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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Star in the East

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Matthew (, sq.) relates that at the time of the birth of our Lord there came wise men (magi) from the East to Jerusalem, to inquire after the newly-born king of the Jews, in order that they might offer him presents and worship him. A star, which they had seen in the East, guided them to the house where the infant Messiah was. Having come into his presence, they presented unto him gifts—gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Our space will not allow us to enter upon the consideration of the various theories which have been framed to explain this portion of the sacred narrative. We must content ourselves with a brief statement of the theory of the distinguished astronomer Kepler, which appears to us the right view of the case.

These wise men were Chaldean magi. A conviction had long been spread throughout the East, that about the commencement of our era a great and victorious prince, or the Messiah, was to be born. His birth was, in consequence of words of Sacred Scripture (), connected with the appearance of a star. Calculations seem to have led the astrological astronomers of Mesopotamia to fix the time for the advent of this king in the latter days of Herod, and the place in the land of Judea. Accordingly, at the appointed time two planets, Jupiter and Saturn, were in conjunction under such circumstances as to appear one resplendent heavenly body, and to marshal the way for the magi from their own homes to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and the inn.

Kepler found by the calculations which he made that Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction in the constellation of the Fishes (a fish is the astrological symbol of Judea) in the latter half of the year of Rome 747, and were joined by Mars in 748. The two planets went past each other three times, came very near together, and showed themselves all night long for months in conjunction with each other, as if they would never separate again. Their first union in the East awoke the attention of the magi, told them the expected time had come, and bade them set off without delay towards Judea (the fish land). When they reached Jerusalem the two planets were once more blended together. Then, in the evening, they stood in the southern part of the sky, pointing with their united rays to Bethlehem, where prophecy declared the Messiah was to be born. The magi followed the finger of heavenly light, and were brought to the child Jesus. The conclusion, in regard to the time of the advent, is, that our Lord was born in the latter part of the year of Rome 747, or six years before the Common Era.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Star in the East'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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