Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of Oct 25th - Oct 31st,  2002

Away in a Manger

Columns Archive

The birth of Jesus

The birth of Jesus
(Note the donkey in the background)

   "Now at this time Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken. This census, the first, took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to his own town to be registered. So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and travelled up to Judea, to the town of David called Bethlehem, since he was of David's house and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her child, her first born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for him at the inn."

   Luke 2:1-7

   In previous episodes of the Web, we have examined Biblical evidence for the birth of the Messiah and found that according to astronomical evidence, he probably was born between the helical rising of Jupiter and Saturn in early March of 7 BC...

   "...we saw his star as it rose..." Matthew 2:2

   ...and July 7th, 7 BC, when Saturn 'pivoted,' or began its retrograde motion over Bethlehem, just as Matthew described it:

   "And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising;
it went forward and halted over the place where the child was." Matthew 2:9

   Thus far, these facts coordinate nicely with what we know about the timing of the birth of the Messiah. Augustus Caesar ruled from 30 BC to 14 AD, providing a general framework. We know that Herod died in 4 BC, and that if he indeed ordered the slaughter of innocents after the Messiah was born, then it must have been prior to this. The first census took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, which narrows the window to between 8-6 BC.

The Manger is 'under' Venus

Venus in the Manger

   The details arguing that the Saturn Jupiter conjunction was the probable Star of Bethlehem have been discussed in earlier Webs, but we had surmised that if this alignment did indeed mark the birth of the Christ child, it was probably fairly close to May 29th, 7 BC, near the first exact conjunction (there were three that year) of Jupiter and Saturn.

   Matthew and Luke tell us quite a bit about the birth of the Christ child, but I have often wondered if there wasn't more in the allegory of the birth; if scripture didn't hold some additional clues in the telling of the tale. The image which stood out was that of the Christ child's birth in the manager.

Christ on the Cross

Christ is often depicted with a
stab wound on the cross

   There is, in fact, a star grouping known as the 'Manger'. It is located in the constellation Cancer, and together with its two closest companions, Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australus, or the Northern and Southern Donkeys, it is the manger between the two asses. The question is, where there any significant conjunctions to this stellar grouping between March and July of 7 BC, which might reflect the birth?

   We know that the Moon makes a full circuit of the zodiac every month, and would have aligned with this cluster four or five times during this four and a half month period. Astrologically speaking, it would make sense for the Moon to step into this role as it could be celestially interpreted as the birth (Moon) of the child in the Manger (conjunct Praesaepe, or the star known as the manger), but since the Moon makes an entire circuit of the zodiac once every month, this alone would seem doubtful as a sole indicator. Were there any other more significant alignments during the Spring of 7 BC which might better be considered to fulfill the announcement of the birth of the Messiah by the heavens?

   On May 30th, Venus conjuncted Praesaepe, also known as the Beehive Cluster or the Manger, and on the following evening, the Moon conjuncted both Venus and this stellar grouping, within 48 hours of Saturn and Jupiter's alignment to form our Star of Bethlehem. Among the interpretations which have been recorded by astrologers of these three stars were stabs, wounds, and 'danger of a violent death'.