I'm surprised this question hasn't been asked already.

Matthew 2:1-2 (NIV)
2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.

This star is usually called the Star of Bethlehem, and there are many different theories as to what it was, including a supernova, a planet (such as Venus), or a comet. (An actual star is not among the options because stars don't move and then stop moving.) So, which one was it?

4 Answers 4


According to Fredrick A. Larson, this so-called 'Star of Bethlehem' is actually the planet Jupiter. He produced a video documentary called (appropriately enough) "The Star of Bethlehem" that can be found on YouTube (link) and his website. In this video documentary, Rick Larson lays out a detailed case for the Star of Bethlehem being Jupiter, which includes the following points:

  • These "wise men" were almost certainly astrologers.
  • "In the east" likely meant that the "star" rose in the east, like all stars do.
  • Jupiter, the King Planet, entered retrograde motion around Regulus, the King Star, crowning it.
  • Jupiter then coincided with Venus, resulting in the brightest star that had ever been seen.
  • Jupter entered retrograde motion again and appeared to stop over Bethlehem.

Larson then goes on to point out a great number of other significant astronomical events that occurred throughout Jesus' life, but they are not directly related to the Star of Bethlehem, so I won't talk about them here. The main difficulty with this is the fact that most historians place Herod's death in 4 B.C. whereas Larson's explanation depends on Herod's death being in 1 B.C. Larson does reference recent scholarship that support 1 B.C. as being the year of Herod's death.

The Wikipedia article on the subject has a section about astrological events that might be the Star of Bethlehem, and all of the suggestions in that section include Jupiter. Therefore, it's a safe bet to say that Jupiter is the most likely candidate for being the Star of Bethlehem.


There's no way to answer this definitively: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_of_Bethlehem

There are probably several astrological events that could construe "a rising star" to the ancients, but there's no natural phenomenon that would fit a literal reading of verse 9.

I personally find this part of the story symbolic. It's also interesting to note that the Age of Pisces began around the same time as Jesus' birth: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrological_age#The_Age_of_Pisces_.28The_Piscean_Age.29

  • 1
    When Ptolomy set up his astronomical/astrological system in the 2nd century AD, the signs of the Zodiac and the constellations corresponded. With the passage of time, that correspondence no longer exists. The earth's axis now points at the constellation Pisces and not Aries as it did in Ptolomy's time, and as it now passes the Pisces border into Aquarius, the Age of that name is said to be dawning. This shift of the earth's orientation in space to the constellations causes unbelievable embarrassments for astrologers, who as they attempt to explain away the problems posed by precession
    – Anne
    May 28, 2018 at 20:42
  • see many of the formerly buried intrinsic problems of astrology rise up to stare back at them. When astrological rationale is modified to allow for the fact of precession, it gains renewed justification for daily 'influences' but forfeits the one thing astrologers are so fond of: the New Age! ...it is impossible for the Age of Aquarius, or any 'new age', to dawn. The mechanism therefore makes room for the 'little picture' of daily, monthly and yearly 'influences' but cannot at the same time make room for the 'bigger picture' of a new age to come. Astrologers can never enter the
    – Anne
    May 28, 2018 at 20:43
  • New Age. They are forever stuck in one age. I quote this from a former astrologer, his book, What Your Horoscope Doesn't Tell You, Charles Strohmer (Word Books, 1988) pp 37-41
    – Anne
    May 28, 2018 at 20:43

Whilst answering a recent (2018) question about the Star of Bethlehem, I came across an article that suggests this strange heavenly body might have a supernatural cause:

"What exactly was the star of Bethlehem? The Greek word translated “star” in the text is the word aster, which is the normal word for a star or celestial body. The word is used 24 times in the New Testament, and most of the time it refers to a celestial body. It can be used to denote angels, as in Revelation 12:4, where aster seems to refer to the fallen angels who followed Satan’s rebellion. Basic rules of biblical interpretation state that we should take the normal sense of a word unless there is compelling evidence to suggest otherwise. In that case, the star of Bethlehem should be considered an actual heavenly body. Many Bible scholars suggest a natural explanation for the star of Bethlehem, their theories ranging from a supernova to a comet to an alignment of planets. Something in the heavens provided a brighter-than-normal light in the sky.

However, there is evidence to suggest that the star of Bethlehem was not a natural stellar phenomenon, but something unexplained by science. First, the fact that the star of Bethlehem seemed to appear only to the magi indicates that this was no ordinary star. Also, celestial bodies normally move from east to west due to the earth’s rotation, yet the star of Bethlehem led the magi from Jerusalem south to Bethlehem. Not only that, but it led them directly to the place where Joseph and Mary were staying, stopping overhead. There is no natural stellar phenomenon that can do that.

So, if the normal usage of the word star doesn’t fit the context, what does? The star of Bethlehem in Matthew 2:1–12 was likely a manifestation of the Shekinah Glory. The Shekinah, which literally means “dwelling of God,” was the visible presence of the Lord. Prior to this, the most notable appearance of the Shekinah was the pillar of cloud that led the Israelites by day and the pillar of fire that led them by night (Exodus 13:21). The Shekinah fits the evidence. The Shekinah can obviously lead people to specific locations, and it was seen later in connection with Christ’s ministry (e.g., Matthew 17:5; Acts 1:9). It shouldn’t surprise us that God would use a miraculous sign to signal the advent of His Son into the world. Those with eyes to see joyfully beheld His glory."

Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/star-of-Bethlehem.html

Just something else for people to consider.

  • Fair comment. I would just add that Prof. Brian Cox was on a BBC documentary about the way stars and planets move and how they appear to us, on the ground. He showed how, occasionally, some planets appear to loop back on themselves, then go forward again. It's due to earth's rotation and their movement, which actually remains forward, but to us it looks like a backward blip, before 'normal' progression resumes. The claim from your source that 'There is no natural stellar phenomenon that can do that' can be challenged!
    – Anne
    May 24, 2018 at 9:02
  • @Anne Yes, cosmologists are discovering all sorts of new facts about our universe that shed light on what was previously considered to phenomenal or supernatural. Staggering to think that such planetary movement would be visible at just that moment in time and at just that point in the heavens to lead the magi to where Jesus was. Coincidental? Or by divine providence? I think the latter.
    – Lesley
    May 24, 2018 at 14:23
  • I have often wondered the very thing here pointed out - that it is impossible to locate a place on earth by observing the position (albeit a variably moving position) of a star. I had not realised the fact of the contra-compass movement of the Bethlehem star; also food for thought.
    – Nigel J
    May 27, 2018 at 1:07
  • @Nigel J - Thanks for your comment. Logic has its limitations, especially when contemplating God's supernatural powers.
    – Lesley
    May 27, 2018 at 11:53
  • @Lesley I have asked a question in SE-Hermeneutics with regard to the original language used in Matthew 2:9.
    – Nigel J
    May 28, 2018 at 21:14

We know "the star they had seen when it rose" was seen 2 years earlier, since Herod ordered the massacre of the boys 2 years old and younger according to "the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men." We also know the star is the one spoken of by Balaam....

"I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel."

This is Balaam's 4th oracle in Numbers 24. It comes from the mouth of Balaam but is the word of the Lord as given by God. For some reason, God chooses to speak a prophecy of the coming Messiah thru Balaam who is serving as God's "donkey". Not only is the scepter to come out of Israel, a more specific prophecy is given by Jacob concering Judah in Genesis 49:

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be."

We also know from Isaiah 9:

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined."

We know from Micah:

"But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."

The "Star of Bethlehem" has now been revealed to the wise men, magi, kings who understood with faith in these and other prophecies. The timing of the coming star was also understood as wisdom had been given to Daniel in chapter 9 about when the Anointed One would come and this understanding was obviously given by God to these men 2 years before Christ's birth in flesh.

  1. Christ Jesus is the "Star of Bethlehem".

  2. Christ Jesus "is the first born of creation."

  3. Christ Jesus is the "light of the world."

    In this most majestic event of all time, God planned and orchestrated the Star of Bethlehem to lead and display with pin-point accuracy the arrival of his only begotten with an intersection of earth's creatures centered over a manger where lay manna from heaven for a starving world:

"I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain." I will proclaim the LORD's decree: He said to me, "You are my son; today I have become your father."

(Psalm 2.6-7) God used the Star of Bethlehem to signal this day---the day Jesus was born.    

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Caleb
    Jan 10, 2019 at 5:44
  • This does not answer the question posed by op
    – Kris
    Jan 10, 2019 at 16:40

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