Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
Over onsFaculteit Godgeleerdheid en GodsdienstwetenschapAgenda

The Star of Bethlehem: Historical and Astronomical Perspectives - A Two-Day Multi-Disciplinary Colloquium

Wanneer:do 23-10-2014 09:00 - 18:30
Waar:University of Groningen

University of Groningen, October 23rd-24th, 2014

star of bethlehem

"The Star of Bethlehem" (1999) by Michael Molnar, formerly astronomer at Rutgers University, has set a scholarly agenda which still needs to be assessed and compared with other theories. This will be undertaken in a unique colloquium, organised by the Institutes of Astronomy and New Testament Studies at the University of Groningen, which will bring together all relevant experts.

Molnar's theory is both astronomical and historical, in the sense that he combines modern astronomical tools to detect what the heaven looked like around the birth of Jesus, but uses Hellenistic-Roman astrology from the time of Jesus to interpret the relevant events. Molnar's assumption is that the Magi, the "Wise Men" from the East in Matthew's birth narrative of Jesus, shared the dominant astrological world-view of their time.

This multidisciplinary colloquium brings together all the relevant international experts for an open, non-polemical, scholarly discussion. The Colloquium has been structured around five sessions, each dealing with a key aspect of The Star.

Registration

Registration and further information on the Conference’s website at the website of the colloquium

Programme

Day 1 - Thursday 23 October

I. FROM KEPLER TO MOLNAR: HISTORY OF THE INTERPRETATION OF THE STAR

Moderators: Peter Barthel and George van Kooten (Groningen)

  • 09:00-09:15        Welcome
  • 09:15-09:50        Owen Gingerich (Harvard) - Kepler's "De vero anno" (1614)
  • 09:50-10:25        Aaron Adair (Ohio) - Review of Molnar's and other theories
  • 10:25-11:00        Bradley Schaefer (Louisiana) - Astronomical and historical evaluation of Molnar's answer
  • 11:00-11:30        Coffee break
  • 11:30-12:00        Session I - plenary discussion

II. THE STAR: WHEN, WHAT, AND HOW

Moderator: David Hughes (Sheffield)

  • 12:00-12:35        Peter Barthel (Groningen) - The WHAT Question: Astronomical Phenomena
  • 12:35-13:30        Lunch break
  • 13:30-14:05        Rob van Gent (Utrecht) - The WHEN Question: Relevant Chronologies
  • 14:05-14:40        Alexander Jones (New York) - The HOW Question: Astrology and exact sciences
  • 14:40-15:10        Session II - plenary discussion
  • 15:10-15:40        Tea break

III. ANCIENT NEAR-EASTERN ASTRONOMY & THE MAGI

Moderator: Teije de Jong (Amsterdam)

  • 15:40-16:15        John Steele (New York) - Mesopotamian Astrological Geography & the Star of Bethlehem
  • 16:15-16:50        Mathieu Ossendrijver (Berlin) - Babylonian Astrology & the Star of Bethlehem
  • 16:50-17:25        Antonio Panaino (Bologna) - Pre-Islamic Iranian Astral Mythology, Astrology & the Star of Bethlehem
  • 17:25-18:00        Ab de Jong (Leiden) - The Magi: Hellenized Astrologers
  • 18:00-18:30        Session III - plenary discussion

star bethlehem

Day 2 - Friday 24 October

IV. ASTROLOGY AND THE GRAECO-ROMAN WORLD: PAGAN, JEWISH & CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVES

Moderator: Willem Drees (Leiden/Tilburg)

  • 09:00-09:05        Announcements
  • 09:05-09:40        Roger Beck (Toronto) - Graeco-Roman Astrologers & the Magi and Mithraism (paper read in absence)
  • 09:40-10:15        Stephan Heilen (Osnabruck) - Relevant Greco-Roman Astrology, and Molnar's reference to Aries
  • 10:15-10:50        Jan-Willem van Henten (Amsterdam) - Jewish and Roman expectations of a world-ruler from Judea
  • 10:50-11:20        Coffee break.        
  • 11:20-11:55        Kocku von Stuckrad (Groningen) - Jews and Christians acting upon astrological beliefs
  • 11:55-12:30        Mladen Popovic (Groningen) - Jewish astrology and Messianic expectations
  • 12:30-13:30        Lunch break.        
  • 13:30-14:05        Annette Merz (Utrecht) - The Star of Bethlehem in the quests for the historical Jesus.
  • 14:05-14:40        George van Kooten (Groningen) - An Analogous Case? Nero's Reemergence as World Leader from Jerusalem According to Suetonius' Astrologers
  • 14:40-15:10        Session IV - plenary discussion
  • 15:10-15:20        Short tea break        

CONCLUDING STATEMENTS, INCLUDING DISCUSSION

  • 15:20-16:20        David Hughes (Sheffield)
  • 16:30                 Bus departs for group excursion

There will be a welcome reception in the evening of Wednesday October 22, and the meeting will conclude with a group excursion to the Frisian town of Franeker.