What are the facts about the Star of Bethlehem? (Intermediate)

I am a member if the clergy of the Anglican Church in the UK, I wonder of you could give me some factual and therefore historical information relating to the "star" (comet?) that is the focus of the Birth narratives in Matthew's Gospel. Could you point me in the direction of further information to verify and clarify it's existance or not?

As Christmas approaches you can imagine the focus on stars from all ages, and I would like for once to be better informed than rumours and half cocked stories allow.

With many thanks for this excellent website and learning facility.. I am fascinated. (Total novice!)

We seem to get this question every Christmas, which is understandable. I'm not an expert on this myself, but many people have studied it and there are a lot of good resources (as well as a lot of bad ones) on the web. There are also a lot of people with very strong opinions about this issue (as I'm sure you realise) so we have to read the websites with an eye to what the person who wrote it is getting across.

To get you started here are a few good sites:

You can also try typing 'Star of Bethlehem' in a good search engine (eg. Google) and you'll find tons shows up.

Personally I take 'following the star' in the same way that people who believe in Astrology follow the stars. Someone pointed out that they came from the East and followed a star which was in the East - this puts them going away from Bethlehem if we are to take it literally! This person's conclusion is then that they cannot have been literally 'following a star,' but were following advice given to them by the stars. Although I guess evidence for Astrology in the Bible isn't too popular either!


This page was last updated July 18, 2015.

About the Author

Karen Masters

Karen Masters

Karen was a graduate student at Cornell from 2000-2005. She went on to work as a researcher in galaxy redshift surveys at Harvard University, and is now on the Faculty at the University of Portsmouth back in her home country of the UK. Her research lately has focused on using the morphology of galaxies to give clues to their formation and evolution. She is the Project Scientist for the Galaxy Zoo project.

Twitter:  @KarenLMasters
Website:  http://icg.port.ac.uk/~mastersk/