The meaning of Astrology in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)
I. THE DESIRE TO FORECAST THE FUTURE
1. Methods of Soothsaying
3. Looking in the Liver
4. The Astrologers, or Dividers of the Heavens
5. The Stargazers, or Seers of the Constellations
6. The Monthly Prognosticators, or Men Who Knew the Omens of the New Moon
II. THE WORSHIP OF THE HEAVENLY BODIES THE FORM OF IDOLATRY TO WHICH THE ISRAELITES WERE MOST PRONE
1. Chiun, Certainly the Planet Saturn
2. Saturn or Moloch Worship
3. Mazzaloth, or Planet Worship
4. Gadh and Meni or Star Worship
5. Lucifer, the Shining Star
III. SYSTEMS OF ASTROLOGY
1. Names of the WeekDays, Due to an Astrological System
2. Origin of Modern Astrology
3. "Curious Arts" of Ephesus
I. The Desire to Forecast the Future.
The desire to penetrate the future and influence its events has shown itself in all lands and ages. But it is clear that a knowledge of the future does not lie within the scope of man's natural powers; "divination" therefore has always been an attempt to gain the help of beings possessing knowledge and power transcending those of man. The answer of the Chaldeans to King Nebuchadnezzar when he demanded that they should tell his dream was a reasonable one: "There is not a man upon the earth that can show the king's matter: .... there is no other that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh" (Daniel 2:10-11). "Divination," therefore, in all its forms is but an aspect of polytheism.
It was for the twofold reason that the arts of divination were abominable in themselves, and gave to their votaries no knowledge of the will of God, that such arts were forbidden in the Law (Deuteronomy 18:9-15). Israel was to be perfect with God and He would reveal to them His will perfectly through that prophet like unto Moses whom He would send. Keil and Delitzsch in commenting on this passage well remark: "Moses groups together all the words which the language contained for the different modes of exploring the future and discovering the will of God, for the purpose of forbidding every description of soothsaying, and places the prohibition of Molochworship at the head, to show the inward connection between soothsaying and idolatry, possibly because februation, or passing children through the fire in the worship of Moloch, was more intimately connected with soothsaying and magic than any other description of idolatry" (Commentary on the Pentateuch, III, 393).
1. Methods of Soothsaying:
The forms of soothsaying mentioned in this catalogue are as follows: "One that practiceth augury" (me'onen) is of uncertain etymology, but the tabbins connect it with 'ayin, "an eye"; literally therefore one who ogles, or who bewitches with the evil eye. "An enchanter" (menachesh), sometimes supposed to be a snakecharmer, is probably one who fascinates like a snake; in other words a mesmerist or hypnotist. The word occurs in connection with Joseph's divining-cup, and such cups were employed both in Babylon and Egypt, and their use was akin to the more modern crystal-gazing, the hypnotic state being induced by prolonged staring, as in the fascination ascribed to serpents. On this account, snakes were sometimes figured upon such cups. Thus in Talmud we read: "If one finds vessels with delineations of the sun, the moon, or of a serpent upon them, let him cast them into the salt sea" ('Abho-dhah-Zarah, fol 42, col. 2). "A sorcerer" (mekhashsheph) is one who mutters incantations or speaks in ventriloquial whispers, as if under the influence of the spirits of the dead. "A charmer" (chobher chebher), is one who inflicts a spell by weaving magical knots. "A consulter with a familiar spirit" ('obh), denotes one who is possessed of a python or soothsaying demon. Such were the woman of Endor whom Saul consulted on the eve of the battle of Gilboa (1Sa. 28) and the pythoness of Philippi out of whom Paul cast the spirit (Acts 16:16-18). The word ('obh) means "bottle" and either indicates that the medium was the receptacle of the spirit or is a relic of the old tradition that genii (jinns) might be enslaved and imprisoned in bottles by means of magical incantations. "A wizard" (yidh'oni) means a wise man, "a knowing one." The word in Old Testament is always used in connection with 'obh, and denotes a man who could interpret the ravings of the medium. "A necromancer" (doresh 'el ha-methim) is one who calls up the spirits of the dead and has intercourse with them. "Consulting the teraphim" (Ezekiel 21:21) may have been a form of consulting the dead, if, as is probable, the teraphim were ancestral images, raised by superstition to the rank of household gods. The manner of consultation we do not know; but as an illustration of the use of the image of a dead person, we may remember that a modern medium will often ask for a portrait of a deceased relative for the alleged purpose of entering into communication with the departed spirit.
It will be seen that these forms of soothsaying are allied to the arts which in modern times bear the names of hypnotism and mediumship. They are more briefly referred to in Isaiah 8:19, "When they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits and unto the wizards, that chirp and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? on behalf of the living should they seek unto the dead?" Here again mediumship and spiritism are connected with the ventriloquial whispers and mutterings, which are supposed to be characteristic of the utterances of the dead.
But the first term in the catalogue, "one that useth divination" (qecem) is of wider application. It signifies a "divider" and refers to the practice which men have followed in an infinite variety of ways for trying to get light upon the future by resorting to what seems to them the arbitrament of chance. The results of a battle and of the fall of dice are alike unknown beforehand. But the second can be tested, and men assume that the result of the first will correspond to the second. Any chance will serve; the shuffling of a pack of cards; the flight of birds; the arrangement of dregs in a cup; nothing is too trivial for the purpose. The allotment of a particular interpretation to a particular sign was of course purely arbitrary, but the method could be applied in an infinite number of ways, every one of which could be worked out to an extent only limited by the limits of the misdirected ingenuity of man. Two such forms of "divination," that is of "dividing," are mentioned by Ezekiel in his description of the king of Babylon: "The king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination (qecem): he shook the arrows to and fro, he consulted the teraphim, he looked in the liver" (Ezekiel 21:21). The arrows were either marked to represent certain courses of action, and one was drawn out or shaken out, or else they were thrown promiscuously up into the air, and the augury was deduced from the way in which they fell.
3. "Looking in the Liver":
"Looking in the liver" is one of the most venerable forms of divination. Here again it was a question of "division." Each of the various parts of the liver, its lobes, the gall bladder, the ducts and so forth, had a special significance allotted to it, theory, apparently, being that the god to whom the animal was sacrificed revealed his will by the way in which he molded the organ which was supposed to be the seat of the victim's life.
It will be noted that no explicit mention is made of astrology in this catalogue of the modes of soothsaying. But astrology was, as will be shown, closely connected with Moloch-worship, and was most directly a form of "divination," that is of division. Morris Jastrow the Younger indeed considers that astrology rose from hepatoscopy, and points out that, the common designation for "planet" amongst the Babylonians is a compound ideograph, the two elements of which signify "sheep" and "dead." He considers that the sacrificial sheep was offered to the deity specially for the purpose of securing an omen. Hence, when the planets were used as omens, this name of "slain sheep" was naturally applied to them, even as "augury," divination by the flight of birds, came to represent amongst the Romans all kinds of divination. "On the famous bronze model of a liver found near Piacenza and which dating from about the 3rd century BC was used as an object-lesson for instruction in hepatoscopy, precisely as the clay model of a liver dating from the Hammurabi period was used in a Babylonian temple school, we find the edge of the liver divided into sixteen regions with names of the deities inhabiting them corresponding to divisions of the heavens in which the gods have their seats, while on the reverse side there is a line dividing the liver into 'day' and 'night.' Professor Korte, in a study of this remarkable object, summing up the results of many years of research, explains this by showing that the liver was regarded as a microcosm reflecting the macrocosm, or, in other words, the liver of the sacrificial animal from being originally a reflection of the soul or mind of the god to whom the animal was offered, was brought into connection with the observation of the heavenly bodies revealing the intention of the gods acting in concert" (Morris Jastrow, Jr., "Hepatoscopy and Astrology in Babylonia and Assyria," in Proc. Amer. Phil. Soc., 665-66).
Three well-marked classes of astrology, that is to say of divination by the heavenly bodies, are mentioned in Isaiah 47:13, as being practiced in Babylon. "Let now the astrologers, the star-gazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee."
4. The Astrologers, or Dividers of the Heavens:
The astrologers are the "dividers of the heavens" (hobhere shamayim); that is to say the significance of any stellar conjunction was made to depend upon the division of the heavens in which it occurred. The earliest of such divisions appears to have been into the four quarters, North, South, East, West, and astrological tablets of this character have been discovered in considerable numbers. Thus tablet W.A.I. III, 56, 1, gives a table of eclipses for each day of the month Tammuz up to the middle of the month, and the significance of the eclipse is connected with the quarter in which it was seen. On the first day the eclipse is associated with the South, on the second with the North, on the third with the East, and on the fourth with the West (Sayce, Astronomy and Astrology of the Babylonians, 222). Tablets of this description are very instructive since they prove that those who drew up such lists of omens had not even a rudimentary knowledge of astronomy. For the Babylonian months were intended to be natural months, yet at this time it was not realized that an eclipse of the sun could only take place when the moon was invisible, that is to say about the 28th or 29th day of the month, if the calendar was correct. Further, it was not realized that neither sun nor moon can ever be in the North in the latitude of Babylon. Such tables of omens then were not derived, as has sometimes been supposed, from a striking event having occurred near the time of an observed eclipse, but they must have been drawn up on an entirely arbitrary plan.
The same principle of "division" was applied to the moon itself for the purpose of drawing omens from its eclipses. Thus in R. C. Thompson's Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon we read in No. 268, "The omens of all lands. The right of the moon is Akkad, the left Elam, the top Aharru, the bottom Subartu." The constellations of the zodiac also had omens allotted to them in a similar manner.
5. The Star-gazers, or Seers of the Constellations:
The astrologers mentioned in the Book of Daniel ('ashshaphim) were not "dividers of the heavens," but mutterers of incantations. The star-gazers or seers of the stars or constellations (chozim ba-kokhabhim) may be illustrated from two of Thompson's Reports. No. 216, "Saturn has appeared in Leo. When Leo is obscured, for three years lions and jackals .... and kill men"; and No. 239, "When Mars (apin) approaches Scorpio the prince will die by a scorpion's sting and his son after him will take the throne." It may be remarked that as the planet Saturn takes three years to pass through the constellation Leo, the ravages of lions are predicted to last for that time.
At a later date we find a complete system of astrology based upon the constellations of the zodiac which happen to be rising at the moment when the stars were consulted. Examples of this form of divination are found in the works of Zeuchros of Babylon, who flourished about the beginning of our era. By his day the system had received a considerable development. Twelve signs did not give much scope for prediction, so each sign had been divided into three equal portions or "decans"; each decan therefore corresponding nearly to the part of the ecliptic which the sun would pass through in a decade or "week" of 10 days of the Egyptians. A yet further complexity was brought about by associating each one of the 36 decans with one of the 36 extra-zodiacal constellations, and a further variety was obtained by associating each zodiacal constellation with its sunanatellon, or constellation rising with it; that is, at the same time; or with its paranatellon, or constellation rising beside it; that is, a constellation on the same meridian. At what time these particular forms of augury by the constellations came into use we do not know, but the division into the decans is distinctly alluded to in the 5th tablet of the Bah Creation Epic: "4. For the twelve months he (Marduk) fixed three stars."
6. The Monthly Prognosticators, or Men Who Knew the Omens of the New Moon:
The monthly prognosticators were the men who knew the omens of the new moon (modhi'im le-chodh-ashim). At one time the error of the calendar was made the basis of prediction. This is seen in the great astrological work based on the omens drawn up for Sargon of Agade, and entitled from its opening phrase Enuma anu Bel, "When the heaven god Bel" (the "Illumination of Bel"), as, for instance, "The moon as on the 1st day is seen in its appearance on the 27th day; evil is fixed for the land of Elam"; and "The moon as on the 1st day is seen on the 28th day: evil is fixed for the land of the Ahurru." Other omens were drawn from the position of the horns of the new moon when first seen; the right horn being assigned to the king and the left to his enemies, as in Thompson's Reports, No. 25: "When at the moon's appearance its right horn is high (literally, "long") and its left horn is low (literally, "short") the king's hand will conquer land other than this." The "monthly prognosticators" had not learned that the righthand horn is always the higher and that the amount of its elevation depends on the time of the year, or they kept the knowledge to themselves.
II. The Worship of the Heavenly Bodies the form of Idolatry to Which the Israelites Were Most Prone.
As we should naturally expect, the earliest astrological tablets relate chiefly to omens dependent upon the two great lights, the sun and moon. There is no evidence at present available to fix the date when the planets were first recognized as distinct from the fixed stars. Probably this discovery was intimately connected with the formation of the constellations; it cannot have been long delayed after it. Certainly planet-worship, and as connected with it, planetary divination, prevailed in the Euphrates valley at a very early period.
1. Chiun, Certainly the Planet Saturn:
One planet is certainly mentioned in Old Testament, and we may safely infer that the other four were known, since this particular planet is the least conspicuous both in brightness and in motion, and was therefore probably the last to be discovered. The reference to Saturn occurs in Amos 5:25-26 : "Did ye bring unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? Yea, ye have borne the tabernacle of your king (the King James Version Moloch) and the shrine of (the King James Version Chiun) your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves." This passage was quited from Septuagint by Stephen in his defense, "And they made a calf in those days, and brought a sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their hands. But God turned, and gave them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets,
"Did ye offer unto me slain beasts and sacrifices
Forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
And ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch,
And the star of the god Rephan,
The figures which ye made to worship them"
The difference between the names Chiun and Rephan, is due either to Rephan being local Egyptian name for the planet Saturn, and therefore used by the Septuagint as its equivalent, or to an actual error of transcription in the text from which they were translating: the initial of the word being taken as resh (r) when it should have been kaph (k), r instead of k. The word should therefore be transliterated Kaivan, which was the name of the planet Saturn amongst the ancient Arabs and Syrians, while kaimanu, "constant" or "regular," was its name with the Assyrians. The English Revised Version in Amos 5:26 adopts the reading of the King James Version margin, "Siccuth your king," Moloch meaning king; but the authority of the Septuagint and the parallelism of the text and its general line of thought support the reading given by some of the ancient versions and followed by the King James Version.
2. Saturn or Moloch Worship:
The difficulty of the passage is that both Amos and Stephen appear to represent the worship of the golden calf as identical with the worship of Moloch and of the planet Saturn; yet though Kaivan is only mentioned here, the nature of the reference would imply that this deity was one familiar both to speaker and hearers. The difficulty vanishes at once, if the plain statement of Stephen be accepted, that when God permitted Israel to "go after the stubbornness of their heart, that they might walk in their own counsels" (Psalms 81:12) He "gave them up to serve the host of heaven." The worship of the golden calf was star worship; it was the solar bull, the constellation Taurus, in which the sun was at the time of the spring equinox, that was thus represented. The golden calf was therefore analogous to the familiar symbol of the Mithraic cult, the bull slain by Mithra, Sol Invictus, if indeed the latter did not take its origin from this apostasy of Israel.
See CALF, GOLDEN.
And Moloch the king, the idol of the Ammonites and Phoenicians, was intimately connected both with the solar bull and the planet Saturn. According to the rabbins, his statue was of brass, with a human body but the head of an ox. On the Carthaginian worship of Moloch or Saturn, Diodorus (book xx, chapter i) writes: "Among the Carthaginians there was a brazen statue of Saturn putting forth the palms of his hands bending in such a manner toward the earth, as that the boy who was laid upon them, in order to be sacrificed, should slip off, and so fall down headlong into a deep fiery furnace. Hence it is probable that Euripides took what he fabulously relates concerning the sacrifice in Taurus, where he introduces Iphigenia asking Orestes this question: 'But what sepulchre will me dead receive, shall the gulf of sacred fire me have?' The ancient fable likewise that is common among all the Grecians, that Saturn devoured his own children, seems to be confirmed by this law among the Carthaginians." The parallelism of the text therefore is very complete. The Israelites professed to be carrying the tabernacle of Yahweh upon which rested the Shekinah glory; but in spirit they were carrying the tabernacle of the cruelest and most malignant of all the deities of the heathen, and the light in which they were rejoicing was the star of the planet assigned to that deity.
Moloch then was the sun as king, and especially the sun as he entered upon what might be considered his peculiar kingdom, the zodiac from Taurus to Serpens and Scorpio, the period of the six summer months. The connection of the sun with Saturn may seem to us somewhat forced, but we have the most direct testimony that such a connection was believed in by the Babylonians. In Thompson's Reports, obverse of No. 176 reads: "When the sun stands in the place of the moon, the king of the land will be secure on his throne. When the sun stands above or below the moon, the foundation of the throne will be secure." The "sun" in this inscription clearly cannot be the actual sun, and it is explained on the reverse as being "the star of the sun," the planet Saturn. No. 176 rev. reads: "Last night Saturn drew near to the moon. Saturn is the star of the sun. This is the interpretation: it is lucky for the king. The sun is the king's star." The connection between the sun and Saturn probably arose from both being taken as symbols of Time. The return of the sun to the beginning of the zodiac marked the completion of the year. Saturn, the slowest moving of all the heavenly bodies, accomplished its revolution through the signs of the zodiac in about 30 years, a complete generation of men. Saturn therefore was in a peculiar sense the symbol of Time, and because of Time, of Destiny.
3. Mazzaloth, or Planet Worship:
The connection between the worship of the golden calves, of the heavenly host and of Moloch, and of these with divination and enchantments, is brought out very clearly in the judgment which the writer of the Book of Ki pronounces upon the apostate ten tribes: "They forsook all the commandments of Yahweh their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments" (II Kings 17:16-17). The sin of apostate Judah was akin to the sin of apostate Israel. In the reformation of Josiah, he put down the idolatrous priests that "burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets (mazzaloth), and to all the host of heaven" (II Kings 23:5). He also destroyed the 'asherah and he "defiled Topheth .... that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech" (II Kings 23:10). "Moreover them that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the teraphim, and the idols, and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away" (II Kings 23:24). The idolatries to which the Israelites of both kingdoms were especially prone were those of the heavenly bodies, and inextricably woven with them was the passion for employing those heavenly bodies as omens, and in consequence for every kind of divination and witchcraft.
The word translated "planets" in II Kings 23:5 is mazzaloth, closely akin to the mazzaroth of Job 38:32. This rendering probably reproduces correctly the meaning of the original. R. C. Thompson in his introduction to the Reports writes (xxvii): "The places where the gods stood in the zodiac were called manzalti, a word which means literally 'stations,' and we are probably right in assuming that it is the equivalent of the mazzaloth mentioned in II Kings 23:5. The use of the word in late Hebrew is, however, somewhat more vague, for mazzal, though literally meaning a constellation of the zodiac, is also applied to any or every star, and in the Ber'shith Rabba', cx, it is said 'One mazzal completeth its circuit in thirty days, another completeth it in thirty years.' " The two bodies referred to are evidently the moon with its lunation of about 30 days, and Saturn with its revolution of about 30 years; these being the two planets with the shortest and longest periods respectively. By a natural metonymy, mazzaloth, the complete circuit of the zodiac, came also to mean mazzaloth, the bodies that performed that circuit, just as in the present day we speak of a railway, which means literally the "permanent way," when we really mean the trains that travel upon it.
4. Gadh and Meni or Star Worship:
The references in Old Testament to the planets other than Saturn are not so clear. In Isaiah 65:11 two deities are apparently referred to: "Ye that forsake Yahweh, that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for Fortune (Gad), and that fill up mingled wine unto Destiny (Meni); I will destine you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter." It is clear that Gad and Meni are the titles of two closely associated deities, and Gesenius identifies them with Jupiter and Venus, the Greater and Lesser Good Fortunes of the astrologers; But as I have suggested in the Astronomy of the Bible (133, 217), if any of the heavenly bodies are here intended (which cannot as yet be considered certain), it is more probable that they are the two beautiful starclusters that stand on the head and the shoulder of the Bull at the old commencement of the zodiac, as if they marked the gateway of the year—the Hyades and Pleiades. Both groups were considered traditionally as composed of seven stars; and the two names Gadh (the Hyades) and Meni (the Pleiades) taken together give the meaning of the "Fortunate Number," i.e. seven. The lectisternia—the spreading the table and mingling the wine to Gadh and Meni—at the beginning of the year to secure good fortune throughout its course, were therefore held about the time of the Passover, as if in parody, if indeed they were not a desecration of it: heathen rites added to one of the most solemn services of Yahweh.
5. Lucifer, the Shining Star:
The planet Venus is more distinctly referred to in Isaiah 14:12 : "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" (the King James Version). The word here rendered Lucifer, that is, "light-bearer," is the word helel corresponding to the Assyrian mustelil, "the shining star," an epithet to which the planet Venus has a preeminent claim.
Mars and Mercury, the two remaining planets, are not mentioned as such in Old Testament, but the deities connected with them, Nergal = Mars (II Kings 17:30) and Nebo = Mercury (Isaiah 46:1), both occur.
III. Systems of Astrology.
1. Names of the Week-Days, Due to an Astrological System:
In astrology the planets were regarded as being 7 in number, but the idea that the number 7 derived its sacredness from this fact is an inversion of the true state of the case. It was that 7 being regarded as a sacred number, the number of the planets was artificially made to correspond by including in the same class as the five wandering stars, bodies that differed so widely from them in appearance as the sun and moon. So artificial a classification cannot have been primitive, and it is significant that in Genesis 1:14 the sun and moon are presented as being (as indeed they appear to be) of an altogether different order from the rest of the heavenly bodies. Yet there is one feature that they have in common with the five planets: all move among the stars within the band of the zodiac; each of the seven makes the circuit of the mazzaloth.
We owe the names of the days of the week to this astrological conception of the planets as being 7 in number, and some writers (e.g. R. A. Proctor in his Myths and Marvels of Astronomy, 43-47) have supposed that the week of 7 days owed its origin to this astrological conception and that the 7th day—Saturn's Day—became the Sabbath, the Day of Rest, because Saturn was the planet of ill-omen and it was then unlucky to undertake any work. The way in which the allotment of the planets to the days of the week was arrived at was the following. The Greek astronomers and mathematicians concluded that the planet Saturn was the most distant from the earth and that the others followed in the descending order of Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon. In the progress of astrology there came a time when it was found necessary to assign a planet to every hour so as to increase the number of omens it could afford. Starting then with Saturn as presiding over the first hour of the first day, each planet was used three times over on that day, and three planets were used a fourth time. The sun, the fourth planet, took therefore the first hour of the second day, and gave it its name, so that Sunday followed Saturday. In like manner the third day became the moon's day, and so on with the other planets which followed in the order Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and again Saturn. This idea of the relative distances of the planets was that arrived at by the astronomers of Alexandria, and was necessarily subsequent to the reduction of the planetary motions to a mathematical system by Eudoxus and his successors. The division of the day implied was one of 24 hours, not of 12; the Egyptian division, not the Babylonian. But the Egyptian week was one of 10 days, the 7-day week was Semitic, and the week implied in the system is the free week, running on continuously, the Jewish week, not the Babylonian. For the Babylonians, though they paid some attention to the 7th day, began their reckoning afresh at the beginning of each month. This particular astrological system therefore owed its origin to four distinct nationalities. The conception of the influence of the planets was Babylonian; the mathematical working out of the order of the planets was exclusively Gr; the division of the day into 24 hours was Egyptian; the free continuous 7-day week was particularly Jewish. These four influences were brought together in Alexandria not very long before the Christian era. Here therefore and at this time, this particular system of astrology took its origin.
This form of astrology was readily adopted by the Jews in their degenerate days, as we find from references in Talmud. Thus, Rabbi Chanena said to his disciples, "Go and tell Ben Laive, the planetary influence does not depend upon days but hours. He that is born under the influence of the sun (no matter on what day) will have a beaming face"; and so the rabbi went through the whole list of the planets (Shabbath, fol 156, col. 1). The above was spoken as a criticism of Rabbi Shimon Ben Laive who had written, "Whoever is born on the first day of the week will be either a thoroughly good or a thoroughly bad man; because light and darkness was created on that day"; and the rabbi spoke similarly for the other days. We get a relic of this superstition in our nursery rhyme, "Monday's child is full of grace; Tuesday's child is fair of face," etc.; and some present-day astrologers still use the system for their forecasts. It will of course be noted that the system takes no account of the actual positions of the heavenly bodies;. the moon does not shine more or less on Monday than on any other day.
2. Origin of Modern Astrology:
It was from Alexandrian astrology that modern astrology immediately derived its form; but the original source of all astrology in the ancient world lay in the system of planetary idolatry prevalent in the Euphrates valley, and in the fact that this idolatry was practiced chiefly for the purpose of divination. At one time it was supposed that a real astronomy was cultivated at an early time in Babylonia, but Jastrow, Kugler and others have shown that this idea is without basis. The former writes, "The fact however is significant that, with perhaps some exceptions, we have in the library of Ashurbanipal representing to a large extent copies from older originals, no text that can properly be called astronomical ..... It is certainly significant that the astronomical tablets so far found belong to the latest period, and in fact to the age following on the fall of the Babylonian empire. According to Kugler the oldest dated genuinely astronomical tablet belongs to the 7th year of Cambyses, i.e. 522 BC" ("Hepatoscopy and Astrology in Babylonia and Assyria," in Proc. Amer. Phil. Soc., 667).
The conquests of Alexander the Great brought into close connection with each other the Babylonian and Greek systems of thought, and Babylonian astrology was introduced to the Greeks by Berosus the Chaldean priest. In Greek hands, astrology was changed from its character of an oriental religion into the appearance of a science. In Babylonia the stars had been consulted for the benefit of the king as representing the state; amongst the Greeks, with their strong individualistic tendency, the fortunes of the individual became the most frequent subject of inquiry, and the idea was originated of determining the character and fortune of a man from the position of the stars at his birth—genethlialogy—a phase of astrology which never existed in the Euphrates valley. This extension rendered it necessary to increase greatly the complexities of the omens, and the progress which the Greeks had made in mathematics supplied them with the means of doing so. Thus came into existence that complex and symmetrical system of divination of which we have the earliest complete exposition in the writings of Claudius Ptolemy about 130 AD; a system which, though modified in details, is in effect that in use today.
3. "Curious Arts" of Ephesus:
Since this mathematical astrology did not come into existence until about the commencement of the Christian era, it is clear that there could not be any reference to its particular form in the Old Testament. We may probably see one reference in the New Testament (Acts 19:19). Of the converts at Ephesus it is written, "Not a few of them that practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all; and they counted the price of them, and found it 50,000 pieces of silver." Books of magical incantations and prescriptions were certainly included, but it is also likely that the almanacs, tables and formulas, essential to the astrologer for the exercise of his art, were also in the number. It was of course impossible then, as now, for the convert to Christianity to consult astrologers or to practice astrological divination. Partly because it was an absurdity, for the divisions of the heavens upon which the predictions are based, are purely imaginary; the "signs" of the zodiac, and the "houses" have nothing whatsoever correspending to them in Nature; such division is exactly that denounced by the prophets of old as qecem, "divination." Next, and of more importance, it ascribes to mere creatures, the planets or the spirits supposed to preside over them, the powers that belong to God alone; it was and is essentially idolatrous. As one of the chief living astrologers puts it, "The TRUE astrologer believes that the sun is the body of the Loges of this solar system, 'in Him we live and move and have our being.' The planets are his angels, being modifications in the consciousness of the Loges" (Knowledge, XXIII, 228). Astrology is indeed referred to in the Old Testament, with other forms of divination, and the idolatry inherent in them, but they are only mentioned in terms of the most utter reprobation. The Jews alone of all the nations of antiquity were taught by their religion neither to resort to such arts nor to be afraid of the omens deduced from them. Isaiah knew the Lord to be He that "frustrateth the signs of the liars, and maketh diviners mad" (Isaiah 44:25), and Jeremiah declared, "Thus saith Yahweh, Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them" (Jeremiah 10:2). And what held good for the Jews of old holds good for us today. Above all, astrology is an attempt to ascertain the will of God by other means than those which He has appointed—His Son, who is the Way and the Truth and the Life, and His Holy Scriptures in which we learn of Him, and which are able to make us "wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (II Timothy 3:15).
Franz Boll, Sphaera: Neue griechische Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der Sternbilder, 1903; Kugler, Kulturhistorische Bedeutung der babylonischen Astronomie, 1907; Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel; E. W. Maunder, Astronomy of the Bible, 1908; The Bible and Astronomy, Annual Address before the Victoria Institute, 1908; E. W. Maunder and A. S. D. Maunder, "Note on the Date of the Passage of the Vernal Equinox from Taurus into Aries," in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, LXIV, 488-507; also three papers on "The Oldest Astronomy" in Journal of the British Astronomical Association, VIII, 373; IX, 317; XIV, 241; R. A. Proctor, Myths and Marvels of Astronomy; R. C. Thompson, Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon; G. V. Schiaparelli, Astronomy in the Old Testament; also two papers, "I Primordi" and "I Progressi dell' Astronomia presso i Babilonesi," in Rivista di Scienzia, 1908; C. Virolleaud, L'astrologie chaldeenne. Le livre intitule "Enuma Anu Bel," 1908, 1909.
E. W. Maunder
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