Rick Larson has done a lot of research about the star of Bethlehem. There are several significant points of time we need to consider:
- When did the sign in the sky first appear? It seems to have been in September of 3 BC near the time of Rosh Hashanah when the king planet (Jupiter) came into a conjunction with the king star (Regulus). Yet, over the next few months, it did this three times—all within Leo (the lion constellation). In other words, Jupiter went into retrograde motion three times over a period of a few months. The lion has always been a symbol of the tribe of Judah.
- In June of 2 BC, Jupiter had a conjunction with Venus (the mother planet) within Virgo (the virgin constellation).
- Then on December 25, 2 BC, the planet Jupiter went into retrograde motion and seemed to stand over the town of Bethlehem. This was when the Magi visited Mary and Joseph to see the king who had been born.
Before we go further, we also need to understand something about the Feast of Israel which occurred around September and June and what they represented:
- Feast of Weeks (Pentecost; Shavuot): This is a feast about paradigm changes. Israel became a chosen nation before God when they stood around Mount Sinai on Shavuot (Ex 24:1-8). The incorporation of Rahab and Ruth (both Gentiles) into the nation of Israel occurred on or near Shavuot (Js 6:25; Ru 4:13). This is what the two loaves (Lv 23:17) made on this feast, both containing leaven, represented: the inclusion of everyone into God’s plan. This was a mystery to Israel until Shavuot in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit was given, and the birth of the Church began. This was the mystery to which Paul referred and of which he preached (Ep 3:6).
- Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah): This was a feast to request God to remember his covenant with the nation of Israel (Lv 23:24). You see, Yom Kippur would soon come where they would be judged. They, just as we, had no righteousness on their own. Therefore, they needed God’s mercy and requested he remember his covenant where they would be his people forever. We have evidence of this when Solomon dedicated his temple (2Ch 5:3, 7:8-10), when the altar of the temple was rebuilt (Er 3:1, 6), and when the wall of Jerusalem was completed (Ne 8:1-2).
- Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot): This feast was to represent God dwelling with his people. Yet, this is more representative of Christ’s second coming than his first. We’ll revisit this later.
So, what can we put together from all these pieces of information? We see that the New Testament opens with the birth of Christ. The time from Malachi to Christ’s birth has often been referred to as the Four Hundred Years of Silence. God remembered his covenant with his chosen people Israel, and did so in a big way. God appeared to Mary and stated she would have a child. If Larson is right, Christ’s conception occurred in September of 3 BC, on Rosh Hashanah. From what we have seen about this feast, it would be consistent with God remembering his covenant.
Nine months later puts us into June. What occurred around this time period? Well, Shavuot is typically around this time, but Shavuot is not typically nine months from Rosh Hashanah. From Tishri 1 of 3 BC (Rosh Hashanah) to Sivan 6 (Shavuot) would typically be just a little over eight months (243 days)—not quite enough time for a normal gestation period (average time: 280 days). Yet, something interesting happened this year. In 3 BC an extra month, Adar II, was added to the Jewish calendar. This was periodically added to realign the Jewish feasts with the seasons of the year since the Jewish calendar was a lunar calendar, not a solar calendar. Adding this extra month allowed the two calendars to realign. This added 29 more days to the time between these two feasts. Now, the time between the two feasts was 272 days—very close to the average normal gestation period. After all, it’s an average, with some babies born a little earlier and some born a little later. It seems appropriate he could come a little early. After all, he had an important job to fulfill! This would mean Christ’s conception was likely on September 10th of 3 BC, and his birth was likely on June 8th of 2 BC (although, some say June 2nd). As we saw in our previous posts, the angels appeared to the Shepherds at Midgal Eder, the Watchtower of the Flock, to announce Christ’s birth. These Shepherds who watched over the sheep for sacrifice were trained in rabbinical law of the requirements for sacrifice and had to ensure all lambs were without blemish. The angels appeared to them to let them know their job was now obsolete. The sacrificial lamb for which they had long awaited was now lying in their manger wrapped in the swaddling cloths they use to wrap newborn lambs to keep them calm for their inspection to ensure they were without blemish.
Therefore, what Rick Larson has discovered in the stars seems to align with these Jewish feasts and the meaning behind them. I just think that is fascinating. Yet, I know many feel Christ was born on Sukkot. After all, isn’t that what his prophesied name, Immanuel (Is 7:14; Mt 1:23), was supposed to mean: God with us? Yet, although Christ did offer his kingdom upon his first coming (Mt 4:17), that was rejected (Mt 16:21). In addition, Matthew records the angel Gabriel stated to name him Jesus (Mt 1:21), meaning, “he will save his people from their sins,” which is what he did by paying our sin debt, fulfilling the mystery of how the whole world would get incorporated into his Kingdom, and setting the stage for the time when he will come again and truly dwell with his people as the King of kings (Rv 17:14, 19:16).
There is one other supportive piece of information which this timing seems to support. Why was Jesus brought to the temple when he was twelve rather than being the normal thirteen years of age? According to the Mishnah, even in the first century, thirteen was the age of questioning in the Commandments for a male. It seems this is what was going on and he amazed them all in his answers to their questions (Lk 2:47). If he had been born on Sukkot, he would have been almost fourteen years of age when he visited the temple at that Passover. Yet, Scripture reports he was twelve (Lk 2:42), because his birthday would have been just a couple of months later.
Isn’t it amazing how Scripture and events go together like hand in glove? God is not a God of accidents. He has a purposeful plan. It helps to also know he has a purposeful plan for us as well. Are you listening to what he has planned for you? More than likely, it will be pretty special.
Birth of Christ—Alternative View?
Have We Missed the Signs?
When is Christmas?