The Star of Bethlehem
The Star of Bethlehem (Mpower Pictures) is a fine Christian documentary chronicling Rick Larson's use of contemporary astronomical software in conjunction with historical sources (both Christian and non-) to locate the position of various heavenly bodies during major biblical events. Larson, an attorney, argues that the Star of Bethlehem may very well have been the planet Jupiter, which, due to a unique combination of its alignment with other stars, position in orbit, and retrograde motion, would have shown the characteristics of the star in the east seen by the Magi (Matt. 2:2). Larson also provides an interpretation of one of John's visions in Revelation, suggesting that John was actually describing astronomical phenomena that occurred at the time of Christ's birth.
One small but notable concern is the way the DVD's packaging and introduction tend to conflate the concepts of signs and miracles. Larson states that his project started while he was preparing to teach a Sunday school class on the essentials of Christianity, in which he wished to include a section on "external evidences." He describes these as extra-biblical but verifiable sources that help prove the historical accuracy of biblical events. Rather than arguing that the Star of Bethlehem was a miraculous abrogation of the laws of physics, the film actually relies on external evidences to argue that the Gospel accounts are historically accurate. But these are quibbles about an otherwise genuinely thought-provoking film.
Kenneth R. Morefield, an English professor at Campbell University, is editor of Faith and Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema (Cambridge Scholars Publishing).
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Christianity Today has more articles on Christmas including:
Searching for the Star of Bethlehem | A new theory makes the news. But are 21st-century astronomers looking in the wrong place? (December 19, 2008)
Reflections: Following the Star | Quotations to stir heart and mind (January 1, 2004)
Astronomer Discovers Star of Bethlehem | Rutgers University professor believes Jupiter, other bodies key to biblical mystery. (December 1, 1999)