Birth of Jesus and the Star of Bethlehem Part 1

Left to right: Pleiades star cluster, Jupiter, Venus, Aldebaran Pre-dawn sky: The Atacama Desert of Chile, South America.

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Authored By  :
Bill Kochman

Published On :
August 8, 2012

Last Updated :
April 9, 2014

NOTE: This article or series has not been updated recently. As such, it may possibly contain some outdated information, and/or ideas and beliefs which I no longer embrace, or which have changed to some degree.

The Nativity, Comparison Between Different Gospel Accounts, Inaccurate Hollywood Movies: Shepherds And Three Wise Men, A Baby Or Little Boy, Stable Or House, Messianic Prophecies And Hardness Of The Jews, Herod Inquires When Jesus Was Born, God Made The Sun Moon And Stars To Serve As Signs, To Establish The Seasons, To Measure Time, To Give Light On The Earth, God Gave Magi Wisdom To Properly Interpret Signs To Reveal Time Of Jesus' Birth, God Is Very Careful Regarding Time-Sensitive Prophetic Information, Murderous Satan Strikes Via Herod As Soon As He Learns The Time, Satan Is Not All-Knowing, God's Prophetic Security System, It Is Not For You To Know, Warfare In Heaven And On Earth, Theory Regarding Possible Identity Of Star Of Bethlehem, Beautiful Planet Venus, Jesus Is Bright And Morning Star, Did Wise Men Follow Venus, Roman Goddess Of Love, God Is Love, Jesus Is God's Gift Of Love To The World

Many people -- both Christian and non-Christian alike -- are familiar with the Biblical account regarding the Nativity of Jesus Christ, the shepherds in the field, the famous Star of Bethlehem, and the wise men, or Magi. Concerning the wise men and the Star of Bethlehem, it may interest you to know that the Gospel of Matthew is the only Book in the New Testament where these particular aspects surrounding the Birth of Jesus are actually mentioned. Personally, considering the magnitude of these events, I find their absence from the other Synoptic Gospels, as well as from the Gospel of John, intriguing and mysterious. For example, Luke mentions the shepherds in the field, but he leaves out the Star of Bethlehem and the Magi, as we see by the following verses:

"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them."
Luke 2:1-20, KJV

In his Gospel, Mark leaves out the early events in the life of Jesus entirely, and begins with the ministry of John the Baptist, followed by Jesus' baptism by John. The Gospel of John -- which is not a Synoptic Gospel -- is similar to the Gospel of Mark in that it opens with our introduction to the Word of God and the Light who is brought into the world, and then describes the ministry of John the Baptist as well.

As you may know, one of the biggest mistakes that is made in Hollywood movies which deal with the life of Christ, is that the shepherds and the wise men -- or Magi --are often made to appear before the baby Christ child simultaneously. A simple reading of the Scriptures will quickly reveal that these two events were actually separated by a period of several years. In other words, when the shepherds arrived, Jesus was still a newborn baby in the manger, and Joseph and Mary were staying in the stable -- which may possibly have been a cave -- as we can determine by the previous verses that are found in the account that was written by Luke. If you doubt that this is so, consider the fact that in the following three verses, the same Greek word "brephos" is utilized. According to Thayer's Greek English Lexicon, this word signifies an unborn child, embryo, fetus, a new-born child, an infant, and a babe:

"And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger . . . And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
MatthLuke 2:12, 16, KJV

"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:"
Matth1 Peter 2:2, KJV

In contrast, when the wise men -- we really don't know how many there were; three is assumed due to the number of gift they bore -- arrived from the East -- more than likely from the region of Babylon, Media or Persia -- Jesus was already being referred to as a young child -- and not as a baby -- and Joseph, Mary and Jesus were living in a house now, and were no longer in a stable or a cave. In the following set of verses, the phrase "young child" is used three times. Thayer's Greek English Lexicon informs us that this phrase is derived from the Greek word "paidion", which means a young child; that is, a little boy or a little girl:

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way."
Matthew 2:1-12, KJV

This very same Greek word meaning little boy or little girl -- "paidion" -- is used in the following verses as well; and there is no doubt that Jesus was not referring to a newborn baby in them:

"And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them . . . Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven . . . And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me."
Matthew 18:2, 4-5, KJV

"Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein."
Mark 10:15, KJV

"Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein."
Luke 18:17, KJV

So the main point to consider here is that it took the wise men some time to arrive at Jerusalem, and then proceed to Bethlehem, as they followed this bright "star" in the sky. It did not happen one, two, three as a lot of movies like to indicate. Let's not forget that on average, movie producers only have about two hours in which to tell their story. So as I explained earlier, truth and historical accuracy are quite often compromised in the process.

As the previous verses explain, Jesus' birth was in fact prophesied in the Old Testament. Personally, I have always considered it interesting that this Messianic Prophecy that is found in Matthew 2:5-6, finds its origin in Micah 5:2. This makes it rather easy to remember, because both Book's names begin with the letter "M". Furthermore, as you can see, the numbers in the verse references are just reversed. Consider the following:

"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
Micah 5:2, KJV

You see, in my view, this is one reason why the unbelieving Jews are so without excuse. They have had the Scriptures a lot longer than anyone else. They know what they say. They are familiar with all of the ancient prophecies; and yet they willingly wear blinders on their eyes due to their hardened hearts. As both Jesus and the Apostle Paul said concerning their unbelieving Jewish brethren:

"And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear."
Matthew 13:10-16, KJV

"Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch."
Matthew 15:14, KJV

"Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! . . . Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel."
Matthew 23:16, 24, KJV

"And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other."
Mark 3:5, KJV

"And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth."
John 9:39-41, KJV

"(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day . . . For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in."
Romans 11:8, 25, KJV

"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
1 Corinthians 2:14, KJV

"Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:"
Ephesians 4:18, KJV

Going by the information that is contained in the Gospels, it appears that Jesus was probably a young boy of about two years of age when the wise men arrived from the East. There are two ways in which we can deduce this fact. First of all, you will notice that in the previous verses that are found in the Gospel of Matthew, we are informed that evil King Herod specifically asked the Magi at what time the star had appeared in the sky. In other words, this star did not just suddenly appear in the sky on the very night that Jesus was born. Matthew informs us that the Magi first saw the star in the East.

It would seem that the Lord apparently gave the wise men some very specific information which King Herod's court and the Scribes and the chief priests did not possess. While the Jews were familiar with the Messianic Prophecies, and informed the king that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, the crucial piece of information which they lacked -- which I suspect was by God's very own design in order to protect Jesus as long as possible -- was the precise timing of the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning Christ. As you may recall, in the Book of Genesis we are informed that God placed the Sun, Moon and stars in the heavens to serve as signs, to establish the four seasons, to measure time, and to give light on the Earth. Consider the following verses:

"And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good."
Genesis 1:14-18, KJV

God apparently gave the Magi the wisdom and the knowledge to properly interpret those signs in the heavens, so that they could find the newborn Messiah, while the Jews were blinded to the same, even though He was already in their very midst.

There seems to be another important lesson which we can draw from this event. It concerns the fact that God is extremely careful with certain pieces of time-sensitive information. He guards it and protects it; because He knows that as soon as Satan becomes aware of it, he will act upon it. This is precisely what that old serpent did when he inspired Herod to murder all of the children in the town of Bethlehem and the surrounding region. The minute that Satan became aware of the fact that the time of the fulfillment of some of the Old Testament prophecies had finally arrived, he struck out, and violence and murder was in his plan. Years later, Jesus would tell the unbelieving Jews in the Gospel of John:

"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."
John 8:44, KJV

This tragic event again suggests to me that -- unlike God -- the Devil is not all-knowing. While he may possess knowledge of the written Word just like you and I, and while he may be familiar with the prophecies, and may thus know the end from the beginning, he is hindered and crippled by the fact that he does not know when specific prophetic events are going to occur, because the Lord has kept this information from him. God purposely keeps that Demon of the Dark literally in the dark concerning His prophetic plans, and He alone knows the times and the seasons in which He has ordained certain events to occur.

We find another clear example of God's "security system" in the Olivet Discourse, which is found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. As you may recall, after admiring the doomed Temple in Jerusalem, the Disciples had asked Jesus the following questions:

"And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?"
Matthew 24:3, KJV

After providing His eager Disciples with a list of events which would occur and precede His coming and the end of the age, Jesus pulled the rug right out from under them when He said the following, as recorded in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew:

"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."
Matthew 24:36, KJV

"But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is."
Mark 13:32-33, KJV

Please notice that this information is so classified, that even Jesus Himself admits that He is not privy to it. It is obvious that the Disciples were very eager to obtain this information from the Lord; because in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, just prior to Jesus' Ascension to Heaven, we again find them seeking answers. However, once again, the Lord refuses to reveal to them the things which His Father alone knows, as we see by the following verses:

"When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power."
Acts 1:6-7, KJV

So once again we witness how our Heavenly Father's Divine Timetable is a highly-guarded secret. This same high level of secrecy regarding the culmination of God's plans for the world is revealed in a number of other verses which we find in the New Testament as well. Consider the following:

"Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up . . . The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,"
Matthew 24:42-43, 50, KJV

"Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."
Matthew 25:13, KJV

"For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch."
Mark 13:34-37, KJV

"Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not."
Luke 12:35-40, KJV

"And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man."
Luke 21:34-36, KJV

"But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober."
1 Thessalonians 5:2-6, KJV

"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."
2 Peter 3:10, KJV

"Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee."
Revelation 3:3, KJV

"Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."
Revelation 16:15, KJV

In a word, the clear message seems to be "It is not for you to know". But the question which arises is this: Was it not for them to know two thousand years ago, or is it not for us to know today as well? Please consider reading such articles as "As a Thief in the Night? Not for Me!", "Sorry . . . Jesus is Not Coming at Any Moment" and "The Misguided End of the World Predictions of Harold Camping" if you are interested in acquiring an alternative perspective. There is a very specific reason why our Heavenly Father has employed these prophetic safeguards in His Kingdom. Let us not forget what Jesus said earlier in the same Gospel of Matthew regarding the spiritual warfare which remains invisible to our human eyes, unless God chooses to reveal it to us, as He did with the servant of the Prophet Elisha:

"And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."
Matthew 11:12, KJV

There is a serious war being waged -- both in Heaven, and on Earth -- and God is not about to allow His plans to fall into the hands of Satan and his evil minions. Knowledge is power, and that is why God must always remain one step ahead of His rebellious adversary, Satan. It is my belief that this is why some information -- particularly time-specific information -- has not been revealed to us at this current time. Apparently, God does not believe that we need to know it yet, and it may even be dangerous for us to be in possession of such intel. Following are some additional verses which reveal the ongoing war in the Heavenly Domain:

"Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:"
Ephesians 2:2, KJV

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
Ephesians 6:12, KJV

"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit."
Isaiah 14:12-15, KJV

"And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven."
Luke 10:18, KJV

"And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth . . . And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."
Revelation 12:3-4a, 7-9, KJV

Continuing our previous discussion, we honestly do not know what the Star of Bethlehem was with any degree of certainty. It has been theorized that it may have possibly been a bright comet, or a supernova, or perhaps an alignment or conjunction of certain stars or planets. Allow me to offer you a personal theory regarding the possible identity of the famous Star of Bethlehem, for your consideration. As I mentioned earlier, in the Book of Genesis we are informed that God placed the Sun, Moon and stars in the heavens to serve as signs, to establish the four seasons, to measure time, and to give light on the Earth.

If you are an astronomer, or at least possess an interest in the field of astronomy, you will no doubt know that after the Moon itself, the planet Venus is the brightest object in the night sky. In fact, Venus is so bright -- with an apparent magnitude of -4.6 -- that not only is it capable of casting shadows, but as occurred with me when I was a young boy, it can easily be mistaken for an incoming airplane. It is really one magnificent sight. Now here is where it gets interesting. Because Venus reaches its maximum brightness just before the Sun rises, or right after the Sun sets, ancient astronomers and writers referred to it as both the Morning Star and the Evening Star; names which it has retained to our present time. Therein lies a possible Scriptural mystery. As you may know, in the Book of Revelation, Jesus is in fact referred to as "the bright and morning star". Consider the following verses:

"And I will give him the morning star."
Revelation 2:28, KJV

"I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star."
Revelation 22:16, KJV

While it is possible that the previous verses are actually referring to the Sun -- after all, Psalm 84:11 says "For the LORD God is a sun and shield" -- what if the planet Venus is really being implied when Jesus says that He is "the bright and morning star"? What if the wise men -- who obviously had to be very knowledgeable of the heavens -- were following the planet Venus as it traveled its daily course low in the sky, from east to west, towards Jerusalem and Bethlehem? It would have been very easy to follow; because just as it still does today, Venus outshone everything else in the night sky two thousand years ago. But there is one other point which may add a degree of validity to this theory. The planet Venus receives its name from the Roman goddess of love and beauty. Roman paganism aside, don't the Scriptures teach us that our God is a God of Love? As the Apostle John writes:

"He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."
1 John 4:8, KJV

"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
1 John 3:16, KJV

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
John 3:16, KJV

So in my view, it seems quite appropriate that the true God of Love might use the planet of love -- Venus -- as a symbol and a sign in the night sky, to lead the wise men to Jesus Christ, who is both "the bright and morning star", as well as our Heavenly Father's ultimate manifestation of love to the people of Planet Earth. As inspiring and wonderful as my personal theory may seem, is it a solid theory? Please keep reading to find out.

Please go to part two for the continuation of this series.

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