The Constellation Coma

It is obvious that the last word cannot be said about the stars over Bethlehem, simply because we just cannot know for sure of what all the Magi were aware.  Although in my book, Creation’s Ballet for Jesus, important connections were identified, yet other events in the sky may also have had their role, although it may not clear as to just where they fit in.

The death of Jesus in 33 AD provided a landmark in narrowing the events to 1 to 2 BC.  First, because it was the only year in the neighborhood where the Passover fell on a Saturday, which meant that the Day of Preparation was on a Friday, thereby moving the slaughter of the lambs up to the hours after noon, the time when Jesus was dying and there was darkness over the world.  This fit the tradition that Jesus died on a Friday, therefore “Good Friday”; and that the Resurrection would then occur on a Sunday, resulting in the tradition that each Sunday was to be a “Little Easter” celebration, and worship was changed from Saturday to Sunday. The second point is that this was exactly forty (Hebrew) years to the day before the recognized end of the nation (not of the People) of Israel/Jews at the fall of Masada in 73 AD.

If Jesus did start his ministry at about 30 years of age (Luke 3:23), which was considered the age of spiritual maturity, and, as apparently indicated in the Gospel references to various Passover celebrations, His ministry covered about three years, then His birth could be placed at about 1 to 2 BC.  This confirms what many of the Church fathers wrote in regard to the time of Jesus’ birth; and which seems to be also indicated by the coinciding of the constellations, the Old Testament festival year, and the periods of gestation and purification in 3-2 BC.

There were other elements, though, that occurred especially prior to this time:  there was the triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, joined after the last round by Mars, in the sign of Pisces, which Kepler thought was a precursor to the birth.  Two other events (comets or novas), one in Capricorn and the other in Aquilla, occurred in 5 and 4 BC.  The problem with these is that there is no known prophetic link with the Jewish people to these events to alert the Magi.

However, Frances Rolleston, in her book Mazzaroth or the Constellations (1862), had done impressive research into how the constellations originally were designed to reflect the Biblical prophecies of Jehovah’s salvation, as a sort of “poor man’s Bible” in the sky.  As an example, looking at many ancient cultures, she found that the decans (secondary constellations) of Virgo (Coma, Centaur, and Bootes) were changed in the Greek and Roman time periods from their original designations.
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In the Latin and Greek world, “coma” has the meaning of hair, but in Hebrew “comah” has the idea of the “the Desired One” or “the Yearned For.”  The only place in the Bible that this word appears is in verb form in Psalm 63:1 (the non-italicized words):

(A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.) O God, You are my God; early will I seek You: my soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water;

Rolleston indicated that the Arabic and Chaldean names also have the concept of “the Desired One” or of “the Branch Who Comes.”  Even in Shakespeare there is a line in Titus Andronicus about an arrow to be shot up to “the good boy in Virgo’s lap.”  Since Sir John Herschell had observed as growing rapidly brighter the brightest star in Centaur, which ancient writings seem to indicate was a variable star, Rolleston suggested that that might have been the case for a star in the head of Coma to herald the birth of the Savior.  However, she also acknowledged that the required star had not given evidence of its existence in ensuing 1800 years, therefore its existence could only be postulated.

The second problem that she attempted to address was to explain its “movement” as the “star” went before the Magi and then “stood” over where the young child was.  Since such a star’s movement was simply the movement of every star, the explanation seems inadequate to reflect the Biblically recorded movement that would be better explained by the unique path that planets take in “retrograde motion.”

Rolleston’s attempt to include a variable star into the Ballet of the sky should not be discarded out-of-hand, since it suggests that the Bethlehem sky could have been a lot more dynamic than we first may imagine.  It is also a good example of how the Lord tweaks our noses just when we think we have settled all the answers to a question.

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