Ancient Comets, Novae and Supernovae

The cometary theory for the Star of Bethlehem is of considerable antiquity and was already proposed in the mid third century CE by Origen of Alexandria, who, following the authority of the Stoic philosopher Chaeremon of Alexandria (1st century CE), argued that comets could augur happy tidings (Contra Celsus I 58-59).

Of the comets that were recorded (mainly in Far-Eastern sources) around the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, those of 12 BCE (a return of Halley’s comet) and 9 CE are generally believed to be too early or too late to be of interest. Only the comet of 5 BCE seen in the constellation (Capricornus) or the comet (or perhaps a nova) of 4 BCE seen in the constellation Hegu (Aquila) have been considered as possible candidates for the Star of Bethlehem.

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