Does the Biblical Account of the Star of Bethlehem Prove That Astrology Is True?

By: Dr. John Ankerberg / Dr. John Weldon; ©2004
Every Christmas season, astrologers are fond of claiming that the star of Bethlehem proves that the Bible accepts the practice of astrology. But, if the Bible is the inerrant Word of God (as we argue elsewhere), it could never teach error by advocating something that was false.


Does the Biblical Account of the Star of Bethlehem Prove That Astrology Is True?

As Christians celebrate the miracle and the wonder of the Incarnation this season, invariably, the topic of “the star of Bethlehem” arises in an astrological context. Every Christmas season, astrologers are fond of claiming that the star of Bethlehem proves that the Bible accepts the practice of astrology.

But, because the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, it could never teach error by advocating something that was false. In our book, Astrology: Do the Heavens Rule Our Destiny? (Harvest House, 1989), we documented in detail the following:

  1. Astrology is scientifically bankrupt. Every scientific test conducted has either failed to prove astrological claims or has disproved them.
  2. None of the ten areas of alleged evidence in support of astrology are valid.
  3. The astrological community itself is aware of these problems but has done nothing to address them.
  4. The worldview of astrology is inherently pagan and its practices inherently occult.
  5. Objective chart interpretation is a logical impossibility and relies entirely upon subjective impressions, invention, or psychic/spiritistic guidance.
  6. The reason why astrology seems to work can be explained entirely by psychological factors or spiritistic powers. In fact, we cite eight lines of evidence proving that astrology and spiritism are closely related.
  7. As an occult method of divination, astrology is inherently a dangerous practice (cf. our book, The Coming Darkness, Harvest House, 1993).
  8. Not a single Christian doctrine is compatible with astrological belief, nor is there a single Scripture reference, properly interpreted, that supports astrology.

In light of all this, the episode of the star of Bethlehem could not possibly teach astrology.

A careful examination of Matthew 2 reveals the following:

  1. The star actually moved because it preceded the Magi; hence, it was a miraculous phenomenon, not one of the heavenly bodies through which astrology claims it can divine the future.
  2. The star was able to indicate the exact place Jesus and His parents were staying.
  3. The star was apparently visible only for the Magi, for no one else seems to have noticed it, including Herod and the religious leaders in Jerusalem.

This was a temporary miracle from God to guide and direct the Magi to Jesus. Certainly it had no astrological meaning.

Astrologers have also claimed the Magi were astrologers, but their conclusion is not substantiated by scholars. The fact that these men are mentioned favorably, and that God deals with them especially in relationship to His Son, indicates it is more certain that they were not astrolo­gers. (The term “magi” originally referred to a group of Medes who were priests for the Per­sians.)

The term “magi” primarily refers to ancient “wise men” and astrology was part of the practice and interest of many such magi. Examples include the magicians in King Pharaoh’s and Nebuchadnezzar’s courts (Ex. 7:11; Dan. 2:2 ff).

But the Bible also is clear that not all “wise men” were astrologers. Daniel, for example, was a godly man who had been promoted into the inner circle of the counselors to King Nebuchadnezzar. It is reported in Scriptures that: “In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, [the king] found them [Daniel and his friends] ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. So Daniel remained there [in the king’s service]” (Dan. 1:20, 21).

It is at least possible that the “Magi” who followed the star to Bethlehem were actually Jews who, like Daniel, had remained in Babylon after the captivity, and who, as seekers after truth, had attained to a position of authority. But as Jews, they would not only have been acquainted with the many Old Testament prohibitions against astrology (Deut. 4:19; 17:2-5; 18:9-11; 2 Ki. 17:16; 21:3-6; 23:4-5, 24; Jer. 7:18; 8:1-2; 19:13; Amos 5:25, 26; Zech. 1:4-6; cf. Acts 7:42; 1 Cor. 10:20, etc.) but also with the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Messiah, the “King of the Jews” (c.f., our book, The Case For Jesus the Messiah: Incredible Prophecies that Prove God Exists). Thus, their scripturally based faith in God would have provided them a “context” for the miraculous phenomena they followed in order to find their Messiah.

On the other hand, it is also possible that the Magi were Gentiles in that the Magi originally constituted a hereditary class of priests. Also they asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” But even as Gentiles, the Magi would still have been able to learn about the coming Jewish Messiah through the influence of Daniel, who lived in Babylon in the sixth cen­tury B.C. Daniel’s influence was so great that King Nebuchadnezzar sent out at least three proclamations to the entire known world of that time commanding that all men worship Daniel’s God. The king went so far as to declare that Daniel’s God was the only true God (See Dan. 3:28-4:3, 34-37).

There is no doubt that because of Daniel’s influence, many people in ancient Babylon be­came believers in the God of Daniel and in the Jewish Scriptures. The Magi of Christ’s time may have been descendents of such peoples, or may have been following a tradition kept alive from the time of Daniel. What is clear scripturally is that these men are not condemned as astrolo­gers or as pagan unbelievers. In fact, the Scriptures declare that they worshipped Jesus when they found Him. In conclusion, nothing in this passage in Matthew condones or approves the practice of astrology. Christmas is a time to celebrate Christ, not astrology!

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