Featured Numismatics and the Christmas Star

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by kaparthy, Dec 24, 2019.

  1. kaparthy

    kaparthy Well-Known Member

    The Christmas Star has been debated on many levels. The International Planetarium Society website (ww.ips-planetarium.org) lists over 100 citations to the Star of Bethlehem. Some of those articles and letters were part of a multifaceted decades-long argument among at least five astronomers and one editor. Writing in Archaeology Vol. 51, No. 6 (Nov/Dec 1998), Anthony F. Aveni cited 250 “major scholarly articles” about the Star of Bethlehem.

    For about 1500 years, the story of the Star of Bethlehem was accepted as historically accurate because it was divine truth. With the Renaissance, a new way of looking at the world evolved. The scholarly tradition of explaining the Star of Bethlehem with scientific evidence apparently began with Johannes Kepler. In 1604, he published The New Star in the Foot of the Serpent (De stella nova in pede serpentarii: et qui sub ejus exortum de novo iniit, trigono igneo…). In that tract, he examined a triple conjunction, as well as a nova, which he attributed by cause to the conjunction. He was not alone in that kind of a belief. Others expected the conjunction to cause a comet. Reviewing the facts in 1614, Kepler said that the Star of Bethlehem was a nova in 4 BCE caused by a triple conjunction in 7 BCE.

    Antioch ad Orontem “About 51 AD coin of Antioch ad Orontem (eastern side of the metropolis). Year is Rho Eta or 105 of Roman rule. (“et” is the abbreviation for “etios” = “year”.) Crescent Moon and Jupiter to the West of Aries.

    In 1999, Rutgers Press published The Star of Bethlehem: the Legacy of the Magi by Dr. Michael R. Molnar. In addition to his achievements as an astronomer, Molnar is a numismatist. He was attracted to a series of coins from Antioch in the first century of the present era. They show a star, a crescent moon, and a Ram, among other symbols and legends.

    Molnar’s book goes into detail on the use of coinages as communication media in ancient times. His narratives are for the non-numismatist, as those assumptions are widely accepted by professionals in the field. People back then read coins the way we now read web pages: the symbols spoke thousands of words.

    Antioch Ram. “About 50 AD coin of Antioch in Syria shows Jupiter to west of Aries. (EPI KOUDRATROU = “of Quadratus (the name of the Roman legate). Year is Rho Delta = 104 of Roman rule.”

    It is important to understand that while some were struck during the accepted lifetime of Jesus, the series is broader than that. What was meant at the detail level to the people of the time must remain at least somewhat conjectural.
    moneditis, Bayern, 7Calbrey and 2 others like this.
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  3. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    Fascinating set of coins and and interesting story of the connections between the Star of Bethlehem, these coins and astronomical events (planetary alignment).

    Here is my coin from this series, I was drawn in by both the story and the coin.
    Bethlehem Coin Blu.jpg
    Syria, Seleucis and Pieria, Antioch.
    AE Trichalkon, Q. Ummidius Durmius Quadratus, Legatus
    Obv: Turreted and veiled bust of Tyche right with ANTIOXEΩN (Antioch)
    Rev: Leaping ram (Aries) looking back at star in crescent above, EΠIKOYADPATOY (reign of Quadratus)
    Ref: McAlee 102; RPC I 4290

    The Reverse references Q. Ummidius Durmius Quadratus, Legatus (provincial governor) AD 51-60 and is dated ETEP == 105 or 56/7AD. The date is "Caeserean Era" referring to the moment that Julius Caesar made Antioch an autonomous city after he defeated Pompey during the battle of Pharsalus in the summer of 48 BC. This coin coincides with the 25th Anniversary of Resurrection & 60th Anniversary of the Birth of Jesus. This coin was minted during the first year of Nero’s reign in Rome - this series was also issued the year before.

    Here are two relevant articles - the 1999 Molnar article (pre-dating the book), and the more recent Cartwright article on the series dating 6 AD and 253AD.
    The Star of Bethlehem : The Legacy of the Magi by Michael R. Molnar, 1999
    Star of Bethlehem Coins : A Set of Serial Commemoratives by T. B. Cartwright, 2014.

    Cartwright includes this coin with ram and star on the reverse in the last cluster from the series coinciding with the 250th anniversary of birth.
    Phillip Ram & Star.jpg
    Syria, Seleucis and Pieria, Antioch, Philip I Arab, AD 244-249, Æ 31 mm., 18.78
    Obv: AYTOK K M IOYΛI ΦIΛIΠΠOC CЄB, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Philip I right (legend translation Autokratoros Kaisaros Markos Ioulios Filippos Sebastos == Emperor Caesar Marc Jules Philip Augustus)
    Rev: ANTIOXEΩN MHTPO KOΛΩN, turreted, veiled and draped bust of Tyche right, above, ram leaping right, head left, below, star, Δ-Є and S-C across field. (legend translation Antiocewn Mhtropolewn Kolwnewn == Antioch Metropolis Colony)
    Ref: McAlee 977.

    I do wonder what people of the time would have seen in these coins or Quadratus as the issuing governor of the first coin.
    moneditis and Bayern like this.
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