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Real Star of Bethlehem, Magi, Astronomy, astrology, astroarchaeology, pi
Newsletter keep up to date with the latest offers and information from Michele New! Receive a FREE email tarot reading when you subscribe. I give my consent to be emailed. I give my consent for my email activity to be tracked. An angel with a flashlight?!?! After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.
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When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and make a careful search for the child.
As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him. After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.
Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. They're often called the 'Three Kings', but the Bible doesn't say how many there were, or that they were even kings!
They became three because of the gifts they brought with them. They were indeed 'wise men'. The Magi were 'Magupati', a title given to priests in a sect of the ancient Persian religions such as Zoroastrianism. Today we'd called them astrologers. Back then astronomy and astrology were part of the same overall studies and 'science' and went hand in hand with each other. The magi would have followed the patterns of the stars religiously. They would have also probably been very rich and held in high esteem in their own society and by people who weren't from their country or religion. Find out more about the Magi in the Christmas Story.
They had seen an unusual new star in the sky, and knew that it told of the birth of a special King in Israel. But what did they see?
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The Bible says they 'saw it in the east' and then when they were in Jerusalem that it 'went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was'. A very accurate translation of 'saw it in the east' is 'in the first light of dawn', so not just in the East, but early in the morning. And when the Magi were in Jerusalem it would have been in the south, over Bethlehem. We also know that it must have been a sign for something very new and unusual; that it signified in their astrology there was a new King in Israel and that it was worth traveling to find him!
It would have also had to happen over a period of time, from when the Magi were in Persia to when they've traveled to Israel and met with King Herod. It also had to happen before King Herod died! So knowing the astrology and signs that the Magi understood, people have tried to find the star. Here are a few of the explanations:.
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Comets streaking across the sky have been seen as signs of forthcoming events for thousands of years. The big problem with a comet is that they are nearly always seen as the sign of a death of a King or something else bad happening. They never signify a birth or the start of something good! Comets can look they've stopped somewhere or 'stand', but they don't stay around for very long. The idea of a Comet might well have become popular when the Italian Renaissance painter Giotto di Bondone painted the Nativity in about showing a star that looked like a comet.
But the world's most famous comet, Haley's comet, had recently passed by the earth, so he was probably just painting that! A super nova happens when a star explodes at the end of its life. But it wasn't in the right part of the sky and, like comets, super novas normally meant the end of something, not the beginning!
A super nova might have become popular after the great astronomer Johannes Kepler saw one in ! This is where things seem to start making more sense and there are three good theories using conjunctions when two or more items in the sky line up to look like one of planets and other objects in the night sky. Although planets normally move across the sky, they can 'stop' in the sky. This is know as retrograde movement and happens because the earth goes around the sun quicker than the outer plants, so we sort 'over take' them for a bit and it looks like they either stop or actually go backwards for up to about days!
There's an excellent free astronomy program called ' Stellarium ' which displays the sky like a planetarium. I've used this to make the images below click to see larger images.