Rick Lanser MDiv | ABR
1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2”Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
6‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH,
ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH;
FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER
WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’”
7Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.”
9After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way… 16Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.
—Matthew 2:1–12, 16 NASB
A good number of books, videos and Internet articles have been published on the Star of Bethlehem. Some authors have apparently seen the story as profitable, vigorously marketing their materials and often using websites like infomercials to entice people to buy them. Others have websites where they provide their information free of charge, simply because they believe their view is correct.
Whatever the motives, in the end any suggestion is only as good as its starting assumptions. I am well aware that this caveat applies to the proposal I make in this article as well. I offer it for the reader’s consideration as an alternative to the better-known theories for three reasons:
1. It fits seamlessly together with an article I wrote in 2018, “Pinpointing the Date of Christ’s Birth”;
2. No one else whose work I’ve read has taken quite the same approach; and
3. I believe it has real value in providing a science-grounded explanation for the Star of Bethlehem that may be of value in defending the factuality of the Christmas story to a skeptic, because it does not require positing supernatural phenomena or extraordinary celestial events.
CONTINUE TO FULL ARTICLE ON ASSOCIATES FOR BIBLICAL RESEARCH