RE: [asa] Star of Bethlehem presentation?

From: George Cooper <>
Date: Mon Nov 23 2009 - 17:25:46 EST

I believe Martin's work uses the celestial events of 2 BC. Is there much
hope that the 4 BC date for the death of Herod is in error? I am impressed
with the number of significant events in 6 BC, especially the retrograde
behavior that ties in with the constellation Aries, which represented Judea,
according to many.


[Btw, the list I gave are based on an observer in Bagdad. ]





From: [] On
Behalf Of William Hamilton
Sent: Monday, November 23, 2009 4:03 PM
To: George Cooper
Subject: Re: [asa] Star of Bethlehem presentation?


Have any of you read "The star that astonished the world" by Ernest Martin?
It's been quite a few years since I read it, but I thought he did a pretty
good job of sleuthing the astronomical and historical records to come up
with good candidates for the actual birthdate of Jesus.

On Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 3:44 PM, George Cooper <>

Hi John and all,


I like the idea that God does not intervene with celestial bodies. It is
obvious to me that He does get involved within the hearts of man, including
how some may place value on certain celestial events. Astrological signs
we consider minor today, for those who think there is some causal relation,
could have been intellectually or spiritually magnified to serve the purpose
intended - having the wise men to mount-up and ride.


The arguments favoring an astrological allure for the wise men to travel to
Judah seem logical. If they knew something big was happening they would go
to those who should be in the know - the astrologers of Judah in Jerusalem.
Apparently, this light was incapable of taking them directly to little


I can't imagine any way a natural light form above our atmosphere could
illuminate a specific town or residence. Something miraculous would be
required, which seems to fit with the account of that night they arrived.
Another reason to sing. J


There are some amazingly accurate astronomical software packages that are
reasonably priced. I use Starry Night Pro and found the following list of
chronological events.


[Occulation .. When one celestial body passes in front of another

Conjunction.. When the celestial bodies are very near one another.]


[Assuming the claim that Herod died in 4BC, it is not hard to eliminate the
subsequent events.]


6 BC:

Jan. 1: Jupiter & Saturn close in Pisces

Jan. 23: Saturn equidistant between Jupiter and Moon in Pisces (pointing to

Feb. 20: Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and new Moon all within about 3 deg. radius

In Pisces at 7pm on western horizon

Mar. 4: Jupiter and Mars conjunction at sunset

Horizontal alignment with Saturn directly below

Mar. 19: Lunar occulation of Saturn (not visible, too close to Sun and below

Mar. 24: Venus and Saturn conjunction at dawn in Pisces

Apr. 16: Lunar occulation of Saturn, 12:50 pm in Pisces. (not visible,

Apr. 17: Lunar occulation of Jupiter, about 12:45 pm (daytime)

Apr. 18: Annular Solar eclipse (not visible from Middle East)

Apr. 24: Saturn and Venus only 42 arcmin separation in Pisces

            Seen only briefly around 4:30 am on horizon (4 deg alt.)

May 8: Conjunction of Jupiter and Venus (34 arcmin in Aries).

Visible only on horizon from 4 to 5:30 am

May 13: Lunar occulation of Saturn in Pisces (not visible from Middle East)

            11 pm but 46 deg below horizon. Venus and Jupiter reasonably
close by.

May 15: Lunar conjunction of Jupiter in Aries (< 6 arcminutes)

            Visible about one and one-half hours before conjunction.

            Venus-Jupiter-Moon-Saturn aligned (Aries region)

May 16: Venus and very thin crescent Moon proximity (3 deg) in Taurus

            Seen only briefly about 4:30 am

Jul. 2: Venus & Mars conjunction at dusk

Jul. 10: Mercury & Venus conjunction at dusk (Mars nearby)

Jul. 22: Saturn begins retrograde between Cetus and Aries

Aug. 22: Jupiter begins retrograde back into Aries (December)

Sep. 2: Mars visible within 50 arcminutes of Regulus at 4:30am in Leo

Sep 14: Lunar occulation of Venus (far below horizon, not visible)

Nov. 7: Mars about 2 deg. from Moon when it rises in East (2 am in Virgo)


5 BC: [Most activity too close to Sun]

Mar. 11: Lunar conjunction of Venus with Jupiter and Pleiades very close

            Region between Taurus and Aries asterisms.

            Actual conjunction only 1 arcmin separation but well below

Mar. 23: Total Lunar eclipse, 9:30 pm, 38 deg. alt., in Virgo

Sep. 15: Total Lunar eclipse, 11:20 pm, 50 deg. alt., in Pisces


4BC: [Most activity too close to Sun]

Jan. 30: Lunar conjunction with Mars in Pisces

            30 arcminutes at 3pm, 1 deg. at 6 pm.

Mar. 6 & 7: Conjuction of Saturn and Mars (~ 2 deg)

Seen near western horizon around 7:30 pm, in Aries

Mar 13: Lunar eclipse (1/3 partial umbral passage), 3:30 am in Virgo (33
deg alt.)

May 9: Conjunction of Saturn and Mercury, dawn, in Taurus

May 17: Conjunction of Mars and Venus at dusk near horizon (Jupiter nearby)

May 23: Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter at dusk near horizon in Gemini

Sep 5: Lunar eclipse (2/3 umbral passage), but at 2:15 pm and well below



Apr. 2: Saturn, Venus, Mars grouping in Taurus

Jun 13: Saturn and Venus conjunction, seen rising at 3 am in Taurus

Aug 12: Jupiter and Venus close conjuction, seen rising at 5 am in Leo

Sep 5: Lunar occulation of Jupiter near Regulus in Leo

            Not visible until 1 deg. separation when rising at 3 am.

Sep 14: Jupiter rises with Regulus in Leo

            About 15 arcmin. Separation at 4 am, 24 deg. alt.

Oct. 3: Jupiter, Regulus, and crescent Moon within 3 deg. radius of Regulus

Oct. 31: Close conjunction of Moon and Jupiter in Leo at 4 am,

About 30 min. separation at 60 deg. alt.


2 BC

Jan 20: Lunar eclipse below horizon in daytime (2 pm)

Mar 25: Saturn and Mars conjunction setting in Taurus (8:30 pm), Venus

Apr 3: Saturn, Venus, Mars grouping (3 deg. radius from Venus) at setting

Apr 12: Moon, Regulus, Jupiter alignment

May 7: Crescent Moon close conjunction (2 arcminutes) of Venus in Gemini

            But 20 deg. below horizon

May 10: Moon, Regulus, Jupiter alignment seen at midnight at setting

Jun 17: Venus occulation of Jupiter (8 arcsec separation), 9:18pm in Leo

Jul 17: Lunar eclipse below horizon in daytime (8:30 am)

Oct 14: Jupiter and Venus conjunction rising at 3 am in Virgo

            Nearby is Mars close to Spica

Oct 24: Jupiter, Venus, Spica, crescent Moon grouping in Virgo (5 am)

Dec 8: Venus and Mars conjunction rising at 4 am in Libra





From: [] On
Behalf Of John Walley
Sent: Monday, November 23, 2009 4:45 AM
To: David Clounch
Cc: Merv Bitikofer; asa
Subject: Re: [asa] Star of Bethlehem presentation?




"But the deistic conditions are not necessary unless one believes a priori
that God cannot stick His finger into the universe after initially setting
it up. " ... "The entire objection to non-deistic Christianity is based
on the idea that His reach into the universe is a zero length causal chain,
i.e., he cannot reach into the universe at all. Except at the beginning. "

I agree God can and does intervene in human affairs all the time. That is
the concept of prayer which I firmly believe in. And I believe He
manipulates events all the time.


However as far as signs in the heavens that were foretold thousands of years
beforehand like conjunctions of planets and stars, that is likely something
not manipulated on an ad-hoc basis, since it follows regular motions. In
that case it would likely simply be advance knowledge of the event and
manipulating when Christ was incarnated, like I said earlier.






From: David Clounch <>
To: John Walley <>
Cc: Merv Bitikofer <>; asa <>
Sent: Mon, November 23, 2009 1:13:00 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Star of Bethlehem presentation?

I wanted to comment about concordism (I am not rejecting your view), but I
will now have to wait to comment.

John says:

 If God wound up the universe in the Big Bang and let it unwind according
the laws of physics, it would be predestined that these events would occur
at some point.

The idea that 13 billion years ago God set the laws of physics in motion
with some initial conditions, and this determines a physical event in our
current history makes no sense to me. Its the opposite of what Polkinghorne
was trying to say about non-determinism.


So if God is omniscient and wants to use this event as a sign, it is as
simple as timing the advent of Christ accordingly. Easy peasy!

This goes for all the other prophecies in the OT as well. Do you reject
those for the same reason?


I would reject them under those deistic type conditions. But the deistic
conditions are not necessary unless one believes a priori that God cannot
stick His finger into the universe after initially setting it up.

The very idea that Jesus was simultaneously divine and physical demonstrates
that God sticks His finger in the universe. God walked on the water and the
sand. He left footprints. Since He can do that he can also manipulate
historical events. He doesn't have to use a long causal chain of natural
events to effect a tweak in a historical event.
The entire objection to non-deistic Christianity is based on the idea that
His reach into the universe is a zero length causal chain, i.e., he cannot
reach into the universe at all. Except at the beginning. You seem to be
postulating that He affects events via a 13 billion year long causal chain
that is deterministic. But everything we know about the universe says it is
not deterministic. I don't see deism being consistent with physics.

This is an important disagreement. If people believe deism is consistent
with physics, well, they have to demonstrate that.




----- Original Message ----
From: Merv Bitikofer <>
To: David Clounch <>; asa <>
Sent: Sun, November 22, 2009 8:33:00 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Star of Bethlehem presentation?

Okay -- you uncover my weakness! Maybe this (the whole star presentation)
is one of my few remaining concessions to concordism. I guess as long as I
don't try to make my faith lean to heavily (or at all) on our modern
speculation about process, I'll probably be okay. But just for the record,
theologically speaking, I don't find the notion of a sovereign God
orchestrating the events of our universe to be far out. Indeed I have faith
that such is the case even if I can't make complete sense of that
scientifically or philosophically. Where science (if it is legitimately
done) may happen to reveal such things, I find it fascinating. Where
science (if its legitimately done) would correct an errant understanding of
history, it is the truth-seeker's job (mine and yours) to stand corrected.

David Clounch wrote:
> Merv,
> It has never occurred to me to attribute it to cosmic phenomena period. In
spite of the astronomers looking for a cosmic explanation. I just ignored
that. After all, I also don't believe St Nick was Santa Claus, and I don't
believe in weeping statues or the shroud of Turin. (However, I do believe
in St Patrick. [see footnote 1])
> But on the other hand, one thing I've never noticed is anybody looking for
a non cosmic explanation.
> I'm not naysaying Larson. Never heard of him. But I've been reading
these cosmic theories for decades. I think they were invented in modern
times by folks looking for a way that God didn't really get involved in
the advent. There are philosophical camps that prefer that sort of
explanation, and theologians that follow those camps of thought. But I am
skeptical. The idea that God pre-programmed the universe to give just the
right solar system is ... far out? For example, maybe the universe was
also pre-programmed to produce the pyramids without any humans getting
involved? Maybe the egyptians discovered them? *cough* *cough*
> I once went to a church where the pastor taught that the constellations
were placed where they are in order to tell the advent story as a prophecy.
And that all ancients knew the story. But the pagans changed the story. The
thing about this is, for a TE type theory, one must believe that God
pre-programmed all the galaxy to present the "movie in the sky" so as to
support the Christ story. That to me is on the same level as the cosmic
Star of Bethlehem hypothesis. Its too complicated. Its easier to believe
in UFO's. (where angels have power, or technology, or both). And the
latter doesn't conflict with scripture in any way I know of.
> OK, I'll look at Larson since you guys are so impressed with him. Where
was he when I was a kid having heaps of BS poured on me? ;)
> Thanks,
> Dave C
> [footnote 1]
> ====================================
> I do however, believe in St Patrick (who BTW wasn't a (S)aint with a
capital s.
> He was kidnapped in 401AD at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a
slave but escaped 6 years later. I've been reading "How The Irish Saved
Civilization" by Thomas Cahill. Patrick established the first Christian
civilization in the world that wasn't a co-blend with roman ways. So,
there's a myth that wasn't a myth. My personal interest is it took these
Christians over 100 years to convert Clan McCarthy who lived in Munster
(SW Ireland). I've been tracing my ancestors. So far the earliest goes
back to 123 AD. Only the Jews have an older family lineage than the
McCarthy clan. Anyway, along the way I discovered that Irish missionaries
to Europe established monastaries all over Europe. This after Rome was long
gone. For example, Salzburg and Vienna were both founded as monasteries
and later grew into towns then cities. The important part is these monks
took books, including the classics, with them. Thus they
 preserved the pre-dark age knowledge. I had never heard any of this before
looking at Irish history. You see, American education focuses on the British
founders, and covers the Irish only at the point of the great immigrations.
Irish culture is COMPLETELY IGNORED in American education.
> On Sun, Nov 22, 2009 at 5:12 PM, Merv Bitikofer <
<>> wrote:
> Mr. Larson (the here discussed Star of Bethlehem researcher) is
> way ahead of you David. You should actually read his stuff before
> you nay say it. I guess John posted some excerpts which might
> summarize some of his points pretty well. I went in as a skeptic,
> but came out impressed with his methods of inquiry. He does
> approach it unapologetically as a Christian and with the stated
> assumption that he is going to take the Biblical record of the
> event seriously. Far be it from me to hold that against him. He
> does come away convinced that it was an astronomical event ----
> but nothing so silly as we try to imagine that would hover in the
> air and stop over a stable, etc. You must have a lot of trouble
> understanding apocalyptic literature in Revelation with its stars
> falling out of the sky! :-> For that matter, I do too. But I
> guess, for all my confusion, it hasn't occurred to me to actually
> try to take it as literal commentary on cosmic movements according
> to 20th century definition!
> --Merv



William E (Bill) Hamilton Jr., Ph.D.
Member American Scientific Affiliation
Austin, TX
248 821 8156
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Received on Mon Nov 23 17:26:15 2009

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