Guest / Limited Access /

Using powerful computer software, an Australian astronomer says that he has re-created the night sky over Bethlehem in the year 2 B.C. and discovered a planetary conjunction that may have been the Star of Bethlehem that drew the Magi to worship the baby Jesus.

Astronomer Dave Reneke said the close proximity of Venus and Jupiter created a spectacle in the night sky just before the summer solstice that year. Britain's Telegraph newspaper reported that Reneke went so far as to suggest that perhaps Christmas should be celebrated on June 17 rather than December 25. An interesting idea, since the December Christmas celebration probably doesn't mark the true birth day of Jesus either. The December observance has its roots in a Roman celebration of the winter solstice.

Reneke seems to assume such a celestial spectacle would automatically spur the Magi, who were Mesopotamian astrologer/astronomers, to travel a great distance to pay tribute to a newborn king. This is the weakness in most Bethlehem Star theories.

A variety of celestial spectacles have been proposed as the Star of Bethlehem. The famed 17th century astronomer Johannes Kepler suggested it was a nova, a temporarily ultra-bright star. Others have suggested a comet, although in ancient times a comet was usually perceived as a bad omen.

Beyond bright ideas

The story in Matthew's Gospel seems to indicate that the people of Judea were oblivious to the Star. So, at least one scholar has taken a different approach to identifying the Star of Bethlehem.

"I set out to find what a stargazer of Roman times would have recognized as the star of a new Judean king," wrote retired Rutgers University astronomer Michael Molnar in the preface of his 1999 book, The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current Issue
Subscriber Access Only
Should Your Favorite Ministry Become a ‘Church’?
Why more parachurch groups are telling the US government they’re not like other nonprofits.
RecommendedThe Real 12 Days of Christmas
The Real 12 Days of Christmas
Celebrating Christ's birth with saints of the faith during the actual Christmas season.
TrendingWhy Do We Have Christmas Trees?
Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?
The history behind evergreens, ornaments, and holiday gift giving.
Editor's PickWhen Christmas Meets the ‘Umbrage Industry’
When Christmas Meets the ‘Umbrage Industry’
If history is any guide, there’s no escaping the hostilities that erupt every December.
Christianity Today
Searching for the Star of Bethlehem
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

December 2008

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.