The Life and Teachings
of Jesus
A Restatement of the Gospels

7. Visit of the Wise Men (continued)

        7Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared;d 8and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word that I too may come and worship him.”
        9When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East was before them. 10When they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly.e 11And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
        12And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
        (Mt. 2:7–12)

d   “ascertained from them what time the star appeared;”—The first conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn took place the night of May 29, 7 BC. (See fn. b.)

e   “When they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly.”—This implies that, around the time the wise men left Herod and found Jesus, the star reappeared. Knowing the dates of the conjunctions, we may reason that the Magi first saw the star the night of May 29, 7 BC (the first conjunction). They then made the long journey (probably from Babylon in the East) to Jerusalem; it is estimated that this trip would have taken around three months traveling by camel. (See map on page 8.) The reappearance of the star after the audience with Herod would then correspond to the second conjunction on September 30.
        Since the second appearance of the star was associated with the discovery of the baby Jesus, we may use the date of the second conjunction (September 30) to approximate Jesus' birth to late August or early September, 7 BC. This date is consistent with the fact that shepherds still had sheep out at night, which could only happen during the warmer months. (See Ch. 6, fn. a.)

Mt. 2:9   East was before / East went before (RSV) • them. / them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. (RSV)
Mt. 2:10  exceedingly." / exceedingly with great joy;" (RSV)   (122:10/1353–4)

Events surrounding the birth of Jesus