The Christmas Star in the Book of Mormon

By: Mormon Heretic
December 20, 2010

Scientists have tried to figure out what star appeared to announce Jesus birth to the Wise Men.  I did a post a few years ago titled Astrology in the Christmas Story.  It is pretty much an accepted fact that our current calendar (called the Gregorian calendar, named after Pope Gregory who asked his monks to change the calendar to coincide with Christ’s birth), was off by a few years.  Based on various methods, scientists have dated Christ’s correct birth to around 4-7 BC.

I reviewed a now out of print film called Mystery of the Three Kings (though you can watch it on Netflix).  The documentary interviews astronomers who try to date the birth of Christ based on the appearance of the new star mentioned in the Bible.  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.

The Book of Mormon records this new star as well in 3 Nephi chapter 1, as well as an event not mentioned in the Bible.

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 agreater signs and greater miracles wrought among the people.

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 asun there was bno 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 beaborn, because of the bsign which had been given.

21 And it came to pass also that a new astar did appear, according to the word.

Ok, so if we assume that this new star was the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter, what explanation do we have for the night being as “as light as though it was mid-day”?

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13 Responses to The Christmas Star in the Book of Mormon

  1. Alma on December 20, 2010 at 9:21 AM

    How about this? A star goes supernova–flooding the portion of the earth facing it so that even though the inhabitants are able to discern that the sun is setting, it doesn’t get dark. Perhaps it would take a lot more time for the debris from the exploding star to arrive in our solar system–say about 33 years–and then the portion of the earth facing the same direction would experience massive devastation that would hang around for another couple of days…? This would also explain a “new star” if it only became visible as it started to go super nova.

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  2. FireTag on December 20, 2010 at 10:01 AM

    MH:

    You’ve set an interesting puzzle to play with, which is why, irrespective of any Book of Mormon connections, you get Christmas star documentaries in the first place.

    Trying to fit Mid-East and Meso-American evidence together further constrains solutions, and I’ve never found any solution satisfactory.

    A supernova is a good first guess, but you aren’t killed by arrival of debris. Any supernova that close kills from the radiation arriving with the light itself. And the supernova isn’t going away a few hours the next time the Mid-East is carried around to face it by the rotation of the earth.

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  3. allquieton on December 20, 2010 at 10:36 AM

    How about a comet?

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  4. mh on December 20, 2010 at 12:07 PM

    i’m all for brainstorming solutions. the tougher part is finding the supernova visible 2000 years ago.

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  5. FireTag on December 20, 2010 at 12:11 PM

    A reflective body on a very close approach to the earth works better, including the speed with which it goes away — cosmic bullets are VERY fast, which is why we don’t want to get hit by one — and there would be no need to explain why we haven’t noticed it since. Close encounters with something bright enough to outshine the full moon for a few hours are going to significantly alter the “something’s orbit around the sun enough to easily drop it into the sun or make its next close approach to earth much more than 2000 years later.

    However, I have no confidence that there is or is not a way to make the orbital mechanics work. Sundown in MesoAmerica points 120-135 degrees in the sky than sundown in the mid-east. The magi were watching something move in the sky over at least several months in order to mount their expedition, and Herod was killing any boy under the age of two years, so we’ve got to trace not only the earth’s rotation around its axis on Christmas morn, but also for earth’s trip around the sun during the year.

    I don’t have the data, or the observational astronomy expertise to figure out where an asteroid/comet orbit would have to be so that Babylonian astronomers would notice for several nonthes, but miss the climax; Mayan astronomers would notice only at the last minute, and Chinese astronomers would never notice at all.

    Those are the added requirements placed on the Christmas star story being literal by the Book of Mormon record also being literal.

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  6. N. on December 20, 2010 at 12:17 PM

    New star = anomaly caused by a subspace rift, created by a tachyon burst from a failing warp-containment bubble.

    3 Wise men: Kirk, Bones, and Spock.

    Q.E.D.

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  7. Mike S on December 20, 2010 at 2:46 PM

    The supernova of 1604 was visible during the day for 3 weeks. It was about as bright as Venus – certainly qualifying as a “new star” but certainly not enough to make the night-time sky like day.

    The problem: It was around 20,000 light years away. Any supernova less than 3000 light-years away can have significant effects on the ozone layer and other aspects of life. And supernovae within 100 light-years are essentially fatal to most life on earth.

    So, any supernova bright enough to make the night into day would basically have killed everyone on earth.

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  8. Alma on December 20, 2010 at 3:33 PM

    Better choice for wise men (given that they arrived about 2 years late) would be Samuel the Lamanite, Nephi and his brother Lehi–who all disappeared from the scene but knew what was going to soon happen and where…

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  9. Stephen M (Ethesis) on December 20, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    New star = anomaly caused by a subspace rift, created by a tachyon burst from a failing warp-containment bubble.

    3 Wise men: Kirk, Bones, and Spock.

    Q.E.D.

    That makes a lot of sense ;)

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  10. Thomas on December 21, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    “How about this? A star goes supernova–flooding the portion of the earth facing it so that even though the inhabitants are able to discern that the sun is setting, it doesn’t get dark.”

    Works fine, so long as the globe doesn’t rotate. Otherwise, the folks on the other side of the world would’ve seen the light, too. Which they didn’t — or at least nobody thought to write it down.

    Supernovae don’t just go “boom” for 12 hours and done.

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  11. FireTag on December 21, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    Hmmm. I could really have some fun playing with this. Take an asteroid 1/500th the diameter of the moon, and let it have a close approach to earth about 1/500th the distance to the moon over Central America about 9 PM local time at 50 miles per second…..

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  12. mh on December 21, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    keep going firetag. isn’t there an asteroid crater in mexico? does it date to 2000 years ago?

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  13. FireTag on December 21, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    MH:

    LOL. No, that crater is 65 million years old, and we definitely do not want to get hit by one of those. It would make the crucifixion destruction look… well let’s just say there would be no one around to write about it then or read about it now.

    What we need for a literal interpretation is a “near-miss”, not a hit. At speeds typical of earth-crossing asteroids, a mountain-sized asteroid can go from the moon’s orbit to the earth and back out again in a single night, so it’s conceivable (though miraculous in the statistical sense) for that rock to shine brighter than a full moon over Central America near closest approach, yet have rapidly faded (because it’s rushing away from the earth) before the next sundown in the middle east.

    A near miss, in this case is no closer than about the diameter of the moon.

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