Unleavened Brett

Brett’s Friday Blog Post

UB Dec 22

Was the star of Bethlehem miraculous?

At some point around the time of Jesus’ birth, a special star shone in the sky. Wise Men from the East showed up in Jerusalem to inquire: “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matt. 2:2). Was it a miraculous star or a normal phenomena that providentially coincided with the Nativity? Many attempts have been made to explain it naturally.

The most recent attempt was in 2020 when news accounts promoted the rare alignment of Jupiter & Saturn as the so-called “Christmas star” on the Winter Solstice. It was the closest the two planets had appeared in almost 400 years. This “Great Conjunction” gives the appearance of one very bright star–one planet stacked on top of the other. Some astronomers theorize that’s what the Wise Men saw. It plausibly could have involved other celestial bodies & constellations as well (all heavenly bodies back then could have been considered “stars”) lining up over a span of time.

The Wise Men, or “Magi,” might have been Persians, Babylonians, Arabs, Zoroastrians, or even Jews who lived in what is now the countries of Iran & Iraq. These men were probably involved in astrological study, so Jupiter would have stood for fatherhood. If Venus were involved, that would represent motherhood. If the star Regulus were included, it would have symbolized royalty. And if the constellation Leo the Lion was involved in the convergence, that would have represented Israel. Put them all together, & they could have concluded that a special king was being born in Israel. That’s why they headed to Jerusalem, the royal capital.

But it’s doubtful that God would have used astrology since He’d already forbid it (Deut. 18:9-13, 4:19, Isaiah 47:13). Astronomy is scientific, but astrology is occultic–the idea that stars give guidance is superstitious idolatry. So God’s people should never be involved in promoting horoscopes & Zodiac signs (like Virgo, Gemini, or Sagittarius).

It also seems that the star was specifically mobile. It first led the Wise Men to Jerusalem where Jewish scholars reported that the prophesied birthplace would be Bethlehem nearby (Micah 5:2). So they left for Bethlehem, but “the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was” (Matt. 2:9). So the star actually moved at the right time to continue guiding them to the precise place. That seems more than natural.

The point is that the star is a miraculous sign–a divine revelation. To put a special star in the sky wouldn’t be a difficult thing at all for the One who created all the stars to begin with! It didn’t need to be a supernova or comet or rare convergence of planets with astrological significance because the Wise Men came from an area where Jewish people had lived for centuries. The Babylonians had imported their conquered Israelite captives 600 years earlier. Jewish exiles like Daniel (the wisest of Wise Men) had lived among the Babylonians & Persians & spread the knowledge of their Scriptures including Messianic prophecies. In fact, Daniel 9:24-27 gives a prophetic timeline for the birth of the Messiah.

The Wise Men could have known of Numbers 24:17 – “…a star shall come out of Jacob [Israel], and a scepter [a king] shall rise out of Israel….” Or consider that God later spoke to the Wise Men through a dream warning them to return to their homeland by another route (Matt 2:12). Is it possible that through a dream God had earlier communicated to them about the significance of the star? After all, they appear to be the only ones who understood what the star meant (or perhaps even saw it).

Or possibly, it could have been a manifestation of God’s glory, like the pillar of fire that moved around to lead the Hebrews through the wilderness. Or it could have been an angel like the one who rolled the stone from Jesus’ empty tomb, whose appearance was as lightning (Matt. 28:3). We’ve been hearing a lot lately about UFOs & the possible spiritual explanation for aliens. Could these mysterious lights in the sky be angelic glory? Apollo 16 astronaut, Charles Duke, who became a Christian a few years ago, is not alone in his belief that alien sightings are actually demons (fallen angels) because they can appear as angels of light (2 Cor. 11:14).

Whatever it was, the “star” of the Christmas story is not the star. It’s the baby! Jesus Christ is King of men & angels! Anyone who seeks Him is certainly a Wise man (or woman or child)!