Star in the East of the Christian Jesus Story

There is an apparent logical inconsistency regarding the Biblical Star in the East! It seems so obvious that I am amazed that thousands of previous writers seem not to have recognized or mentioned it. In a moment, you will agree about that!

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I recommend a simple experiment for you. Pick some object (a tree or a chair or a book) to represent Bethlehem. Matthew 2:1 clearly states that the wise men came FROM the east. (The Original Greek wording establishes that.) So, place yourself in a location such that you would approach your "Bethlehem" FROM the east. Obviously, you must be east of it, and everyone pretty much agrees about that. The wise men (magi) came from the east.

Now, Matthew 2:2 and 2:9 clearly states that the wise men said that they saw the star IN THE EAST, which they followed to come to where Jesus was Born. (This is also accurately translated from the Original Greek text.) From where you are standing, look to the eastern sky, where that star was. What direction are you facing? East, right? But when you face that star (in the eastern sky), where is Bethlehem, to you? Isn't it BEHIND you, to the WEST of where you are? You, as the wise man, see the Star in the east, as we all agree, but you will have to travel WEST to get to Bethlehem from where you are!

OK! This isn't a big deal, I agree! But isn't it peculiar? This first dawned on me as a child, when I first heard the Nativity story. The Sunday School teacher didn't exactly say "Shut up, kid" but ignored the question. The Minister of that Church also didn't give me an answer, when I specifically made a point to ask him.

As I received my education for the Ministry, this subject was never brought up, but I never asked either! Even now, as a Pastor, I still have no idea on what the explanation of this is!

It is certainly not anything that would cause me to doubt the validity or value of the Bible, but it IS one of those little things that could use some explanation.

My curiosity on this is based on my total confidence that the Lord has arranged His Universe to "make sense" to us. He WANTS us to use the minds that He gave us! Between those two things, I conclude that there must be some explanation that would make excellent sense regarding the Star (and various other things in the Bible that people seem to get bent out of shape about). So my curiosity on this is NOT in any sense any "challenge" to Christianity, but instead, a seeking of another confirmation that the Bible is totally and perfectly true! I just see it necessary to discover good explanations of the various things that might suggest any doubt of that fact!

In case you're curious, traditionally, people think about THREE wise men arriving to see Jesus. There is no actual support for that number. Christian scholars believe that it is possible that as many as twenty wise men may have arrived.

In the later Church, a Tradition developed where three were involved, and that is the primary reason for our believing that there were three! The early Christian Church seemed to have a fascination with certain numbers, such as three and seven and twelve, and many things are presented as groups of these numbers. For example, very early on, there were EIGHT distinct things described as being Cardinal Sins. It didn't take long before two were combined into one so that they were Seven Cardinal Sins!

There may be a slight clarification of the issue of this essay in the Old Testament. When we look at Genesis 11:2, we find the Ancient Hebrew word qedem or qedmah. This word has many different translations into English, and we could look at Strong's for them. As word number O6924 there, we find definition 1a) stating that it means FROM the front or east. However, definition 2) states that it means TO or TOWARD the east.

Bible translators generally chose one or the other of those two interpretations, which happen to be exactly opposite each other! High quality Bibles generally include margin notes that also mention the alternate translation.

The available translations of the New Testament Greek words do not seem to permit the same alternatives, but this might be an instructive example regarding how the Bible considers such concepts. And specifically, the wording of Matthew 2:2 really seems that it could be understood to mean "while we were still in the east" and then my distress would disappear!

For the record, there are actually only four mentions of that Star in the Bible, all in Matthew, and none in any of the other Gospels. There are actually only three references to "wise men" [Greek, magos], also all in Matthew. And for the record, that Greek word magos had quite an assortment of possible meanings, far beyond being specifically astrologers as has commonly been assumed. That word referred to magus, broadly used by Babylonians [Chaldeans], Medes, Persians and others, and included essentially anyone who was educated or seen as educated, including teachers, physicians, priests, seers, astrologers, soothsayers and many others. When some modern Christians assume that the Magi referred to in the Bible were absolutely astrologers, that involves some assumptions which may or may not be valid.

In any case, the fact that the New Testament ONLY includes those briefest of references to the Star in the East and to the Magi, and only in Matthew, seems to allow the possibility that we have all made incorrect assumptions regarding what that actually means! The text MIGHT simply be referring to the fact that the Magi were IN the East when they saw the Star, which was therefore in the WESTERN SKY just before sunset. Checking some astronomical data, if that Star had anything to do with any planets, or specifically Conjunctions of two planets (that is where two planets appear relatively near each other in the sky), at that specific time, such planets could only have appeared in the SOUTHWEST sky (specifically Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest objects in the sky after the Sun and Moon).

It is possible to pursue this concept in one of my scientific web-pages, which calculates the location of all the planets in the sky at any moment. If we use that page, at This page - - - - is at
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C Johnson, Pastor,
A Christ Walk Church