What Was the Christmas Star?

Today I’m sharing from Answers In Genesis.

What Was the Christmas Star?

by Dr. Jason Lisle

What was the star? And how did it lead the magi to the Lord? There have been many speculations.

The apostle Matthew records that the birth of Jesus was accompanied by an extraordinary celestial event: a star that led the magi1 (the “wise men”) to Jesus. This star “went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was” (Matthew 2:9). What was this star? And how did it lead the magi to the Lord? There have been many speculations.

Common Explanations

The star mentioned in Matthew is not necessarily what we normally think of as a star. That is, it was not necessarily an enormous mass of hydrogen and helium gas powered by nuclear fusion. The Greek word translated star is aster (αστηρ), which is where we get the word astronomy. In the biblical conception of the word, a star is any luminous point of light in our night sky. This would certainly include our modern definition of a star, but it would also include the planets, supernovae, comets, or anything else that resembles a point of light. But which of these explanations best describes the Christmas star?

A supernova (an exploding star) fits the popular Christmas card conception of the star. When a star in our galaxy explodes, it shines very brightly for several months. These beautiful events are quite rare and outshine all the other stars in the galaxy. It seems fitting that such a spectacular event would announce the birth of the King of kings—the God-man who would outshine all others. However, a supernova does not fit the biblical text. The Christmas star must not have been so obvious, for it went unnoticed by Israel’s King Herod (Matthew 2:7). He had to ask the magi when the star had appeared, but everyone would have seen a bright supernova.

Nor could the Christmas star have been a bright comet. Like a supernova, everyone would have noticed a comet. Comets were often considered to be omens of change in the ancient world. Herod would not have needed to ask the magi when a comet had appeared. Moreover, neither a comet nor a supernova moves in such a way as to come and stand over a location on earth as the Christmas star did (Matthew 2:9). Perhaps the Christmas star was something more subtle: a sign that would amaze the magi but would not be noticed by Herod.

A Conjunction?

This leads us to the theory that the Christmas star was a conjunction of planets. A conjunction is when a planet passes closely by a star or by another planet. Such an event would have been very meaningful to the magi, who were knowledgeable of ancient astronomy, but would likely have gone unnoticed by others. There were several interesting conjunctions around the time of Christ’s birth. Two of these were triple conjunctions; this is when a planet passes a star (or another planet), then backs up, passes it again, then reverses direction and passes the star/planet a third time. Such events are quite rare.

Nonetheless, there was a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn beginning in the year 7 B.C. Also, there was a triple conjunction of Jupiter and the bright star Regulus beginning in the year 3 B.C. Of course, we do not know the exact year of Christ’s birth, but both of these events are close to the estimated time. Advocates of such conjunction theories point out that the planets and stars involved had important religious significance in the ancient world. Jupiter was often considered the king of the gods, and Regulus was considered the “king star.” Did such a conjunction announce the birth of the King of kings? However, the Bible describes the Christmas star as a single star—not aconjunction of two or more stars. Neither of the above conjunctions was close enough to appear as a single star.

But there was one (and only one) extraordinary conjunction around the time of Christ’s birth that could be called a “star.” In the year 2 B.C., Jupiter and Venus moved so close to each other that they briefly appeared to merge into a single bright star. Such an event is extremely rare and may have been perceived as highly significant to the magi. Although this event would have been really spectacular, it does not fully match the description of the Christmas star. A careful reading of the biblical text indicates that the magi saw the star on at least two occasions: when they arrived at Jerusalem (Matthew 2:2) and after meeting with Herod (Matthew 2:9). But the merging of Jupiter and Venus happened only once—on the evening of June 17.

Although each of the above events is truly spectacular and may have been fitting to announce the birth of the King of kings, none of them seems to fully satisfy the details of the straightforward reading of Matthew 2. None of the above speculations fully explain how the star “went ahead of ” the magi nor how it “stood over where the child was.” Indeed, no known natural phenomenon would be able to stand over Bethlehem since all natural stars continually move due to the rotation of the earth.2 They appear to rise in the east and set in the west, or circle around the celestial poles. However, the Bible does not say that this star was a natural phenomenon.

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Our Suffering Savior: A Physician’s Perspective

Today I’m sharing from Answers in Genesis

Our Suffering Savior

A Physician’s Perspective

During the Easter season, we usually hear again the stories of the Passion Week and the Crucifixion—Jesus’s betrayal by Judas, His unfair trial, the road to Calvary, Jesus’s last words. We also sing about the Old Rugged Cross. But few look beyond these stories to consider what our Lord Jesus Christ actually endured during those hours on the cross. Unlike first-century Christians, for whom crucifixion was a familiar reality, most of us have a sanitized view of our Lord’s suffering.

The physical suffering that Jesus willingly endured was beyond horrific. To better understand the extent of His suffering is to get a glimpse of His love for us.

In the Garden

The suffering began soon after the Last Supper when Jesus and His disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Knowing that the time of His death was near, Jesus prayed intently. According to Luke 22:44, “Being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

Medical literature documents that bloody sweat, known as hematidrosis, does occur. This condition is seen in rare instances of extreme emotional stress. The resulting blood loss is not severe, but it does cause the skin to be exquisitely tender, making what was to come even more painful.

During His Trials

After these hours of emotional distress in the garden, Jesus was betrayed and arrested. His captors mocked and beat Him after He faced the Sanhedrin and the Roman authorities. He was ultimately sentenced to crucifixion on a cross.

Before sentencing Jesus to death, Pilate attempted to appease the Jews by having Him beaten. John 19:1 notes, “So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.” However, this brief description does not communicate the brutal nature of what was to follow.

Scourging was a particularly vicious form of punishment. The victim was stripped of his clothes, and his hands were raised above his head and tied to a post. Then one or two soldiers would repeatedly beat the victim with a whip, usually made of several leather strips with jagged pieces of iron or sheep bone tied onto them.

One blow after another was delivered across the shoulders, back, and buttocks. Initial blows ripped gashes into His already tender skin, and those that followed dug deeper into our Savior’s tissues, tearing muscles and blood vessels. The subsequent blood loss further weakened Him. Torn and exposed nerves on the back caused indescribable pain.

This brutal scourging was only the beginning of Jesus’s suffering. After being untied from the blood-stained scourging post, the soldiers placed a scarlet robe on Him. Each breath, each movement of His body, caused the robe to rub against His torn flesh. Then a crown of thorns was placed on His head. As the trained Roman soldiers beat Him, these thorns drove deeper into His head, causing profuse bleeding and intense pain. Later, the scarlet robe was torn from His back, reopening the deep wounds.

How horrible was Jesus’s suffering at this point? Isaiah 52:14 says, “Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.” Jesus had been so severely beaten, He no longer looked like a human being.

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The Babe Who Opened the Door

This is a wonderful post from Answers in Genesis.

The Babe Who Opened the Door

by Ken Ham

Over 6,000 years ago, a “door” was shut to a garden. Because Adam sinned, God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden:

Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22–24).

Because of Genesis 3:15, we understand that God told Adam and Eve that someone would come to open the “door,” leading back to the Tree of Life: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

In the Old Testament, prophets predicted that this someone would come: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

We also understand that when God told Noah to place one door in the side of the Ark, so that those who went through that door would be saved from the judgment of the Flood, this door was a picture of the one who would come to open the “door,” for he “set the door of the ark in its side” (Genesis 6:16).

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