The Science Behind the Christmas Star
The story of Jesus’ birth has been told and retold countless times over the years. No one can forget the moment in the iconic Charlie Brown Christmas when Linus read from Luke the story of the Three Wise Men traveling across the desert to present their gifts to the newborn Baby Jesus.
But what really happened when the Savior was born? And how did the Wise Men actually follow a star to find him?
Ken Zureck, a space consultant and historian here in Houston, conducted a 50-year space study to understand the impact of stars in our history. Naturally, he is intrigued by the origin of the Christmas Star, the one that was said to have guided the Wise Men to Bethlehem. This star has been explained alternately as a supernova, the planet Venus, or a comet, but none of these theories could be confirmed and often conflicted with the Biblical account.
“After years of studying these theories,” Zureck said, “I had the great fortune of reading a book entitled The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi, by Rutgers professor Dr. Michael Molnar. It is by far the most evidence-laden story I’ve seen yet to explain the origin of the Christmas Star.”
Endorsed by knowledgeable and highly respected scientists around the world, Molnar’s theory is just that – a theory – but it is the only one that matches both the Biblical story and scientific findings. Dr. Molnar’s account of the origin of the Christmas Star began strangely enough with the discovery of a coin from Antioch during that time period. It was engraved with the image of Aries looking over his shoulder at a star, an indicator of a great birth. Using his knowledge of astrology, he remembered that Aries was a symbol of Judea. In addition, astrology was highly regarded at that time, so those who studied it believed that a new king would be born when the moon passed in front of Jupiter.
With this information, Molner went back to science and found that, sure enough, in 6 B.C., the moon’s and Jupiter’s paths crossed twice, illuminating the sky exactly in the constellation of Aries. To the Magi, this occurrence was literally a beacon calling them to something spectacular and heralding the birth of a new king.
In an interview with the New York Times, Molnar said, “My prediction was exactly fulfilled. On March 20, 6 B.C., right at sunset, the moon eclipsed the planet Jupiter, and one month later, on April 17, the event occurred again, this time high in the sky at noon in the direction of Bethlehem as viewed from Jerusalem.” This scientific finding fit the timing of Jesus’ birth perfectly and explained the nature of the coin engraving that first brought Molnar to his theory.
The rare occurrence later became known as the Christmas Star which guided the Wise Men, who, by the way, numbered closer to 20 than the three mentioned in the Bible. And unlike the common depiction of the Magi as older, distinguished, royally-dressed men, the actual men who journeyed to welcome Jesus’ birth would have had to have been young and fit to survive the journey.
“They would have worn the typical garb appropriate for the desert heat while riding on camels, they would have been young enough to handle swords for safety, and they would have used a minimum of 20 camels, with security, a guide, and provisions,” explained Zureck.
Who would have guessed that a Rutgers astronomer could produce a theory backed by both the Bible and science? For Christians, this finding confirms what Christians have had faith about all along – that the birth of Jesus was a miracle on many levels, and that surely he is the one and only Savior!