Part Two: Ancient Lands & Beliefs
The Christmas Star…
Gods Ruled Stars And Planets, Not Physics
(Part 2 of 3)
Gospel according to Matthew:
9 When the Wise Men had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the Star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
10 When they saw the Star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
A couple short sentences in the Bible illuminate the most celebrated star in history, the Star of Bethlehem.
Twenty Centuries after the birth of the Christian Messiah, just exactly what the Star of Bethlehem actually was remains one of astronomy’s biggest mysteries.
Astronomers know it wasn’t a comet, a meteor, or a supernova. What it probably was involves the movements of the brightest planets Jupiter and Venus as watched by the ancient stargazers.
Those ancient stargazers were part Astrologers, part Astronomers and part Mystics. They were probably Zoroastrian Priests from Persia, and we know them as the Magi, or Wise Men. And they had something very amazing to watch in the years preceding the birth of Jesus Christ.
In fact, from 4 BC to 2 BC, the planets Jupiter, thought to be the King of the Gods, Venus, the goddess of fertility, and Mercury, the messenger, played tag in the feet of Leo the Lion and its regal star, Regulus.
The 21st Century battleground of Iran and Iraq is where the drama of the Star of Bethlehem is carefully watched thousands of years ago. The same stars were seen all over the Northern Hemisphere, but it is in the “Cradle of Civilization” where the legends of the night sky were born. Called Sumaria, Mesopotamia, Babylon and Shinar, these forgotten civilizations are where man’s curious mind began to be nourished by people we know very little about.
The recorded history of the Shinar Plains began about 2,500 BC when the Akkadians and their king, Sargon, ruled from 2371 BC to 2316 BC. A Moses-like ruler, Sargon, loved the heavens and ordered his priests to make constant observations and make records. The royal astronomer, Bel, wrote volumes on his observations, based on the earlier Sumerians works.
A hundred years after the death of Sargon, the Sumerians regained power, and under the dynasty of King Ur, the former glory of the arts and sciences were restored.
Finally, the Plains of Shinar were occupied by the peoples of the Syrian and Arabian deserts, the Amorites. They had a king named Hammurabi who reigned from 1792 BC to 1750 BC, and he is mentioned in Genesis as Amraphel, king of Shinar.
Hammurabi built a fabulous city near the present day Baghdad—the legendary Babylon. The famous gardens, the beautiful buildings and the symbol writing called “cuneiform” were some of the legacies of this intelligent civilization.
The priests of Babylon had more power than any such servants in previous history. And none had more power or access to royalty than the priest-stargazers.
The sacred duty of these priest-stargazers was to survey the stars and predict any events they foretold the welfare of the king and the empire. Babylon became the center for astronomical studies in the world. And the early Biblical stories of Genesis center on the Shinar Plains and another great city, Ur.
In the Bible, Abram was born, supposedly under the appearance of a bright comet. He refused to worship the stars as Gods, and sought a covenant more worthy. He was rewarded when the angel Gabriel appeared and told Abram about the one true God.
Abram made a covenant with God, and his name was changed to Abraham. He would be the father of the descendants of the long history of the Hebrews, also known as the Israelites and the Jews. Bible study refers to them as the Children of Abraham, and their beginnings are in the Plains of Shinar.
And this sets the stage for the Star of Bethlehem, the most famous star of history. This celestial symbol was the inspiration for a group of Wise Men, or Magi to travel a great distance to pay respects to a baby, born into poverty but destine to rule the world.
Who were the Wise Men, and what did they see?
It is in the story of the Plains of Shinar that the Biblical miracle of the Christmas Star is made clear as a sign in the sky that only a chosen few could have interpreted.
One of the mysteries of the “Star of Bethlehem,” as only described in the Gospel of Matthew, is that no common person saw it. No shepherds, no innkeepers, no politicians or housewives.
The Bible says that even King Herod didn’t see it—that’s why he summoned the Wise Men to his throne. Herod wanted the Wise Men to tell him where to look.
Therefore, the Christmas card image of a brilliant star shining down on the nativity like a search beacon is an artistic, not factual, concoction.
Natural sky phenomenon like an exploding star, called a supernova, or a comet would have been recorded in history. And there aren’t any comets or “new stars” mentioned in the 25-50 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Commonly seen bright meteors or a “shooting star” didn’t last that long. So, none of these could be the famous star.
The Star of Bethlehem was something in the sky that needed interpretation, and the only people allowed to “read” the horoscope of the starry night were special scholars.
We’ve established that throughout history there have been Priest-Stargazers revered for the forecasts they provided kings about business fortune, war and love.
These ancient stargazers carefully watched the star patterns over the Plains of Shinar, and noted the movements of the five naked-eye planets, the Sun and the Moon.
Those Shinar Plains were the homeland of the Old Testament “Children of Abraham,” God’s chosen people, according to the Bible. The stories of the Hebrews’ struggles, and the Biblical Old Testament prediction of a Messiah for the Children of Abraham would be well known by all men of wisdom in the Fertile Crescent and beyond.
In fact, Persian priests for the religion of Zoroaster spent hundreds of years searching the skies for signs that a Hebrew king would be born and rule the region. This was an obsession with the Priest-Stargazers of the empires of the Persian lands, as they believed the future was in the stars.
In the Old Testament, the Children of Abraham have well documented stories of the trials of their epic existence. As sung about in Psalm 137, their home is Babylon.
In the Book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar sent for the Chaldeans to interpret his dreams. In Babylon, the name “Chaldean” had a second meaning—“wise men.”
Shortly after the time of Daniel, the Fertile Crescent was again conquered, this time by Cyrus the Persian in 539 BC.
The Persian Stargazers were also priests who were known for their deep religious knowledge. They would be looking for signs of the Old Testament Hebrew Messiah. Another name for these Persian priest-astrologers was “Magi.”
Cyrus freed the Children of Abraham, and they returned to Jerusalem, 800 miles away, to rebuild their nation. Then they are forgotten in the Bible for 400 years.
The excluded Bible books, The Apocrypha, document some of this history of Abraham’s people during what is called the Silent Years.
The New Testament account of Jesus’ birth is a time of the Roman Empire’s peak, the 750th year of its founding, and the 25th year of Caesar Augustus being crowned Emperor. A coin minted in 4 BC commemorates the quarter century of Augustus’ rule. Bible scholars point to this historic event as the reason for the special tax that Joseph and pregnant Mary had to pay, thus Luke’s account of them traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
Meanwhile, the science of astronomy was changing during the centuries before Jesus. The stargazers of Greece, who were philosophers and not priests, were beginning to comprehend the physical Universe.
From 500-325 BC, such great Greek thinkers as Thales, Plato and Aristotle put the facts back into astronomy, and steered clear of the sooth-saying of astrology.
Then came Alexander the Great, who lived from 356-323 BC, just 33 years, like Jesus. He literally conquered the world, and the great library of the Egyptian city, Alexandria, stored the latest sky charts and concepts as recorded by the great Greek astronomers. The observations from the Shinar Plains and all the knowledge of the Priest-Stargazers were integrated in the works of the great Greek thinkers.
Unfortunately, the Romans, who wanted to claim the knowledge of the skies for their own, destroyed that library in Alexandria, containing some of the world’s greatest treasures from ancient civilizations.
And so it was that the Greek and Roman cultures intermingled with the science of the ancient Shinar Plains. The concepts were often wrong, but astrology kept Priest-Stargazers busy with horoscopes for their Kings. And a prediction in the stars was soon to change the history of the humanity.
NEXT WEEK THE CONCLUSION:
What the Magi Saw