When I was a child, I was always excited about putting the Star on top of our Christmas tree. The story of the Christmas star is found in the Book of Matthew:
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East [or at its rising] and have come to worship Him. When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also. When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.
As a child, I thought that everyone saw the star, but as you read the story, apparently this star was only visible to the Wise Men from the east. After all, Herod wasn’t aware of the star. In a previous post, some astronomers discussed when this star must have appeared:
So, the question arises as to what star might have appeared around 6 BC. A clay tablet from Babylon (the Almanac of Sippa) in the British Museum tells of a great astronomical event. Jupiter and Saturn aligned in 7 BC. Astronomer Michael Molnar tells us that these planets were known to play the central role in kingship, or emporership. Jupiter tells of the coming of a new king. Saturn tells of the old ruler. When these 2 planets aligned closely in the sky, it meant the change of one ruler to another. Traditionally, the constellation of Pisces was the sign of Israel. These 3 objects aligned 3 times in the year 7 BC. This happens every 820 years, so it is a very unusual event. Jupiter also was eclipsed by the moon, and occurred in the East, which would be April 17, 6 BC. Molnar believes this is the date of the birth of Christ. It is an extremely unusual event, and would have been greatly noticed by the Magi.
According to these astronomers, these wise men were from Iran and were members of the Zoroastrian religion, a religion that pre-dates Christ and is still practiced by a small minority in Iran. Of course there is another apocryphal story that says the Wise men came from China. Whatever you think of these stories, the fact is that the star wasn’t really visible to most of the world.
In the Book of Mormon, however, the star is seen by hundreds, and fulfilled a prophecy by Samuel the Lamanite. In 3 Nephi 1,
4 And it came to pass that in the commencement of the ninety and second year, behold, the prophecies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully; for there began to be greater signs and greater miracles wrought among the people.
5 But there were some who began to say that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled, which were spoken by Samuel, the Lamanite.
15 And it came to pass that the words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled, according as they had been spoken; for behold, at the going down of the sun there was no darkness; and the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night came.
19 And it came to pass that there was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day. And it came to pass that the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be born, because of the sign which had been given.
20 And it had come to pass, yea, all things, every whit, according to the words of the prophets.
21 And it came to pass also that a new star did appear, according to the word.
So, my physics and astronomy friends, how would you explain this event? What natural events would have happened to cause light to appear at night “as though it was mid-day?” I mean I know that the sun doesn’t set in Alaska in the summer, but assuming this took place in the Americas (or even in the Malay Peninsula), how can such an event be explained scientifically?