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The Star of Bethlehem Hardcover – October 18, 1999

3.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. A researcher at Spain's Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, and a columnist for the Astronomer, Kidger steers meticulously to his own, admittedly speculative, answer, devoting several chapters to popular and once-popular accounts of the Star, discussing, among other theories, Halley's Comet (impossible), unusual meteors (nope), and supernovas (none took place in the right decade). Kidger regards Michael Molnar's version (explicated at length in Molnar's own book, reviewed below) as "one of the most credible" explanations, though he points out that Molnar's thesis doesn't translate into much for the Magi, or anyone else, to have seen. Kidger outlines ideas about the professions and origins of the Three Wise Men themselves, who (assuming they existed) may have been Zoroastrians from Persia or Babylonian Jews in exile. Drawing on Chinese astronomical records, Kidger concludes that the Magi set out for Judea when a 5 B.C. nova followed a special conjunction of planets in Pisces. An appendix describes the rest of the night sky as it probably looked from Bethlehem. 23 b&w illus. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Was the Star of Bethlehem a real astronomical phenomenon, a miracle that cannot be explained scientifically, or a myth? Kidger, a researcher at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias in Tenerife, Spain, argues in favor of the first of these possibilities. He proposes that the "Star" was actually a series of noteworthy astronomical events occurring over a period of three to four years. Kidger takes care to examine (and reject) numerous other possible explanations as he lays out his chain of reasoning, and he does a good job of discussing various astronomical phenomena in the process. But he fails to provide adequate evidence in support of some assumptions crucial to his own theory. An optional purchase, especially if David Hughes's The Star of Bethlehem: An Astronomer's Confirmation (LJ 2/1/80) is already in the collection. Librarians seeking new titles on this topic might also want to consider Michael Molnar's The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi (Rutgers Univ., 1999). (Index not seen.)ANancy Curtis, Fogler Lib., Univ. of Maine, Orono
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (October 18, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691058237
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691058238
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,455,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Star of Bethlehem is a perennially favorite topic for planetarium shows, articles, musings, sermons, and books. What could be left at this late date to say about it? Quite a lot, actually. Enough so that two new books, both titled "The Star of Bethlehem" (How original!) and both copyright 1999 are on my desk as I write.
The story about the Star is found only in the Gospel of Matthew. There are three possibilities: 1) The star was a myth - invented by the writer of Matthew or earlier Christians whom he followed, in order to give Jesus appropriately royal auspices for his birth. 2) The star was a miracle provided by God to guide the Magi, even perhaps visible only to them. 3) The star was a natural astronomical event or events. These three are obviously mutually exclusive and exhaustive. If either of the first two possibilities are correct, there is little more to be said; therefore both of our authors give them short shrift.
Both books cover some of the same material in about the same way. Jesus was *not* born on December 25 of 1 BC as worked out by the Scythian monastic scholar Dionysius Exiguus (Denny the Dwarf) in 525 AD. King Herod, of whom the Magi inquired about the birth, died in 4 BC. For other reasons, the birth is fairly firmly dated to between 6 and 4 BC. If the shepherds were `abiding with their flocks by night', the birth did not take place in December. For various reasons, these authors agree that Spring is more likely.
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Format: Hardcover
Mr. Kidger's words open a whole new world to the reader. Whether you think the star is a hoax or a supernatural phenomenon, what he has to say will have you looking at the sky in a whole new way. After I read it I couldn't wait to go out and watch an eclipse, look for a comet, or just look at the stars. I even called my parents to see if they still had the telescope they bought me when I was a child. The book does a good job of presenting several views of what the "Star" could have been. Mr. Kidger doesn't expect you to believe that he is right in his conclusions, instead he gives the reader the opportunity to see many points of view. Like a good teacher, Mr. Kidger makes a conclusion from his research but makes it in such a way that the reader (student) wants to learn more. The only reason that I did not give the book 5 stars was becasue at times it can seem to stray away from the purpose of answering the question, "what was the star?" While there is no way to answer this question without looking at history, the book at times resembles more of a history book than an astronomy book. If you like astronomy or are just curious about the Star of Bethlehem you will find this book worth looking over. If nothing else the new way you look at the sky will be worth reading the book.
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Format: Hardcover
Any work is worth reading if you are studying a particular topic. While not every author is going to be correct, they all tend to offer ideas that, at the very least, provide food for thought or a path to explore in your endeavor.

This is one such work. It has some good ideas that might pique your interest. However, it is highly speculative, boasts minimal resource material, and is very poorly researched.

In one instance, for example, he subtly attempts to convince the reader that a hui hsing might have been a nova or supernova due to its apparent lack of motion in the Chinese record of the astronomical event (pp. 234-235). However, a hui hsing, according to its very own wording and definition, is a "broom star," meaning that it has a tufted tail like a broom. Whether it moved across the sky or not, it was a comet, else it would have been described as a hsing po (a star bushing out) instead of a hui hsing (broom star).

In another instance he makes a comparison between a 4 BC po hsing (properly a hsing po, or xing bo in accepted pinyin) recorded by the Koreans (pp. 235-239) and this same 5 BC hui hsing in the Chinese Annals, and argues for the possibility that the two were one and the same event (pp. 243-244). The Koreans, he suggests in this example, were mistaken by one year, because, he claimes, the Chinese never recorded a 4 BC object, and he reasons that, "It [...] seems unlikely, given the known record of the Chinese as observers, that the Koreans but not the Chinese would record the 4 BC object [...]," (pp. 238-239).

The Korean Samguk Sagi states, "In the 54th year of the King Sijo of Silla (4 BC), in the spring, the second month, on the day ji-you, a star appeared (xing-po) in the constellation Ho-Ku.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book by Astronomer Mark Kidger suggests several possible explanations for the star over Bethlehem at Christ's birth. Using the latest technical experimentation and reasoning he says that the star was definitely NOT a comet.

Although well-spoken and thoroughly read, Kidger does not provide sourcing for his presentation. One wonders often about his sources. This keeps Kidger from receiving more stars.

Kidger's fascinating discussion (in chapter 7) on "We Three Kings" led to further readings on the Magi. He proposes that these star gazers were not kings but possibly descendants of the ancient Jewish Diaspora (page 196) who were watching for the birth of a savior-king. (If so, then one wonders why Jewish descendants would go to the hated Herod for travel directions?)

Kidger suggests three possible dates for the birth of Christ. Frustratingly, these are based on ancient Arabic and Chinese star records and the Gospel of Matthew's chronology (without reference to the Gospel of Luke). Applying what Luke says to the birth story dramatically changes Kidger's dates.

So was the Star of Bethlehem a nova, supernova, a conjunction of three planets, or Jupiter off the moon's edge? Read Kidger and find out what he thinks.

This book is recommended to the Veteran in the Star of Bethlehem studies and not the novice. (Read other Star studies first).
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