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Early Christians Hid The Origins Of The Bethlehem Star
New Scientist ^ | 12-21-2001 | Marcus Chown

Posted on 12/21/2001 5:11:00 AM PST by blam

Early Christians hid the origins of the Bethlehem star

13:15 21 December 01
Marcus Chown

A US astronomer claims he has found the first mention of the star of Bethlehem outside the Bible. The reference is in a 4th-century manuscript written by a Roman astrologer and Christian convert called Firmicus Maternus.

Photo: Bridgeman Art Library

Michael Molnar, formerly of Rutgers University in New Jersey, is the originator of the idea that the star of Bethlehem was not a spectacular astronomical event such as a supernova or a comet but an obscure astrological one.

The event would nevertheless have been of great significance to ancient Roman astrologers. After studying the symbolism on Roman coins, he concluded that the "star" was in fact a double eclipse of Jupiter in a rare astrological conjunction that occurred in Aries on 20 March, 6 BC, and again on 17 April, 6 BC (New Scientist magazine, 23 December 1995).

Molnar believed that Roman astrologers would have interpreted such an event as signifying the birth of a divine king in Judea. But he lacked proof. Now he says he has found it, in the Mathesis, a book written by Maternus in AD 334. Maternus described an astrological event involving an eclipse of Jupiter by the Moon in Aries, and said that it signified the birth of a divine king.

No names

"Maternus did not mention Jesus's name," says Molnar. "But Roman astrology was a popular craze at the time and everyone reading the book would have known the reference was to Jesus and that the astrological event was the star of Bethlehem."

So why did Maternus not mention Jesus by name? According to Molnar, early Christians hated pagan beliefs and did not want to justify the Biblical story with astrological mumbo-jumbo. The idea that the stars govern our fate flew in the face of belief in a Christian God as the controlling force in the Universe.

"Being a pagan who had converted to Christianity during his lifetime, Firmicus was torn," says Molnar. "Hence his use of astrology to support the Christian story, but in a veiled way."

According to Molnar, it was essential to early Christians that the true nature of the star be hidden, otherwise theologians would be mired in debate about celestial influences that were not part of Christianity. So they buried the knowledge of the star's astrological roots and in time it was forgotten.

"I take Molnar's work quite seriously," says Owen Gingerich, a historian of astronomy at Harvard University. "Anything he comes up with along these lines has to be considered as being very likely correct."

13:15 21 December 01


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: archaeoastrology; archaeoastronomy; archaeology; aries; astrology; astronomy; bethlehem; comet; firmicusmaternus; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; history; johanneskepler; jupiter; mathesis; michaelmolnar; moon; nova; owengingerich; romanempire; starofbethlehem; staroftheeast; wethreekings
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1 posted on 12/21/2001 5:11:00 AM PST by blam
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To: blam
Early Christians hid the origins of the Bethlehem star

I wonder if anyone has tried to teach Chown and Molnar how to reason. After succeeding in this and after getting them some basic education in religious history, they may be able to see what an absurd title this is. The fact is that the "wise men" from the "East" following the "star" (at least two years after the birth) has always been taken to be something intimately related to astrology, the actual celestial phenomenon notwithstanding. This goes back to within the lifetime of contemporaries of Jesus who wrote about it. You can't get Christians any earlier than that.
2 posted on 12/21/2001 5:27:33 AM PST by aruanan
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To: blam
"I take Molnar's work quite seriously," says Owen Gingerich, a historian of astronomy at Harvard University. "Anything he comes up with along these lines has to be considered as being very likely correct."

Really!! I mean goodness forbid that the Creator of the universe just put a star there to announce the birth of His Son into the world. Everyone knows that God has to fit into our little box of understanding else he isn't really God, now is he? < /sarcasm>

3 posted on 12/21/2001 5:27:48 AM PST by billbears
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To: blam
I've heard on and off that one theory is that the Star was a triple conjunction of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation Pisces in or around 4 B.C.
4 posted on 12/21/2001 5:41:43 AM PST by abandon
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To: abandon
The Bible uses the word "star" as a symbol for an angel. Therefore, the star that appeared near the birth of Christ might well have been an angel.
5 posted on 12/21/2001 5:45:22 AM PST by TheCPA
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To: TheCPA
Could be, but how would the Magi see that from so far away?
6 posted on 12/21/2001 5:46:37 AM PST by abandon
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To: abandon; billbears; aruanan
I agree with the tone of all three of you--God certainly had the power to provide any kind of celestial help He thought appropriate to guide the wise men. And I also see the clearest way to reconcile the birth naratives as assuming that the wise men showed up a year or so after the birth.

On the other hand, what is interesting about this story is that in my view, the actual birth date was in May of 6 BC.

7 posted on 12/21/2001 5:49:16 AM PST by David
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To: billbears
Merry Christmas
8 posted on 12/21/2001 5:49:18 AM PST by blackbag
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To: blam
Molnar believed that Roman astrologers would have interpreted such an event as signifying the birth of a divine king in Judea.

This statement is kind of silly. I mean, a bunch of guys in Rome who don't really think that Judea is any more or less important than any other conquered land see an obscure atrological event and think "Oh, this must mean the birth of a kind in Judea". Hardly.

9 posted on 12/21/2001 5:50:15 AM PST by Rodney King
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To: blam
Science ALWAYS points to the Creator! God's truth exists for all things and all people. Everything in the universe is subject to this truth. Science will never disprove the exisitence of its Creator - the great uncaused cause, the prime mover, the intelligent designer, the only One who has made something out of nothing.

Atheism makes no rational sense. Science can never prove it - nor even hint at it. Whereas the more we learn about our universe from science the more rational the notion of God becomes. Universes do not just happen.

10 posted on 12/21/2001 5:50:46 AM PST by Notwithstanding
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To: abandon
The Magi were star-readers. Remember they had to ask where the baby would be born. It wasn't a spotlight. They simply recognized a sign and followed it in its direction.

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[or "when it rose"] and have come to worship him."

11 posted on 12/21/2001 5:52:01 AM PST by AppyPappy
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To: David
Oh, I agree about the date. I understand the reason for having it at this time of year and the history behind that, but I always thought it was around 3 or 4 BC, so it is interesting to think it might have happened even a few years earlier
12 posted on 12/21/2001 5:52:15 AM PST by billbears
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To: abandon; TheCPA; blam
A careful reading of Scripture leads one to conclude that the star actually moved about in the sky.
13 posted on 12/21/2001 5:54:04 AM PST by woollyone
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To: Notwithstanding
Universes do not just happen.

"Awwww, Life is just a bunch of stuff that happens to you" - Homer Simpson, philosopher

14 posted on 12/21/2001 5:58:02 AM PST by Wm Bach
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To: blam
Why would "roman astrologers" come from "the east"?

I saw a special the other night that had a more plausible story, and which I've heard before.

In the year 7 B.C., Jupiter, Saturn and Mars aligned against a background constellation that was considered to be Israel. Jupiter represented a king, Saturn a son. I forget what Mars represented. Anyway, the "magi" or astrologers understood this to mean that a son was to be born to a king in the nation of Israel. In other words, a new king was to be born in Israel.

So the magi headed west to the capital of Israel and asked where the new king was to be born. The Jews explain that the messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. The symbolism is very interesting considering that non-Jews (gentiles) recognize the King of Israel while the Jews (or at least a lot of them) do not.

15 posted on 12/21/2001 6:03:16 AM PST by Aquinasfan
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To: woollyone
A careful reading of Scripture leads one to conclude that the star actually moved about in the sky.

As planets "move" before the "fixed" stars?
16 posted on 12/21/2001 6:36:09 AM PST by abandon
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To: Aquinasfan
Hmmm... Sounds like they were close but got it backwards. In the mythology of the planets Jupiter represents the son who is born to a father who intends to kill him at birth because prophecy states that said son will cause the downfall of the father. The Mother hides the infant at birth. The son matures in hiding and emerges to fullfill the prophecy. In this conjunction Mars represents war and aggression between the father and son. Since Saturn represents an old king and an establishment. The conjunction would would most likely affect the nation where the culmination of the conjunction occurred by manifesting the mythology of the archetypes involved,(hence the wise men knowing where the baby king would be born and the circumstances of the fated childs birth.) It is a well known fact among theologians that Christ's celebrated bithdate was chosen by the church to superimpose on the pagan midwinter holidays to assist in converting said pagans to christianity and to bring conquered nations under Roman control. If you can control a people's religion ....you can control a people.
17 posted on 12/21/2001 6:41:54 AM PST by SpikeG
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To: Rodney King
I mean, a bunch of guys in Rome who don't really think that Judea is any more or less important than any other conquered land see an obscure atrological event and think "Oh, this must mean the birth of a kind in Judea". Hardly.

That's not quite correct. The ancient astrologers had divided the sky into different regions -- each symbolizing a particualr nation or race. It's all very complicated. And, I can't remember all the details. But, suffice to say I too had the same objection you raised until I learned a bit more about Astrology at the time of the Romans.

18 posted on 12/21/2001 6:51:43 AM PST by backup
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To: SpikeG
Good points. There is, as well, far more evidence that Jesus was the fabrication of the Romans in order to consolidate the varied religions of conquered states.

All these Biblical stories have counterparts in religious myths going all the way back to the Assyrians and Caananites.

19 posted on 12/21/2001 6:54:35 AM PST by Channel_Islands_EANx_Diver
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To: TheCPA
The Bible uses the word "star" as a symbol for an angel. Therefore, the star that appeared near the birth of Christ might well have been an angel.

Did these stars all appear singing "Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, peace and goodwill to all mankind?"

20 posted on 12/21/2001 7:09:12 AM PST by Bommer
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To: Channel_Islands_EANx_Diver
There is, as well, far more evidence that Jesus was the fabrication of the Romans in order to consolidate the varied religions of conquered states

What a load of crap! Romans were conquorers, not compromisors! It was Romes Gods and Romes way or you were dead! Jesus life is also surrounded by Old Testament prophacy. His story couldn't have been made up by a dictatorship in Rome. Even Caeser was mocked by Christ as well as faced Pilot who stated that he found no guilt with this man. Did the Roman set that up as well?

21 posted on 12/21/2001 7:15:20 AM PST by Bommer
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To: blam
"Christmas star? That ain't the freakin' Christmas star. It 's the light from the sewage treatment plant!"

What movie is this from? Bump...
22 posted on 12/21/2001 7:15:20 AM PST by thefactor
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To: Bommer
**What a load of crap! Romans were conquorers, not compromisors! It was Romes Gods and Romes way or you were dead! Jesus life is also surrounded by Old Testament prophacy. His story couldn't have been made up by a dictatorship in Rome. Even Caeser was mocked by Christ as well as faced Pilot who stated that he found no guilt with this man. Did the Roman set that up as well?**

Misspellings and all, not meaning to embarass you, but you really should check your post before hitting the reply button.

The Romans were actually pretty tolerant of other religions, read history.

The so-called "New Testament" was written (mostly) about 100-140 years after the events described, by the Romans. For comparison, imagine having to write about the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in 2001, imagine how much you'd have to fabricate--there are no living witnesses.

"Old Testament" Prophecy? Even people who are of the opinion that there was, indeed, a historical "Jesus" agree that he walked several miles to purchase a donkey that was suitable for riding into Jerusalem. This "Jesus" knew the "Old Testament" prophecy's as well.

23 posted on 12/21/2001 7:42:03 AM PST by Channel_Islands_EANx_Diver
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To: Bommer; blam
Job Chapter 38

1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto Me.
4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast the understanding.
5 Who determined the measures thereof, if thou knowest? Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 Whereupon were the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the corner-stone thereof,
7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Sure doesn't look like stars means angels in that scripture. Looks like they were called sons of God.

Seems like I read something about the "music" stars make, but I can't remember what it was. Do you know, blam?

24 posted on 12/21/2001 7:56:45 AM PST by JudyB1938
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To: abandon
My comment in post# 13..."A careful reading of Scripture leads one to conclude that the star actually moved about in the sky."

Your reply in post# 16..."As planets "move" before the "fixed" stars?"

I would appear that this movement of the star is different from normal planetary movements, more like an extra-natural, or supernatural event.
"...there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem" Mat. 2:1
"Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him" Mat. 2:2

So the star was seen in the East, and they traveled to teh West to see the Child. Their first stop is in Jerusalem.

"When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. " Mat. 2:9,10

Now the star seems to have moved, until it stopped over the location of the Child. This star, and its susequent reappearance caused great joy to these men. The term "before them" connotates "in front of", or also, "in the lead of". It is interesting to note that Bethlehem is South of Jerusalem. So something about the star's movement had to make them turn South after having traveled East to Jerusalem, where they first met with Herod. From the Greek phrases "went before" and "and stood", we can see that the star was in motion in front of them and then came to a place where it stopped moving and remained still.

I'm not aware of stars, or planets, having such interesting movement. I hope that this reply addresses your question.

Merry Christmas!

25 posted on 12/21/2001 8:17:19 AM PST by woollyone
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To: blam
You have hit on one of the things that sets my mind to musing about things that I can't prove but have a real "feeling" about.

Five hundred years before the birth of Christ, Daniel the prophet was taken captive to Babylon, he was evenutally such a hit there with the king that he was allowed into a very closed sect of astronomers in which no foreigner had ever been allowed to be a member of called the Magi, according to some accounts. Babylon was to the East and the Three Kings of the East being Magi would most likely have been from Babylon.

It makes me wonder if Daniel told them to look for an astronomical event that would mark the birth of Christ and maybe, perhaps, just guessing, God began to prepare for his Son a stake of Frankincense, Murr, and Gold, to tide him over in Egypt until he could return to Israel, that began to be collected for Jesus 500 years before he was born in the flesh.

In any case Jesus himself said in Luke 21:25 "There shall be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars; and upon the earth, distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring."

Looks like we are in for a universal shake up, where stars appear to fall, the earth reels to and fro on it's axis like a drunkard, someday man will really be living in interesting times.

26 posted on 12/21/2001 8:20:30 AM PST by MissAmericanPie
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To: Channel_Islands_EANx_Diver
There is, as well, far more evidence that Jesus was the fabrication of the Romans in order to consolidate the varied religions of conquered states.

Those Romans were clever ones weren't they! Nobody would suspect your theory: the Romans made sure of it, with a few centuries of brutal persecution upon their first thousands of converts to their made up religion. Man, they must have accumulated tons of aluminum foil in the process.

27 posted on 12/21/2001 8:29:59 AM PST by Cleburne
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To: aruanan
The fact is that the "wise men" from the "East" following the "star" (at least two years after the birth)...

Yep. Which is why Herod had all the male children 2 and under killed. Being the king, it worried him a tad when the King Makers (magi) from the East showed up and asked "Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?"

Also, it's quite likely that, rather than a star, the "light" they followed was God's shekinah glory. Same thing that appeared as a pillar of fire by night when the Hebrews were wandering about in the desert, but probably not in pillar form.

28 posted on 12/21/2001 8:38:33 AM PST by Jefferson Adams
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To: JudyB1938
Seems like I read something about the "music" stars make, but I can't remember what it was.

The "music of the spheres"? Yep. That's what was believed for a long time, centuries ago.

29 posted on 12/21/2001 8:41:11 AM PST by Jefferson Adams
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To: David
All of the dating is derived from events, assumptions, etc....even this one. It is far better to talk of a range.
30 posted on 12/21/2001 8:49:29 AM PST by xzins
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To: Channel_Islands_EANx_Diver
"The so-called "New Testament" was written (mostly) about 100-140 years after the events described, by the Romans. For comparison, imagine having to write about the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in 2001, imagine how much you'd have to fabricate--there are no living witnesses."

Your statement is inaccurate. The compilation of the NT as a whole, as far as accepted cannonicity, was completed during the various councils, but the writing of the individual books was done well before the close of the first century.

So...do you accept the declarations of Plato and Aristotle as factual? Because, the MMS evidence for them is dated 1200 and 1400 years after their death and there are a total 7 and 49 MSS available for each, respectively.

The entire NT can be reconstructed from the writings of the Early Church fathers and this puts the earliest evidence at less than 50 years from original writing.

Codex Siniaticus and Codex Vaticanus can be dated to 350 AD and are the NT and OT complete.

By your lower textual criticism, if you reject the authenticity of the Biblical NT account, you must also reject ALL literature of antiquity, for there is more MSS evidence to substantiate the writings in the NT than there is for all the writings of the philosophers of antiquity combined. To date, there are over 25,000 MMS for the NT cataloged. Archeology keeps finding more and more MMS that have yet to be cataloged, but the evidence keeps mounting.

With all due respect sir, you speak out of ignorance. False statements and all, not meaning to embarass you, but you really should check your facts before hitting the reply button.

31 posted on 12/21/2001 8:53:47 AM PST by woollyone
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To: Channel_Islands_EANx_Diver
The Romans were actually pretty tolerant of other religions, read history.

Wasn't Paul martyred in Rome?

Didn't the Romans also sack the Jewish temple in AD 70?

32 posted on 12/21/2001 9:03:51 AM PST by Penny1
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Comment #33 Removed by Moderator

To: Channel_Islands_EANx_Diver
"The so-called "New Testament" was written...by the Romans"]

The NT was not written by "the Romans". Utter nonsense!

Matthew, John, James, Peter, Jude and the Author of Hebrews (most likely Barnabas...but we'll save that debate for another thread) were NOT Romans, except that they lived under the Roman dictatorship. They were JEWS! More specifically, according to modern terminology, they were Messianic Jews.

Please get your facts correct sir!

34 posted on 12/21/2001 9:07:51 AM PST by woollyone
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Comment #35 Removed by Moderator

To: WileyCoyote22
Not one historical fact that the Bible proclaims has been disproven. Try and find one. Just one.

And, since you have obviously thought out your reply based upon your understanding of the Bible, I can assume, that as an intellegent individual, you have examined the Bible thoroughly, or at least have read it, prior to making such a bold claim. With that in mind, please tell us what you have found the main message of the Bible to be.

We await your thoughful reply.

36 posted on 12/21/2001 9:23:44 AM PST by woollyone
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Comment #37 Removed by Moderator

To: SpikeG
Hmmm... Sounds like they were close but got it backwards.

I probably got it wrong. I've heard it three times and still can't remember it :-)

In the mythology of the planets Jupiter represents the son who is born to a father who intends to kill him at birth because prophecy states that said son will cause the downfall of the father. The Mother hides the infant at birth. The son matures in hiding and emerges to fullfill the prophecy. In this conjunction Mars represents war and aggression between the father and son. Since Saturn represents an old king and an establishment.

OK.

The conjunction would would most likely affect the nation where the culmination of the conjunction occurred by manifesting the mythology of the archetypes involved,(hence the wise men knowing where the baby king would be born and the circumstances of the fated childs birth.)

Although they did say that the conjunction appeared over the constellation (Pisces?) that represented Israel.

It is a well known fact among theologians that Christ's celebrated bithdate was chosen by the church to superimpose on the pagan midwinter holidays to assist in converting said pagans to christianity and to bring conquered nations under Roman control. If you can control a people's religion ....you can control a people.

I do remember the person being interviewed stating that Jesus' birth most likely occurred during Passover since Jewish men travelled to Jerusalem during Passover (?) thus explaining the fact that there was "no room at the inn."

38 posted on 12/21/2001 9:30:44 AM PST by Aquinasfan
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To: Channel_Islands_EANx_Diver
Good points. There is, as well, far more evidence that Jesus was the fabrication of the Romans in order to consolidate the varied religions of conquered states.

To deny the historicity of Jesus is to deny the history of King Herod, Aristotle and Ghengis Khan. It's simply absurd.

All these Biblical stories have counterparts in religious myths going all the way back to the Assyrians and Caananites.

Which is an indication of their being "proto-truths" in comparison to the truths of divine revelation in the Bible.

39 posted on 12/21/2001 9:35:07 AM PST by Aquinasfan
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To: Channel_Islands_EANx_Diver
The so-called "New Testament" was written (mostly) about 100-140 years after the events described, by the Romans.

Nonsense. Get off the internet and read a book or two.

40 posted on 12/21/2001 9:37:30 AM PST by Taliesan
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To: Channel_Islands_EANx_Diver
Jesus didn't purchase a donkey.
41 posted on 12/21/2001 9:38:55 AM PST by AppyPappy
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To: WileyCoyote22
I asked you to disprove any claim in the Bible, so please try again. After all, it was you who claimed it to be "legend and myth", so please substantiate your argument with proof of just one simple verifiable error.

Again, I re-post the other question to you...
"And, since you have obviously thought out your reply based upon your understanding of the Bible, I can assume, that as an intellegent individual, you have examined the Bible thoroughly, or at least have read it, prior to making such a bold claim. With that in mind, please tell us what you have found the main message of the Bible to be."

Please, try not to be evasive this time...

We continue to await your thoughtful reply.

42 posted on 12/21/2001 9:39:09 AM PST by woollyone
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To: Jefferson Adams
Also, it's quite likely that, rather than a star, the "light" they followed was God's shekinah glory. Same thing that appeared as a pillar of fire by night when the Hebrews were wandering about in the desert, but probably not in pillar form.

(Exodus 13:21-23) He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

(1 Timothy 3:14-16) But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

Sorry, couldn't resist.
43 posted on 12/21/2001 9:41:02 AM PST by Aquinasfan
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To: WileyCoyote22
Am I stupid enough to believe that there are 20 *seperate* gods for each race and nationality ?

Pssst....separate.

44 posted on 12/21/2001 9:41:09 AM PST by AppyPappy
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Comment #45 Removed by Moderator

research later bump
46 posted on 12/21/2001 9:49:38 AM PST by packrat01
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Comment #47 Removed by Moderator

To: WileyCoyote22
How about you prove to me that the bible is 100% accurate.

You are arguing for the sake of arguing.

48 posted on 12/21/2001 9:53:01 AM PST by AppyPappy
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To: abandon
Beats me, but if anybody can do it, God can. Whatever it is, there was something that led them that shone. The writers used "star" to help people of the time understand what it looked like...it very well may have been a literal star, but maybe not. It really doesn't matter. It is still God's Providence that led something like a star to shine.
49 posted on 12/21/2001 9:53:29 AM PST by rwfromkansas
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Comment #50 Removed by Moderator


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