This blog is intended to simply give information. One should take it as such - not as comprehensive or as a basis for faith. We have much, much more very solid information - especially the eye witness testimony of the apostles - if that is the issue.
But it took some research to get this information - and I believe it's worth sharing. It's my gift to you all.
There were TWO very rare astronomical phenomena which occurred in 7 BC - the year of Jesus' birth = one which happens about every 800 years and another that happens about every 250 years. That in itself is phenomenal. But there was a problem with the second one - which the point I'm sharing toward the end of this blog seems to me to solve. So this was quite exciting.
We describe how the "star" seemed to FOLLOW them to Bethlehem - and then descend right down directly onto Bethlehem.
Who were the Magi?
The magi were, apparently, Zoroastrians from Persia. This means they were semi-monotheistic. They were also astrologers. God spoke to them in the language they understood. And the message of the stars, to them, indicated that the King Of The Universe would be born in Palestine.
Jupiter and Saturn "saluted" - approached each other three times in the year 6/7 BC - the most likely dating for Jesus' birth since Herod died in 4 BC. This happened in the constellation Pisces - the constellation of Palestine. Then Mars, Jupiter and Saturn conjoined. In 1603AD the german astronomer Johannes Kepler observed this conjoining - which occurs every 796.4 years - and which he determined to have happened in 7 BC. Without diving deep into astronomy - Jupiter is the "King's Star". Paul Maier - a very objective historian - explains in his book, "The First Christmas", that the message they would have obtained was that a "King Of The Jews" would be born - who would rule the earth. So they went to Jerusalem and simply asked where they could find the one who was to be born "The King Of The Jews".
Well, Herod had slaughtered his own princess wife and his sons by her. He had no pending prince. So - as we know from many sources - the pathologically paranoid Herod would have wanted to kill any new "King Of The Jews" in the cradle. He asked the wise men of his court to tell him where prophesy indicated such a king would be born and they answered that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
So PLEASE NOTE that the magi headed down the highway south toward Bethlehem because of THAT information - not because they were following the star at that point.
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
One of the main reasons I posted this blog is to share something I haven't heard discussed elsewhere. The "morning star" - Venus - was also in a very rare pattern in 7BC. It has an eccentric "retrograde" pattern which only occurs once in every 243 years. It is not, therefore, in normal sequence with the pattern of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Two extremely rare patterns both occurred in 7BC.
Some actually feel that Balaam had a prophetic reputation in the east and that His prophesy of the "star" Messiah would have impacted the Magi.
I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;
a scepter will rise out of Israel.
He will crush the foreheads of Moab,
the skullsofall the people of Sheth.
Edom will be conquered;
Seir, his enemy, will be conquered,
but Israel will grow strong.
A ruler will come out of Jacob
and destroy the survivors of the city.
Venus proceeds in the same direction the Magi were going, then mades a sudden and distinct retrograde pattern straight down. Please page down to see the image which shows this retrograde pattern
Perhaps the reason this has not been more noted is that, as you see, the angle is wrong with regard to the star's descent. 180 degrees would be straight south. From Jerusalem Bethlehem is several degrees WEST.
But the magi were NOT in Jerusalem when they saw the star descend over Bethlehem. They had "followed" this star as they proceeded toward Bethlehem. Look at the path the star was taking - going toward Bethlehem as they went.
Jerusalem is actually EAST of Bethlehem. But the highway south proceeds in a SOUTH WESTERLY direction. So, as the magi approached Bethlehem THE ANGLE BECOMES CORRECT since they are now slightly WEST of Bethlehem.
THEN what does the star do? It takes a hard angle turn and procedes almost STRAIGHT DOWN. Bethlehem is on TOP of one of the mountain peeks - slightly higher, actually, than Jerusalem itself. So as the Magi pass the tomb of Rachel (very significant as you bible students know) they would have been in somewhat of a valley - looking UP - increasingly - as they approached Bethlehem on the hill above them. So the star's course downward would not have stopped and proceeded back the way it came until the hill obscured it's path. THE STAR WOULD HAVE DESCENDED RIGHT DOWN TO BETHLEHEM.
This is my best construction of the scene. It's conjectural. But it is certain that the SWcourse of the Jerusalem - Bethlehem road would have brought the angle of the "morning star" Venus much more closely into alignment with Bethlehem. And the former course of the star, prior to it's change of direction into a vertical descent, would have been something they would have seemed to be "following".
Perhaps someone with a good background in astronomy and math can draw the precise line that would have put the descent of Venus into direct alignment with Bethlehem. This would really make it obvious where they would have been standing. I believe that line would probably cross the Jerusalem - Bethlehem road.
Here's a couple of maps of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Note that the road procedes in a South Westerly direction until it is actually WEST of Bethlehem.
I got other images from Google Earth but they were hard to see clearly. But as you are NAVIGATING in Google Earth - if you'd like to try it - you get a real clear idea of how the highway runs. Look for RAMAT RACHEL. That's Rachel's Tomb. There's a monastry there now. You'll notice that you must ascend a road going SE to actually go up into the villageof Bethlehem - which has expanded into a city and spread into the valley in modern times.
You have certainly been busy with some profound research that adds to one knowledge of that time and also indicates Gods ability to direct using the heavens he created. Thanks for the enlightened blog. I have no reason to doubt this information.
I'm just wondering if it was an amazing moment for them when Venus stopped moving parallel to the horizon and began a sharp descent straight down.
We know this pattern repeats every 250 years or so. But I'm not sure they did. So that was probably a shocker. Such a "retrograde" movement is rare and would, I think, have been very moving for them - especially if the timing of that move came right when Bethlehem was directly below the morning star.
In any case, it matches the language of the passage I quoted, from Matthew - exactly.
I to Agree !
You have searched out the heaven's and to show the wisdom of the wise men !
I too having no reason to doubt this !
That Make's Three Witnesses As touching this !
How unsearchable is his way's are !
And passed finding out !
By using the things of the world and the heaven's to confounded the Wise !
Thanks for your time to build up the kingdom !
World Without End In Him Our Lord Amen !
I didn't realize it until today, but the ancestors of the Magi were also the ancestors of the India Indians. In fact, many of the sacred writings were written before they moved into India. So this is a nice spiritual connection with the Indians. God has given us such wonderful Indian friends that this was a pleasant surprise.
Combine the fact that two extremely rare astronomical events occurred in the year of Jesus birth - then that the Magi came from the proto-Indians - and you have something that really encourages seekers.