The star of Bethlehem is the defining cosmic symbol of the birth of Christianity. The star that attracted the three Magi to travel for several months to bear witness to the birth of the Messiah. The one who would be king of the Jews. This of course made the three magi themselves also an essential part of the birth of Christianity and yet we never hear of them again in the books of the New Testament..
We read in the bible they visited the Court of King Herod on their journey and were instructed to report back to him when they had found this royal baby. We read that after the Magi witnessed the birth they returned to Persia by a different route to avoid Herod; and we read that Herod then issued orders for all Jewish males under the age of two to be slaughtered to ensure the death of this potential threat to his line.
We also read that Mary and Joseph were warned of the threat and departed urgently with their new born for Egypt; and that when Herod died two years later, the family returned to Judea. But after that we read very little about Yeshua (subsequently amended to Ioasus by Greek scholars and later Romanised/Anglicised to Jesus). The only reference during his first thirty years of his life was a time that the family went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. We read from the bible that Yeshua, at age twelve, astounded the Hebrew scholars with his knowledge of scripture; but then we know nothing again of Yeshua’s young adult life until he publicly began his ministry with his baptism at age thirty, quite a mature man by the standard of the day.
He was baptised by John, the son of his mother’s cousin although we also know nothing of their relationship prior to that point. We have no idea where he gained the knowledge that he impressed the scholars with, or where and how he spent the subsequent eighteen years preparing for his mission to gather “the lost sheep of Israel”. His mission appeared directed against the religious hierarchy of Judea who had ‘turned God’s house into a den of thieves’.
What was the wandering star that caused the Magi to set off around 6bc (minor errors in creating the modern Gregorian calendar have demonstrated that the birth of Jesus would not have been at the beginning of 1ad as we assume. King Herod the great, who is also central to the nativity story, is recorded to have died in 4bc.
Computers today enable us to actually back-trace the location of planets and even comets two thousand years ago. An obvious first point to check is whether the star of Bethlehem was Halley’s comet on its regular circuit. But that passed through earth’s sky in 12bc, at least 5 years before the birth. Apart from which, in ancient times, comets were considered forerunners of catastrophe, not the joyful birth of a saviour.
Of interest, the original Aramaic text of the Magi’s explanation is that they had seen Yeshua’ star “in heliacal rising.” This means a star that appears immediately prior to sunrise. The most significant planetary observation is the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn which make an exceptionally bright ‘star’. This alignment randomly appears in different constellations each time but when it occurs in the constellation of Pisces it is recognised as the Star of David.
It was Johannes Kepler, the father of modern astronomy, who had studied the writings of a medieval Jewish scholar, Rabbi Abarbonel, and discovered the significance to the Jewish people of the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, which together shine like a superstar, in the constellation of Pisces. This alignment was regarded as the ‘star of David’. Kepler also calculated that during 6-7 bc this alignment of Jupiter and Saturn made the rare appearance in Pisces and was in fact a triple conjunction, occurring three times in the period. This has been confirmed by modern computer-generated calculations as occurring in 6bc on May 22, October 8 and December 2 with the heliacal rising of Jupiter in the dawn sky. This is a very plausible source of the legend that a king to restore the line of David would be signalled by this ‘star of David’ appearing. With such a favourable birth star in Jewish beliefs, Yeshua was well worth a lifetime of training by the leaders of Persia to become a future leader of Judea and Israel.
So the Magi were literally looking for the Jewish baby boy born under the star of David. This would certainly spark the interest of Magi given such a rare conjunction and even more so spark the alarm of the current King of Judea, Herod. Triple conjunctions are rare, the next after 6bc was 786ad, and the next after that in 1583. A triple conjunction in Pisces, the Star of David, is even more rare. It should also be noted that this time was also when the vernal equinox was moving from the age of Aries into the age of Pisces, the fish. This is notable with the significance of the symbol of the fish in Christianity. The last 2,000 years with the vernal equinox in Pisces has certainly been the age of Christianity. The Spring equinox is now changing to the age of Aquarius.
So what then became of the three Magi? The Magi were the astronomer-priests from Persia, adherents of the religion founded by a Persian astrologer/ philosopher named Zarathustra. It seems peculiar that three foreigners who followed the religion of Zarathustra, an opposing religion to Judaism, would be summoned by the Jewish God, Yahweh to witness the birth of Yeshua for no other reason than to bring gifts and then depart. But yet the Bible speaks no more of them. There is a reference in an excerpt from a medieval saints calendar printed in Cologne which read, “Having undergone many trials and fatigues for the Gospel, the three wise men met at Sewa (Sebaste in Armenia) in A.D. 54 to celebrate the feast of Christmas. Thereupon, after the celebration of Mass, they died: St. Melchior on Jan. 1, aged 116; St. Balthasar on Jan. 6, aged 112; and St. Caspar on Jan. 11, aged 109.” The Roman Martyrology also lists these dates as the Magi’s respective feast days.
So did the Magi play a real part in the mission of Yeshua throughout his life? Did they continue a role in his education after his birth and the family’s return from Egypt? Did Yeshua live with them in Persia to prepare for his mission? And did they see his mission as purely spiritual to bring Zoroastrianism to Israel or as the cosmically anointed inheritor of the kingship of David to restore the sovereignty of Israel as a defence against Rome?
Rome was a serious enemy to Persian Empire and Judea was right on their western border; it was earlier ruled by Persia before Alexander the Great conquered them. So it was certainly in the Persians’ political interest to have an allied, independent Judea between them and Rome. Whatever you think of this theory, clearly the Roman governor of the time and his Jewish religious puppets took the possibility seriously.
It raises the question about just how much influence the Persian magi had on the politics of Judea and whether they were continually working towards the eventual 66AD great uprising of religious zealots in Galilee and Judea when the Romans were actually finally driven out of the region. If so it was a short-lived victory as Rome returned with a vengeance in 70AD and the Jews were driven from the land which was given to the Philistines.
Incidentally the next great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will be in November/ December 2020. I can’t wait, but this one will be in Capricorn, not Pisces so don’t expect a descendant of David to appear in Israel.
That is earth on the left of the sun with Mars behind us. Top of picture the giants Saturn and Jupiter (father and son in Greek mythology) one behind the other in direct line with the sun, forming a superstar.