The Star of Bethlehem


The Star of Bethlehem:
The Star that Astonished the World
Extended Second Edition


Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D.

This book is dedicated to
the memory of my father and mother
Joel C. and Lula M. Martin

From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth,
From the laziness that is content with half truths,
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
Oh God of Truth, deliver us.

                                               ~ Ancient Prayer

The Associates for Scriptural Knowledge
P.O. Box 25000
Portland, Oregon  97225  USA

The Star of Bethlehem: The Star that Astonished the World
(Second Edition)
© Ernest L. Martin, Ph. D., 1996
Edited by David Sielaff, 2003

ISBN 0-945657-87-0 (Second Edition)

All rights reserved. Except for brief excerpts for review purposes, no part of
this book may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means -- electronic
or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or information storage and
retrieval systems -- without written permission from the copyright owner.


Audio read by Tom Parks -  MP3
Audio read by Charlie Corder -  MP3

Backcover Information from 2nd Edition

Dr. Martin has taught history for 12 years at a college in England, been the Chairman of the Department of Theology at another in California, has supervised over 450 college students at the most significant archaeological excavation ever conducted in Jerusalem for two months each year for a period of five years (and his archeological educational program was featured in the Education section of Time magazine for September 1973).

He has written over a dozen major research books advertised internationally in archeological and biblical periodicals, and over 600 planetariums around the world show his astronomical and historical material at their December showings. He has written several hundred articles on biblical and historical matters and is also listed in the current editions of Who’s Who in Religion and Education, and Who’s Who in Biblical Studies and Archaeology.

Backcover Information from 1st Edition

This book is brand new research. The astronomer John Mosley wrote in the Griffith Observer:

“It is not often that we see the demise of an astronomical theory that dates back to pre-telescopic times. Yet a theory first proposed by none other than the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler himself, and generally accepted as correct for more than 3 and 1/2 centuries, is now being discarded . . . [by] new historical research of Dr. Ernest L. Martin.”

This historical and astronomical research is why many planetariums (well over 600 in the United States alone) are now showing what was astronomically happening at the period of Jesus’ nativity. Correctly, they do not make judgments on these phenomena. Planetariums are scientific establishments and are not intended to give opinions on historical or biblical matters. But they are aware of the fascinating and spectacular astronomical relationships that occurred in 3 to 2 B.C.E. Since these celestial occasions were so remarkable, many planetariums have considered it worthwhile to show this new research to the general public because of the widespread interest in this period of time in the history of western civilization

Reviews about this research ...

“Professor Martin has presented a reasoned argument which deserves to be considered seriously.”

Prof. F.F. Bruce
University of Manchester, England

“Of all the theories currently clustering around the Christmas star, I believe Martin’s may be the most plausible.”

Richard H. Schneider
Senior Staff Editor
Guideposts Magazine

“The accounts of Josephus and the entire history of the period [the time of Christ’s nativity] have been reassessed recently, with important new results, by Ernest L. Martin, whose book, whose book, The Star that Astonished the World, has become the authoritative source on the subject.”

Dr. Craig Chester, Astronomer
Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy
Imprimis Magazine

“Convincing chronological conclusions.”

Professor Jack Finegan>
Handbook of Biblical Chronology, Rev. Ed.

“New light has been thrown on the date of the nativity. ... Martin tackles the [historical] problems convincingly.”

Professor John Thorley
“When was Jesus Born?”
in Greece & Rome (1981)

“Martin has rewritten the history of this period, clearing up a slew of nagging problems. Prominent classical historians are taking his work very seriously, and although it will be years before a consensus is reached, an impartial referee would probably conclude that Martin’s chronology is correct.”

John Mosley
Astronomer and Program Director
Griffith Observatory and Planetarium
From the book The Christmas Star


Chapter 1: The Star of Bethlehem in History
Chapter 2: Who Were the Wise Men?
Chapter 3: Was the Star a Real Star?
Chapter 4: The Real Star of Bethlehem
Chapter 5: The Time of Jesus' Birth
Chapter 6: The Birth of Jesus and the Day of Trumpets
Chapter 7: The Dark Decade in History
Chapter 8: Astronomy and the Death of King Herod
Chapter 9: The Lunar Eclipse of Josephus
Chapter 10: The War that No One Can Find
Chapter 11: The Two Governorships of Quintilius Varus
Chapter 12: The Census of Quirinius
Chapter 13: The Chronology of Josephus
Appendix 1: Quintilius Varus and the Lapis Tiburtinus
Appendix 2: The Question of Gaius Caesar
Appendix 3: The Banishment of Julia
Appendix 4: The Sabbatical Years and Chronology

Other Books by Dr. Ernest L. Martin

Restoring the Original Bible
Secrets of Golgotha
101 Bible Secrets Christians Do Not Know
ABC'S of the Gospel
The Tithing Dilemma
The People That History Forgot
The Temples That Jerusalem Forgot
Essentials of New Testament Doctrine
Prophetic Books of the Old Testament (forthcoming)

Through a telescope, the magnificent conjunction of June 17 would have looked like this to the magi.
The perspective is from near the equator. As seen from Babylon, Venus barely missed moving in front of Jupiter.

James Roth, Griffith Observatory
based on calculations by DeYoung and Hilton
Used with permission of Griffith Observatory

Select Bibliography

Bahat, Dan, The Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990).

Beyer, David W., “Josephus Re-examined: Unraveling the Twenty-Second Year of Tiberius” in Chronos, Kairos, Christos II, edited by E. Jerry Vardaman (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1998). This work was originally a paper presented at Society for Biblical Literature, 1996.

Boa, K., & Proctor, W., The Return of the Star of Bethlehem (Garden City: Doubleday, 1980).

Brown, R.E., The Birth of the Messiah (New York: Doubleday, 1977).

Bullinger, E.W., The Witness of the Stars (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1972).

Cumont, F., Astrology and Religion Among the Greeks and Romans (New York: Dover, 1960).

Devore, N., Encyclopedia of Astrology (New York: Philosophical Library, 1947).

Edwards, O., New Chronology of the Gospels (London: Floris, 1972).

Eliade, M., Cosmos and History (New York: Harper & Row, 1959).

Finegan, J., Handbook of Biblical Chronology (Princeton: University Press, 1964), Revised Edition, 2001.

Hendriksen, W., New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973).

Hoehner, H.W., Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977).

Hoehner, H.W., Herod Antipas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972).

Hughes, D., The Star of Bethlehem Mystery (London: J.M. Dent, 1979).

Jeremias, J., Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus (London: SCM, 1969).

Keresztes, Paul, Imperial Rome and the Christians (New York: New York University Press, 1989).

Kittel, G., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964).

Kudlek, M. & Mickler, E.H., Solar and Lunar Eclipses (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Verlag Butzon & Bercker Kevelaer, 1971).

Lewin, T., Fasti Sacri (London: 1865).

Lindsay, J., Origins of Astrology (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1972).

Madden, F.W., History of Jewish Coinage (San Diego: Pegasus, 1970).

Maier, P., The First Christmas (New York: Harper & Row, 1971).

Martin, Ernest L., The Birth of Christ Recalculated (Pasadena: FBR Publications, 1978, 1980 second edition).

Meshorer, Y., Jewish Coins of the Second Temple Period (Tel-Aviv: 1972) 

Meyshan, J., Essays in Jewish Numismatics (Jerusalem: 1960).

Mosley, John, The Christmas Star (Los Angeles: Griffith Observatory, 1987).

Nicoll, W.R., The Expositor’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.).

Parker and Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology (Providence: Brown University Press, 1969).

Reifenberg, A., Ancient Jewish Coins (Jerusalem: Rubin Mass, 1947, 1965).

Schurer, E., History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ (Edinburgh: Clark, 1896); Rev. Ed. (The New Schurer), G. Vermes & F. Millar (Edinburgh: Clark, 1973).

Seiss, J.A., The Gospel in the Stars (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1972).

Sherwin-White, A.N., Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1963).

Smith, W., Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography (London: Walton, 1870).

Smith, W., Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (London: Walton, 1876).

Syme, Sir Ronald, The Roman Revolution (Oxford: 1939).

Syme, Sir Ronald, “The Titulus Tiburtinus,” in Vestigia Akten des VI Internationalen Kongresses fur Griedchische und Lateinische Epigraphik (Munich: Beck, 1972).

Syme, Sir Ronald, “The Crisis of 2 B.C.,” in Verlag Der Bayerischen Akademie Der Wissenschaften (Munich: Beck, 1974).

Tuckerman, B., Planetary, Lunar, and Solar Positions 601 B.C. to A.D. 1 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1962).

Van Goudoever, J., Biblical Calendars (Leiden: Brill, 1959).

Vardaman and Yamauchi, Chronos, Kairos, Christos (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1989).

Yamauchi, Edwin M., Persia and the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990).

ZPEB, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975)


The Star of Bethlehem
The Star That Astonished the World

This book seeks to identify the Star of Bethlehem mentioned in the New Testament. This is not a religious book. It is a book of science and history to demonstrate what was the star that led the Wise Men to Bethlehem. The new evidence that is given will make the story of the Nativity a much more reasonable and interesting account than most narratives have provided up to now. The historical and astronomical research in this book is why many planetariums are now showing what was astronomically happening at the crucial time in history when Jesus of Nazareth was born. The planetarium staffs are not making judgments on these celestial phenomena, and this is the correct procedure for such observatories. Planetariums are scientific establishments and are not intended to give opinions on historical or biblical matters. But they are aware of the fascinating and spectacular astronomical relationships that were occurring in 3 to 2 B.C.E., the period that history reveals Jesus was born. Because these celestial events were so remarkable and symbolically significant, many planetariums have considered it worthwhile to show them as a service to the general public because of the widespread interest in this “star.”

Since the introduction of computers in the study of astronomical phenomena that occurred within past history, great strides have been made in the last twenty years in determining the actual chronology of those historical events of the past. These facilities were not available to earlier historians and theologians trying to identify what the Star of Bethlehem really was. That is why this new evidence, which comes from up-to-date scientific evaluations, has made it much easier to find the “star” that led the Wise Men to the infant Jesus. The identification of the Bethlehem Star is an event for which astronomy can provide evidence. This book gives the historical and biblical evidence (along with the astronomical) that makes the identification possible.

There is one thing for certain. The astronomical and historical information given in this book makes the period of Jesus’ nativity come alive as never before. Whether people today wish to view these planetary/stellar events (that I will present in this book) from the early Roman, Mesopotamian or a Palestinian perspective, or even from a modern secular one, we now have clear evidence that there was once (at the beginning of our era) a unique appearance of a magnificent “Star that Astonished the World.”

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