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THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM: PART THREE

 

Was it Bethlehem or Nazareth?    

       It could be argued  that Luke does not report the Magi event because it had not yet taken place when the family returned to Nazareth after fulfilling the requirements of the Law. Under this view the Magi event is seen as taking place while the family was residing in Nazareth and it is to Nazareth the Magi went and from where the family escaped.  This, however, is assuming the thing to be proved, namely that the Magi event occurred subsequent to the families return to Nazareth.  Luke cannot be used to support this conclusion because he says nothing about the Magi event or the escape to Egypt. All he says is that the family returned to Nazareth after fulfilling the requirements of the law. 

       As already discussed, it is reasonable to conclude that the selective writing style of the Gospel authors can account for Luke's exclusion of the Magi event without having to resort to concluding this event occurred subsequent to a return to Nazareth.  Secondly, while Matthew does not explicitly say the Magi went to Bethlehem and the family escaped to Egypt from Bethlehem, what Matthew does report is that the Magi were sent by Herod to Bethlehem and it was in Bethlehem and its vicinity that Herod had the boys two years and younger killed.  This provides circumstantial evidence of Bethlehem being the location to where the Magi went and from where the family escaped to Egypt.  Let's continue our examination of this matter by returning to Matthew.            

       Matthew 2:16:  When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

        Herod had the boys killed in accordance with him being told the child was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea and in accordance with the time of the birth he had learned from the Magi.  Herod had inquired of the Magi as to the exact time the star appeared. The fact that Herod had all boys two years old and under killed, indicates he believed, based on what the Magi told him, that the star appeared up to two years earlier.  Herod must have concluded the child was born at the time the star appeared or anytime afterwards. Not wanting to take any chances on the Christ child not being killed, he ordered all boys two years and under be killed.   

       The appearing of the star in the east appears to signify the birth having taken place at the time the star appeared or sometime before the star appeared and not at some time subsequent to the stars appearance. Some believe the star may have signaled the time of Christ's conception and not His birth.  However, Matthew 2:2 records that the Magi inquired were the child that had been born (past tense) king of the Jews could be found as they had seen his star in the east.

       The implication is that the star they saw in the east signaled to them the child had already been born at the time the star appeared and it was the star that announced his birth.  This would appear to rule out the Magi visiting the child while he was still in a manager and instead visiting him some one to two years after his birth.  Scripture does not reveal from where the Magi came other than from the east. Scripture does not reveal when the Magi left subsequent to seeing the star or how long it took them to arrive in Jerusalem after they left their homeland.

       If the Magi came from Babylon as some speculate, it would have taken at least several months to make the journey to Jerusalem.  In Colin Nicholl's book The Great Christ Comet, he reasons that the Magi came from Babylon which is about 550 miles from Jerusalem. Nicholl quotes another author who estimates a camel caravan could travel around 16 miles a day which means it would have taken the Magi nearly two months to make the trip from Babylon if indeed Babylon was from where they left. 

       The fact that Herod killed all boys two years old and under indicates he believed the star appeared two years before the Magi arrived in Jerusalem. This indicates the Magi may have first left some time after seeing the star, traveled from a much greater distance than 550 miles or made a number of stops along the way before arriving in Jerusalem.  In other words, they may have been on the road for a much longer period than two months.       

        Matthew writes that Herod sent the Magi to Bethlehem. While Matthew does not explicitly inform us that it was to Bethlehem the Magi went, he does inform us that after being warned of God in a dream not to return to Herod, the Magi returned to their homeland by a different route from the one they had taken to Jerusalem.  One criticism of the Nazareth theory is that if the Magi had gone to Nazareth and left from Nazareth to return home, their route home would automatically have been different and it may appear superfluous to speak of them choosing a different route to return home.              

       Since the Magi were told to go to Bethlehem, they would not have gone to Nazareth unless they were actually led to go there by the star.  Assuming a physical star is involved here and not an angel, such star leading them on their journey to visit the Christ child in Nazareth appears quite problematical.  As discussed in Part Two of this series, heavenly bodies move east to west and not north to south or south to north.  Nazareth is around 70 miles due north of Jerusalem. If the star the Magi saw led them from Jerusalem to Nazareth, it would have been moving contrary to the normal movement of celestial bodies.

       Those who hold to the star being an angel see this as evidence it wasn't a physical star but an angel as an angel could travel any direction including in the direction of Nazareth. Therefore, for the Nazareth theory to be viable, it appears the star had to be an angel or a specially prepared heavenly object of some kind.  However, whether the star was an angel,  a physical star or some specially prepared heavenly object is actually of secondary importance to this issue.  There are some serious problems with the basic premise that the family fled to Egypt from Nazareth rather than from Bethlehem. 

The improbability of the family fleeing from Nazareth to Egypt:

       Herod “gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity” (NIV), (coasts KJV, districts NKJV, region RSV, surrounding region NET, environs NASV).  The Greek word rendered coasts, vicinity, districts, region and environs is horia which is defined in Greek Lexicons as boundaries. This word is found eleven times in the NT and by context can be seen to designate the borders of the specific area under consideration.

       In Matthew 4:13, Jesus is shown as moving to Capernaum in the borders (horia) of Zabulon and Nephthalim (KJV).  In Matthew 8:34 and Mark 5:17 (NIV), it's recorded the people pleaded with Jesus to leave their region (horia).  In Matthew 15:22 (NET), a Canaanite woman is shown to come from the area (horia) of Tyre and Sidon to speak to Jesus. In Marks account of this event, Jesus is seen as leaving the region (horia) of Tyre and going to the Sea of Galilee in the region (horia) of the Decapolis.  It should be noted that Tyre and Decapolis are around 30 miles apart and each is considered its own region (horia).

        In Matthew 4:39 Jesus is shown to get into a boat and go to the vicinity (horia) of Magadan (NIV). Matthew 19:1 and Mark 10:1, shows Jesus leaving Galilee and going to the region (horia) of Judea. Here Jesus is seen leaving one region to go to another. Acts 13:50 shows Paul and Barnabas being expelled from the region (horia) of Pisidian Antioch. Here horia is limited to describing the area of a particular city.

       In each of the eleven occurrences of horia in the NT, this word is seen to designate an area limited by defined boundaries. Not one of these accounts in any way implies that horia includes an area far removed from the immediate area that is spoken of.  The area under consideration pertaining to the degree of Herod to kill the boys two years and under is Bethlehem and its horia. It appears scripturally without warrant and contrary to common sense to purpose that the horia of Bethlehem Judea extends all the way to Nazareth of Galilee. 

       Nazareth is around 80 miles north of Bethlehem. A city 80 miles away could not be considered in the boundaries of Bethlehem. The vicinity of Bethlehem cannot be seen as stretching north through a major part of Judea and into a totally different region called Galilee.  This being the case, there would not have been a danger of Herod seeking to kill the child in Nazareth. Therefore, there would not have been a need to escape to Egypt from Nazareth. Nazareth being far beyond the boundaries of Bethlehem makes it highly improbable that it was from Nazareth the family was instructed to escape to Egypt.

       Furthermore, If the degree of Herod extended all the way to Nazareth and it is from Nazareth the family fled to Egypt, they would have had to travel south through all of Judea and place themselves at risk at being discovered. On the other hand, fleeing from Bethlehem south to Egypt would not have placed them at such risk.    

       Yet, if the Magi visited the Christ child in Nazareth, it would have been from Nazareth the family escaped to Egypt. Scripture shows the Magi visit preceded the escape to Egypt.  However, there is no Scriptural reason to believe the Child would have been in danger in Nazareth and to see the boundaries of Bethlehem extending all the way to Nazareth of Galilee is without merit.  It would appear this alone falsifies the Nazareth to Egypt theory and constitutes a major objection to this perspective.

       Herod was told it was in Bethlehem of Judea that the Child was to be born. There is no Scriptural reason to believe Herod thought Nazareth of Galilee would be a location where the child might have been.

       Furthermore, the evidence that Galilee was not the location from which the family escaped to Egypt is demonstrated by the fact that Joseph had no qualms about going to Galilee after leaving Egypt even though another son of Herod was ruling there. Matthew records the family went to Nazareth of Galilee after becoming fearful of going to Judea (Matthew 2:22). 

       History shows that after the death of Herod the Great, the territory he reigned over was split up between his three sons and a daughter. While Archelaus got Judea, Herod's son Antipus got Galilee where Nazareth is located. History shows Archelaus was such a brutal ruler that Rome removed him from power around AD 6 and he died in AD 18.  Rome replaced Archelaus by a succession of governors ruling Judea leading to Pontius Pilate (AD 26-36).

       While Antipus is historically seen as being far less cruel than his brother Archelaus, he still was to be feared. Luke 13:31 records that Herod (Antipus) was wanting to kill Jesus. Acts 4:27 shows it is Pilate and Herod (Antipus) who conspired against Jesus to have Him put to death. However it is clear that while Joseph feared (and justifiable so) going to Judea because Herod's son Archelaus was now reigning there, he wasn't afraid to go to Galilee where Antipus, was now reigning. 

       This demonstrates that while Joseph believed there was still danger of the Christ child being sought after in Judea, he did not see such danger in Galilee. While it could be argued that He did not see such danger in Galilee because Antipus was less cruel than Archelaus, it can also be argued that Nazareth of Galilee was never considered a target of Herod the Great regarding the search for the Christ Child and consequently wasn't a target of his son Antipus either.

       The search for the child appears to have been confined to Bethlehem and its vicinity which would not have included Galilee which is some 80 miles north of Bethlehem. This further supports the position that Joseph and family would not have been told to flee to Egypt if indeed they were living in Nazareth at the time of the Magi' visit which is when Herod sought to kill the Christ child.

        It must be remembered that Herod was told the Christ child would be born in Bethlehem. Scripture reveals nothing about Herod being told the Christ child would ultimately wind up in Nazareth.  There is no Scriptural reason to believe he would be looking for the Christ child as far away from Bethlehem as Nazareth. 

       To conclude “Bethlehem and its vicinity” extended all the way to Nazareth would mean Herod’s decree would have included Jerusalem and a number of other cities along the way to Nazareth.  To have killed all the boys two years and younger in such an extended area of Israel would have caused quite a stir in Israel and one would expect to see mention of it in the writings of first century Jewish historian Josephus and other historians of the time.   

        Yet there is no secular historical account of Herod killing the children. The Jewish historian Josephus, who wrote a comprehensive history of the period under consideration, writes nothing about the killing of the children by Herod. Josephus had little use for Herod and went out of his way to write about the nasty things Herod did.  Yet there is no mention of the killing of the children.  Because of this, Biblical scholars have concluded the killing of the children was a rather small affair and limited to the immediate area of the small town of Bethlehem.

       While there is every reason to believe the child was in danger in Bethlehem necessitating an escape from Bethlehem to Egypt, there appears to be no reason to conclude the child was in danger in Nazareth necessitating an escape to Egypt from Nazareth. 

       Some may argue that if Nazareth was safe from Herod's decree, why didn't God direct the family to return to Nazareth rather then escape to Egypt?  Scripture informs us there was a prophecy to be fulfilled that said, "Out of Egypt I called my Son" (Matthew 2:15).  Obviously Jesus would have to be in Egypt for this prophecy to have been fulfilled.  Furthermore, returning from Bethlehem to Nazareth would have necessitated traveling north through Jerusalem where Herod had just issued his degree to kill the boys two years and under.  If the family would have been stopped and it was discovered they were coming from Bethlehem, Jesus would have been at great risk for His life. 

       Some may conclude that Matthew’s quote from Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:14-16) about a voice of weeping heard in Ramah (Matthew 2:18) gives evidence to Herod’s decree extending beyond the immediate environs of Bethlehem.  Ramah is about eleven miles north of Bethlehem which means it is about six miles north of Jerusalem.  Jeremiah's reference to weeping in Ramah relates to the Babylonia captivity. Indications are that it was from Ramah that captives were being taken to Babylon. Matthew appears to be using Jeremiah's reference to women weeping over the loss of their children to the Babylon captivity as representative of the suffering being experienced by the women who lost their children due to Herod's decree.  Matthew was not referring to women literally weeping in the town of Ramah.       

What If? 

       As already stated in Part Two of this series, I believe the selective style of writing of the Gospels authors can adequately account for the failure of Luke to report the Magi event. This, coupled with the fact the Magi were sent to Bethlehem by Herod and the improbability of the killing of the children extending all the way to Nazareth, provides sufficient evidence to conclude the Magi event occurred while the family was in Bethlehem and not in Nazareth.  

        For the sake of argument however, let's assume the family did return to Nazareth immediately after fulfilling the requirements of the Law and, therefore, before the Magi event. If this should be the case, is there a way to reconcile the Matthew and Luke accounts without resorting to the problematic conclusion that the Magi visit and the family's escape to Egypt occurred in and from Nazareth. 

       One solution that has been proposed is that the family left Nazareth shortly after having returned there and moved to Bethlehem.  Bethlehem was the ancestral home of Joseph and possibly Mary.  They may have had relatives there. In Luke 1:39, 56 it's recorded that Mary visited her pregnant cousin Elizabeth for around three months in the hill country of Judea.  This shows Mary had relatives in Judea.  The hill country is generally seen as the area of Judea that included Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron.   

       The family may have returned to Nazareth from Jerusalem only to gather their belongings and then move to Bethlehem. This would place them in Bethlehem at the time of the visit of the Magi and the subsequent escape to Egypt.  It is entirely possible Joseph and Mary decided to make their home in Bethlehem and planned to return there after their stay in Egypt. There is indication of this being the case as seen in what happened after they were told they could return to Israel after the death of those who were wanting to kill Jesus.        

        Matthew 2:19-23: After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead."  So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene." 

        It's recorded Joseph was afraid to go to Judea because Archelaus, son of Herod, was ruling there.  It's apparent Joseph was fearful that the life of his son Jesus was still at risk if the family went to Judea. This is the case even though an angel of the Lord had appeared to Joseph instructing him to return to the land of Israel since those who were trying to kill Jesus were dead.  Since those trying to take Jesus' life had been in Judea, the implication is that it was now safe to return to the area of Israel known as Judea.

       Most English translations give the impression that in addition to Joseph fearing that Jesus was still at risk in Judea, God also saw such risk and warned Joseph in a dream of such risk.  The phrase "having been warned" is often seen as a divine confirmation that Joseph's fears were justified.  However, Matthew does not say Joseph was warned of there being a risk in Judea. Matthew only says that having been warned in a dream he went to Galilee to live.

       The Greek phrase translated "having been warned" (Greek chrematizo) can also be translated as the "giving of a divine command or admonition," (See Thayer's Greek Lexicon).  Matthew uses this same Greek phrase to say the Magi were warned not to return to Herod (Matthew 2:12). This was actually more of a command than a warning. This same phrase is used in Hebrews 8:5 where it is recorded Moses was "chrematizo" to build the tabernacle to the exact specifications given to him by God. The NIV renders chrematize as "warned" whereas some English translations render this word as "instructed" or "admonished," (See NKJV, RSV, KJV) which better fits the context.

        So what was it that Joseph was warned, admonished, instructed or commanded to do in the dream he had?  Let's examine this issue in the following section.

Judea or Galilee?

       Was it Joseph's intention upon leaving Egypt to go directly to Galilee to live or did he intend to go to Judea to live and only went to Galilee because of being fearful Jesus was still at risk in Judea?  Some argue that Joseph's destination was Galilee from the start and  expressed fear about traveling through Judea on his way to Galilee.  It is believed that since Joseph's intent was to go to Galilee from the start, the purpose of the dream was to reiterate to him that it was safe to travel through Israel, including Judea.  Under this perspective God is not seen as directing Joseph to go to Galilee but simply telling him it was perfectly safe to travel through Judea to get there. It is believed Matthew's use of the Greek word anachoreo supports this perspective.  

       The Greek word rendered "withdrew" in the NIV is anachoreo.  Thayer's Greek lexicon shows anachoreo can mean "to go back or return."  Thayer's references Matthew 2:12 where the Magi are seen as returning (Greek anachoreo) home as an example of this meaning. It is believed that Matthew, in using anachoreo in 2:22, is saying Joseph was returning to his home town of Nazareth. 

       However, Thayer's Lexicon also shows anachoreo can mean to withdraw for "those who through fear seek some other place" Thayer's references Matthew 2:14 and 2:22 as examples of this.  In following this line of reasoning, Matthew 2:22 could be speaking of Joseph withdrawing to Galilee because of fearing to go to Judea and not that Galilee was his original destination. The Bauer/Arndt/Gingrich Greek Lexicon defines anachorea as having the basic meaning of "to go away."  This Lexicon also shows the word can mean  "to withdraw, retire or take refuge to a certain place" and references Matthew 2:22 as an example of this usage. 

       The NIV, ASV and RSV render anachoreo in Matthew 2:22 as "withdraw" while the KJV and NKJV render it "turned aside." The NAS renders it as "departed."  The NET translation renders anachoreo as "went there."  

       If anachoreo is rendered as "withdraw," "turned aside," "departed" or even possibly "to take refuge," it gives credence to the position that Joseph's destination was initially Judea and only after fearing to go there did he withdraw or turn aside to go to Galilee.  Matthew reports that the angel who appeared to Joseph in Egypt said it was safe to go back to Israel because those who had intended to kill Jesus were dead. As already discussed, those who intended to kill Jesus were in Judea.  The angel appears to be pinpointing the part of Israel known as Judea as now being safe.  Because of this, Joseph appears to be headed for Judea but when he found out Archelaus was ruling there, he became fearful of going there.       

       In view of the fact that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph while in Egypt and instructed him to return to Israel as those trying to kill Jesus were dead, it would appear it was safe to return to Israel, including that part of Israel called Judea.  Matthew records that upon hearing from the angel, Joseph took Mary and the child and went to the land of Israel.  It is apparent he was heading toward Judea and at some point became aware that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod and he became afraid to go there.  Matthew then records that, "Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee."  What was it that Joseph was warned, commanded, admonished or instructed about in this dream? 

       As already discussed, it is commonly believed the warning in the dream was that indeed there was a danger to the child in Judea and that Joseph was warned about this and told to go to Galilee.  This perspective seems unlikely in view of the fact Joseph, while in Egypt, was told by an angel of the Lord it was safe to return to Israel as those wanting to kill the child were dead. Unless some new threat developed in Judea that is not recorded by Matthew, it is unlikely Joseph was being told it was unsafe to go to or through Judea when he had already been told it was safe.

        Some believe the dream was not saying there was a danger in Judea but simply telling  Joseph that if he was fearful about going to Judea, Galilee was an alternative. Others believe the dream simply reiterated to Joseph what the angel had said about the safety of Judea after which Joseph proceeded to travel through Judea on his way to Galilee which it is believed was his destination all along.

       The reality is that we are not told what the dream was about and can only speculate as to its content.  While the content of the dream is not reveled, what is revealed is that Joseph withdrew to the district of Galilee.        

       Matthew sees Joseph and the Christ child going to Galilee as fulfilling what the prophets said about Jesus being called a Nazarene.  It is unknown what prophet's Matthew is talking about as there is nothing in the OT about Jesus being called a Nazarene.

       It is interesting that Matthew writes as though the family living in Nazareth was a first time event for them. Matthew gives the impression that he knew nothing about the family having lived in Nazareth prior to their traveling to Bethlehem as Luke shows was the case in his account of the nativity events.  This appears to be another example of selective reporting of events in the life of Christ where writers report on events they were aware of to the exclusion of events they were unaware of or simply chose not to write about.  Luke apparently knew of the family previously living in Nazareth and included this information in his nativity narrative. Matthew, on the other hand, may not have been aware of the family's previous stay in Nazareth.

       In Luke 2:40, the writer says the child was filled with wisdom and that the grace of God was upon him.  Some conclude from this that Luke is saying the child did all this while living in Nazareth which negates the proposition that the family moved from Nazareth to Bethlehem or lived for any length of time in Bethlehem.  However, Luke may simply have been making an editorial comment about the growth of the child regardless of where he was living.  Luke makes a similar statement about Jesus in Luke 2:52 and a similar statement about John the Baptist in Luke 1:80.     

 Destination Judea?

      Is there reason to believe Joseph and the family initially intended to go to Judea to live upon leaving Egypt?  Since Bethlehem of Judea is where they initially traveled to meet the census requirement and also where Jesus was born, it is not unreasonable to believe Joseph and the family would return there after leaving Egypt. This is especially true if the family lived in Bethlehem for up to two years before the Magi event. 

       As discussed above, the family certainly appears to have had stronger ties to Bethlehem and its vicinity than to Nazareth. Mary's cousin Elizabeth lived in the hill country of Judea which includes Bethlehem.  Joseph may have had relatives there in view of Bethlehem being his ancestral home.

       Some may argue that if Joseph had relatives in Bethlehem, he and Mary would have sought them out and Mary would not have had to settle for a manger to give birth to Jesus. However, it can also be argued that upon arriving in Bethlehem Mary began to have contractions, was ready to deliver and needed to find a place quickly.  Since there was no room in the particular inn they stopped at, they used the manger.

       It should be noted that Mary was told by the angel Gabriel that Jesus would be great and would be called the Son of the Most High and given the throne of his father David (Luke 1:32). David's throne had been in Jerusalem. It is certainly possible the family considered the area of Jerusalem as the place to raise the child destined to sit on the throne of David.

       It cannot be over emphasized that Matthew records that it was only after experiencing fear that danger still existed in Judea that the family went to Galilee. If indeed it was the family's intention to go to Galilee from the start, it appears somewhat strange that Matthew records Joseph's decision to go to Galilee only after expressing fears about Judea.  While it is reasonable to conclude it was a fear of traveling through Judea to get to Galilee that is being reported, it is also reasonable to conclude the family intended to reside in Judea and only turned aside to Galilee because of believing a danger to the Christ child still existed in Judea. The narrative allows for either option.

Conclusion:    

        Luke gives the impression the family returned to Nazareth before the Magi/Egypt events, while Matthew appears to have the family returning to Nazareth after these events.  In an effort to resolve what is felt to be a discrepancy between Luke and Matthew regarding this matter, it has been proposed that the family did return to Nazareth before the Magi/Egypt events but then moved to Bethlehem where they were visited by the Magi and from where they escaped to Egypt to avoid Herod's degree to kill all boy's two years old and under in Bethlehem and it's vicinity.    

       Included under this perspective is the belief that Matthew shows the family intended to return to Judea after leaving Egypt which it is believed provides circumstantial evidence that it is from Judea they had fled to Egypt and not that they fled to Egypt from Galilee.

       That the family returned to Nazareth and then moved to Bethlehem is possible but cannot be proven from the Scriptures.  Therefore, it is not a definitive explanation of the supposed disconnect between Matthew and Luke.  However, If the family did indeed return to Nazareth from Jerusalem and then moved to Bethlehem or if the family simply returned to Bethlehem after their visit to Jerusalem, there is good reason to believe they would have wanted to return to Bethlehem or somewhere nearby after their sojourn in Egypt.

       They would have been living in Bethlehem for up to two years before the Magi arrived. This would have been plenty of time for them to make friends and plant some roots in Bethlehem. When you consider the fact Mary's cousin Elizabeth lived in southern Judea and Bethlehem was the ancestral home of Joseph, this appears to be strong incentive to take up residence in Bethlehem or somewhere nearby.

       This being said, I do not believe the view that the family intended to return to Judea is definitive. It is certainly possible the family intended to go to Galilee after leaving Egypt. After all, Galilee is where they were living prior to coming to Bethlehem to meet the census requirement. They would have had roots there as well. I believe either position as to the intention of the family upon leaving Egypt is plausible and allowed for in Matthew's account.

       What I believe is implausible is the conclusion the Magi traveled to Nazareth rather than Bethlehem to visit the Christ child and the family escaped from Nazareth to Egypt rather than from Bethlehem to Egypt.

       Herod's decree was to have the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity killed. Nazareth, being some 80 miles north of Bethlehem, cannot be considered to be in the vicinity of Bethlehem. I believe this alone falsifies the Nazareth theory.  Matthew reports the Magi were sent by Herod to Bethlehem, not Nazareth. Neither Matthew nor Luke says the Magi went to Nazareth. I believe the Scriptural evidence weights heavily in favor of the view the Magi/Egypt event involved Bethlehem and not Nazareth.

      The apparent lack of a threat to the welfare of the Christ child in Nazareth is circumstantial evidence that the family would not have been told to escape from Nazareth to Egypt and therefore it is from Bethlehem the family fled to Egypt.       

       The view that the Magi went to Nazareth and it is from Nazareth the family escaped to Egypt is based on the assumption Luke is not allowing for the Magi visit and escape to Egypt to have occurred before the family returned to Nazareth. It is being assumed Luke could not have simply choose not to record the Magi/Egypt event and that he is definitively saying the family returned to Nazareth immediately after fulfilling the requirements of the Law.

       As discussed in Part Two of this series, this assumption is unwarranted in view of the selective writing style of the Gospel authors as seen in their recording of events in the life of Christ.  In view of this, for those who take the "Magi to Nazareth view," the burden of proof is on them to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that Luke is departing from the selective writing style of the Gospel authors and definitively reporting the family returned to Nazareth before the Magi/Egypt event occurred.   

Getting back to the star:

       I believe the Scriptures simply don’t provide enough information about the nature of the star to allow for a definitive conclusion as to what the star was. Therefore, I feel it prudent not to take a dogmatic position as to the identity of the star.

       The star being an angel is certainly a possibility but not very probable in view of the objections to this theory discussed in Part Two of this series.  The perspective that Jupiter was the star that appeared to the Magi is also a possibility but lacks undeniable evidence. Establishing the correct date of Herod's death is a critical dynamic to this perspective. Such dating has not been definitively established. A comet being the star is plausible but this theory needs support from astronomical records of the time if a comet is to be definitively identified as the star of Bethlehem. Such records are currently unidentified.  

       Realistically, the idea that a normal physical star, planet or other normal heavenly body could appear over where the Christ child was located and provide identification of such location to the Magi, appears extremely problematic. Stars and planets are millions of miles from the surface of the earth. Even though the planet Jupiter can be easily identified in the night sky, it never gets closer than 365 million miles from the earth. Looking at Jupiter in the night sky does not in any way provide identification of a restricted area of the earth's surface.  Comets, even at their closest, are still millions of miles from the earth's surface.  

       If it was a normal star, planet or other heavenly body that is involved here, it simply could not be seen as identifying a specific location on earth because of how great the distance is between such heavenly bodies and the earth. See for yourself. Go outside on a clear night and find Jupiter in the southern sky. You will quickly see that there is no way this planet or any other heavenly body can be seen to identify a specific area on planet earth.  Therefore, any conclusions reached as to the nature of the "Star of Bethlehem" must take this fact into consideration.

       This concludes this series on the "Star of Bethlehem."      

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