Wise Men HeaderThe Theories.

By Rev. Phil Greetham. © Copyright 1996. This Version, 2012.

2: The Venus/Jupiter Daystar theory #1
During the summer of 3 BC, our Magi would have observed that Venus and Jupiter were closing on each other for a conjunction in the morning sky. This is not a rare phenomenon and would not have excited them particularly. However they would have been extremely shocked to find that when the planets rose in the pre-dawn sky of August 12th, the two planets had been replaced by one big bright star in the constellation of Leo. (1) At it rose into a clearer sky a careful look would have revealed that in fact the two planets were so close together that they shone as one.
V-J1.jpg - 14529 Bytes
They would have wondered what the significance of this would be. To our knowledge there was no astrological interpretation to this phenomenon but if the Magi were familiar with Jewish prophecy they might have linked it to the Jewish prophecy concerning the rising of the morning star as a precursor to the coming of the Messiah. It is possible that star would have been visible even after the sun had risen. In other words the morning star would continue to rise. The persistent rising of the morning star, rather than fading from sight might have been seen as a fulfillment of the prophecy and set them on the journey to Jerusalem. On the 17th June 2BC, 10 months later, the same two planets joined up again (also in Leo). (2) V-J2.jpg - 16705 Bytes
In this case it would have been impossible to resolve the two planets. They were so close together that they looked like one bright star. Was this the second sighting of the 'star' as the wise men approached Bethlehem.
The timing is just right for a census ordered by Quirinius just as he took up the post of Proconsul of Asia.
Jupiter and Venus coming so close that they appear to merge as one bright star as they did on the morning of the 17th June 2 BC is a very rare event. It means the two planets must get nearer to each other than 3-4 arc minutes. (Arc Minute= 1/60th degree) On average it does this about once every 40 years at a particular site. However in order for it to be visible it must happen after the sun has set and while the planets themselves are above the horizon; that is during dusk or dawn. This makes viewing this phenomenon very rare indeed. There were only 3 possible events in the period 800 BC - 1 BC
To give you some idea of what they would look like, the full moon is 30' across.
Date Time Separation
26th March 719 BC Morning 4'
5th August 618 BC Evening 2'
17th June 2 BC (2) Evening 1'
There were, however a number of other conjunctions which, although very close, would still have shown 2 stars in the 30 years before AD 1.
7th August 27 BC Morning 10'
16th August 25 BC Evening 7'
18th April 19 BC Morning
13th May 17 BC Morning 20'
12th August 3 BC (1) Morning 11'
Although this is a conjunction of two stars, it could more properly be described as a single star because of the closeness of the two planets. This would have been especially true of the occurrence on 17th June 2 BC. On this occasion it would have been impossible to resolve the apparition as two stars. The wise men would have known that it was two stars, of course, but a layman like Matthew might not have realized the finer distinction. Another advantage is that it doesn't rely upon Astrology, but upon prophetic interpretation. This means that there would have been no objection from the early church as to its inclusion by the gospel writers. In fact the 'Morning Star' imagery is used a lot in both the Old and New Testament.
If Herod died in early 4 BC and if Jesus was born in 2 BC the Magi could not have visited Herod. The gap between the first and second apparition is still only 10 months. Why should Herod give the order to kill the baby boys of two years and under when the time given by the Magi was, under this theory, only 10 months? This event is just too late.
Timing - Too late.
Repeatability - Only 10 months
Direction - YES
Theology - YES
Historic/Scientific credibility - No problems
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