The Star of Bethlehem

Sunday 11 December, 2016
at 15:30 - 18:00 GMT

Online via Webex

Registration: £10:00

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An Online Event!

Sophia Centre Online Seminar

An Online Key Concept Seminar from the Sophia Centre
University of Wales Trinity Saint David

The Star of Bethlehem - An iconic piece of cultural astronomy

Lecturer: Dr Bernadette Brady

This Key Concept Seminar explores an iconic piece of cultural astronomy, the Star of Bethlehem. The Star of Bethlehem was first promoted by Saint Ignatius of Antioch (c.35-117) as a miraculous stellar event marking the birth of Christ, the Star of Bethlehem has intrigued both theologians and astronomers for nearly two thousand years.

Was it a miracle?

Was it a political propaganda?

Was it an actual celestial event and if so, what was the event?

The primary evidence for the Star comes from Saint Matthew's gospel and was of a spectacular star which heralded the birth of the messiah. However, it was not until the astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) suggested that the Star could be a super nova created by a planetary combination that the tantalising thought of dating the birth of Christ became a possibility. Since that time there have been varying theories of whether the star was a miracle, a combination of planets which could be linked to a date, a passing comet or just political propaganda. In contrast Saint Luke's gospel does not speak of a star but of a bright angel appearing among shepherds and announcing an important birth. Saint Luke's gospel is not considered to be linked to the Star of Bethlehem but why then are there two different versions of the birth of Christ?

This seminar will explore the history, the primary sources, the evidence, the visuals, and the different theories of the star and the questions that arise. Finally, with the aid of Stellarium, we will step onto the Temple Mount, Jerusalem, and look towards Bethlehem but with a view informed by the sky knowledge of the first century magi, the Mesopotamian astrologer/priest.

Bernadette Brady

Lecturer: Bernadette Brady holds a PhD in Anthropology (2012) and MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology (2005). She is a tutor in the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, UK from 2008.

Her main areas of research are within the field of ethnographical/astronomical work where she has published on the cultural influence of stars and the religious and cultural significant of the sky's movement. Some of her publications which are focused on the Egyptian use of the sky are 'The Egyptian Ascension mythology of the Pyramid Texts with the phases of the stars' (CRE XII proceedings, Oxbow 2012) and forthcoming, 'The So-called northern constellations of the New Kingdom sky' Presented at Malta 2014, (SEAC).



The Key Concept lectures are part of the Sophia Centre's public outreach programme and draw on material in the University of Wales Trinity Saint David's programme in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology. The programme is distance-learning and online and offers flexible options for study: take one or two modules as an Occasional Student, three modules for a Certificate, Six for modules a Diploma and write a 15,000 word dissertation to gain the full MA. For further information e mail the Programme Director, Dr Nicholas Campion.

Welcome to the public outreach page of the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, with information about studying with the University, as well as links to related conferences, classes, publications and events. To go straight to the Sophia Centre's University page please go here.

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