Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) was one of the great mathematical minds of human history. Kepler realized that planets might travel in elliptical orbits and found the perfect mathematical fit. He published the First and Second Laws of Planetary Motion in 1609 and the Third Law in 1619. These are still used by astronomers, NASA, the European Space Agency and everyone else studying the stars today.
Being a religious man, Kepler soon set his equations grinding on the mystery of the Star of Bethlehem. Unfortunately, Kepler died before he had a chance to trace the path of Jupiter and its correlation to prophecy.
The Book of Job, Chapters 9, 38, and 40, as well as Psalm 19 and Isaiah, chapter 40, credit God with the creation of the stars and constellations. In the Book of Luke, Chapter 21, Jesus tells us: 25 "There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars..."
So what happened in the sky and particularly in regards to the Star of Bethlehem?
We know the Star signified birth and kingship, it related to the Jewish nation, it rose in the east, like other stars, it appeared at a precise time, Herod didn't know when it appeared, it endured over time, it was ahead of the Magi as they went south from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and it stopped over Bethlehem (Matthew, Chapter 2).
What happened in the stars was nothing less than miraculous. Jupiter is the name of the greatest god of Roman mythology and since the beginning of time as the King Planet. In September of 3 BC, the Jewish New Year (Rosh ha-Shanah), Jupiter began its path to Regulus, a star, called Sharu (king) by the Babylonians. The Romans called it Regulus Rex which means “king.”
Jupiter routinely passes Regulus about every 12 years, so the occurrence itself is not surprising. What made this occurrence different was once they met; Jupiter continued its path into the star field, before going into retrograde (changing direction) and going back to Regulus for a second meeting. After its second pass, Jupiter again changed directions and met with Regulus yet again. This rare triple conjunction would have been watched by magus over a period of months and they would have witnessed the Planet of Kings (Jupiter) dance out a halo above the Star of Kings (Regulus) – a coronation.
The reason for the optical effect called “retrograde motion” (change in direction) is that we watch the planets from a moving object – Earth. When the Earth, in its orbit around the Sun, moves past another planet, that planet appears to move backward against the starry field.
Jewish prophecy (Genesis, Ch. 48: 9-10) states the tribe of Judah, one of 12 ancient tribes composing the Jewish nation, will usher forth the Messiah. Judah’s tribe is symbolized by the lion. The triple conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus occurred within the constellation of Leo, The Lion.
Another amazing symbol rose in the sky just as Jupiter was beginning the coronation of Regulus. Behind the constellation Leo, rising in the east is Virgo, The Virgin. As Regulus and Jupiter were first meeting, she rose clothed in the sun. The moon was at her feet, just as John said it would be in
Revelations (Ch. 12:1). It was a new moon, symbolically birthed at the feet of The Virgin.
Six months later, Jupiter had finished crowning Regulus (June of 2 BC) but wasn’t done in telling the world what was occurring. Jupiter met with Venus, the Mother Planet, appearing to join together to be as one. Had a telescope been available, the magus would have seen that the planets sat one atop the other, like a figure eight. Because each radiated its full brightness, it would have been the most brilliant star ever seen.
To be the “Star of Bethlehem”, Jupiter would have to have been ahead of the Magi as they trekked south from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. On December of 2 BC, the Magi looking south would have seen the hanging “Planet of Kings” over Bethlehem, the city of Jesus’s birth.
One might ask how a planet can hang or stop in place. It doesn’t actually stop, but the naked eye cannot pick up the movement as the sky above the Earth moves at half the speed of the hour hand on a common clock. On December 25 of 2 BC Jupiter was just entering retrograde and reached full stop in its travel. The Magi from Jerusalem would have seen it resting in place just above the little town of Bethlehem.
One of the biggest mysteries of the bible, the Star of Bethlehem, is now shown to have far more symbolism and meaning than first thought. Only the Creator of the stars would know the exact path of the planets and be able to coordinate the birth of Christ perfectly as prophesized thousands of years earlier.
Words fail to give this event proper meaning. The 2007 video “The Star of Bethlehem,” directed by Stephen Vidano, is a must see.