BC:

February 17:  2nd of Jupiter triple conjunction with Regulus of only .85°/51′

May 8:  3rd of Jupiter triple conjunction with Regulus of only .72°/43.2′

June 17:  Jupiter-Venus conjunction of a mere .0073°/ 26.2″(arc seconds)

May 19, 3 BC, the Saturn-Mercury conjunction of .67° proximity, only 2% this close are visible from Earth.[9] A person living to the age of 77 has less than a 50-50 chance to possibly witness one.

June 12, 3 BC, Saturn came into .12° conjunction with Venus. While they average a conjunction about once per year, close encounters like this occur in about 8% of all their conjunctions with just 17% being visible from earth – a once in century opportunity.[10]

August 12, 3 BC, displayed the Jupiter .07° conjunction with Venus.[11] Separation with this extraordinarily tight proximity occurs in a scant 3% of their conjunctions, about once every 120 years.[12]

Ending 3 BC, September 14th initiated the first of a triple conjunction between the king planet Jupiter and the king star Regulus, each with less than 1° proximity.[13] Jupiter-Regulus triple conjunctions recur in 12 and 71-year cycles.[14]

Most striking is the timing and galactic visual location. The Jupiter-Regulus triple conjunction played out during the 9 months between the two Jupiter-Venus conjunctions of August 12th and June 17th. Last two of the triple conjunctions took place in the heart of Leo the Lion royal constellation.[15]

June 17, 2 BC, as the sunlight faded away in the early evening western sky of Jerusalem, emerged the amazing sight. A reunion of Jupiter and Venus formed an occultation conjunction displaying an elongated, brilliant star more than twice the size of any other in the heavenly panorama.[16] Amplified by being the two brightest planet-stars, “the star” would have been an impressive phenomenon to behold.

“Occultation” is an astronomy term referring to when one celestial object visually appears to move in front of another. Jupiter-Venus occultations are among the rarest – only 3 might have been visible to the naked eye from Jerusalem since 2 BC.[17]

Rarer still, if that seems possible, the Jupiter-Venus occultation occurred inside the Zodiac’s royal constellation of Leo the Lion, the natal sign of Judah.[18] An occultation this close inside Leo only happens once about every 2000 years. Advance knowledge of this upcoming event in the heavens may have been a sign that prompted the Magi to consult King Herod in Jerusalem immediately before the brilliant marvel arose.[19]

Modern software makes it possible to actually see the remarkably rare series of 3-2 BC conjunctions in an animated, time-lapsed recreation. The amazing heavenly pageant wows crowds and astronomers alike at planetarium observatory Christmas shows.[20]

Magi expert astronomers no doubt saw these celestial phenomena compelling a quest traveling hundreds of miles.[21] The question is, are the two Jupiter-Venus conjunctions on August 12, 3 BC, and June 17, 2 BC, “His star” witnessed by the Magi in Matthew?

Degrees ( ° ), arc minute ( ′ ), arc second ( ″ )


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REFERENCES:

[1] Eduljee, K. E. “Greek Perceptions of Zoroaster, Zoroastrianism & the Magi.”  Zoroastrian Heritage. 2011. <http://zoroastrianheritage.blogspot.com/2011/04/greek-perceptions-of-zoroaster.html> Larson, Frederick A.  The Star of Bethlehem. “Why are we hearing this now?” 2018.  <http://www.bethlehemstar.net/setting-the-stage/why-are-we-hearing-this-now>
[2] “Kepler’s laws of planetary motion.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2018. <https://www.britannica.com/science/Keplers-laws-of-planetary-motion>  Paradis, Andrew. “What are Kepler’s laws of motion and what exactly do they mean?” PhysLink.com | Physics & Astronomy Online. n.d.  <http://www.physlink.com/Education/AskExperts/ae613.cfm>  Nave, Carl R. “Kepler’s Laws.” Georgia State University | Department of Physics and Astronomy. 2001. <http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/kepler.html>
[3] Hayton, Daron. “A Modern Astrologer’s Intellectual Breadcrumbs.” Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science. 2011. <https://web.archive.org/web/20161118000249/http://www.pachs.net/blogs/comments/a_modern_astrologers_intellectual_breadcrumbs/> Tuckerman, Bryant.   “Planetary, Lunar and Solar Positions 601 B.C. to A.D. 1 at Five-Day and Ten-Day Intervals.” 1962. <http://www.caeno.org/_Feat/pdf/F027_Reliability_TuckTables.pdf>  Houlden, Michael A. and Stephenson, F. Richard.  “A Supplement to the Tuckerman Tables.”  Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society. Volume 70. “Introduction” “Extent and Precision of Tuckerman’s Tables.”  Google Books.  <http://www.caeno.org/_Feat/pdf/F027_Reliability_TuckSupp.pdf>  Leverington, David. Babylon to Voyager and Beyond – A History of Planetary Astronomy.  Cambridge University Press. 2003.  Chapter 1.2.  <http://assets.cambridge.org/97805218/08408/sample/9780521808408ws.pdf>
[4] Basics of Space Flight. Dir. Charles Elachi.  2013 Edition.  “The Solar System.” NASA Science | Solar System Exploration. <https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/basics/bsf1-2.php> “What’s a conjunction?” EarthSky. 2017. <https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/what-is-a-conjunction>  Coffey, Jerry.  “Conjunction.” Universe Today.  7 Jan.  2010.  <http://www.universetoday.com/49578/conjunction>  Mosley, John. “Common Errors in ‘Star of Bethlehem’ Planetarium Shows.” International Planetarium Society Inc. Reprinted from the Planetarian. 1981. <http://www.ips-planetarium.org/?page=a_mosley1981>
[5] “Angular Measurements.”  Cool Cosmos.  “Cosmic Reference Guide.”  Cool Cosmos.  Ventrudo, Brian. “Measuring The Sky.” One-Minute Astronomer. 2009. <http://www.oneminuteastronomer.com/860/measuring-sky>
[6] Cain, Fraser. “Venus-Jupiter Conjunction, March 15th, 2012.” Universe Today. <http://www.universetoday.com/94113/venus-jupiter-conjunction-march-15th-2012 >
[7] Carroll, Susan S. “The Star of Bethlehem:  An Astronomical and Historical Perspective.” Twin Cities Creation Science Association. 1997. <http://www.tccsa.tc/articles/star_susan_carroll.pdf>
[8] “Angle converter.” Unit Juggler. <https://www.unitjuggler.com/angle-conversion.html>  “Angular Measurements.” Cool Cosmos. <http://coolcosmos.ipac.caltech.edu/cosmic_classroom/cosmic_reference/angular.html>  Ventrudo,  Brian. “Measuring The Sky.”  “Venus and Jupiter’s Upcoming Conjunction.” Universe Today. 2004. <http://www.universetoday.com/10006/venus-and-jupiters-upcoming-conjunction/#ixzz2B6cvKJEt>  Carroll. “The Star of Bethlehem:  An Astronomical and Historical Perspective.”  Phillips, Tony. “A Christmas Star for SOHO.”  NASA Science | Science New. 2018. <http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast16may_1>  “Birth of Jesus.” Navsoft.com. 2012.  <http://navsoft.com/html/birth_of_jesus.html> Martin, Ernest L. The Star of Bethlehem – The Star That Astonished the World.  Chapter 1 & 4. 2003. <http://askelm.com/star/star000.htm#_edn11%3E%20%3Chttp://web.archive.org/web/20170111193244/http://www.askelm.com/star/star001.htm>  Rao,  Joe.  “How to Measure Distances in the Night Sky.” Space.com. 2010. <http://www.space.com/8319-measure-distances-night-sky.html>  Cain.  “Venus and Jupiter’s Upcoming Conjunction.”  Sielaff, David. “An Important August 2 B.C.E. Conjunction.” A.S.K. (Associates For Scriptural Knowledge). 2005. <http://www.askelm.com/news/n051211.htm>  Clevenger, John.  “Astronomy, Astrology, and the Star of Bethlehem.”  Lake County (Illinois) Astronomical   Society. 2012. <http://www.lcas-astronomy.org/articles/display.php?filename=the_christmas_star&category=miscellaneous>  Haley, A. S. “The Star of Bethlehem and the Nativity.” Anglican Curmudgeon. 2009. <http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2009/10/star-of-bethlehem-and-nativity.html>  Newman, Robert C. “The Star of Bethlehem: A Natural-Supernatural Hybrid?”  Interdisciplinary Bible Research Institute.  IBRI Paper (2001).  <http://web.archive.org/web/20171016111146/http://www.newmanlib.ibri.org/Papers/StarofBethlehem/75starbethlehem.htm> Beatty, Kelly. “Venus and Jupiter: Together at Last.” Sky & Telescope. 2015.  <http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/venus-and-jupiter-a-dazzling-duo-062520154>  Ratnikas,  Algis. “Timeline 499BCE – 1BCE.”  Timeslines of History.  n.d. <http://timelines.ws/0D499_1BC.HTML>  Pratt, John P.  “The Star of Bethlehem’s Forerunner.” JohnPratt.com. Reprinted from Meridian Magazine. 2000.  <http://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/lds/meridian/2000/xmas_star.html>  Rjvanderbei. “Searching for the Star of Bethlehem (updated).”   National Geographic  News Watch . 26 Dec. 2011 <http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/12/26/searching-for-the-star-of-bethlehem>  Dickinson, David. “Is This Month’s Jupiter-Venus Pair Really a Star of Bethlehem Stand In?” Universe Today. October 14, 2015. <https://www.universetoday.com/122738/is-this-months-jupiter-venus-pair-really-a-star-of-bethlehem-stand-in/>
[9] Curtis, Jan. “Predictable Astronomical Events.” Alaska Climate Research Center. n.d. Chapter 2. <http://climate.gi.alaska.edu/Curtis/astro.html>  Curtis, Jan. “Mercury-Saturn Conjunctions (2000-2078 AD).” Alaska Climate Research Center. n.d. <http://climate.gi.alaska.edu/Curtis/graf/MeSc100.gif> “Planetary Conjunctions.”  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Earth System Research Laboratory. <http://web.archive.org/web/20160304124051/http://laps.noaa.gov/albers/ast/conjun/conjun.html>
[10] “Planetary Conjunctions.”  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  Curtis. “Mercury-Saturn Conjunctions (2000-2078 AD).”  Curtis, Jan. “Venus-Saturn Conjunctions Minimum Separation 500-Events (2000-2482).” Alaska Climate Research Center. n.d. <http://climate.gi.alaska.edu/Curtis/graf/VSc500.gif>
[11] Rao, Joe.  “Saturday’s Venus-Jupiter Encounter May Explain Bible’s Star of Bethlehem.” Space.com. 2016. <http://www.space.com/33866-venus-jupiter-conjunction-star-of-bethlehem.html>  Martin. The Star of Bethlehem. Chapter 4. Olson, Ross. “Summary of Conjunctions of Planets (“wandering stars”).” 1997. Twin Cities Creation Science Association.  n.d.  <http://www.tccsa.tc/articles/star_dates.html>
[12] Fazekas, Andrew.  “Jupiter Conjunction Peaks Thursday—Easy-to-See Sky Show.” National Geographic Daily News. 2012. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/03/120313-conjunction-venus-jupiter-sky-space-science>  “Venus And Jupiter Will Pass 42 Arc seconds Apart On May 17.” Press Release – Marshall Space Flight Center.  SpaceRef.com. 2000. <http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=1819>  Curtis, Jan.  “Venus-Jupiter Conjunctions Minimum Separation 500-Events (2000-2488 A.D.)” Alaska Climate Research Center. n.d. <http://climate.gi.alaska.edu/Curtis/graf/VJc500.gif>  Curtis, Jan. “Venus-Jupiter Conjunctions 100-Events.” Alaska Climate Research Center. n.d. <http://climate.gi.alaska.edu/Curtis/graf/VJc100.gif>  Rao, Joe. “Earthlings Dazzled by Venus-Jupiter Close Encounter.” Discovery News. 2012. <http://news.discovery.com/space/venus-jupiter-conjunction-120312.html>  Cain. “Venus and Jupiter’s Upcoming Conjunction.”
[13] Kidger, Mark R. “Possible Explanations of the Star of Bethlehem.” Mark Kidger`s Comet and Asteroid Observing Home Page  n.d.<http://www.observadores-cometas.com/Star_of_Bethlehem/English/Possible.htm>  Kidger, Mark R. The Star of Bethlehem: an Astronomer’s View. 1999. <http://books.google.com/books?id=_ISv1gPQJV4C&lpg=PA25&ots=WsfPW9KFFR&dq=anatole%2C%20greek%2C%20magi&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=anatole,20greek,%20magi&f=false>  “2-planet (1974-2068)” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). n.d. <http://web.archive.org/web/20160412052726/http://laps.noaa.gov/albers/conjun/for008.future>
[14] Haley. “The Star of Bethlehem and the Nativity.”  Konnen, G.P. and Meeus, J. “Triple Conjunctions, Twins and Triplets,” Journal of the British Astronomical Association. vol.93, no.1, p.20-24. Bibliographic Code 1982JBAA…93…20K. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. n.d. <http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu//full/1982JBAA…93…20K/0000023.000.html>
[15] “Birth of Jesus.” Navsoft.com.  Carroll. “The Star of Bethlehem: An Astronomical and Historical Perspective.”  Newman. “The Star of Bethlehem: A Natural-Supernatural Hybrid?”  Phillips. “A Christmas Star for SOHO.”  Haley.  “The Star of Bethlehem and the Nativity.”
[16] “Planetary Conjunctions.”  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA.  Bogan, Larry. “Mutual Planetary Occultations Past and Future.” Larry Bogan’s Website. Cambridge Station, Nova Scotia. 1999. <http://www.bogan.ca/astro/occultations/occltlst.htm>  “Haley. “The Star of Bethlehem and the Nativity.”  Carroll. “The Star of Bethlehem:  An Astronomical and Historical Perspective.” p 10. “Venus And Jupiter Will Pass 42 Arc seconds Apart On May 17.” SpaceRef.com.  Martin. The Star of Bethlehem. Chapter 1. Phillips. “A Christmas Star for SOHO.”  Rjvanderbei. “Searching for the Star of Bethlehem (updated).”
[17] “occultation.” NASA Aerospace Science & Technology Dictionary. <https://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/hqlibrary/aerospacedictionary/508/o.html> Ricci, Pierpaolo.  “Occultations Between Planets from the Year 0 To 4000.”  The Sky and Its Phenomena.  n.d. <http://www.pierpaoloricci.it/dati/occpia_eng.htm>  Bogan, Larry. “Mutual Planetary Occultations Past and Future.”
[18] Genesis 49:8-10; Numbers 23:3-9, 21-24.  “Birth of Jesus.” Navsoft.com.  Carroll. “The Star of Bethlehem: An Astronomical and Historical Perspective.”  Newman. “The Star of Bethlehem: A Natural-Supernatural Hybrid?”  Phillips. “A Christmas Star for SOHO.”  Haley.  “The Star of Bethlehem and the Nativity.”
[19] “Birth of Jesus.” Navsoft.com.  “Historical Events.” Navsoft.com. <http://navsoft.com/html/historical.html> Newman. “The Star of Bethlehem: A Natural-Supernatural Hybrid?”  Phillips. “A Christmas Star for SOHO.”  Mosley, John.  “Common Errors in ‘Star of Bethlehem’ Planetarium Shows.”  Beatty, Kelly. “Venus and Jupiter:  Together at Last.” Sky & Telescope.
[20] Fazekas, Andrew. “Christmas Star Mystery Continues.” National Geographic Daily News. 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20170808084630/http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/12/081224-star-bethlehem.html>  Martin. The Star of Bethlehem. Chapter 1.  Haley, A. S. “The Star of Bethlehem and the Nativity.”  Larson. The Star of Bethlehem.
[21] Carroll. “The Star of Bethlehem: An Astronomical and Historical Perspective.”