When scientists ponder what the famous Star of Bethlehem really was, they usually hit upon it either being a super nova or a comet. Both phenomena, shining in the night sky over the small village of Bethlehem in Judea during the latter part of the reign of Caesar Augustus, would be spectacular enough to attract the notice of the three wise men from the East. However, according to Real Clear Science, Michael Molnar, a retired astronomer from Rutgers University has recently theorized that the star in question was really the planet Jupiter.

The theory postulates that around April 17, 6 BC, the planet Jupiter rose in the heavens in the east in the constellation Aries after that it was then eclipsed by the moon. Combining Old Testament prophecy with the rules of astrology of the era which pegged Aries as the symbol of Judea, this event would have been interpreted as heralding the birth of a king in that distant land. The magi, likely astronomers living in what is now modern Iraq, would have set forth to find the baby king, arriving eight months later in Bethlehem to find him residing in the manger surrounded by his family and the shepherds.

Moreover, according to Grant Mathews, a cosmologist at Notre Dame, the alignment of Jupiter and the moon in Aries was joined by Saturn with Venus in Pisces and Mercury and Mars across the Zodiac in Taurus. The alignment will not occur again for another 500,000 years.

The account runs a little counter to the notion that the Star of Bethlehem literally was positioned over Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago.

But it does coincide with contemporary accounts and what is known about how astrologers interpreted what they saw in the night sky as affecting earthly events. While astrology today is confined to the daily horoscope and to a few hucksters who sell their alleged insights into the future based on the alignment of the stars and the planets, no distinction existed between astrology and astronomy in the ancient world.

Wise men tried to tease out of the night sky hints of events to come, whether they be the rise and fall of empires, or the birth of a baby who would change the course of history.

Don't miss our page on Facebook!