Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stealing 'The Star of Bethlehem'

It's bad enough that we have to deal with atheists taking shots at Christmas let alone misguided believers. Every year someone claims to have figured out what the Star of Bethlehem really was; by which they mean: it wasn't miraculous.  The latest is a lawyer turned amateur astronomer who used a computer program to move the night sky back to its configuration around the time of Jesus birth.  His claim is that the ‘Star’ was really just a grouping of stars and planets which held a particular significance to the Magi.  Not only is this wrong, it is insulting to believers as it rips the supernatural away and reduces the ‘star’ to just an ordinary natural occurrence.  In other words, God had to wait on the universe to send His son instead of commanding the universe to announce His birth.  The premise fails on a number of points:

1) Why would a grouping of stars have a significance for a group of foreign scholars?  The general consensus is that the Magi were Babylonian and most likely adherents to Zoroastrianism.  In that case, they would have been looking for a sign announcing the return of their savior known as the sayoshant.  Whatever the star was, it had to have an arresting power to direct the Magi to Bethlehem.

Traditional image WRONG.
Shepherds did not see the Star
2) The star appeared only to the Magi and no one else as far as we can tell.  Mat. 2:7 "Then Herod privately summoned the wise men and determined from them when the star had appeared."  If others had seen the star it would unnecessary to ask this question.  Note, this also means the shepherds did not see the star-paintings, and carols not with standing.

3) Some claim that the Magi spent two years traveling to find Jesus.  This is nonsense.  Trade routes were well established in those days.  The journey from Babylon to Jerusalem/Bethlehem was about 550 miles.  Caravans averaged between 4 and 8 miles per day. At that rate the magi would have been in Jerusalem in 75 to 150 days if they started immediately.  It is my contention that they did not start immediately as they had to ascertain the meaning of the star, and only when they understood its meaning did they begin their journey.

An additional note regarding the magi.  It is customary to show them on camels or a camel, an elephant and a horse, but only one of these animals is correct.  No magi would ever ride a camel.  That would be like the queen of England riding in a sewer truck.  Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration but not by much.  Magi would have ridden horses; their servants would be on camels.

Scroll down to the bottom of the above link and notice what the magi are riding.
4)There are two curious verses in Mat. 2: 9) When they had heard the king they departed and lo the star whch they saw in the east went before them till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10) When they saw the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 

The words used to describe the intensity of their joy imply near violence or horrendously great.  They were so happy to see the star that perhaps they assaulted each other as athletes sometimes do.  This is remarkable in two respects; 1) it is hardly the manner we would expect of men of their station, and 2) why react that way if the star had been visible continuously.  I believe that the star led them as far as Jerusalem or perhaps only Damascus (as suggested in Flower) and then vanished.  Their reaction is consistent with this idea in that it once again appeared to lead them.

It is my firm belief, based on the above that the Star of Bethlehem was a miraculous sign from God unrelated to planets or comets or stars or anything else of nature.

Additional notes: The number and names of the Magi are not recorded.  My personal belief is that there were 12. 

Anything or anyone who diminishes The Star of Bethlehem via a natural explanation or extension of its visibility to anyone but the magi is stealing The Star by turning it into merely a star and they should be ignored.

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