Not just for that evening’s observations, but for any day in history, as viewed from any place on the surface of the Earth.
Being a religious man, Kepler soon set his equations grinding on the mystery of the Star of Bethlehem.
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The ancients were correct, as we shall see, but by Kepler’s day that earlier and better understanding had been laid aside.
Kepler and his contemporaries concluded (as have many present day historians (5)) that Christ was born before 4 BC.
A member of the Jewish Pharisee sect, he rose to political prominence in Judea by the time he was in his late twenties.
In 66 AD the Romans, who occupied Judea at that time, were thrown into a war rage by what they saw as growing Jewish arrogance and treachery.
This presented a kind of mathematical beauty which particularly attracted him.
But try as he might, he could not force the mathematics of circular orbits to align with what he saw in the sky each night.
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) was one of the great mathematical minds of human history (1).
As Arthur Koestler wrote in The Sleepwalkers, “Kepler and Galileo were the two giants on whose shoulders Newton stood.” A German by birth, Kepler began his professional career in Graz, Austria teaching mathematics.
But Kepler was working from a flawed understanding of first century history, and that threw him off the track.