Matthew 2:1-12: A Star From the Gentiles, For the Gentiles, Of the Gentiles
June 22, 2021
*Remember Matthew 1 – Matthew intends to communicate Jesus as the Messiah, Son of David, Son of Abraham i.e. the perfect and fulfilled promise of a Savior, King, and Israel
- Notes on Tonight’s discussion:
- We will discuss, and learn something tonight that may make us uncomfortable on multiple levels, so we must be careful so no one mishandles tonight’s material
- We have two points: One is how to read the bible, the other is practical
- We will discuss the nature of the star, but understand its not really about the star!
- Sensational super-natural events can be a common go-to interpretation when we don’t understand aspects of a narrative. This becomes difficult because God does enact sensational super-natural events sometimes. Reasons we misappropriate sensational supernaturalism in interpretation:
- Desire for Sensationalism
- Interpretation block
- Christian art bias
*This has led to sensationalism replacing message i.e. the “sensation” has become the message instead of the message the story intends to communicate
- How do we define “supernatural”?
- “An event or force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature”?
- David Hume defined supernatural and miracle as anything that is impossible
- …thus, if it occurred then it is clearly possible and not a miracle; therefore, miracles/supernatural events do not exist
- I define supernatural as anything that occurs or exists outside its natural state
*A fact that both science and the Bible affirm is this: The natural state of EVERYTHING is NOTHING!
- God created everything Ex Nihilo i.e. “Out of Nothing”
- Science affirms that from nothing came everything, which has posed atheistic scientist with a problem which has given way to multi-verse theory
*If the natural state of everything is nothing, then the existence of ANYTHING is SUPERNATURAL!
- Maybe the problem is not people trying to rationalize or naturalize sensational events, rather people have failed to see how sensational natural events are…!
Read Matthew 2:1-12
The Star Interpretation of Matthew 2
- Any Star interpretation must explain these facts drawn from Mathew 2:
- The star was significant enough for Magi to travel to greet the new king (Matthew 2:1-2)
- The star seen from the east and in the east drove them west… (Matthew 2:1)
- The star led them to Jerusalem, not Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1); and King Herod leads them to Bethlehem (Matthew 2:8)
- ONLY the Magi saw and/or understood the star (Matthew 2:3; Matthew 2:7)
- The star communicated a birth (Matthew 2:2)
- The star communicated a king, and only a king (Matthew 2:2)
- The star appeared and re-appeared to the Magi that guided them (Matthew 2:9-10)
- My View: Hellenistic Astrology
- Historic Astrology Context
- Polytheistic Rome believed the heavenly hosts were there to be interpreted
- The placement of stars could help interpret current or future events i.e. horoscopes
- Every region of the Roman empire was assigned a constellation to represent that region’s horoscope
- Historians believed for a long time that Israel was under the Pisces constellation, but numerous archeological finds prove it was actually under Aries
- Ptolemy’s book “Tetrabiblos” names Judea being under Aries
- Coins found in Syria under governor Quirinius (Luke 2) have a Ram on the opposite side of coin (Ram was the symbol of Aries)
- Multiple other horoscopes for Roman emperors like Nero, Julius Caesar, etc. refer to Syria region as under Aries
- Certain star and astronomical events represented different things:
- Jupiter was always significant, but mainly in its relation to moon (closer to the moon the more powerful)
- Observed planets was Saturn, Mercury Jupiter, Mars, and Venus
- Certain placements indicated birth, death, tragedy, glory, etc.
- Certain placements indicated royalty
- All abnormal astronomic events represented bad omens or death
- Comets, Supernovas, eclipses, etc.
Example: Emperor Vespesian’s comet in 79 AD and “Caesars Comet” in 44 AD
- Astronomy Context
- All stars remained fixed in the sky i.e. the North star never moves and the Great Dipper always looks like the Great Dipper
- Planets do move throughout the sky, but ancients viewed them as stars
- Word planet derives from Greek meaning “floating star”
- Ancients believed the earth was fixed and that the sun and stars revolved around the earth in an east to west fashion
- Depending on the planets orbit, the speed and movement always looked different
- Depending on earth’s orbit, placement of constellations in sky shifts with it
- Matthew Context
- Matthew uses precise Astrology language to describe the narrative
- A term Matthew uses twice, “in the east” is the Greek phrase “en te Anatole” and was a significant term to Hellenistic astrologers
- Modern astronomy refers to it as the “Heliacal rising”, but ancients used en te Anatole i.e. “in the east” or “at its rising” and refers to the re-appearance of a planet after its no longer eclipsed by the sun
- The term “stood over” is the Greek word “epano” and was significant to Hellenistic astrologers
- Epano refers to the point when a star stops moving from east to west and “turns around” out of the sky picture. In Matthew, it describes the epano as directly above Judea in the night sky
Star Narrative Explanation
In my view, the “star” of Bethlehem was Jupiter’s heliacal rising that rose in the Aries constellation that represented Israel. This is how they “saw the star in the east” but traveled west because the Aries constellation was placed in the east edge of the sky; thus the wise men “followed” the sta’s placement in its representative constellation that led to the region of Judea. Jupiter/star, Saturn, Mercury, Venus, and Mars were also all within the Aries constellation at the same time. This rare astronomic event occurs once every 12,000 years; and up to the point of Christ’s birth, it had never been observed nor has it been observed since. These placements gave the Magi an unprecedented “natal horoscope” AND a “regal horoscope” that a powerful king was born in Judea. This would have created much excitement and anticipation among the Magi, which is why they traveled to meet this incredible person. This is why they traveled to Jerusalem, the capital of Judea in search of a king. It is also why no one in Jerusalem to include Herod “saw the star” because it was a subtle movement of Hellenistic astrology that Jews were aware of but did not practice or understand. By the time the Magi reached Jerusalem, Jupiter/star become epano/stood over Israel verifying that the baby was still in Judea. Herod, by way of his Torah scholars and priests direct the Magi to Bethlehem (because if a rare, great king was born of Israel, it would be the Messiah). Bethlehem is a half days walk south of Jerusalem (they did not need a star to lead them there, nor does the text say a star led them, but actually says Herod led them there) which is when they found Jesus.
- Matthew pairs this narrative and revelation to Gentile Magi with a Gentile prophecy
- Remember the story of the king of Moab, Balak, hiring a gentile prophet named Balam to speak against Israel
Balam cannot curse, rather blesses Israel
Balam makes a prophecy in Numbers 24:17-19 that says, ““I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;
a scepter will rise out of Israel.
He will crush the foreheads of Moab,
the skulls[b] of[c] all the people of Sheth.[d]
18 Edom will be conquered;
Seir, his enemy, will be conquered,
but Israel will grow strong.
19 A ruler will come out of Jacob
and destroy the survivors of the city.”
- Matthew demonstrates fulfillment of a Jewish prophecy
- “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your radiance…. They will carry gold and frankincense and proclaim the praises of the Lord”- Isaiah 60:1-6
Notice what’s different in Matthew and Isaiah…
Gold and gold
Frankincense and Frankincense
Myrrh and “praises of the Lord”?
The Praises of Jesus was that He died for the salvation of Jew AND Gentile….Myrrh was used for embalming
Main Point: God is fulfilling a made by a to the in a way!
*Matthews point is that if God is not okay with Gentile believers and only desires the Jewish way, then why did God announce the birth of Jesus to the gentiles in a gentile way?
*God is not endorsing horoscopes or astrology, He is endorsing a love and desire for all people: Jew and Gentile and will reach them in their way!
Similar first-hand Examples: My Muslim interpreter…the Mormon Marine….Our own lives!
*We ALL were living a life of Sin that God did not endorse and explicitly condemned, yet He used it to reach us and turn us back to Him!
- Other Common Explanations
- Spectacular Astronomic Event
- Planet eclipse
- Supernatural Event
- Angel led the Magi
- Shekinah Glory of God shone down on Jesus