Nov 21: Follow That Star
It's time astronomers came clean and told the truth about the Star of Bethlehem.
Nothing irritates me more than scientists who bend over backwards to try to 'explain' the 'Star of Bethlehem', which allegedly led a group of 'wise men' out of Persia to the exact building where Jesus was supposedly born. They talk inconclusively of comets, planetary conjunctions and supernovae and maybe even 'UFOs'.
The bible is very clear that it was a 'star', not a comet or a planet or a flying saucer piloted by aliens. A chapter in the book (Matthew 2:9) reads: “The star which they had seen at its rising went ahead of them until it stopped above the place where the child lay.” So, plainly, there are only two possibilities:
A. If you are a christian, then you believe the bible is the word of your particular choice of god - so if it says it was a 'star', then you need to believe it must have been just that.
B .Alternatively, if you are not a christian, then the bible is fiction – so there was no such star and no need for annoying scientific explanations'.
If you believe that the 'Star of Bethlehem' myth is a true account, then you have to accept all or most of the following twenty-six consequences of your irrational belief:
1. The star rose 'normally' and at it's rising, it could only have been seen in the men's own Eastern sky.
2. If the men started in the East – for example from Babylon, 900 kilometres to the East - and followed the rising star in the East, they would have set off in an easterly direction towards Afghanistan. They would be travelling away from Bethlehem!
3. As the night wore on, the 'star' would have passed roughly overhead and they would have then begun to retrace their steps following it in a westerly heading and as a consequence, by dawn they would have ended up back in Babylon again.
4. If their origin was not at exactly the same latitude as Bethlehem (31° 42.7' N), the men would also have strayed in a north-south direction - as the 'star' ascended in the evening and descended in the early morning - tracing curlicue paths each night but still travelling as far going East as going West.
5. If they began their journey in the East and really did move in a westerly direction, they would have travelled with the 'star' behind them for half the night.
6. It's difficult to tell the difference between 80° and 90° altitude. At midnight on 25th December, (for example), the inconsequential stars of Leo Minor are directly over Bethlehem – but to any casual observer without a measuring instrument, the constellations of Cancer, Leo and parts of Ursa Major might all appear to be overhead.
7. If, despite the above, they did somehow reach the vicinity of Bethlehem, the three men must have carried on their camels a very precise scientific instrument, capable of measuring the precise moment that a given star is directly and precisely overhead at their current coordinates.
8. Such a scientific zenith measuring instrument would need to be readable in the dark and would need a precision comparable to modern GPS-enabled computerised telescopes and laser pointers.
9. The measurement of precisely when the star was directly overhead would have to be very fast. A star passing directly overhead would trace an apparent ground velocity of approximately 400 metres per second. Let's assume the Baby's Bethlehem Barn (BBB) measured 40 metres in it's East-West dimension. The star might be exactly overhead for about one hundred milliseconds before it then became directly overhead at the building next door; and in less than three minutes the 'star' would be passing directly above the Mediterranean Sea, sixty kilometres away!
10. The men would first need to adjust their coordinates in a north-south direction to get the star to pass directly overhead.
11. Once at the same latitude as Bethlehem, the star would pass overhead each night. It would describe a latitudinal circle right around the entire planet. How did the men know how to identify the BBB? At what time was the star supposed to pass over it ?
12. Such a star would have to be postioned somewhere exactly along the line of 31.7030555N Declination but there are no bright stars passing directly over Bethlehem. The last few decimal places would depend on the exact location in Bethlehem of the BBB.
13. If there was such a star, it would have been overhead every previous year at the same time as well as every subsequent year.
14. The biblical claim that a star literally stopped directly over the BBB would have meant that the Earth would have suddenly stopped rotating on it's axis – an impossible and ridiculous event that would have been disasterously felt worldwide.
15. The good folk of Bethlehem would have been rotating at around 1500 kilometres per hour on the surface of the planet when it stopped. Buildings would have been destroyed and most of the population would have been killed.
16. The BBB would be gone. The baby and his two parents would probably not have survived either!
17. The whole planet would have felt such a jolt and the tidal waves caused by the world's oceans continuing with their angular momentum would have been recorded by any historians of the day that survived the flooding on the West coast of each continent.
18. Night-time in the Middle East would have lasted for hours - maybe days - longer than normal and there would have been a lot of confused shepherds 'watching their flocks by night' who would have experienced what seemed like a never-ending night! (Oh, I forgot – they had the 'Heavenly Host' to entertain them that night). It would have got very cold too.
19. Even more confused would be the folks elsewhere in the world where the sun might be hanging motionless near the horizon for a very long period.
20. When eventually the planet went back into rotational mode, the accelaration would have caused a surge of flooding on the East coast of every continent and much of the debris from the earlier jolting stop would be flung back in the opposite direction from whence it came, destroying and killing whoever and whatever survived the initial cataclysm.
21. For any object to appear to be unequivocally directly over a single specified building (and not over the building next door), it would need to be hanging motionless less than (say) one hundred metres above the BBB and it would have to stay there long enough for the three so-called 'wise men' to reach it and confirm the location.
22. A low altitude object over the BBB could not have been seen in the first place by the three men from their starting location, many hundreds of kilometres away in the East. So they never would have started their journey of curlicues in the first place!
23. Even two thousand years later, the only bright objects that could hang apparently motionless a hundred metres up might be a noisy helicopter or a floodlit helium filled weather balloon moored by at least three guy ropes.
24. If it really was at such a low altitude, it could not have been a star at all.
25. A star shines omni-directionally. It cannot focus it's light to act as a narrowbeam searchlight, shining down onto a specific building to point it out to passers-by.
26. If the three men travelled hundreds or more kilometres to Bethlehem, the 'star' really must have been high enough to be visible to them for weeks and would have been recorded by astronomers in other countries. It was not.
Quaint tale. Not a shred of credible truth in it. No evidence to support it. A story of contradictory celestial, geographical and technical impossibilities. It's implausible. It's astronomically impossible. It's a hoax.
If you are still not satisfied, go outside one evening and find a star rising in the East. Try following it all night and see where it gets you.
Instead of promoting unprovable theories to explain the 'star', scientists should be educating children to ask questions about the unrealities of extraordinary claims, which were written at a time when mankind thought the stars were only perhaps a few cubits above us, fixed on a physical celestial sphere manipulated by whichever 'god' they happened to believe in.
The only truth that emerges from this inconceivable legend is that people will believe whatever they were indoctrinated to believe - in defiance of credible evidence to the contrary; and in the absence of any reliable evidence to support it.