Christians for centuries have tried to find a scientific explanation for the star of Bethlehem. (Since no astronomical phenomenon moves like the Tinker Bell star in Matthew, I guess you have to be impressed by their perseverance.) Here’s another interpretation that you may enjoy. It comes from an 11-minute section of Zeitgeist: The Movie (2007). It’s a fascinating attempt to explain the star and even the Bible from an astrological viewpoint. I want to summarize it for you, not because I think it’s particularly accurate, but to show how a story can be woven from facts and speculation that can be compelling to an unskeptical audience.
The star of Bethlehem
Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky, and it’s “the star in the east” that Matthew says the three kings were following. On Dec. 24, Sirius aligns with the three stars in Orion’s belt (the “three kings”). These four stars form a line that points to the sunrise on Dec. 25. That’s how the “three kings” follow the star in the east to locate the birth of the sun. This line points to the birth of the sun just after the winter solstice when days start to get longer.
Mary is represented by the constellation Virgo the virgin. The astrological symbol for Virgo is the “altered M,” which is why we see saviors’ mothers’ names start with that letter, such as Jesus’s mother Mary, Adonis’s mother Myrra, and Buddha’s mother Maya. Virgo is also known as the House of Bread, and the constellation is often drawn showing a woman holding a sheaf of wheat. The sun is in Virgo in the late summer, which is harvest time. Bethlehem also means “house of bread,” which means that the Bethlehem sought by the kings was a constellation, not a town on earth.
Take a step back . . .
If doubts are growing in your mind about some of the claims in this argument, I feel the same way. We’ll continue with the argument as it moves on to an astrological interpretation of Christianity and the role of Jesus, but keep track of those doubts, and you can compare them with mine in a subsequent post.
This video is an odd combination of intriguing connections built on a foundation of questionable claims. Said another way, it’s compelling even though its claims are questionable. Now that you see where we’re going, rein in your skepticism and consider the rest of the argument.
Jesus and astrology
The transit of the sun moves south from June through December (yes, this perspective is Northern Hemisphere-centric, but that’s because the gospel story comes from the Northern Hemisphere). The weather gradually gets colder, and plants die. The plants are dying because the sun is “dying” (becoming weaker as it gives less light). The sun is motionless (that is, it stops going further south) for a few days around the solstice (December 22–24) near the constellation of the Southern Cross. And then on December 25, it moves again. In other words, the sun dies on the cross and then is soon reborn. This parallels the son dying on the cross and then rising after three days. The sun brings spring, while the son brings salvation.
After the spring equinox (around Easter), light finally becomes greater than dark, and the sun has overpowered the darkness (evil). Jesus’s promised return is the rising of the sun every morning.
The twelve disciples parallel the twelve signs of the zodiac. The typical drawing of the zodiac is a ring of constellations with a horizontal and vertical line that divides them into four groups of three to identify the four seasons. In the center of this cross is often a circle for the sun. This symbol, the cross with a circle (think of a Celtic cross), is a pagan symbol that preceded Christianity. Jesus is often depicted with this circle/cross behind his head as a halo (here, here). In this way, Jesus is depicted as the sun at the center of the zodiac, the light of the world.
Another kind of halo was the crown of thorns, which parallels the sun’s rays.
You may have heard the song, “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” by The 5th Dimension (1969), which refers to the “Age of Aquarius.” An “age” in this astrological context is one twelfth of one cycle of the precession of the earth. Precession is what a spinning top does when its axis slowly wobbles to trace out a cone while the top itself is spinning rapidly. The earth is also a spinning top, and a complete precession cycle for the earth takes about 26,000 years, so the sun on the spring equinox is in each constellation for one twelfth of that, which is 2150 years. We’re nearing the end of the Age of Pisces, which will be followed by the Age of Aquarius.
Moses in his day represented the new age of Aries the Ram (2150 BCE – 0), and a rejection of the previous age, that of Taurus the Bull. The golden calf on which Moses smashed the Ten Commandments was from the old age, and from the new Age of Aries came the Jewish custom of blowing a ram’s horn. We see a similar symbology in Mithraism in which Mithra killed a bull.
After Aries came the Age of Pisces the Fish starting in about the year 0, roughly the birth year of Jesus. The fish is a symbol of Jesus, and fish recur in the gospel story: fishermen join his entourage, he feeds the masses with a few loaves and fishes, and he promises his followers, “I will make you fishers of men.”
We even see a hint of the next age. Jesus tells the disciples how to find a room for the Last Supper: “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters” (Luke 22:10). The water bearer symbolizes the next age, the Age of Aquarius, which begins in 2150. When Jesus promises, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), the “end” isn’t the end of the world but the end of the astrological age, in this case, the Age of Pisces.
Continued: last December, I couldn’t simply lay out Rick Larson’s explanation for the star of Bethlehem without a rebuttal pointing out its errors, and I can’t let this Zeitgeist astrological story get away with its errors. Continue here.
but he’s very, very good at playing possum.
— commenter Richard Wade
Image from MabelAmber, public domain