an atheist viewpoint

thoughts from a non-theist

The Star of Bethlehem

One of the more rational theists I speak to on Twitter, @shrankaplooza, asked me to watch the pro-Christian movie ‘Star of Bethlehem’, claiming to present some scientific evidence of the existence of the star featured in the Nativity story.

If you want to watch it, the first part is here –

It goes on far too long, with presenter Rick Larson droning on endlessly about star signs, religion, his own credulity, and a whole host of other stuff designed to pad out this rather weak film.

Eventually, after what seems an eternity of watching Rick desperately filling time, the Jupiter-Venus-Regulus conjunction theory, first posited by Roger Sinnott in a 1968 issue of ‘Sky and Telescope’, is trotted out.

 Is that it?

OK, well done for finding an astronomical event that happened around about the assumed date you think Jesus might have been born! There are so many stars in the sky that something, somewhere in the Universe, will be aligning every day of the year.

It does nothing at all to prove the Bible account correct, after all, if it was a visible phenomena then all the Gospel writers are doing is working an event that happened in the real world into their myth making, just like they did by mentioning Heron, Quirinius, and Jerusalem. Including something from the real world in your story doesn’t make it automatically true – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had the fictional Sherlock Holmes dashing all over London, but it doesn’t mean Sherlock Holmes existed.

Proof that an event mentioned in a text happened is not proof that the rest of the story is also true. In fact the errors caused by the Gospel writers trying to ground their accounts in real history do more damage to the credibility of the Bible than leaving those details out all together would have. When Matthew claims Jesus was born during the reign of Herod, but Luke insists it was during the governance of Quirinius, it allows us to cross reference with Roman records and other contemporary history, in this case throwing up a rather awkward 10 year gap between the death of Herod and the rule of Quirinius.  By trying to make the story more convincing, the writers have inadvertently done the exact opposite. 

Watching Rick Larson’s video, it becomes rapidly apparent that this is a man who presupposes the Bible to be correct and has then gone looking for evidence that supports his assumption. Unfortunately, that’s the exact opposite of the way science actually works.

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One thought on “The Star of Bethlehem

  1. I watched the first 10 minutes or so from that video at the recommendation of a friend of mine at school and the thing that really made me throw the whole thing out the window is the fact that the man making the argument wasn’t even an astronomer but a lawyer. Pointless video.

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