Stars for Signs:
Astrology in the Christian Bible
- Who were "the Wise Men" and "Magi" in the Bible?
- What are "Wandering Stars" and "The Star of Bethlehem"?
- When did God create the Sun and Moon and Stars?
- Where does the the Bible say God made stars "for signs"?
- Why do some Christian fundamentalists condemn the practice of Astrology?
Fixed Stars and Wandering Stars
If you could see a view of the night sky recorded with time-lapse photography and then speeded up, you would see that all the stars appear to move across the sky at the same rate as the Earth turns. Almost all of those "stars" remain in a fixed position (or pattern ) in relation to each other; but some of those "stars" actually do move a little each day in relation to the others, and thus were called "wandering stars". They are actually the five Planets we can see without a telescope, and the word "planet" originally meant "wandering star". To the ancients who were not aware of the outer planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, there were "seven stars" which moved across the band of fixed stars in the band called the Zodiac, consisting of the Sun and Moon and those five visible Planets.
In the Christian Bible and Hebrew holy books (and in Shakespeare's plays), the word "star" usually refers to one of these "wandering stars" which we would call "planets" in the English language of our more scientifically advanced time period. Remember that when the Bible was written no one knew that the brightest "stars" in the night sky were really the visible planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. And they did not know that the heavenly bodies we know as the Moon and planets of our solar system were appearing brighter than the far-distant "fixed" stars simply because they were much closer to the Sun and to the Earth than the "real" light-emitting stars, and they were just reflecting the Sun's strong light back to us on Earth. To the ancients of biblical times, they were "stars" which were brighter and which "wandered" across the sky on a course of their own, independent of the other stationary stars which formed a fixed background upon which the motion of these "wandering stars" could be seen.
No Motion, No Meaning
Since all the "real" stars in the sky do not change their apparent position in relation to each other, but move in unison across the night sky as the Earth turns on its axis; there would be no change in the pattern to observe if we were only looking at the "real" stars. It is, and was, the planets (those "wandering stars") which moved and provided a constantly changing pattern which could be observed and then interpreted as a "sign" of some coming event.
Astrology is the Study of the Stars
Thus when the Bible mentions the word "star" it is most often talking about a "wandering star" or planet which appeared to be making some unusual motion, or appeared to be coming into contact with another "wandering star" or some important fixed star that symbolically represented something in the lore and legends of the times. The observation of the apparent motion of the Sun and Moon and Planets, and their relative positions to each other and to the fixed stars or constellations of stars, is what Astrology is all about - the study of the stars and their relation to mankind.
When the Bible talks about "the stars", it is talking about Astrology.
"Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"
You can tell if you are looking at a star or a planet by noticing that stars "twinkle", while planets shine with a steady light. The Sun is a real star which emits its own light energy, but the Earth is so close to it that it that the Sun's bright light keeps us from seeing the other stars in the daytime; while at night when the Sun is shining on the opposite side of the Earth and we are living in shadow, its light is reflected back to us from the nearby planets and makes them look like shining stars, but with a steadier, shining light that really comes from our nearby Sun.
Stars for Signs
You might find it interesting that in the Book of Genesis, it says God created "Light" on the first day. But the Sun and the stars had not been created yet. They are given special mention in a passage which follows later. In Chapter 1, Verse 14, God is said to have made the sun and moon and stars "for signs" on the fourth day of Creation. For thousands of years, astrologers have been doing just that - looking "for signs" in the heavens as a way of understanding what is happening, or will happen, on Earth.
Remember that the heavenly bodies move in ways that are not controlled by man, but by some universal Force which many call God. If there are "signs" to be seen in their movements, one could argue that the "signs" are from God, and perhaps that is why their use as "signs" is specifically mentioned in the first chapter of the Bible.
"And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:"
- Genesis 1:14 in King James Version of The Bible
Sometimes I wonder if the people who quote the Bible to condemn Astrology have ever read what is on the very first page? It says God made these heavenly bodies to show us "signs" of His intentions, and those signs are there for anyone to read, if they would only learn how to interpret them.
That is what Astrology is all about - interpreting the signs in the motions of the sun, moon, and "wandering" stars. And that is why Kings and Popes have consulted Astrologers throughout the entire recorded history of mankind. In ancient times these wise counselors were called Magi (wise men) or Chaldeans, since many of the wise men who knew the principles of Astrology were from the land of known as Chaldea.
Here's another passage from the Bible, this time from the New Testament (quoted from the King James Version)...
25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
- Luke 21:25-27 in the King James Version of The Bible
Here we have Christ making a prophecy, and saying that there will be "signs" in the heavens of His coming, specifically in the sun and moon and stars (i.e. planets). This is clearly about the use of Astrology, and it is given in the words of Christ Himself.
I wonder why He would tell us there would be "signs" in the heavens, unless He meant for us to look for them and know how to interpret them? Wouldn't a person who professes to be "a Christian" give more credence to these unambiguous words of Christ than to the ambiguous admonitions of an ancient Hebrew prophet in the Old Testament? Wouldn't it make sense for Christians to actually study Astrology so they could be aware of those "signs in the heavens" Christ said would appear at His coming?
In ancient times, the study and practice of Astrology was restricted to the educated and the elite. The King's astrologers interpreted his natal horoscope and ongoing transits (movements) of the wandering stars (planets) as referring to the affairs of the entire nation. There weren't any "personal" asttrologers for the average person then, but only for the King and perhaps some of the wealthy and powerful elite. Today anyone can learn Astrology and use it to interpret the "signs" in the heavens which tell us the timing of events and issues in our personal lives.
Yet the horoscope of the head of state of a country is still a good indicator of the state of the nation's affairs, which is why I chose to publish a weekly horoscope for President Bill Clinton of the U.S.A. It would be hard to say that his "affairs" have not corresponded in many ways to the affairs of the entire nation! ;-)
Since George W. Bush became the next President, I have published a similar for the current head of state. Click here to see President Bush's weekly horoscope and also a new 2003 horoscope.
Condemnation out of ContextThere are only two specific discussions of the word "astrologers" in the Bible, and it is in the following passage from Isaiah 47:13 which is often cited as a biblical "condemnation" of Astrology. I have to admit that when someone showed this passage to me for the first time, it looked like it was saying that all astrologers would burn in hell!13 Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.But I forgot to ask myself, "Who is the 'thou' and 'thee' Isaiah is talking to?"
14 Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.
On first reading of this out-of-context quotation from the Bible, it appeared even to me that it was saying that astrologers would be burned, presumably for practising Astrology. Naturally, I was concerned, and resolved to check it out for myself. After a thorough reading of the verses "in context", it appeared to be saying nothing more than that the God of the Israelites was going to punish the King of the Babylonians and his people, and that nothing - not even the Babylonian King's astrologers and other wise counselors - could do anything to save the Babylonians from the wrath of God. (Babylon was located in the region of Mesopotamia now known as Iraq, and it is interesting that there is now another evil "king" in charge there, who has attacked the nation of Israel with modern missiles.)
Remember that the Babylonians had taken the Israelites (God's "chosen people") into "captivity", which really means into "slavery". And Isaiah was an Israelite. To the children of Israel, the Babylonians were evil oppressors and enemies of the Hebrew people. They hoped their God would smite the Babylonians and free them from captivity and slavery.
Here are the verses immediately before AND after the cited passage, in which "thee" refers to the nation of "Babylon", not to "astrologers":11 Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.This, then, is not a condemnation of astrologers, nor of the practice of Astrology - but a condemnation of the King of Babylon and his people, who were enemies of the Israelites. Isaiah is saying that no one can save them, and mentions "astrologers" and "stargazers" among other kinds of counselors and even the merchants of Babylon, as being powerless against the will of God.
15 Thus shall they be unto thee with whom thou hast laboured, even thy merchants, from thy youth: they shall wander every one to his quarter; none shall save thee.
To assume that this passage condemns the practice of Astrology itself is a misinterpretation of the true meaning of this biblical prophesy. If this is taken to "condemn" Astrology then, by the same misguided logic, one would have to say that it also condemns "merchants". But it does not condemn them, it only says that they cannot save the King from the God of Israel. No human could save the King from God's plan; and later events proved this to be true, according to the account in the Bible.
"Astrology" in the Bible
There are no other passages in the Bible which mention "Astrology", unless you consider it to be included with proscribed pagan practices like looking for signs in the entrails of sheep and fowl. Only the books of Isaiah and Daniel mention "astrologers". In Daniel there are several mentions of "astrologers", but all are in connection with the same issue, the interpretation of a dream of the King. Yet we know that Astrology does not claim to be about the interpretation of dreams.
The "wise men" consulted by the King would also be expected to interpret his dreams, but this would not have been done by using Astrology. Dream interpretation is something practised by modern psychiatrists (who also happen to be licenced medical doctors). When I see these passages being used to condemn Astrology, I wonder why the person is not also condemning dream interpretation and Psychiatry?
Deuteronomy 4:19 condemns the worship of the Sun or Moon or stars. The practice of Astrology does not imply the "worship" of heavenly bodies. Astrology is, in fact, "neutral" when it comes to believing in any particular religious philosophy, or not. You can practice Astrology and be a Christian or Jew or Muslim or Hindu - or an agnostic or an atheist.
However, when one becomes convinced of the actual correspondence (called synchronicity by Dr. Carl G. Jung) between the "signs" in the heavens and the experiences of human beings on Earth, one has to wonder if this is "the hand of God" at work.
It is interesting that a certain Y-shaped "aspect" (an angle between two planets) considered important in Astrology is sometimes called a "Yod" or "the finger of God". Yod is the letter in the Hebrew alphabet which is the first letter of Yahweh (YHVH or Yod-He-Vah-He), which is the "unspeakable" name of God in the Old Testament. (The Hebrews held their God in such reverance and awe that it was considered presumptuous for human beings to even try to limit such an omnipotent power by placing a name upon Him.)
The notion that the Bible condemns the practice of Astrology appears to have arisen from the misinterpretation of the above passages in Isaiah and Daniel, for there are no other passages in the Old Testament which mention Astrology or astrologers; and the one mention of astrologers in the Book of Matthew (i.e. where the astrologers are referred to as Magi) in the New Testament neither condones nor condemns them, but states that they came to worship the Christ child. Note that they were not worshipping the stars, they used them to find the Christ child so they could come and worship Him who they believed was the new Messiah of the Hebrew people.
The above passages cited from Genesis and Luke specifically state that the appearance of "signs" in the Sun and Moon and stars is part of God's plan or purpose. The study of these "signs" is called "Astrology".
"The Three Wise Men" were Astrologers
The "wise men" or magi referred to in The Gospel According to Matthew in the New Testament, who followed a wandering "star" known as "the Star of Bethlehem" and came from out of the East (probably from Persia, the land now known as Iran) to find and worship the baby Christ, would be called "astrologers" in the English language of today. In a modernized edition of the New Testament published for Catholics, called "The Way", the magi ARE referred to as "some astrologers".
By the way, the Bible does not specify exactly how many magi or "wise men" came to Bethlehem to give gifts to the baby Christ. The widely-held belief in the concept of "The Three Wise Men" may have come from folk lore, or from the actual mention in Matthew of three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and the assumption that each gift came from one of the "wise men". It has been perpetuated in the Christmas carol that contains the line: "We Three Kings of Orient are..." The term "Orient" means "the East", i.e. from a land located to the east, as Persia was to the east of the land of Israel. The singular form of "magi" is "magus".
It is interesting to note that "magus" is the root word of our modern term "magistrate". In a 19th century court case in New York, in which celebrity astrologer Evangeline Adams (who had many rich and famous Americans as clients, one being the billionaire J.P. Morgan) was accused of illegally practising "fortune-telling", the magistrate gave her an anonymous "test subject's" birth data and asked her to describe the subject without seeing a picture or knowing his or her name. It was leter revealed that the subject was the judge's own son.
The magistrate in this landmark "test case" for Astrology was so impressed with the accuracy of Evangeline Adam's astrological assessment of his son's personality and character that he threw the case out of court, since Ms. Adams was obviously not practising the kind of fraudulent "fortune-telling" often associated with gypsies and charlatans.
It might be helpful for fundamentalist Christians to try to differentiate between gypsy "fortune-tellers" and the modern practice of Astrology, for they sometimes seem to be tarring "fortune-tellers" and astrologers with the same brush.
The Star of Bethlehem
It has been theorized, and discussed in a documentary film often aired on American public television (PBS), that this new "star" which the magi noticed in the Sign of Pisces was actually two large and bright planets, Jupiter and Saturn, appearing in the same place in the sky three times during the year 7 B.C., which would make those two "gas giant" planets look like one bright new "star" when they formed this "conjunction" and appeared to be very close together. A conjunction is a term used in both Astronomy and Astrology to signify the appearance of two heavenly bodies at the same location in the sky. (The planets are not actually IN the same place, they just appear that way because one is passing in front of the other, when viewed from our position on planet Earth.)
This auspicious conjunction first occured at the time of the ancient New Year which corresponded with the Spring Equinox, the first day of Spring. The constellation in which the Sun was located at sunrise on this day also happened to be a different constellation than in the previous 2160 years, which marks the beginning of a new astronomical Age. This current one was called the Age of Pisces, since the constellation rising with the Sun on the first day of Spring was now Pisces (and still is, as we witness the beginning of the 21st century since the birth of Christ, which we now refer to as the New Millennium). The ancients would consider this a remarkable event, to see the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn at the time a new Age was dawning.
The "wandering stars" Jupiter and Saturn are two of the brightest objects in our night sky, brighter than most real stars. They actually formed a "conjunction" three times in that year (due to "retrograde" motion, where one passed the other, then later turned around and came back past it in its retrograde motion, then later turned back to "direct" motion again and made a final pass very close to the other). The months during which these three conjunctions took place would have given the magi time to notice this "sign" in the heavens, then plan their journey, and then use the new "star" to guide them to the place where it appeared overhead at its zenith (high point) - which just happened to be in the land of Israel in the Middle East.
As an example of how observing the stars can help you find your position on Earth, consider the following concept. If you live far from Earth's equator, south of the Tropic of Capricorn or north of the Tropic of Cancer, notice how the Sun and Moon and all the "wandering stars" of the zodiac never appear directly overhead. Let us use a location in the Northern Hemisphere as a specific example. To even see the stars of the zodiac, you have to be looking towards the south. If you journeyed south towards the equator, you would begin to see the zodiac appear to "rise" higher and higher in the sky (and the "north star" would appear lower and lower in the night sky).
The King of the Jews
There had been an ancient prophecy that when this "star" appeared it would be "a sign" of the arrival of a Messiah. Since the zodiac "Sign of Pisces" was associated in legend with "the sign of the Messiah" of the Hebrew people, the magi would interpret that as the arrival of a new Messiah or "King" for the Jews. Unfortunately the political ruler, King Herod of Judea, was not too pleased with the prospect of losing power and prestige when his own astrologers advised him concerning this "sign" of a new "King" being born! (Actually, the Roman Empire controlled the land of Judea at the time of Christ's birth, and Herod was only a political "puppet" King to the Romans, who held the real power. The same set-up is still used in modern times when a "conquering" nation allows the local rulers of the controlled territory to run local affairs, but in compliance with the more powerful nation's agenda. Often these puppet rulers willingly oppress their own people, and the people despise their own despot.)
Another Opinion about the Star of BethlehemIn his book The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi, astronomer Michael Molnar gives a well-researched opinion that the Star of Bethlehem appeared in April of 6 B.C. when the planet Jupiter was eclipsed by the Moon in the Sign of Aries. (Keep in mind that astronomers use the Sidereal System for determining the Signs, while most modern western astrologers use the Tropical System; thus the sign Mr. Molnar calls Aries is the sign which most western astrologers would call Pisces.) His research began when his hobby of collecting ancient coins with celestial images led him to purchase a Roman coin issued in 6 B.C. which depicted the zodiac symbol for Aries, the Ram, and some images of stars. You can read some reviews of this interesting book by clicking on the link above.
An interesting item I found in an overview of Michael Molnar's work was his report of a Roman astrologer's prediction that the Emperor Nero would "fall" and then "rise" again in the land of Judea. Nero did fall, but he never made it to Judea, yet apparently the Christians and Jews were aware of the prediction and were anxiously on the lookout for the appearance of this one they called the "anti-Christ", or, as the Jews referred to Nero, the "anti-Messiah". In another item, Molnar claims that it was the pagan celebration of the birth of the invincible Sun god Invictus which the early Christian Church leaders replaced with the celebration of the birth of Christ in December, and not the Saturnalia celebrations.
The Astrologers: "And God spoke to them in a dream"
I find it interesting that the Bible says (in Matthew) that these foreign astrologers travelled a long way to find the baby Jesus and to pay their respects and give gifts; while the political King of his own nation tried to find Jesus to kill him! Later in Christ's life, the Hebrew High Priest in Jerusalem plotted to have the rabbi Jesus killed. The astrologers came to honor Him. Yet some Christians today believe that Astrology is "the work of the devil" - and again I wonder if they have actually read what it says about these astrologers in their own Bible?
In the Book of Matthew, The Bible says God spoke to the magi in a dream. It is surprising to think that the God of the Jews would speak to wicked "pagans" in a dream - or that they would listen and obey! The good magi did obey God's will, and saved the life of Jesus by not telling King Herod where they had found him through the use of Astrology.
The Bible says the magi had originally paid a visit to King Herod to enquire about this sign of a Messiah for the Jews. Herod had feigned an interest in finding this Messiah, supposedly so he could pay respects to him, and asked the magi to come back and tell him where to find the new Messiah. All the while, Herod was secretly plotting to kill him. But the magi went home by another route to avoid the evil King Herod; and it is speculated that they also helped Jesus and his family escape to safety in Egypt, which was the place where the Bible says Jesus dwelled throughout his childhood.
Was Jesus trained in Astrology?
During the time of Christ, the city of Alexandria in Egypt was a great center of learning and wisdom, a place where the world's largest Library and the greatest scholars were found; and Astrology was studied and taught there by learned men who considered it part of the Wisdom of the Ages. It is even possible that Jesus was trained in Astrology and other ancient arts, for The New Testament quotes Jesus Christ as prophesying that when He came again there would be signs in the sun and moon and stars (see the quote from Luke above).
Studying the Signs in the Stars
How will Christians know those "signs" of the second coming of Christ unless they learn how to interpret them? The study of Astrology is an ancient arcane art practiced by wise men throughout all of recorded history, and many Kings and Queens and Popes had personal astrologers to counsel them. It was a tool used by the most learned men of every ancient civilization, and found a place in almost every religion. The Catholic Church has a long history of Popes who consulted astrologers as personal and political advisors, even though more recent Popes seem to hold astrology in disfavor. It is said that the Vatican still contains the largest library of astrological manuscripts in the world.
In more modern times, several Presidents of the United States consulted a personal astrologer, including Lincoln and Reagan. Ronald Reagan's inauguration was scheduled for a time after midnight, an unusal time for a national event - unless you are trying to begin the ruler's "reign" at an auspicious time calculated by an astrologer. The "wandering stars" do not always align at convenient times.
Christianity and "The Occult"
Christians are often warned against dabbling in "the Occult". I am not sure where this phrase came from originally, but it has been given a negative connotation by some Christians, especially the fundamentalist sects, as if it were something connected with black magic or witchcraft or "the work of the Devil".
Actually, the word "occult" is used in the science of Astronomy, and it simply means "hidden". When the Moon passes in front of the Sun during a solar eclipse, it is said that the Moon "occults" or "hides" the Sun.* *
The term "occult" also means "hidden" when it is used to describe kinds of knowledge or wisdom or teachings. Some things are too profound to be understood by the masses, and are kept "hidden" from the general public. Some kinds of knowledge might be misused, or even be dangerous if misused, by persons who did not fully understand the principles involved. Today our government calls certain knowledge "classified" and keeps it secret from the public - "for their own good". The knowledge may be harmless in itself, yet some people could misuse that knowledge for evil or harmful purposes, so it is kept "hidden".
The knowledge itself is "neutral" - neither good nor evil. The secret to splitting the atom was used for both atomic bombs and nuclear power generating stations. But some men will label the knowledge itself as evil, and want to keep it hidden. Yet just because this knowledge is "hidden" or "occult" does not make it evil - it was only someone's personal opinion that made it appear that way. And the person who uses any knowledge for evil purposes is actually providing the "evil" part of the process.
People who would use the same knowledge only for good purposes would NOT consider that knowledge being "hidden" automatically makes the knowledge into "a bad thing". Your doctor does not explain exactly how he prescribes a certain drug to cure your illness, does he? And the drug companies do not disclose exactly how they make the drug, either. This does not turn the mysterious process of the diagnosis nor the "secret recipe" of the drug that cures you into "a bad thing", does it? The hidden knowledge is being used to help you, but you don't need to know the secrets to get the benefit of the cure.
In ancient times, the general public could not even read or write, so much of the knowledge and teachings of wise men was kept from them, and thus was "occult" wisdom.
In the times when the powerful Catholic Church was persecuting (and killing) people who did not follow their own religious philosophy and doctrines, it was a matter of life and death to keep certain other philosophies and forms of ancient wisdom "hidden" from the persecutors, especially during time of The Inquisition. This "hidden knowledge" is most likely what came to be called "the occult". But what choice did men have when they could be killed simply for possessing a book of knowledge that someone else did not want them to know about? The problem was not in the hiding of the knowledge, it was the in the people who made it necessary to hide it.
In some cases, it was the same kind of knowlege posessed by the ancient "magi" of the Bible, passed on from generation to generation to those entrusted with its use. But it could also be knowledge such as Galileo's discovery that the the Earth and planets actually revolved around the Sun. By observing the motion of the Moon and planets, Galileo could see the truth through the telescope he invented.
But this was contrary to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, and Galileo was called before the Inquisition and warned to "recant" this now-obvious truth or be put to death for "blasphemy". Galileo wisely agreed to state that he believed in the Church's stubborn but seemingly stupid assertion that the Sun revolved around the Earth, to satisfy the Pope's demand and save his own skin. Eventually, the Catholic Church had to accept the truth which revealed their previous belief about the nature of the solar system had been an illusion.
One could infer from such a case that what is called "the occult" is really just some kind of knowledge which is not approved by those in a position powerful enough to persecute those who do believe in its truth, as opposed to believing in "their truth". It does not necessarily mean that some "occult" teaching is not the actual Truth, as we can see in the case of Galileo's true scientific discovery; but merely that the untenable truth is simply some concept which is not tolerated by some group of humans who want to believe that it is not true, for their own purposes.
To call certain kinds of knowledge "the occult" does not really mean it is a "bad" or "evil" kind of knowledge. Knowledge is neutral. Labelling it as "occult" may simply mean it is not understood by those who fear what they cannot, or will not, understand.
Many of the people who condemn Astrology have not actually studied the subject to be able to make an informed decision, but are blindly believing what someone else has told them to believe; and they fail to notice that the person who told them may have a self-serving personal interest in keeping the facts from those who might think for themselves.
Other people regard Astrology as "bunk" because they have only seen the simplistic Sun Sign "horoscopes" in their local newspaper and assume that is all there is to Astrology. (I admit that I was once one of these people.) It was very difficult in the past to even find a book about Astrology (and few people could read anyway), but in our era and particularly since the 1960s there have been many good books on Astrology available to anyone in any local bookstore.
If you were to watch the modern film titled "The Name of the Rose", starring Sean Connery, you would see a depiction of the kind of religious persecution which was typical in the Middle Ages, when even a book by the Greek philosophers Plato or Aristotle would be considered "the occult", and reading it or possessing it could be considered a reason to be called before The Inquisition and tortured until a "confession" was extracted from the hapless victim. If the accused did not "recant" his belief in the proscribed information and acknowledge a belief in the doctrine of the Catholic Church, he would be put to death and his possessions would be confiscated by the Church.
When it was a wealthy land-owner of the nobility class in Europe who was brought before The Inquisition in the Middle Ages, there was an obvious incentive for the Inquisitor to find him guilty of "blashemy" or "being under the influence of the Devil", and thus be entitled to confiscate his valuable property and add one more "legally-stolen" estate to the vast holdings of the wealthy Church organization. This would be for the alleged purpose of "protecting" the Holy Church from blasphemy, and the hapless victim from the influence of "the Devil". The Catholic inquisitors and religious leaders would choose to torture a man to extract the "confession" they sought, and would kill a man to "save" him from the alleged influence of the devil.
Love Thy Neighbor / Judge Not
This was an interesting anomaly in the actions of a Church which purported to follow the teachings of Christ, who told people to "love thy neighbor as thyself" and who said, "Judge not, lest ye be judged." Christians have often overlooked the part of The Ten Commandments (which were delivered by Moses, according to the Bible) which says: "Thou shalt not kill." (From the original language of the Bible, this would be better translated as: "Thou shalt not murder.") The Inquisition, the Crusades, and other "holy wars" have involved self-proclaimed followers of Christ killing both "pagans" and other Christians. And it all started with "judging" others who were not the way thought they "should" be.
Graven ImagesOne of The Ten Commandments also states, "Thou shalt not worship any graven images". The Jews, still acting according to their interpretation of the Law of Moses, do not permit any statues or pictures in their synagogues; while the Catholic Church fills its cathedrals and places of worship with man-made statues and religious icons - i.e. "graven images". Its parishioners often pay obesience to some of them by kissing or bowing to them, while the priests kiss rings and other man-made religious icons.
You might even wonder at the common practice of Christians to worship the Cross, which is a symbol for the cross upon which Christ was crucified, which is itself also a "graven image". According to the Ten Commandments in the Bible, God wants us to worship Him directly, not by making obesiance to some made-made statues or icons or symbols which might represent Him or represent someone or something associated with Him. That is the kind of "idol worship" practiced by people who would be called "pagans" by the followers of Christianity.
When I visited St. Peter's Cathedral in the Vatican in Rome, I saw the large statue of Saint Peter which has been kissed so many times over the centuries that the toes on the stone feet have been worn off. This seems suspiciously similar to "worship" of a "graven image" (i.e. man-made figure), which is exactly what Christians condemn the "pagan" and animist and nature-worshipping religions for doing.
I personally do not believe that some followers or leaders of Catholicism are intentionally "disobeying" one of the Ten Commandments in their own Bible by using religious icons, for there is a difference between the kind of "worshipping" the followers of Moses were doing with the golden calf which symbolized the pagan god Baal, and the reverent use of a religious icon to symbolize God or Christ by the followers of Catholicism.
I mention this apparent "hypocrisy" only to demonstrate how a too-literal interpretation of the Bible could be used to make it seem that even the Pope of the Catholic Church could be doing something that the Bible appears to "condemn" - in the same way that a too-literal interpetation of that passage in the Book of Isaiah is often used to "condemn" the practice of Astrology.
Please note that astrologers do not "worship" the Sun or the Moon or the Planets, and certainly not as symbols for God (though they are linked symbolically to ancient myths and sometimes to Roman or Greek mythical gods and goddesses). Astrologers regard them as symbols associated with parts of the human psyche, and thus as tools for interpreting the correlation between the Planets and the human condition. If someone who practices Astrology happens to worship the Sun or any other heavenly body, it may be a practice of his or her personal religion, but not an integral part of Astrology itself.
Astrology is not a religion, nor a substitute for a belief in God - though some humans can turn anything into a "religion" and some might try to do this with Astrology.
By the way, some old cathedrals in Europe were - and still are - decorated with astrological symbols. I do not know why they were put there, but once again it seems odd that if Astrology is supposedly condemned in the Bible, then why are its symbols adorning Christian cathedrals?
The Morning Star and the Fallen Angel
One of the brightest "stars" in our night sky is actually the nearby planet Venus, which is also known as both "the Morning Star" (Eosphorus in Greek mythology) and "the Evening Star" (Hesperus in Greek mythology) because it appears just before sunrise for 260 days, and just after sunset for 260 days (not being visible at other times because it appears behind the Sun when observed from planet Earth). There is a reference in the Bible to this planet Venus in connection with the legend of Lucifer - the fallen angel or "fallen star".
In Isaiah 14:12 it says: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" The symbolic connection likely arose because Venus appears to change from a bright "morning star" which rises in the dawning light ahead of the Sun, to an "evening star" which appears to fall into the dark sky after sunset. Perhaps the prophet Isaiah knew something about astrological symbolism himself?
Anatole the Light Bringer
There are also references in legend to Venus, the Morning Star, also known as "anatole" or "light bringer", in connection with its symbolic function as the harbinger of the dawn, Venus can be observed as a bright star in the dark night just before the Sun begins to rise and bring light to the Earth each morning (but only for half the year). This "light-bringer" is also a symbol for a "messiah" who brings the Light of God to people on Earth.
How could this "morning star" be mentioned in the Bible, unless the writer were making symbolic connections between the "wandering stars" in the heavens and the religious legends of the Hebrews? There are other symbolic references to the "stars" scattered throughout the Old Testament, such as Amos 5:8 - "Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion..." (The "seven stars" were the five visible planets and the Sun and Moon; and Orion the Hunter is a constellation of stars.) If the study of Astrology is a taboo topic, why are there so many references to its use in the Bible itself? Why did the authors of the Bible know about Astrology, and use its terms in their writing?
The Age of Pisces and the Age of Christianity:
A Fish Story
Is it a coincidence that Jesus Christ began his ministry about 2000 years ago, which was the beginning of the astronomical Age of Pisces? The astrological symbol for the Sign of Pisces is "The Fishes", and the secret sign for the early Christians was also a symbol for a fish. A commonly-used icon in the Christian churches is the "Vesica Piscis" (Latin for "mouth of the fish") - that shape which also resembles a human eye or a fish without a tail. You can see it in the shape of stained glass windows in many churches and cathedrals.
Jesus chose his first Disciples from a group of fishermen, and He is quoted in The Bible as saying He would make them "fishers of men". The account of the multitudes being fed by the bread and fishes which miraculously multiplied from a few to enough to feed "five thousand men" who came to hear Jesus speak may be another reference to this symbolism. It could be a metaphor for the spreading of the teachings of Christ from one man to another, until all have received the knowledge in Christ's teachings. Today we still use the adage, "Feed a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life."
Was Jesus a Capricorn or a Pisces?
This is merely my own speculation, but it is more likely Jesus was, at least symbolically, "a Pisces" than "a Capricorn" born on December 25th. There are some clues in the Bible which make the birth of Christ in December very unlikely; one being the historical fact that there were no shepherds with sheep grazing outside in Israel during the winter months. In the gospel of Luke it says there were shepherds watching their flocks at night when they saw the Star. In December it was cold, no grass grew, and it snowed in the hills of Bethlehem!
An October birth is supported by evidence in the Bible itself, such as the time when the virgin Mary's cousin Elizabeth was pregnant with John (later known as the Baptist), which corresponded to the Hebrew lunar calendar used to schedule her husband's time to serve in the temple. During this time of temple service he would have to remain temporarily celibate and thus be unable to impregnate his wife. If Jesus was born in December, Mary could not have been pregnant with Jesus while her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant with John, according to the account and timing in the Bible, for her husband would not have been with her to impregnate her the appropriate number of months before. Only October would fit with the facts in this account. But remember the appearance of a "star" in the constellation of Pisces being associated with the coming of the Hebrew Messiah?
I am not saying that Jesus was actually born when the Sun was in the Sign of Pisces (though Jupiter and Saturn must have been in Pisces if they appeared there as the new "Star"), but that He is more closely connected symbolically to the Sign of Pisces. His spiritual and compassionate and self-sacrificing nature is quite like the qualities associated with the Sign of Pisces in astrological lore.
People born when the Sun is in Pisces tend to "live in another world" - either in a world of their own imagination, or, as in the case of Jesus, in a spiritual world. Christ is quoted in the Bible as advising us to be "in" the world but not "of" the world. My own interpretation of this would be something like: "Live as though you really are a spiritual being having a human experience, not just a human being having an occasional spiritual experience."
It is the nature of the Pisces person to be more in touch with "other worlds" in addition to the "material" world of earthly existence in the physical plane. This can manifest in various forms, such as being highly imaginative, having heightened intuition, having a psychic or "sixth" sense, or being more attuned to "spiritual" things than "material" things.
The negative side of Pisces is to "escape" from reality through imagination or fantasy or even drug-induced altered states of mind; while the most positive side of the "other-worldly" nature of Pisces is to be "spiritual", to be aware that there is more to our true existence than simply what appears to be "real" to us in this physical world. You might say that Pisces has a greater appreciation for "metaphysical" laws than merely "physical" laws. In this sense, the nature of Pisces is closer to what we know of the nature of Jesus Christ than any of the other signs of the zodiac.
December 25th: Christmas or Saturnalia ?
It is a little-known fact that the original celebration surrounding the Winter Solstice was a pagan festival called The Saturnalia, and the "pagan" people converted to Christianity were loath to give up their annual week of drinking and carousing in spite of the wishes of the Christian priests and popes. It would be like a Pope of today telling the good citizens of New Orleans or Rio de Janiero to give up their Mardi Gras madness!
The pragmatic solution was that the Catholic powers-that-be decided to arbitrarily designate December 25th as the date of Christ's birth, so the people could still have their Saturnalia celebrations in late December at the Winter Solstice, but have them for a "Christian" purpose instead. If you can't beat them, join them - just change the name and try to change their wanton ways to a more moderate method of celebrating the symbolic rebirth of the Sun. By the way, the planet Saturn is associated with the Sign of Capricorn, the sign which the Sun now enters at the time of the Winter Solstice - around December 22 in our calendar.
At the Winter Solstice, the hours of daily sunlight stop shrinking ("dying") and start increasing again. It is the shortest day of the year. Nowadays, we Christians celebrate the birth of the "Son" of God who sacrificed His body to give us everlasting life (or perhaps He meant to teach us that we are spiritual beings and do not really die if our body dies). In ancient times, the pagans celebrated the symbolic rebirth of the "Sun" of our solar system, which is continually "sacrificing" its body mass to give its energy to support all life on Earth. I wonder why Christ referred to himself as the "Light"? It seems like a very appropriate metaphor.
Of all the symbols man might use to represent God or Christ, I think the Sun is the very best choice; and it was the choice of many ancient religions, such as the Egyptian religion with its sun-god, Ra. The Sun is the largest thing in our personal universe (our local solar system); it always sends us the light and heat we need to sustain life; and it continually gives of itself (through internal nuclear fission and the resulting emission of light and heat energy) without asking to receive anything in return. Its nature is "to shine" - to send its light and warmth to all planets and all peoples, without discriminating as to who shall receive it or not receive it.
It is our free choice as individuals to accept or reject the gift, by staying in the light or by staying in shadow and darkness. This sounds a lot like the nature of God and Christ, as we conceive it. So the Sun can serve as a very good symbol for a loving God.
More on the Piscean Nature of Jesus
The nature of Jesus Christ corresponds in many ways to the nature of the symbolic Sign of Pisces. Some of its key themes are: Spirituality, Service, Selflessness, Sacrifice, Sensitivity, and Psychic gifts. No other astrological Sign's characteristics correspond so well to what we know of Jesus Christ and his character. No wonder he used the symbol for Pisces - "the Fishes" - so often in his teachings. (It has even been speculated that when Jesus was drawing in the dirt just before He said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone", it was the sign of the fish which He was making. This is the only mention in the Bible of Christ ever writing anything down.)
Pisces is said to be the final Sign of the zodiac, the one where all previous issues and attachments to material life are finalized or "let go" (are sacrificed) in preparation for the next cycle. In the Northern Hemisphere where Astrology evolved, the end of Pisces is the end of Winter, when the Earth is preparing to support the new growth of seeds in Spring after the plants appear to have "died" during the Winter. As Christ died in the material sense, and was resurrected in spirit at Easter, so is the Earth "resurrected" when the Sun leaves the last Sign of Pisces and enters the first Sign of Aries in Spring for a new round of birth, death, and rebirth.
"Predicting" the Date of Easter with Astrology
In connection with Easter, I should mention here that the Jews used the Moon to calculate their calendar, and today Christian churches still determine the time for the Easter celebration by looking for "signs" from the Moon - in the sense that each year Easter is set for the Sunday following the first "New Moon" in the month of April (a New Moon is a "conjunction" of the Sun and Moon, i.e. they appear at the same degree of longitude in the sky, which means the Moon is between Earth and the Sun and thus reflects no light and appears "dark").
That's using Astrology, isn't it? And when Christian leaders make preparations for the religious rites and celebrations associated with Easter, are they not "predicting" that these events will take place at a certain time in the future, as determined by observing the motion of these two heavenly bodies?
One might assume that this is merely using our common calendar, as we use it to plan many future events; but what is often overlooked is that our calendar itself has been created to reflect a correspondence between the apparent motion of the Sun through the zodiac, and the time (i.e. date) of the year. It is a "solar" calendar, different than the ancient Hebrew "lunar" calendar. What we call "a year" is marked by the return of the Sun to the same point in the zodiac (a narrow band in the background of fixed stars, within which the Sun and Moon and Planets always appear to move).
The patterns in the "fixed" stars of the zodiac are being used as a stable reference point against which the apparent motion of the "wandering" stars (Sun, Moon and Planets) can be observed and measured.
When we say, for example, that the first day of Spring will be on a certain date, we are really saying that on a certain day marked by our man-made calendar, the Sun will appear to leave the sign of Pisces and cross over the cusp of Aries.
As it says in Genesis 1:14, God made the stars "for signs", and also "for days, and years." Whenever we are using a calendar based on the lunar or solar cycle, we are also using Astrology - for Astrology is the study of the correspondence between the positions of the wandering stars (Sun, Moon and Planets) and the human experience.
The Age of Aries and the Religious Ram
In The Old Testament, which was recorded in "The Age of Aries" (the previous Sign relative to Pisces, since the Ages are created by "the precession of the equinoxes" backwards through the zodiac constellations), there are many references to the sacrifice of a lamb or a "Ram" - which happens to be the astrological symbol for the Sign of Aries. Jesus Christ often used the symbolic reference to the "lamb" in his teachings and parables. In the ancient Egyptian civilization the ram was associated with the goddess Amun; and in ancient Greece it was associated with the Golden Vliess.
The Age of Taurus and the Golden Calf
In The Book of Exodus (and in the film "Exodus") there is an account of Moses coming down from the mountain with the stone tablets containing "The Ten Commandments" and discovering that his people had made "a golden calf" and were worshipping it as a pagan god. A calf is a young "Bull", and the Bull was the symbolic figure for the earlier religion of Mithraism which flourished in "The Age of Taurus".
The Bull is the astrological symbol for Taurus, and the Age of Taurus preceded the Age of Aries, as Mithraism preceded Judaism. The bull cult of Baal in Mesopotamia was the reference made in the Book of Exodus. In other ancient civilizations the Bull was associated with the Minotar in Greece (Minoa), the Nandhi in India, and Apis in Egypt.
The Precession of the Equinoxes
The order mentioned above (Taurus preceding Aries) appears to be the reverse of the familiar order of the astrological Signs of the Zodiac. This is because the Earth happens to "wobble" or precess in a way which moves its axis of rotation in a very, very slow circle that, from our perspective here on the surface of the Earth, makes the constellations appear to drift in the opposite direction relative to the Earth. (A similar circular "wobble" can be seen in a spinning toy top or gyroscope which is not perfectly perpendicular to the floor and appears a little off-balance. Imagine how things would appear to you if you were very small and lived somewhere on the upper half of that top which slowly rotated and pointed to a new place as it moved its axis in a long slow circle. Each time the top turned once around and you should be facing in the same direction again, you would actually be facing in a slightly different direction because the whole top had shifted slightly along its vertical axis.)
An "Age" of about 2160 years is the time it takes for the Earth's axis to move one-twelfth of the way around in this circular motion (30 degrees of a 360-degree circle), and the effect of this motion is called "the precession of the equinoxes". It can be marked by the Sign the Sun appears in at sunrise during the Spring Equinox, the first day of Spring, when the hours of daylight and darkness are exactly equal.
Again, we see the "wandering stars" being used "for seasons", as the Bible says in Genesis 1:14. We are now still in the Age of Pisces, but very close to entering the Age of Aquarius. When the Sun appears to be in the original constellation of Aquarius at sunrise on the first day of Spring, we will know we are there.
The Twelve Tribes of Israel
The Bible is full of astrological symbolism. Jerusalem had twelve gates, which corresponded to the Twelve Tribes of Israel, which in turn corresponded to the twelve astrological Signs. Some evidence of this is found in the words of the dying Jacob to his sons, in Genesis 49, where he likens each of his children to a zodiac sign in his definition of the future of the twelve tribes, e.g. Taurus=Issachar, Gemini=Simeon/Levi, Cancer=Benjamin, Libra=Asher, Virgo/Scorpio=Dan, Sagittarius=Joseph, Capricorn=Naphtali, Aquarius=Reuben, Pisces=Zabulon. To associate Virgo separately from Scorpio, mystics have linked the sign of Virgo to Dina, the only daughter of Jacob. (The Twelve Disciples of Jesus may also be represented by the qualities of the 12 Signs.) In one of the prophetic dreams of Joseph, Jacob's eleventh son Joseph saw eleven other "stars" bowing down to a twelfth, which was his "star".
Tradition says the Twelve Tribes carried the corresponding astrological symbol for one of the 12 Signs on their banners, and the same symbols also appeared on the 12 stones of the Urim and Thummim.
Judah was a son of Jacob, and Judah's decendants formed one of the Twelve Tribes. "The Lion of Judah", for example, is a reference to the Sign of Leo, the Lion, which was associated with the tribe of Judah.
A coincidence? I think not...
(c)1998-2004 by Michael Star
Also see: We're Right But They're Wrong | Change | Origin of Abraham
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First Published OCT 26 1998. Last Updated FEB 10 2003 18:00 EST.
(c)1998-2004 Michael Star, Astrologer
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