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The Star of Bethlehem: Science, History, and Meaning

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ISBN: 9781683592846
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Star of Wonder

Discover the ancient meaning of the star of wonder.

The Star of Bethlehem is one of the most recognizable elements of the Christmas story and yet its true nature and meaning are shrouded in mystery. This celestial sign captured the attention of the Magi and frightened a king and yet its ancient significance is often lost on modern readers. Furthermore, the astronomical identity of the Star of Bethlehem has captivated and confounded for millennia.

In Star of Bethlehem, Michael Pettem combines a modern scientific understanding of stellar phenomena with a fascinating account of ancient astronomy and history to illuminate this key biblical event. He identifies what the Star of Bethlehem may have been and how various ancient cultures would have interpreted its appearance. Then, drawing on the Gospel of Matthew as his guide, he explores the Star’s theological significance, helping us understand how early Christians would have understood this important symbol.

Top Highlights

“The appearance of a comet in the first century bc would have led Hellenistic astrologers or laymen to expect the death of a king rather than the birth of a king.” (source)

“The host of heaven,’ which will be discussed shortly, is one of the most common terms for stars” (source)

“In the sixth century, the monk Dionysius Exeguus worked on the traditional Christian task of setting the dates for the celebration of Easter. He became increasingly uncomfortable about using the official dating system of his day. He therefore set about to calculate the date of the conception of Jesus, for him the appropriate reference point for dating the celebration of Easter. His system caught on quickly in Italy, but Charlemagne (742 or 743 to 814) is said to have been the first major ruler to follow this calendar.” (source)

“Clark and Stephenson argue that to be considered as a possible supernova, the new light should last at least forty days. The 5 bc appearance lasted more than seventy days. And unlike comets, supernovas do not move against the background of the fixed stars. The annals do not record any movement of the new light of 5 bc. Thus, according to the research of Clark and Stephenson published in 1977, the new light of 5 bc might be considered as a possible supernova.” (source)

“But if Herod thought it necessary to kill children born over a two-year period in order to find a very young child, he must have known that the Magi’s star did not give the exact date of the child’s birth. In other words, unlike many modern interpreters, Herod understood that the Magi were not talking about a Hellenistic horoscope.” (source)

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Was the Star of Bethlehem a Supernova?
  • When Did the Star Appear?
  • Was the Star of Bethlehem a Comet?
  • Babylon the Great
  • Candidate for the Star: Nova or Variable Star
  • Astrology in Ancient Babylonia
  • Astrology Comes to the Greek World
  • The Path of Planets, the Music of the Spheres
  • Candidate for the Star: Jupiter Occulted by the Moon
  • Babylonian Astrology and Parthian Magi
  • Candidate for the Star: Jupiter Takes the Hand of Saturn
  • Three Points of Agreement in the First Century
  • Stars in the Bible
  • The Gospel of Matthew Prepared for Its First Audience
  • The Gospel of Matthew and the Star’s Knowledge
  • The Star, Luke, and Ignatius
  • The Meaning of the Star
  • An Imagined Story of the Star of Bethlehem

Product Details

  • Title: The Star of Bethlehem: Science, History, and Meaning
  • Author: Michael Pettem
  • Publisher: Lexham Press
  • Publication Date: 2018
  • Page Count: 192
  • Format: Logos Digital

About Michael Pettem

Michael Pettem (PhD, McGill University) is Clerk of the Presbytery of Montreal, Presbyterian Church in Canada. He has had a long-standing interest in astronomy and science. Before receiving his doctorate in Religious Studies, he studied physics at the Univeristy of Toronto.

Reviews

4 ratings

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  1. Marco Ceccarelli
    Does it have page numbers?
  2. Forrest Cole

    Forrest Cole

    11/9/2021

  3. James Barbouletos
    It's ok. Provides some excellent historical and cultural insight in the opening chapters. However, about half way through the book becomes very wordy and redundant at times. You keep waiting for the 'big unveiling" of what he thinks the star was but it doesn't really come. He spends the last few chapters speculating on the influence of the "Q gospel" in the star narrative and rejects that Matthew wrote the gospel of Matthew. I started interested and finished disappointed.
  4. Pierre Nicole

    Pierre Nicole

    12/15/2018

    Excellent travail de recherche et de rédaction. Bravo !
  5. Jamin Bradley

    Jamin Bradley

    12/9/2018

Save on Lexham during Logos Blue Friday!

$6.00

Regular price: $11.99
Save $5.99 (50%)