Written by Fredric L. Rice. Released August 1985. 1:102/890
Original reference material may be found at Griffith Observatory,
located at 2800 East Observatorty Road, Los Angeles, California.
90027. Request back issue of Griffith Observer, December 1890,
page 9, for Ronald A. Oriti, "The Star of Bethlehem". Direct
requests to Dr. Edwin C. Krupp and staff. You may aquire
subscriptions to the Griffith Observer through the same address.
I* provide* B grea* quantit. o* understandabl* informatio*
concernin* astronomy, (And is well worth the price!)
Perhaps the greatest asked question concerning the brith of
Chist is an astrological event described in the New Testament. The
Star of Bethlehem has been questioned and researched by many
science and astrological groups with widely differing opinions. We
might even say we may never know.
Here is an opinion held by many as the to explination for the
Star of Bethlehem. Though what is contained herein does not in any
way mean it's the actual truth, it is what scientist have that
fits the facts.
During the rein of the Romans, a calendar was used based upon
the founding of the city of Rome. The Romans defined this year as
year 1 A.U.C, or "ab urbe condita" which means "from the founding
of the city". The Romans did not have the concept of zeros at the
time Rome was founded. (It was to be thought of by the Arabs much
The calendar was changed more than 500 years after Christ had
been killed, and the new calendar was based upon his birth.
Dionysius Exiguus changed the calendar in the year 533 A.D. He had
researched his records to determine the year of Christs birth and
had found a statement made by Clement of Alexandria which said
that Christ was born during the 28'th year of the rein of Augustus
Caesar. Augustus was proclaimed Emperor in the year of 726 A.U.C.
so he added 28 years to it giving the year 754 A.U.C. as the birth
year of Christ. This year he called 1 A.D.
Dionysius was unawair that Augustus had ruled under the name of
Octavian for four years before the title of Augustus was given to
him by the Roman Senate. For this reason, we would need to
subtract four years from his calendar to find the correct birth
year. This would turn out to be 4 B.C., or the year 750 A.U.C.
This is fine if you want to rely on historical records, which
at that time were hundreds of years old, to be free from error.
These records were hand written and could not be photocopied.
The New Testament in Matthew says that Christ was born in the
days of Herod. Josephus who lived in the first century said that
Herod died a few days after an eclipse of the moon visible in
Jerico a few days before the Passover. This date can be calculated
with a good deal of accuracy to an eclipse on March 13, 4 B.C.
Passover was on April 12'th. Herod, then, died somewhere around
the first of April, 4 B.C.
Remember that Christs parrents were required to pay their taxes
in the city of Bethlehem. There are three major tax collections
recorded on the walls of temples in Ankara, Turkey. They were 28
B.C., which is too early for our tax collection year, 8 B.C., and
14 A.D, which is too late). This leaves us with the major tax
collection year of 8 B.C. This lands us close to the 4 B.C. that
agrees with our other information.
The month and day can not be infered from any information we
can piece together at the moment, yet we do know that early
Christians celebrated the birth of Christ on December 25'th
because that day was a holiday for the Romans who used to feed the
Early Christians to lions, (December 25'th was the Winter Solstice
during that time. The daylight hours start to grow longer).
If you would like to narrow the month down a little, you might
look again at the Bible at Luke which states that the shepherds
were guiding their flock by night. It was the practice of the time
to guard flocks during the time of year that the lambs were giving
So there we have it. We might be looking at the spring of 6 A.D
or 7 A.D., (A year or two before the taxes were due). We must then
discover an astrological event that occured sometime around these
Fireballs, comets, eclipes, all of these were known to the
peoples of Earth, in the East and in the West. For this reason, we
can exclude these type of astrological events. If every time a
a comet was seen in the skys, we would have wise men seeking
We can assume that the "Three Wise Men" were astrologers. Who
else would be able to detect an event in the heavens that
described the location of the King of the Jews?
Astronomers have determine the planetary posistions for the
suspect years and the results were quite interesting.
Calculations show that on May 27'th, 7 B.C., Jupiter passed
within one degree North of Saturn, falling into the same celestial
longitude and were therefore in conjunction. This is expected to
happen once in about 20 years.
This particular conjunction occured in the constellation of
Pisces. In those days, Pisces was thought of as the "Hebrew Sign".
Saturn was also thought of as the "Hebrew Wanderer". This made the
conjunction very important for the Jewish people.
The Magi might have read this conjunction as a sign that a
great man was to be born to the Jews. Stellar events were not over
with yet, though, more important movements in the skys further
enforced this belief.
After passing Saturn, Jupiter began to slow down, and on the
15'th of July, it stopped. Then it began to back up and passed
Saturn for a third time! (Backwards motion as seen from the Earth
is known as Retrograde Motion). The second passing had taken place
on the 5'th of October.
Twice! This was indeed a great man being born.
Retrograde mostion ended and Jupiter began to process forward
again on November 10'th. Once again Jupiter passed Saturn on
Three passes of Saturn in one year, and all in Pisces! Further,
in Febuary of 6 B.C., Mars came into the picture and joined the
conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. Three planets in Pisces the
Hebrew sign, and three passes of Jupiter, (are these three planets
and passes the reason for describing three wise men?), all within
the same year! Let's go find this great Jew!
You can ignore all of these facts as conjecture and guess work,
because that's what they really are. We do know that the three
conjunctions did take place, and in Pisces. Whether this is enough
to cause astrologers to look for Jeasus is unknown. In the end, it
is you, reader, who has to weigh the facts and believe what you
1) The first conjunction of 27'th of May, 7 B.C., would have been
visible from the East in the morning.
2) The second conjunction of October 5'th would have been visible
in the South at midnight.
3) The third conjunction of December 1'st, 6 B.C. would have been
visible in the West before sunset.
4) It is said that the Star of Bethlehem moved to stand over the
spot where the King of the Jews was to be born. Taking into
account the previous three items of additional information, we
might say that the "Star" moved from the East to the West.
5) For clairification, the word "Star" may mean any astronomical
object, being one item or many. This is much the same as
describing fish. You may say, "See the fish?" and mean one or
several. "Star" can also be used to describe a conjunction of
stars or an Occultation of astronomical objects.
6) There are computer programs being marketed that will describe
the attributes of planetary objects for the astrologer. Though
I must admit, I wouldn't spend a cent on an astrology package,
these would offer accurate posistionings. There are Public
domain software packages that do the same thing, yet at a less
than highly accurate result.
7) If you would like to write your own rograms for figuring
planetary posistions, the library will contain books with the
required formula and tables. There are also several books in
print that offer the astronomer and astrologer BASIC programs,
though again I wouldn't spend a cent on them!
1) If interested, read the Bible. Matthew and Luke offer the best
information available to the common questioner of the Star of
Bethlehem. Additional interesting mythological information can
be found by looking up the fall of the city of Jerico.
Rev Fredric Rice.