I was lucky enough to edit Aaron Adair’s superb book The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View which looks at the claims within the Gospel of Matthew concerning the Star of Bethlehem. Over the many hundreds of years, various people have advanced theories to explain the apparent phenomenon, to triple conjunctions of planets and stars to comets, from hypernovae to UFOs. Yes, UFOs. Aaron has started getting on the speaking circuit to talk about his favoured subject, and may even be compiling a book looking into the Bible and astronomy
The holidays are approaching fast, and the first snows are coming over the United States. The ever-expanding day of Christmas will truly be here soon. And all around the world, both preachers and even some scientists will be talking about a perennial subject: the Star of Bethlehem and what it could have been
Good news, everyone! My talk for the Illini Secular Student Alliance at UIUC back in April is now up for everyone to see. In my presentation, I talk about the 20th century origins of the ancient astronaut hypothesis (now in its modern TV form, Ancient Aliens), the sorts of claims about the past and why they don’t hold up, and into the sorts of claims related to modern UFOs and alien visitations–that is, close encounters. I also get to bring up my research and book on the Star of Bethlehem.
A few weeks ago on the History Channel’s sister station, H2, the astronomy-based series The Universe went on a quest to solve an ancient mystery. Previous episodes in the previous few weeks had covered the construction and purpose of the pyramids (which was pretty good), Stonehenge, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The first two certainly have an astronomical connection, such as the solstice alignment of Stonehenge, but explaining Sodom’s ruin via astronomical body begs the very serious question: was this simply a theological story or etiological myth? Apparently that skepticism couldn’t find its way to the heart of the show.
A few days ago at the National Catholic Register, a blog post was put up about the Yuletide star that I have been so interested in. The author of the piece, Jimmy Akin, wrote up about how the text of the Gospel of Matthew does not necessarily talk about a Star that moves around in such a way that it can only be supernatural. Akin, who besides having a cool red beard, is a Catholic apologist, and he categorizes his efforts here about the Star under apologetics (as seen on the blogs tag). I read the blog entry after I saw it come up in a search on Twitter, and the first thing I noted was that he said that the text does not support the supernatural reading, but he never actually cited the Greek text!
As part of the continuing efforts to get the message out about the Star of Bethlehem and the failure to explain it with astronomy, I was interviewed on the Exposing Pseudoastronomy podcast, run by Stuart Robbins, an young planetary scientist and skeptic. In the past, the podcast has tackled lots of material from Coast to Coast AM and some of their top guests, such asRichard Hoagland, in great but comfortable detail. That should be enough reason to subscribe to this skeptical outlet.
Aaron Adair, contributor of skeptically themed posts to this here blog, has written an awesome book called The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View. The book has received some great reviews which I will tell you about in another post. I edited this book and it is released by my own imprint, Onus Books.
As you will know from a couple of previous posts, I have edited a book by Aaron Adair about the…
[Just to remind readers that the book I have recently edited, written by contributor Aaron Adair, called The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View. is out now in all formats from a variety of sellers. It is a great book, and one which Richard Carrier has said is “awesome”. Please support our work by buying it! It’ll make an awesome Christmas present! Over to Aaron’s launch piece for those who missed it – JP]
Nearly two millennia ago, a story was told of a wondrous star in the heavens, beaming forth to proclaim the birth of an infant, destined to rule. Coaxing priests from an eastern kingdom to travel in search of this infant, the object led them to their destination and allow for the worship of the savior of the world.
Or so the story goes. But did it really happen, and if so, what was this magnificent star? A comet? An exploding star? An astrological portent? Something more bizarre?
This week the next big book in Jesus scholarship hit the stores. Well, I guess it’s big in the sense that it is attached to a well-known name, Fox News’ host/anchor/pundit Bill O’Reilly. Earlier I had heard about his book, Killing Jesus, which was a bit easy to make fun with since the artwork for the cover suggested who the murder was, and his previous major book with a similar title, Killing Lincoln, was considered so riddled with factual errors that Lincoln-connected museums were not willing to sell it.
It’s been a good, long time since I have seen a bright, naked-eye comet in the sky. The last I remember was Hale-Bopp back in 1996, and that was a remarkable sight. But there is a lot of hope now for Comet ISON (aka C/2012 S1), which was discovered only a matter of months ago. Not only it is slated to be a very bright object, but what is more interesting to me is its orbit.
[EDIT] Sorry about this post, because I starting writing it (well, copying it from Aaron’s blog) with a view to…
About two weeks ago I was contacted about participating in a conference next year at the University of Groningen. In 2014 they are celebrating their 400th anniversary so it seems appropriate it relate to something else from 1614. In that year, Johannes Kepler published his tome on chronology, arguing that Jesus was born several years earlier than was the tradition in his time (on Dec 25 in 1 BC). In that book, he also talked about the Star of Bethlehem, and this is the apparent link for this conference.
This is Part 3 of a critical examination of the MMEL hypothesis of the Star of Bethlehem. Go to the index here.
So far in this critical appraisal of the MMEL hypothesis, there has not been much attention paid to the actual theory of what the Star of Bethlehem was other than to say it deals with conjunctions of Jupiter and Venus in the years 3 and 2 BCE. While already it is falsified as an explanation of Matthew’s account since it takes place after the death of Herod the Great (see Part 1 & Part 2), I shall not ignore what possible astronomical or astrological explanations are here. Perhaps they can explain the Star in another way (including helping create the narrative based on a back-calculation rather than an authentic historical tradition), or the conjunctions of another type can be related to what the Magi were interested in.
I just learned from Jason Colavito that PBS NOVA the other day aired a documentary about the unraveling of one of the incredible enigmas of antiquity. And naming it after the German code machine isn’t a bad idea either, considering that this device is a marvel of gears and other mechanisms all working together.