What Was the Christmas Star, Actually?
Some have argued that the Christmas star, commonly called “the star of Bethlehem,” was in fact an alignment of Jupiter and Saturn or some other combination of planets. According to Britannica, German astronomer Johannes Kepler believed the Christmas star “may have been a nova occurring in or near some conjunction of bright planets.” Other views include that the Christmas star was a supernova, Jupiter by itself, or a comet.
Biblical scholar Dr. Colin Nicholl thinks there is compelling evidence that the star the Magi saw was either a large comet (like Hale-Bopp) or a supernova. One reason for believing it was a comet is that we know the star appeared suddenly and remained in the sky for one year. Other reasons include the nature of the star’s travel and the fact that it both rose in the sky and “stood over” the place where Jesus was born.
Some might question why it matters whether or not we can scientifically explain what the star of Bethlehem actually was, but Collins believes there is a benefit to doing so as an apologetic for the credibility of the Bible. Showing that the biblical account corresponds with our scientific knowledge demonstrates that the Bible and science are not opposed to each other. “This all constitutes powerful evidence that Matthew was a historically reliable biographer,” said Collins. “It also strongly supports the Gospel writer’s claim that Jesus is the Messiah prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures.”
But even if the actual Christmas star was a comet rather than a conjunction of planets, this year’s astronomical event is a reminder on the darkest day of the year that, as Isaiah prophesied, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”