Star nursuries

We all know the story – the biblical wise men following “a star in the east” to the Christ child and falling on their knees to worship him. But one astronomer says it wasn’t an actual star in the story but a rare planetary alignment that heralds the birth of royalty.

Grant Matthews of the University of Notre Dame’s College of Science argues what led the Magi to Bethlehem was a planetary alignment in which Jupiter, Saturn and the moon were all in Aries while Venus was in Pisces, and Mercury and Mars were in Taurus. Aries was also the location of the vernal equinox at the time.

According to Matthews,  the presence of Jupiter and the moon signified the birth of a ruler with a “special destiny.”

Fox News reports Matthews said an alignment like that which occurred at the time of the Star of Bethlehem will not reoccur even after another 500,000 years.

Carl Gallups, author of “When The Lion Roars: Understanding the Implications of Ancient Prophecies For Our Time,” argues this finding has little impact on the truth of the biblical story.

“The word for ‘star’ in the original Greek text is used 24 times in the New Testament and can refer to a literal star – or a heavenly spectacle, an angel, a symbol of coming judgment and metaphorically,” he told WND. “It comes from a root word meaning ‘to be strewn,’ as in strewn across the night sky like a comet or a similar heavenly spectacle.

“So, in reality, we simply don’t know exactly what the Magi saw except that we are certain it was some type of heavenly and supernaturally arranged ‘sign’ that did indeed lead them to the house where the young Christ child resided with his parents in Bethlehem. It might have been a star, a comet, a planetary alignment, or it might have been something altogether different than anything we have thus far imagined.”

However, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, the author of “The Book of Mysteries,” argues the biblical account should be taken as literally referring to a star.

“The Gospel account clearly says ‘star,'” he told WND. “Further, the Magi who had spent their lives studying the heavens and the stars also refer to it as a star. They would not only be very much able to distinguish a planetary alignment from a star but they would have been able to have forecast the alignment long before it took place. Further, the account speaks of the star going on ahead of them and guiding them to the infant.”

But Cahn says the planetary alignment, which occurred in 6 B.C., may still have had an important role to play.

“The simple or supernatural appearance of a star could have caught the attention of the Magi, but there would have been no reason for them to connect it with the birth in Judea of a Jewish king,” Cahn explained. “However, the alignment of planets could have done just that, as those planets in the ancient world were at times associated with kingship and even the region of Israel.

“So such an alignment could have been interpreted by the Magi as linked to the birth of a king in Judea. If then a supernatural star and sign appeared in the heavens, it could have signaled for them that the event was of cosmic significance, that the king was the Jewish Messiah, and that the time of the birth was linked to that star.”

In his widely renowned teaching “The Mishkan Clue,” Cahn explains 6 B.C. actually links up with an ancient Hebrew holy day that would have been the prime candidate for the time of his birth. Six B.C. also matches up with the “time of the star’s appearing” in Matthew’s account, as Herod, who died in 4 B.C., sought to kill all infants 2 years old and under.

Regardless of whether it was a star or not, Gallups says his own faith is strengthened by these scientific findings.

“These discoveries of science do not change anything about the Magi account of Scripture, nor do they change or discredit the gospel message in any way,” he said. “To me, they lend even more scientific credibility to the possibility that something very rare, or even supernaturally unprecedented was used by the Lord of creation to point the Magi to His Son – our savior. The bottom line is that science is once again lining up with biblical declarations that seemed scientifically incredulous until relatively recently.”

The story of the Star of Bethlehem is more incredible than you possibly imagined. Discover the truth behind the story you hear every Christmas. “Star of the Messiah,” now available at the WND Superstore

Karl Payne, the author of “Spiritual Warfare” and the former chaplain of the Seattle Seahawks, says the debate over the Star of Bethlehem, while interesting, does not detract from the core truth of Christianity.

“You cannot remove the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ from Christianity and still have Christianity,” he told WND. “Whether the shepherds and Magi saw a star, a planet or something else does not impact the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

The same is true, said Payne, as to the timing of Christmas. He said it is irrelevant whether Jesus Christ was actually born sometime in late December.

However, Gallups argues the traditional yearly dating of Christmas is probably close to the truth.

“The mathematics of the matter are too lengthy to explain here, but the answer is found in Luke 1 and 2 and in I Chronicles 24,” the pastor explained. “It has to do with the ‘course of Abijah’ in which Zechariah was serving in the temple when the angel revealed the birth and ministry of John, who was to be born to him and his wife, Elizabeth. According to the Hebrew ecclesiastical calendar, if Zechariah was serving in the temple during his first course of service for the year, then Jesus would have been conceived sometime in late December. If Zechariah was serving his second course for the year, the math figures out that Jesus would have been born sometime in late December. These mathematical and scriptural truths surely account for the earliest church records that recognize a December 25th date.

“Many insist that the Dec. 25th date was merely a proclamation of the Emperor Constantine attempting to line up the celebration with a pagan holiday that fell in the same time period. But the most likely account is that Constantine was merely taking the word of the earliest church fathers in setting this date – since the early church fathers would have been very aware of the biblical Zechariah account and the mathematic rendering of the ‘course of Abijah.'”

Such debates offer an intriguing glimpse into how modern science and textual analysis can bring Christians closer to the truth of what actually happened in the Holy Land two millennia ago.

However, Rabbi Cahn, who believes it is unlikely Jesus was born on Dec. 25, says Christians must remember the core message of the Gospel rather than being lost in the details.

“More than the when of His birth, we should treasure and remember the fact that He was born, gave His life that we could be saved and that we could call Him Immanuel, God is with us,” he said.

The story of the Star of Bethlehem is more incredible than you possibly imagined. Discover the truth behind the story you hear every Christmas. “Star of the Messiah,” now available at the WND Superstore


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