Star Gazing in Palos Heights
We have all seen horoscopes in the newspapers and heard advertisements for ‘personal star chart preparation’ or ‘personal (‘certified’), astrologers. Should we as Christians give any merit to the teachings of astrology? What is the position of the church? Are astrology and Christianity compatible with one another? On Thursday night January 18, 1996 a group of our faithful gathered together for a Bible Study on astrology at Sts. Joachim and Anne Armenian Apostolic Church to address just these issues. During the evening a number of interesting points were made.
First, the distinction was drawn between Astrology and Astronomy. It was pointed out that the English wordAstrology is of Greek derivation and means “star speak” (from astro meaning star and logy meaning speech or words), and is the investigation of the planets and their supposed influence upon the destiny of man. The literal translation of ‘astrologer’ in the Old Testament is a person who "divided the heavens" (translation of Hebrew phrase of Isa. 47:13 ). As opposed to astrology, astronomy studies the movements, magnitudes, physical constitutions and distances of the heavenly bodies.
Astronomy is an ancient science and is not in conflict with biblical doctrine while astrology is condemned in church doctrine. Both the Bible and Patristics speak against the practice of astrology.
Central to the practice of astrology is the belief that the stars reveal the future and/or can guide us to make right choices in our lives, that is to say the stars reveal to us the choices we should make. Some of those who believe in astrology try to use scripture to defend their belief:
Three of the most referred to sections are:
The stars of Joseph are said to correspond to 12 signs of the zodiac
Star of Bethlehem - used to announce birth of Messiah
Book of Daniel
Let’s look at these three:
1. The stars of Joseph - said to correspond to 12 signs of the zodiac
His brothers said to him, (Joseph) "Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to have dominion over us?" So they hated him yet more for his dreams and for his words. Then he dreamed another dream, and told it to his brothers, and said, "Behold, I have dreamed another dream; and behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me." But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, "What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?" (Genesis 37:8-10 )
This Bible passage, however is fulfilled in Gen 42:5
Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan. Now Joseph was governor over the land; he it was who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph's brothers came, and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. Joseph saw his brothers, and knew them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. "Where do you come from?" he said. They said, "From the land of Canaan, to buy food." Thus Joseph knew his brothers, but they did not know him. And Joseph remembered the dreams which he had dreamed of them; and he said to them, "You are spies, you have come to see the weakness of the land." (Gen 42:5-9 )
The stars in Josephs vision are contextually meant to represent Joseph’s brothers. The inference of this being a reference to the zodiac has, as can be discerned from the above passages, no biblical basis.
2. Star of Bethlehem - used to announce birth of Messiah
"Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: 'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.'" Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Mat 2:2-11)
In the above passage we simply notice that God can choose to use celestial bodies to point out a direction. This is similar to the Jew’s flight from Egypt in the book of Exodus.
But God led the people round by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle.
And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him; for Joseph had solemnly sworn the people of Israel, saying, "God will visit you; then you must carry my bones with you from here.” And they moved on from Succoth, and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night; the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people. (Exo 13:18-22)
3. Daniel, having been exposed to Babylonian culture was familiar with Babylonian astrology - but familiarity with its practice does not condone the practice. Daniel, in facts speaks to a king who relied on astrology of its inability to interpret His dream.
In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the astrologers, and the Chaldeans be summoned, to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. And the king said to them, "I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream." Then the Chaldeans said to the king, "O king, live for ever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation." The king answered the Chaldeans, "The word from me is sure: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation." They answered a second time, "Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation."... The Chaldeans answered the king, "There is no on on earth who can reveal what the king demands."
(Dan 2:1-7 , 10)
We see in the above passage that the astrologers were unable to interpret the kings dream.
Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus to him: "I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who can make known to the king the interpretation." The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, "Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?" Daniel answered the king, "No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery which the king has asked, (Dan 2:25-27 )
We notice a further condemnation of those who practice astrology in II Kings,
During the reign of King Josiah we read that the Jews had fallen away from following the Lord. At that time a "Book of the Law" was discovered while repairs were being made on the Temple. Upon hearing the message of the book, Josiah tore his clothes, a sign of repentance, and humbled himself before God. The reading of this book prompted Josiah to instigate the most far-reaching religious reforms in Israel's history.
And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book; and all the people joined in the covenant. And the king commanded Hilkiah, the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the threshold, to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, (Pagan Gods) and for all the host of heaven; he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. And he deposed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places at the cities of Judah and round about Jerusalem;those also who burned incense to Baal, (a Pagan God) to the sun, and the moon, and the constellations, and all the host of the heavens. (2 Ki 23:3-5)
Thus Josiah, one king credited with leading Israel to the Lord, by the inspiration of God cleansed the temple from those who practices astrology, for it was seen as contrary to following Yahweh.
Another condemnation of astrology is made in Isaiah as God says that those who ‘divide the heavens’ are being ‘consumed by fire’.
You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, "No one sees me"; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, "I am, and there is no one besides me." But evil shall come upon you, for which you cannot atone; disaster shall fall upon you, which you will not be able to expiate; and ruin shall come on you suddenly, of which you know nothing. Stand fast in your enchantments and your many sorceries, with which you have labored from your youth; perhaps you may be able to succeed, perhaps you may inspire terror. You are wearied with your many counsels; let them stand forth and save you, those who divide the heavens, who gaze at the stars, who at the new moons predict what shall befall you. Behold, they are like stubble, the fire consumes them; they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame. (Isa 47:10-14 )
Followers of astrology either worship the stars themselves or star gods; or attempt to discern the will of God through contemplation of the stars. Yet all these beliefs, as has been shown are anti-biblical.
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. (John 14:6 )
The path to God is through his son Jesus. He has revealed himself through history to us in the Holy Scripture and in his ongoing work in the church. Let us commit ourselves to studying scripture and dedicating ourselves to coming to know God’s will through the study of scripture. For we are not saved by the stars but through the Word of God. To Him be eternal glory.