The star of Bethlehem
Twenty centuries ago, in the capital of present-day Israel, Jerusalem, Herus reigned. His reign came to shake up a somewhat unusual event, which the Evangelist Matthew describes:
One day, three oriental astronomers showed up in the city asking for information, they claimed, about the new king who had been born. Herous, agitated, invited them to a hearing and learned from them about the long journey they had embarked on about two years earlier.
In the words of the wise men, a star with an unusual glow had appeared on the firmament, which they interpreted as a sign of the happy news of the birth of a mighty new ruler. They immediately set off from their homeland to worship him, and followed the star that shone before them constantly, showing them the way to the newborn king. Only as they arrived in Jerusalem, the star was lost in their sight.
The sequel is well known… After the wizards left Jerusalem, the star reappeared, leading them to Bethlehem, the house where Joseph, Mary and the nearly two-year-old Christ lived. The wondrous event of the great journey and pilgrimage of the Magi moves and teaches each of us.
But… What was really the star the Wizards saw? Was it a divine sign? Was it something coincidental? Is it scientifically confirmed? We will attempt below to take an approach to some of these questions, with the aim of seeing if there is an answer from the field of science.
The truth is the (few) information about this particular star is drawn only from the Matthew Gospel. However, many scientists throughout history have attempted to give a clearer picture of this. So the first theory developed was that the star that the Wizards followed was a meteorite. This theory seems unlikely, as meteorites are very common and could not cause disruption to educated astronomers of that time.
The next possibility examined, supported by Origen, was that it was a comet. But one comet is observed by all, while the star of Bethlehem was only seen by the three wise men. Also, the peoples of antiquity saw comets in a negative mood, as harbingers of destruction, and certainly not as the Wizards treated the star.
Nor can a supernova be considered the star of Bethlehem, as such stars are visible to all. Nor could any planet be; astronomers knew how to distinguish when a simple planet shone more than usual.
Then what was the star that led the Wizards to the newborn Savior?
Johan Kepler in 1614 published his theory about the Christmas star: “This star (of Bethlehem) was not the usual comets or a star, but in a particularly wondrous way it moved in the lower layer of the atmosphere… to lead the Wizards from Chaldeia to Bethlehem.” According to Kepler’s calculations, which set the Birth of Christ in the year 6 BC, the planets Jupiter and Saturn during 7 BC took part in a triple or large conjugation. In other words, they passed each other on 27 May, 5 October and 1 December. Something that normally happens once every 20 years, in a (strange for the Wizards) way had happened three times in less than a year.
Such sessions, however, often occur, so it is probably not even as a meeting of planets that can be seen as the long-term glow that brought the message of the Nativity.
It seems rather difficult to reach a safe conclusion about the supernatural event of the appearance of this amazing star twenty centuries ago. But we leave the epilogue to the director of the Eugenides Planetarium, Mr. Dionysios Simopoulos:
«… unfortunately so far none of the proposals that have been proposed can be fully satisfied. Because it is rather difficult to prove all the individual evidence that requires a complete and documented proof.
Many researchers of the Scriptures even argue that the Bethlehem Star is not a specific astronomical body or phenomenon, but is simply a symbolic star of the prophecies of P. Testament for the expected Messiah. We must also not miss the fact that the appearance of a star or other remarkable celestial phenomenon during the Birth of great men of history is quite widespread in ancient texts.
But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what happened in the sky that Christmas night, because the most important thing was happening on our land. Something wonderful happened in the small town of Bethlehem that night, and the event was much bigger than anything that was going on in the sky. Because when the Sun raised the other morning, on that first Day of Christmas, it rises above a world that could never be the same. Today the Birth of Christ is treated as a miracle. Many believers even regard the appearance of the Star of Bethlehem as yet another miracle. If you prefer to think that the Christmas Star was a miracle, science has neither the ability to support nor reject such a thing. It is certainly outside the field of science and completely within the field of faith.”