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Dec 04

The Christmas Coin

Posted by: Steve Marr

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            The Bible provides a very clear account of the birth of our Lord in human form. Interesting physical evidence also supports the validity of this birth that changed the world.  However, few connect coins to this event.  Archaeology unearthed a coin minted in 6 AD with an imprint that that records an astronomical event very much like the one the Bible tells. 

            The data begins with researchers and astronomers who frequently confirm that some astrological event did occur in the sky at the time Jesus was born. Dr. Michael Molnar, an astronomer and a physicist, has written a well-researched book, The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi.1 Molnar supports a well-researched theory that the Star of Bethlehem was an alignment of Jupiter along with other planets to produce a brighter, more noticeable occurrence. Astronomy models indicate that such an alignment of Jupiter occurred in what we now call the year 6 BC. Most scholars believe that Jesus was born within two years of the death of King Herod the Great, which most historians now set at 4 BC.

            One needs to keep in mind that astrology was a major religion throughout the world at that time. Kings, princes and merchants planned their lives around astrology. Some believed that the special Star occurrence was a comet which was considered a bad omen in those days. Jupiter, on the other hand, was considered a regal planet or star and was a sign for royalty. Further, Jupiter appeared within the constellation Aries, which at the time was considered the symbol of Judea.

            The research of Dr. Molnar documents how Jupiter would be visible only during daylight hours, which would explain why Herod did not know of the existence of the star. According to research by coin expert Dr. Cartwright, 2 other planets would have aligned with Jupiter to create a brighter image in the sky. Also compelling is the creation of astronomy models indicating that this special star was visible from Syria, but it would not have been visible from Jerusalem because of how it appeared low on the horizon. The Magi would have been experts in astrology at the time. They focused on tracking all heavenly bodies and would not have missed this unusual appearance. Molnar’s research agrees with the 6 BC dating which would keep the birth of our Lord within the window of time in which the alignment would have occurred.

            Another historical piece to this often-debated subject involves a coin.  A Roman coin was minted in Antioch Syria in 6 AD. This primitive stamped coin depicted the ram of Aries looking over his shoulder at a star.  At the time of this minting, Antioch had a large Jewish population, many of whom would later convert to Christianity. Because this coin first appeared in year six, it provides significant evidence to the disputed star appearance surrounding the birth of Jesus.  Additionally, archaeology documents that more coins were minted after the year 30. The theory behind this minting, a theory I agree with, is that Antioch believers struck these coins to commemorate the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of our Lord.

            At the time of the birth of Jesus, celestial events in the sky garnered exceptional attention. As Christians who study these events from a biblical perspective, we believe that the star was a literal marker for the Magi to follow that enabled them to find the birthplace of Jesus. The coin provides physical evidence that a major event occurred in the heavens, significant enough to be documented on a coin issued after the birth of our Lord and before his ministry began on earth. This demonstrates the magnitude of the event. The coin depicts a star, but not just any star.  According to astronomical research, it is a star that appeared at the correct time and place to be the Star of Bethlehem.

            It makes sense that new believers in Christ after the crucifixion would have been aware of the earlier coins and understood their significance. They would have wanted to create additional coins to commemorate how the heavens acknowledged our Lord’s arrival.

            It has amazed many over the years how archaeology has consistently validated the accounts in scripture. This coin is another piece of physical evidence that verifies the Biblical account of the birth of Christ and the star that accompanied this turning point in history.

            As you celebrate Christmas this year, take time to ponder the value of a coin that pointed to a star that led the Magi to find Jesus.  It is reason to sing with David, “the heavens declare the glory of God!” (Psalm 19:1, NIV)


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1.         Michael R. Molnar, The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi. (New Jersey, Rutgers University Press, 2013).

2.         T. B. Cartright, “Star of Bethlehem Coins,” 2014.

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