On December 21, 2020, a rare event will occur in the night sky… And it has not been seen in over eight centuries.
On this date, Jupiter and Saturn, the two largest planets in our solar system will conjunct to form what’s sometimes referred to as the “Christmas Star” or the “Star of Bethlehem.”
So on the day of the start of the winter solstice, the two planets will appear to form a double planet in an extremely rare event that was last seen 800 years ago.
What is the ‘Star of Bethlehem’?
There are many theories about the identity of the biblical star of Bethlehem that appeared at Christ’s birth.
The most accepted theory finds the planet Jupiter to be part of that star. In the ancient world, all heavenly bodies were considered “stars”.
The Magi or the three wise men were, most likely, court advisers to Babylon who used the stars to give guidance to the ruler.
Why would God guide astrologers, of all people, to the King of Kings? This example, according to some writers, was Christ’s first human ministry to unbelievers.
Who exactly were the Magi?
But who were these mysterious wise men? One ancient Jewish writer Philo speaks of them.
Star of Bethlehem expert Rick Larson explains that Philo “describes a particular school of Magi, calls it the Eastern school, and these Magi he praises. He says these guys understood the natural order and are able to explain the natural order to others. And they were, according to Philo, probably what we might call proto-scientists.”
Early church historians had been giving a date of around 3 BC for Christ’s birth, though other scholars had been saying 7 BC because of what appears to be a misunderstanding of King Herod’s death in between those two dates.
What the Magi likely saw were five astronomical conjunctions that took place over a span of time from August of 3 BC to June of 2 BC. When one planet passes another and, as seen from earth, they line up – that would have been of great significance to these astrologer-advisers.
We now know what these conjunctions meant to these Magi as they would have observed from their far-off land. The conjunctions involved the constellation Leo the Lion, the planet Venus, the planet Jupiter and the star Regulus.
To the Babylonians, the lion represented Israel. Venus was motherhood. Jupiter stood for fatherhood or kingship. And Regulus symbolized royalty.
Put these together in the Babylonian mindset and what do you get? A clear and repeated message that a grand king had been born in Israel.
Larson used computerized astronomical tools to track the convergence of these heavenly signs involving Jupiter, Venus, Leo, and Regulus, back to when they would have occurred.
“Nine months after that first conjunction – nine months – the gestation period of a human. We see Jupiter and Venus come together to form the brightest star anyone had ever seen,” Larson said.
That would have been in mid-June of 2 BC – again near Regulus in Leo. Eventually, Larson traces it all to a conclusion on Dec. 25, in 2 BC.
“Of course, they didn’t use our calendar – you know December 25th meant nothing to them. They never heard of December, but to us, it could be a sign and it is interesting that the gifting did occur on December 25th,” he said.