Early Christian Magi from sarchophag-Vatican-Museum 3d century . Source: Wikipedia

The Star of Bethlehem and the Magi

Facts or fairy tale? Each year we tell the wondrous story about the brilliant star and the magi bringing gifts to Baby Jesus. New book explores the ancient context of the story and its role in the formation of Late Antiquity.

The Star of Bethlehem and the Magi. Interdisciplinary Perspectives from Experts on the Ancient Near East, the Greco-Roman World, and Modern Astronomy
Edited by Peter Barthel & George van Kooten, University of Groningen
Brill 2015
ISBN13: 9789004308480

ABSTRACT:

This book is the fruit of the first ever interdisciplinary international scientific conference on Matthew’s story of the Star of Bethlehem and the Magi, held in 2014 at the University of Groningen, and attended by world-leading specialists in all relevant fields: modern astronomy, the ancient near-eastern and Greco-Roman worlds, the history of science, and religion. The scholarly discussions and the exchange of the interdisciplinary views proved to be immensely fruitful and resulted in the present book. Its twenty chapters describe the various aspects of The Star: the history of its interpretation, ancient near-eastern astronomy and astrology and the Magi, astrology in the Greco-Roman and the Jewish worlds, and the early Christian world – at a generally accessible level. An epilogue summarizes the fact-fiction balance of the most famous star which has ever shone.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

star of bethlehem coverPrologue, Peter Barthel and George van Kooten

PART I: FROM KEPLER TO MOLNAR – THE HISTORY OF THE INTERPRETATION OF THE STAR

1. Kepler’s De Vero Anno (1614), Owen Gingerich
2. The Historical Basis for the Star of Bethlehem, Michael R. Molnar
3. A Critical Look at the History of Interpreting the Star of Bethlehem in Scientific Literature and Biblical Studies, Aaron Adair
4. An Astronomical and Historical Evaluation of Molnar’s Solution.Bradley E. Schaefer
5. Astronomical Thoughts on the Star of Bethlehem, David W. Hughes
6. De Ster der Wijzen (1920): A Forgotten Early Publication About the Star of Bethlehem, Teije de Jong

PART II: THE STAR – WHAT, WHEN, AND HOW

7. What, If Anything?, Peter Barthel
8. The Astronomical Resources for Ancient Astral Prognostications, Alexander Jones

PART III: ANCIENT NEAR-EASTERN ASTRONOMY AND THE MAGI

9. Mesopotamian Astrological Geography, John M. Steele
10. The Story of the Magi in the Light of Alexander the Great’s Encounters with Chaldeans, Mathieu Ossendrijver
11. Pre-Islamic Iranian Astral Mythology, Astrology, and the Star of Bethlehem, Antonio Panaino

PART IV: ASTROLOGY IN THE GRECO-ROMAN WORLD

12. Matthew’s Magi as Experts on Kingship, Albert de Jong
13. Greco-Roman Astrologers, the Magi, and Mithraism, Roger Beck
14.The Star of Bethlehem and Greco-Roman Astrology, Especially Astrological Geography, Stephan Heilen

PART V: ASTROLOGY IN THE JEWISH WORLD

15. The World Leader from the Land of the Jews: Josephus, Jewish War 6.300–315; Tacitus, Histories 5.13; and Suetonius, Vespasian 4.5, Jan Willem van Henten
16. Stars and Powers: Astrological Thinking in Imperial Politics from the Hasmoneans to Bar Kokhba, Kocku von Stuckrad
17. Balaam’s ‘Star Oracle’ (Num 24:15–19) in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Bar Kokhba, Helen R. Jacobus

PART VI: THE EARLY CHRISTIAN WORLD

18. The Star of the Magi and the Prophecy of Balaam in Earliest Christianity, with Special Attention to the Lost Books of Balaam, Darrell Hannah
19. Matthew’s Star, Luke’s Census, Bethlehem, and the Quest for the Historical Jesus, Annette Merz
20. Matthew, the Parthians, and the Magi: A Contextualization of Matthew’s Gospel in Roman-Parthian Relations of the First Centuries BCE and CE, George van Kooten

Epilogue, Peter Barthel and George van Kooten

ABOUT THE EDITORS:

Peter Barthel (PhD 1984) is Professor of Astrophysics at the Kapteyn Institute of the University of Groningen, researching active galaxies and quasars in the near and distant universe with ground- and space-based telescopes. He has a keen interest in science communication and education, and has won prizes as well as a Royal Distinction for his original efforts in these areas.

George van Kooten (PhD 2001) is Professor of New Testament & Early Christianity at the Faculty of Theology & Religious Studies at the University of Groningen, researching the Bible in its historical and cultural context. He holds degrees from the universities of Leiden, Durham and Oxford, and was visiting fellow at the universities of Cambridge (2013-14) and Göttingen (2015).