In 2015 various posts on social media and new web sites reported that the so-called “Star of Bethlehem” was going to be seen and hadn’t been seen for 2,000 years. I hate to break it to you, but what the Magi saw was not a star, it was a star. Lem’me ‘splain.
The Magi were not astrologers, at least not exclusively. They were a caste of priests going at least as far back as the Babylonian Empire. In fact, the prophet Daniel was promoted to Chief Magi (Daniel 2:48). More on that later. One of the responsibilities of this priestly caste was to anoint the next king, much like the Archbishop of Canterbury does in jolly old England. They were king makers, along with being dream interpreters, sign-readers, and astrologers.
The Route of the Magi
In Matthew 1 and 2 we read that these Magi were in the east when they saw a star. They then followed the star from where they were to Jerusalem, and then to the specific house where the toddler Jesus and His family were living in Bethlehem. If they were following a literal star in the sky, like Venus and/or Jupiter in alignment, they would have walked in a straight line across an impassable wilderness from modern day Iraq to Israel. That would not have happened. They would have followed what is called the “fertile crescent” which followed the Tigris and Euphrates River valley north west, then over through Syria towards the Mediterranean, then down to Jerusalem. That would be like starting in Dallas, going to Salt Lake City, then down to Los Angeles (not to scale of course).
It says in Matthew 2 that the star stopped over the house where Jesus was. No star in space can do this. You could walk for hours and not be able to determine that a particular star in the sky is over a particular house. In scripture, “star” can be used as a symbol for an angel. Jesus is referred to as the Morning Star. A star fell from heaven in Revelation and it was clearly and angel of some sort.
Putting It All Together
A group of Magi, king makers, with an armed escort no doubt, who have this guy named Daniel in their lineage, who knew about Messiah and when He would be coming (Daniel 9:24-27), see what is most likely an angel appearing as a star (which is consistent with scripture), follow this star in a curved course cross-country, this star stops over a particular house, and these king makers give the King of Kings very kingly gifts.
All of the articles and posts are an opportunity to share the turn of God’s word. Jesus is the Messiah. He fulfilled specific prophecy by being born in Bethlehem at the right time, in the right place. The traditions surround His birth that are connected to Christmas confuse the Biblical facts. This really happened. Error is an opportunity to share truth. Jesus came, he died, He lives, so that we can be saved. Share the good news!