The Biblical Christmas Story: Identifying the Star & the Wise Men
The First and Second Advents of Christ
No Contradictions of Matthew and Luke
It's said that Matthew & Luke present contradictory accounts on the identity of the hometown of Joseph & Mary prior to the journey to Bethlehem for the birth of the Christ Child. Supposedly, Matthew suggests Bethlehem as their home, due to a text note (Mt.2:22) that Joseph on returning from Egypt feared to enter Judea (in a region including Bethlehem), while Luke calls Nazareth their hometown. But the suggested contradiction reflects failure of commentators to connect details in the two gospels in a logical way.
Details relating to Bethlehem and Nazareth
never says where their normal residence was prior to the birth, his
account speaking of Bethlehem only in regard to Herod directing the
wise men there to seek the Christ Child. When the wise men arrived in
Jerusalem to inquire of the locale of the new king, the Christ Child
had long since de- parted from Bethlehem ~two years earlier.
This is evident since Mt.2:16 says Herod asked the wise men when they
had seen the star, which would indic-ate the time elapsed since the
birth, and he later sent soldiers to Bethlehem to slay all children
of two years age & under in trying to remove any threat to
his own rule of the land. The wise men met the Christ Child ~two years
after the birth, and Mt.2:1 suggests that they began to travel when He
was born, so they likely traveled for ~two years. They saw the star
while they were in the east (Mt.2:2), and they met the young child
~two years later in the house (Mt.2:11) in Nazareth,
their hometown, not the stable in Bethlehem.* Herod sent soldiers
to Bethlehem long after the birth, for Joseph & Mary had
since returned to Nazareth long after the birth, and long after the dedication of the Child in Jerusalem (Lk.2:21-39). After the wise men
met the child, Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt with Him. This was
crucial since a devil-possessed insane man, who had innocent
children killed, would continue to be used by the insane satan who
wished to destroy the human form of God's Son, and eliminate our
salvation (satan hates God who sentenced him to hell after he desired
to replace Christ as prince of heaven).
*Mt.2:1 says that the wise men came from the east to Jerusalem when Jesus was born in Beth- lehem in the days of Herod the king. The verse notes only the time frame of their visit, and the time of the birth of Jesus as occurring during Herod's reign, nothing more specific being noted, and this relates to the fact that Herod is a central figure in chapter 2. Thus the notion that they visited the newborn king in Bethlehem shortly after the birth isn't supported.
Reasons why Joseph would visit Judea
In Mt.2:22 Joseph (with Christ & Mary) returns from Egypt, and is said to be afraid to venture into Judea, suggesting to commentators that Bethlehem in Judea was his normal residence. But Judea was close to the route that Joseph would take on returning from Egypt, and he would likely visit there awhile since Mary's cousin Elizabeth lived there, and Mary had visited there for 3 months until the birth of John the Baptist, evidently acting as a midwife for Elizabeth (Lk.1:36,39,56). Thus the two families were closely linked, and it would be natural for Joseph to stop there on his way back to Nazareth after being gone from his nation for an extended time (Mt.2:15). Indeed, Joseph might have considered relocating in Bethlehem since that was the town of his origin, and since the Savior is identified with it, and he might think it needful to make it the place for the child's upbringing. This is also possible since there might be other family relatives there, and Joseph might wish to return to his Hebrew roots, leaving Nazareth in Galilee, known as Galilee of the Gentiles (Mt.4:15). However, God evidently willed that Joseph return to Nazareth to identify Christ with Galilee and Gentiles for unique reasons, as we see in passages like Mt.21:11, 28:7, 10, Lk.4:14, Jn.2: 11, 7:41,52, etc.
In Mt.2:23 Joseph is said to settle in Nazareth, and this is the first mention of this city by Matthew, and seems discordant with Luke's account that names Nazareth as his residence before the Bethlehem birth. However, the logical reason for Matthew to introduce Nazareth in this way is that he has never so much as mentioned the city previously. He can't write as if readers of his gospel know the prior history of the residence of Joseph & Mary in this city indicated in Luke's gospel since the gospels present independent accounts of the life & ministry of Christ.
Christ's Two Advents
Far-Future Fulfillment of Detailed Prophecy Reveals Inerrancy
Balaam prophesies of the far-future 1st and 2 Advents of Christ.
two Advents: Num.24:17,18
predicts the two Advents ~1450 years before the 1st Advent, saying, I
shall see him, but not now:
shall behold him, but not nigh:
shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise
the corners of Moab and destroy…Sheth …And
Edom shall be a possession…and Israel shall do valiantly.
Destruct- ion of enemies of Israel noted here relates to Christ's
power as king of the Millennium at the 2nd Advent, and this is
signified by reference to the star by the term scepter,
a sign of a king.* Star
signifies Christ the Morning Star (Rev.22:16) and the Day Star (2
Pet.1:19), as well as the Bethlehem Star. Jesus the Morning Star (first light of eternal day on earth at the
Creation) at the 1st
*I shall see him, but not now, followed by I shall behold him, but not nigh is typical Hebrew poetry; a second clause repeats the sense of a first, in related words, so there shall come a star out of Jacob is followed by related reference to the star as a scepter that shall rise out of Israel.
Advent, came out of Jacob's lineage and land. The Bethlehem star literally came out of Jacob's land to announce the 1st Advent, as we’ll see, and in its role as a sceptre, it announced Christ's 2nd Advent as king of the Millen- nium, the future Day Star (eternal light of day on earth). Christ as king will rise out of, a future renewed Israel.
An initial observation: Various errors of scholars distort our view of the Numbers prophecy, and we begin discussion of the prophecy with a note on an error pertaining to the 1st Advent. Mt.2:1 says…when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. Scholars think this says the wise men visit- ed Jesus in Bethlehem shortly after the birth. But the days of Herod is an unspecified period of years, so when Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the days of Herod is an unspecified time in this period, and the wise men came in the days of Herod at an unspecified time in this period. They visited the Child in Nazareth ~2 years after the birth, when Herod was still king, Mary & Joseph having returned there with the Babe shortly after the birth (See Lk.2:39).
The Bethlehem star: We examine the portion of the prophecy that deals with the identity of the star that comes out of Jacob, the Bethlehem Star that represents Christ. Scholars have misrepresented the identity of the literal Bethlehem Star.
A colossal error of scholars is their view of the Bethlehem Star as a natural heavenly body. It led the wise men from Herod in Jerusalem to Nazareth to hover over the Christ Child’s house (Mt.2:9); no natural heavenly body can do such things. The intelligence governing these movements identifies the star as a radiant glory of angels, a figurative star in the night sky. (Job 38:7 calls angels stars, saying the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy; angels, sons of God by creation, are stars of the morn-ing of creation). The star appeared as the glory of God in angels that visited the shepherds, then rose into the night sky out of Bethlehem, to come out of Jacob’s land, or rise out of Israel, as in the prophecy (Lk.2:15 - they went away into heaven). To wise men in the east, the glory was a star rising out of Israel, fulfilling the prophecy by a unique earth-to-heaven travel that would seem to reveal contact of heaven with earth, announcing Messiah had come from heaven to earth.
Heb.1:6 says, of angels in that star, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. Every holy angel God created, praised God in worship of Christ, then rose into the night sky in the glory of the Bethlehem Star. The number of holy angels God created, and the number in the star, would be over 100 million (Rev.5:11). That would be the brightest light in the night sky in history, so the wise men could have come from a great distance, suggesting one possible reason why it took them ~2 years to reach Jerusalem (as we will see). Potentially, people of an entire hemisphere could see the star as the angels rose hundreds of miles upward, still being visible due to the brilliance of the radiant glory of such a multitude of angels. The star would be made selectively visible to those who still anticipated Messiah after many centuries, and only the wise men cared enough to seek Messiah, so they would be a small number of men in the world at that time who saw the Star. That Herod & all Jerusalem were not aware of the appearance of the Star until they were informed by the wise men, indicates it was made selectively visible to wise persons still believing the promise of Messiah (all Jerusalem was troubled by news of the star).
The wise men first saw the star briefly as it rose in the heavens, and this was while they were in the east (Mt.2:2), so contrary to scholars, it didn’t guide them westward (Jerusalem was located on well-known routes, so guidance wasn't needed). Herod asked what time they saw the star (Mt.2:7), so they saw it at a certain time before meeting Herod (Mt.2:16). Herod slew Beth- lehem's children of two years of age & under, according to the time the wise men saw the star, which was ~2 years before they came to Jerusalem. The star appeared on the night of the Birth, as angels ascended, but Herod would think the Birth could have occurred at any time after the star appeared, and wanted to be certain there would be no king to challenge his rule. This devil-possessed Herod would soon be led by the devil to Nazareth to try to destroy the Christ Child, so the family fled to Egypt with the Child.
About 2 years after the first appearance, angels led the wise men as they left Herod, for guidance was needed now. Herod sent them south to Bethlehem, but the Babe was taken north to Nazareth soon after birth (Lk. 2:39), and is now ~2 years old (in Mt.2:9,11 He’s a young child in a house, not a babe in a manger). The star’s guidance & hovering over the right house was unique, as was its first appearance in the earth/heaven contact, indicating a reappear-ance.* Having had no prior leading, they rejoiced as the star led them, seeing they had not traveled so long in vain, and as we'll see, would soon fulfill a
*At the reappearance, the number of angels would be small, for they would need to be at low altitude to show their directional leading to the wise men, and to hover over the right house.
life-long hope. The star would now be visible only to them, excluding all who despised its first appearance. Its identity has been unknown over the centuries since only the wise men & shepherds saw its true nature up close.
The Wise Men: Another colossal error of scholars is rejection of the KJV when in Mt.2:1, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. They favor after that just contributes to the indefinite timing of events; when notes such timing, but also links Christ to the wise men in a visit ordained by God; when Jesus was born they came reflects the Greek Jesus having been born they came, or when/because Jesus was born they came, noting the link & the timing; after he was born they came omits the link. The link relates to, I shall see him, but not now.
The wise men revered Messiah, unlike all Jerusalem troubled by news of His star (Mt.2:3). They traveled ~2 years just to see the prophecy fulfillment begin, despite knowing by the prophecy that Israel would not be restored in their day. They had great faith in God's Word and great devotion to Messiah, the kind of people God calls to His work. Israel viewed Messiah as just a man enabled by God to deliver her from evil, but the wise men knew He was divine, falling down to worship Him as the Christ Child on meeting Him. They could know He is divine by the earth-to-heaven motion of the star at its first appearance, He being sent from God. Thus in Mt.2:2, the wise men say we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him. Their gifts were gold, proper for a king, frankincense, used by priests in the temple in animal sacrifice, and myrrh, used to anoint dead bodies; the gifts signified His kingship, His ultimate High-Priest status and His Crucifixion, and they provided finances enabling the family to flee to Egypt to escape the insane Herod. Thus we see that God ordained the visit of the wise men to Messiah.
Who were the wise men? Who would possess the Hebrew text that deals with the Numbers prophecy? Who would know the prophecy well enough to recognize the star as fulfilling it? Who would recognize the dual role of the Star? Who would be so interested in the star announcing arrival of Messiah that they would travel as much as 2 years to meet Messiah? Who would be so interested in the destiny of Israel in the far-future Millennium? Who would say, on entering Jerusalem, Where is he that is born king of the Jews?
They should be Hebrews descended from those of the Assyrian Captivity who weren't Jews, only those of the southern kingdom (Judah) being call-ed Jews, which explains why they didn't say, Where is He that is born our king. They were permanently deprived of their northern homeland, being dispersed to eastern lands. Due to loss of their homeland and subjugation of Judah in the south by Romans, they would have an extreme interest in the future of their nation and Judah. They would be descended from a long line of Hebrews vehemently opposed to rampant idolatry of the northern tribes causing the Assyrian Captivity. They would be taught by their ancestors trust in God's Word and an undying hope in the coming of the Messiah to restore their homeland. Due to dispersion as far away as Parthia (now part of Iran), their ancestors wouldn't return to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel, Nehemiah, or Ezra in a return from Babylon, so these ancestors would not likely be part of the Babylonian Captivity. A great majority of Jews from the southern king- dom remained in Babylon, becoming comfortable with their earthly status, and many even adopting the false religion of that nation. As we have seen, even the descendants of those Jews returning to Jerusalem had lost hope in the coming of Messiah, being troubled by news of His star. By contrast, the wise men would long for restoration of their homeland, their heritage of faith and renewal of God’s favoring of their nation as an alien majority now con-trolled their northern homeland, and alien Romans now controlled Judah.
Why did it take ~2 years for the wise men to reach the Christ Child?
As a mission God ordained, the journey of the wise men would begin with very little delay after the Star was sighted, for there's no doubt that they were very anxious to meet Messiah. Hebrews of the Assyrian Captivity are known to have been dispersed as far east as the land of Parthia that today is part of Iran. The center of Parthia was ~1200 miles from Jerusalem, and if the wise men had to walk the entire distance, a slow 5 miles/day walk would require only 240 days, or 2/3 of one year. Yet the climate along a straight path to Jerusalem included hot arid regions, which would slow travel by walking, and the fatigue involved in such a long journey would slow travel further. And there is a possibility that the wise men had to work to purchase the 3 gifts (small amounts?) and their own food. We wonder if the wise men were poor, and this seems likely since God accepts sacrificial gifts, not those of rich men; in Mark 12:42-44, a poor widow cast into the temple treasury two mites that were all she possessed, and Jesus said to His disciples that she cast in more than all the rich ones who cast in out of their wealth. If all these circumstances were involved, this would mean the devotion of the wise men to Messiah was beyond measure, exceeding anything we usally can imagine.
In another colossal error, scholars call the wise men magi, a Latin transliter- ation of Greek magoi. The lexicons suggest men who were wise in the mis-leading sense of eastern magi who were astrologers, magicians and the like, those perceived as wise in their nations. It's vital to translate magoi, and con-text verifies wise men as correct, for they were wise in faith in God’s Word. The term magi misleads readers since eastern magi had nothing vaguely like the devotion of the wise men to God's Word or Messiah or a restored Israel, and they could never represent the future Israel of the Millennium.
Israel of the Millennium at the Second Advent
We are concentrating on a latter part of the Numbers prophecy dealing with far-future Israel of the Millennium when Christ is a conquering king, as indicated by the scriptural references below.
Christ gathers Israel of the dispersion and prophesies her victory - Isa.11: 10…in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, Jesus in David's line) which shall stand for an ensign for the nations…the Lord shall..recover the rem- nant of his people…from Assyria and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam…they shall fly upon…the Philistines…they shall spoil them of the east...they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab: and the children of Ammon shall obey them.
How Israel is reconciled to Christ - Zec.12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one is in bitterness for his firstborn
Christ leads Israel to victory in the Millennium - Zec.14:1-16…the day of the Lord cometh…I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle..Then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those nations…the Lord shall be king over all the earth…the Lord will smite all…that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away…everyone that is left…which came against Jerusalem shall even go up…to worship the king, the Lord of hosts…
The Two Advents brought into one focus
I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh. The I in the initial part of the prophecy that concerns us is a poetic pronoun that refers to a unity of individuals in one entity,* the wise men of the 1st Advent and Israel of the 2nd Advent, due to a mutual total devotion to Messiah that links the two together across the centuries. This brings the two Advents into one focus, and I who sees Christ sees Him at both Advents (that I is this Israel and the wise men is indicated in that Israel & Jacob are named individually when context doesn’t apply to the wise men, as in the case of the star rising out of Israel, not out of the wise men); I shall see him, but not now refers to the wise men seeing him as the Child at the 1st Advent, but not now as the king. I shall behold him, but not nigh refers to 2nd Advent Israel beholding him as the king of the Millennium, the time of which is not nigh, or not near in time, at the 1st Advent. In the order of poetic parallelism of the proph- ecy, I shall see him, but not now relates to there shall come a star out of Jacob, and to I shall behold him, but not nigh relates to a sceptre shall rise out of Israel.
*Use of pronouns as collective singulars is common in Hebrew poetry, as in the case of Hos. 11:1 that says, When Israel was a child...I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt, which refers to the nation Israel in its infancy in Egypt. At times such cases involve a second sense of meaning, as is the case here since there is also a reference to the Christ Child being called back from Egypt after Joseph & Mary took Him there in fleeing from Herod (Mat.2:15).
Another scholar error is a view of I as Balaam; this one sees Christ at the 1st & 2nd Advents, and Balaam, long after death, could not see Christ at the 1st Advent. Further, I shall see him has a joyful sense, and Balaam at the 2nd Ad-vent would see Christ only in the grief of negative judgment at Christ’s throne, not being among those doing good unto the Resurrection of life. (Jn. 5:28,29; Mt.25:31-46: 2 Pet.2:12-15 & Jude 11 describe Balaam's nature).
The Revelation book reveals the devotion to Messiah by Israel of the Second Advent, speaking of Israel figuratively as 144,000 men comprised of 12,000 men from each of the 12 tribes. Chapter 14 speaks of these as following Messiah wherever He goes, and they are represented as having great purity.
By speaking of the Bethlehem star, the prophecy includes a tiny select true Israel of the 1st Advent, the wise men. The star's sceptre role signifying a king includes a large select true Israel of the 2nd Advent in the Millennium. Both desire God’s rule of Israel by Messiah to restore the nation and its heritage of divine favor, defeating all enemies in the process.
The many details fulfilled ~1450 years after the prophecy was
made are indi- cative of the role of dictation inspiration that ensures inerrancy, and this strongly indicates that details
pertinent to the 2nd Advent still in the future today will also be
precisely fulfilled. Further, inerrancy of the KJV is indica- ted as it
corrects all scholar error, while preserving all aspects of topic sense.