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Monday, December 21, 2009


Jeffrey Pinyan

I recommend "The Star of Bethlehem", which will be airing on EWTN this Wednesday afternoon at 1PM (ET).


It's those 'cumbersome footnotes' which enable the article to be used as an apologetics tool. Without them, the book/article is just a nice read for the committed Catholic.


To begin with, I have just read BABYLONIAN STAR LORE by Gavin White. Although some of White's conjectures may be questioned, one thing that jumped out at me was how different the Babylonian way of looking at the sky was from our current way of thinking. For one thing, the word "star" could refer to a star, a planet, an entire constellation, or anything that happened in the sky, including a halo being seen around the moon. (So much for the idea that something had to be predictable to be astrologically significant. Besides, that would make it harder to justify a job of stargazing to the king.) Furthermore, the names of planets and constellations were often mixed up in a kind of code to prevent the non-initiated from understanding their proprietary secrets, and I would guess that different schools of astrology would have slightly different omens and/or codes. This means it is practically impossible to guess what the Magi saw, but the predictable motion of the planets seems pretty unlikely.

The biggest problem is explaining how a specific house in Bethlehem was indicated, short of a very overt miracle. One possibility is that the Magi started out not at the NATIVITY but at the ANNUNCIATION and in fact arrived in time for the 1st Christmas. The star cluster M 44 (NGC 2632) was sometimes known (at least in Greek, but remember Alexander had already been to Babylon) as the Manger. An odd sky event representing "the King" in Cancer could be an omen that read "the King is in the Manger", which would have seemed meaningless -- until they saw that it was literally fulfilled at one "house". Of course, this is just one possibility, and a long shot at that.

As for Venus, the Babylonians may not have noted the regularity in the behavior of Venus -- though I suspect they did -- but the Maya, using no more technology than the Babylonians had, were able to predict the motion of Venus with great accuracy.


Another account worth reading is "The Star of Bethlehem" by Craig Chester, a co-founder and past president of the Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy.

You can read it here:

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