Astronomers Theory on Star of Bethlehem:

"Roman Astrologers Saw a Divine Sign in Double Eclipse"

(He must not have read the Fathers!)

NEW YORK, DEC. 25, 2001 ( A U.S. astronomer claims he has found the first mention of the star of Bethlehem outside the Bible, the magazine New Scientist reports.

The reference to the star is in a fourth-century manuscript written by a Roman astrologer and Christian convert called Firmicus Maternus. Michael Molnar, formerly of Rutgers University in New Jersey, is the originator of the idea that the star of Bethlehem was not a spectacular astronomical event such as a supernova or a comet but an obscure astrological one.

The "event" is not obscure to Orthodox Christians . The "star" was an Angel, who in very "un-starlike", "un-eclipselike" fashion, descended upon the dwelling where the Divine Christ-child was living:
"(Mat 2:9-10) "When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. {10} When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy."
We have need of much wakefulness, and many prayers, that we may arrive at the interpretation of the passage now before us, and that we may learn who these wise men were, and whence they came, and how; and at whose persuasion, and what was the star.


3. For if ye can learn what the star was, and of what kind, and whether it were one of the common stars, or new and unlike the rest, and whether it was a star by nature or a star in appearance only, we shall easily know the other things also. Whence then will these points be manifest? From the very things that are written. Thus, that this star was not of the common sort, or rather not a star at all, as it seems at least to me, but some invisible power transformed into this appearance, is in the first place evident from its very course. For there is not, there is not any star that moves by this way, but whether it be the sun you mention, or the moon, or all the other stars, we see them going from east to west; but this was wafted from north to south; for so is Palestine situated with respect to Persia.

In the second place, one may see this from the time also. For it appears not in the night, but in mid-day, while the sun is shining; and this is not within the power of a star, nay not of the moon; for the moon that so much surpasses all, when the beams of the sun appear, straightway hides herself, and vanishes away. But this by the excess of its own splendor overcame even the beams of the sun, appearing brighter than they, and in so much light shining out more illustriously.

In the third place, from its appearing, and hiding itself again. For on their way as far as Palestine it appeared leading them, but after they set foot within Jerusalem, it hid itself: then again, when they had left Herod, having told him on what account they came, and were on the point of departing, it shows itself; all which is not like the motion of a star, but of some power highly endued with reason. For it had not even any course at all of its own, but when they were to move, it moved; when to stand, it stood, dispensing1 all as need required: in the same kind of way as the pillar of the cloud, now halting and now rousing up the camp of the Jews, when it was needful.

In the fourth place, one may perceive this clearly, from its mode of pointing Him out. For it did not, remaining on high, point out the place; it not being possible for them so to ascertain it, but it came down and performed this office. For ye know that a spot of so small dimensions, being only as much as a shed would occupy, or rather as much as the body of a little infant would take up, could not possibly be marked out by a star. For by reason of its immense height, it could not sufficiently distinguish so confined a spot, and discover it to them that were desiring to see it. And this any one may see by the moon, which being so far superior to the stars, seems to all that dwell in the world, and are scattered over so great an extent of earth,-seems, I say, near to them every one. How then, tell me, did the star point out a spot so confined, just the space of a manger and shed, unless it left that height and came down, and stood over the very head of the young child? And at this the evangelist was hinting when he said, "Lo, the star went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was."

4. Seest thou, by what store of proofs this star is shown not to be one of the many, nor to have shown itself according to the order of the outward creation?

(St John Chrysostom, Homily VI. Matthew Chapter 2, Verse 1 And Matthew Chapter 2, Verse 2 (

"But what need of this star any more," one may ask, "when the place was ascertained?" In order that the Child also might be seen. For there was not anything to make Him manifest, since the house was not conspicuous, neither was His mother glorious, or distinguished. There was need then of the star, to set them by the place. Wherefore it re-appears on their coming out of Jerusalem, and stays not, before it hath reached the manger.

And marvel was linked on to marvel; for both were strange things, as well the magi worshipping, as the star going before them; and enough to attract even such as were made all of stone. For if the wise men had said, they had heard prophets say these things, or that angels had discoursed with them in private, they might have been disbelieved; but now, when the vision of the star appeared on high, even they that were exceeding shameless had their mouths stopped.

Moreover, the star, when it stood over the young Child, stayed its course again: which thing itself also was of a greater power than belongs to a star, now to hide itself, now to appear, and having appeared to stand still. Hence they too received an increase of faith. For this cause they rejoiced also, that they had found what they were seeking, that they had proved messengers of truth, that not without fruit had they come so great a journey; so great a longing (so to speak) had they for Christ. For first it came and stood over His very head, showing that what is born is Divine; next standing there, it leads them to worship Him; being not simply barbarians, but the wiser sort amongst them. St John Chrysostom, Homily VII., Matthew Chapter 2, Verse 4 And Matthew Chapter 2, Verse 5 (

OF COURSE they rejoiced, because the "star" was clearly guiding them. Jupiter is a marvelous planet, and quite beautiful in the night sky, but it cannot move as the Angel did.

It amazes me how many fables can be imagined and propagated to avoid believing in the miraculous!

Priest Seraphim, Webmaster

Still, the event would have been of great significance to ancient Roman astrologers. After studying the symbolism on Roman coins, he concluded that the "star" was in fact a double eclipse of Jupiter in a rare astrological conjunction that occurred in Aries on March 20, in the year 6 B.C., and again a month later on April 17.

Molnar believed that Roman astrologers would have interpreted such an event as signifying the birth of a divine king in Judea. But he lacked proof. Now he says he has found it, in the Mathesis, a book written by Maternus in A.D. 334. Maternus described an astrological event involving an eclipse of Jupiter by the Moon in Aries, and said that it signified the birth of a divine king.

"Maternus did not mention Jesus´ name," says Molnar. "But Roman astrology was a popular craze at the time and everyone reading the book would have known the reference was to Jesus and that the astrological event was the star of Bethlehem."

So why did Maternus not mention Jesus by name? According to Molnar, early Christians hated pagan beliefs and did not want to justify the biblical story with astrological speculation. The idea that the stars govern our fate, obviously contradicted belief in a Christian God who controlled the universe.

"Being a pagan who had converted to Christianity during his lifetime, Firmicus was torn," says Molnar. "Hence his use of astrology to support the Christian story, but in a veiled way."

According to Molnar, it was essential to early Christians that the true nature of the star be hidden, otherwise theologians would be mired in debate about celestial influences that were not part of Christianity. So they buried the knowledge of the star´s astrological roots and in time it was forgotten, Molnar contends.

"I take Molna´s work quite seriously," says Owen Gingerich, a historian of astronomy at Harvard University. "Anything he comes up with along these lines has to be considered as being very likely correct."

Redeeming the Time

↑ Grab this Headline Animator

We confidently recommend our web service provider, Orthodox Internet Services: excellent personal customer service, a fast and reliable server, excellent spam filtering, and an easy to use comprehensive control panel.

St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas