In episode 58 the astrologer Kenneth Miller comes to me to talk about the astrology around the star of Bethlehem and the natal chart of Jesus.
During the show we will talk about the history surrounding this topic, some of the different theories about what the Star of Bethlehem was and try to explain how astrologers and historians have dealt with the topic in the past.
The music in this episode is We Three Kings by John Henry Hopkins, Jr.
Below are the show notes and an expanded recap of some of the topics we covered during the show, followed by links to listen to the recording of this episode of the podcast.
Outline of the episode
- The Church did not set December 25th as the birthday of Jesus until the 4th century.
- We have no evidence of what year Jesus was born and only a very rough idea of what time span he would have been born.
- The story of the star of Bethlehem and the magicians occurs only in the Gospel of Matthew, of the four canonical gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).
- This is a little strange as the other synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) share many of the same stories with similar phrasing and sequence, but not here.
- This raises the possibility that some historians are pondering where the story of the magicians might have been some sort of political tool to promote the Christian belief that Jesus was the Messiah.
- For others who view the story in Matthew as, at least in part, elements of an actual historical event, the identification of the star of Bethlehem becomes a sort of entry point to find the natal chart of Jesus.
- There is a long historical tradition of various astrologers speculating on the star of Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus.
- Some astrologers were either killed or imprisoned for this by the Inquisition.
- Speculation about the Star of Bethlehem among astrologers, astronomers and historians continues to this day.
Analysis of the story in Matthew
- Appears in chapter 2 of Matthew. Extremely short. 2-3 paragraphs.
- In Greek they are called “magi”. It is not stated how many there were. Later traditions assumed that there were three because they offered three gifts.
- They say they came because they watched his star rise. Ascend here = anatol (ἀνατολή). This is often translated “east”, however anatol is a technical term in Hellenistic astrology that means either 1) rising above the eastern horizon / ascendant / rising sign or 2) a heliacal rising when it emerges from under the rays of the sun. This gives us the distinction between morning star and evening star.
- The magicians originally showed up in Jerusalem and asked where Jesus was because they saw this astrological clue that says that someone important was born. Herod tries to use the astrologers to find Jesus and the story initially suggests that the magicians would unwittingly be accomplices in Herod’s murder of Jesus, but at the end of the story they were warned in a dream that Herod was driving them via an alternative route home.
- Later Christian traditions had a problem with this story because it appears to legitimize astrology and place a group of astrologers at the center of the birth of Jesus. Later writers tried to deal with this by interpreting the story to mean that the magicians who went a different route home meant that they had given up their previous interest in astrology. However, I don’t think this interpretation is necessary for the narrative structure of the story. Instead, the magicians who go home another way just tie the loose ending from the beginning of the story, where they almost unknowingly led Herod to Jesus.
- The story sounds like the star not only suggests that someone important was born, but that they somehow used it to locate Jesus. “… it stopped where the child was …”
The story of the star of Bethlehem in Matthew
Matthew chapter 2 from The New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Revised Standard Version, 4th ed., Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 1749:
“At the time of King Herod, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Judea, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem and asked,“ Where is the child who was born King of the Jews? For we have watched its star rise and have come to pay homage to it. ”When King Herod heard this, he and all Jerusalem with him were frightened; and called all the chief priests and scribes of the people together and asked them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem in Judea; for so it says of the prophet: “And you Bethlehem in the land of Judah are by no means the least of the princes of Judah; for a ruler will come from you to guard my people Israel. Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them exactly when the star had appeared. Then he sent her to Bethlehem and said: “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, let me know so that I can also go and do him respect. ”When they heard the king, they set off; and there went before them the star that they had seen when they rose, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. When they entered the house, they saw the child with his mother Maria; and they knelt down and paid homage to him. Then they opened their treasure chests and offered him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And after they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went on another route to their own country. “
Different theories about what the star of Bethlehem was
- Jupiter-Saturn conjunction (Kepler)
- List of planets in Pisces in 7 BC (E.g. March 1, 7 BC).
- Comet (cardan)
- Aspect pattern
- Moon-Jupiter occlusion
- Molnar argued that it was an occultation of the Moon and Jupiter in Aries on April 17, 6 BC. Acted.
- Heliac rising of Venus
- Koch argues that it was a heliacal rising of Venus in Leo, which occurred on September 1, 2 BC.
- Not an astronomical event but a bright light / intervention of God.
Books for further research
- Dieter Koch, The Star of Bethlehem, 2009.
- Michael R. Molnar, The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Three Kings, 1999.
- Nicholas Campion, A History of Western Astrology Volume I: The Ancient and Classical Worlds, 2009 (Chapter 15 deals with the Star of Bethlehem).
- The Star of Bethlehem and the Magi, ed. Peter Barthel and George van Kooten, 2015.
- James H. Holden, Early Horoscopes of Jesus, 2001.
- The exact parallel New Testament.
- The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version.
A full transcript of this episode is available: transcript of episode 58 58
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