So What Was the Star of Bethlehem?
WIth all the talk and excitement about this year's appearance of the "Christmas Star" for the first time in 800 years you might be wondering "What's all the fuss about?" or "Why are the aligning of the planets Jupiter and Saturn being called the 'Christmas Star'?"
Through the years there have been various theories about exactly what the Star of Bethlehem was. Matthew's Gospel tells us that Magi, or wisemen, from the East saw a star and followed it to where the baby Jesus lay. But what was it?
Some have said that it must have been a comet. The problem with this theory is that there are no records of a comet appearing at the time of Jesus's birth.
So some have suggested that it must have been a supernova. Certainly a nova would catch the attention of Magi, who were astrologers and who watched the night skies closely. But again, there is no record in the ancient sources of a nova appearing at the time of Jesus's birth.
Dr. Paul Maier, retired professor of History at Western Michigan University and rostered LCMS pastor, refers to a theory that he likes which comes from Copernicus: Ancient records indicate that in 5 B.C. the planets Jupiter and Saturn came together three times in one year. Jupiter, being the brightest "star" in the sky was associated with kings and royalty to ancient astrologers. And Saturn was associated with Judea (based on Amos 5:26). So with Jupiter and Saturn coming together (and three times at that), astrologers may have read the conjunction of the planets as Jupiter (a king) is coming to Saturn (Judea) -- "A King is coming to Judea."
If this theory, which has become popular in the past decade or so, is true, then the present conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn would indeed be a reappearance of the Christmas Star.
Oh, on the year 5 B.C. -- 7-4 B.C. was when the planets aligned. How could Jesus have been born ~5 B.C.? In the fourth century a monk decided that the calendar should no longer mark history as beginning with the founding of Rome (753 B.C. in our reckoning) but with the birth of Jesus. Unfortunately as the old roman calendar was "converted" into the newly preposed system there turned out to be an unnoticed discrepancy of between 7-4 years. So Jesus turns out to have been born around 5 B.C. when the proper adjustments are made.
Is there Biblical proof that the Star of Bethlehem was a conjunction of planets? No! But with the records we have it does make some sense.