May 8th, 2015
4. Why does the account of the Wise Men say that they saw the star “in its rising”?
Why does the account of the Wise Men say that they saw the star “in its rising” when many translations say that they saw the star “in the East”?
In Matthew 2:2,9 did the Wise Men see the star “in the east” or “in its rising”? “In the east” certainly has a lot of support in recent translations, but if the Wise Men were from the East why would they have to tell us that they were “in the east” when they saw the star? We would know that. Or why would they need to tell us they saw the star in the eastern part of the sky? All stars arise in the eastern part of the sky and march across the sky. Since the Wise Men were astronomer/astrologers, it was the appearance of a star at a certain time and place that was significant to them. The study of exactly what the Christmas star may have been is a complicated and much disputed topic that we cannot resolve here, but a translation should recognize the astronomical significance of the text of Matthew. “In its rising” in this passage is a technical term that points to the astrological significance of the appearance or the reappearance of a star in a particular portion of the sky. The term used for “from the East” in verse 1 is ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν (a plural form that is used typically of the rising of the sun), while in verse 2 and 9 the singular ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ is used. This singular here is used of the rising of a star and should not be translated “in the east.” Because of the singular form and the article this phrase in verses 2 and 9 is probably not a geographical expression as it is in verse 1, but it is instead an astronomical term. See the article on anatole in the BDAG Greek Lexicon. Recent translations that recognize the astronomical significance of this phrase are NET, NLT, ESV, and NRSV. To find out more about the “rising of stars” google “heliacal rising.”