By Kenneth Beckmann
Copyright 2021, Kenneth.Beckmann. All rights reserved.
III. The Magi Visits Jerusalem
According to Matthew, the Magi visited Jerusalem because they observed a rare celestial event. A rare celestial event might be described as a conjunction of planets that is, an apparent near approach of two or more planets or an occultation of a star or planet by another celestial body, for example, a star or planet that appears to move behind the moon. It may also apply to transients. Transients are defined as celestial objects which suddenly appear and then disappear over time. A transient may be described as a comet, nova, supernova, etc. These celestial events carried with them a message (omen or sign) from the divine.
Scholars have suggested Matthew’s infancy narrative rests entirely on Numbers 24:17 and the Star of Jacob. While this may have been the original motivation for the Magi’s visit to Jerusalem, Matthew enlisted other Old Testament passages when penning the infancy narrative. A careful reading of Matthew 2:1-2 implied the story did not begin with details of the Magi’s homeland or the Magi’s travels to Jerusalem. The story began the moment the Magi entered the city of Jerusalem while Herod the Great was still alive. The Magi studied the heavens from their homeland; then traveled to those whose natal star spoke of a person whose immense stature would influence worldly events. The Star of Jacob served as the motivation for the Magi’s travels to Jerusalem but not to Bethlehem. Matthew didn’t mention the Star of Jacob but Origen did.
An early Church patriarch, Origen, mentioned a tradition of which Balaam, an OT prophet, was associated with the Magi. " If Balaam's prophecies were included in Moses sacred volumes, how much more were they described by various authors who lived at that time in Mesopotamia, with whom Balaam was held in high esteem and were well known and practiced Balaam's craft as his students or disciples. It is further reported that a priesthood of Magi who followed after him came from the East, which treasured all of that which Balaam had foretold, even the fact that Balaam had written, ‘A star out of Jacob shall arise in Israel.’ The Magi had agreed through their writings with one another, that when Jesus was born, they acknowledged the Star and understood that the prophecy had been fulfilled. Based on Balaam’s writings, when time was near, to demonstrate their faith, they paid homage and venerated Jesus as a King.”(10)
Origen described the star out of Jacob as a Star in Against Celsus,1.58, 1.59. Origen was careful when describing the Star of Bethlehem’s nature, not to necessarily associate the Star with comets as described by Chaeremon, a contemporary of Matthew, in Treatise on Comets.
Origen’s entry is enlightening. It tells us that the Magi were a cultic priesthood who studied and followed the teachings of a prophet from the OT, Balaam and who resided in Mesopotamia. Origen also stated that the motivation for the Magi’s travels to Jerusalem was based on the prophecy from Numbers 24:17 “A star out of Jacob shall arise in Israel.” If the motivation for the Magi’s travels to Jerusalem was based on Numbers 24:17, what celestial event may we associate with the Magi’s visit? If the Magi began their journey from Edessa, Mesopotamia where the Gospel may have been written and they traveled to Jerusalem by camel, it likely required at least a few months or more (600 to 1000 miles) to reach the city. Did the Magi, in fact, view the Star of 5 BC or another celestial sign from their homeland of Mesopotamia? If the Magi reached Jerusalem around the time of
the Jewish Passover (April, 21st5 BC) of which there is some evidence in Matthew 2:3-4 and Luke 2:7 to support this argument, this would suggest that the Magi left their homeland long before the Star of 5 BC appeared. The Star mentioned in Matthew 2:2b would imply that the Magi did in fact view an earlier celestial event, the equivalent of a star out of Jacob as some scholars and astronomers have suggested, but not necessarily the Star of 5 BC. While there have been several candidates for the Star of Bethlehem prior to 5 BC, three are of special interest. (1) April 17th 6 BC associated with a helical rising of the planet Jupiter occulted by the waning crescent moon. (2) Jupiter stationary for a week around August 23rd, 6 BC and (3) again around December 19th, 6 BC. These may have been the celestial events that motivated the Magi to make the journey to Bethlehem [13)
Like Matthew, Luke appeared to also have had knowledge of celestial events associated with the planet, Jupiter. Luke mentioned celestial events indirectly in Luke indirectly in Luke 1:24, 26-28, 30-31 as well as Luke 1:76-79. These verses appear to have been associated with an ancient pre-Gospel Christian tradition regarding the births of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth who were alleged to be cousins and separated in age by about 5 or 6 months. If this pre-Gospel Christian tradition was accurate, John the Baptist would have been conceived around April 17th 6 BC by Elisabeth and born nine months later around December 19th 6 BC while Jesus of Nazareth, the Christian Messiah, was conceived around August 23rd6 BC by Mary (Luke 2:24, 26-28, 30-31) and born nine months later during April 5 BC perhaps around the date of Passover, April 21st 5 BC. It seems peculiar that the August 23rd 6 BC sign and Luke’s entry in verses 1:26-28, 30-31, about the month of Elul, mid-August to mid-September, and Mary’s conception of Jesus, should coincide. At best this is speculation but certainly a tempting argument in the light of the three 6 BC signs which involved the planet, Jupiter and the Star of 5 BC.
If an earlier celestial event directed the Magi to Jerusalem, how do we know that the Magi did not recognize the Star of 5 BC once they entered Jerusalem? As I mentioned earlier, a careful reading of Matthew 2:1-2 implied that the Magi came to Jerusalem because the Magi based their prediction of the birth of the Jewish Messiah on Numbers 24:17 and their astrological craft which involved wandering stars (Sun, Moon and five unaided eye planets). The Magi believed they would find the Jewish Messiah at Jerusalem. Behold a Star shall come out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Israel indicate the prophecy was directed toward Jerusalem, where a royal family occupied the throne. It may have been that the Magi expected to find a newborn in King Herod’s court. Upon finding none, the Magi, puzzled, asked where the child was born King of the Jews. The inquiry may have led to the rumor. .
If the Magi observed the Star of 5 BC at Jerusalem, they would have found the transient’s position in Capricornus an enigma, especially if it appeared near the ecliptic and in a zodiacal constellation. They may have wondered if they were witnessing the birth of a new wandering star. It is doubtful that the Magi made a connection between the Star of 5 BC and Bethlehem before or after reaching Jerusalem. They may have been too consumed with the Stars of 6 BC. Yet, Matthew led his readers to believe that the Magi saw the Star of Bethlehem at Jerusalem and again, at Bethlehem.
A further careful reading of Matthew 2:9-10 provided a convincing argument that the Magi observed the Star of Bethlehem only after reaching Bethlehem. If we put aside the Basket of Star verses and base our entire understanding of the Magi’s travels to Bethlehem solely on the Basket of Magi verses, the Magi only obtained knowledge regarding the whereabouts of the birth of the Christian Messiah at Bethlehem (Matthew 2:5-6) during an audience when King Herod discussed Micah 5:2 with the Magi (Matthew 2:7-8). It is likely that once the Magi set out for Bethlehem traveling south south-west from Jerusalem, their journey was predicated entirely on Micah 5:2 (Matthew 2:5-6). Once they reached the edge of the tableland that stretched from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and looking down into the valley that harbored Bethlehem, according to Matthew, the Star of Bethlehem appeared directly over Bethlehem where the Star came and stood over where the young child was. There are two details we do not as yet know? What time of the night the Magi saw the Star at the rising in the east and when the Star went before the Magi till it came and stood over where the young child was?
Is it possible that the Star the Magi saw at the rising in the east which Matthew spoke about in his Gospel were both the Star of 5 BC and the planet, Jupiter being occulted by the waning crescent moon? Where one of these transients the one the Magi saw before reaching Jerusalem and later, the other once they arrived at Bethlehem? Was one of these transients, the Star that an ancient Christian artist painted on the ceiling of the catacomb of Priscilla at Rome? An examination of Matthew 2:2b, 7, 16 demonstrated that Matthew 2:2b could apply to both the April 17th 6 BC occultation and also the Star of 5 BC if they were both morning stars. Think of Matthew 2:2b as a coin’s two faces. On one side, the verse described the April 17th 6 BC occultation in the constellation of Aries, the Ram. On the other, the verse described the Star of 5 BC which appeared in the constellation of Capricornus, the Sea Goat. If each celestial event rose after midnight, they would appear as a morning star rising a few hours before sunrise. The lunar occultation of Jupiter by the crescent moon in 6 BC rose shortly before sunrise and appeared directly over Bethlehem mid-day (Stellarium). While this celestial event describes a helical rising and satisfies Matthew’s account of the Star in Matthew 2:2, what does it say about Matthew 2:9-10?
Likewise, according to Chinese entry, the Star of 5 BC rose before 2 am local time March 9th to April 7th 5 BC based on its approximate position near α and β Capricorni Capricornus . (Stellarium 0.20.0) Both transients rose after midnight, only an hour or more before sunrise. The April 17th 6 BC portents appeared directly over Bethlehem around the time of the noon day sun, yet Matthew claims the Magi saw the Star as it went before them till it came and stood over where the young child was at Bethlehem (Matthew 2:9-10). It is unlikely that the April 17th 6 BC lunar occultation of Jupiter by the waning crescent moon around noon was viewed by the Magi. It is also unlikely the April 17th 6 BC occultation of Jupiter was Matthew’s Star at Bethlehem and certainly not the Star on the star map in the catacomb. Full daylight would have masked the occultation of Jupiter by the crescent moon. Yet, Matthew described the Magi’s response to having observed the Star that came and stood over where the young child was at Bethlehem.
While the Magi’s reason for rejoicing may appear peculiar (Matthew 2:9-10) if the Magi initially journeyed to Bethlehem predicated on their knowledge of Micah 5:2, once they reached Bethlehem, they would have been amazed and perhaps stunned to find the Star of Bethlehem as it rested over the village. All of their understanding of astrology as well as the creation of regal horoscopes were based on the wandering stars (Sun, Moon and five unaided eye planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn). While the Star of 5 BC did not belong to the wandering star family, its location in Capricornus, also known as the birthplace of the Sun, situated near the ecliptic, a path which the wandering stars traveled, may have implied that early star worshipers believed the Star of 5 BC to be a new addition to the wandering star family, a new Sky God as they were known to star worshipers in Edessa, Mesopotamia.
It appears that Matthew did not have this in mind when he associated the Star of Bethlehem with the Christian Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Matthew left his readers with the impression that for all the trust the star worshipers placed in the Magi, the Christian God’s wisdom far exceed that of the Magi’s. Paul, the premiere Christian missionary, wrote in I Corinthians 1:19 “For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (I Corinthians 1:19, KJV) a reference to Isaiah 29:14 from the OT. Matthew expanded on this theme when he penned Matthew 2:10.
What have we learned thus far? Matthew included these two observations to authenticate the existence and appearance of the Star over the skies of Bethlehem around the time of Jesus’ birth and verify that the Magi were at Bethlehem at a time of the year when the Star of Bethlehem went before them till it came and stood over where the young child was.
 Numbers 24:17, (KJV), “I see him, but not now; I behold him but not nigh; a star shall come out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel.”
 Exodus 1:15-22, 2:1-10, Isaiah 29:14, Isaiah 60:6, Micah 5:2. Jeremiah 40:3.
 Josephus, Flavius, Josephus, 1943, translated, Ralph Marcus, PhD, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Flavius, Josephus, a 1stcentury Jewish historian, stated that Herod died shortly after a lunar eclipse and before a Jewish Passover. While his writing suggested the lunar eclipse of December 29th 1 BC, another, the lunar eclipse on March 13th4 BC appears the better fit. In 4 BC, the territories governed by Herod were transferred to three of Herod’s sons at Herod’s death. The transfer suggests Herod died in 4 BC.
 Origen, “Homilien zum Hexateuch in Rufins Obersetzung, ed. Bachrens,” Homilies on Numbers Homily 13.7 translated by Rufinus of Aquileia, Edited Bachrens [GCS] Vol. 2, 118.14-22). “Si enim prophetiae eius a Moyse sacris insertae sunt voluminibus, quanto magis descriptae sunt ab his, qui habitabant tunc Mesoptamiam, apud quos magnificus habebatur Balaam quosque atis eius constat fuisse discipulos? Ex illo denique fertur magorum genus et institutio in partibus Orientis vigere, qui descripta habentes apud se omnia, quae prophetaverat Balaam, etiam hoc habuerunt scriptum quod: "orietur stella ex Iacob, et exsurget homo ex Israhel." Haec scripta habebant magi apud semet ipsos et ideo, quando natus est Iesus, agnoverunt stellam et intellexerunt adimpleri prophetiam.”(Author's translation).
 Schaff, Phillip, The Ante Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4, 1897, England T. & T. Publishers, Origen, Against Celsus 1.58, 1.59, p.725 “The star that was seen in the East we consider to have been a new star, unlike any of the other well-known planetary bodies either those in the firmament above or those among the lower orb, but partaking of the nature of those celestial bodies which appear at times such as comets or those meteors which resemble beams of wood, or beards, or wine jars . . If then, at the commencement of new dynasties, or on the occasion of other important events, there arises a comet so called, or any similar celestial body, why should it be matter of wonder that at the birth of Him who was to introduce a new doctrine to the human race, and to make known His teaching not only to Jews, but also to Greeks, and to many of the barbarous nations besides, a star should have arisen? Now I would say, that with respect to comets there is no prophecy in circulation to the effect that such and such a comet was to arise in connection with a particular kingdom or a particular time; but with respect to the appearance of a star at the birth of Jesus there is a prophecy of Balaam recorded by Moses to this effect: “There shall arise a star out of Jacob, and a man shall rise up out of Israel.” A careful reading of Origen 1.58 and 1.59 suggests the Star of Bethlehem was a transient, but not necessarily a comet.
 ”And she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” ( Luke 2:7, KJV). Luke stated that Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem to be enrolled in a census. While there, they were unable to secure lodging at an inn. It is unlikely that Rome would transfer large numbers of a country’s population to conduct a census. It is more likely that Joseph and Mary, like many other pilgrims, came to celebrate the Passover. This would explain the absence of vacancies at inns in and around Jerusalem and Bethlehem. “When Herod the King had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3-4). Matthew stated Herod was in great distress because of a rumor circulating about the Jewish Messiah’s birth. With the arrival of pilgrim crowds during Passover such a rumor would contribute to potential unrest in Jerusalem which might lead to an armed response from Rome.
 Molnar, Michael A., The Star of Bethlehem: the Legacy of the Magi, 2013, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, P. 62. Molnar stated that during an audience with Herod the King, the Magi may have reported three messianic contenders to the throne based on the number of unusual celestial events in 6 BC, all associated with an occultation of the wandering star, Jupiter by the crescent moon on April 17th, 6 BC and Jupiter remaining stationary around the weeks of August 23rd and December 19th.
 Luke 1:26-28, 30-31 KJV “In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth to a virgin espouse to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou has found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.” Based on what Luke wrote, Mary conceived Jesus during the Jewish month of Elul (mid-August to mid-September) Luke 1:76-79 KJV “And thou, child shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to his ways: to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God: whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” This text from Luke’s Gospel spoke about the “Dayspring from on high” a reference to the Star of Bethlehem having been observed at the rising in the east (a helical rising).
 Luke 1:24 “And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived and hid herself five months.” A plausible interpretation of Luke 1:24 suggests that Elisabeth, a relative of either Mary or Joseph may have conceived of John the Baptist around the time of the April 17th, 5 BC when she went into hiding for five months. According to Luke, the fifth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy may have been the same month of Elul, when Mary conceived of Jesus.
 Isaiah 29:14, (KJV) “Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous wok and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.”
IV. Clues and a Key
How do we know Matthew was speaking about the Star of 5 BC in his Gospel, the same Star that was painted on the ceiling in the catacomb of Priscilla at Rome and the Star of 5 BC documented in an ancient Chinese record?
Matthew left astronomical clues and a key in Matthew 2:2b, 7, 9-10, 16b about the Star of Bethlehem’s identity.
Matthew was careful so as not to reveal too little or too much while maintaining the accuracy of an observation yet leaving the Star of Bethlehem something of a mystery.
Over the centuries, this has caused bible scholars and astronomers to misunderstand and misinterpret these passages. To fully understand the Basket of Star verses, Matthew 2:2b, 7, 9-10, 16, we need a key to unlock the meaning. Matthew left a key hidden in one of the following passage which leads to several amazing insights about the Star of Bethlehem.
“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.(Matt. 2:1-2, KJV) [17)
Then Herod, when he had privately called the wise men, diligently inquired of them what time the star appeared. (Matt. 2:7, KJV) 
When they 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. (Matt. 2:9-10, KJV) 
“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the Magi, was exceedingly angry, and sent forth, and killed all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he diligently inquired from the wise men.” (Matt. 2:16 KJV) (20)
Within each passage Matthew left clues about two observations. While it seems logical to begin with the first verse, it is helpful to begin at the end and work backwards. Clues about observations are highlighted in bold. Matthew 2:16 holds the key to the amazing discovery I spoke of.
“Then Herod when he saw that he was mocked of the Magi, he was exceedingly angry, and sent forth and killed all the children that were in Bethlehem, and all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. (Matthew 2:16, KJV). Matthew 2:16 referred back to Matthew 2:7. “Then Herod when he had privately called the wise men diligently inquired of them what time the Star appeared” (Matthew. 2:7, KJV). Matthew 2:7 referred back to Matthew 2:2b. “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 at the rising in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matthew. 2:1-2, KJV). I will leave Matthew 2:9-10 for a later discussion as it is a separate observation.
It has been suggested all the children that were in Bethlehem, and all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he (Herod) had diligently inquired of the wise men (Matthew 2:16, KJV) was interpreted as the Magi seeing the Star for two years or the Star appeared two years earlier. Chinese records from 12 BC to 13 CE do not mention a transient remaining visible for two years. Neither was a conjunction of planets repeating two or more years before the death of Herod the Great in 4 BC. Matthew wrote about the Magi’s first observation in the past tense. For we have seen his Star (at its helical rising) in the east (Matt. 2:2b, KJV). While the Magi’s observation of the Star of Bethlehem occurred in the past, in Matthew 2:7, Herod asked what time of the night the Star rose. This left Matthew’s readers with the impression the Star was visible when the Magi visited Jerusalem.
This has led to much wild speculation and confusion. Too many theories have failed to take into account the substance of Matthew’s description about the Star of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:2b, 7, 16b and 2:9-10). They also fail to recognize that Matthew provided vital information about the Star of Bethlehem at the rising in Matthew 2:7 and 2:16b. When we focus on the children massacred at Bethlehem, we discover “all children” may have been part of the original pre-gospel tradition (described by an itinerant preacher, teacher or apostle) while Matthew appears to have edited Matthew 2:16a adding Matthew 2:16b “from two years old and under.” This editing at first glance may have represented a specific age for children – “two years of age and under.” Yet, did the words, “two years of age and under” also specify a time when the Star of Bethlehem first rose from the abyss? Matthew 2:16b stated that Herod’s decision to massacre children depended on the time the star appeared. Matthew 2:7 stated that Herod asked the Magi for the exact time the Star appeared. Matthew 2:2b stated the Magi saw the Star at the rising in the east. It appears Matthew may have led his readers to believe the Magi knew the time the Star of Bethlehem rose from the abyss but which star was Matthew speaking about – the one before arriving at Jerusalem or once they reached Bethlehem?
Since we have multiple candidates, the three 6 BC events associated with the wandering star, Jupiter (planet) and the Star of 5 BC as possible Stars of Bethlehem, which candidate(s) best fits Matthew’s description in Matthew 2:2b and 2:9-10? The April 17th6 BC occultation of the planet Jupiter by the crescent moon, correctly described the helical rising in Matthew 2:2b, “at the rising in the east,” an observation made long before the Magi reached Jerusalem. Yet, the description of the April 17th 6 BC occultation is inconsistent with the Magi’s witness in Matthew 2:9-10. While Matthew wrote that the Magi rejoiced with exceeding great joy (Matthew 2:10) upon seeing the Star, it would have been impossible for the Magi to witness the April 17th 6 BC event as the occultation of Jupiter by the waning crescent moon occurred around the time of the noon day sun (Stellarium 0.20.0). Neither was Jupiter’s appearance a helical rising on August 23rd and December 19th 6 BC. If the April 17th occultation failed to explain Matthew 2:9-10, what about the Star of 5 BC?
Some scholars have suggested that when Matthew wrote his Gospel, there was a belief that the Jewish God would send not one but two Messiahs as fulfillment of the Messianic hope. Matthew capitalized on clues, key and hope!
Should we imagine that the Magi interpreted the number of Messiah’s based on three celestial events in 6 BC, each sharing a common denominator, the planet Jupiter? Did the Magi describe these three to Herod? This would explain why Herod was frightened and all Jerusalem with him (Matthew 2:3-4). For the Magi to arrive in Jerusalem during a Passover would leave Herod in a very compromising position. Passover was often a vulnerable time when large pilgrim crowds returned to celebrate the festival! It was also a time which would provide cover for zealots who opposed the King’s rule. Based on this line of thought, the Massacre of the Innocent which resulted in the murder of children would have likely sent a message to the zealots. It would have put to rest any fears among residents of Jerusalem fearing their business might be interrupted. It also would have likely occurred shortly after the Magi made their visit to Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16).If there may have been more than one messianic contender mentioned in the Magi’s conversation with Herod, there may have also been more than one Star of Bethlehem the Magi described to Herod when speaking about the Jewish Messiah(s).
This would have explained Herod’s paranoia - multiple messiahs and the need to murder all children in Bethlehem and in all the coasts thereof. While Matthew 2:7 does not provide us with clues about the conversation Herod had with the Magi; it does raise a central question about the relationship between the understanding of Jewish messianic hope and the unique nature of the Star(s) of 6 BC and the Star of 5 BC as the Stars of Bethlehem.
As mentioned before, ancient Christian writers often left a key or keys, “a hidden reference or meaning” in the body of their writings which if correctly solved, revealed a special insight (a passage that could be interpreted in multiple ways). “According to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men” and “children from two years of age and under” is clue and key, respectively that described the time the Star of Bethlehem rose from the abyss. (Matthew 2:16). This is the special insight.
In Israel, the Jewish night was divided into three watches. Watches were defined as evening watch (Lamentations 2:19), middle watch (Judges 7:19) and morning watch (I Samuel 11:11). The first watch was from sunset until about 10 p.m. The second watch occurred overnight from 10 p.m. to about 2 a.m. The third watch occurred from about 2 a.m. to sunrise. Which watch of the night did the Magi see the Star rise?
If we adopt the words “two years of age and under” as the key (Matthew 2:16) remembering that Herod diligently inquired about the exact time the Star rose then the word “two” may refer to the second watch of the night. Herod would see the star rising from the abyss (eastern horizon) during the second watch of the night. This appears to be the hidden meaning; the word “two;” the Star of Bethlehem rose during the second watch of the night.
We know that Jesus was born in the spring of the year (April-May) because Mary conceived mid-August to mid-September, nine months earlier (Luke 1:26-28, 30-31). Luke wrote that shepherds were in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night because it was the lambing season when Jesus was born (April-May) (Luke 2:8-20). The inns were full because of the Jewish Passover (April-May) (Luke 2:7).
Since Matthew 2:16b revealed that the Star of Bethlehem rose in the spring during the second watch of the night, at what watch of the night did the Star of 5 BC rise? Calculating the time the Star of 5 BC in Capricornus rose from the abyss (Stellarium 0.20.):
March 9th to April 7th, between
1:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. (second watch of the night).
From April 8th to April 22nd between
12:00 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. (second watch of the night).
From April 22nd to May 7th between
11:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. (second watch of the night).
From May 7th to May 22ndbetween
10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. (second watch of the night).
Each night the Star of 5 BC rose roughly four minutes earlier. This would account for the Star of 5 BC appearing for seventy days only during the Jewish second watch of the night.
It also should be noted that only during the spring of the year does the constellation of Capricornus, the Sea Goat (the location of the Star of 5 BC) rise during the second watch of the night (between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.. During the summer and autumn, Capricornus rises or has already risen by nightfall during the first watch of the night (between sunset and 10:00 p.m.) During the months of late August, September and October, Capricornus is already above the eastern horizon by nightfall or is setting shortly after sunset in the west. November and December, Capricornus is hidden by the sun. During early January through early March, Capricornus rises during the third watch of the night (between 2:00 a.m. until sunrise.) This suggests that there was a narrow window of about three months during the year to observe Capricornus, the Sea Goat and the Star of 5 BC rising during the second watch of the night. If Matthew was a seasoned stargazer, he would have also known that Capricornus, the Sea Goat rose during the second watch of the night.
Did Herod murder children two years of age and under because the Star of Bethlehem (Star of 5 BC) rose during the second watch of the night! Is this the special insight we discover using the key?
This explanation does not demand a complicated answer. Matthew led his readers to assume the Magi simply pointed to the Star while Herod asked what watch of the night it was. Was it that simple?
The gospel writer left a key “two” (Matthew 2:16b) and a reference to Jewish watches of the night (Matthew 2:7) to reveal that the Star of Bethlehem was the Star of 5 BC, the same Star in the catacomb and the Star in the ancient Chinese record. Yet, if the Star of 5 BC rose during the second watch of the night (before 2:00 am local time), this description is not consistent with that of 2:2b which described a helical rising about an hour before sunrise. While both April 17th6 BC occultation and the Star of 5 BC appeared in the spring of the year mid-April each a year apart is it possible that the 6 BC occultation was described in Matthew 2:2b while the Star of 5 BC was described in Matthew 2:9-10? For a moment consider again that Matthew 2:2b might appear like a coin with two faces; each describing the Star of Bethlehem, a morning star. On the one side the April 17th 6 BC sign and the other side, the Star of 5 BC. Yet, it is also possible that Matthew described only the April 17th6 BC occultation in Matthew 2:2b while describing the Star when it went before the Magi until it came and stood over where the child was (at Bethlehem) in Matthew 2:9-10. This might be so if it had not been for Matthew 2:7, where Herod inquires about the time the Star rose from the abyss in the present. Matthew 2:7, made it possible for Matthew to apply both the April 17th 6 BC occultation and the Star of 5 BC to Matthew 2:2b!
While the Jewish second watch of the night did not describe a true helical rising of the Star of 5 BC (the Star at the rising in the east just before sunrise), both the April 17th, 6 BC occultation and Star of 5 BC could be identified as morning stars based on Matthew 2:7. It appears Matthew expanded upon an understanding of Matthew 2:2b to include the Star of 5 BC at the rising in the East during the second watch of the night. If the Star of Bethlehem and the Star of 5 BC are truly one and the same, the proof rests with the second observation. Based on the information accumulated thus far, it is likely there is some support that not one but two Stars of Bethlehem led the Magi first to Jerusalem and later, to Bethlehem.
 Strong, James, Strong’s Concordance of the Bible, 1890, Nashville: Abingdon. Greek of Matthew 2:1: Τοῦ (1) δὲ (Now) Ἰησοῦ (Jesus) γεννηθέντος (having been born) ἐν (in) Βηθλέεμ (Bethlehem) τῆς (-) Ἰουδαίας (of Judea) ἐν (in) ἡμέραις ([the] days) Ἡρῴδου (of Herod) τοῦ (the) βασιλέως (king) ἰδοὺ (behold) μάγοι (Magi) ἀπὸ (from [the]) ἀνατολῶν (east) παρεγένοντο (arrived) εἰς (in)Ἱεροσόλυμα (Jerusalem) Matthew 2:2, “λέγοντες (Saying) Ποῦ (Where) ἐστιν (is) ὁ (the [One]) τεχθεὶς (having been born) βασιλεὺς (King) τῶν (of the)Ἰουδαίων (Jews), εἴδομεν (We saw) γὰρ (for) αὐτοῦ (of Him) τὸν (the) ἀστέρα (star) ἐν (in) τῇ (the) ἀνατολῇ (east) καὶ (and) ἤλθομεν (are come) προσκυνῆσαι (to worship) αὐτῷ (Him).”
 Strong, James, Strong’s Concordance of the Bible, 1890, Nashville: Abingdon. Greek to English: Matthew 2:7: Τότε (Then) Ἡρῴδης (Herod) λάθρᾳ (secretly) καλέσας (having called) τοὺς (the) μάγους (Magi) ἠκρίβωσεν (inquired exactly) παρ’ (of) αὐτῶν (them) τὸν (the) χρόνον (time) τοῦ (of the) φαινομένου (appearing) ἀστέρος (star).
 Strong, James, Strong’s Concordance of the Bible , 1890, Nashville: Abingdon. Greek to English: Matthew 2:9: Οἱ δὲ (And) ἀκούσαντες (having heard) τοῦ (the) βασιλέως (king) ἐπορεύθησαν (they went away) καὶ (and) ἰδοὺ (behold) ὁ (the) ἀστὴρ (star) ὃν (which) εἶδον (they saw) ἐν (in) τῇ (the) ἀνατολῇ (east) προῆγεν (went before) αὐτούς (them) ἕως (until) ἐλθὼν (having arrived) ἐστάθη (it stood) ἐπάνω (over) οὗ (where) ἦν (was) τὸ (the) παιδίον (Child). Matthew 2:10, ἰδόντες (Having seen) δὲ (now) τὸν (the) ἀστέρα (star) ἐχάρησαν (they rejoiced [with]) χαρὰν (joy) μεγάλην (great) μεγάλην (exceedingly).
 Strong, James, Strong’s Concordance of the Bible, 1890, Nashville: Abingdon. Greek to English: Matthew 2:16: ότε (Then) Ἡρῴδης (Herod) ἰδὼν (having seen) ὅτι (that) ἐνεπαίχθη (he had been outwitted) ὑπὸ (by) τῶν (the) μάγων (Magi) ἐθυμώθη (was enraged) λίαν (intensely) καὶ (and) ἀποστείλας (having sent forth) ἀνεῖλεν (he put to death) ἀνεῖλεν (all) τοὺς (the) παῖδας (boys) τοὺς (that [were] ἐν (in) Βηθλέεμ (Bethlehem) καὶ (and) ἐν (in) πᾶσι (all) τοῖς (the) ὁρίοις (vicinity) αὐτῆς (of it) ἀπὸ (from) διετοῦς (two years old) καὶ (and) κατωτέρω (under) κατὰ (according to) τὸν (the) χρόνον (time) ὃν (which) ἠκρίβωσεν (he had ascertained) παρὰ (from) τῶν (the) μάγων (Magi).
 Zechariah 9:9 (KJV) “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout. O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation: lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” Isaiah 53:3-5, 7-8 (KJV) “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our grief and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him: and with his stripes we were healed. He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” The prophet Zechariah spoke of a David Messianic figure who came as a humble, conquering peacemaker while Isaiah spoke about a Suffering Servant Messianic figure who laid down his life for the sins of all God’s people. By the end of the 1st century CE the Christian Church identified Jesus of Nazareth with both. Jesus Christ as Suffering Servant was described in the Gospels, while some of the later letters from Christian writers of the NT were associated with the hope for the Davidic Messianic figure’s promised return in Jesus, the Messiah. Upon his returned he would be hailed as King of King and Lord of Lords. Matthew was careful leaving his readers to believe that there was one and only one Christian Messiah, both as Suffering Servant and on his promised return a humble, peace loving, yet conquering Davidic Messiah (who possessed the spirit of King David). Messiah in Hebrew means “Anointed One.”
 Molnar, Michael A., The Star of Bethlehem the Legacy of the Magi, 2013, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, P. 62. The pre-gospel tradition associated with Massacre of the Innocent (Matthew 2:16-18) may have been an outgrowth of both the Magi’s audience with Herod and the report of as many as three messianic contenders (April 17th, August 23rd and December 19th, 6 BC) all associated with the wandering star, Jupiter. I suggest that Herod had multiple reasons to execute any messianic contenders, among them to maintain the peace and security of Jerusalem.
 Bacon, Benjamin, Studies in Matthew, 1930, New York, Henry Holt & Co., p. 131 Bacon stated that the gospel writer penned an unconscious portrayal of himself while quoting one of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 13:52. “Then said he unto them, therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which brings forth out of his treasure things new and old.”Matthew was accustomed to using this technique as a key or hidden (multiple) meaning(s) on more than one occasion (Matthew 2:16, 27:45, 28:1-9, 18)
 Raphael, Mundane Astrology, p. 63-66 mentioned in Ramsey’s Astrology Restored, 1653, p. 308-309. The Jews like the Babylonians divided the night into three watches, evening, middle, and morning, four hours each unlike the Romans who separated the night dividing it into four watches. When Herod asked the exact time, the Magi and Herod’s watches of the night would have been identical.
The Stars of Bethlehem: A Scribe Who Studied the Kingdom of Heaven
by Kenneth Beckmann
Copyright2021, Kenneth Beckmann. All rights reserved.
The author's adaptation of Beehler's star map and Star of Bethlehem in Priscilla's catacomb at Rome.