Is there a scientific explanation for the Star of Bethlehem?


I’ve always been fascinated by religious history.  

There are so many stories in the Bible that have peaked my interest over the years, such as the “parting” of the waters of the Sea of Reeds, which allowed the Israelites to escape Egyptian slavery (by the way, they didn’t cross the Red Sea, as is commonly thought -- it was the Sea of Reeds). Well, an Israeli meteorologist doing some research several years ago determined that a strong east wind could have pushed the shallow waters of the Sea of Reeds westward, which is called a seiche, and perhaps that allowed the Israelites to “cut the corner” and take a shorter path across that part of the lake, whereas the wind then shifted, and the Egyptians chasing after them had to take a longer route around the lake, thus allowing their escape. Interestingly, if you read this passage in the Bible, the text says that an east wind came up. What a coincidence. Or not!

Another fascinating story, one that comes up this time of year, involves the Star of Bethlehem. Most are familiar with the story of the Three Wise Men following a bright star, which led them on their journey to visit baby Jesus. I’ve always assumed that the Star of Bethlehem was just one of our bright planets -- Venus or Jupiter.  And it would be easy to use a computer to go back in time and determine the location of these planets in the sky at that time. Except for one thing: Jesus wasn’t born on Dec. 25 in the year 0.  In fact, it’s impossible to know his exact birth date, although scientists and scholars seem to agree that it was several years earlier.

Larry Sessions just posted a fascinating article about the Star of Bethlehem on EarthSky.org.  He covers all the bases and possible explanations, and I thought you’d be interested.

By the way, did you know that there are three meteorologists prominently written about in the Bible?  The first was Noah -- he forecasted the flood and built an ark.  The second was Joseph -- he forecasted a drought in Egypt and advised the Pharaoh to order everybody to store food (he was right, which likely saved many from starvation and put him in good favor with the Pharoah). Finally, there was Moses who forecasted the east wind that would allow the Israelites’ escape from Egypt.  

This is what happens when you allow a meteorologist to give you his interpretation of the Bible. Merry Christmas!

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