You’ve hit this page. Probably means you’re a Berean (look it up). God loves you people who inquire for yourself, who follow through on curiosity. There are not enough hours to answer all of your questions by email, so here are some answers to frequently asked questions.
The universe and our Solar System are governed by mathematical laws which we have understood since the early 1600’s. That is when Kepler puzzled out the Three Laws of Planetary Motion and Newton refined them. We now know that the Solar System moves with amazing regularity, like a great clock. For this reason, much of what we see overhead is predictable. The Sun always rises, after all. But this does not mean that the events of the Star, while mathematically predictable, will all come together again and again.
Christ’s Star, described in the Book of Matthew, correlates precisely with celestial events we know occurred in 2 and 3 B.C. But the story of the Star is a series of events, and this affects statistical probability. Any one of the events might well recur — some more frequently, but some only once in hundreds of years. When we stack all of the events together, the probability of them all recurring in the right order to match events of 2 and 3 B.C. drops near zero. Apart from the Star, this complete series of events has never happened while man has observed. They will not stack up this way again in any span of time meaningful to us. What might happen in 10,000 years or a million has little bearing on us.
Most important, these celestial events correlate with events on Earth. This is the point. This series of events in the sky correlates perfectly with the birth and death of a man who claimed to be the Messiah, Savior of the Human Race. The probability of this recurring is nil.
Yes, which is why this story matters. Knowledge often advances in increments. But it may also advance in leaps of insight. Both are happening here. The facts, of course, are two thousand years old. But the story is now coming into fresh and startling focus.
Any researcher will tell you he stands on the shoulders of those who came before. The Star story is built upon the work of Kepler, Newton, Sinnott, Hoehner, Finegan, Martin, Humphreys, Waddington and numerous others. Their discoveries are all the more remarkable when seen together, as a whole. A new and more complete story of the Star takes shape.
Beyond piecing together clues found by others, this project and DVD are built upon a leap of insight which is entirely new: that the Star of Bethlehem is part of a celestial poem that begins at Christ’s conception and birth, but concludes with great drama on the day of the Cross. It is this entirely new insight that makes the story emotionally and intellectually compelling.
No. But let’s put the issue in sharp focus.
“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12.39,40 ESV).
The timeline of the Star follows conventional understanding, that Jesus was killed on a Friday and rose from the dead the following Sunday. How can that be “three days and three nights” in the earth?
This question arises from a difference between our modern culture and Christ’s ancient one. Jesus was certainly a most unusual person, but he was still a flesh-and-blood man born into a mid-Eastern culture of two thousand years ago. He was born Jewish, and he lived, thought and spoke in forms rooted in his time, place and culture. This is why so much of his teaching incorporates events common to the experience of the people living around him — he spoke appropriately to his audience.
In the Jewish idiom of Christ’s day and earlier, the phrase a “day and a night” could be used to refer to any portion of what we moderns think of as a 24-hour day. Examples of this are found in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
Consider Esther’s predicament, recorded in the Old Testament. Her Jewish people were living under the rule of a powerful foreign king. Through court intrigue, the king was persuaded to annihilate all Jews in his kingdom. Esther was in the king’s harem and had won his favor, but, he did not realize she was of Jewish descent. As a harem girl, she was forbidden to approach him unless called. But now her people were to be slaughtered. Knowing she could be killed, she decided to approach the king and plead for the Jews. Before going, she wanted the spiritual support of her people. She asked her adopted father:
“Go, gather all the Jews to be found…, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4.16, ESV)
We see that she used the phrase “three days, night or day.” The story continues:
On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace. (Esther 5.1, ESV)
She had asked others and also committed herself to fast for three days. But she did not fast for 72 hours, as we moderns would reckon. Instead, she went before the king on the third day. She considered some portion of the third day as a “day,” illustrating the Jewish idiom. (The story ends well for Esther and the Jews).
There are other Old Testament examples of this, but let’s fast forward to the New Testament. Did Jesus use this idiom? Yes he did. As we’ve seen, he spoke of being in the earth for three days and three nights. Yet, he also speaks to his disciples:
As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed. (Matthew 17.22,23, ESV)
Jesus tells his disciples he will be raised on the third day, not the fourth. So, Jesus did not teach he would be in the earth for 72 hours. Was Jesus confused? Had he forgotten his teaching on the Sign of Jonah? Was Luke confused when he wrote Acts? More likely Jesus used the idiom of his time and place. He referred to a part of our modern 24-hour day as a “day.”
Fortunately, this word usage is not completely strange to us. Each of us has said something like “I’ve been working on this all day!” when we have not, using a strict 24-hour day or even just daylight hours. It remains natural language.
Other important references:
- From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised (Matthew 16.21, ESV)
- and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” (Matthew 20.19, ESV)
- saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (Luke 9.22, ESV)
- after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” (Luke 18.33, ESV)
- how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luke 24.7, ESV)
- and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead (Luke 24.46, ESV)
- but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear (Acts 10.40, ESV)
Some believe that Christ died on a day other than Friday. Can the star signs be reconciled with these points of view?
Strong minds have considered Christ’s Friday death. While there is good agreement on the point, there are also strong minority opinions. These minority opinions are usually based upon the Sign of Jonah, the Jewish festival calendar and/or the High Sabbath. Some contend that Christ died on Wednesday. Others are persuaded he died on Thursday. These points of view are based upon earnest analysis from a single angle and are not to be dismissed lightly.
However, what happened in the sky cannot be adjusted to accommodate argument or theological reasoning. Events in the sky are simple facts. They cannot be bumped a day or two. The lunar eclipse predicted by Joel and observed by Peter did not happen on Wednesday or Thursday. It happened on Friday.
An obvious solution to this conflict is to ignore the celestial events in favor of one’s preferred analysis. The other solution is to reanalyze one’s position to include what happened in the sky.
Here are two excellent, balanced resources for those who wish to explore the day of the week of Christ’s death in more depth:
- The Handbook of Biblical Chronology, Jack Finegan (Revised Edition; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998) ISBN 1-56563-143-9
- Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, Harold W. Hoehner (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1977) ISBN 0-310-26211-9
No. Checking NASA’s eclipse database for Passover lunar eclipses (March, April and May eclipses) in the years 30-34 AD, worldwide, there are two lunar eclipses which might have been seen from Jerusalem: Sunday, April 25, 31 AD and Friday, April 3, 33 AD. Neither of these occurred on a Wednesday or a Thursday. See ref
The birth of Jesus was announced to shepherds in the fields with their flocks. Does this fix the announcement to a certain season of the year?
Not really. In the Mediterranean mid-East, flocks might be found at pasture almost any time of year, weather permitting. The chronology of the Star may imply that Jesus was born in September or June. Either is consistent with flocks being in the field. In September, the average daytime high in Bethlehem is in the mid-80’s, Fahrenheit. Lows are in the mid-60’s in the wee hours of the morning. It is normal to run flocks in these temperatures. Of course, June is warmer. Even in the dead of Winter and at 2,550 feet elevation, it rarely freezes in Bethlehem.
If Jesus was born in June of 2 B.C., the Star chronology does fit this traditional understanding, as there is no year 0 A.D.. But nothing in the Bible compels the conclusion that Jesus died at age 33. That age is a traditional one many of us have heard over the years, much as we have seen nativity scenes and Christmas plays which include the Magi visiting Christ’s natal manger. In reality, the Magi did not visit Jesus while he was in the manger, and Christ may not have been 33 when he died. (According to the Bible, the Magi visited Jesus when he was a toddler living in a house).
The origin of the 33-year-old tradition is probably a loose reading of Luke’s gospel account. Luke was a Greek physician and an absolute stickler for accuracy. Luke’s record has embarassed critical analysts when his descriptions of events and titles of governmental rulers, though unexpected, proved precisely correct. Luke tells us that Jesus began his ministry when he was “approximately” 30 years of age. This, plus the three annual Passovers recorded by John in his gospel has probably resulted in the assumption that Jesus died aged 33. But Luke never said Jesus was aged 30 when he began his ministry. The assumption that Jesus was aged 30 is only that, an assumption, and one which Luke used care not to adopt.
Can astronomy software be used to view the skies of the future? Can we see astronomical signs of Christ's return?
The Laws of Planetary Motion apply equally to ancient, current and future skies. So, it is possible to predict events in future skies with precision. This does not mean that we can predict the day of Christ’s return using astronomy. Christ himself said he did not know the precise time of his return; only the Father knows that time. But we can know the “season” of his return, and astronomy might disclose markers of that season.
At present, the Star Project does not include teaching about future events. But that could change. And, there is nothing to prevent you from conducting your own investigations using astronomy software and clues from the Bible.
Yes, if we can agree on what constitutes evidence. Reaching a shared understanding of what constitutes evidence is a critical first step. But no one can be forced to believe anything they do not choose to believe.
Some people feel that if the Bible provides data about an event, such as the Star, and that data is shown to be accurate, this constitutes evidence of the Bible’s accuracy. Other people start with a conviction that the Bible is not accurate, and they will not accept anything as evidence of its accuracy. Some people believe that Elvis Presley is not dead. Others believe that the Holocaust did not occur. They will not accept anything as evidence which contradicts their views. Not even photographs.
If one adopts standards of evidence and proof comparable to those used in daily life, the existence of God is obvious to most people. That is why most of the human race believes that God exists. The existence of God is denied primarily by people who have trained themselves to dismiss common lines of evidence.
The darkness was not an ordinary solar eclipse. A solar eclipse cannot occur on the day of a lunar eclipse, as the Sun and Moon are on opposite ‘sides’ of the Earth. A lunar eclipse is Earth’s shadow, seen on the Moon.
Here are some interesting clues which support plate tectonics as the cause of the darkness at noon.
- Israel is in an active sheering subduction zone.
- There was tectonic activity on the Day of the Cross, that is, an earthquake strong enough to break up boulders.
- The Levant is studded with volcanoes (Israel’s Golan Heights is a string of extinct volcanoes).
- Joel predicted something like billowing clouds of smoke, which Peter told a hostile crowd on the day of Pentecost: “You’ve seen!”
- Particulate matter suspended in the atmosphere (an aerosol) tends to create red-colored lunar eclipses (blood moons), which Peter also asserted his audience had seen.
So, one possible explanation of the darkness is a plume of volcanic ash, which would be consistent with these factual clues. However, until we can develop historical evidence of a candidate eruption, volcanism remains an interesting hypothesis which is not ready for prime time.
Objects at astronomical distances cannot literally point at or selectively illuminate a specific house. However, the idea that the Star pointed the Magi to a specific house is not in the Bible. It is an idea which has been added to the Biblical narrative.
Constellations are not visible during daylight hours. However, because the movements of celestial objects are regular, students of the stars can know where objects are positioned, even during daylight hours. The new moon was just visible.
Starry Night Pro was used to produce the Star of Bethlehem film, but any mathematically accurate software should reproduce these results. Some programs are free or nearly so, such as Stellarium and Celestia. Starry Night versions are upgradeable, so you can start small and move up as desired.
This is enigmatic. Some commentators identify the woman of Revelation 12 as the nation of Israel. The twelve stars could be a reference to the twelve Israelite tribes, and/or to the twelve cardinal constellations of the zodiac (The Mazzaroth). Some have suggested that each tribe was represented by a zodiacal ensign, with Leo, the Lion, representing Judah. It is interesting that Moses arrayed the tribes on the points of the compass (or zodiac) in Numbers 2, and each displayed its banner. Perhaps it is even simpler than any of this. The constellation of Leo can be conceived as formed by 12 stars.
In the Star documentary, it is stated that Daniel never returned home. This is likely correct, but extraneous to the point. Cf. Ezra 8:2, which mentions another Daniel who is a descendant of Ithamar. The point is that Daniel was a chief Magus under Nebuchadnezzer and that his high position, plus the presence of the Jewish diaspora in Babylon, created a locus of Jewish belief in the East which may have influenced the Magi.
Matthew says Jesus was a paidion (παιδίον), which does not define a precise age, but is distinct from a newborn (βρέφος). A reasonable English equivalent might be ‘toddler.’ If Jesus was born in June, he would have been 6 months old when the Magi arrived. Many children are pulling up at this age, and it is easy to find YouTube videos of 6-month-olds taking their first steps. Jesus may well have been a precocious child.
Matthew describes the Star as a series of events that we know extended over a period of months. Herod did not necessarily know exactly when within the series Jesus was born. Matthew describes Herod as being “furious” at being tricked by the Magi. We can imagine him red-faced, waiving his arm violently and shouting, “Just gut anyone even close!” A case of disdainful overkill.
The DVD and this site speak for themselves. We corresponded with the author privately concerning the most important shortcomings of the AIG essay as we see them. AIG revised the piece to moderate its supercilious tone, which is welcome, but important missteps remain.
We don’t expect to please everyone, and it is unnecessary to cross swords with all whose understanding differs. We bear AIG no ill-will, and perhaps they will at some point take their opinion piece offline. It does not reflect well on the organization or its process of critique. It seems to ignore current academic resources offered here. It aims to undermine scholarly research that has strengthened the faith of countless thousands. One wonders why.
You’ve come to the right place
Hundreds of thousands have viewed the Star of Bethlehem film since its release. There is a lot of information to process and a great many people have questions. Mr. Larson has received hundreds of them by email and simply can’t respond to them directly. We’ve put together the most commonly asked questions here to make it easy for you to get the answers you seek. Just click any question to see the answer.