If you’ve ever been fascinated by the “star of Bethlehem,” then a new documentary from producer Stephen McEveety (“The Passion of the Christ”) on the celestial event won’t disappoint.
The hour-long documentary is structured almost like “An Inconvenient Truth,” for the spine of the piece is a PowerPoint presentation. In this case, the guide isn’t Al Gore but rather Rick Larson. Larson is a lawyer by trade, a Christian by choice and an astronomer by night – and by his computer, on which he began running Starry Night software to search the skies in an effort to learn more about the star of Bethlehem.
In “Star,” Larson argues – as others have done for decades, even centuries before – that a particular celestial event was what magi from the east were tracking. For Larson, that event turns out to be a conjunction involving Jupiter and a planetary path known as “retrograde motion.”
That’s nothing new. Astronomer Michael Molnar wrote “The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi” in 1999, in which he made a similar argument, but Molnar pegged an event in April of 6 B.C. Larson takes a cue from astronomer Craig Chester, who in 1992 gave a presentation about the star at Hillsdale College. Chester’s article about it appeared in Imprimis in 1993. In it, Chester argued for a noteworthy celestial pattern that began about September of 3 B.C. and continued into June of 2 B.C.
Larson adopts Chester’s claims. While the presentation to a handful of people in a warmly lit library is effective, Larson also argues for a more extensive “celestial poem.” That is, he’s not only concerned with what happened in the skies while Jesus was in the womb and as a toddler, but Larson continues his earnest investigation through Jesus’ life to the crucifixion, pulling in biblical references that include Peter, quoting the prophet Joel, at Pentecost.
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