Was the Star of Bethlehem a Real Event? – Missio Dei

A planetary conjunction appears to be the most likely historical theory in regards to the Star of Bethlehem. Some theories have considered a comet, but Haley’s comet comes too early – around 12 B.C. And others consider that the Star could have been a super nova, but Comet 53 that could have become a supernova came after Herod’s death.[3] The comet is a popular theory for the historicity of the Star of Bethlehem. There are records of a long-lasting comet event from Chinese astronomers, noticed in March of 5 B.C. and April of 4 B.C. The fact that these dates are near the date of Herod the Great’s death in 4 B.C. make it a possibility for the Gospel of Matthew’s record of the Star of Bethlehem.[4]    

Was the Star of Bethlehem a Real Event? – Missio Dei

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Why Theology Matters

Jim @ Not For Itching Ears asserted that God doesn’t care about theology. Citizen Tom attempted here to rebut his assertion. I suppose the claim was presented because of the intention of wanting to bring together different denominations, but true ecumenicalism shouldn’t forgo truth for religious indifference or syncretism, God in the Old Testament puts those ideas to rest quite often. Jim from his original post doesn’t address Philippians though he brought up to me when I questioned that religious doctrinal indifference is never a theme in the undisputed letters of the Pauline canon. Jim’s argument rests on the Greek phrase “Ti Gar”, which is sometimes translated “What does it matter” in the passage that he quotes Philippians 1:17-18.  I made the point that Paul is very concerned in the Corinthian correspondences, Galatians, Romans, etc. with the understanding revelation correctly. The occasions for Paul’s letters generally center around defending the revelation against circumcision parties or defending his own apostleship. So, I had my suspicions that this just didn’t seem like the correct reading of Philippians, which is usually considered an authentic letter of St. Paul. The few commentaries that I perused didn’t even sniff Jim’s interpretation of the text, so again, exegesis is a conversation, it cannot be done in a vacuum. 

The complete thought of the periscope begins at verse 12, so again, in exegetical work, careful reading must be applied to a particular passage, a verse should not be taken out of its context both within the theme of the letter, it’s rhetorical devices, and its form. 

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. (ESV Phil 1:12-18)

The entire context of verse 18 centers around Paul’s imprisonment which, as we can see from the complete periscope, advances the Gospel message either by men who do so for the sake of Christ’s gospel or personal gain, it has nothing to do with a group getting the gospel wrong. If one group was preaching adherence to the Mosaic law to be justified by Christ, from the context of Paul’s other letters, he would not have been so accepting, but Paul’s concern is the spread of the true message of the good news. 


So, does theology matter to God? Yes. It begins with the kerygma. God loves us and has a plan for us. So, the question should be asked in this manner, does theology matter for us? 

And because of this question we have to fully understand what is theology.  

Theology starts with the most knowable cause itself; it instructs man who God is through metaphors and analogy because man learns through the senses. It is a science that studies higher things, but It differs from the modern understanding of science that is only concerned with information; or the gathering of information to test hypothesis. However, the purpose of science is the certitude of the four causes. The supreme science to arrive at the conclusion of satisfaction is metaphysics. 

Metaphysics does differ from theology as the study of being as being that begins with cause and effect and rises to the cause. The classical understanding of science to knowledge in the strict sense of the word is one that proceeds from cause and effect. Theology is primarily about God as is all religious knowledge; it is not anthropology; it is primarily about the Trinity. Theology is not about the subjective needs of man, it is about God, who is the material object of study and His revelation which is the formal object. 

The trajectory of understanding in Theology is a top down approach where authority takes precedent. In theology, one looks at everything from God’s point of view, where reason cannot follow without help. So, does it matter to God—absolutely in this context. The subject matter is not diverse like it is in philosophy, but it has unity in the subject matter. It is one single unified vision of everything coming from God and leading one back to God in Christ. It is a conformity between nature, grace, and glory. 

The understanding of the nature of faith is predicated on the understanding of theology as a real science, which begins with the Creator and His revelation. Faith is a virtue, and it is necessary. It exists in its subject.

The starting point of the cause helps to understand how the act of our will as a response to grace toward God’s will in love—as St. Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:6—different from some of these commonly held misunderstandings on what is faith—for example, merely blind confidence. Theology depends on faith and revelation, which is how one assents to the propositions of theology as a science—science in the proper sense of all knowledge. In the proper sense of understanding theology as a science—dependent on faith and revelation—one could not be a theologian if one lacked faith because of theology’s dependence of both faith and revelation, one would either be a historian or a philosopher.

Faith is our response to revelation—which is grace; a free gift that is an invitation to the Divine life. One cannot merit this free gift of grace. For modernity, faith is the blind assent to a proposition; however, this is not the proper sense of the definition of the term. The act of belief as a form of knowing is distinct from the act of science and the act of opinion. These differences can be distinguished by the Aristotelean model of the three acts of the mind: simple apprehension, judgment, and reasoning.

There are two ways in which a person can come to judgment within this model. The first is philosophical in which one reasons through composing, combining, comparing, contrasting different beings. The second way is the movement of the intellect by an act of the will. If a person has assented to some propositions of faith through reason but cannot fully understand who God is, they will have a natural desire to move the intellect.  It is from the revelation of God that our natural desire is satisfied by an act of the will to faith. 

For example, Jesus gives us provocation to trust in His divinity through the signs of miracles. So, by these signs, a person can believe in His divinity because a person trusts in the authority in which Jesus speaks. An example of assenting to the authority and divinity of Jesus through signs would be St. Thomas the Apostle’s response to the sign of touching the man Jesus’ wounds which causes him to assent to the faith of the divinity of Jesus with the response, “My Lord, and my God.”[1]

So when it comes to assenting to a proposition, there is a similarity and difference between science and faith. In science, the mind is convinced by the examination of the scientific method and cause and effect. After such discourse through examination, assent puts an end to any further dialogue and ends examination. However, in faith, discourse and assent are in movement together at the same time. It is faith seeking understanding. When our will assents to faith in Christ, it moves also orders our will to acts of charity as the fruits of that faith.            The nature of faith is more closely related to a verb because it moves twofold from the intellect to faith by revelation and acts of charity.  The act of faith is when the intellect is moved by the will assents to the articles of faith given to us by God through revelation. It differs from doubt, opinion, and science because it assents by trust in the revelation of the revealer. It is done by ordering our will with God’s will by acts of charity. 


[1] St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II 4.

All Scripture is Inspired by God-Sunday of the Word of God

In Matthew Ramage’s book Dark Passages of the Bible, pages 55-56 really struck me when it quoted St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete for every good work.” (Ramage, Dark Passages of the Bible, p. 55-56)

At this juncture, I think it’s important to examine a much larger periscope or the context surrounding that particular passage: 

10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:10-17 ESVCE) 

The importance of expanding the periscope is to further understand the context of the particular passage cited by Dr. Ramage above, as well as biblical Christian exegetes like James White, who attempt to use the passage for a proof text for Sola Scriptura, where as these words of St. Paul in Sacred Scripture point toward a deeper truth which is the sufficiency of God’s revelation passed down by teaching and Sacred Scripture through which humanity is saved by the twofold act of faith and love. 

The New Collegeville Bible Commentary on the New Testament gives a bit of a deeper explanation of St. Timothy’s understanding and context of the passage and what he, Timothy, is suppose to do with scripture: 

He is to use the Scriptures in teaching the sound doctrine he has received from Paul, handing it on to other faithful ministers (2:2). He is to use the Scriptures to refute the false teachers who have already become active (2:14) and whose activity will intensify in the final days (3:5). He is to use the Scriptures to correct his “opponents with kindness” when it is possible to lead them “to knowledge of the truth” (2:25). Finally, he is to use the Scriptures for training in righteousness. In order to accomplish his ministry, (Terence J. Keegan, “The Second Letter to Timothy,” in New Testament, ed. Daniel Durken, The New Collegeville Bible Commentary (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2009), 709.


There is a few point points I’d like to dialogue with this particular passage. The first is what is the purpose of following the teachings of St. Paul, the importance of all scripture being breathed out by God, its profitableness for reproof, for correction, and for training. The second is the phrase “man of God,” and finally, the usage of this particular passage is not an argument for the total sufficiency of Sacred Scripture explicitly, bur rather points toward the sufficiency of revelation of God in its entirety from the witness of St. Paul’s example of his witness (persecution), teaching (tradition) and apostolic authority (Magisterium), and Sacred Scripture. Keegan explains, Timothy is also aware of Paul’s way of life and purpose. Timothy is aware as well of the six qualities that characterized Paul’s life: the Christian virtues of faith, patience, love, and endurance (3:10), which were the basis of his teaching, life, and purpose, and the persecutions and suffering (3:11) that were the inevitable result.” (Terence J. Keegan, “The Second Letter to Timothy,” in New Testament, 709.) 

The 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time is now known as Sunday of the Word of God promulgated by Pope Francis on the feast of St. Jerome in 2019. I think the first aspect to examine is the purpose of God’s revelation or end. Naturally, the purpose or end of Man is the beatific vision, simply heaven. It can quite simply be described that humanity has sinned against God in a corporate sense and individual sense. God, Who is merciful, by means of salvation history and the Jewish people sent His only Son to reconcile humanity to Himself by his free gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of His Son. Our salvation comes by means of faith in Jesus Christ, a twofold act of the will assenting to an act of faith and the act of love as explained by St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians. (Gal. 5:6)

The exegete, who is a man of God, or rather one who has assented to faith in Christ Jesus, should be equipped with a proper understanding of what faith is in the traditional Catholic understanding by an assent to things not self-evident, which is included in the method of Theological Exegesis (Method A)—for that is faith. It is through the teaching of the Magisterium, Sacred Tradition, with Sacred Scripture that gives us proper understanding of Sacred Scripture to use for teaching. Naturally, this is something a strict Historical Critical (Method B) exegete could not do or can they? Philosophically, what is the purpose or end of Sacred Scripture? Can both strictly Method A and Method B exegetes come to an agreement on the purpose of Sacred Scripture? Or I shall reframe the question, Can it be recognized that the historical intention of the historical author is the same as the Divine author?

The man of God’s perspective is first ‘teaching,’ as it was with St. Paul who taught Timothy. The teaching of Sacred Scripture should be framed within the context of the great commission (Mt. 28) for the purpose, in the office of prophet, to spread the good news that those of us who are condemned by the sin and the law and then through the blood of the lamb, Jesus Christ, are given the grace to be eternally saved. If an exegete examines the Prophetic literature such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, do the calls for repentance for the same purpose? A Method B exegete can reasonably object that the Jewish people in Isaiah’s time were far more concerned with the material aspect of land and progeny. There is a theme that runs through the Prophets to St. Paul, which is the concern with God’s righteousness, which can be labeled as His justice. The prophets rebuke the people of Israel for their idolatry, so does St. Paul. The prophets rebuke the people of Israel for immorality being condemned by the law, so does St. Paul. The prophets also rebuke the people of Israel for their mistreatment of the poor, so does St. Paul in first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11). And so, there is a basic foundation of the purpose of the tradition, teaching, and Scripture to which St. Paul alludes, the righteousness of God. It is only through the pedagogy of God’s revelation does humanity learn more about God’s kingship and kingdom to which he refers in the Prophetic literature. 

 St. John Henry Newman’s Essay on the Grammar of Assent, the man of God can only propose the probability of the propositions much in the image of weights tipping a scale to one side or another. After the proposition and the evidence is presented in the Method B approach, otherwise known as preambles of faith then it up to the person whether or not they can assent to the probability of things not self-evident that found more in the Method A approach through signs or motives of credibility. Method B can only ever exhaust the argument of probability, so it is naturally incomplete and will always come to incomplete conclusions with some propositions, therefore; the man of God needs to rely on the unified tradition and memory of the Church to assent to a certitude. The goal of Method C (a combination of the Method A&B) is to develop the assent of one who has assented to the probability of the faith through Method B by Method A. Method C, an approach that is promoted through the scholarly work of Pope Benedict XVI, is an important approach for evangelization in our post-Enlightenment skeptical world.  As concluded by Dr. Ramage , “Method B exegesis may therefore come first in order of execution, but it is not first in an absolute sense, What is first absolutely is something the historical-critical method can only examine on a material level…Method A gives the exegete the real reason for his investigation because it gives him God’s word.” (Ramage, Dark Passage of the Bible, p. 87)