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What do you know about the 'Star of Bethlehem' that was mentioned in the New Testament of the Holy Bible

Star of wonder, star of night! Star of royal beauty bright; westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy Perfect Light. --"We Three Kings of Orient Are"

The first recorded reference to the star of Bethlehem is found in the New Testament of the Bible, in the second chapter of Matthew. Here it is written that, "In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, 'Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star rising, and have come to pay him homage'...When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy."

Around this time of year, many people wonder about that star mentioned long ago. What was its cultural significance? What's the astronomy behind the star? Craig Chester, president of the Monterrey Institute for Research in Astronomy, says that the star is, "a mystery and a puzzle, involving, not only theology and astronomy, but also history and even astrology."

Some think it was a nova (whose brightness would last a few days). But that explanation does not allow for the two months the wise men probably needed to journey from Arabia or Mesopotamia. Other people think that the star that was referred to in the Bible was actually a comet. A comet could have moved across the sky during the journey of the wise men. However, their is no historical record of a comet appearing around the time when Jesus was born.

The most probable astronomical theory behind the star is that of a planetary conjunction. A conjunction is when two or more objects appear very close together in the sky. The closer the objects, the brighter the conjunction. Two such astronomical events happened around the time of Jesus' birth, the triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation Pisces, and the conjunction of Jupiter with Regulus, the star of kingship (which has been taken to have special significance to the king of the Jews mentioned in Matthew).

Finally, some would say that the star was not any specific astronomical event, but simply a provision of the God of the Bible heralding the coming of Jesus.

Submitted by Gene (Florida, USA)
(December 18, 1997)

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