The Star of Bethlehem by Mark Kidger

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Two thousand years ago, according to the Bible, a star rose low in the east and stopped high above Bethlehem. Was it a miracle, a sign from God to herald the birth of Christ? Was there a star at all, or was it simply added to the Bible to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy concerning the birth of the Messiah? Or was the Star of Bethlehem an actual astronomical event? For hundreds of years, astronomers as prominent as Johannes Kepler have sought an answer to this last baffling question. In The Star of Bethlehem, Mark Kidger brings all the tools of modern science, years of historical research, and an infectious spirit of inquiry to bear on the mystery. He sifts through an astonishing variety of ideas, evidence, and information--including Babylonian sky charts, medieval paintings, data from space probes, and even calculations about the speed of a camel--to present a graceful, original, and scientifically compelling account of what it may have been that illuminated the night skies two millennia ago.

Kidger begins with the stories of early Christians, comparing Matthew's tale of the Star and the three Magi who followed it to Bethlehem with lesser-known accounts excluded from the Bible. Crucially, Kidger follows the latest biblical scholarship in placing Christ's birth between 7 and 5 B.C., which leads him to reject various phenomena that other scientists have proposed as the Star. In clear, colorful prose, he then leads us through the arguments for and against the remaining astronomical candidates. Could the Star have been Venus? What about a meteor or a rare type of meteor shower? Could it have been Halley's Comet, as featured in Giotto's famous painting of the Nativity? Or, as Kidger suspects, was the Star a combination of events--a nova recorded in ancient Chinese and Korean manuscripts preceded by a series of other events, including an unusual triple conjunction of planets?


About Mark Kidger

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Mark Kidger is an astronomer at the European Space Astronomy Centre in Madrid. He is the author of Astronomical Enigmas: Life on Mars, the Star of Bethlehem, and Other Milky Way Mysteries, also published by Johns Hopkins.
Published October 18, 1999 by Princeton University Press. 300 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality, Science & Math. Non-fiction

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Publishers Weekly

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In 12 delightful chapters, astronomer Kidger takes us on a tour of the solar system, addressing an array of fascinating questions, not all of which he can answer.

Apr 25 2005 | Read Full Review of The Star of Bethlehem

Publishers Weekly

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Plenty of new and old data about the night sky and more than a little ancient history inform Kidger's clear account of his own and others' theories about the portent that led the Magi to Judea.

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