THE STAR

 

“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star

when it rose and have come to worship him.”  – Matthew 2:2.

The Christmas carol is in error. “They look-ed up and saw a star shining in the east beyond them far.”  And just a moment’s thought exposes that as in error.  Since the wise men came from the east, then they perceived that the star was west of them.  Since there is no static point on the globe from which all points are measured, when the wise men of Babylon looked up and saw a star, they were facing west – unless you care to make the case that they were looking a very long way into the east.

Of course it doesn’t faze me that a Christmas carol is in error.  No one ever ascribes inerrancy to a Christmas carol.  But Matthew 2:2 (and 9) reads (NKJV) “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

Now since Greek word order is flexible, I am permitted to move the adjective-phrase “in the east” so as to modify “we” rather than “star”:  “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For [while] we [were] in the East [we] ha[d] seen His star and have come to worship Him.”  And if that is all there is, that would be a valid adjustment to the traditional translation.

But the words for “East” and “to spring up” are the same word.  And it makes sense, for the East is characterized by the direction from which the sun springs up.  So we can observe how it might read if we select that translation: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in its springing up and have come to worship Him.”

Translators are permitted to Americanize awkward language without having their work judged a paraphrase:  “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star since it arose and have come to worship Him.”

And that is the way I would leave it.  If you need further argument, global directions appear in the plural: Easts, Wests, etc.  But in Matthew 2:2, 9, it appears in the singular.  And this adjustment adds to the reason they were intrigued.  When professional star-gazers notice a star that appeared from the West, and not from the East, that caught their attention quickly. 

Score one for the NIV, NLT and ESV, which stand out among translations in picking up on this!