There are at least nine characteristics of the event that must be met to comport with the account in Mathew 2. There may be more. Six of these are by astronomer Patrick Moore who wrote the book “The Star of Bethlehem” to see if he could relate historical accounts of astronomical events to the “Star”. His conclusion was that we will never know.
This “star” would have been an unusual event. It’s not every day that one see’s a close encounter like this was. It was very conspicuous, and only lasted a very short time, then disappeared.
The Wise men saw it because they knew it was coming. It could easily have been missed because it was before sunrise in the days of no street lights, most people would be inside getting ready for the day.
The event was probably over a very short time, maybe only over 45 minutes to an hour. A large object suddenly appearing in the sky at high velocity, then rapidly slowing to a stop, would be an unusual experience for anyone lucky enough to have seen it. The Star stopping over a particular house (from the Wise Mens point of view), with the crescent moon rising up behind it, definitely pointed the way and cause the Wise Men to “Rejoice EXCEEDINGLY!*
Moore came at the problem from known bodies.
My theory comes at it from the opposite view: To provide enough information that the body can be now be found. Having a big sale, on-site celebrity, or other event? Be sure to announce it so everybody knows and gets excited about it.
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1. In the East (Babylon?) the Wise men look for the return of the “Star”.
2. They see the Star in the East in a certain Constellation. They crank the Antikathyra Mechanism around to find out the date and position of it’s return.
3. They calculate the “where” it will take place, and it is hundreds of miles to the West, near Jerusalem.
4. After some time, up to two years, they travel to Jerusalem and arrive there before the event, asking Herod where this predicted birth of the New King will take place.
5. Herod tells them it will be in Bethlehem, according to the scripture.
6. The Wise men travel to Bethlehem and camp out at the edge of, or in the town of Bethlehem and get ready to observe the event they came to see.
7. They’re up all night or get up 1-2 hours before dawn, they know this is a “near sunrise” event.
8. Approximately 1 hour before dawn, directly overhead, the “Star” pops into view, very bright, and moving very fast.
9. After 1 minute or less, it appears to rapidly slow down.
10. They begin to follow the Star.
11. After 10-15 minutes, the Star is stopped on the horizon, right over the Inn where toddler Yeshua is staying with his family.
12. They are already very excited, but now, just behind the Star, the Crescent moon rises, Star on Crescent, right over the roof line of the Inn.
13. They rejoice EXCEEDINGLY!
14. They go inside to deliver their Praise and gifts.15. Thirty minutes later the Star and Crescent has faded away in the Sunrise.
1. Orbits are cyclical. Something drew men's attention to a particular sighting. Over time men noticed that the event was repeating itself over a consistent period of time. Like yearly meteor showers, these can be predicted far out into the future. The Star and Crescent were not a yearly event, or we would still be seeing it.
2. The Nativity and Wise men encounter were two different events, separated by as much as two years.
This has always been the common understanding of the event, and it's true, but we can narrow it down a little. Herod had all the baby boys, in and near Bethlehem, two years old and under, killed. Herod knew that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, yet he had all the babies in the vicinity also killed. Herod was making sure that he killed the new King. Apply that logic to the ages of "two and under". I think it was probably one year or less after the Nativity. The "two years" was Herod just making sure that he killed the new king. Joseph and family was in the habit of returning to Jerusalem every year for the Passover (Luke 2:41). Jerusalem was probably very crowded at that time and Joseph would have stayed in an area he was familiar with, Bethlehem, and probably at "the Inn". The wise men "rejoiced exceedingly, and went in." ****You don't do that at a home, but a public access building.**** Best guess is that the wise men showed up one year or less from the Nativity. If Passover was close to the date of the Nativity, then we could argue that the Wise men encounter was one or up too two years later. If the Passover was, say, a month after the Nativity, then that would make the Wise men encounter 13 months after the Nativity. Herod wasn't going to be sloppy about his plan. Likewise, if Passover was 6 months after the Nativity, then the encounter may have been 6 or 18 months after the Nativity.
We can't yet pin it down yet, but I would argue that it was one year or less.
3. The event took place shortly before sunrise. First, it was dark out, they saw a "star". They saw something and "rejoiced exceedingly", they immediately went into the inn and people were awake and moving around. The star on the crescent is what drew them to Jerusalem and the waning moon is a "just before sunrise" event.
4. The "Star" doesn't really slow down and stop. It's the change in angular velocity from where the Wise Men are observing the event that gives the appearance of slowing and stopping, right on the roof line of the Inn. As the Wise Men "follow the Star" from where they were camped, not far from the Inn, there is a slight downgrade which would reinforce the "stopped Star" observation. (Check out Google Earth "terrain view" to see this slight decline from a point just west of the "Church of the Nativity". It also seems to validate the idea that that Church is where the "Inn" actually was.)
5. This whole theory can be true without changing one word of the Bible.
6. The new theory is from another point of view and is contradictory of the contemporary narrative, yet both can be true at the same time.
7. Like any parable, few words can say a lot. They can only be understood by people who have an understanding heart, Christians. Along with an understanding heart, it helps, with this type of parable, to have a background in the subject matter. I believe the Wise men were telling a half truth when they said they were coming to worship the "new King of the Jews". What they meant was that they were coming to see their moon god being manifested in the crescent/star conjunction. The way the Jews heard it was the wise men were coming to see the Messiah. It,s possible that Herod suspected something along those lines and that may have been his motive for killing all those babies. I'm not saying that Herod wasn't a tyrannical rat, but that his motives, which we can not prove, may have been different than contemporary belief.
8. The Wise Men rejoice EXCEEDINGLY! Why not? They are seeing exactly what they traveled so far to see, the Star on the Crescent!