As per my yearly tradition of pushing my work on the Star of Bethlehem (as if it were some War on Christmas or something), I was able to get my message out and how it is presented in my book. This year, I had the chance to be on podcast-style forums.
First up is Slooh, an astronomy webcast that combines live telescope feeds and astronomically-informed guests. Just a few days before Christmas they had a show (well-promoted at Space.com) on about the Bethlehem Star and had a few guests, including Fr. James Kurzynski from the Vatican Observatory and Bob Berman from Slooh (and the person who wrote the foreword to my book). I make a good appearance on the show as well in the latter third. I recommend listening/watching the whole broadcast.
In addition, Bob Berman used his own podcast, Strange Universe, to promote my book.
And that’s just the promotions in the US! In German, my research and appearances on Slooh at my previous talk at Cologne are all up for reading/viewing thanks to Daniel Fischer. He makes me feel like a traveling wise man?
The last big appearance I made was on the well-listened to British show on Premier Christian Radio, Unbelievable? If you haven’t listened to previous shows, the host does a great job in facilitating great debate between guests of differing religious backgrounds. I wrote to the show three years ago to promote myself, and thanks to a search through old email archives I was contacted and got to be in on the show. I was only able to hang out for the first 30-ish minutes (had to be to work), but I think it was a good showing. The other guests include the astronomer Mark Kidger, who wrote a book on the Star back in 1999 and seems to be revising it for a new version (though it’s not clear to me if his thesis is significantly changed); there was also Colin Nicholl, a PhD in biblical studies and wrote a recent book on how the Star was a comet. Nicholl was on the whole time, Kidger the second half after I left. Two things that are interesting take-aways from these folks I think is this: Kidger is one of the very few non-Christians (he says he’s an agnostic) that thinks the Star is real and non-miraculous, and Nicholl is the first Bible scholar in about a half-century to publish a book or peer-reviewed article promoting a naturalistic version of the Star of Bethlehem. In my back-and-forth with Nicholl, you may note that he takes a view of very high reliability in the transmission of the Gospel stories, but I think even very quickly in my own book I show that that is hard to swallow since I show that, by the very standards in antiquity, the author of the Gospel of Matthew was a terrible historian (and I don’t think he was even trying to write history). There were other things Nicholl was dismissive of, but I think we could really have a productive conversation about–perhaps in a public debate? Someone, make that happen!
Lastly, I posted an earlier version of a chapter I wrote for the book on the conference at the University of Groningen in 2014. In some of the listservs I’ve been told about, it’s making historians of astronomy very happy. So, go ahead and make yourself happy as well! In fact, in that chapter is a revelation about where my future research is pointing.
What is that future research? Well, I presented some preliminary points at this year’s annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. That topic I will post on next time.