The principle purposes of this
paper are twofold. The first, and most important, is to preserve the sacredness
of the religious and cultural symbol which has come to be called "The Star
of Bethlehem". The second purpose is to provide convincing and easily
reproducible proof regarding the discovery of the "Star".
The phenomenon known as "The
Star of Bethlehem" has remained a mystery for almost two millennia. Thousands
of books, articles and papers have been written about the star and, to
date, not one has provided clear and unequivocal proof of the star's existence.
The following historic perspective
regarding The Star of Bethlehem is reprinted from the New Catholic Encyclopedia
"The star that led the Magi
to Bethlehem according to Mt 2.1-12. See MAGI (IN THE BIBLE). The many
interpretations of the star of Bethlehem can be divided into two groups:
traditional exegesis and midrashic (rabbinical) interpretation.
Traditional Exegesis .
The star, by this interpretation, is held by some to have been a miraculous
phenomenon, created by God to lead the Magi to Christ. Ignatius Martyr,
Chrysostom, and Diodorus of Tarsus attest to the antiquity of this view.
P. Schanz, J. Knabenbauer, D. Buzy, and A. Durand are modern representatives
of the opinion. The description in Matthew 2.9 of the unusual activity
of the celestial body is the strongest argument for this interpretation.
The opinion is, however, not unchallenged. IN AN AGE WHEN ASTROLOGY
WAS HIGHLY DEVELOPED ONE WOULD EXPECT SOME MENTION OF THE STAR IN OTHER
SOURCES. How did the Magi realize the significance of this event? Augustine
suggested special interior revelation. Origen held that the Magi recognized
the star as the fulfilment of Balaam's oracle in Nm 24.17.
Other's hold the star to have
been a striking, but essentially natural, phenomenon, the precise nature
of which is a matter of conjecture. Origen, M.J. Jagrange, and J. Bruns
suggest a comet, possibly Halley's comet of 12 B.C. In 1603 J. Kepler proposed
the idea that the star was really the conjunctio maxima of Jupiter with
Saturn in the zodiacal sign Fishes (Pisces). Such a major conjunction occurred
on May 21, 7 B.C. Since astrology associated unusual celestial phenomena
with the birth and death of important persons, it would not be impossible
for its practitioners to interpret this unusual event - it occurs once
every 974 years - in the light of vague messianic expectations current
throughout the empire. However, an obstacle to the "natural interpretation"
lies in Matthew 2.9 (a star pointing out a particular house) unless with
W. C. Allen and Lagrange this verse is considered a legendary amplification."
While the traditional opinions focus attention on the star in isolation,
as it were, more recent studies attempt to evaluate it in the general setting
of the Infancy Gospel. Most commentators agree that the narrative belongs
to a genus comparable to haggadic midrash. (e.g. S.M. Iglesias, R. Bloch,
M. Bourke, J. E. Bruns). See Haggadah. Because this literary form presents
a fact of history in a popular manner with fictional decorations adapted
to the common mentality, it is often difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish
fact from fiction.
In the framework of midrash,
the theological import of the star is of far greater concern than its historical
reality. Perhaps, as E. Lohmeyer suggests, the star signifies the fulfillment
of Balaam's prophecy. The star might have been borrowed from a midrash
on the visit of the Queen of Saba (Sheba) to Solomon ;its purpose would
be to manifest Christ as the true wisdom of Israel. For others (Bloch and
Iglesias) the star points to legends surrounding the birth of Moses and
invites the readers to see in Christ the new Moses. In another midrash,
astrologers inform the king of Abraham's birth made known by a star rising
in the heavens. Christ would then be presented as the new Israel.
"NEITHER THE TRADITIONAL
APPROACH NOR THE MODERN HAS PRODUCED ONE COMPELLING EXPLANATION OF THE
( end of quotation from
New Catholic Encyclopedia)
In the late 1970's the Library
of Congress published a list of references on The Star of Bethlehem that
was over 39 pages long. Most of the articles and books cited on the list
focus upon astronomical events which occurred between 11 BC and 1 AD. Many
of the works focus upon the year 7 BC because of a series of astrological
conjunctions. An astrological "conjunction" is the appearance of two or
more of the planets in our solar system appearing in the sky in close proximity
to each other. Many commentators believe that a "conjunction" created the
visual effect of one exceptionally bright star and have concluded that
the birth of Jesus Christ occurred in 7 BC.
The "7 BC conclusions" are reasonable,
however, they contain one or two significant errors. Each commentator forces
his conclusions to conform to the 7 BC planetary conjunctions and/or either
ignores or "bends" the chronology which is included in the Gospels of Matthew
The Quarterly Journal of
The Royal Astronomical Society , vol. 36, 1995, pp. 109-126 in a well
researched article written by Michael Molnar entitled, "The Magi's Star
from the perspective of Ancient Astrological Practices" excellently summarizes
nearly the entire spectrum of Star of Bethlehem research. Molnar concludes
that, "The Star of Bethlehem was an astrologically significant event
invisible to all except the astrologers ." I too am in total agreement
with this conclusion, in fact, using ancient astrological methods I have
located and reproduced the exact position and configuration of "The Star".