The Great Christ Comet by Colin R. Nicholl is the kind of book that I would not normally touch with a barge pole. Anything that offers us ‘new insight’ and the key to understanding scripture usually deserves to be put on the shelf with all the other wacko conspiracy theories. So when I saw this book in the wonderful Evangelical Bookshop in Belfast (the best Christian bookshop I have ever been in) I was a wee bit surprised. Then I read the commendations by JP Moreland, John Lennox, Eric Metaxis, Simon Gathercole, Walter C Kaiser and others and I was so intrigued, I bought it. This was one time when the commendations really did make a difference. And I am very thankful they did.
This is an outstanding book. In every way. It is beautifully produced, well illustrated and superbly written. And it does what it says on the cover – it reveals the true star of Bethlehem. It is a book of theology, astronomy, cosmology, history and biblical studies. It combines faithfulness to the biblical text with historical and scientific studies.
I had great difficulty in putting The Great Christ Comet down. It reads like a detective story as Colin masterfully (and with a clear grasp of his subject) explores the various theories of what the Star was. His own explanation (the clue is in the title!) is throughly convincing.
There is lots more that could be said but let me just give you a few facts and quotes from the book. The birth of Jesus was probably Oct 20th 6 BC. The Magi came from Babylon and travelled 550 miles to Jerusalem. What made them do that? They saw signs in the heavens – Colin gives a wonderful exposition of Revelation 12 and links it with the prophecy of Balaam in Numbers. He also shows how a comet could pinpoint a single house.
Ignatius – 1st Century his epistle to the Ephesians. “A star shone in heaven with a brightness beyond all the stars. It’s light was indescribable, and its newness provoked astonishment.and all the other stars, together with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to the star, yet it’s light far exceeded them all. And there was perplexity regarding from where this new entity came so unlike anything else in the heavens was it.”
“The Magi felt great joy when they saw the comet standing up over the house. Incredibly, it had enabled them to complete their mission. the Messiah’s star had led them right to the Messiah. The comet that had represented the Messianic baby in the great celestial wonder marking his first appearance, was now pinpointing his precise location on the earth.”
Justin Martyr – 2nd Century – “and that he should arise like a star from the seed of Abraham, Moses showed beforehand when he thus said, a star shall arise from Jacob, and a leader from Israel, accordingly, when a star rose in heaven at the time of his birth, as is recorded in the memoirs of his apostles, the Magi, recognising the sign by this, came and worshipped him”
I was so stunned by this I used it last Sunday for my evening service as I began a short three part mini-series on the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem. You can hear it on St Peters Sermons I unashamedly plagarised Colin’s wonderful book. I believe we were all blessed.
I think what stuns me most of all is the greatness of our God. The One who ‘fixed the heavens’ in their orbits so that at just the right time, in just the right place, signs appeared which showed to the Magi and ultimately to us all, the wonder of the birth of the Christ child – Immanuel – God with us. As Colin states – “The most magnificent comet in human history had announced that the Messiah was born, who he was, what he was destined to do, and where he was”.
As you can gather this is a book I would highly recommend. It is faith affirming, stimulating, challenging and wonder inducing. Don’t wait for the paperback version to come out, or buy it on Kindle. Get the hardback and you will benefit not only from the writing but also the beautiful pictures and illustrations. Would make a superb Christmas present. When I was back in the Belfast Evangelical Bookshop they said it was sold out…I’m not surprised.