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Research Sources For Astrology

Early Christians And Astrology

The earliest Christians were Jews and had the same ambiguous attitudes toward astrological practices as other Jews. They were part of an astrological society, but they wanted to avoid idiolatry, worshiping gods other than the Father of Jesus. In general, Christian writers, particularly apologists and polemicists, were opposed to scientific and religious astrology. The former, they attacked for its determinism, which conflicted with their belief in free will. Usually they used the same arguments as Skeptical philosophers such as Carneades. Augustine makes the most detailed attack in City of God, one which modern astrologers still try to reply to in popular magazines. But the suspicion arises that writers had to make the same attacks over centuries because ordinary Christians were ignoring them and using astrology. Astral religion, of course, was rejected as idiolatry pure and simple. But symbolic astrology is found in, e.g., the story of the Magi, who were brought to Jesus. It was by a star foretelling a new king of the Jews. Revelations also uses astral symbolism extensively. A few examples of early Christian astrological art survive, too, notably in the 3rd century tomb excavated in the foundations of St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, in the 1950s.

Augustine, De Civitate dei libri XX [City of God], Corpus Christianorum, Series latina XLVIII, 2 Volumes (Turnholtii: Typographi Brepols, 1955) {Standard Latin text of the following. Also available in electronic form, on the CETEDOC CD-ROM.}

Augustine, Confessions, tr. John K. Ryan, Image Ed. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1960) {Discusses Augustine's early infatuation with astrology, and how his father's friend, who cast horoscopes for dogs, influenced him to abandon belief.}

Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, Against the Pagans, ed. David Knowles, trans. Henry Bettenson (London: Pelican, 1972) {Augustine practiced astrology early in life, then after conversion attacked it as contrary to free will as well as being a non-Christian practice. Nevertheless, like most of the Fathers, he accepted the powers of the planets.}

Boll, Franz, Aus der Offenbarung Johannes; Hellenistischen Studien zum Weltbild der Apokalypse Stoicheia I (Leipzig: 1914; repr. Amsterdam, 1967) {astrological symbolism in the Biblical Book of Revelation; cf. Malina}

Chalcidius, Platonis Timaeus interpretate Chalcidio, ed. Z. Wrobel (Lipsiae: 1976) {This half-finished translation and commentary was all that the Latin Middle Ages had of Plato, but it was influential, nevertheless. Cf. Lewis, Discarded Image, 1964.}

Ciotti, Joseph E., "The Magi's Star: Misconceptions and New Suggestions," Griffith Observer 42 (Dec. 1978): 2-11 {Discussion of Christmas star and Magi.}

Dölger, F. J., Die Sonne der Gerechtigkeit und der Schwarze (Münster: Aschendorf, 1925) {A classic. Solar symbolism applied to Christ by early Christians. The title is a reference to Malachi 4:2, which the early Christians interpreted as a prophecy of Christ.}

Dölger, F. J., Sol Salutis (Münster: 1925) {Solar symbolism for Christ in Late Antiquity. The "lux crescit" in the Latin Christmas mass is supposedly from NTH "LP,4 [PHOS AUXEI] in a pagan December 25 liturgy.}

Grabar, André, "L'iconographie du ciel dans l'art chrétienne," Cahiers archéologiques 30 (1982): 5-24 {Hellenistic star maps inspired early Christians to paint their churches's ceilings to look like the sky. cf. the early Islamic palace at Qusayr Amra.}

Hermippus Anonymi christiani Hermippus de astrologia dialogus, ed. G. Kroll and page Viereck {An early christian dialog supporting astrology -- a very unusual opinion.}

Hippolytus, The Refutation of All Heresies in Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson, James eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans,1978) {There is major anti-astrology polemic in Book IV, Chapters I-XXVII (pages 24-34), the same, word for word, as Sextus Empiricus' argument. Hippolytus' work is an important source on all varieties of early Christianity. All heretics are Platonists, he claimed. Often cited by Bouché-Leclercq. Now available on-line in the Ethereal Library, q.v.}

Hübner, Wolfgang, "Das Horoskop der Christen," Vigiliae Christianae 29 (1975): 120-37. {Very useful. Contains a German translation and commentary on Zeno of Verona's sermon, "The Twelve Signs".}

Kirschbaum, Engelbert, The Tomb of St. Peter and St. Paul (London: Secker & Warburg, 1959) {An account of excavations in the foundations of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Among other interesting finds was an early Christian tomb, with a mosaic of Christ wearing the crown of rays and driving the four-horse chariot of the Sun, 34-35.; cf. Toynbee and Ward-Perkins}

Malina, Bruce J., The Genre and Message of Revelation: Star Visions and Sky Journeys (Peabody, Mass. : Hendrickson Publishers, c1995.) {much of the symbolism in the New Testament book of Revelations is drawn from astrology. The various bowls refer to the symbolism of bowl-shaped comets, for example. Cf. Boll}

Molnar, Michael, The Star of Bethlehem, The Legacy of the Magi (Rutgers U. Pr., 1999) {xvi, 187 p. : ill., map ; 23 cm.; ISBN 0-8135-2701-5; star of magi a royal horoscope, 2 occultations of Jupiter in Aries, 6 BC; coins show event well-known, celebrated; Aries assoc. with Judaea in chorography of Manilius, etc.; probably the most thorough recent treatment of a perennial topic}

Morehouse, A. J., "The Christmas Star as a Supernova in Aquila," Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada 72 (1978): 65-68

Mosley, John, "When was the Christmas Star," Griffith Observer 44 (1980): 2-9 {Discussion of the Christmas star as well as on Magi.}

Münter, Der Stern der Weisen (1827) {This relates to both section on Jewish and Early Christian astrology.}

Rahner, Hugo, "The Christian Mystery of Sun and Moon," in Hugo Rahner, Greek Myths and Christian Mystery (London: Burns and Oates, 1963. NY: Biblo and Tannen, 1971), 89-179 {Explains early Christian use of astral symbols.}

Richards, Carl P., "The Star of Bethlehem," Sky and Telescope 16 (Dec. 1956): 66-7.

Robinson, James, gen. ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English, third completely revised edition, first U.S. edition, with an afterword by Richard Smith, managing editor (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988) {The Gnostics were a group of early Christians which did not become mainstream. This is a very important collection of Gnostic documents. The planet-gods are very important in the Gnostic creation myth, and anti- astrological polemic is a major element in their theology.}

Rosenberg, Roy A., "The 'Star of the Messiah' Reconsidered," Biblica 53 (1972): 105-09 {More discussion of the Christmas star.}

Seymour, Percy A. H. and Colin Wilson. The Birth of Christ. (Virgin Publishing, 1999) {The earth saw the age of Pisces dawn and Christ at the same time. The New Age meets magi, using computer-generated star maps and other "research," to shed light on the "real" date of Christ's birth, the virgin birth and of course why the fish was an important Christian symbol. Hard to know where to put this creative literary gem! :-)}

Sloelt, D. A. W. T., Der Stern der Wijzen (Bussum P. Braun, 1920) {Mars very bright in 7 BC; cf. F. X. Kugler}

Stentzel, Arthur C., Jesus Christus und sein Stern, 2nd ed. (Hamburg: H. Christian, 1928) {Discussion of the Christmas star.}

Toynbee, J. M. C., and Ward-Perkins, J. B., The Shrine of St. Peter and the Vatican Excavations (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1956) {Jesus as Sol Invictus, the Sun-god, in a mosaic from St. Peter's is discussed pages 72-5, and plate 32. Toynbee and Ward-Perkins are both well-known historians of Roman art. Cf. Kirschbaum}

Viana, J. Enrico, "La estella de Jesus," Por los senderos de la Biblia (Madrid: Studium, 1957) {II, 155-60}

Yamauchi, Edwin M., "The episode of the Magi," Chronos, Kairos, Christos [festschrift J. Finegan]; ed., J Vardaman (1989), 15-39. {Discussion of the Christmas star as well as on Magi.}

Zeno of Verona, "XXXVIII. Tractatus de XII signis ad neophitos," in Zenonis Veronensis Tractatus, Corpus Christianorum, Vol. 22 (Ternhout: Brepols, 1971), 105-6 {Zeno was bishop of Verona in the fourth century CE. This is one of the first Christian writings to use astrological symbolism in a positive way. It is translated into German with commentary in Hübner, "Horoskop der Christen," VC 29 (1975): 120-37. An easily searched electronic version on CD-ROM, called CETEDOC, is produced by Brepols.}