Thursday, December 3, 2015

Star of Bethlehem - Wise men from the East

Early morning in Bethlehem 2015 Venus and Jupiter
Image ML
The Gospel of Matthew tells about wise men from East. None of the other four gospels mentions them.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.“‘

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Matthew 2:1-12 NIV
Three Kings
The fascinating story has grasped the interest of Christians from early on and many legends and additions have been interwoven into the basic text. The number three is from the presents. The story evolved in early Church and in Medieval times until we got even the names of the Three Kings: Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. May all kings fall down before him (Psalm 72:11).

Modern Christianity rejects Astrology which claims that the movements and positions of heavenly bodies have deep impact on the life of humans. There are many good reasons for the criticism when service of the weak elementary forces of this world overshadows the freedom under the sovereignty of God, the Father (Galatians 4:9).

Therefore it is important to remember that the Bible contains many significant texts about stars. Daniel himself is called the head of Babylonian wise men and astrologers. The matter is not all that simple as some ancient star gazers did actually worship Sun, Moon and the five visible planets but also made careful observations that were crucial for keeping festive calendars (Moon in the Bible) tracking time (Sun and Moon) and navigating (stars and constellations).

Astrology is the Astronomy of pre-scientific times.

Astrological observations were used in Near East as well as in the Greco-Roman world for making decision on favorable conditions and avoiding them if the stars positions were not promising.

Modern astrology is widely known for the way it associates positions of heavenly bodies at the moment of birth. In which House you were born tells what kind of person you are. These horoscopes are immensely popular even among those who do not take foundations Astrology seriously. Kind of Chinese fortune cookies are there typed by by the newspaper reporters for today's events without even looking at a single planet position!

Matthew tells about something else altogether. "We saw his star in the east" expresses the identification of a heavenly object with a Great King. The Star of Bethlehem shows the direction to where this King has been born. This is not normal Astrology, not ancient and not modern, although the birth of Caesar Augustus was apparently associated with a special star.

Wise men are in Greek magoi ex anatole using as loanword the old Persian title magi.

Without going into details, the story of the wise men suggests that somewhere there in the East was among star gazers a living tradition about the Great King. As far as I know, ancient astrological sources from Mesopotamia or Iran do not contain such a tradition. Of course, there is no systematic presentation or complete dictionary of the concepts prevalent in those times.

The final guidance was not given by the special star, whatever it was, but rather by the ancient Jewish Scriptures that predict the birth of the King in the little town of Bethlehem