July 23, 2017

Review: The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View by Aaron Adair

A great holiday read!

By now, the seasonal discussion will once again have reached a fevered pitch. Just what was the Star of Bethlehem? Mentioned only in the Book of Matthew in the New Testament of the Bible, this astronomical allusion has tantalized astronomers and historians for centuries. And in the modern Internet age, the controversy now comes back around every Christmas season. Is there anything to the parable from an astronomical perspective? Or is the tale simple flourish and allegory, a Jewish midrash told to flesh out the story of the birth of Jesus?

Last week, we reviewed The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi by Michael R. Molnar. This week, we’re taking a look at a great companion resource to the history of the whole affair with The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View by Aaron Adair. Mr. Adair is a PhD physicist and a physics education researcher at Ohio State University. Like so many of us, he was first introduced to the attempts to link the story of the Star of Bethlehem with astronomy via the numerous planetarium programs on the subject that still make their seasonal rounds to this day.

The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View is one of the most comprehensive and through books on the subject, looking at both the “prime astronomical suspects,” and the culture and history of ideas that have attempted to link the mention of the Star to various astronomical phenomena. Kudos to the author for wadding into the mirth of ancient astrology and confronting its modern counterpart; we’ve been there ourselves, and its often an enlightening (if a bit tiring at times) experience to put oneself before a hostile audience. The author rightly points out that it’s nearly impossible to get any two given astrologers – ancient or modern – to agree on the portent of a particular horoscope. Would any trine or grand alignment, no matter how auspicious, convince the Magi to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem? We always thought that it would be a dangerous gambit to tell Herod that the King of the Jews had just been born in the first place… astrologers frequently had to think of their own hide when casting horoscopes.

Adair also looks at previous attempts to link the Star to the astrological, such as the ideas posed by Molnar in his book. The author convincingly demonstrates that the connection of the coin from Antioch depicting a star in Aries the Ram is tenuous and unpersuasive: why would Antioch care about goings on in Judea? Again, it’s nearly impossible to discern just what would be going on in the minds of ancient astrologers when viewing given astronomical events.

The author also takes to task some the previous dating of the death of Herod and the translation from the ancient Greek carried out by Molnar, and finds it wanting. He also looks at and disregards more exotic claims such as a supernova or unlikely solar system objects such as Uranus that have been suggested as suspects.

Still, attempts to link the Star with astronomy or ancient astrology just won’t die. Is it worth re-igniting the con- (or perhaps non-) -traversy every holiday season? If anything, perhaps it’s still a “teachable” moment to introduce the curious to a scientifically rigorous take on the subject and the wonders of astronomy.

But whatever your views, be sure to arm yourself with the facts, and Mr. Adair’s fascinating and comprehensive look at the subject!

Comments

  1. Also be sure to arm yourself with awareness of the facts in my blog article at
    http://bit.ly/18LQOad
    Try and argue your way out of the article following the poem if you think coincidence means anything. And I can provide anyone hundreds of telling coincidences via Parts and Asteroids let alone planetary pattern if they care to go to my “Testament of the Magi” at
    http://amzn.to/12eP5S8
    This data has to belong to the historical Jesus, it’s as exact as a fingerprint (like Part of Redemption just happening to conjunct the identity giving sun of someone called Redeemer) or who just happens to have asteroid Joshua Levine on his reputation Midheaven and Joshua equals the Jesus name and Jesus and Jesus calls himself the true Vine. And the whole pattern works for the life and for Jesus issues to this day.

    I am however at the point of wondering about the sincerity of some people’s quest in this area. Only a few days ago the Sydney Observatory issued an article asking what the Star was and opining that it now seemed unlikely to represent a notable astronomical phenomenon it was more likely astrological. But how, they wondered, could one really test that? I write in and suggest they look at what I have to say and I don’t receive a reply.

    I suppose it’s possible to object to my picture which even has the ancestors’ names in the house of origins that I am pushing things by using unseen, unnamed asteroids to fill out the planetary picture (itself descriptive enough). But perhaps the mind must be more open and think in terms of universal mind and of time being one so that the undiscovered will still count in the picture. Anyway it is an astonishing one and should be at least known to be discussed but people refuse it. Perhaps through scientific and rationalist snobbery and myopia. I have had trouble from the first and from even David Hughes whose claims I radically developed. He won’t contact me, never has in twenty years not even with the Society of Authors, his publisher, one of my editors who knows him asking him to get in touch. In a way, it belongs to the archetypal nature of the quest that the truth should be so hidden and find quite so much “no room at the inn” as I have had to suffer as theologian, published author and astrologer. It’s as much as I can do to get even astrologers to look at the material (I have tried again at this season several astro groups and persons without having response)l though the late Gwen Stoney, Australia’s expert in Cosmobio and exact timing way back in late ’87 the year I first found the material with some certainty, was convinced I had found the truth and was correct to within 30 seconds for someone who would die a ghastly death at the given time and date in AD 30.

    If I can’t interest you in any of this, I fancy I can’t. My question is do you and others want just mysteries or answers? Whether people accept my answer or not it is and will always have been the most exact and complete one they will ever reject.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] review went up today over at Astro Guyz. It is very positive and it is done in the light of the book by Michael Molnar on the same subject. [...]

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