Matthew tells us that the Magi came from the East and saw the star in the East:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Matt 2:1-2, NASB)

Since the narrative goes that the Magi followed the star, they should have, coming from the East, seen it in the West.

  • 2
    I have always assumed that their location of observance of the star was in the east. Located in the east, they saw a star to the west of their eastern location. But I look forward to being further instructed if anyone has proof otherwise.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 14:17
  • That seems a very likely explanation. Unfortunately, I cannot judge if the Greek supports it. Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 17:30
  • The narrative actually indicates that they followed the star from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. In that case they would have seen it in the South.
    – fdb
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 13:40
  • @fdb, The star "came and stood over where the young child was". But Bethlehem is only 9 km south of Jerusalem, which makes it somewhat doubtful that the "star" was anything that we would call a star today. Unless one has very precise instruments, a real star that is directly overhead 9 km away is indistinguishable from one that is directly overhead right here. Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 2:06
  • To be precise, 9 km is about 0°6', which is about 1/6 of the width of the moon, which most people wouldn't even be able to notice. Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 23:52

1 Answer 1


This is a famous debated question. There are two possibilities: One is that ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ means that the Magoi saw the star while they were still “in the East”. The other is that they observed the asterism at its heliacal rising, which would of necessity be “in the Eastern sky”.

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