From Ron Schmidt
Star of Bethlehem
Every year at this time there are theories in the media which speculate on the Star of Bethlehem. Almost without exception the theories revolve around a rare planetary conjunction, a comet, or some other sort of rare astronomical phenomenon. I've always had trouble with these theories, partially because of references to the Star in the Bible itself, and partially because of some references I ran across in the apocryphal literature many years ago. Maybe you're aware of them, maybe not. So, in case of the latter, here they are.
1) Responding to the enquiries of Herod about why they came to Jerusalem, the Magi
replied: "We saw an extraordinary large star shining among the stars of heaven,
and [it] so out-shined all the other stars, as that they became not visible,
and we knew thereby that a great king was born in Israel, and therefore we are come
to worship him."
Then Herod said to them, "Go and make diligent enquiry; and if ye find the child, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also."
"So the wise men went forth, and behold, the star which they saw in the east went before them, till it came and stood over the cave where the young child was with Mary his mother." (The Protevangelion by James the Lesser (Jesus' brother), 15:7-9)
2) When the wise men were ready to return from whence they came, "...there appeared to them an angel in the form of that star which had before been their guide in their journey; the light of which they followed till they returned into their own country." (The First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ, 3:3)
3) "How then was our Saviour manifested to the world? A star shone in heaven beyond all the other stars, and its light was inexpressible, and its novelty struck terror into men´s minds. All the rest of the stars, together with the sun and moon, were the chorus to this star; but that sent out its light exceedingly above them all. And men began to be troubled to think whence this new star came, so unlike to all the others." (The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians 4:11-12)
Well, there they are. They´re from an anthology entitled The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden. It´s a Meridian publication, and the Library of Congress Catalog Card Number is 63-19519. I can send you more details if you like. For now, I'll just point out that these lost and forgotten books are considered by many scholars to be just as authentic as those contained in the Nag Hammadi Library or the Dead Sea Scrolls.
"In the writings of the seventh and eighth centuries the Wise Men are still called Bithisarca, Melchior and Gathaspa; in the ninth century appeared the names of Gaspar, Balthasar and Melchior.
But where did the Magi come from? What is East, seen from Jerusalem? The word ‘magoi’ caused many to believe that they were of ancient Persian lineage. Others thought that Chaldea in Mesopotamia was the home of the Magi. Others still, as for instance Tertullian, were inclined to accept Arabia as the Wise Men’s homeland inasmuch as gold and incense would have been most easily found there. The learned friar, Bovar, rejects Arabia, though, because of the ‘inadequate interpretation of the 72nd Psalm’. The church-fathers’ tradition on the country of origin of the Magi is contradictory . . .
Nothing is known to substantiate that the ancient Arabs, nomadic tribes, were considered especially wise. At the time of Christ’s birth, the wisdom of the Chaldeans was no longer lauded. Yet Indian wisdom was proverbial. Persian historians praised that wisdom. They went to India ‘in search of the tree of wisdom’. India was the country where wisdom had been of a high order since earliest times. The sages of India, called ‘rishis’, have always and into our days formed a ‘social cast superior to all others in the land’.
India was also a country where astronomy was being cultivated. The Indian epic, Mahabharata, announces the coming of a divine redeemer who was to absolve mankind from its misfortune and misery. He would enjoy great power and be a commanding ruler; he would restore order and harmony in this world; he would destroy all evil and create a new era; . . .
The Indian prophecy also speaks of a phenomenon in the sky upon the birth of the reformer or redeemer. The modern Indian astronomer, Shri Swamikannu Pillai, has traced the studies of Kepler and Karl Adams and come to the conclusion that the star which guided the Wise Men from the East was Brhaspati in conjunction with the Sun and the Moon, when they entered the constellation Tisya. . .
Father Antonius,a priest from Ceylon, reconstructed the journey of the Magi from that and innumerable other evidence in this way . . .
They offered the child ‘gifts of gold, incense and myrrh’. Those were gifts usually offered according to Oriental etiquette; by presenting them, they honored the new-born babe as king.
Gold existed in India. Incense and myrrh, it is true, orignally came from ‘lucky Arabia’, yet they were doubtless imported also to India. It was perfectly natural for the rishis from India offer the traditional gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. . ."
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