What Was the Star of Bethlehem?

According to Michael Molnar, astronomer, physicist and former Rutgers University teacher, the Star of Bethlehem was the planet JUPITER— seen in the constellation of Aries.

He says that on April 17, 6 B.C.:

Jupiter appeared as a MORNING STAR rising in the east.


Jupiter experienced a conjunction (an eclipse) with the moon.

Jupiter becomes between the sun and the moon causing an eclipse.

Jupiter was considered the REGAL (kingly) star or planet.  These two events occurring on the same day would have been seen by astrologers as a strong portent that a great KING had been born.

In addition, Aries was considered the symbol of Judea.  The Magi (astrologers) would conclude that a king had been born in JUDEA.

What Did Rome Know?

Molnar pored over numerous old texts and star charts to come to his conclusions.  But it was a Roman coin he’d purchased that served as his inspiration.

The coin shows Aries the Ram looking over his shoulder at a star.

Rome annexed Judea in 6 B.C. and Aries first appeared on Roman coins that same year.

Why did Rome mint this coin?

There is confirmation that Rome (as well as the Magi), was aware of the implications of Jupiter in Aries— a king in Judea.  This confirmation comes through the Roman astrologer Firmicus Maternus.

In astrological circles the talk of the day was:  “A king has been born in Judea!”, thus the coin was created.

What Does the Bible Have to Say?

Pieces of the puzzle can be put together through scripture.  There does seem to be some validity to Molnar’s theory.

1.  We deduce that the Magi saw the star 2 YEARS before they arrived in Judea.  We come to this conclusion because Herod was able to find out from the Magi the exact time the star first appeared (Matthew 2:7).  Based on the time the Magi gave Herod, Herod ordered boys 2 years and under to be killed (Matthew 2:16).

2.  After the Magi met with Herod they follow the star to a HOUSE where they find Jesus (Matthew 2:11).  Apparently Jesus was no longer in the manger (Luke 2:7).

3.  When the Magi left for home, the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt.  The angel told Joseph that Herod was going to search for Jesus and kill him (Matthew 2:13).

4.  Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned to Nazareth once Herod had died (Matthew 2:19-20, 23).

Based on history, we know that Herod died in 4 B.C.  Since we know that Herod was still alive when the Magi came in the Spring of 4 B.C., I am placing his death 6 months later in the Autumn of 4 B.C.  This means that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were in Egypt approximately 6 months until Herod died.

If the first appearance of the star was April 17, 6 B.C., and the Magi came 2 years later in the Spring of 4 B.C., our timeline including the above information would look like this:

Note:  Click on each image in this article and it will appear larger.

BACK FILLING the 2 years from the Spring of 4 B.C. when the Magi came until the time that the star first appeared on April 17, 6 B.C., we begin with the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Zechariah of John the Baptist’s birth.

5.  John the Baptist’s birth announcement
(Luke 1:13).

Most scholar’s acknowledge that Zechariah was in the Temple in Jerusalem performing his duties in 6 B.C..  Based on Molnar’s theory I am placing this announcement on April 17, 6 B.C., to coincide with the appearance of Jupiter in Aries.

6.  Furthermore, once the announcement of John’s birth was made, Zechariah stayed in Jerusalem UNTIL his time of service was completed.  I am placing this at 3 months (Luke 1:23).

This puts us 3 months past the time of the star’s first appearing.

7.  We learn that once Zechariah returns home Elizabeth becomes pregnant.  Elizabeth stays in seclusion for 5 months (Luke 1:24).

8.  Mary visits Elizabeth in the 6th month of her pregnancy.  We are given this information as the angel Gabriel tells Mary she will become pregnant by the Holy Spirit with Jesus (Luke 1:35-36, 39-40).

This puts us 9 months past the time of the star’s first appearing.

All of the information I’ve included up to this point is provided in the timeline below:

9.  Mary stays with Elizabeth for 3 months then leaves.  This puts Elizabeth 9 months into her pregnancy.  More than likely, Mary assists Elizabeth with the birth of John, then leaves for Nazareth
(Luke 1:56-57).

10.  Joseph discovers that Mary is pregnant.  He has a mind to “divorce” her (they are engaged to be married).  See my article, The Compassionate Side of Divorce and Remarriage, i.e.. “The Jewish Betrothal Experience”.

It could be that Joseph concluded that Mary had been unfaithful when she was visiting Elizabeth.  But an angel of the Lord (probably Gabriel) appeared to Joseph telling him in a dream that what was in Mary was conceived of the Holy Spirit.  At this point Mary has been pregnant 3 months (Matthew 1:19-20).

This puts us 12 months past the time of the star's first appearing.

11.  Joseph and Mary leave Nazareth and go to Bethlehem to take part in a census.  While they are there, Mary gives birth to Jesus.  Six months have passed since Joseph discovered she was pregnant.

This puts us 18 months past the time of the star’s first appearing.

Jupiter is now appearing in the constellation of Virgo.  Many are not aware that the constellations tell the story of our God.  The Star of Bethlehem in VIRGO tells the world of his virgin birth.  Satan did not create the Zodiac, he has only uses it to exploit the goodness of God.  For a deeper understanding of this subject read the book, Witness of the Stars by E.W. Bullinger (Luke 2:4-7).

12.  Six months after giving birth to Jesus, the Magi find Jesus in a HOUSE.  This completes the 2 year journey of the Magi.  Some have speculated as to what house Jesus was staying in.  More than likely it was at the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah.  They lived in a town in the hill country of Judah (Luke 1:39).

What could be more natural than for Joseph, Mary and Jesus to spend time with Zechariah, Elizabeth and John— relatives.  Mary had spent time with Elizabeth when she had given birth to John.  Some catching up had to be done.

John was to be the forerunner of Jesus (Luke 3:1-6).  John baptized Jesus at His request (Matthew 3:13-15).

This puts us 24 months past the time of the star’s first appearing.

This completes the journey of the Magi, the final timeline looks like this:

In Conclusion

One final question remains.  We have been pursuing the explanation of the Star of Bethlehem using science— and it seems to work, except for one detail.

The Bible says that the star STOPPED over the place where Jesus was (Matthew 2:9).

How does a star stop over a house?

One explanation is the Shekinah glory of God.

The Shekinah was first evident when the Israelites set out from Succoth in their escape from Egypt. It appeared there as a cloudy pillar in the day and a fiery pillar by night (Exodus 13:20-21).

The word Shekinah does not appear in the Bible, but the concept does.  Shekinah is a “coined” Jewish word that means, “he caused to dwell”.  It signifies a divine dwelling or visitation of GOD ON EARTH.

Notice that the visitation of God appeared as a COLUMN of light— a pillar of fire.

Couldn’t the Shekinah glory of God be expressed at the dwelling place of Christ by the Star of Bethlehem?

The Bible says that Jesus was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

If we acknowledge that the Shekinah glory of God, as expressed through the Star of Bethlehem, revealed the dwelling place of God on earth, then we must also make ourselves aware of why He came in the first place.  It’s the reason for the season.  He came to dwell in our HEARTS.

The Apostle Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians expresses this well.  It is also my prayer for you this season.  Paul prays:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may DWELL IN YOUR HEARTS THROUGH FAITH. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:16-21

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!