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Research Sources For Astrology

Jewish Astrology

Astrology was a problem for Jewish thinkers. The Bible appears to forbid worship of the heavenly bodies, and of looking to them for knowledge of the future. At the same time, the Biblical writers sometimes used them as symbols of divine power and plans for the future. Before the Babylonian exile, Mesopotamian astral omen watching was known only as a foreign practice. After Hellenistic astrology was developed, Hellenistic Jews re- interpreted it in a monotheistic way, making the stars into angels, superhuman assistants of God. As such, they made good visual substitutes for the Almighty in art.

Allegro, John Marco, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, V: Qumran Cave 4 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968) {DJD is the official publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Pages, 88-91 give a fragmentary astrological document, fragment 4Q186 [also 4Qcryptic], analyzing personality by means of astrologically determined physical appearance. Compare Eisenman and Wise, 1993 and Vermes, 1987.}

Altman, Alexander, "Astrology," Encyclopedia Judaica, III, ed.-in-chief, Cecil Roth (Jerusalem, NY: Macmillan, 1971-72), cols. 788-95 {The Encyclopedia Judaica should be one's first reference source for almost anything Judaic. The article on Astrology is brief, thorough, and reliable. Compare the article on "Astronomy.".}

Bischoff, Erich, Kabbala : An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism and Its Secret Doctrine (Weiser Classics Series, 1985) {An introduction, but is confusing and leaves more questions unanswered than answered.}

Dobin, Rabbi Joel C., The Astrological Secrets of the Hebrew Sages; To Rule Both Day and Night (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1977, 1983). {The entire book is a very instructive example of how one may reconcile rabbinic and astrological traditions in the modern world.}

Enoch, 1 (Ethiopic Apocalypse of) trans. E. Isaac, in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume I, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983), pp. 5-90. {I Enoch dates to perhaps third century BCE, and emphasizes the role of angels as powers in nature, including the planets, under God's command; a striking example of Judaic religious astrology.}

Enoch, 2 (Slavonic Apocalypse of) Enoch, trans. F. I. Anderson, in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume I, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983), pages 91-221. {The exact date and provenance of II Enoch is unknown, but planet angels are important.}

Enoch, 3 (Hebrew Apocalypse of) Enoch, tr. P. Alexander. In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume I, ed., James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983), pages 223-316. {In this work, dating to the fifth or sixth centuries CE, Enoch is promoted to chief angel. A classic of rabbinic angelology.}

Artapanus, "The Fragments of Artapanus." Translated by John J. Collins. In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Edited by James H. Charlesworth. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1983, II, pages 897-902. {Artapanus was a Jewish writer who claimed that Moses invented astrology.}

Avi-Yonah, Michael, Art in Ancient Palestine. Selected Studies, Collected and Prepared for Republication by Hannah Katzenstein and Yoram Tsafrir (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University, The Magnes Press, 1981) {Collected essays on ancient art history. Discussions of the zodiac mosaics included.}

Beer, Arthur, "Astronomy," Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. III (Jerusalem: Keter. NY: Macmillan, 1971), columns 795-808 {Ref H DS 102.8 .E496. Good companion to the article on "Astrology."}

Charles, R. H., ed., The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, 2 Volumes, English translation, with introductions and critical and explanatory notes, in conjunction with many scholars (Oxford: 1913) {Those ancient Jewish writings not included in the Hebrew or Christian Bibles are collectively called "apocrypha" or "pseudepigrapha." This was the standard collection in English until recently. Compare Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.}

Charlesworth, James H., "Jewish Interest in Astrology During the Hellenistic and Roman Periods," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II 20.2, ed. W. Haase (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1987), pages 926-49. {Useful survey of the evidence and sources.}

Charlesworth, James H., ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 Volumes (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1983) {The pseudepigrapha are ancient Jewish writings which are not included in Jewish or Christian Bibles. This is the standard collection of English translations, with good introductions and bibliographies. It contains astrological documents including the Treatise of Shem and the Testament of Solomon, the fragments of Artapanus and Eupolemus, as well as First, Second, and Third Enoch, which have much to say about the stars as angels.}

Dead Sea Scrolls, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, trans. Geza Vermes, 3rd Edition (Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press, 1987) {This is the preferred translation of those Dead Sea Scrolls published up till 1987. It included several astrological documents. The Qumran sectarians may have used astrology to screen applicants.}

Dead Sea Scrolls, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered. The First Complete Translation and Interpretation of 50 Key Documents withheld over 35 Years, by Robert H. Eisenmann and Michael Wise (NY: Penguin Books, 1993) {This edition contains translations of the Dead Sea Scroll fragments published since 1987. Some of Eisenman's interpretations are rather controversial, but should not affect translated astrological documents here.}

Dobin, Joel C., To Rule Both Day and Night. Astrology in the Bible, Midrash, and Talmud (NY: Inner Traditions International, 1977) {Dobin is an American rabbi who practices astrology and claims that it is the only future for Judaism. Eccentric but stimulating, it is the only book I know which is really explicit about the Judaic system of interpretation. Although it is quite ahistorical, it does give guidance to discussions of astrology in classic rabbinic literature. There has been a 1983 reprint with a slightly different title.}

Dothan, Moshe, "The Representation of Helios in the Mosaic of Hammath-Tiberias," in Atti del Convegno internazionale sul tema: Tardo antico e alto medievo, Roma 4-7 aprile 1967. Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Quaderno No. 105 (Rome: 1968), pages 99-104. {Dothan is a distinguished Israeli archaeologist, and the excavator of the Hammath-Tiberias synagogue zodiac.}

Dothan, Moshe, "The Synagogue at Hammath-Tiberias," in Ancient Synagogues Revealed, ed. Lee I. Levine Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society), pages 63-69. {A useful article first published in Hebrew in the popular journal Qadmoniot. Good color photographs.}

Ginzberg, Louis, The Legends of the Jews, 7 Volumes, trans. Harold Szold (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1909-28; Reprint, 1968) {A very useful compilation derived from a wide variety of sources. A detailed index allows one to, e.g., find the classic stories of Abraham as astrologer, while detailed notes give references to where the original versions may be found.}

Goodenough, E. R., Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period. 13 Volumes. NY: Pantheon. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1953-68. {A magnificent corpus of ancient Judaic art, with most of the astrological art- works known. Goodenough was one of the greatest historians of ancient Judaism, but in this work tends to see astrology where no one else does. Very few are persuaded by his theory that a Judaic mystery religion was the ancestor of Christianity.}

Goodenough, E. R., Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, Abridged Edition, ed., with a foreword, by Jacob Neusner (Princeton University Press, 1988) {This abridgement of Goodenough's magnum opus has the entire astrology section. Jacob Neusner is himself a very distinguished historian of ancient Judaism.}

Solomon, "Hygromancie of Rehoboam," Catalogus Codicum Astrologorum Graecorum, Volume VIII.2, ed. J. Heeg (Brussels: 1911), 143-65. {Greek text of "Solomon's" Letter of Rehoboam, which see. An important Jewish text of astral religion and magic.}

Hübner, Wolfgang, Zodiacus Christianus. Jüdisch-christliche Adaptionen des Tierkreises von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, Beiträge zur klassischen Philologie 144 (Königstein: Hain, 1983) {Ways in which Jews and Christians adapted the zodiac to their own purposes. Index of biblical references as well as a bibliography, pages 231-38. Hübner has written several good books on ancient astrology.}

Jeffers, A. "Magic and Divination in Ancient Palestine and Syria" (S. Ribichini) in Rivista di Studi Fenici e Supplemento: Ultime Pubblicazioni, Sul fascicolo 2 del volume XXVI (1998) della Rivista di Studi Fenici I: pp. 243-246. F. Mazza - S. Ribichini, Bibliografia. 26: pp. 247-68.

Josephus, Flavius, Complete Works, 9 Volumes, tr. H. St. John Thackeray, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. London: William Heinemann, 1926-63) {Josephus is the most important Jewish historian of the Greco-Roman period, and his corpus a cave of treasures filled with information found nowhere else. He identifies symbolism in the Jerusalem temple with astrological elements. The seven branches of the menorah are the seven planets, for example, while the veil in front of the Holy of Holies is embroidered with the zodiac.}

Lehmann, M. B., "New Light on Astrology in Qumran and the Talmud," Revue de Qumran 8.4 (1975): 599-602. {The zodiac mosaics are not astrological because Talmud forbids astrology. His real assumption is that his ancestors could not do something as embarrassing as practice astrology. This is a false assumption: astrology was quite respectable in antiquity.}

Löw, Leopold, "Die Astrologie in der biblischen, thalmudischen, und nachthalmudischen Zeit," Ben Chananja. Wochenblatt für jüdische Theology 6 (1863): cols. 401-08, 431-35. {A classic analysis of astrology in rabbinic literature.}

Maier, Johann, "Die Sonne im religiösen Denken des antiken Judentums," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.19.1, ed. W. Haase (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1979) 346-412. {Good discussion of a prominent aspect of astral religion.}

Mazar, Benjamin, et al., The Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Holy Land, 2 Volumes (Jerusalem: Massada, 1971) {Standard reference work on archaeology in Israel and neighboring lands. Contains discussions of the synagogue zodiac mosaics and their sites.}

Merchavya, Chen, "Razim, Sefer Ha-," Encyclopedia Judaica, Volume XIII (NY: Macmillan, 1971), columns 1594-95 {A good survey of an important work of astrological magic from the fourth or fifth centuries CE.}

Merrill, E. H., Qumran and Predestination (Leiden: Brill, 1975) {Discussion of how the Qumran sectarians used astrology.}

Milik, J. T., Ten Years of Discoveries in the Judaean Desert tr. J. Strugnell (London: SCM. Naperville, IL: A. R. Allenson, 1959) {Survey of research from discovery, including astrological documents. See pages 42 and 119.}

Niggemeyer, J.-H., Beschwörungsformeln aus dem "Buch der Geheimnisse," Zur Topologie der magischen Rede, Judaistische Texte und Studien 3 (Hildesheim, NY: Georg Olms Verlag, 1975) {Detailed discussion of Sepher Ha-Razim and comparison with non- Jewish magical texts.}

Pesikta Rabbati, tr. William G. Braude, Yale Judaica Series, Volumes 18-19 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1968) {A collection of early rabbinic homilies. See section 20. 27-8 for astrological references.}

Philo of Alexandria, Complete Works, Tr. R. Marcus, Loeb Classical Library, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1953) {Philo was an important Jewish Platonist philosopher, roughly contemporary with Jesus, who saw astrological references in Jewish religious artifacts. The twelve stones in the High Priest's breastplate, for example, represent the twelve signs as well as the twelve tribes.}

Rubenstein, Rosemary, Incorporation of the Zodiac in Some Synagogues During the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Centuries of the Common Era (Drew University: MA Thesis, 1983) {Brief account of rabbinic period astrology. No reference to astrological religion.}

Schürer, Emil, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C.-A.D. 135), 3 Volumes, A New English Version, Revised and Edited by Geza Vermes and Fergus Millar, Literary Editor Pamela Vermes, Organizing Editor, Matthew Black (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, Ltd., 1973-1987) {Updated and thoroughly revised version of a classic survey, including discussions of nearly all primary literature surviving from the period. The segment by P. S. Alexander, "Incantations and Books of Magic," with its bibliography, Volume III, pages 342-7, is particularly valuable.}

Sedgewick, Charlalee Bailey, Discussions of the Meaning of the Zodiac in Ancient Palestinian Synagogues (University of Georgia, 1976) {Found in "First Search," on-line reference. I have not read it personally. 91 leaves.}

Sepher Ha-Razim. The Book of Mysteries, Michael A. Morgan, tr., Society of Biblical Literature, Texts and Translations, 25, Pseudepigrapha Series 11 (Chico, CA: Scholar's Press, 1983) {A translation of a famous work of rabbinic angel magic. Composed about 300 CE, and thus contemporary with the synagogue zodiacs, it invokes the planet-gods Aphrodite (Venus) and Helios (the Sun) with their Greek names, although written in Hebrew. Morgan's translation contains an excellent introduction and footnotes.}

Sepher Ha-Razim: A Newly Recovered Book of Magic from the Talmudic Period, Collected from Genizah Fragments and Other Sources, [Title and text in Hebrew] edited with introduction and annotation by Mordecai Margalioth (Jerusalem: Yediot Aharonot, 1966) {This is the Hebrew text which Morgan translated.}

Shanks, Herschel, Judaism in Stone: The Archaeology of Ancient Synagogues, preface by Yigael Yadin (NY: Harper and Row. Washington, D.C.: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1979) {Shanks is editor of the popular journal Biblical Archaeology Review. This popular work contains excellent color photographs of the synagogue zodiacs.}

Shem, "Rylands Syriac MS 44 and a New Addition to the Pseudepigrapha: the Treatise of Shem, Discussed and Translated," by James H. Charlesworth, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 60.2 (1978): pages 376-403. {Syriac text, English translation, and discussion of this astrological work.}

Shem, "The Treatise of Shem," tr. James H. Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha I, 1983, pages 473-86. {The supposed instructions of the angel Raziel to Shem the son of Noah. A interesting Jewish astrological work dating to the first century CE., with good bibliography.}

Solomon, "The Epistle to Rehoboam: Introduction and Translation," {Unpublished translation and introduction by Dr. Scott Carroll. The introduction has been published in Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 4 (1989): 91-103. This is a very interesting first century CE document of Jewish astrological magic and astral religion. It pretends to be Solomon's instructions to his son, in how to make angels and demons work for him. It invokes God to make planets obedient, then asks the planets to do things. A translation is scheduled to appear in a forthcoming volume of Solomonic works, edited by Denis Duling.}

Sparks, H. F. D., ed., The Apocryphal Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985) {"See especially I Enoch (Ethiopic Enoch) Bk III beginning at Chapter LXXVII, page 257: and II Enoch (Slavonic Enoch) Chapter VI, verses 14-30 starting on page 332. These quotations from the Enoch literature are during an ascent of the narrator to God, and the astronomical details of the spheres are described as the narrator and his angelic guide pass through. With the Enoch literature there are editorial differences in presentation, based on the preferences for basic texts. The oldest accurate translation is R. H. Charles, any of several editions. See also James H. Charlesworth for another up to date contemporary translation. These Apocalypses whether we call them intertestamental, Apocryphal, or Pseudepigrapha are full of interesting material. These two are quoted simply as a place to get started, and many others in and out of the various canons of Scripture will have great astrological significance. See also G. R. S. Mead, Pistis Sophia for a gnostic development on this theme.--Win Rowe". This edition was meant to update Charles, 1913. It is rather less extensive than Charlesworth's Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.}

Stemberger, Günter, "Der Tierkreis in der jüdisch-christlichen Traditionen," W. Strolz, Kosmischer Dimensionen religiöser Erfahrung, Veröffentlichen der Stiftung Oratio Dominica (Freiburg: Herder, 1978): pages 101-27. {Zodiac symbolism in Jewish and Christian traditions.}

Stemberger, Günter, "Die Bedeutung des Tierkreises auf Mosaikfussböden Spätantiker Synagogen," Kairos 17 (1975): 11-56 {A major discussion of the meaning of the synagogue zodiacs, containing good notes, referring one to most Talmudic discussions of astrology and art.}

Sukenik, Eleazar Lipa, The Ancient Synagogue of Beth Alpha: An Account of the Excavations Conducted on Behalf of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem by E. L. Sukenik (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1932) {Sukenik excavated this famous ancient synagogue and its zodiac mosaic. This is the official record of his research. He says little about astrology, merely that, since it was widely practiced, no one should be surprised at its use in art, with its good color illustrations.}

Theuer, Gabriele, Der Mondgott in den Religionen Syrien-Palaestinas, OBO 173, (Fribourg [Switzerland] 2000) {comprehensive; emphasis on Ugarit, the one Canaanite city whose religion we know well, and on the Bible; I have not read this one personally, but it has been praised by scholars I trust}

Trachtenberg, Joshua, Jewish Magic and Superstition. A Study in Folk Religion (Behrmann's Jewish Book House, 1939; NY: Atheneum, 1987) {A very stimulating, useful, book on the history of magic among Jews. It focuses on the Jewish community of Medieval Germany, but much refers to Late Antiquity. For example, Trachtenberg often cites the Sepher Raziel, which is now known to be closely derived from the fourth century CE Sepher ha-Razim.}

Zatelli, Ida, "Astrology and the Worship of the Stars in the Bible," Zeitschrift für alttestamentische Wissenschaft 103 (1991): 86-98 {Contains detailed analysis of Old Testament vocabulary of stars, heavens, etc., with good notes.}