Last time we considered the possibility that Christmas gift giving may really be a Biblical fact because of the Wise men and their gifts to Jesus. But before we go really deep into the Word to consider this, let’s first look at the different “star” candidates.
The Biblical reason for looking at the stars is found in Genesis 1: 14 “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:”
If the creator of all heaven and earth set the stars in motion at this time, why wouldn’t He also set a sign to happen at the appropriate time to announce the birth of His only begotten Son?
The sky above the earth is filled with many wonderful objects. There are fixed stars of many different magnitudes, meaning they have different levels of brightness. Our own sun is really an average sized star so there are stars that are dimmer and brighter than ours, and also larger and smaller than ours and there are many moving objects in space. One possible candidate is a nova or supernova event. The most recent supernova event that was visible with the naked eye is SN1987A that happened on 23 February of 1987.
These events are not really unusual as nova events happen at a frequency of every 20 years or so, but supernovas can be so bright as to cast shadows in the night or be visible in daylight. One nova event did occur, bordering the constellations of Capricorn and Aquarius in spring of 5 B.C.E., but Chinese records report that it was not very brilliant. However, let’s keep this one in mind as a possible candidate.
Another candidate is a comet. Comets can be visible for extended periods of time making them a good possibility for a celestial object fitting the description for a Christmas star. Halley’s Comet was visible in the night sky during August and September of 11 BCE. However, comets are not signs of a leader’s birth, but as a bad omen. The Chinese have used comets as omens of natural destruction or losses in battle. Look at these two links for more information.
Even though there are 17th Century paintings showing comets as the Christmas star, it’s illogical to allow recent popular traditions to over rule the known and established traditions of ancient eastern times. When the record of Jesus’ birth was written in the first century, comets were regarded as bad omens. For this reason alone, we should disregard comets as a possible candidate for the Christmas star that the Magi from the east were following.
Meteors have been proposed as possible candidates, but must be ruled out simply because each appearance is both singular and quick. However, they can definitely be a spectacular event. Here is a link to an NBC news site that reported on an event in Siberia on February 15, 2013.
If a meteor event caught the attention of the Magi to make them go to Jerusalem, it is extremely improbable, (really impossible), that it would be the same meteor that appeared over Bethlehem. So we can discount meteors as the Christmas star.
The only other kind of astronomical event that could attract an astronomer’s attention is known as the triple conjunction. A conjunction “occurs when two astronomical objects or spacecraft have either the same right ascension or the same ecliptic longitude, usually as observed from Earth.” (Wikipedia) Conspiracy theorists and UFO enthusiasts will point out that it could have been a spacecraft. If you really want to believe this, it’s your prerogative but it’s highly doubtful that the Christmas star was an alien spacecraft so let’s consider two astronomical objects instead.
The way a conjunction happens when a moving object passes a fixed object like a planet passing a star, or when two moving objects pass each other like two or more planets in space. In certain circumstances, a triple conjunction happens when one object appears to make an “S” like path in the sky passing a fixed point three times before continuing on its normal path in the sky. The best way to explain how a triple conjunction can happen is to compare it to two passing vehicles. As the faster vehicle approaches a slower vehicle, they both appear to move in the same direction. As the faster vehicle passes the slower vehicle, the slower vehicle appears to move backwards. Then after both vehicles have passed, the slower vehicle again appears to move in the same direction as before. In reality, both vehicles have been moving in the same direction all along. Only the difference in their velocities made the visual phenomenon of the slower vehicle appear to move backwards.
The last astronomical possibility involves the positioning of planets and stars. These are the historically accepted meanings of constellations and planets during the time of Christ.
Jupiter = Planet of Kings, Righteousness, The Messiah
Venus = The Mother Planet
Saturn = Planet Protector of the Jews
Mars = Planet of War, Aggression, Danger
Mercury = Planet of Speed, Messenger, Deception
Regulus = Star of Kingship, Chief Star of Leo
Day Star = The Star in the Head of the Infant in “Coma” visible in daylight for 300 years
Leo = Constellation of Kings and of Tribe of Judah
Pisces = Constellation of Nation of Israel
Virgo = The Virgin
The most accepted candidate for the Christmas star is the triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that happened from May to December in 7 BCE. The two planets passed within 1 degree of each other on May 29 and September 30. Then passed once again on December 5. Here is a list of the events in the sky following this set of triple conjunctions.
7 BC May Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces
7 BC Sep Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces
7 BC Dec Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces
6 BC Feb Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces, this time with Mars –
Royal Planet and Israel’s Protector Planet in Israel’s Constellation 4 times,
the last with signs of danger
These conjunctions involving Jupiter and Saturn are called “Great Conjunctions” because they involve the two greatest planets in the solar system. Here is a quote from Wikipedia concerning Great Conjunctions. “A great conjunction is a conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn. Great conjunctions occur regularly, about every 20 years, due to the combined effect of Jupiter’s approximately 12-year orbital period and Saturn’s approximately 30-year orbital period.”
5 BC Mar-Apr Supernova in Capricorn — significance?
4 BC Mar 13 Eclipse of the Moon (late night) Josephus set as associated with
death of Herod – now felt to be wrong
3 BC May 19 Saturn and Mercury Protector of Israel and Messenger Planet
3 BC Jun 12 Saturn and Venus — Protector of Israel and Mother Planet
Note the bold section in the March 13, 3 BCE record of the lunar eclipse marking the death of Herod. There is mounting belief that Herod did not die at this time making 7 to 4 BCE unlikely for the birth of Jesus. But as it is currently the most accepted time frame for Jesus’ birth, it’s only honest to include these events in this narrative. A longer explanation surrounding the events around Herod’s death is needed to make this case more understandable, but we won’t dive into this subject at this time. Because it is believed to be unlikely that Herod died in 4 BCE, we need to consider the next set of planetary events instead.
3 BC Aug 1 Heliacal rising of Jupiter in Leo — Royal Star appearing at night in the eastern horizon just before the sun rises. When a planet or a star, after it has been hidden by the Sun’s rays, becomes visible again.
3 BC Sep 11 Jupiter joined Regulus, chief star in Leo, Royal Planet and Royal Star
Sun in Virgo (Virgin Constellation), New Moon in Royal Constellation Leo (Judah)
First day of Jewish New Year Day
3 BC Nov Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury in Leo — Royal Star, Royal Planet and Mother Star in Royal Constellation
2 BC Feb 17 Jupiter and Regulus (in Leo) — Royal Planet and Royal Star
2 BC May 8 Jupiter and Regulus (in Leo) — Royal Planet and Royal Star
2 BC Jun 17 Jupiter and Venus (Touching) — Royal Planet and Mother Planet in Leo
(Royal Constellation: Judah) fused into one point! Moon Full (to Romans this seemed to honor Caesar)
2 BC Aug 27 Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Venus — Royal Planet and Mother Planet and Israel’s Protector Planet, also Danger
2 BC Dec 25 Jupiter began to move westward, At its stationary point in Virgo
Winter Solstace, Daystar in Coma Overhead at Bethlehem at Dawn?
(Seen by looking into a deep well)
1 BC Jan 10 Eclipse of the Moon (late night) Associated with Herod’s Death?
1 BC Dec 29 Eclipse of the Moon More likely to have been seen by many.
(started at dusk) If so, Herod died in 1 AD
Both sets of events number a total of nine so there is no significant difference in Biblical numerics as nine is the product of 3 X 3 and 3 is the number for completeness. God’s completeness is shown by the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Man’s completeness is shown by the body, soul, and spirit. The heaven’s were complete with the sun, moon, and stars. So to place more significance in either set of events based upon numerical reasons is pointless. One the other hand, the frequency of the events shed much more light. The frequency of a Jupiter and Regulus triple conjunction is once every 83 years. Combined with the rising of the sun also in Leo happening once every 13 years with Jupiter’s heliacal rising also in Leo, this event became a once in a lifetime happening for the Magi. There is some evidence to believe that the total sum of all the events happening in the sky, surrounding this set, makes this set a first time in human history event for the Magi. This is what attracted their attention and should attract our attention as well. Here are some links to sights that go into great detail concerning this group of astronomical events.
The list of astronomical events came from this site.
Next time, we’ll look at this particular set of events with more detail to see if the Christmas star could be Jupiter and if it did anything significant concerning Christmas.