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before” the Magi and “stood over where the child was.” This is a precise translation of the original Greek text, and as such, many would believe that it can only describe a supernatural apparition and deter further scientific analysis. But a natural explanation exists for this puzzle.

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Historians note that Matthew, the evangelist, was a Jew, and presumably would not have been conversant with astrological jargon. This notion is apparent from his literal description of a “star in the east.” Arcane technical terminology would have been awkwardly conveyed by the uninitiated. The account of the mysterious motion of the “star,” as planets were called, likely suffers from the same kind of misinterpretation because “went before” in Greek (proegen) sounds confusingly similar to the word for “went ahead” (proegeis)—the astrological term for retrograde motion. Although a planet’s most important astrological phase was that which rendered it a “morning star,” “retrograde motion” and “stationing” were secondary auspicious positions. Figure 3 shows how retrograde motion is an optical illusion caused when the Earth passes a distant planet, which shifts the planet’s position among the background stars. Before shifting

Astrologers thought that retrograde motion was a magical display of celestial influences on people directions, the planet will station, or seem to stop moving, appearing to hover relative to the stars. Astrologers thought that retrograde motion was a magical display of celestial influences on people. As it turns out, Jupiter’s retrograde motion months after it had been “in the east” was an extra special astrological event. On December 6, 6 BC, Saturn was still in Aries, where Jupiter had also halted upon concluding its retrograde motion. Here, it remained stationary among the stars in the astrological sign under which the new king was born. On this day, the Sun was in Sagittarius, which fulfilled the condition for the three rulers residing in their trine of Aries, Leo and Sagittarius (Figure 1). Thus, the Magi had good reason to give praise as Jupiter stationed in Aries.

Jupiter in its station would indeed be standing motionless among the background stars in the zodiacal sign where the young king was born. Unlike when the planet emerged as a morning star, Jupiter was now very bright, high in the night sky for the Magi to see and praise, as Matthew claims. The timing here also makes sense because the Biblical account claims that the Magi found a toddler, not an infant. Thus, the stationing of Jupiter in trine aspect on December 6, 6 BC provides an acceptable, natural explanation for the timing of events. Powerful evidence supporting my theory about the astrological events of April 17, 6 BC as the basis for Matthew’s account lies in a major Roman astrological treatise discussing the birth of divine and immortal persons. In ca. AD 433 during the reign of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, Julius Firmicus Maternus, a Christian convert, wrote his Mathesis, explaining astrology. The book is a curious mixture of pagan and Christian allusions, which points to Firmicus’ conversion in transition. This bridge between two faiths is evident in a section of the Mathesis (3.3.9) about the horoscopes of divine and immortal persons. Firmicus first explains that the Moon must move toward Jupiter as one vital aspect, which harkens to the events of April 17, 6 BC. He then specifies the salient aspects in the horoscope of a person with “almost divine and immortal” characteristics. Roman law prohibited identifying the owner of a horoscope to prevent entrepreneurs and enemies from taking advantage of predictions, so astrologers would obliquely refer to the owner by citing accomplishments. This first example of a horoscope for a divine person has Jupiter in its exaltation in Cancer the Crab which is undoubtedly for Augustus Caesar, the “unconquerable general who governs the whole world” as Firmicus reminds us. Augustus was declared divine by the Roman Senate after his death. Referring to “almost” divine Augustus Caesar, Firmicus confirms his Roman pagan roots, but when he turns to a second, more important horoscope, his religious conversion is evident: This [the creation of divine and immortal persons] is especially true if the Sun in his exaltation is in trine aspect to Jupiter. For Jupiter rejoices by day when aspected by the Sun or Saturn, especially if he is in a morning rising. (Mathesis 3.3.9) The Sun is exalted only in Aries. For Jupiter to be in trine aspect to the Sun while also in morning rising, namely “in the east,” it too can only be in Aries. For Saturn to be in trine aspect, it must be in either Aries, Leo or Sagittarius. To presume that Saturn is in Aries while adding Firmicus’ requirement that the Moon should move towards Jupiter produces a perfect astrological description of the events of April 17, 6 BC. This is when Firmicus believed the birth of a divine and immortal person was “especially true.”

Profile for M. Hurst

GLIMPSE | vol 2.4, winter 2009-10 | Cosmos  

The "Cosmos" issue investigates the history and technologies of seeing beyond Earth's atmosphere. From Mayan and pre-Christian civilizations...

GLIMPSE | vol 2.4, winter 2009-10 | Cosmos  

The "Cosmos" issue investigates the history and technologies of seeing beyond Earth's atmosphere. From Mayan and pre-Christian civilizations...

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