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The “Star” of Bethlehem December 9, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Magick & Mystery.
The night sky as it appeared looking south fro...

The night sky as it appeared looking south from Jerusalem on Nov. 12, 7 BC, 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

We went to a “Think and Drink” at the local Planetarium last night and traveled through time and space to Jerusalem some 2000 years ago to look at the night skies and see what the  astronomers and astrologers of the day (“the magi”) saw.  

Back then, the magi who charted the skies didn’t understand the distinction between stars and planets. 

Solar System Planets.

The Magi's Wandering Stars converging and diverging through the Millenia

Venus and Jupiter, considered “wandering stars” by the magi, converged in 3 B.C. ~ first in the East, and later the same year in the West.

The conjunction of the two planets, Venus and Jupiter, may be what is now referred to as The Star of Bethlehem

O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Fascinating stuff ~ laying the precise template of Science over imprecise Biblical references and lore.

Related posts:  The Third Jesus * God is Not A Christian, Jew, or Moslem * A Golden Ticket to Heaven?


1. Shannon Sullivan - December 9, 2010

That is so cool. I love the connection between the two – science and religion. Thank you for the information.

nrhatch - December 9, 2010

You’re welcome. The presentation opened my eyes just a bit further.

For example, the magi were portrayed to us in Sunday School merely as “wise men” ~ in reality, they were astrologers and astronomers who sought significance in the alignment of the stars and planets. 🙂

2. Paula Tohline Calhoun - December 9, 2010

Science and “religion”(not sure that’s exactly the right word – maybe) often dovetail quite nicely. After all, the creator is the same for both. I’ve heard/read about the planetary convergences before. It is very interesting. Thanks for the reminder!

In terms of “magi” or the singular “magus,” there is a very informative article about the biblical use of the word and how it changed from the OT to the NT era. I only recommend the historical aspects of the article. I do also note my own caveat: when the author veers off into Isaiah’s prophecies and whether or not they have been accomplished, we reach a real parting of the ways! I prefer to live by Jesus’ words to “live in the now,” and not concern ourselves about what may or may not happen nor when the “end times” will occur. Besides, as we are all finite in a physical sense – we are ALWAYS each living in the “end times!” Live today, make now count, and let tomorrow take care of itself. I KNOW you agree with that! 😀

Here’s the link: http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/wisemen.html

From what I can tell through a quick read-through (of the first half, anyway) the information from an etymologic and historic perspective is most likely correct. It helped me, because I have always wondered why “magicians” and “sorcerers” got such kind treatment in the Matthew scripture, while in others NT places they are treated with such disdain! English is tricky – and we have so many words that do double or triple or a multitude of duties to describe what other languages use many different words for! Wise men – worth thinking about!

Also, in reference to our ongoing dialogue – I don’t understand why so many educators in local churches did and continue to refuse to intelligently inform their students of the historic perspectives of the stories taught from the Bible. Understanding the times, morés, and cultures of the era only enhance scripture, and encourage an open and thorough investigation at the lessons that can be learned from the God-INSPIRED words of the Bible.

I’ll keep on keeping on. You might laugh if you knew what my Speech Rec. program put in for some of the words I thought I was enunciating clearly in the above comment! FUNNY! 😀

nrhatch - December 9, 2010

Thanks, Paula. I’ll check out the link. Last night, the explanation proffered was that Matthew dealt kindly with Zoroaster’s magicians (or magi) because the Prophet Daniel was one of them.

It also appears that Jesus may not have been born anywhere near Bethlehem. The Christian Church uses that as the location of his birth because it ties in better with the prophets’ predictions of where the “King of the Jews” would be born.

Switching gears (or speech recognition programs): You need to do a post focused on the distinction between what you’re saying and what Sonya is hearing. I expect you would have as much fun writing it as we would reading it. 😉

Paula Tohline Calhoun - December 9, 2010

I’ll agree completely with what you have written above if you will qualify “The Christian Church,” as “some or many denominations of the Christian Church,” or “Some Christians.” We are not all cut out of the same cloth! ;-D

I’m thinking of doing just such a post. As a matter of fact, I “saved” a portion of a dictation that went awry yesterday, but accidentally deleted it! 😦 It started happening when I failed to pause the dictation and answered the phone – and hilarity ensued! It started with the phone ringing, and the program flashing “What was that?” I said, “It’s the telephone, stupid.” Sonya apparently didn’t like being referred to in such a way, and I guess she tried to pay me back in kind! 😀

nrhatch - December 9, 2010

What a hilarious skit that would be to watch ~ quick where’s Monty Python?!

You’ve just highlighted another problem I have with the Christian religion. It’s not “a” religion at all.

It’s Methodists and Episcopalians and Catholics and Jehovah’s Witnesses and Protestants and Presbyterians and Baptists and Southern Baptists and Born Agains and Seventh Day Adventists and other divisive sects . . . all tugging and pulling on the robes of their poster boy, Jesus Christ.

When all Christ wanted was for us to recognize our Unity with each other and with the Spirit within.

3. Carol Ann Hoel - December 9, 2010

What an interesting post! Thank you for sharing…

nrhatch - December 9, 2010

Thanks, Carol Ann.

My prayer for Christmas . . . Peace on Earth and Goodwill to ALL (no matter how we practice our respective faiths).

Blessings to you.

4. Cindy - December 9, 2010

Oh wow, Nancy, this was so interesting, thank you!

nrhatch - December 9, 2010

The astronomer (current day magus) leading the discussion, Howard Hochhalter, shared his exhuberant enthusiasm with us throughout the presentation.

A fascinating look at where Science and Religion converge . . . and diverge.

5. Paula Tohline Calhoun - December 9, 2010

Yup! Christianity is a broad and blanket term that covers a lot of different faiths and beliefs. This makes it absolutely NO different from any/every other religion in the world. There are as many forms and permutations of your “Spiritualism,” and because I do not agree with some of them, it does not cause me to dismiss them all or deem all of them therefore invalid. Human beings vary widely, but we are all one. We are connected not only by DNA, but through a loving God, the Light and Spirit within. Just as I cannot dispose pf the baby along with the bath water, I cannot dismiss as worthless any human on the face of the earth. Because from the knowledge I have from the indwelling Spirit, I have learned that all are precious to God, despite what people say and do. We are ALL loved. Even you! 😀 Or more to the point, Even ME! The possibility of creating a relationship with that Spirit is in each and every one, and I believe that God desires that relationship, and seeks it. 😀

The following hymn lyrics express my thoughts so much better than I have:

“I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;
It was not I that found, O Savior true,
No, I was found of thee.

Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold;
I walked and sank not on the storm—vexed sea,
’Twas not so much that I on thee took hold,
As thou, dear Lord, on me.

I find, I walk, I love, but, O the whole
Of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee;
For thou wert long beforehand with my soul,
Always thou lovedst me.”

Anon., c. 1904

nrhatch - December 9, 2010

You say, “This makes it absolutely NO different from any/every other religion in the world.”

I disagree. What sets Christianity apart in my mind, and why I refuse to apply the label of “Christian” to my forehead:

(1) I have NEVER had someone from ANY other religion offer to pray for my salvation in so condescending a manner:

“Oh, you don’t believe in Christ . . . I’ll pray for you.”
“Oh, you haven’t accepted Christ into your heart . . . I’ll pray for you.”

Many Christians act as if they have a direct pipeline to “God’s ear” which is denied to those of any other faith ~ “outsiders” must first join the Christian church if they want their prayers to be heard by this Christian “God.”

That arrogance astounds me.

I’m convinced that none of us is ever separated from the Universal Spirit that Christians refer to as God. To feel that connection, we need only listen to our heart.

(2) I have NEVER had someone from any other religion tell me I’m going to HELL for not believing as they do.

Perhaps the Buddhists, Jews, and Hindus I’ve met have thought it . . . but they never uttered that type of “know-it-all-ness” out loud.

Instead, they shared the WISDOM of the teachings of their faith rather than just spouting the party line or insisting that I must accept their “saviour” as my own if I do not wish to be damned for all eternity.

(3) I have NEVER had someone from any other religion say that I MUST accept THEIR BRAND of religion if I want to be SAVED.

When I have met people of other faiths, and conversed with them, they have answered my questions without JUDGING ~ a simple sharing of what they DO to practice their beliefs and HOW their beliefs improve the quality of their lives and the lives of others around them.

In contrast, Christians of numerous sects have encouraged me to “sign on the dotted line” and join their specific belief system without ever taking the time to do more than spout the accepted DOGMA or thump on their Bibles.

What sets Christianity apart, in my mind, is the arrogant condescension of so many of its members ~ a commonality which seems far more universal and far-reaching than any corresponding attempt to emulate Christ or share his teachings with genuine love and compassion.

Present company accepted, of course.

If ALL Christians were like YOU, striving to live up to the teachings of Christ, I would happily walk among them.

Sadly, most fall so short of those teachings (all the while proclaiming that they are RIGHT and all others are WRONG), that I would rather not be included within their ranks.

Paula Tohline Calhoun - December 9, 2010

I do understand what you are saying, I just can’t agree. Our experiences with and knowledge of the Christians we have met are so divergent, that we most likely will never agree. But that’s OK. I’m glad we can carry on our conversation and maybe just a bit of who we are will educate and inform us both. We all have so much to learn. It makes life exciting!

I will make one counterpoint to yours: I have experienced arrogance and exclusivity from several other faiths in the manner you describe as coming only from the Christians you have met. Moslem and Jewish,as well as some of the faiths that originate in Asia. I also want to state once more that I am the least among the truly exemplary multitude of Christians who walk the face of the earth today. I meet them every day – some who call themselves Christian and some who do not.

I want to say that the “most (who) fall short” is in reference to your experience, and it is not to mine nor that of all others. Quite the opposite for me. We undoubtedly have had very different experiences and have come away from those experiences with wholly different perspectives.

I pray for you Nancy, but not out of an “arrogant” (frankly a “snotty”) concern for the state of your soul. But I lift in prayer daily the names of the people I know and the many I do not, that they may experience the Love of God in the lives of the people they meet. I do love you Nancy – in the universal aspect (i.e., treating you as I desire to be treated) – but I also LIKE you, and count our blogging relationship as one of God’s blessings to me. I also pray that I can be a blessing to you.

nrhatch - December 9, 2010

Perhaps we’re like the blind men feeling different parts of the same Elephant . . . you’ve experienced its heart and I got its tail-end. 🙂

6. Greg Camp - December 9, 2010

This is especially interesting in that astrology later came to be seen in Christianity as a sin. Also, what magic meant at that time is different from the popular view today. Mages sought to understand the deep structure of reality, which could be seen as penetrating the mind of God–a threatening act, according to some.

There’s another view of this given in Arthur C. Clarke’s short story, “The Star.”

Paula Tohline Calhoun - December 9, 2010

I have always loved reading Arthur C. Clarke. I’ll look that one up – don’t recall it right off hand. The link that I posted in my first comment to Nancy above talks about the evolution through the Bible of attitudes about magi and magic, etc. It has always interested me, too!

nrhatch - December 9, 2010

I checked out the link. Thanks, Paula.

nrhatch - December 9, 2010

Thanks, Greg.

I expect that early Church leaders did not want the sheep in their fold to wander off in search of a direct personal connection with God for fear that they would become obsolete. 😉

I’ll check out The Star.

Paula Tohline Calhoun - December 9, 2010

“SOME” early Church leaders. 😀

nrhatch - December 9, 2010

Duly noted. Perhaps the problem is that the labels “Christianity,” “Christian,” and the “Christian Church” aren’t very useful . . . since its team members are all wearing different color Jerseys and playing by different rules.

We can say, “The New England Patriots play honest and fair and are going all the way” because the “team” is viewed as one entity.

In contrast, we cannot say, “Christians are honest and fair and are going all the way” without clarifying the statement to limit its application to “SOME Christians.”

Why use the nomenclature at all since it doesn’t appear to have universal application or meaning?

7. Paula Tohline Calhoun - December 9, 2010

Whoops! I’ll argue that point too! 😀 Because not all of the New England Patriots do play honest and fair – and I don’t think I would ever say that of any team (except of course the Indy Colts and “my” Peyton Manning!” They are all perfect :-D) How each person on the team plays is definitely not a subject for blanket approval or disapproval. Now, if you were to say the new England Patriots (or whichever) play the game skillfully, that might apply in a more generalized way (although perhaps not), because as sports teams are judged objectively by their winning record, their skills as a TEAM are judged, even though some individuals might not play particularly skillfully.

Also, quite frankly, I believe that generalizations about ANYTHING or anybody are dangerous, and generally highly inaccurate, and therefore pretty useless – even though I have been known to use them (and usually in a negative sense, but seldom a positive one, oddly enough, now that I think about it.) “THEY” is almost a pejorative term, or certainly can be in many instances.

Perhaps it is best not to use general labels for and about ANY and ALL religions or faiths, as they are never applicable to everyone within each. Human beings are fallible creatures, and far from perfect in the practice of any religion. I do believe, however, that personal intent counts for something, even if it isn’t achieved, or only rarely so.

Besides, I can think of no institution, religious or secular, of which all its members behave consistently and in lock-step with each other across the board. Doesn’t make me dismiss/discount/hate the body or institution. And as far as my own “Body,” it only makes me want to strive more for unity, than to leave it, in search of some other (non-existent) community of faith that will somehow fulfill all of my expectations or demands. I’d never find one! Also, I rather like imperfection – when found among others, it doesn’t make me feel so alone! 😀

BTW, I’m glad to read that at least you feel that PART of the “elephant” has a heart!

8. nrhatch - December 9, 2010

Wait! Are we ARGUING?
I thought we were CONVERSING? 😉

“Many can argue, not many converse.” ~ A. Bronson Alcott

Christ is the HEART of Christianity ~ on that we can agree.

As far as the Patriots go, I have no idea if the statement I used is true or false since I care less about Sports than I do about organized Religion.

What I meant is that sports teams appear to be more of a unified whole than Christianity ~ team members play in the same Jerseys and according to the same rules, albeit at different levels of skill. Sportscasters make generalized statements about teams all the time (e.g., The Colts have a good offense and a good defense) and no one interupts to say, “Some Colts have . . . ”

In contrast, Christianity (ostensibly based on the principles of unity and brotherhood of man) is a splintered, fragmented, hobbledy-gobbledy, mish-mash of ideas which renders the label “Christian” as relatively meaningless.

Nevertheless, despite the lack of a uniform definition of what a “Christian” is, people slap the label on their forehead like a badge of honor, often without knowing (or caring) what the label means.

For that reason, it is a label I wish to avoid.

When Christians and Christianity begin to demonstrate the Unity which Christ preached, then I’ll pull on the Jersey.

Until then, I’m content to watch from the sidelines.

nrhatch - December 9, 2010

You say, “Besides, I can think of no institution, religious or secular, of which all its members behave consistently and in lock-step with each other across the board. Doesn’t make me dismiss/ discount/ hate the body or institution. And as far as my own “Body,” it only makes me want to strive more for unity, than to leave it, in search of some other (non-existent) community of faith that will somehow fulfill all of my expectations or demands. I’d never find one!”

Maybe that’s where we really differ, Paula.

You’re willing to wear the “Christian” Jersey in order to belong to a community of faith.

I don’t see the need to look for a “community of faith” at all.

I have my beliefs. They allow me to connect with the Spirit Within and from there to a Higher Power which guides my actions, enabling me to be the best me I can be.

For me, that is enough.

Paula Tohline Calhoun - December 10, 2010

You are indeed right, Nancy, and it is enough – we ll need to make the “connection,” and we each make it our own way. “Whatever floats your boat,” is perhaps more eloquently said, “Whatever winds catch your sails, sail on!”

BTW, I only meant “argue” in the “forensic” sense! 😀 Besides, ME argue with YOU? Who would remain standing at the end of that one? 😀 So, as you say, I will too. On this subject (for now anyway!), it is enough.

(Did I hear a collective “Whew!” from your readers?)

nrhatch - December 10, 2010

I think I heard it!
Yup, there it is again . . .

Thanks for sharing this interesting & divergent conversation
An appellation much preferred to disagreeable argumentation
I say this, you say that, we laugh, smile, and agree to disagree
We see the value of you being you, and the value of me being me

9. MARLENE LA MURA - December 9, 2010


nrhatch - December 9, 2010

Don’t worry, Marlene. Our conversation here is counterbalanced elsewhere ~ in fact, I wrote an Ode for Paula today which she plans to post on Saturday. 🙂

Love the lyrics to that song. And Jiminy Cricket rocks.

As for the magi, they’re forever woven into the fabric of Christmas . . . along with their frankincense, gold, and myrrh.

Paula Tohline Calhoun - December 10, 2010

As Nancy says – worry not! Nancy and I lock horns (nice and nerf-like, kind horns!)over various topics! She is at the top of my list of favorite blog-friends!

nrhatch - December 10, 2010

Right back atcha, lady! You’re tops in my book. 🙂

MARLENE LA MURA - December 10, 2010


nrhatch - December 10, 2010

Thinking does that at times.

Your comment reminds me of Winnie-The-Pooh, frowning in concentration, as he repeats:


Paula Tohline Calhoun - December 10, 2010

No worries, Marlene! If you ever have the opportunity to read my blog, you will find that, as Nancy has said, I’m frequently overcome by my “That Reminds Me” muse. However, I am also often visited by her sister, known as the “Let Me Explain Everything in Exhausting Detail” muse. Things really get cooking when they both arrive at once!

Merry Christmas! 😀

10. Julie - December 12, 2010

What a fascinating way to spend an evening. I love it when science and spirituality converge too. Because I agree with the commenter who said they are really one and the same.

nrhatch - December 12, 2010

Entertaining evening filled with fascinating facts and starry skies.

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