“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem…wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him’” (Matthew 2:1-2).
Various solutions have been proposed for the identity of this mysterious “star of Bethlehem.” Keep in mind the Greek word for “star” doesn’t mean the same thing as our English word “star” (a ball of hydrogen and helium powered by nuclear fusion). It just refers to any bright point in our nighttime sky (e.g. planets, stars, comets, etc.). So what was this star? Here are some proposed solutions:
• A supernova. A supernova—an exploding star—would shine very brightly in the sky for several months. But Herod didn’t notice the star (Matthew 2:7) and such an event would hardly go unnoticed.
• A comet. Again, others would have noticed a comet especially since they were considered omens of change in the ancient world. Also, a comet (and a supernova for that matter) wouldn’t move and behave in the way the Christmas star did, stopping over the exact house where Christ was (Matthew 2:9, 11).
• A conjunction. A conjunction occurs when a planet passes close by another planet or a star. Several of these occurred around the time of Jesus’ birth and would have been more likely to go unnoticed but to those few who studied the stars. But, of the conjunctions that occurred around the year Christ was born, only one would appear as a single bright object in the night sky, and this conjunction was a one night only event. But the wise men saw the star at least twice (Matthew 2:2, 9).
No natural phenomenon behaves in the way described in Matthew. But the Bible never says this was a natural phenomenon. Indeed, many of the events surrounding Christ’s conception and birth were miraculous (visits from angels, a virgin conceiving, dreams and visions) so why should we expect the “star in the East” to be a natural phenomenon? Based on the text, it appears this star was a unique, supernatural event for the specific purpose of bringing the wise men to a small house in the village of Bethlehem to worship the new King.
Learn more about the star of Christmas at AnswersInGenesis.org/go/christmas-star.