Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Navel Observatory

In an exercise with more than a little midrift gazing, Australian astronomer Dave Reneke, who is also news editor of Sky and Space magazine, has announced yet another candidate for the “Star of Bethlehem.” Using a computer program to map the night sky as it would have appeared over the Holy Land more than 2,000 years ago and using Matthew's Gospel as a reference, he pinpointed the slightly inconvenient date of June 17 in the year 2 BCC as when:

"Venus and Jupiter became very close ... and they would have appeared to be one bright beacon of light.

"We are not saying this was definitely the Christmas star - but it is the strongest explanation for it of any I have seen so far.

"There's no other explanation that so closely matches the facts we have from the time.

"This could well have been what the three wise men interpreted as a sign. They could easily have mistaken it for one bright star. ...

"Astronomy is such a precise science, we can plot exactly where the planets were, and it certainly seems this is the fabled Christmas star." ...

Now it seems to me that there were more than a few good astronomers in the Mideast in and around that time and more than a few literate civilizations. But is there any other account of this strange new “star” in the sky? Wouldn’t the supposedly sky-savvy Magi have already known about planetary conjunctions? And why believe the Magi were even there and were not some later-added embellishment to the tale?

"This is not an attempt to decry religion. It's really backing it up as it shows there really was a bright object appearing in the East at the right time.

"Often when we mix science with religion in this kind of forum, it can upset people. In this case, I think this could serve to reinforce people's faith."

Well, if you need a naturalistic explanation of what is supposed to be a supernatural event, it doesn’t sound like much of a faith to begin with.

First, if you followed a planet by night, wouldn’t you walk in a circle? Second, to those who insist that a day means a day, when reading Genesis; wouldn’t you hold that a star means a star, and not some planet? Thirdly, if it was just a couple of planets doing a normal orbit then it’s not very miraculous.
I would think the path would be an "s" curve (or more accurately an scallop shaped path) heading generally toward which ever hemisphere the object was in.
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