“When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’” (Matthew 2:1-2)
It is widely held that a great new star rose in the sky to mark the birth of Jesus Christ and it is this star that the magi used to find him in Bethlehem. But, as stars do not typically materialize out of thin air, or appear without warning or pattern, is it possible there is another explanation that coincided with the momentous event of God’s Incarnation?
Recently on The Cale Clarke Show, Cale explored the passages on the Christmas Star, the phenomenon known as Great Caesar’s Comet, and how the two may or may not be related or even one and the same.
To begin explaining the idea of Great Caesar’s Comet, Cale offered some background on Julius Caesar and his successor, Octavian, better known as Caesar Augustus. Julius, because of his great accomplishments and conquests, was thought by many to be a man who became god, the inverse of our Christian belief in the Incarnation. That idea of a divine man affected Octavian’s choice of name when he became Roman emperor: Augustus Caesar, which means “Divine Presence”.
Following Augustus Caesar’s assumption to the throne, he decided the best way to consolidate power would be through a unifying event that would improve morale: sports and games. He launched a campaign to celebrate the life of Julius Caesar by essentially throwing a huge party through the participation and spectating of these sporting events.
“An interesting thing happened during these games. There was a comet that was seen in the sky, and it almost looked like it was hanging over the city of Rome. And so, what did people say? They said, ‘This is a sign, this is an omen, this is a portent. This is in fact the soul of Julius Caesar, and it’s his soul ascending to the gods. That’s what this comet is.”
Caesar Augustus saw this as his chance to associate the title of the emperor with divinity and had this idea codified by the Senate. It came to be known as Julius Caesar’s Apotheosis, and it was the first instance of the divinizing of a Roman emperor. Caesar Augustus took it even one step further and minted a coin that had his face on one side of it, and on the other, it had Julius Caesar’s Comet. Essentially, he printed himself the opposite of what was believed to be the soul of a once-living god to encourage his subjects to associate him with godliness.
Most interesting of all is the fact that this story is not what was at the forefront of the time. As we know, Jesus was alive during the reign of Augustus, and it was his order that was issued to Quirinius to carry out the census that forced Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to travel to Bethlehem. It was not the soul of a man becoming a god that was seen in the sky during those games. It was a sign to mark the birth of the One, True God becoming man. It was not a sign that Caesar Augustus was the rightful “Divine Son of God”, Julius Caesar. It was Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came down to earth to redeem mankind of its sins. And He did not come to share the “good news” that a new Caesar had ascended the throne to rule the empire. He came to share the Good News that if we repent, we may ascend to the kingdom of heaven and spend eternity with Him.
Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5pm CT