What was the star of Bethlehem?
Question: “What was the star of Bethlehem?”
Answer: The Star of Bethlehem is associated with the visit of the magi (wise men) from the East as recorded in Matthew 2:1-12. The text implies the Star appeared only to the magi in the East (the “East” most likely being the area of Persia, or modern-day Iran). There is no biblical record of anyone else observing this phenomenon. The magi saw something in the heavens that alerted them the Jewish Messiah was to be born (in Matthew 2:2 the magi refer to the star as being “His star”). The Star prompted them to travel to Jerusalem, the Jewish capital. This would be the logical place to start looking for the birth of the King of the Jews.
When the magi were told that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, not in Jerusalem, they left. Herod “sent them to Bethlehem” (Matthew 2:8). Upon their leaving Herod, the Star that appeared to them in the East re-appeared and led them to the place Joseph and Mary were then staying
(Matthew 2:9). Modern portrayals of the nativity scene show the wise men visiting Jesus on the night of His birth. That is likely not what truly occurred. The fact that Herod had all male babies two years old and under in Bethlehem killed (Matthew 2:16) indicates that up to two years had passed since the wise men saw the star – and possibly since Jesus’ birth.
The Greek word translated “young child” (Matthew 2:9) can mean anything from a newborn infant to a toddler – Jesus may have been as young as one day old when the magi visited, or He could have been as old as two years. Joseph and Mary almost surely stayed in Bethlehem until Mary could travel again. In fact, they probably stayed there for the 40 days necessary to complete Mary’s purification. From Bethlehem, they could easily make the five-mile trip to Jerusalem for the sacrifice for Mary’s purification (Luke 2:22). The fact that the magi came to a “house” (Matthew 2:11) rather than the stable makes sense because Joseph naturally would have moved his family to a more protected place as soon as possible – the morning after Jesus was born, in all probability.
The Greek word that is translated “star” in the text is the word aster, which is the normal word for a star or a celestial body. The word is used 24 times in the New Testament, and most of the time it refers to a celestial body…
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