Why Jupiter and Venus Are Not the Star of Bethlehem

  Most people, who know me well, are aware that I have an interest in astronomy so I sometimes get a lot of questions when there is a major celestial event in our skies.  Recently, I’ve received a lot of questions and comments about the recent Jupiter/Venus convergence in the western sky that has been called, “The Star of Bethlehem.”  For those of you who missed it, we ended the month of June with a very close pairing of Jupiter and Venus just after sunset for a few short evenings.  The planets have been slowly separating and are now about 6 degrees apart in the western sky.  A lot of people, even a lot of well-educated Christians, have been lead to believe that this event was supposedly the same star that led the Magi to Jesus. So, let me dispel this myth with both facts and scripture.

  First of all, I can tell you that this is not the first time that a celestial event has been called “The Star of Bethlehem.”  Over my 20+ years of night sky observing, there have been many instances where bright objects have been tied to the birth of Jesus.   In all the cases I’ve seen, scientist have used past records (and by past I mean the last 100 years) and current known trajectories of objects to try and create a calculated model of what happened 2,000 years ago.   While I think that some of these models have merit we have to also see some of the arrogance in the calculations.  Some historical models have an error rate of +/- 2 or 3 years (hardly accurate).

  There is so much that we don’t know about space that it is nearly impossible for use to assume that we can tie a celestial event of today to the exact time of the birth of Jesus. How can we really know that the solar system we know now was exactly the same 2,000 years ago?  The truth is, we don’t know.  Even with all we’ve learned, there are still so many unknowns in our solar system.

  However, if you believe what the scriptures say, we can quickly put to rest the belief of this recent event being the “Star of Bethlehem.”  Matthew chapter 2 tells the story of the Magi to Jesus:

Matthew 2: After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

 WAIT!! WHAT DID IT JUST SAY!?  If the Magi came from the east and traveled west to Jerusalem because they saw the star rise over Jerusalem, then the star rose from the west…opposite of all the other objects in our sky!  The sun, stars, and all the planets rise in the east and set in the west because of the rotation of the earth.  If you think about this, it makes sense.  Much like the savior it led them to, this star was different.  It took a path different from the others and it was special enough for them to follow.  The star of Bethlehem was no doubt an amazing sight and appropriate too.  Man looked to the sky for the sign of his birth and we continue to look to the sky for when he will come again.

Acts 1:11  “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
By Jon Southeland