The Star of Bethlehem

Star of B2This week we have moved our podcast day to Tuesday.  This is so we can record it at the Earth & Space Science Lab here in Frederick.  We are going to the planetarium show, Mystery of the Christmas Star.  The show description states “Journey back over 2000 years to Bethlehem as we seek to discover a scientific explanation for the star the wise men followed to find the baby Jesus. This modern retelling of the Christmas story is sure to charm and captivate audiences of all ages”.  We are excited to see the show but I thought it might be smart to get a little studying in before the presentation.  I like to have some background information to better enjoy the show.

All of us are familiar with the story of the Star of Bethlehem.  The tale is told through the Gospel of Matthew.  The Star revealed to the Magi the location of the baby Jesus.  The story has been expanded over time to become the center of Christmas celebrations.  The star led those wise men to the manger in Bethlehem where they presented their gifts to the Messiah.  The guiding Star was in the East.  We often see the Star in representations of the Nativity scene, described in the Gospel of Luke.  Curiously the nativity scene is not mentioned in Matthew and the Star is not mentioned in Luke.  Many Christians connect the Star of Bethlehem with the Star Prophecy found in the Book of Numbers.  Christians view and accept the Star as the work of God announcing the arrival of his son, born of Mary, in the town of Bethlehem.  There are some Christian groups that have specific thoughts/views about the Star.  Eastern Orthodox believers know that the Star was a supernatural event that sent an Angel to announce the news.  Mormons see it as an astronomical event that allowed all the world to see the light of God, a symbol of the light he was bringing to the world with the birth of Jesus.  Seventh Day Adventists know the Star was a collection of Angels the lingered after God’s presence.  Jehovah’s Witnesses take a different view on the Star, seen as a product of Satan- leading the Magi to Herod and resulting in his plan to kill the male children in the kingdom.

Star of BThe scientific explanations of the Star of Bethlehem are many.  Since the first telling of the story there have been attempts to explain the star’s appearance using science.  Great attention was given to showing the star was an actual astronomical event.  In 1614 Kepler claimed it was the result of a conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn.  He thought it created a supernova, a theory later disproved).  Others have offered that it might be a comet, maybe even Halley’s Comet.  Chinese astronomers tracked a comet at the time that stayed in the sky with no movement for 70 days.  It was written that it was “hanging over” a city somewhere.  It has even been claimed it was a supernova from the Andromeda Galaxy.   Early translations had the “wise men” as astrologers.  This was altered over time since the early church saw astrology as blasphemy.  Needless to say there is much discussion about the origin and reality of the Star.  A simple Google search will start you on the path of you own exploration.  We’re excited to see what we learn at the planetarium show.  No worries, we’ll be sure to share our new knowledge with all of you!