The Star of Bethlehem
Here’s the story.
Matthew 2:1-12 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
The ‘Star’ Moved
The story is clear: Herod sent them out to search for Jesus, and as soon as they went outside, the ‘star’ that they had seen in their own country appeared again, and it moved in front of them, leading their way—and greatly exciting them—until it came to rest above where Jesus was. So to suggest this was merely a conjunction of two planets is to ignore these details.
Why did the Star Appear?
A reading of the entire bible reveals that miracles like this were not an everyday occurrence. God used his miracles sparingly, preferring a natural solution when it would suffice. For example, no miracle was performed to provide Noah the ark—he had to build it himself. When a miracle did occur, it was done for a very good reason. So the question here is, why did this miracle occur? To answer this, let’s observe the result: the Magi were led by this star to the secret location of Jesus, and they delivered unto him some physical items: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It would seem, then, that it was important that these items be delivered to Jesus—important enough to warrant a miracle to assist them in finding Jesus.
What did the Magi Deliver to Jesus?
Gold, frankincense, and... myrrh? What is myrrh? Easton’s Bible Dictionary reveals this:
Myrrh: First mentioned as a principal ingredient in the holy anointing oil ( Exodus 30:23 ).
Read the full definition...
What was the Purpose of Holy Anointing Oil?
The Old Testament does not explain the purpose of the Holy Anointing Oil, only that it was to be used to consecrate priests. The scant mentions of myrrh in the New Testament have lead most scholars to conclude that it was primarily used in burials because it had a pleasing fragrance. From this, they have concluded that the Magi brought frankincense and myrrh to Jesus because they knew he was going to be crucified and wanted to provide him with the necessary ingredients for his burial. I think this is the wrong conclusion. His burial was a good 30 years away, and besides, another burial ointment was used on Jesus just prior to the crucifixion (see Matthew 26:6-12). They weren’t preparing him for his death, but rather for his life as the Son of God.
Let’s go back to the Old Testament, where we’ll see that the original Holy Anointing Oil was to be used on the living—specifically priests:
Exodus 30:22-38 Moreover the LORD spake unto Moses, saying , Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels, And of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil. And thou shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony, And the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense, And the altar of burnt offering with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot. And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy . And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying , This shall be an holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations. Upon man's flesh shall it not be poured , neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you. Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger , shall even be cut off from his people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary , tempered together, pure and holy: And thou shalt beat some of it very small , and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy. And as for the perfume which thou shalt make , ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the LORD. Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.
So we’re talking about a compound which was to be used only on Aaron and his sons, as they were to be the first priests on Earth. No other human was to be anointed with this oil, or anything similar to it, at the cost of banishment. It sounds to me like this substance was designed to have a physical effect on the human, making him able to tune into God’s mind telepathically, and vice versa, thus making them ideal priests who could accurately speak for God.
Conclusion: Jesus and The Holy Anointing Oil
Now back to Jesus—the ultimate priest, if you will—who spoke for and about his Father all the time. The bible never explains how Jesus, a man, knew so much about his Father and the kingdom of Heaven. But if this Holy Anointing Oil brought by the Magi helped facilitate a uniquely strong telepathic connection between Jesus and his Father, we may have at least part of the answer.
This is not to suggest that the Holy Anointing Oil made Jesus who he was—not at all. Nor is it to suggest that one should seek out drugs or oils to obtain that same connection. Jesus taught that we can make the kind of connection we need by simply praying. Jesus had a special role to play—he was to be both the Son of God and the Son of man at the same time. It may be the Holy Anointing Oil was a tool that helped bridge the gap between heaven and earth, Father and Son, in a special way that allowed him to know with a certainty who his Father was, and what it is all about, and to tell us what he knew in terms we could understand, being human himself. And since the Magi had this substance, it may be safe to assume they used it themselves. Perhaps this is why only they seemed to know that the Star of Bethlehem signified the birth of Jesus.
Whatever the case may be, one thing is certain: an unidentified flying object led the Magi to the secret abode of Jesus. The object was real, looked like a bright star, and when it moved, caused the excited Magi to rejoice with exceeding great joy. I can just imagine.