Thursday, December 30, 2010

When did the star first appear to the Magi?

The Feast of the Epiphany, Matthew 2:1-12
Behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” […] Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
We have already discussed the chronology of the events surrounding the Savior’s birth, yet we subtly avoided a most difficult question regarding the feast of the Epiphany – When did the star first appear to the Magi? This is connected with an additional inquiry regarding the time at which the Magi set out from their home country and the length of their travel to Bethlehem. Finally, as we will see, the massacre of the Holy Innocents seems to be related to the time of the appearance of the star.
First, we might ask a most practical question: What does it matter when the star appeared? Why should we be concerned at all to determine the time of the star’s appearance or the duration of the Magi’s journey? To this we respond that it will be good to know when the star appeared, because this will indicate something about the order of the manifestation of the Christ. If, for example, we were to conclude that the star appeared to the Magi two years before the birth of Christ (something which many modern scholars presume), we would have to admit that the Magi received the astronomical salutation before the Blessed Virgin had received the Angelic Salutation – is this fitting?
Moreover, we must say that, even prescinding from the practical value of this question, there is great spiritual value to pondering the events surrounding the Nativity. In much the same manner as St. Ignatius Loyola, who traveled to the hills around Jerusalem with hope of discovering which way Christ was looking as he ascended into heaven, we now will seek to glean from the biblical text some indication of the time in which the star was seen by the Magi.

The biblical account (collected from Matthew and Luke)
And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. And all went to be enrolled, everyone into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them; And sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child. And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him.
And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord. And after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their city Nazareth.
And after they [i.e. the Magi] were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. Joseph arose, and took the child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt.
Then Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
The Magi must have arrived shortly after Christ’s Nativity
There are several points which must be recalled from the biblical narrative: The Magi visit Christ in Bethlehem; the Magi visit Christ in what Matthew calls a “home,” which may be different from the “stable” where Luke states the Child was born; after the Presentation in the Temple (forty days after the Birth), Luke tells us that Jesus was taken to Nazareth; it seems that Joseph took his family to Egypt fairly soon after the Magi departed; when Herod realized he was deceived he had the children in Bethlehem and the surrounding towns killed.
In the previous article, we have seen that the Child was born in a stable and adored that night by the shepherds. However, the Magi probably came shortly later, after the Holy Family had received hospitality in some home in Bethlehem (hence, Matthew speaks of a house). Thus, we can be reasonably certain that the Magi came to Bethlehem at least a day or two after the Nativity. However, it is most certain that they did not come any later than forty days after Christ’s birth, since then the Holy Family would not be in Bethlehem, but in Nazareth (since Luke states that they returned to Nazareth after the Presentation in the Temple which, according to the Law, took place forty days after birth). Hence, we can reasonably conclude that the Magi arrived in Bethlehem somewhere between the second and the fortieth day after Christmas – why not accept the tradition of the thirteenth day?
The star appeared on the day of the Nativity
St. Thomas knew of two opinions about the apparition of the star seen by the Magi: Chrysostom (or the author of the Opus Imperfectum in Mtt.) and Augustine seem to state that the star was first seen by the Magi two full years before the birth of Christ, and that it took these two years for the wise men to make the journey and arrive in Bethlehem (on the thirteenth day after the birth).
On the other hand, St. Thomas mentions “others” who hold that the star first appeared only when Christ was born. According to this opinion, the Magi set off on their journey only on the day of the Nativity and were able to travel a long distance “owing partly to the Divine assistance, and partly to the fleetness of the dromedaries.” This is Thomas’ own opinion (ST III, q.36, a.6, ad 3).
Yet, it may be the case that the star appeared on Christmas day and the Magi arrived thirteen days later on account of the fact that they were not from the far East, but only from a nation a little to the east of Israel – this is the opinion of Cornelius a’ Lapide, and I share it as well.
A good reason to maintain that the star had not appeared to the Magi until the time of Christ’s birth is that, on the presumption that the Magi saw the star two years before the Nativity, the Magi would have learned of the Incarnation even before the Blessed Virgin Mary had! How strange this would be, for the Magi to know of the coming of the King before even the Mother!
Moreover, it seems that Christ should not have been made manifest to the world until after his birth, for until the Nativity he was hidden in the virginal cloister of his Mother’s womb. It is for this reason that the Nativity is celebrated with greater solemnity than the Annunciation (the Incarnation) – it was only in the Nativity that God’s Love was revealed openly to the world. Hence, Christ should first come into the world openly (by his birth) before he is manifested to the wise men. Therefore, we ought to conclude, as a matter of fittingness, that the wise men did not see the star until the very night of the Nativity. In this way also, Christ’s birth was heralded first to the Jews (to the shepherds) and then to the Gentiles (to the Magi).
The massacre of the Holy Innocents seems to have been nearly two years after the first Christmas
The primary reason why some (both of the past and of the present) hold that the star appeared two full years before the Nativity is based on the following line from Matthew 2:16, “Then Herod killed all the men children from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.” This time inquired from the wise men seems to refer to Matthew 2:7, “Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of the time of the star which appeared to them.” Hence, it is quite clear that Herod’s massacre of the Innocents was determined (in relation to the age of the children killed) by the time when first the Magi saw the star. The slaughter takes place about two years after the star first appeared.
However, while it seems that we ought to maintain that the star had indeed appeared two years before the slaughtering of the Innocents, this does not determine the relation of the appearance of the star to the Nativity. For indeed, it is quite possible that the slaughtering of the Innocents did not occur until nearly two years after the Nativity. In which case, the star would have first appeared on the night in which Christ was born; and Herod would have (over a year later) killed the children of two years, since he knew that the Child could not be older than the star which marked his birth.
If we were to only have Matthew’s account of the Nativity, we could easily be led to think that Joseph and his family fled to Egypt immediately after the Magi left. This, however, seems most improbable, since we know that they first went to the Temple for Mary’s purification (forty days after the Nativity) – and from here, they returned to Nazareth, as Luke tells us. Thus, we must understand Matthew to mean simply that sometime after the Magi life, but not necessarily immediately after they left, Joseph took his wife and the Child and fled to Egypt.
Now Herod did not immediately slaughter the Innocents either – but seems to have waited nearly two full years. And the reason for this delay is that he first thought nothing of the account which the Magi had given him, but presumed that they could not find any child and had not returned to him on account of being humiliated in having misinterpreted the star. However, after some time, Herod learned of how the shepherds had come to adore the Child and also of the rejoicing of Simeon and Anna. Yet, Herod had great difficulty in maintaining order in his kingdom (as is well known from secular history) — thus, he was slow to act against the Christ Child, for he knew that the massacre he had in mind could possibly start a revolt. After two full years, when he was in better standing with Caesar Augustus and had greater control of the district of Judea, Herod accomplished his evil scheme, killing all the children two years and under, since it had been two years since the star had passed.
A Chronology
Day 1: Christ is born. The angel addresses the shepherds. The shepherds come to the stable. The star first appears to the Magi.
Day 8: Christ is circumcised in a private home into which Mary and Joseph had been received.
Day 13: The Magi arrive in Bethlehem and adore Christ in the house where the Holy Family temporarily resides.
Day 40: The Presentation in the Temple. Then the Holy Family goes to Nazareth.
Perhaps a year later: Herod realizes he has been fooled and desires to kill the Child, but he cannot yet act on his desire. The angel tells Joseph to flee. The Holy Family flees into Egypt.
Nearly two years later: Herod gains enough power and control to murder the Innocents and also to quell any revolt which may come up.
Several years later (but before the Christ is twelve): Herod dies and the Holy Family returns to Nazareth.


Jill said...

You really should look at for astounding astronomical and scriptural confirmation.

Rick Lawson, a lawyer, has done an outstanding job using star software that can pinpoint the location of the stars at any time.

ETWN showed a lecture of his outlining his findings a couple of days ago

Michael said...

I've never heard of this explanation before, but it certainly makes a lot of sense. Previously I had only been acquainted with the explanation of the Catholic Encyclopedia (Magi).

Essentially this other theory is: After the Presentation, the Holy Family went to Nazareth as St. Luke said. At some later point they returned to Bethlehem where, about two years after the birth of Christ the Magi found him. The flight to Egypt and the massacre of the Innocents would have occurred more or less immediately after the visit of the Magi.

Since the Magi would have seen the star on or after the first Christmas, there is no problem with it being unfitting that the Magi know about the birth of Christ before His Mother. And, depending on the time between their first seeing the star and their arrival, it is still possible that they came from far in the East as is traditional.

Of particular interest, I thought, in Encyclopedia article was: "Only one early monument represents the Child in the crib while the Magi adore; in others Jesus rests upon Mary's knees and is at times fairly well grown."

Not that I'm saying I think your explanation is wrong, because it fits the facts excellently. Quite honestly, I don't know which theory I prefer.

Anonymous said...

This line from the New American Bible must be included in any explanation about the birth of Christ, "After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star." The star seems to move and then stop. Who can see it?---Those that are looking for Christ with a "catholic" heart? Maybe the "star" is still a mystery.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

ronconte, Thanks for the additional point of view from Bl. Anne Catherine.
I am not too comfortable with the idea that the star was a comet though ... the Fathers and Doctors are generally of the opinion that it was a new star created specifically for this one purpose (hence it does not move in the pattern of the other stars or of the comets). There is of course, room for diversity on this point.

@Jill, I have seen that website before ... it looks very interesting.
I am, however, of the opinion that the star was created specifically for the purpose of leading the Magi and that, after this, it disappeared. Thus, it would not be traceable by astronomy.
This is the opinion of St. Thomas and Cornelius a'Lapide ... but there is room for diversity on this point.

@Anonymous (7:37pm), A nice couple of words from the NAB.
However, are you suggesting that the star could not be seen by anyone other than the Magi? Or even that it was not a star at all, but simply a vision given to the Magi? To me, this would seem unlikely ...

Andrew said...

Thanks for the interesting post.

However, one part of your chronology doesn't quite make sense to me: Why would the angel tell Joseph to flee to Egypt around the time of the slaughtering of the Innocents if, at that time, the Holy Family were already in Nazareth (a good distance away from Bethlehem)? It seems that the slaughter of the Innocents had to have taken place when the Holy Family was still in Bethlehem - otherwise, they would have had no reason to flee (seeing as Herod's slaughter was limited to Bethlehem and the nearby area, as Matthew tells us).

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Michael, I am actually not too pleased with the commentary from the Catholic Encyclopedia ... it dismisses the tradition (and especially St. Augustine) in a very off-handed manner.

While I do find it interesting that Christ is often depicted as a few months old rather than as an infant, in the images of the Adoration of the Magi; I still would object to arguing that they came after several months or years.

St. Thomas seems to think that it would be unbecoming that Christ should be made known to the gentiles so long after his birth.

I guess the main problem I have with the Cath. Encyclopedia article is that it doesn't give any evidence that the view has any basis in the interpretations given by the Fathers of the Church. Any time someone starts interpreting Scripture without referencing the Tradition, I think we have a problem.

All that being said, you make a couple of real good points:
1) This theory would at least maintain that the star did not appear until the Nativity.
2) This theory also allows for the Magi to have come from the far East (though I actually agree with Jerome in thinking that they came from a neighboring country).
3) This theory helps to account for the fact that children 2 years old were slaughtered.
4) Finally, this theory allows us to maintain that Joseph fled right after the Magi left (which seems to be implied by Matthew).
[on the other hand, Matthew also seems to imply that the Magi arrived in Bethlehem shortly after the birth...]

In any case, there is certainly great room for diversity of opinion on this matter. Thank you for offering this additional explanation!

Christmas blessings to you!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You are correct, there is a difficulty to maintaining that the flight left from Nazareth.

However, I think you can see the dilemma involved in thinking that they fled from Bethlehem: Luke tells us that after the presentation in the Temple, the Holy Family returned to Nazareth. We can be certain that the presentation occurred before the flight to Egypt, so it is almost certain that Joseph received the dream in Nazareth.

Now, the reason why the angel still told them to flee from Nazareth to Egypt is this: Herod was consumed with his rage and desired to search out the Child. After he slaughtered all those Infants in Bethlehem, he searched through all of Israel (including Galilee) to see if the Child had perchance escaped to another city.
It is likely (according to Lapide) that John the Baptist had to be hidden in the desert at this time (when he was only about 2 years old), so as to avoid the people sent from Herod. [John lived near Jerusalem, but his city did not neighbor Bethlehem]

For this reason Joseph took Jesus and Mary to Egypt -- though the slaughtering took place in Bethlehem, not even Galilee was safe from the murderous plots of Herod.

I hope that this makes sense -- I say it not as dogma, but as speculation (based on the Fathers and Doctors).

Peace to you!

Wild Bill said...

Fr. Reginaldus, further evidence for the sequence you present. From Luke 2:22-24, they brought an offering of two turtledoves or two young pigeons. These are minimal, offerings acceptable only from the poor. The Magi's gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were great riches; they would have been obligated for a greater offering and I'm certain Joseph would have given it without hesitation. So the Purification must have come before the visit of the Magi.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Wild Bill,
Thank you for the additional reflection!
Actually, this would be evidence against the sequence which I want to maintain -- for I want to say that the Magi came 13 days after the birth and that the purification happened 40 days after the Nativity.

I would argue that the Holy Family didn't offer the greater offerings because these were given to signify spiritual gifts and so did not obligate Joseph to offer anything more than 2 turtledoves or 2 pigeons.

Nevertheless, thanks for joining the discussion. It is good for us to think about these things in common -- and then to take it all back to prayer.

Stormy said...

Michael Molnar's book, The Star of Bethlehem, to me is the most believable and plausible explanation of the star of Bethlehem. He has a web site at

One reviewer wrote:
The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi has stunning new insight and approach, which finally gives a confident answer to a question that has fascinated all Christians through the ages. ... don't buy any other book on the Star of Bethlehem, because the old astronomical views are guaranteed to be irrelevant." — Prof. Bradley E. Schaefer, Yale University

(Happy New Year)

Msgr. Pope said...

I wonder if it is necessary to try and weave Luke's account of the return to Nazareth at all in setting the timing of the dream and the flight. Is it not possible that Luke chose not to treat of the flight ot Egpyt at all. He does not deny the trip but merely doesn't metion it since Matthew had already done that. Thus in saying that the Holy Family returned to Nazareth, this actually refers to their return there after returning from Egpyt.

It is a well attested fact that the Gospel writers often omitted even significant things covered by other Gospels either becuase it did not suit their purpose to include it or because others had. For example, Matt and Mark do not even mention the Jersalem resurrection appearances but send us right to Galilee whereas John and Luke DO include such appearances.

Hence would it not be possible to understand Luke's reference to the return to Nazareth as actually including ellipses (....) which are supplied by Matthew. Those ellipses would include the several year detour to Egpyt. This at least makes the iternary and time frame a little less busy since there are not all these side trips back and forth from Bethlehem to Nazareth and back.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Msgr., You are certainly correct in the idea that we have to infer some ellipses somewhere!
The interpretation I have preferred puts the "..." in Matthew's account, between the departure of the Magi and the flight into Egypt. You propose putting them into Luke's account between the purification of Mary and the return to Nazareth.

I suppose the difficulty with thinking that the slaughtering of the Innocents happened very shortly after the Nativity is that it is hard to understand why Herod killed the two year olds (unless the star had appeared two years before Christ's birth, which I argue against in the article).

If, on the other hand, the massacre happened about two years after the first Christmas, then it is more likely that the Holy Family returned to Nazareth after the Presentation and remained there for some time before the angel came to Joseph in the dream and they fled to Egypt.

Or, to offer yet another possibility, we might say that the Holy Family fled immediately after the Presentation (taking your ellipses), but also maintain that the massacre did not happen for nearly two years (thereby explaining why the two year olds were killed).

Many many possibilities... So long as we affirm the historicity of the Gospels (and ground ourselves in some manner in the tradition of the Fathers and Doctors) I am very open to any explanation.

Christmas and Epiphany blessings to you!

Anonymous said...

Dear Reginaldus, I dont' know who could have seen the star. I put question marks after my statements.

I listen to the homilies from the Priests. I can't quote Father Rudolfo Llamas exactly (He may be at St. Joe in Elk Grove CA), but he said the Magi lost track of the "star" when they went to the palace in Jerusalem. The Priest said the Magi were thinking like people looking for the Newborn King in a palace. God was born in a manager. The star reappeared when the Magi were back on track.

Please contact the Priest, I'm sure he would like to know his homilies reach hearts.

Father Llamas (like all Priests) said God's salvation is open to everyone. You get into Heaven by having a catholic heart...not by just sitting in the pew of a Catholic Church.

Love God...Love your neighbor. To combine a lot of homilies...there are a lot of paths to Heavven. But whatever path you are on, (in a God given way) Jesus Christ, Holy Mother our Church, and the Pope will be leading the way.

I'm just trying to explain "the catholic heart" statement as I heard it from various Priests. Anyone headed on the path to Heaven would not agrue with the Pope about moral truths!

If I sound confused, forgive me...I'm not a Priest.

Bernardus said...

Dear Fr. Reginaldus,
I think that none of the discussion as you have penned should be considered without some deep thought and a lot of intense consulting with the church fathers and doctors. I find the sublime nudging you do through your words very refreshing. It is a if a teacher is laying open an argument for debate stipulating proofs to support ones argument. Or proposing a hypothesis and offering the basis of proofs.
That being said, I submit:
(Biblical references Douay Rheims)
The prophecy of Balaam in Numbers xxiv 17.
The story of that prophecy occurring in the East (perhaps around Arabia).
The Evangelist stated they came from the East.
The authority of ancient Fathers (St. Justin, Tertullian, St. Cyprian, St. Epiphanius et al) agreeing the Magi came from Idumea and Arabia.
Psalm lxxi 15.
Is lx 6.
These Magi would have well known the prophecy of Balaam as it took place in a region of Arabia(Moab).

I cite all this from the text of "The Life and Glories of St. Joseph" by Edward Healy Thompson, Antonio Vitali, Father Jose Moreno and others.

Again I reflect that the scripture references alone call out for prayerful meditation on all that was foretold and then laid out in the Gospel; a lectio divina. The ancient Church Fathers and Doctors need due consideration in all thought of this.

My prayers are with you always. Please pray for me.

P.S. (I am sorry for asking) Are you of The Order of Preachers?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Bernardus (Ernie),
Thank you for mentioning Balaam! In fact, on the traditional feast of Epiphany (Jan 6th), I intend to write a short post about the relation of the Magi to Balaam. At that time I will also discuss whether the Magi came from the far East or simply from a country a little to the east of Israel.

You are reading great authors, keep it up!

In fact, I am a diocesan priest, though I have great love for the Order of Preachers. My own spirituality is more closely associated with the OSBs, but I am theologically a follower of the Dominican Thomists.

Blessings to you, and a happy new year in the Lord!

Anonymous said...

Why should be wondering when the Star first appeared. We only need its meaning. There are a lot of contradictions in the Bible if we read it as a historical book. In that sense we would have to throw it away; throw it out. We most read it for the sake of our Salvation since has been declared by the Church to be the Word of God. All that is contained in the Bible has a Christian meaning, a Christian true.
I firmly believe that G_d can do whatever he pleases and the Magi Start could have appeared two or more years before the Annunciation. We have to keep in mind always that in G_d there is no time. Time does not exists within Him.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous (6:19pm),
Please have the decency to at least leave some pen-name or tag or id or something, so that I don't have to respond to countless "anonymouses".

You say "there are a lot of contradictions in the Bible if we read it as a historical book" -- to that I reply that we must read the Bible as it presents itself. Sometimes it is telling us history (as in the Nativity story), other times it is using metaphor (as in the Genesis 1, according to Augustine).

There are, in fact, no contradictions in the Infancy Narratives present in Matthew and Luke -- we only need to read them with humility and an open mind.

Your comment adds nothing to this discussion ... you speak about what you "firmly believe" but offer no reason to accept your interpretation -- neither from Scripture nor from Tradition.

Your reasoning is convoluted, especially when you imply that since Scripture is given for our salvation, it therefore does not need to have any basis in history. But our salvation was worked out in history (though God is outside of time, he saves us within human history and time).
Thus, "Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold, that the four Gospels just named, WHOSE HISTORICAL CHARACTER THE CHURCH UNHESITATINGLY ASSERTS, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven." (Vatican II, Dei Verbum 19)

Dante said...

I don't see a problem with the magi observing the star 2 years prior. it does not mean they knew of the Incarnation before Our Lady; all theyknew what that it signaled the birth of a unique long-desired and awaited ruler. i find this no more of a "scoop" on Our Lady than any OT prophecy. It was simply a call, an invitation to begin their journey.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I am not saying that it absolutely had to be one way or the other ... I am only offering what seems to be the general opinion of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church [and on this point there is great diversity, and many possible options are open to us].

However, you must see that the appearance of the star is not the same as the OT prophecies ... for one thing, the star itself had been prophesied (by Balaam). Moreover, the star does not announce that the child IS GOING TO BE BORN, but that the child IS BORN -- this is quite clear from Matthew account, "when the Child was born..."

Finally, I would add that your own comment proves my point, you say: "All they (the Magi) knew was that it (the star) signaled the birth of" the Christ.
You yourself admit it, the star SIGNALED THE BIRTH of Christ! If it signaled the birth of Christ, it wold be very odd for it to have appeared before he was even conceived, let alone two years before he was born!

When we approach the Mysteries of Christ's life, we need more than our own reasoning -- we need to look at the Scriptures within the tradition of the Church.
So, simply stating "I don't see a problem with such and such" doesn't hold any water. I don't really care whether or not YOU see a problem! What I want to know is this: How has the Church (through her greatest saints and theologians) interpreted the passage.
This particular passage has been interpreted many ways (as I state very clearly in the article). There is great room for diversity.
But we need to take our cue from the tradition and not from mere personal sentiment...

Pat said...

Dear Father Reginaldus,

I'm the first anonymous at 12/31(7:37) and 1/1(1:31).
Thank you for being a Priest. I apologize for not leaving a name, and for not looking at the contributor page.
When a Priest speaks, I know to close my mouth and use my two ears.
I have a Rosary to finish. I have heard a lot of Priest say,"A Rosary a day helps keep the devil away". I'll include you and the other people here in my prayers.
Thank you once again for being a Priest. May God Bless you.
sincerely, Pat

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Blessings to you, especially on this feast of the Mother of God!
Indeed, the Rosary is that great weapon of spiritual warfare.

Also, please feel free to enter the discussion as you are able. I don't want my own opinion to dominate this blog, I only want to help to facilitate the discussion in charity.

Thank you for your prayers.

Mike said...

I became an amateur astronomer 25 years ago, and learned a lot about the night sky that is not obvious unless, like the ancients, one spends a good deal of time looking at the stars. At first I thought the statement that they saw his star "in the east" made no sense. Stars move all night, and if they are in the east at all it is only for a few hours, then they rise overhead and move to the west and set. But then I realized that, indeed, there are stars that are truly "in the east", and not all over the sky like that. "Morning stars" are what they are called. They rise in the east, shortly before morning, and then the daylight blocks them out. They only appear in the east.

They ancients looked for and observed nova -- new stars -- and made much of them. Also, comets might appear where there was nothing before. Either a nova or a comet, appears for the first time, and shows in the part of the sky just east of the sun, so it can be seen by those on earth just in the hour before dawn--- in the East. "We saw his star in the east." Newer versions translate it "at its rising". I like the old "in the east" better.

I tried to figure out, if a coment had thus appeared, could its trajectory have then moved so that it could have been 'followed' by the magi toward the west, which they obviously would have to do in order to come from the east to Jerusalem, but got lost in the physics.

Is it too mundane to suggest this this was an ordinary comet? God often uses the natural to accomplish the supernatural, so why not a 'regular coment' to inspire a search for his own coming into his world? He used ordinary straw for his own bed.

A little off the subject of when the star appeared, but I had to chime in.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I hope to make a post for Jan 6th on why it would seem that the star was indeed a newly created star (just for this one purpose) and not a comet or any other star which we now could track.

It is a point very open to diverse opinions -- I only hope to present the opinion of St. Thomas and Cornelius a' Lapide.
Rather than denying other options, I will attempt to give the reasons for my own opinion.

Marco da Vinha said...

Reginaldus, have you ever read "The Life of Christ", written by an Italian abbot, Ricciotti, in the 40's?
It is a very well written and sound book, IMO. If you want, I can give you what it says about the star (IIRC he mentions that the start was probably not some normal astronomical phenomenon, but of supernatural origin).

Interestingly enough, he gives an explanation as to why the Magi made the journey (i.e., why they would come to visit the King of the Jews). If they were in fact Zoroastrians, they were not into astrology for the same reasons as the Chaldeans (diving the future); in fact Zoroastrianismm condemns the practice. It seems they too were expecting a Saviour; even though Zoroastrianism is dualistisc, it seems the were waiting for a Saviour, who would be born of a virigin, who would help Good overcome. It would not be strange then for them to also be aware of the Jews expectations and also be on the lookout.

Post a Comment

When commenting, please leave a name or pseudonym at the end of your comment so as to facilitate communication and responses.

Comments must be approved by the moderator before being published.