It is widely held among Christian scholars that the “Wise Men” were skilled astronomers who lived and worked in Babylon. Ancient documents reveal that a respected school of Babylonian astronomers existed during this time period.These magi may have been the descendants of Jewish exiles who’d remained in Babylon some 400 years earlier. Perhaps they were familiar with the prophecies of Daniel, which predicted a coming Messiah. If so, they would have been particularly interested in any heavenly signs which might indicate the fulfillment of Daniel’s amazing prophecy.
The Bible states that King Herod was alive at the time of Jesus’ birth. Until recently, many historians falsely believed that Herod died in 4 BC. This error has been widely disseminated. New historical information now dates King Herod’s death more accurately, placing it in 1 BC. Furthermore, about a year or so after the Messiah was born, Herod became ill and died. Therefore, if we accept the modern scholarship that Herod died in 1 BC shortly after Jesus’ birth then the Savior must have been born in or around 3 or 2 BC.
Much has been learned about the stars since the time of the magi. Of note, they did not know that some of the objects in the sky were actually planets. They assumed these to be “wandering stars” because of their abnormal movements. Unlike normal stars which appear to move in a linear fashion across the sky from east to west (like the Sun), sometimes “wandering stars” will actually appear to stop and reverse direction.
Modern scientists and astronomers have developed laws and formulas which enable them to accurately depict the stars in the sky on any date and from any vantage point. With the advent of computers, these complicated calculations can be completed in moments and images can be produced instantaneously. These programs allow us to see the skies just as the magi would have seen them centuries ago. Looking at these images...
In the early summer of 2 BC (mid-June according to our calendars), the planet Jupiter and the planet Venus appeared to converge just over the western horizon. Because of their proximity to Earth, these two “wandering stars” are the brightest objects in the sky other than the Sun and the moon. Jupiter (which can be thought of as the “God Star”) and Venus (which can be thought of as Mary) met in the sky and the brilliance of both shined together, producing what appeared to be a single dazzling star. From their perspective in Babylon, the wise men would have seen this remarkably large and bright star in the west - pointing them in the direction of Israel.
Believing this to be the sign of the Messiah’s birth, the magi made a long journey to Jerusalem. When they arrived, several months later (December on our calendar), the “wandering star” Jupiter had changed positions was now located in the morning sky to their south. The wise men asked where the King of the Jews was to be born, and Herod’s servants told them “In Bethlehem”. From Jerusalem, the village of Bethlehem is about 5 miles south-southwest. Thus, the same star that the magi saw in Babylon pointing them westward was now standing to the south over Bethlehem as seen from Jerusalem, just as the Bible states.
When the Magi arrived in Bethlehem and found the infant Jesus (approximately 6 months old), they presented Him with expensive gifts fit for a king. This event can be thought of as the first Christmas. And according to the star-mapping software, guess when this would have occurred… December 25, 2 BC.
Whatever your theory about the Star of Bethlehem, astronomy has confirmed that the above events happened. These cement the accuracy of the Bible and strengthen our faith that the story of the baby in a manger is true. To learn more visit the website bethlehemstar.net and watch the video. God bless you and Merry Christmas!