Tonight (June 30, 2015), Venus and Jupiter will converge in the sky. It’s the first time in just over 2,000 years. By our line of sight, they will be less than a third of a degree apart. This will cause a bright light, as the radiance from the two planets will merge into one. The headlines have been circulating: “Star of Bethlehem returns.”
According to scientific calculations, the last time these two planets came so close together was on June 17, 2 B.C. It’s been speculated that the light that will be generated was what the Magi would have seen which signaled the arrival of the Messiah. And now, with that phenomenon about to happen again, many Christians are saying, “See, it really did happen!” But let’s examine this by reviewing the Biblical account.
Matthew 2:7-10 reveals some very important facts.
The Magi came from the east, perhaps Persia or Arabia. It was not just an overnight trip, but rather an extensive journey. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but by the time the Magi got to Jesus He was no longer a baby, but a young child. A study of the text seems to show that the original star had appeared to signal Jesus’ birth, but shortly disappeared. It was then a knowledge of Old Testament prophecy which directed the Magi to Jerusalem.
Could this star have been the merging of Venus and Jupiter? Let’s keep looking at Matthew’s story.
King Herod had to ask the Magi when the star first appeared. Did no one in Jerusalem see it? I would think such an unusual astronomical phenomenon would have garnered much attention. Herod then sent the Magi from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to search for the child. While on their way, the star again appeared. Matthew 9:2 says, “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.”
So the star did three things: 1) it reappeared; 2) it moved in an unusual direction—south, from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, rather than following the normal westward “movement” of the stars/planets; and 3) it stopped over the place where Jesus was. Does this sound like a convergence of two planets?
Even if the Venus/Jupiter merging could have been the star first seen by the Magi, the subsequent star was not. The Biblical text leads us to believe it was the same star. Also, if this phenomenon occurs every 2,000 years (approximately), it would have happened at least once before in history, and we have no record of anyone believing that occurrence was announcing the Messiah’s coming.
Why is this all so important?
First, because those who are anti-Jesus continue to try to find ways to discount the power of God and explain all miracles in terms of human understanding of science. They will say, “See, God does not exist after all—there’s a scientific explanation for this.” And, worse, Christians are quick to sign on without examining the circumstances in light of Scripture.
Second, non-believers who are seeking truth may be easily dissuaded by the lies of the world.
Should we, who know God, accept without challenge the explanations of those who don’t know Him? Perhaps we’d do better to follow the example of the Bereans, of whom it was said they were “of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11; italics mine)
© 2015 by Jim McLoud. All rights reserved.