Skip to comments.FOLLOWING THE WISE MEN
Posted on 12/24/2003 7:16:30 AM PST by presidio9Edited on 05/26/2004 5:18:01 PM PDT by Jim Robinson. [history]
FOR a few minutes on Christmas, children may set down their new toys from the man in the red suit and listen to transmissions from a machine on the red planet. On Thursday, the European Space Agency is scheduled to guide a British probe called the Beagle II onto the surface of Mars in what should become the first successful landing there since NASA's Mars Pathfinder in 1997. But while Mars grabs all the extraterrestrial attention this holiday ("The Beagle has landed!"), normally Christmas is the season of Jupiter, because there's a very good chance that the biggest planet in our solar system was the Star of Bethlehem.
(Excerpt) Read more at nypost.com ...
1. Biblical passages related to the "star of Bethlehem" would seem to indicate that the "star" in question was not something like a comet or supernova (as some have speculated) -- mainly because Herod doesn't seem to know what the Magi are talking about when they tell him that they have "followed His star in the sky." This would indicate that the "star" was actually something that was plainly seen in the sky by everyone, but only understood by someone who knew what it portended.
2. The Magi didn't actually "follow his star" in any navigational sense -- they didn't use it to point the way to where Christ had been born. This is clear from the fact that they were traveling from east to west, and at some point in their travels saw the "star" as it rose in the east.
3. Similarly, there are periods of time in which the star disappears and reappears in the sky. This, in fact, is what led the author of the book to speculate that the "star" was actually a series of celestial events that happened over a period of time. His theory was that a conjunction of several planets (and perhaps the moon) in the constellation Aries would have fit the scenario perfectly. The outer planets go through what is called "retrograde motion" as they revolve around the sun -- basically, for part of their orbit they appear to travel in reverse because of their motion around the sun relative to the earth's motion around the sun. The scenario he presents is that this conjunction of celestial bodies (Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon) in Aries occurred once for a brief period, then a second time when Jupiter's retrograde motion brought it back into Aries, and then a third time when it resumed its normal track across the night sky. These events occurred over a period of several months or even a couple of years, which would explain why the Magi weren't actually visiting an "infant" in Bethlehem, but perhaps a toddler as old as two (remember -- Herod had his soldiers go out and kill all the children in Bethlehem up to the age of two or three).
The author speculated that the three celestial events were signs in the sky that were used by the Magi to udnerstand the timeline of events in Bethlehem. The first conjunction would have told them of the impending birth of Christ, the second would have told them to start on their journey, and the third would have told them that they had arrived in the right place. Under this scenario, the Magi were probably made aware of the importance of these celestial events through information that had been passed down from the prophet Daniel, who lived in Babylon in ancient times during the exile.
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