The μάγοι (Magi; ancient astronomer-astrologer scientists) were from Persia (modern Iran). Following a star in the east, would have led the Magi east – to the coast of China near Shanghai looking out at the South China Sea / Pacific Ocean, not to Israel!
The account in Lu. 2:8 describes shepherds leading their flocks in the mountains. “Yet, ancient records document that it was in the spring that shepherds led their flocks out into the hills for a months-long nomadic pasturing trek. The shepherds moved their campsites a few hills along every few days to permit pasturing on new hills, radiating out each day from the campsite, and moving their campsite every few days as available pasturage required. This nomadic trek ends in late autumn of each year when the flocks and shepherds work their way back to their homes.” (The Netzarim Reconstruction of Hebrew Matityahu (NHM), Vol. 2, note 2.2.1). Shepherds didn’t have their flocks out on the mountains in the cold rains of December.
The ancient scientists of 2,000 years ago knew of no distinction between planets, moons or stars. They simply viewed the heavens as a canopy curving over the earth, sprinkled with myriads of lights, which they perceived as moving across the sky. The Nᵊtzârim Reconstruction of Hebrew Matitᵊyâhu (NHM) describes a celestial light, with its movement, as כּוֹכָב (kokhav; i.e. a celestial-phenomenon).
Paul and subsequent Hellenist Greek translators, based on their Hellenist perspective, “interpreted” this single term into Greek variously as ἀστήρ (astær; a heavenly light) or ἄστρον (astron; an astrological phenomenon). But these always derive from the same Hebrew term, כּוֹכָב (kokhav) which, in ancient times, included both. (NHM, loc. cit.)
“The Judaic concept of a Mashiakh was widely known in ancient times. Astrologers believed that [Saturn] influenced the destiny of the Jews since the Jews observed [Saturn-day], the seventh day of the week, as Shabat. [Zeus / Jupiter] was reckoned ‘the Planet of the Messiah.’ Rav Roy A. Rosenberg showed that Israeli sages long ago associated the planet Zeus / Jupiter with the Hebrew name צדק (Tzêd’êq, a just one; pop. righteous), as corroborated in Talmud. Throughout the period of the Beit-ha-Miqdâsh ha-Sheini and later, צדק became a synonym for the Mâshiakh. Indeed, the messianic significance of the word went back as early as the sixth century B.C.E.” (loc. cit.) Hence, the Magi would have been searching the skies, attempting to “divine” the relevant planets and constellations as signs of this expected event.
Hebrew Matityahu (the only account accepted by the original Jewish followers of Ribi Yehoshua according to the earliest Church historian, Eusebius) describes 3 appearances of this kokhav: initially before they left Iran, a second time in Yᵊrushalayim, and a final third time in Beit-Lekhem (House of Bread, anglicized to Bethlehem, the hometown of David ha-Melekh).
This makes intuitive sense. The first sighting alerted the Magi to go to the capital of Israel, Yᵊrushalayim, to obtain further information and direction.
A considerable amount of time would have passed as a number (may have been more than 3) of Magi contacted each other throughout Iran – on foot, no smartphones, automobiles or airplanes – convened together, rechecked their notes and calculations, discussed and debated the meaning, organized a caravan and walked the Fertile Crescent through Syria and down to Yᵊrushalayim in Yᵊhudah to inquire more information from Herod the Great and Judaic Sages.
Being directed to Beit-Lekhem – probably among several other villages, the Magi would again check the stars to confirm the correct village. When they saw the second sighting, it confirmed Beit-Lekhem, where they must continue their search.
Upon arriving in Beit-Lekhem, the Magi would have inquired which (Jewish) families in the tiny village had celebrated a firstborn son since the date of their first sighting. Whatever the number, it was probably a small number of homes.
The Magi would then have set a vigil over each such home for a night, or perhaps a week. During their vigil over the home of Yoseiph and Miriam, they sighted the third celestial sign, identifying Yᵊhoshua Ben Yoseiph, Ben-David.
So, are there celestial phenomena that match up to this?
NHM 2.2 states that the Magi consulted Herod the Great. Yet, Herod the Great died in B.C.E. 4.
Therefore, the time window for these events must be be before B.C.E. 4.
NHM notes (loc. cit.): “In… B.C.E. 7, [Saturn] and [Zeus / Jupiter] were in conjunction three times in the pre-dawn sky.”
“Dr. E. Myles Standish Jr. of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Ca. indicates the dates according to least apparent angular separation as
1. B.C.E. 0007.05.29,
2. B.C.E. 0007.10.01, and
3. B.C.E. 0007.12.05
This… method is the one which the ancient astronomer-astrologers, using their naked eyes and lacking modern instrumentation, used and is, therefore, the one adopted in NHM.”
Notice that 4 months elapse between the first and second sighting, during which the Magi traveled to Yerushalayim. After discerning which village they should search next, Beit-Lekhem is only 9 km (5.5 miles), perhaps a couple of hours walk, south. Then 2 months elapse during which the Magi were keeping vigils to discern which family in Beit-Lekhem was the family of the Mashiakh.
Why Dec. 25?
The American People’s Encyclopedia, under the heading “Christmas” reads, “The [Saturnalia] of the Romans and the winter festival of the heathen Britons were both celebrated about Dec. 25th (12.25), as was the later Roman festival in honor of the sun[-god Mithra], which gave it the name ‘Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.’ This name was given a symbolic interpretation after the festival was adopted by the Christian church in the 4th century [C.E.]… Many customs associated with the Christmas season have pagan origins.” (NHM, loc. cit.)
Paul was a Hellenist Jew from Turkey, intent on morphing his Hellenist perspective of the 1st century Ribi, whom he had never met, into a Helllenized package that would be a marketing success in the ruling, gentile, Hellenist Roman Empire. That meant “relating” the Romans’ Zeus-perspecitve to morph into Paul’s vision of “Jesus.” After 135 C.E., when (Eusebius documented) the 15th and last Netzarim Paqid was ousted by the gentile Roman Christians, formalizing Paul’s disconnection from Jews and Judaism (again according to Eusebius, Paul was excised from the Jews) by installing their own episkopos bishop “Marcus” instead. Thereafter, the gentile Roman Christians ran with it, vilifying Jews as the enemy of the Church and “sons of Satan”, who preferred “being under the Law of sin and death”.
By the 4th century C.E., Christianity was much as we see it today. There was no authentic reference to a Netzarim after 135 C.E. Even the name “Netzarim” was lost, blurred into Notzrim (Christian), until discovered and restored in 1972.
(Translations are from Yirmeyahu Ben-David, ed. The Nᵊtzârim Reconstruction of Hebrew Matitᵊyâhu (NHM). 2 volumes in English, ISBN 965-7328-00-4. Ra’anana, Israel: 1972-2004. http://www.netzarim.co.il//Mall/NetzShop/NetzShop.htm#NHM)
(Republishing this article is encouraged as long as proper citation credit is prominently noted to Paqid Yirmeyahu, this blog and further information at http://www.netzarim.co.il)