The family and I had the occasion this past week to watch an hour long DVD presentation called “The Star of Bethlehem.” It’s a talk given by an attorney by the name of Rick Larson explaining what he believes was the star of Bethlehem. His take on it was that the “star” was really a conjunction of celestial objects, particularly Jupiter, that went into retrograde when the Magi came to Jerusalem so that it gave the appearance of “stopping over” or “stood over” the house where Jesus was. He further believes this happened in 2 B.C. on our December 25th.
Spike Psarris‘ most recent email news letter [and you ought to subscribe to his news letter] mentions the DVD, and he notes the similar problem I had with the presentation when I watched it. That being Larson’s attempt to provide a “natural” explanation for the star’s appearance.
I am of the opinion that the star was more than likely supernatural, not a natural occurrence. That is because conjunctions are a regular happenstance, not something necessarily unusual. The Magi were trained, professional astrologers who had witnessed a number of conjunctions during their lifetime. What would be so important that it would catch their attention and stir them to make a long trip to locate the Messiah?
Additionally, the significance of the “star” would be special revelation, not general revelation as is witnessed in the night sky. Again, why would these Magi plan a long trip, more than likely coming from the area of modern day Iraq, just to verify a conjunction or some other familiar astronomical event, like a comet? There was something more unique about this particular star that drove them to investigation. And I would even believe that the Spirit of God directed them to locate it.
Any how, I appreciated Spike’s comments and thought I would reproduce that section from the news letter. He calls the presenter “Steve” Larson, and I think he is conflating the speaker with the producer of the DVD whose name is Steve. Oh, and don’t forget to follow the link supplied at the bottom to Danny Faulkner’s review of the DVD.
This time of year, I often get questions about the Star of Bethlehem.
Is it possible to know what it was?
There’s certainly no lack of proposed explanations. Different people have proposed:
- A comet
- A conjunction of planets (Jupiter usually being one of them)
- A nova or supernova
…and that’s just a partial list.
One of the most popular explanation nowadays is that presented by attorney Steven Larson on his DVD entitled, appropriately, The Star of Bethlehem. More on this in a moment.
Personally, I’m skeptical of these sorts of explanations. Some events in the Bible are miracles, not natural events. They don’t need natural explanations.
However, many Christians are very uncomfortable about accepting miracles. They feel compelled to find a non-supernatural explanation for everything.
But this type of thinking naturally leads to denial of other miracles too.
Today there are many professing Christians who are denying the virgin birth and other key doctrines, because these things require miracles.
Where do you draw the line?
Also, a natural event seems to be excluded by Matthew 2:9, which says that the star “went before” the Magi until it “stood over” the child.
No natural astronomical phenomenon can do that.
Many try to explain this by talking about planets stopping in the sky. For example, Larson says that on December 25 of 2 BC, Jupiter halted in its motion, as it entered retrograde motion.
Yes, planets do stop and go retrograde (in reverse motion). But this is not an unusual event—far from it.
This happens quite often, and the Magi would have known this.
In general, the ancients were far more familiar with the night sky that most of us are today. This would have been especially true of the Magi, who were most likely astrologers.
They would have been very familiar with how planets move, stop, go retrograde, stop, and resume forward motion again.
Nor is this “stop” an instantaneous thing. The motions we’re talking about take place over days, or weeks.
It’s questionable whether or not the Magi would have been especially impressed by Jupiter’s activity.
More importantly, it’s difficult to see how the Magi could have been guided to a specific place by Jupiter (or any other astronomical phenomenon).
So I’m comfortable believing that whatever happened on that night 2,000 years ago was supernatural—a celestial sign sent by the Lord, to announce the birth of His Son.
If this is a subject you’re interested in, astronomer Danny Faulkner (a Christian and a creationist) wrote an in-depth review of Larson’s DVD. You can find it here: