Astrology in the Bible

Astrology in the Bible

Banned by Christianity, it may underlie all scripture.

Image for postZodiac in 5th century Jewish synagogue in Galilee

The Zodiac is deeply a part of Jewish spirituality.

The ruins of Jewish synagogues in Palestine are found with zodiac imagery.

?No less than four out of nine known synagogue mosaics place the zodiac in a prominent position,? notes James H. Charlesworth. I?m reading his paper, ?Jewish Astrology in the Talmud, Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Early Palestinian Synagogues??realizing how much Christianity never told me.

In the Bible, the Zodiac is everywhere. Note that the twelve stones on the robe of the Jewish High Priest was understood ?to represent the universe,? as the Jewish writer Philo noted.

Passage after passage of the Bible indicates astrological knowledge?which Christians wouldn?t have.

The heavens declare the glory of God;the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech;night after night they reveal knowledge.

As in Psalm 19:1?2, the reader of the Bible is assumed to have astrological knowledge!

Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, though the nations are terrified by them. ? Jeremiah 10:2

The Bible and its readers are, or were, deeply invested in zodiac imagery and astrological themes.

?He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south,? says Job 9:9 (cf. Amos 5:8).

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain a horoscope. ?That such texts are found among the Scrolls should not, however, surprise anyone,? notes the editor of The Dead Sea Scrolls in English.

Kocku Von Stuckrad notes that ?midrashic and talmudic literature displays a deep-going interest in all aspects of heavenly prediction.?

So many writers write about this, I realized it was no secret. Or rather, it was a secret being kept from me growing up.

?By the Middle Ages, astrology had become such a prominent aspect of Judaism that Jewish sages were frequently employed as court astrologers,? notes Anthony J. Tomasino. ?Among the great medieval rabbis astrology was considered a science quite compatible with the Jewish faith.?

In Jewish spirituality, we?d understand, then, astrology to be a mode of mystical knowledge ? not universally adopted, but prevalent.

In Christianity . . . it?s another matter.

Early Christians believed in some form of astrology.

For Origen the stars are ?heavenly writings, which the angels and the divine powers are able to read well . . .? The stars are, like the Bible itself, a text capable of being read. Either can be misread as well.

But anti-astrology picks up with the Catholic period, when Augustine of Hippo denounces it, and that continues in the Christian culture to this day?on no scriptural evidence.

?The truth is that the Old Testament does speak against a large number of occult arts (e.g., Ex 22:18; Deut 18:10), but astrology is not among them,? notes Hard Sayings of the Bible.

Let?s go through the references?

In Deuteronomy 17: 2?7, a Jewish person isn?t to worship other gods ?or the moon or any of the host of heaven,? etc. They aren?t to be worshipped.

That they exist is assumed.

In Deuteronomy 18:10?14, God tells Israelites to avoid divination, sorcery, consultations with spirits and the dead. Christians are eager to find astrology on this list, and often ? falsely ? claim that it is.

In Isaiah 47:13, God taunts an evil power:

Let now the astrologers,Those who prophesy by the stars,Those who predict by the new moons,Stand up and save you from what will come upon you.

This cautions against over-reliance on astrologers. But the evil power directing prodding them for information is the problem.

A usual Christian argument against astrology is that it makes ?free will? impossible.

But don?t Christians love ?prophesy??believing those texts describe a future that is fixed and unalterable? If free will was a Christian value, wouldn?t that be prohibited?

But astrology, in actuality, isn?t suggesting any such thing.

It?s an effort at ?interpreting time,? suggests Von Stuckrad. ?Based on the doctrine of correspondences it developed different branches where people sought to gain insight into the meaning of past, present, and future events.?

Christians like to rely on ?tradition? and the idea of stasis and fixity as the definition of goodness. Perhaps that was the problem with astrology??which is founded on the idea that conditions are always changing.

The Bible is probably deeply steeped in astrological knowledge we don?t usually have. Doesn?t Virgo . . . mean ?Virgin??

The lion, the bull, water-bearer, etc., are key biblical images. Animals with possible astrological associations float through prophetic books.

Could there be an astrological design to the entire Bible? In Genesis 37:9, Joseph dreams ?the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.? For Philo, this meant that Joseph was ?thus classing himself as the twelfth, to complete the circle of the zodiac.?

Biblical narrative might then indicate shifts in the zodiac? The number twelve, as in the twelve constellations, is certainly key to the Bible. We might think differently of everything from Jesus? twelve disciples to the twelve tribes of Israel, etc.

Could the Bible be a kind of astrological allegory? Some have worked out systems of references. The Christian astrologer Carmen Turner-Schott here offers some basic references. ?It is believed that Jesus and Christianity started the Age of Pisces.?

There?d be many data points needed to understand an ?astro-theology?. The scholar Helen R. Jacobus, for example, notes the Aries of the Dead Sea Scrolls is represented not by a Ram . . . but ?The Lamb?.

The Bible has a narrative explaining how astrology came into the world.

It?s in the Enoch texts (in which early Christianity clearly believed). Knowledge of the stars is among the illicit ?wisdom? taught to humans by rebel angels.

As Amy E. Richter notes, this knowledge is also taught by agents of God.

In 1 En. 80:1, Uriel says to Enoch, ?I have revealed everything to you so that you may see this sun and this moon and those who lead the stars of the sky and all those who turn them ? their work, their times, and their emergences.?

I?m seeing this difference: Knowledge taught by rebel angels is aimed at changing and controlling the physical world for personal gain.

The good angels teach the prophet to see and understand the system.

Abraham is sometimes discussed as an astrologer who wakes up to God?s deeper designs and power.

?If he wishes he will make it rain in the morning and evening; and if he wishes he will not make it fall,? he says in Jubilees 12:17?18. ?Everything is under his control.?

The idea here would be: the natural processes of the earth are to be respected. Only on rare occasion does God, in a miracle, change the earth?s flow of events?as when parting the Red Sea.

To read the Jesus narratives you?d certainly think he?s associated with the sun in a very direct way.

During his crucifixion a darkness ?came over the whole land? (Matt 27:45, etc.). Darkness foretells his return (Matt 24:29, etc.).

Such passages ?may well reflect astrological theories,? notes Tim Hegedus in Early Christianity and Ancient Astrology.

Jesus is often associated with the sun?the ?light of the world?. ?Christians prayed facing east, seeing in the rising sun a symbol of the risen Christ,? notes Anscar J. Chupungco in Liturgical Time and Space.

To pray facing the east is to face the rising sun. It?s also the direction the Temple faces in Ezekiel 47:1.

Later this cosmology disappears from Christian practice. ?The body quite simply loses its cosmic significance,? notes Ola Sigurdson in Heavenly Bodies, a study of the body in Christianity.

Farmers have historically planted crops based on the zodiac.

The Old Farmer?s Almanac would give the astrological information for conditions for new stages of growth being most favorable.

Could that be a useful framework for understanding astrology? Less a prediction of what ?will happen? than recommendations for encouraging life.

Anything you?d learn about life, you could bring to biblical study, and more and more references might well start to come alive.

Did Christians toss out Jesus speaking on child sex abuse?

Let?s study the evidence.

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