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Book Review: The Star of Bethlehem and Babylonian Astrology

Updated on August 1, 2017
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Joel is a writer who has spent 15 years researching and writing on topics of religion. He has a BA in psychology and an MA in education.

Popular depiction of the Christmas Maggi
Popular depiction of the Christmas Maggi | Source

A Christmas Story Becomes Reality

The story of the Bethlehem star brings to mind the greeting card image of a peaceful babe tucked blissfully into a manger with an adoring mother hunched over him. Above shines a massive celestial object, beaming its golden rays down on the newborn child whilst three men in vaguely Arabian garb stand around, gifts in hand.

This is, in no way, the picture that Swedish author Dag Kihlman paints in his recent book The Star of Bethlehem and Babylonian Astrology: Astronomy and Revelation 12 Reveal What the Magi Saw.

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Following the Clues to the Bethlehem Star

Using historical and contextual clues, Kihlman argues that the Magi of Matthew 2 were of Babylonian origin. If this is the case, says Kihlman, we have a tremendous resource to know exactly what brought these men to the feet of the Messiah.

This resource is an ancient document titled Enuma Anu Enlil – a document which is essentially the Babylonian handbook of astrology. Using modern astronomy software, Kihlman turns back the clock to the year 3BC - when Christ was born - and looks at the movements of the stars and planets, with an eye to exactly how the Babylonian Magi would have interpreted them.

As a third point of reference, Kihlman looks at the description of the Messiah’s birth given in John’s Apocalyptic vision within Revelation 12, and notes that the description John gives is remarkably close to the star signs the Magi would have seen.

The idea that the Bethlehem “star” was more of an astrological “star-sign” than a single star is not unique to Kihlman. In fact, the author spends a chapter of the book looking at some alternative arguments which have been suggested in order to explain the Christmas Star, and then offers some criticisms of those theories.

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The Star of Bethlehem and Babylonian Astrology

The work that Kihlman does in this book is unprecedented by other current theories about exactly what the Christmas story could have meant. And he does a great deal of argumentation within the book to support his claims. Kihlman may be the only recent author to consider the Enuma Anu Enlil when looking at this reported cosmic event.

Given the scope of Kihlman’s argument, the book spends a great deal of time educating the reader in astronomy, astrology, history and scholarship. To his credit, Kihlman is an effective teacher, conveying his information in a way that is easy to grasp – even if the reader is not a Grad student. The book also contains convenient illustrations accompanying each concept it reviews, making them much easier to absorb. There is, however, a lot to absorb. Readers should strap in for a very involved read that spans a wide array of topics, gradually building to a very convincing conclusion.

This book is perfect for an enthusiastic learner or bibliophile. If the reader is not intimidated by the large variety of subjects within, it becomes a very fun read. This is, however, no Christmas story.

While Dag Khilman is a Swedish author, the book is available – and very readable – in English

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