The planets will join The Sky on Monday. Is the Bethlehem star coming back?

On December 21, 2020, Jupiter and Saturn will cross paths in the night sky and for a short moment, they will appear shining together as one body. While connections to planets like these are not everyday occurrences, they are not particularly rare.

This year the alliance is different for at least two reasons. The first is the degree to which the two planets will be arranged. Experts predict that during this connection they will look even brighter than eight centuries and even brighter.

But another factor, and one that has brought this event into the spotlight, is that it will happen on the winter solstice, just before the Christmas holidays. This time has led to speculation as to whether this could be the same astronomical event that led Bible men to the constellation of Joseph, Mary and the newborn Jesus – Bethlehem.

As a scholar of early Christian literature, writing a book on three wise men, I argue that the combination of the coming planets is probably not the weakest star of Bethlehem. Tara’s biblical story is intended to be a theological expression rather than a historical or astronomical truth.

Leading light

The story of Tara, both ancient and modern, has long fascinated readers. In the New Testament, it is found only in the Gospel of Matthew, a first-century account of the life of Jesus, beginning with the story of his birth.

In this account, wise men arrive in Jerusalem and say to King Herod of Judea: “Where is the child who has become king of the Jews? Because we have seen his star rise and come to pay homage to him.” Then the star takes them to Bethlehem and stops at the house of Jesus and his family.

Many have read this story with the hypothesis that Matthew may have referred to a real astronomical event that took place around the time of Jesus’ birth. For example, astronomer Michael R. Molnar argues that Jupiter was eclipsed within the constellation Ares constellation of Bethlehem.

There are at least two issues involved in associating a particular event with Matthew’s star. The first is that scholars are not certain when Jesus was born. The traditional date of his birth may be closed for six years.

The second is that measured, predictable astronomical events occur with relative frequency. Finding out what happened to Matthew, if any, is so complicated.

Myths about you

The theory that Jupiter and Saturn can be the constellation of Bethlehem is not new. It was proposed by the German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler in the early 17th century. Kepler argued that this was the same planetary connection. Can be an inspiration for the story of Matthew Star around or around BC.

Kepler suggested that the star of Bastelham may be a valid astronomical phenomenon. Four hundred years before Kepler, between 1303 and 1305, the Italian artist Giotto drew a star as a comet on the walls of the Scrovagni Chapel in Padua, Italy.

Scholars have suggested that Giotto did this as a tribute to Haley’s comet, which astronomers determined was visible in 1301, one of his regular flights to Earth. Astronomers have also determined that most scholars argue that between five and 10 years before Jesus was born, 12 CE It is possible that Giotto believes that Matthew is referring to Haley’s comet in his star’s story.

Trying to find the identity of the star of Matthew is often constructive and sensible, but I would argue that they are also misleading.

The star of Matthew’s story may not be a “normal” natural phenomenon, and suggests as much as Matthew describes it. Matthew says that wise men come to Jerusalem “from the east.” The star then takes them to Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem. The star therefore makes a sharp left turn. And astronomers will agree that stars do not take sharp turns.

Moreover, when the wise arrive in Bethlehem, the stars are in the sky as low as they can lead them to a certain building. As the physicist Aaron Adair puts it: “A constellation is said to stop at a place and move to a certain abode, acting as an ancient GPS unit.”

He noted that the “description of the star’s movements” was beyond the physical possibilities for any observable astronomical object object. “

Theological underpinning

In short, there is nothing “normal” or “natural” about the phenomenon that Matthew describes. Maybe the issue Matthew is trying to make is just another one.

The story of Matthew Star draws from a part of the tradition in which the stars are connected with the rulers. The rise of the star indicates that the ruler has come to power.

In the Bible book of Numbers, for example, which dates back to the 5th century BC, the prophet Balaam foretells the coming of a ruler who will defeat Israel’s enemies. “The star will come out of Jacob, [meaning Israel]5 He will trample the border of Moab. “

One of the most well-known examples of this ancient tradition is the so-called “Sidus ul Liam,” or “Julian Star,” a comet that appeared a few months after the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. Roman writers Suetonius and Pliny the Elder report that the comet was so bright that it could appear late in the afternoon, and many Romans interpreted this grandeur as evidence that Julius Caesar was now God.

In light of such traditions, I believe that the story of Matthew the Star is not meant to inform readers about a particular astronomical event, but to support the claims that he makes about the character of Jesus.

In other words, I argue that Matthew’s goal in telling this story is more theological than historical.

The next union of Jupiter and Saturn is therefore unlikely to return to the star of Bethlehem, but Matthew probably. He will rejoice in the awe he gives to those who expect it.

Eric M. Vanden Ikel, Ferem College, Associate Professor of Religion.

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