Re: Follow the star

Jack Kilmon (
Wed, 18 Dec 1996 15:15:25 -0600

Vanetten.Edward wrote:

> Are there alternate Greek translations
> that support the traditional view of the star
> CONSTANTLY guiding them? And if there are why
> did the Wise Men go to Herod?

IF the star of Bethlehem had some historical background in
the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 7/6 BCE, then Mt 2:9 makes
sense. EN TH ANATOLH IS NOT " the east" but idiomatically,
"at dawn" (which, of course, occurs in the east). Occurring in
the constellation of Pisces (The House of the Jews), it would have
been visible in the southern sky over Bethlehem as one traveled
on the Hebron road south from Jerusalem and would appear to have
PROHGEN AYTOYS "went before them." for about two hours in the
early morning.

The "Star of Bethlehem," Fact or Fiction?=20

Many biblical scholars have long contended the story of the "Star of
Bethlehem" to be a myth, another of those theologoumenons (there=92s that
word again). Astrology played an important role in the ancient Middle
East, including the Jews. It would not be uncommon to correlate some
celestial event with the birth of Jesus, just as the eclipse had been
correlated to the death of Herod and a comet with the assassination of
Julius Caesar in 44 BCE. No comets or Novae, "new stars," can be
associated by astronomers with the period of Jesus=92 birth. Hence the
source of the Star of Bethlehem remained a mystery or was considered
In Prague, in 1603, shortly before Christmas, the astronomer and
mathematician, Johannes Kepler, was making observations of the stars
through his rudimentary telescope. He was observing the conjunction of
Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces. The two planets had
converged to look like one larger and new "star." Kepler later
remembered something he had read by the Rabbinical writer, Abravanel
(1437-1508). Jewish astrologers maintained that when there was a
conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in Pisces, the Messiah would come. In
ancient Jewish astrology, the constellation of Pisces was known as the
House of Israel, the sign of the Messiah. Jupiter was the royal star of
the house of David and Saturn was the protecting star of Israel, the
Messiah=92s Star Since the constellation of Pisces was the point in the
heavens where the sun ended it=92s old course and began its new, it is
understandable why this conjunction would be viewed as a portent of the
Kepler concluded that he had found the "star of Bethlehem" but his
hypothesis was rejected. It was not until 1925 that the hypothesis was
re-examined when references to this conjunction were found in the
cuneiform inscriptions of the astrological archives of the ancient
School of Astrology at Sippar in Babylonia. Sippar was an ancient
Sumerian city lying on a canal which linked the Tigris and Euphrates
rivers. It was a very important commercial and religious center.
Excavations at the site of Abu-Habbah during the latter part of the 19th
century unearthed the remains of a temple and ziggurat dedicated to
Shamash and the ancient scribal School of Astrology. The most important
discovery were tens of thousands of clay tablets from the school
archives that dated from the Old Babylonian and Neo-Babylonian
periods. In 1925, the German Scholar P. Schnabel found, among the
endless cuneiform records of dates and observations, a note on a
conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces. The
position of Jupiter and Saturn, converged in Pisces, had been recorded
over a period of five months in 7 B.C.E!! Calculations show that the
conjunction was observable three times over the course of the year, May
29, October 3, and December 4.
The conjunction in Pisces is observable in the southern sky over Judea
and would sit directly over Bethlehem if one were observing along the
road leading from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Matthew 2:2 stating "We have
seen his star in the east" is a mistranslation of the Greek phrase en th
anatolh "in the east" from the original wording which means
idiomatically, "the first light of dawn" (which comes from the east)
when the conjunction is visible. The correlation of this celestial
event with the first visit of Quirinius and a preliminary registration
in Syria is too much of a coincidence for this layman to ignore. I must
therefore humbly and respectfully disagree with the majority of New
Testament scholars who again contend that the story of the Star of
Bethlehem is another of those little "white lies." I conclude again,
therefore, that the Gospel account is accurate.
Accepting the Star of Bethlehem as an historical fact, our detective
work gives us three possible dates for the birth of Jesus, May 29,
October 3, and December 4 in the year 7 BCE. I would rule out May 29 as
too early. Scholars also contend that the Gospel account of the three
"Wise Men" is another of those theologoumenon white lies. If one were
to accept the story of the three magi (astrologers), or at least three
visitors who came to Judea based on the astrological omen, as containing
an element of fact, May 29 is too early. Why would "wise men,"
astrologers/magi in Babylon care about a celestial event predicting the
Jewish Messiah? Christians are normally unaware that Babylon was as
important a center for Judaism as Jerusalem in the ancient world. It is
the center for the predominating Babylonian Talmud. It is very likely
that the "wise men" were scholars of the School of Astrology in Sippar
and likely of Jewish ancestry dating to the mass deportations of Jews to
Babylon in the 7th century BCE. Steeped in their Jewish messianic hopes
and in astrology, these men would have been convinced that the birth of
the Messiah was imminent. Given their background, an expedition to the
Homeland would seem the most likely course of action for validation of
both their scholarly, astrological and religious prognostication. These
astrologers would have observed the first conjunction on May 29 and then
made preparations to travel to Judea, arriving for the time of a
predicted second conjunction. October 3 intrigues me because it is
within days of the time of other recorded Roman censuses. Including the
one in 6 CE. December 4 would be too late for Shepherds to be tending
their flocks. These were usually brought in around the first of
November. I must therefore again, with all respect to the New Testament
scholars, disagree that the Gospel story of the Wise Men from the East
is fiction. In this historical detective story, correlating the Gospel
accounts of the registration with the celestial phenomenon, I choose
Saturday, 10 Tishri, 3755 (October 3, 7 BCE.) as the date of the birth
of Jesus. Interestingly, that day was a Yom Kippur, the Day of
Atonement. Although Yom Kippur, postulated as the day of Jesus' birth
is interesting from this perspective, it must be remembered that modern
calendrical extrapolations and astronomical programs are a "dead
reckoning" in their algorithms from the present and may not coincide
with the lunar calendar of the time which required witnesses to the new
moon. It's a fun exercise though.

Jack Kilmon