Its that time of year where there are a plethora of predictable items on blogs, science sites and in the news about what precisely it was that the wise men saw on in the story of Christ’s birth.
Most stories focus on the speculation of what it could possibly be. A conjunction? A supernova? A meteor? More religious commentaries might mention something more supernatural in nature that’s not explained scientifically.
There is however one little aspect of the star story that has bothered me for some time and I have yet to see its mentioned specifically in any speculation. That is this; how on earth do you identify which building a celestial body is over? Its frankly not possible. If I look at the night sky from my back garden and look at the stars, pick the brightest one and follow it down, I might identify a house a few roads away. However, if I go to that house and look up at the star again, it in no way identifies that house anymore. So this game would continue with any star that I picked in the sky. It is just not possible to identify any particular building as being directly below any star up there.
The reason for this is simple, the distance the stars are from earth is so great that the triangulation required to identify any specific point on earth by eye is not possible. Add into that the fact the earth’s rotation would mean that any identified property would change every few minutes.
So judging the accuracy and validity of the star in the Christmas story by todays knowledge of astronomy basically makes it an impossible situation. There is simply no chance at all that people from miles away would have travelled to Bethlehem and identified the place where a baby was born simply through the position of a celestial object. We’ll ignore the small fact that this would also be future telling though astrology, something that Christendom overwhelmingly condemns these days.
For the Christmas Star, or Star of Bethlehem, or whatever you wish to call it, to be a true event, something supernatural would have had to have happened. I would also expect this to have therefore been a much more shocking event and one that would have generated far more interest than just the three wise men mentioned. Also I would expect it to have been mentioned in other places and not just Matthew.
Scientific speculation aside, I simply can’t see how this account of the birth of Jesus being marked in the stars as being credible or possible.