“A Comet, Christ’s Birth, and Josephus’s Lunar Eclipse”

“A Comet, Christ’s Birth, and Josephus’s Lunar Eclipse” August 12, 2022


The Christmas star
The Star over Bethlehem, from the Christmas 1898 cover of Harper’s Magazine
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


“A Comet, Christ’s Birth, and Josephus’s Lunar Eclipse,” written by Charles Dike

Abstract: A comet seen by the Chinese in 5 bc has been considered by some authors as a possibility for the Star of Bethlehem. This article starts with that premise and argues that Book of Mormon evidences reinforce that likelihood. The comet path can account for all events surrounding the Star of Bethlehem. Based on typologies in the scriptures, eyewitness reports, and the comet’s timing, the date of Christ’s birth can be determined. A proposal can then be made as to when and why the wise men began travelling to Jerusalem. The comet left a trail of debris the wise men saw on the night they located the house where Jesus was. The wise men and Joseph and Mary left Judea in mid-June of 5 bc and the slaughter of the innocents occurred later in that month. Using Josephus’s “Antiquities,” this article then argues strongly that Herod’s death occurred sometime after a lunar eclipse on September 15, 5 bc and before the next Passover. This serves also to support his death in the spring of 4 bc, contrary to some scholars who opt for a 1 bc death. This study reaffirms the reality of the Star of Bethlehem.


“Interpreting Interpreter: A Proposed Morning Star,” written by Kyler Rasmussen

This post is a summary of the article “A Comet, Christ’s Birth, and Josephus’s Lunar Eclipse” by Charles Dike in Volume 52 of Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship. An introduction to the Interpreting Interpreter series is available at https://interpreterfoundation.org/interpreting-interpreter-on-abstracting-thought/.

The Takeaway: Dike describes how, under the right circumstances, a comet recorded in 5 BC could have produced both the night without darkness and the Star of Bethlehem, allowing him to propose a detailed timeline for the events surrounding Christ’s birth.


As I write, by the way, I note that there are only 134 shopping days left until Christmas.




I suspect that most of my readers here, like me, can discuss the fate of the public statues of Confederate leaders and generals with some degree of disinterest, because we have no dog in the fight.  We aren’t historically linked to the Confederacy.  In my case, so far as I’m aware, none of my ancestors owned slaves or advocated slavery.  My maternal ancestors came to Utah either directly from England and Scotland or indirectly, without passing through the South, from hyper-Yankee Massachusetts.   My paternal ancestors didn’t leave Scandinavia until well after the American Civil War had ended and the slaves had been freed.


But the fight has, for some time, begun to spill over from mere debate about the legacy of the former Confederate States of America.  Here’s a calm and judicious discussion of that topic with which I have some considerable sympathy (if not altogether complete agreement):


“The Legacy of White Supremacy: Why Confederate Monuments Should Come Down”


But there are manifest indications that not everybody is going to be calm and judicious, and that the debate is likely to expand beyond Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson:


“Latest Victim Of Statue Hysteria: Catholic Saints”


“If Lee goes, will Washington and Jefferson follow?”


“CNN’s Angela Rye: Statues of Washington, Jefferson and Lee ‘All Need to Come Down’”


‘HAMILTON’ STAR:  Maybe Washington, Jefferson Statues SHOULD COME DOWN”


Believing Latter-day Saints, however, should not feel complacently secure from such storms.  Or, to vary the metaphor, they should realize that the acids eating away at the statues of eminent Confederates will, probably sooner rather than later, be lapping at the feet of the historical human beings whom we believe to have been called by God to lead his Church.  And, just as at least a few agitators are probably seeking, by means of the recent controversies over monumental sculptures, to devalue the achievements and virtues and even demonize the legacy of the American Republic, a few will almost certainly be attempting the same transmogrification of the Restored Church.


Consider this piece that appeared quite a while back:


“The Forthcoming Mormon Memory Wars”


Notice its language about Brigham Young, for example, with my emphasis:  “Young ruled the LDS church for 30 years.”  And what was the historical impact of “his reign“?  Why, what else but “racism, fostering a culture of violence towards others, and polygamy and misogyny”?  And note the cool and detached language of this sentence, couched in the passive voice:  “A petition has also recently been launched to rename Brigham Young University.”  The author didn’t note that, as a matter of coincidental fact, he himself is the author and prime mover of that petition.


Latter-day Saints should be aware of, and prepared for, the onslaught that is likely to come.


As a religious and political conservative, I’ve watched not dispassionately but with some indignation the long-evident but increasing tendency for people on the left to suggest that conservatives are not only wrong but, to some greater or lesser degree, morally depraved.  And, to the extent that the same thing has happened on the right, I’ve opposed it.  Sometimes in the face of rather spirited attack.  (See, for example, my defense of Harry Reid, with whom I had many major political disagreements.)


I intend to resist attempts to extend this project of demonization back into history.  I freely confess that the American Founders and the founders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints alike were and are human.  But I also believe them to have been good men, on the whole and for their cultural milieu, and I won’t stand idly by while they’re defamed and marginalized.


I want my stance on record now for the days that are inevitably to come.




I have recently been dumpster diving for horrors in the apparently inexhaustible Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File©.  Today, I came up with a sextet of horrors that, I think, will leave you shivering with fright and quivering with indignation.  Which is what you really want, isn’t


“The Amos C. Brown Fellowship to Ghana Concludes: Students say it was a life-changing cultural encounter”


“JustServe by the Numbers: In 2021, 2,500 new organizations registered with JustServe, which connects volunteers with organizations needing help”


“New Wells in Kurdistan to Provide Water to 15,000 People: Life-saving project is a collaboration between the government and Latter-day Saint Charities”


“Why spirituality helps the medicine go down: New research in JAMA suggests that serious illness and public health outcomes both benefits from linking spirituality to medicine.”


“Latter-day Saints Assist With Flooding Cleanup in Kentucky: Church provides food, water and supplies to US state”


“BYU students design affordable water filtration device to help provide clean water in Pakistan: The engineering capstone students tested the filtration system in the campus duck pond earlier this year and got pretty “clear” results”


Appalling stories such as these make one almost want to despair, don’t they?  Isn’t that wonderful?  Isn’t it marvelous?


Posted from Matten bei Interlaken, Switzerland

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