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Jupiter and Saturn Alignment

QUESTION
Astrologers report that in the year 7BC, two planets jupiter and saturn conjucted together and made a bright star in the night sky. Have you heard of this? Do you agree?

ANSWER
Yes, I have heard of this. It is sometimes argued in the dating of the birth of Jesus. Below is part of an article “Birth of Jesus” from the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels.

5. The Date and Birth of Jesus
…there was a notable conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 7 B.C. in the constellation Pisces, and it is also true that both the Berlin Star Table and the Sippar Star Almanac indicate great interest and close study of planetary movements during 7 B.C. and afterwards (Brown).

Modern astronomers have stressed that the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in question was not close enough to appear to be a single star (Boa and Proctor). E. L. Martin’s careful and detailed study argues for the year of Herodâ’s death as 1 B.C. and the star being the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter seen from August 12, 3 B.C. onward. He further urges that the Magi did not come to honor Jesus until fifteen months after his birth (on December 25, 2 B.C.) and that at that time Jupiter had stopped over Bethlehem in the meridian position in the constellation of the Virgin. There are, however, many assumptions made in these calculations, and most scholars would reject such a late date for Herod’s death (but cf. Thorley). Another theory appeals to the appearance of Halley’s comet, which took place in the region in 12 B.C., a date too early to be correlated with Jesus’ birth.

In short, it is doubtful that natural astral phenomena can help us pinpoint the time of Jesus’s birth. There are various imponderables about the story of the Magi that make calculations almost impossible (e.g., how long after Jesus’ birth did the Magi come and honor him?). Most scholars who consider the story of the Magi historically possible would stress that there seems to have been an interval, perhaps over a year, between the time of the birth and the coming of the Magi. Taking all the evidence together it appears that Jesus was born in or before 4 B.C.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Brown, The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus (New York: Paulist, 1973; K. Boa and W. Proctor, The Return of the Star of Bethlehem (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980); E. L. Martin, The Birth of Christ Recalculated, (2d ed. Pasadena: Foundation for Biblical Research, 1980); J. Thorley, “When Was Jesus Born?” Greece and Rome n.s. 28 (1981) 81–89.

DrWinn
Winn Griffin’s participation in the church spans about 60 years, ministering in four different denominations, serving on the staff of three mega churches, and functioning as a pastor in four churches. He has a BA, MA, and two Doctor of Ministry degrees. In addition, he has authored two books and eight eBooks. Winn's focus on AskDrWinn is to give space for folks to ask about Bible stuff that they have questions about. He is married to Donna Faith and they have two adult children and live in Washington State. » Read Winn's Full Bio
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