Good question...

...if the BirthStar appeared in the East, why did the Magi travel West?!

I recently got this question:

The Magi came from the east. Relative to their position, they should have seen a star in the west above Bethlehem. But they said east. This would be the same as living in New York, going west to Chicago, then saying I had followed a star east when in fact Chicago is west of New York. These guys were either misquoted or had the compass upside down. What gives? My NIV Bible comments that the Magi were "Probably astrologers, perhaps from Persia or southern Arabia, both of which are east of Palestine. Jerusalem." Look forward to your response.

I responded:

There are at least two possibilities here:

1. Some bibles (e.g., NIV) translate the word "east" as "arose" (the word anahole can mean either). This would mean "we saw his star when it arose". (allowing it to be a 'western' star to begin with)...

2. According to the text, the star moved from east to west...they noticed it in the east, but it traveled west to over the western horizon (so 2.9)

The problem sorta disappears when you notice that the star 'moved'.

It should be noted here, interestingly, that the earliest date for the birth of Jesus is 12 BC. So Vardaman, CKC:66:

"Between August 24 and October 17 of 12 B.C., a brilliant comet passed near the earth. It is now known as Halley's Comet. It arose in the due east but after September 9/10, it was seen only in the west. This comet made an extremely close (15 million miles) pass near the earth, and attained a brightness as bright as any star in the heavens at that time. Many of the things Matthew mentions about the star that appeared at Jesus' birth fit this comet perfectly and cannot be made to agree with any other known heavenly phenomena of that period. This would give the general period of late 12 B.C. or spring 11 B.C. when Jesus was born..."

This is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this event, although we cannot rule out other more 'supernatural phenomena' at other dates. (Or for that matter, more 'natural' phenomena also--a star in the East, with a series of meteors 'aimed' westward.)

Hope this helps, glenn



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