Tag Archives: Wise Men

The Star of Bethlehem or the Star of Jacob? A Forgotten Prophecy

by Rev. Dr. Eugen J. Pentiuc

This essay was first published on the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

the three wise men
Image: The Three Wise Men Following the Star, Byzantine mosaic, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravena, 6th century A.D.

Nearly every year during the Nativity season printed journals and articles posted online flood us with the same resounding question: “What Was the Star of Bethlehem?”

Among the four canonical gospels, Matthew is the only one that mentions the “star of Bethlehem.”

“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage’” (Matthew 2:1–2). Having learned from priests and scribes that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, king Herod sent the magi to Bethlehem. “And they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:9–11).

Not a few Christmas-triggered articles compete with one another seeking either to dismiss the historicity of the event or to find the best much for the “star of Bethlehem” among several scientifically proved celestial phenomena that have occurred between the years 6 B.C. and 4 A.D. the putative period during which the birth of our Lord is placed based on internal evidence (the closeness of Jesus’s birth to King Herod’s death) and external evidence (King Herod’s death in 4 B.C.)

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