Some thoughts on the Star of Bethlehem

Author: Liz Gormley

Some thoughts on The Star of Bethlehem by Liz Gormley

I was thinking about the Star of Bethlehem and the Wise Men. The Wise Men either did not have access to the scriptures or did not understand them because after seeing the "Star" they had to go to Herod to find out where the Messiah was to be born. What did they see in the sky that prompted them to make the journey to find the Messiah?

According to the Britannica Encyclopedia: Occultism: "Astrology in the Hellenistic period (3rd century BC to 3rd Century AD). In the 3rd century BC and perhaps somewhat earlier, Babylonian diviners began - for the purpose of predicting the course of an individual's life - to utilize some planetary omens: positions relative to the horizon, latitudes, retrogressions, and other positions at the moment of birth or of computed conception."

The Catholic World Report (Ignatius Press) ran an article in its December 1992 issue - a reprint of a Sky and Telescope issue - on the Star of Bethlehem. This article made a strong case for the star as two planets coming together and forming a "New Star". Jupiter and Venus did this twice (which is rare) in 2 B.C. in June and August in the constellation of Leo the Lion. The Lion was considered to be a constellation of the Jewish nation (the other being Pisces) and known then as the "Lion of Judah". The CWR article mentions a 1st century Christian drawing of some kind (I don't remember what) that had a star between the lion's paws that does not correspond to any star map. This position is where the conjunction of the two planets would have occurred.

The Britannica Encyclopedia says this about the star of Bethlehem: "The biblical account indicates two sightings of the star, one before the wise men began their journey (probably from Babylonia or Persia) and the other near their journey's end, when the omen 'came and stood over where the young child was.' A celestial object near the horizon of any given observer might be considered by him as pointing out some spot of Earth below." And here is what it says about the 2 BC June 17th occurrence: "the bright planets Venus and Jupiter would have appeared to observers in Babylon to have merged just before setting in the general direction of Bethlehem to the west." After the sun and moon, Jupiter and Venus are the next brightest objects in the sky. Living in Texas, I have a new appreciation of this. In New York my view was often obstructed by mountains. Believe me, this "new" star would have been brilliant.

There is a symbolic connection between Jupiter (Zeus) and God. While Venus (Aphrodite) might be a little more obscure, I think of Socrates thoughts on beauty and love. He said beauty, wisdom, and the good were all divine because they did not want for anything. But, love "... is a great spirit, and like all spirits he is intermediate between the divine and the mortal." "... what... is his power?'' He interprets... between gods and men, conveying and taking across to the gods the prayers and sacrifices of men, and to men the commands and replies of the gods; he is the mediator who spans the chasm which divides them, and therefore in him all is bound together, and through him the arts of the prophet and the priest, their sacrifices and mysteries, and all prophesy and incantation, find their way. For God mingles not with man; but through Love all the intercourse and converse of God with man, whether awake or asleep, is carried on. The wisdom which understands this is spiritual..." Plato, Symposium

Here are a few more interesting bits of information about this "star":

1. The date of the first occurrence June 17th is near the summer solstice, the longest (brightest) day of the year. 2. The "new star" would have appeared near the brightest star of the Lion constellation: Regulus (little king). 3. If the wise men knew of the prophecy of the "virgin birth" then there is Virgo who follows the Lion. She carries the star, Spica (ear of wheat) in her hand.

Two more things I can see looking at the star charts and Zodiac signs:

1. The Lion is made up of two main grouping of stars: the scythe (Second Person of the Trinity?) and the triangle (the Trinity?). And 2. In the Zodiac the Lion rules the heart.

One can get lost in tracking down obscure signs and I believe God keeps his signs simple. So, this is the last one and, I believe, the best sign:

The constellation that precedes the Lion in the sky is Cancer. Here is what the Britannica says about the star cluster, Praesepe, in Cancer: "open, or galactic, cluster of several hundred stars... Visible to the unaided eye... included by Hipparchus in the earliest known star catalog, c 129 BC. The name Praesepe ('cradle' or 'manger') was used even before Hipparchus' time."

There are two stars on either side of the manger in Cancer called "Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis. According to my little Barron's Star book: "Astronomers of antiquity ... saw... two asses feeding at the manger." Further, the date June 17th is near the cusp or transition of the Zodiac signs Gemini to Cancer. Cusp signs are considered important. (I've read it's so, but I'm no expert.) It seems to me that the Angel's "sign" (Luke 2:12 "And this will be a sign to you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger"), was a sign for everyone. Certainly everyone in the village would have understood it as referring to the new Zodiac sign. People followed the Zodiac signs then as now. Surely everyone in the village would have wanted to tell foreigners coming to Bethlehem the shepherds' story. It's no wonder that at the reappearance of the Star over the house at Bethlehem and then hearing the confirming "sign" of the angels to the shepherds that the Wise Men, upon finding the Child, "prostrated themselves and did Him homage."


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