When we think of the star of Bethlehem, images of a blazing star in the East spring to mind. But was there really a star of Bethlehem that led the Magi to the Christ child on that fateful night all those years ago?
Some scholars believe the conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn that occurred in 7 BC could have been the fabled star.
These “great conjunctions”, as conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter are known, were taken by the ancients to signalize the qualities of moments, to announce the beginning and end of eras, and define the moments of great men. The great conjunction occurs in Aries once every 960 years or so.
The famed medieval astrologer, Abu Mas’ar (787-886 AD), treats of the great conjunctions in his Book of Religions and Dynasties. On average, a great conjunction occurs about every 20 years. Remarkably, these conjunctions occur regressively in the same “triplicity”, that is, in zodiacal signs that have the same elemental value – fire, water, earth, and air signs – 12 or 13 times before the conjunction occurs in another triplicity. For example, Jupiter will conjunct Saturn in Aries, say, then, about 20 years later, in Sagittarius, then, another 20 years later, in Leo. This will repeat 4 times before the great conjunction occurs in a new triplicity. This happens once in around 250 years.
I ‘ve looked at tables of the great conjunctions going back centuries, and for the most part, surprisingly, this holds true. Every now and again there is an interpolation of a conjunction in a different triplicity before the changeover, but for the most part Abu Mas’ar’s teaching holds up.
Abu Mas’ar says that whenever the great conjunction switches triplicity, the birth of a prophet is signified. The birth is then forecast by taking the mean time of the conjunction and projecting the longitude of the conjunction from the ascendant of the chart. Each sign counted is significant of years, each degree 1/30 of a year, until the exact date and time of a birth is predicted.
We must remember that the Magi were of Persian origin, and this technique was quite likely known to them. The question becomes, did the great conjunction of 7 B.C. switch triplicity? And, did it occur in the so-called 9th house at its mean conjunction for the capital of the province wherein the prophet is said to be born (another of Abu Ma’sar’s requirements)?
The great conjunction preceding our “star of Bethlehem” occurred in 26 BC at 3º Leo 17’, a fire sign. Then, on May 29, 7 BC, the great conjunction occurred at 20º Pisces 55’, a water sign. The conjunction changed triplicity, from fire to water. Remarkably, when viewed from Jerusalem (the capital of Judea) the conjunction began in the 9th house. Taking the mean time of the conjunction (9:57:30 a.m. local time), the conjunction is 218º 45’ from an ascendant erected for Jerusalem. Following Abu Ma’sar’s teaching, this converts to 7 years, 106 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 54 seconds. The birth is signified to occur at 10:44 pm, on September 12 in the year 1 AD (remember, there was no year 0 AD – 1 AD is the year of Christ’s birth!).
September 12 is close the beginning of the Jewish new year, and depending on the particular Moon cycles, the date is within the range of Rosh Hashanah; the inns might well be full, and folks might well be traveling home to family. And, immediately preceding 10:44 p.m., Joseph and Mary would indeed have been looking to bed down for the night. Further, September is a fitting time of year for shepherds to be watching their flocks by night.
Of course, I am not suggesting this is Christ’s time of birth. But the fact that this particular date and time can be arrived at using an age old tradition of ancient astrology is amazing. The time could just as easily been 4 p.m. or in a completely different year.
Is it possible the Magi performed a similar calculation in the years preceding Christ’s birth which led them to the manger?