Astronomy Tales: Birth & Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth

 

“Follow the science” has often been heard during the COVID crisis. The same mantra can be applied to the birth and crucifixion dates of the Jesus of Nazareth – the science is astronomy.

No mystical meaning is found in astronomy.[1] Positions of stars and planets follow a predictive path that can be charted past, present and future. Planets move in a rotation path around the Sun whereas stars are stationary, yet both can appear in different places in the sky based on such variables as nightly diurnal motions, planetary rotations, seasons and earthly viewing location.

God Himself pointed out the absoluteness of astronomy when He promised the Messiah would sit on the throne of David:

Jer. 33:20-21 “Thus says the LORD: If any of you could break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night would not come at their appointed time, only then could my covenant with my servant David be broken, so that he would not have a son to reign on his throne…” (NRSV)

Going back millennia, many have attempted to interpret the meaning of the various cosmic alignments – Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans and even Jews. Various cultures have given planet-stars and fixed stars names; assigned them to zodiacs; and even going so far as to worship them as gods.[2]

Astrology is different from astronomy where astrology is the belief that celestial bodies influence a person’s journey in life, but it is not a “science.”[3] Horoscopes, for example, attempt to define a personality, successes, sorrows, challenges – a life’s destiny.

Some have viewed interactions of the heavenly bodies and alignments as signs with earthly significance indicating something is about to happen or has occurred.[4] Persian Zoroastrian teachings of the Magi espoused that every planet has a significance.[5] 

 

BIRTH OF JESUS OF NAZARETH

Magi in Matthew’s account were not motivated by an ancient prophecy or a prophet, an angelic appearance, or any type of divine revelation. Instead, their actions were compelled by an awe-inspiring scene they observed in the night sky.

Evidenced by their actions, the Magi firmly believed in the signs when they saw “his star” compelling them to do several things well-beyond normal. They set out on a risky month’s long journey around the great Arabian Desert to a foreign land in Judea not knowing where their quest would end; sought input from a ruthless Judean king, eventually even defying him; brought expensive gifts for this unknown baby and they planned to worship him.[6]

NASA’s astronomy data can be used to recreate cosmic events seen by the Magi that may have signaled the birth of the “king of the Jews.” Closing out the last 7 years of the BC era, two sets of stellar events occurred during the years 7-5 BC and 3-1 BC. Rare conjunctions, movements and alignments typically witnessed centuries apart, occurred in a very short period of time.

Matthew reported the death of King Herod ending the Nativity account while historian Josephus described in detail events surrounding Herod’s death between a lunar eclipse and the Passover. One common fact to Matthew and Luke:  King Herod was alive when Jesus was born.[7] Secular history focuses on the death date of Herod.

Many have used the 7-5 BC timeline with a partial lunar eclipse to support the secular year of Herod’s death in 4 BC. More recent research points to the King’s death in 1 BC when a full lunar eclipse occurred.

A four-prong approach overlaying secular history accounts, Jewish calendars, the science of astronomy data and Gospel accounts produces two fascinating scenarios for the birth of Jesus and death of Herod. The question is which one, if any, makes the most logical sense?

 

 

 

CRUCIFIXION OF JESUS OF NAZARETH

Astronomy data can also be used for determining the crucifixion date Jesus of Nazareth, especially when compared with historical accounts and the Gospels. Three sets of information – astronomy data, history, Gospels – are defined separately below and then triangulated into a single assessment.

Astronomy

NASA astronomy data serves as an accurate method to determine the Passover dates as an alternative to unreliable calendars of antiquity. (Calendar conversions of antiquity are unreliable due to variations of Julian and Gregorian calendars.)[8]

Each year for thousands of years, Jewish Nissan 15th, Passover, always occurs on the first full moon after March 20th.[9] Easily seen in NASA astronomy data, full moon dates with these parameters for the years 28-33 AD are:[10]

28 AD:  March 29 (Monday)        31 AD:  April 17 (Tuesday)
29 AD:  March 18 (Friday)           32 AD:  April 14 (Monday)
30 AD:  April 6 (Thursday)          33 AD:  April 3 (Friday)

Often cited for either crucifixion date scenario is a solar eclipse to explain the Gospel reference to darkness from noon until three o’clock.[14] NASA astronomy defines when a solar and a lunar eclipse can occur:

“An eclipse of the Sun can occur only at New Moon, while an eclipse of the Moon can occur only at Full Moon” – NASA astronomy [15]

NASA data shows no solar eclipse occurred over Jerusalem during the Passover periods of either 29 or 33 AD simply because a solar eclipse can only occur during a “new moon” (no visible moon) – impossible during a full moon at Passover.[16] Consequently, the darkening of the Sun also cannot be explained by a lunar eclipse because no lunar eclipse is visible during daylight hours even if one occurred that night.[17]

History – Roman and Jewish:

“At the death of Herod, Augustus Caesar divided his territories among his sons — Archelaüs, Philip, and Herodes Antipas…” making Tetrarchs of the half-brothers Philip and Antipas.[18] Philip’s reign triggered by the death of King Herod becomes a linchpin for subsequent dating. Josephus stated the Tetrarch ruled for 37 years meaning Philip either died in 33 or 36 AD.[19]

Tiberius Caesar began his rule as Roman Emperor on August 19, 14 AD, upon the death of Caesar Augustus. Tiberius ruled until his own death on March 16, 37 AD when Caligula (Caius) became Emperor.[20]

During his reign, Tiberius appointed only two procurators to Judea, first was Valerius Gratus for the years 15-25 AD. Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judea for 10 years from 26-36 AD.[21] Vitellius sent Pilate to Rome in 36 AD to answer to Tiberius for killing Samaritans; however, the Emperor died while Pilate was en-route to Rome.[22]

Ananus was first High Priest of his family, followed by five of his sons and a son-in-law named Caiaphas.[23] Beginning his 10-year tenure in 26 AD, Caiaphas was the high priest until he was removed by Vitellius during a Passover in 36 AD, the same year he removed Pilate as Procurator.[24]

Tetrarch Antipas met Heriodias who was with her husband, Tetrarch Philip, during a trip to Rome. The two devised a plan to divorce their current spouses and remarry each other. The scheme set in motion a chain reaction of historical events – the execution of John the Baptist; an Arab-Jewish war; and Caesar wanting the demise of an Arab King.[25]

John the Baptist is renowned by both Judaism and Islam in addition to Christianity.[26] He publicly criticized the illicit, incestuous marital arrangement which infuriated Herodias.[27] From the perspective of Josephus, Antipas executed John the Baptist for political reasons.[28]

Antipas’ first wife was the daughter of Arab King Aretas. Unbeknownst to Antipas, she found out about his divorce scheme with Herodias and made arrangements to return to her King father. Herodias and Antipas married in 33 AD according to the Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities.[29]

Aretas and Antipas were agitated to war, according to Josephus, “when all of Herod’s army was destroyed by the treachery of some fugitives, who, though they were of the tetrarchy of Philip, joined with Aretas’s army.” Based on this statement, Philip appears to be alive. Historians date the Aretas-Antipas war to 36 AD.

Antipas wrote to Tiberius about his defeat to Aretas which angered Caesar who ordered his Roman Syrian legate, Vitellius, to capture Aretas or “kill him and, and send him his head.”[31] Tiberius soon thereafter died in 37 AD whereupon Vitellius sent his military home because Tiberius’ order was no longer valid.[32]

Philip’s tetrarchy became available when he died and Roman Emperor Caligula gave the tetrachy governance position to Agrippa in 37 AD.[34]

Gospels:

Luke 3:1 “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.”(NET)[35]

John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministries about the same time. Unlike the three Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the Gospel account of John is essentially written in chronological order. He was beheaded at the behest of Herodias for her displeasure of John’s criticism of her illicit, incestuous marital arrangement.[36]

After his baptism by John the Baptist in Bethany, the Gospel of John chronicled actions taken by Jesus of Nazareth. After being rejected in Nazareth, he moved to Capernaum; chose some of his Disciples in Galilee; attended a wedding in Cana; returned to Capernaum; then traveled to Jerusalem for the first Passover of his ministry.[37]

Approaching the second Passover during his ministry, Jesus refers to John the Baptist in present tense terms although he spoke of his ministry in past tense strongly suggesting John is in prison:  he “was the burning and shining lamp.”[38] Herod Antipas had John the Baptist arrested, but not immediately executed, for publicly criticizing his illicit marital arrangement with Herodias who was infuriated by John’s criticism.[39]

Between the second and third Passovers attended by Jesus, people referred to John the Baptist in the past tense – he is no longer alive.[40] As a reward for a dance performed by his step-daughter, daughter of Philip, identified as Salome by Josephus, Herod Antipas promised anything she wanted.[41] After consulting with Heriodias, Salome requested the head of John the Baptist.[42]

Triangulation:

John the Baptist began his ministry during the 15th year of Tiberius’ reign. Adding 15 years to the beginning the rule of Tiberius in 14 AD equates to 29 AD.

Jesus of Nazareth did not begin his 3-year ministry until after he was baptized by John the Baptist when both were in the initial stages of their ministries that year. This alone eliminates the possibility for the crucifixion year of 29 AD.

Historical accounts from 33-37 AD combined with Biblical accounts support the death of John the Baptist in 32 or 33 AD… Jesus had not yet been executed.

Sending troops in 36 AD to aide Aretas in a war against Antipas, Philip could not have died in 33 AD after a 37-year reign if he began his rule in 4 BC. This, in turn, means King Herod died during the 1 BC scenario for the birth of Jesus.

Caligula, gave the tetrachy of Philip to Agrippa in 37 AD further supporting the scenarios for the death of Herod in 1 BC followed by the 37-year reign of his son, Philip. It is highly unlikely the governorship of a tetrarchy would have been left unfilled for 3-4 years if Philip had died in 33 AD.

Jesus attended three Passovers in Jerusalem, the third and final Passover resulted in his capture, trial and crucifixion. Ruling out 29 AD based on Luke’s historical accounts, NASA data shows the next Friday Passover occurred on April 3, 33 AD. Triangulating history and the Gospels with astronomy, all point to only one date for the crucifixion of Jesus – April 3, 33 AD.

What are the odds that the movement paths of the stars and planets created by God signal the times when Jesus was born and died?

 

Updated August 14, 2022.

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[7] Mathew 2:1-10; Luke 1:5.
[8] Beattie, M. J. Church of God Study Forum. “Hebrew Calendar.” n.d. <http://www.cgsf.org/dbeattie/calendar> “Easter Sunday/Jewish Passover Calculator.” WebSpace Science. JavaScript calculator. n.d. <https://webspace.science.uu.nl/~gent0113/easter/easter_text2a.htm> “Jewish holiday calendars & Hebrew date converter.” Hebcal. n.d. <https://www.hebcal.com/converter?hd=16&hm=Nisan&hy=3793&h2g=1> “Hebrew Calendar Converter.” Calculators. 2022. <https://calcuworld.com/calendar-calculators/hebrew-calendar-converter> April 33 AD. TimeandDate.com. calendar. <https://www.messianic-torah-truth-seeker.org/AD-33-3793/PDF-AD-33-3793.pdf>  “How Accurate is the Calendar at this Website?” Church of God Study Forum. n.d. <http://www.cgsf.org/dbeattie/calendar/about>  Hochhalter. “A Celestial Road to Truth.”
[9] Leviticus 23:4-7; Numbers 28:16-25. Moss, Aron. “Why Is Passover on a Full Moon?” Chabad.org. <https://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/4250850/jewish/Why-Is-Passover-on-a-Full-Moon.htm> Bikos, Konstantin. “The Jewish Calendar.” TimeAndDate.com. n.d. <https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/jewish-calendar.html>  Cohen, Michael M. “Passover, full moon and fulfillment.” The Jerusalem Post. 2019. <https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Culture/Passover-The-full-moon-and-fulfillment-586511>  “Determining the Dates for Easter and Passover.” RayFowler.org. n.d. <http://www.rayfowler.org/writings/articles/determining-the-dates-for-easter-and-passover>  Beattie. “Hebrew Calendar.”  Fairchild, Mary. Learn Religions. “What Is the Paschal Full Moon?. n.d. <https://www.learnreligions.com/paschal-full-moon-700617>  “Lunar Eclipses from 0001 to 0100 Jerusalem, ISRAEL” National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Javascrip  2007. <https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/JLEX/JLEX-AS.html>
[10] Espanek, Fred. “Phases of the Moon: 0001 to 0100 Universal Time (UT).” Astropixels.com. n.d. <http://astropixels.com/ephemeris/phasescat/phases0001.html> Calendars for 28-33 AD. TimeandDate. 2022. <https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/custom.html?year=27&country=1&hol=0&cdt=31&holm=1&df=1>
[11] Matthew 26:17-20; Mark 14:12-17, Luke 22:7-16, John 19:14. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Epstein. Sanhedrin 43a; footnote #34; “Glossary” > “Baraitha” and “Tanna, Tana.” <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/talmud/index.htmlSoncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Epstein. “Introduction to Seder Nezikin.”  Visotzky, Rabbi Burton L. Sage Tales – Wisdom and Wonder from the Rabbis of the Talmud. 2011. p153. <https://books.google.com/books?id=pMJYU2DTZ4UC&pg=PA153&lpg=PA153&dq=Talmud+exception+for+Jesus+of+Nazareth&source=bl&ots=ir-xCPF6a0&sig=_Nx3mW86y5dgWQWtuQmV-VidP6w&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwimzZi8yNvZAhXH44MKHf5AAEsQ6AEIXjAG#v=onepage&q=Talmud%20exception%20for%20Jesus%20of%20Nazareth&f=false> Talmud. “Sanhedrin 43a.” n.d. <https://www.sefaria.org/Sanhedrin.43a?lang=bi>
[12] The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. Stillwell, Richard, et. al. “Paneas or Caesarea Philippi or Neronias (Banyas) Syria.” <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0006:entry=paneas&highlight=tetrarch>[13] “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2007. <https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8616-jesus-of-nazareth> “Easter Sunday/Jewish Passover Calculator.” WebSpace Science.  Beattie, M. J. Church of God Study Forum. “Hebrew Calendar.“ Jewish holiday calendars & Hebrew date converter.” Hebcal.  “Hebrew Calendar Converter.” Calculators. April 33 AD. TimeandDate.com.
[14] Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44.
[15] “Phases of the Moon: 0001 to 0100 Universal Time (UT).” Astropixels.com.
[xvi] Espenak, Fred. National aeronautics and Space Administration. “Solar Eclipses of Historical Interest.” Java script. 2009. <https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEhistory/SEhistory.html> Espenak, Fred. National aeronautics and Space .Administration. “Total Solar Eclipse of 0033 March 19.” Chart. 2009. <https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEhistory/SEplot/SE0033Mar19T.pdf>  “Phases of the Moon: 0001 to 0100 Universal Time (UT).” Astropixels.com.
[17] Espenak, Fred. NASA Eclipse Website. “Lunar Eclipses from -0099 to 0000 Jerusalem, Israel.” n.d <https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/JLEX/JLEX-AS.html>
[18] Peck, Harry Thurston. Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. “Iudaei.” 1898. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0062:entry=iudaei-harpers&highlight=antipas>  CR Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews.  Trans. and commentary.  William Whitson.  The Complete Works of Josephus. Book XVII, Chapter XI.4; Book XVIII, Chapter II.1. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=fal >  Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Trans. and commentary. William Whitson. The Complete Works of Josephus. Book II, Chapter IX.1. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
[19] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVIII, Chapter IV.6; Chapter V.1. Josephus. Wars. Book II, Chapter IX.1. Strabo. Geography. Hamilton, H.C., Ed. Book 16, Chapter 2, footnotes 125, 128.  <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0239:book=16:chapter=2&highlight=antipas>
[20] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVIII, Chapter II. 2. Josephus. Wars of the Jews. Book II, Chapter IX.6.  Grant, Michael. Encyclopædia Britannica. “Augustus.” 2022. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Augustus-Roman-emperor> Pohl, Frederik. Encyclopædia Britannica. “Tiberius.” 2022. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Tiberius> “Tiberius.” Wasson, Donald L. World History Encyclopedia. 19 July 2012  <https://www.worldhistory.org/Tiberius>
[21] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVII, Chapter XIII. 2, 5; Book XVIII, Chapters II.2; VI.1-2, 5-7, 10. Josephus. Wars. Book II, Chapter 9.5.  Tacitus. Annals. Books II, XV.  Suetonius (C. Suetonius Tranquillus or C. Tranquillus Suetonius).  Suetonius (C. Suetonius Tranquillus or C. Tranquillus Suetonius). The Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Tiberius, #50, 51, 52. <http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/home.html> “Valerius Gratus.” Encyclopedia.com. 2019. <https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/valerius-gratusdeg>
[22] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVIII, Chapter IV.1-2.
[23] “High Priest.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2007. < https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7689-high-priest>
[24] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVIII, Chapters I1.2; IV.3; V.3; Book XIX, Chapter VI.2. “High Priest.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  “Jewish Palestine at the time of Jesus.” Britannica Encyclopedia. 2022. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jesus/Jewish-Palestine-at-the-time-of-Jesus#ref748553>  “Pontius Pilate.” Biography. 2021. <https://www.biography.com/religious-figure/pontius-pilate>  Pilate, Pontius.” Encyclopedia.com. 2022. <https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/philosophy-and-religion/biblical-proper-names-biographies/pontius-pilate>  “Tiberius.” World History Encyclopedia. <https://www.worldhistory.org/Tiberius> <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jesus/Jewish-Palestine-at-the-time-of-Jesus#ref748553>  Smith, Mark. History News Network. “The Real Story of Pontius Pilate? It’s Complicated.” 2022. <https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/168311>  Larson, Rick. The Star of Bethlehem. 2022. <https://bethlehemstar.com/the-day-of-the-cross/pilate-and-sejanus>
[25] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVIII, Chapter II.3, V.1.
[26] Quran 3:19:2-7, 6:85; 19:7. <https://bible-history.com/links/aretas-1067>  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVIII, Chapter V.2.
[27] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVIII, Chapter V.4.  A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. Ed. William Smith. “Salo’me.” 1848. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0104:entry=salome-bio-4&highlight=tetrarch> A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. “Hero’des I. or Hero’d the Great or Hero’des Magnus.” <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0104:entry=herodes-i-bio-1&highlight=tetrarch>  CR Matthew 14:5; Mark 6:19-20; Luke 3:19-20. CR Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVIII, Chapter V.4.
[28] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVIII, Chapter V.2.
[29] Peck, Harry Thurston. Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. 1898. #3. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0062:entry=herodes-harpers&highlight=antipas>  CR Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVIII, Chapter V.1.
[30] Josephus. Antiquities.  Book XVIII, Chapter V.1.  “Herod Antipas.” Britannica Encyclopedia. 2022. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Herod-Antipas> “Aretas.” Bible History. 2022. <https://bible-history.com/links/aretas-1067>
[31] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVIII, Chapter V.1.
[32] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVIII, Chapter V.1-3.
[3] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVIII, Chapter VI. 10.
[34] Strabo. Geography. Chapter V. n.d. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0239:book=12:chapter=5&highlight=tetrarch>  “Tetrarcha.” A Dictionary of Green and Roman Antiquities. 1890. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0063:entry=tetrarcha-cn&highlight=tetrarch>
[35] CR Matthew 14:1, 3-4, 5, 6; Mark 6:14-20, 21; Luke 3:19; 4:16-30; 7:24-30; 8:3; 9:7, 9, 13.31; 23:7, 9, 11, 12, 15; John 1:28-34.  CR Acts 4:27; 12:4, 6, 11, 19, 21, 23; 13;1; 23:8, 35. Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVII, Chapter John 1:28-34. XI.4; Book XVIII, Chapter V.1 Josephus. Wars of the Jews. Book II, Chapter IX.1; Book III, Chapter X.7.
[36] Matthew 14:3-10; Mark 6:17-27; Luke 3:19.
[37] John 1:35-47; 2:1-13. CR Matthew 4:13; 13:53-58. Mark 6:1-4.
[38] John 5:35.  CR Matthew 4:12; 11:2-7; John 5:32-33, 7:18-25.
[39] Matthew 14:5; Mark 6:19-20; Luke 3:19-20. CR Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVIII, Chapter V.4. “Hero’des I. or Hero’d the Great or Hero’des Magnus.”
[40] John 10:40-41; 11:54-12:18.
[41] A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.“Salo’me.”
[42] Matthew 14:6-11; Mark 6:17-29; Luke 3:19-20; Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XVIII, Chapter V.

 

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

 

Magi saw “His star” signaling the birth of the “King of the Jews” – it was something so moving they walked hundreds of miles to “worship” him. What did the Magi see? Clearly as described in Matthew’s Nativity account of Jesus of Nazareth, 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 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 meaning.[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 varying 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] A series of signs unfolded a story 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 “His 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 how a nova burst in the constellation Aquila the Eagle in 5 BC.

Distinctly two very different visual events, the comets theory has to overcome this very fact. The first comet had a tail lasting for weeks while a second comet did not have a tail and only lasted for a single night.

In the Chinese sighting theory, a nova involves an explosion of a star that creates 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 the very close proximity of 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]

Rarity would be a factor since the Jupiter-Saturn triple conjunction was only the third since 562 BC. Problematic for this scenario is that it does not offer an explanation for a “star.” The scenario did have Babylonian astrological 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 in 3-2 BC has stood out to modern-day experts. Seven extraordinarily, close-proximity conjunctions tell an intriguing allegorical story that cannot be easily ignored. These conjunctions hit 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, possibly precedes the death of King Herod and deftly fits with the Magi’s view of cosmic signs.

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 the 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?

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 had 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 first 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 sign of Judah, this triple conjunction may have signaled the Magi where to find the newborn king of Judea.[28]

June 17, 2 BC, 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 forming the appearance of single brilliant star. Not a surprise to the Magi who would have anticipated its appearance and yet if this Jupiter-Venus Conjunction was the second appearance of “His star” mentioned by Matthew while the Magi were in Jerusalem, they reacted with “exceedingly great joy” when they actually saw it.

Appearing unannounced at the palace of King Herod, he did not question the declaration of the Magi whose centuries old reputation preceded them – they were renowned for their expertise in reading the stars and, according to Plato, as “king makers.”[29] Herod acted upon 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?

 

Update November 30, 2022.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1]“Babylonian Astrology.” Babylonian and Mesopotamian Astrology and Astronomy. 2018. <https://factsanddetails.com/world/cat56/sub402/entry-6063.html> 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>  Dark Sky. HuffPost. image. 2014. https://s-i.huffpost.com/gen/1751394/images/o-DARK-SKY-WEEK-facebook.jpg
[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>  Hochhalter, Howard. The Hollow 4 Kids. “A Celestial Road to Truth.” 2022. <https://thehollow4kids.com/a-celestial-road-to-truth/?fbclid=IwAR26hEnI1VfkjcBSRDJp2iyPIaNwPwrDZ0oHYg-pt9V0lumQTxX9WfXk4D0
[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>  Hochhalter. “A Celestial Road to Truth.”
[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> Hochhalter. “A Celestial Road to Truth.”  Hochhalter, Howard. The Hollow 4 Kids. “Star of Bethlehem Timeline.” 2022. <https://time.graphics/line/04b2774f964bedcd8a185a5860b2767d>
[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. “Babylonian Astrology.” Babylonian and Mesopotamian Astrology and Astronomy. 2018. <https://factsanddetails.com/world/cat56/sub402/entry-6063.html>
[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> Bunson, Matthew.  Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire. “Jupiter.” 2002. <https://archive.org/details/isbn_9780816045624>
[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>

Star of Bethlehem & Astronomy – Truly a Star?

 

Many have wondered if the Star of Bethlehem, “his star” observed by the Magi, really existed. If astronomy can corroborate Matthew’s Gospel, it could 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. Today, stellar events can be narrowed 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° (1 degree), 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 a conjunction of merely 1° proximity can be a once in a lifetime opportunity.Imagine the excitement if there were seven conjunctions of less than 1° separation in just 18 months?

It happened.[7]

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 these conjunctions happen 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 a century opportunity.[10]

Venus & Jupiter in close proximity

August 12, 3 BC, amazed stargazers with 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 of this Jupiter-Regulus triple conjunction is the timing and galactic visual location. It played out during the 9 months between the two Jupiter-Venus conjunctions of August 12th and the upcoming June 17th conjunction. 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.

Depiction of Venus-Jupiter occultation.

“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, 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.

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.[19]

Magi expert astronomers undoubtedly saw these celestial phenomena compelling a quest traveling hundreds of miles.[20] 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.[21]

The question is simple:  is “his Star” witnessed by the Magi in Matthew the two Jupiter-Venus conjunctions on August 12, 3 BC, and June 17, 2 BC?

 

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

Updated November 21, 2022.


Creative Commons License

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REFERENCES:

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[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).” “Star of Bethlehem: Two points of view.” KTBS3abc.” photo. 2017. https://www.ktbs.com/news/arklatex-indepth/the-star-of-bethlehem-two-points-of-view/article_6b8b84c6-e5a3-11e7-806a-9fdf6d02fb5a.html
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[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.”
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[20] Carroll. “The Star of Bethlehem: An Astronomical and Historical Perspective.”  Hochhalter. The Hollow 4 Kids. “A Celestial Road to Truth.” 2022. <https://thehollow4kids.com/a-celestial-road-to-truth/?fbclid=IwAR26hEnI1VfkjcBSRDJp2iyPIaNwPwrDZ0oHYg-pt9V0lumQTxX9WfXk4D0
[21] “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.