By Dr. Aaron Adair
The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View is an analysis of the astronomical portent found in the Gospel of Matthew which supposedly led the Magi from the East to the birthplace of Jesus. Throughout history, people have tried to connect the Star to real, naturalistic phenomena, as well as to explain it in other ways. Adair takes a thorough look at all of these explanatory attempts, using the tools of science and astronomy, and finds them fundamentally wanting. Take a trip through the heavens above with Adair as he critically explores many centuries of flawed hypotheses, looking to answer the question “Did the Star of Bethlehem really exist?” This book is at the conjunction of science and religion.
“Well researched, scientifically reasoned, elegantly concise, this book will long be required reading on the ‘Star of Bethlehem’. Full of fascinating historical facts, and better informed and more careful than any other book on the subject, this should be on the shelf of everyone interested in that legendary celestial event.” Richard Carrier, Ph.D., author of Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus.
“A fascinating and readable feat of hardcore historical legwork and keen scientific analysis.” David Fitzgerald, author of The Complete Heretic’s Guide to Western Religion: The Mormons.
“…tightly-argued, well-reasoned…. Adair masterfully demonstrates why every effort to rationalize the Star thus far has failed…. A concise and rigorous must-read for anyone interested in religion, history, and modern efforts to understand the past.” Jason Colavito, author of The Cult of Alien Gods.
Here are some Amazon reviews for the book:
I was a peer reviewer for this book’s ancient history content, and I was very impressed. I have a Ph.D. from Columbia University in ancient Greco-Roman science, philosophy and religion, and yet even I learned things from Adair’s book. It contained no significant errors (within my specialization) that I could detect. The rest of it impressed me as well. So I contributed the promotional quote:
Well researched, scientifically reasoned, elegantly concise, this book will long be required reading on the ‘Star of Bethlehem’. Full of fascinating historical facts, and better informed and more careful than any other book on the subject, this should be on the shelf of everyone interested in that legendary celestial event.
I added on my own blog review of the book, that Adair’s bibliography alone is of great value. Scientists will find the book especially heartwarming. Historians will as well. It even taught me a few things. Even the foreword by astronomer and science writer Bob Berman was educational, with an example of creationists even interfering in public astronomy education, through the pretext of the Star of Bethlehem literature. So Adair’s book is much needed and will be of value to science educators.
Beyond that, however, I find this book of value not just because it will teach you a lot of cool things about history and astronomy with an economy of words, nor only because it has a great bibliography and is the go-to resource now for discussing this subject, but also because in the process of addressing astrological theories of the Star account, Adair deftly demonstrates a point I had long made myself but never had the time to demonstrate: ancient astrology was so wildly inconsistent and diverse that any astrological theory of either Christian origins or biblical accounts is probably beyond any possibility of demonstrating.
So for a number of reasons, this will be an essential addition to anyone’s bookshelf who is at all into any of these subjects.
I have thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Adair’s book. He is an excellent writer and proves his point many time over. Although I am a religious person.. I am open to hearing other people’s ideas. I think Aaron Adair does a marvelous job in this book and has many references to back up what he feels.
Adair does an excellent job of debunking rationalist explanations for the star of Bethlehem, leaving the star as a literary creation of the author of Matthew being pretty much the only possibility.
Aaron does a fantastic job of evaluating the ‘best’ theories for the Star of Bethlehem and shows how they are all lacking any kind of real evidence, both scientific and historical. He goes on to do a great job of showing how the Star should be understood as a theological event used by a Gospel writer for very specific theological reasons, not historical ones.
In short, if you have any interest in the Biblical birth stories and/or want to find out about the Star, this is your best bet. Aaron stays very focused on that target but also includes references and citations galore to other works in case you’d like to fact check or if you’d like to read more on the topic.
I read Adair’s book not expecting too much since I have very little interest in the Star of Bethlehem or the specifics of other nonsense miracle stories that get treated as if they are legitimate aspects of history, but I was pleasantly surprised at the thoroughness of his case. Adair uses his expertise to dispel many of the specific attempts to make the Star narrative in the Gospel of Matthew non-miraculous, leaving it hanging as the kind of immensely improbable fairy story that it is. He then goes on to use a well-researched understanding of the relevant history to undermine any hope that the narrative is more than literary creation, even if one is predisposed to believe in the existence of miracles. This, of course, strikes a major blow to the credibility of the Gospel of Matthew and thus serves as a handy reference for those preparing for debates or lectures that hope to throw cold water on that particular Evangelist.
For anyone interested in understanding why the Star of Bethlehem story and hence the Gospel that contains it cannot stand up to scrutiny, or for anyone who believes some attempt to explain it as a potential historical event of any kind, this book is highly recommended.