Biblical fictions

November 5, 1999

Even though both reviewer and author happen to be professional astronomers, it is surprising that Owen Gingerich ("Born under a wandering star", THES, October 22) seems unaware that few, if any, New Testament scholars accept the Star of Bethlehem narrative as historical. Recorded as it is in one gospel only (Matthew's), it is usually regarded as yet another of the writer's attempts to fulfil a particular prediction, in this case Numbers xxiv:17, by means of invented narrative.

As Gibbon sarcastically (but correctly) observed 200 years ago, it is inconceivable that an "event" such as this would have gone unnoticed by contemporary Roman or Jewish historians; and equally inconceivable that such corroboration, had it been forthcoming, would not have been made the most of by later Christian apologists.

Brian Thomas

Bentley, Surrey

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