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The Star of Bethlehem and the Magi

Interdisciplinary Perspectives from Experts on the Ancient Near East, the Greco-Roman World, and Modern Astronomy

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Edited by George H. van Kooten and Peter Barthel

This book is the fruit of the first ever interdisciplinary international scientific conference on Matthew's story of the Star of Bethlehem and the Magi, held in 2014 at the University of Groningen, and attended by world-leading specialists in all relevant fields: modern astronomy, the ancient near-eastern and Greco-Roman worlds, the history of science, and religion. The scholarly discussions and the exchange of the interdisciplinary views proved to be immensely fruitful and resulted in the present book. Its twenty chapters describe the various aspects of The Star: the history of its interpretation, ancient near-eastern astronomy and astrology and the Magi, astrology in the Greco-Roman and the Jewish worlds, and the early Christian world – at a generally accessible level. An epilogue summarizes the fact-fiction balance of the most famous star which has ever shone.

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José Chabás Bergón and Bernard R. Goldstein

During the Middle Ages and early modern times tables were a most successful and economical way to present mathematical procedures and astronomical models and to facilitate computations. Before the sixteenth century astronomical models introduced by Ptolemy in Antiquity were rarely challenged, and innovation consisted in elaborating new methods for calculating planetary positions and other celestial phenomena. Essays on Medieval Computational Astronomy includes twelve articles that focus on astronomical tables, offering many examples where the meaning and purpose of such tables has been determined by careful analysis. In evaluating the work of medieval scholars we are mindful of the importance of applying criteria consistent with their own time, which may be different from those appropriate for other periods.

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José Chabás and Bernard R. Goldstein

A Survey of European Astronomical Tables in the Late Middle Ages is a first attempt to classify and illustrate the numerous astronomical tables compiled from about the 10th century to the early 16th century in the Latin West. The compilation of astronomical tables was a major and dynamic intellectual enterprise. These tables respond to a wide variety of astronomical problems and computational needs, and contain a large number of ingenious solutions proposed by astronomers over the centuries. In the absence of algebraic notation and mathematical graphing techniques, a table was often the best way to transmit precise information to the reader. Indeed, an astronomical table is not a just a list of data, but a structured way to present numerical information of astronomical interest.

"...the whole book which is an excellent guide for all those who are interested in the history of medieval European astronomy and, especially, in medieval astronomical tables."
Julio Samsó, University of Barcelona