The Star of Bethlehem : What It Was NOT

This time of year, sooner or later we’ll see an article somewhere that will assure us that the “scientific” explanation for the Star of Bethlehem is that it was either a comet, a conjunction of planets (where two or more planets appear ‘close’ in the sky) or a supernova. Which means scientists really don’t know what it was and are straining to come up with a naturalistic explanation to once again denigrate the Bible. Unfortunately sometimes Bible believers even fall for this stuff.

The Star of Bethlehem was not a natural phenomenon for a number of reasons.

First, apparently only the Magi saw it. There is no indication that anyone else was aware of the Star. If it was a celestial phenomenon, others would have seen it too, but there is no record that they did. The Magi saw it “in the east” (or, “when it rose’) and there’s no indication that it led them westward. The Bible only mentions – twice – that they saw it “in the east.”

Second, the Magi were apparently expecting the Star. You can’t predict the appearance of a supernova, and most comets are “new” and unpredicted phenomena too; few are regular visitors, and even those have very lengthy time spans between appearances, and comet periodicity was not a known quantity in the days of the Magi. Conjunctions can be predicted, but the Bible says it was a “star,” using a singular noun, not “stars” (planets were included with stars in the Bible, a reference to their appearance, not their substance. The Greeks were the first to refer to “planetes” or wandering stars because of their motion with reference to other stars).

Next was the behavior of the Star. After it appeared to the Magi they went to Jerusalem and basically asked directions and were told the One they were looking for was to be born in Bethlehem. The star had disappeared, but then it reappeared and led them south to Bethlehem. No natural celestial object demonstrates that kind of behavior or motion (movement from north to south).

Finally, the “star” stood over the house where Jesus was abiding. (Note “house,” not manger. Jesus may have been up to two years old at the time of the Magi’s visit.) If a real star stood over a house, both it and the entire planet beneath it would be burned to a crisp in no time. And there is no way that a star or planet could be said to be over any one particular house. If you look up and see a star above your house, it’ll be above your neighbor’s house and everybody else’s house within a hundred mile radius too at the same time. The star clearly indicated the correct house by stopping right above it. Oh, and it didn’t blind or burn the Magi either.

So the Star of Bethlehem was not a star in the sense that Vega or Sirius or Aldebaran are stars. It was not a planet. It was not two planets. It was not a comet.

It was a miraculous phenomenon, not to be repeated, so please let’s just accept it as such and stop looking for a “natural” explanation. There is none.