Triple Conjunction of Jupieter and Saturn


A well-known biblical scholar claims for the first time that Jesus was born in BC 7. He gives the exact hours of the triple conjunction. It also gives a pretty good graphical explanation of the conjunctions. Here is the reference:

Simo Parpola, "The Magi and the Star," Bible Review, December 2001, p. 16-23, and p. 52 & 54.

The article begins with a subtitle: "Babylonian Astronomy Dates Jesus' Birth."

According to Parpola, the triple conjunction occurred in 7 BCE in the constellation of Pisces. (Jewish scholars don't like to use the term 'Before Christ' or 'Anno Domini,' so they say Before the Common Era and the Common Era)

First, Parpola goes through other observations that have been conjectured to be linked to Jesus' birth by other scholars and scientists throughout history, including a conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in 2 BC, supernova explosion observed by the Chinese in 5 BC, and Halley's comet in 12 BC. He rules them out and proposes 7 BC as the most likely year of Jesus' birth.

Second, there is an ancient Babylonian clay tablet (a picture of a copy tablet in the British museum is shown) dated to 8 BC, which describes the celestial events for then upcoming 13 months. The tablet shows that Jupiter and Saturn would remain together in the constellation of Pisces for eleven months and come in close conjunction three times. Since the Babylonian lunar year begins at the vernal equinox (March/April), the tablet's description refers to the period, March/April 7 BC - March/April 6 BC. According to Parpola, this tablet says "Month 10, the first of which (December 23) will follow the 29th of the previous month. Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces, Venus in Scorpio, Mars in Aquarius...."

Four copies of astronomical tablets describing celestial activities in 7 BC are known to have survived. This means that Babylonian astronomers were thoroughly familiar with the movements of the stars and planets, and hand carried tablets or c-mailed (mailed by caravan) tablet copies to fellow astronomers.

In the Babylonian system Jupiter represented the star of Marduk, the supreme Babylonian god. Saturn was the "Steady One." The constellation Pisces was associated with Ea, the god of wisdom, life and creation. The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces predicts from Babylonian's viewpoint "the end of the old world order and the birth of a new king chosen by God." Parpola contends that Augustus' (BC 27 - AD 12 or 14) authority was still questioned and there was power vacuum in the Middle East, and the people, including the Jews, were looking for a new King that would topple the Roman Empire.

Here are the dates of three conjunctions in 7 BC according to Parpola.

First conjunction: May 27, 8am
Second conjunction: October 6, 10 pm
Third conjunction: December 1, 9pm.

The triple conjunction is rare, occurring every 800 years. Since 7BC, triple conjunctions were observed in 786 and 1583.

According to the UB,

First conjunction: May 29.
Second conjunction: September 29
Third conjunction: December 5.

Thus, there are some discrepancies of the actual conjunction dates that are recorded in the UB and those proposed by Parpola, although they are fairly close. There are some software which can be used to track the movements of planets in any year, including 7 BC, and someone presented these conjunctions at the Foundation a year ago. However, I was not sure if these computer programs calculate the dates using Julian calendar or Gregorian calendar.

The above discrepancies may have to do with the difference in Julian and Gregorian calendars or some glitches in the computer program Parpola used. If it is the latter, some smart readers could calibrate and write an article to pinpoint the correct time and dates of the triple conjunction, correcting Porpola's errors. Even if there were minor errors, I think it is significant that a prominent biblical scholars proposed and accepted unwittingly one of the important scientific event described in the UB.

The following diagram is adapted from Parpola, but makes more sense. Everything in the wide universe, except the Paradise, is nonstationary and constantly moving. Our Superuniverse, Orvonton, together with all its components, including Nebadon, are moving. However, the conjunctions of planets are relative to the earth. Thus, in the diagram the earth is held stationary, even though it is moving on its orbit around the Sun. But this will do until somebody uses a 3-D dynamic scale model.

Note that an inward planet revolves around the sun and completes its lap faster than an outer planet. Thus, when the earth is overtaking an outer planet, when observed on earth, the latter appears to move backwards. When the earth overtakes an outer planet when it is in opposition to the sun, i.e., the earth is in the middle between an outer planet and the sun. (If the sun is in the middle, the earth and an outer planet would move in the opposite direction, rater than in the same direction).

In each conjunction, the three planets, Jupiter, Saturn, and the earth are on the same line of sight as shown in the diagram. Note that althought Saturn lies outside Jupiter's orbit, when seen from the earth, Saturn may appear below Jupiter. I do not know why this is so even though all three planets revolve on the same plane.