Why the star in the nativity story?


Why does God use a star to light the way to Bethlehem for Mary & Joseph?


A couple things. Around the time of the Augustine Census when Quirinius was governor of Syria a major supernova in a far part of the galaxy became visible on earth. So there literally was a “star” to be seen.

Now eastern Magicians who watched the stars (likely Zoroastrians) would take such a thing as a great sign. Zoroastrians looked for the coming of the savior, whom they called “Soashyant.”

Why would God want pagan priests to recognize the birth of the Jewish Messiah? Because it is a sign unto ALL the nations that the savior has come, first for the Jew, and also for the gentile. Without such a sign, pagan nations could not have received knowledge of His birth in such a dramatic way. It is the universe itself declaring the glory of the son of man. It is… if you will… the very rocks crying out.

It is a sign that His salvation is to all men, that the glory of the Lord might be made known among the nations.

Remember the difference between sign and symbol. A sign is a real thing, not a mere symbol. The catechism calls a Sacrament “an outward Sign, instituted by Christ, to bestow grace.” This was an outward sign, instituted by the Father, to confer the grace of the knowledge that the son had come, upon the pagan nations. This helped to set the stage for the conversion of the nations, of whom we are a part.


Good explanation. Thanks.



Although a nova or supernova is the most satisfying explanation for the Star, there is a serious problem with it, in that there doesn’t seem to be any definitive record of a bright nova appearing in the sky during the time that biblical historians believe the Magi made their journey. One nova apparently did appear, bordering the constellations Capricornus and Aquarius during the spring of 5 B.C. But the Chinese records, which describe this object, imply that it was apparently not very conspicuous at all.


I think it might also fulfill the Old Testament. Remember, God led the Jews out of Egypt as a fire in the sky at night. Now He leads them out of the slavery of this world to the light of the Savior.


Jesus is the Light of the World. What more fitting announcement of His birth than the light of a star piercing the darkness?


This is a fascinating topic and a great DVD. I highly recommend it.


This is a fascinating topic and a great DVD. I highly recommend it.

I went and attended one of these presentations a long time ago when they were a lot less slick and professional than it looks now. It was, however, the same weird and tendentious astrology as they sell today. Basically, this is a guy, Rick Larson, a lawyer from Texas, who knows nothing about anything. I’m sure the presentation is better now, but back then (about 10 years ago) it was just him with a consumer-grade ‘star map’ program on a laptop. He would roll the date slider to dates around 1 BC and 33AD and look for conjunctions. When he found a planet in Leo, he pronounced it the sign of the “Lion of Judah”.

So…does this mean the Magi knew Jewish scripture? Or that the Zodiac is inspired? Rick doesn’t know. Rick really doesn’t know anything.


People in Jesus’ time knew quite a bit about the constellations. They spent a lot of time looking at the night sky.
I’m not as cynical as you. I found it quite interesting. Peace.


People in Jesus’ time knew quite a bit about the constellations. They spent a lot of time looking at the night sky.
I’m not as cynical as you. I found it quite interesting. Peace.

What’s cynical about realizing that an ignorant protestant attorney from Texas playing with his laptop is not a reliable source of teaching?


Oh man… Can I quote this? Like… in real life?


Oh man… Can I quote this? Like… in real life?

Feel free!


Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone upon the world the light of knowledge.

For thereby, **those who worshiped the stars, were taught by a star to adore Thee,
the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Orient from on High.

O Lord, glory to Thee.

(Apolytikion, Feast of the Nativity)




They didn’t have gps, God placed a special star in the sky for them to follow.


How do you ‘follow’ a star in the physical world? Even the silly DVD recommended above doesn’t try to force this interpretation on events.

As religion backs away from making any physical claims about the world (and scientifically-powered atheism pushes from the other direction) we find that religion makes more and more abstract claims and what is claimed is less and less falsifiable.

To say “an astronomical or atmospheric phenomenon moved from East to West and alighted over a particular house as a navigational aid” is a falsifiable claim since it deals with the physical world, and potentially it could be proved or disproved. To say (as the DVD recommended above does) that there was no miraculous astronomical or atmospheric event at all, but rather this was a case of human interpretation of natural events is just such a retreat into abstract, non-falsifiable claims.

It’s a little like those people who say that the miracle of the loaves and fishes was really just ‘people being generous’ and taking fish they already had out of purses and cloaks.


OK we get it. You didn’t like it.
Sheesh. :shrug:


You brought it up…now I get to comment on it. Too bad someone on the internet happened to actually be familiar with it, eh?


It appears no SO familiar…but ok, you have the last word, whatevs. I’m out.


Yes, I actually sat through the whole painful lecture back when the enterprise was in its infancy…of course I’m not the familiar one.


Just a minor rant. Ever since Christians became too keen on identifying the Star of Bethlehem with any natural astronomical phenomena from that time period - be it a supernova or Halley’s Comet or a planet or whatever - and then try to use it to pinpoint Jesus’ birth date. But I personally think that this ignores the fact that the description of the ‘star’ doesn’t exactly fit a normal star or a comet or supernova or whatever: Matthew says that the star did not so much blaze across the sky but “stopped/stood over the place where the child was.” Why try to rationalize it when even the text seems to indicate that this was no mere astronomical phenomenon?

I think the early Christian interpretations of the star do more justice to the actual text than the modern rationalistic/naturalistic interpretations do. They thought that it wasn’t any regular star; in their view, it could have been a one-time miracle, maybe a guiding angel or the Holy Spirit in the guise of a star - which you obviously couldn’t find on any star chart or track down using a telescope. You cannot use computer programs or charts or telescopes to see an angel or the Holy Spirit.

The modern interpretations are really guilty of imposing our modern understanding on an ancient text. We moderns think materially: the Sun and other stars are balls of gases, comets are these dusty snowballs that orbit the Sun, planets are these things made out of gases or rocks or metals that orbit a star and supernovas are stars that exploded. But the ancient Jews didn’t see it that way: stars, the ‘hosts of heaven’, are usually linked, even identified with angels. So they have this sort of different, spiritual understanding of what stars are. And I think that’s what’s really been lost with modern explanations that try to explain away anything that smacks of the supernatural in a naturalistic way.

It’s also kind of funny/ironic in a way too: many of us Christians will go up in arms when somebody tries to explain away the Resurrection or the various visions of angels or Jesus’ miracles in a naturalistic way (you know, stuff like ‘Jesus didn’t really walk on water; He just surfboarded on this ice sheet’ or ‘Jesus didn’t really multiply the loaves, He just encouraged everybody to share’), but we readily accept naturalistic explanations like the darkness of the crucifixion being an eclipse or something or the star of Bethlehem being a supernova/planet/comet/whatever when it seems to suit our purposes (say, pinning a date on Jesus’ life).

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