Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Star of Bethlehem

There are few times that I learn something and just am speechless.  My mom had purchased a video called "Star of Bethlehem" a few days ago.  She brought it to my house and we watched it together.  Now, I have always had an interest in stars, planets, basically anything having to do with space because of the sheer vastness and organization that it contains.  Its complexities and intricacies amaze me.  What I saw in the video gave me an even greater appreciation for the immense creativity and planning of our creator and God.

The video is a taped presentation of Rick Larson as he explains the proof behind the Star of Bethlehem and its appearance.  Mr. Larson is a lawyer by trade, and he researched the star for years after making a wise men display in his front yard one Christmas.  This Christmas display gets him to thinking about the miraculous star, and sends him on many years of research to find proof behind the star.  Larson uses an astronomy program called Starry Night, that can display what the night sky would have looked like based on the mathematical formula developed by Keppler.  Keppler used his formulas to to make star charts in the 1600's.  The formula was extremely complicated, and even with doing the calculations by hand with paper and pencil, Keppler's star charts were actually very accurate.  Once Keppler discovered his formula, he began searching for the Star of Bethlehem--but unfortunately he was not looking in the right years for Christ's birth.  The dates that Keppler used to determine the range to look for the star was based on Josephus historic writings that dated Herod's death at 4 BC.  In fact, there was a misprint in the the copying of those manuscripts and all known earlier manuscripts of Josephus' writings put Herod's death at 1 BC.  This allowed a search in the years 2 and 3 BC.

Larson begins searching and begins with the biblical text from Matthew concerning the birth of Christ.  Larson singles out every mention of the Star of Bethlehem and comes up with nine criteria that the star must fulfil in order to be considered.  He finds nine criteria from the Bible that must be met in order to be able to definitively mark a star the Bethlehem Star.  Those are:

  1. The star must have appeared when Herod was still alive.
  2. The star must have been seen in the east by the Magi (wise men) in what was Babylon--or modern day Iraq.
  3. King Herod was not aware of the star's appearance, because he asked the Magi when the star appeared.
  4. The star appeared at an exact time.
  5. The star had to rise in the east.
  6. The star had to be able to be seen in the Southern skies of Bethlehem.
  7. The star endured over a period of time--because the Magi had to travel from Babylon to Bethlehem.
  8. It went ahead of them as they traveled.
  9. The star stopped when it reached Bethlehem.
While some of these criteria are typical traits of most stars, others are not.  Most stars do not appear to stop, and most stars do not just appear.  Taking these criteria, Larson searches the night skies in the years 2 and 3 BC and notices the behavior of the planet Jupiter.  Planets are commonly called wandering stars because of their ability to not follow all of the rules that stars abide by.  During that time frame, Jupiter was in retrograde motion, which means it appears to stop its track and backtrack as it moves across the night sky.  Jupiter is also known as the "King Planet" due to its size as the largest planet in our solar system.  Taking this into consideration, we have a possible candidate as to the Star of Bethlehem.  

Since the Jewish culture observes birthdays as the date of conception, Larson looks at the stars during the time frame which could be the time period that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  This time frame shows Jupiter (the King Planet) making a crown like pattern above the star Regulus (which is known as the King star).  When Larson put the constellations in play with the night sky, he saw the constellation  of the Lion (which symbolizes the tribe of Judah--which the Messiah was to come from) directly above Jupiter and Regulus.  Do you get the idea that God is announcing the earthly arrival of His only son in the midst of the stars?

Fast forward the program nine months, and Larson discovered that above Bethlehem, Jupiter and Venus (the largest planet and the brightest planet) were stacked to the point that they were indistinguishable to the naked eye.  Jupiter goes into retrograde three times over Bethlehem and actually stops over the town of Bethlehem.  

Once finding this, Larson concludes that these two planets formed Bethlehem's Star, and looks to the scripture to find that the night of Jesus' death was marked by a blood moon.  The "blood moon" is an ancient astronomical term used to describe a red moon or lunar eclipse.  The moon actually rose during the lunar eclipse, which means the eclipse began before it rose over the horizon.  According to scripture, Jesus was put on the cross at 9 am on Friday, he lasted 6 hours on the cross, putting his death at 3 pm.  The lunar eclipse began at 3 pm, the time Jesus died.

The Bible tells us that God put each and ever star in place.  He set each of their courses through the universe.  Knowing this, and putting that information with the data that Larson found in his research, God planned Jesus' arrival and death before the foundations of the universe were created and He planned  to tell the story in the stars as well as in the Bible.

Text written by Jennifer Meyers (c) 2010
Photo from web content
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