Last week's Science Friday program featured an interview with history professor Howard Markel titled Science Diction: The Origin Of The Word 'Comet'

Dr. Markel claims that the star of Bethlehem was in fact a comet sighting, which triggered Herod's murder of male children in Israel.

Transcript:

"Just before the birth of Christ, a comet was seen flying over Judea. And soothsayers told the king of Israel, Herod, that this presaged the birth of a boy who would someday outshine the monarch. And so, in response Herod ordered mass infanticide of all the boy - male children in Israel. That came to be known as the slaughter of the innocents."

I've heard various theories about the Star of Bethlehem (i.e., it may have been a supernova or planetary conjunction) but what strikes me as odd is the matter-of-fact way Dr. Markel makes the claim.

Also, I don't believe that the Massacre of the Innocents was based on a historical events.

Does anyone have any insight on this? It concerns me that a history professor is repeating bible stories verbatim.

Howard Markel at University of Michigan

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