In a few days, you can witness a rare event in the night sky that has not been seen in nearly eight centuries.
The largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, will align on December 21 to create what is sometimes referred to as the “Christmas star”.
When the planets line up on the day that marks the start of the winter solstice, they will appear to form a double planet. It’s a rare event that we haven’t seen since the Middle Ages, according to Rick Larson of the documentary The Star of Bethlehem. In reality, the planets would not be close at all. It will only look like this to viewers on the ground.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
“What happens on December 21st, despite its beauty, is not the star of Bethlehem,” Larson told CBN News.
Larson has done a lot of research on the topic, tracing the actual celestial motions of the planets and stars back to the time of Christ. He explains that “the Star of Bethlehem is a conjunction between Jupiter and Venus.” “The pairing, which means closeness, was so close that they basically stacked like Figure 8 and neither one obscured the other’s brightness and the result was the brightest star anyone had ever seen.”
Theories about the “Star of Bethlehem”
As reported by CBN News, while there have been many theories about the identity of the biblical star of Bethlehem that emerged at the birth of Christ, a combination of historical research, astronomical insight, and biblical understanding have combined to provide a plausible, miraculous and understandable explanation.
As Larson points out, this theory found Jupiter to be part of this star. In the ancient world, all celestial bodies were considered “stars”.
The Magi or the Three Wise Men were, most likely, advisors to the court of Babylon who used the stars to guide the ruler. Why does God guide the astrologers of all people to the King of Kings? This example, according to some writers, was the first human service of Christ to non-believers.
Exactly who are the Magi?
But who are these mysterious sages? It is spoken about by an ancient Jewish writer Philo.
Larson, An expert on the biblical Star of Bethlehem, once told CBN News that Philo “describes a particular school of Magi, he calls it the Oriental School, and praises these Magi. He says that these men understood the natural order and were able to explain the natural order to others. And they were, according to Philo. Probably what we would call the early scholars. ”
Early church historians used to mention the birth of Christ around 3 BC, although other scholars used to say 7 BC due to what appears to be a misunderstanding of King Herod’s death between these two dates.
Larson explains what the Magi likely saw were five instances of astronomical conjunctions that occurred over a period of time from August 3 BC to June 2 BC. When one planet passes by another, and as seen from Earth, they line up – and that would have been of great importance to these advisor astrologers.
We now know what these conjugations mean to these Magi as if they had observed from their faraway land. The conjunctions included Leo, Leo, Venus, Jupiter, and the star Regulus.
For the Babylonians, the lion represented Israel. Venus was maternity. Jupiter symbolizes parenthood or royalty. And Regulus symbolizes Kings.
Put them together in the Babylonian mindset and what do you get? A clear and repeated message that a great king was born in Israel.
Why December 25?
Larson used computerized astronomical tools to trace the convergence of these celestial signs that include Jupiter, Venus, Leo, and Regulus, and go back to when they occurred.
“Nine months after this first conjunction – nine months – the period of a human pregnancy. We see Jupiter and Venus come together to form the brightest star anyone has ever seen,” said Larson.
It was mid-June 2 BC – again near Regulus in Leo. In the end, Larson traces it all to a conclusion on December 25, 2 BC.
“Of course, they didn’t use our calendar – you know that December 25th doesn’t mean anything to them. They’ve never heard of December, but for us, that might be a sign and interestingly enough, the gift happened on December 25,” he said.
The heavens declare the glory of God
Thanks to today’s telescopes, the majesty of the sky is more visible than ever. Even with the naked eye, the chanter declared, “The heavens preach the glory of God.”
How can he do that? Could the Star of Bethlehem be an example in the proclamation of Christ? Or is this some kind of misleading astrology?
“The Bible is heavily influenced by astrology. Astrology, the idea that the stars command your life or guide you or anything else – did you know that it was a murder in the Old Testament?” Larson said.
But the Bible also says that God placed miracles in heaven. Perhaps the star of Bethlehem was like a thermometer.
“A thermometer can tell you whether it’s hot or cold but it can’t make you hot or cold – because it’s not an active factor. The stars are like this. According to the Bible, they can tell you things; they can be signs of a higher power, from God.” Up in the top… but they can’t force you to do anything, they burn gas balls, you know, ”said Larson.
The Romans believed the star was all around them – instead, he was proclaimed King of Kings
Of course, the Romans who ruled most of the known world at the time believed that the star revolved around them and even put the star on one of their coins with the image of Caesar Augustus, which represents how admired the star is. Kind of a star of Rome, not a star of Bethlehem. This was most likely what caused the Magi to ride toward Israel.
While the human Augustus is past history, millions around the world worship Jesus as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the eternal who created the heavens and the signs of his coming – who said that one day will also return.
So the Magi went to search for this infant king to the capital of the Jews, Jerusalem, and the Jews sent them to Bethlehem, the place where the Jewish scriptures predicted that a king would come. The rest is history.
Editor’s note: CBN News has been writing for years about the true biblical star of Bethlehem. Much of the material for this story was originally researched and written by Gailon Totheroh nearly two decades ago.