Essenes were astrologers, too, as Dead Sea Scrolls show; Was Jesus an astrologer?

October 6, 2009 at 11:51 pm

by Milky Way Maid

We astrologers seem to have taken for granted that the Bible is anti-astrology. A quote from the Bible has been widely interpreted as a condemnation of astrologers and astrology (although there are other interpretations). But it may surprise you to learn that the earliest Jewish writings – namely, the Dead Sea scrolls discovered at Qumran — included astrology lessons.

The Essene scrolls, the Torah (Old Testament) and Talmud, all have references to astrological or astronomical material. They include not only interpretations of the stars and planets, but the fact that they observed other phenomena such as new and full moons, eclipses and comets.

Sid Jefferies, on his web site FactsBehindFaith.com, states that “the magi who attend the Birth of Jesus and prophesy so accurately his future are not really three ‘kings.’ These Persian magi are now properly translated as astrologers in many Bibles.”

The Qumran texts even include a bit of national forecasting. We find the line: “when the new moon is in Taurus’ foot — happiness will come to Israel(2).”

No less a figure than Edgar Cayce also confirmed that the Essenes studied astrology and related arts: “in Carmel – the original place where the School of the Prophets was established during Elijah’s time and that of Samuel – these were called the Essenes; and those that were students of what ye would call astrology, numerology, phrenology, and those phases of study of the return of individuals – or reincarnation.(4).” Cayce also states that Anna was a key figure in the Qumran community by virtue of her skills in astrology and numerology.

Collins’ book on the Dead Sea scrolls states that the Essenes had a “special interest in the regular, “lawful” movements of the stars in astrology, in an exact sun calendar with fixed dates for the Sabbath and the festivals and individual horoscopes; and in physiognomy and predictions based upon the stars and physical human attributes — a typical phenomenon of the rationalism of the Hellenistic age. Physiognomy together with the astrological nativity played an important role for the ranking of members within the community. Since the third century BCE, astrology and related sciences conquered the whole eastern Mediterranean area, with Alexandria as its center, and became the most modern “progressive” and highly esteemed science(5).”

Where did the Jewish peoples get their first instruction in astrology? Tradition says that it was revealed to Enoch on heavenly tablets(5).

We may also quote Revelation (22.16) where Christ is actually called ‘the bright and morning star,’ a clear planetary reference although such a description may be comparing him to Venus or Saturn, as it may apply to both. There are even some who believe that Jesus was a practicing astrologer! In the “Gospel of the Holy Twelve” the training of Jesus is described; “And Jesus, after he had finished his study of the law, went down again into Egypt that he might learn the wisdom of the Egyptians, even as Moses did. And for seven years he conversed with God face to face, … and he learned the motions of the Sun and the Moon and the Stars, and the powers of letters, and the mysteries of the Square and the Circle and the Transmutation of things, and of

forms, and of numbers, and of signs.”

Apparently God is an astrologer, too. Not once but twice in the Bible do we find phrases describing him counting the stars or measuring them. God is depicted as counting the stars and giving them names in Psalms 147:4 and in Isaiah 40:26. Psalms 147:4 – “He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.”(7) Isaiah 40:26 – “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”(7) Job 38:33 asks “Do you know the laws of the heavens?”(7)

Also in Revelation is an equally intriguing description of Mary. How many of us have stopped to notice the astrological or astronomical language in the following? — ‘There appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the Sun and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And she was pregnant …. and brought forth a man child who was to rule the nations with a rod of iron.’ (Rev. 12.1) A crown of twelve stars certainly indicates the twelve sun signs; the crown or halo is often a Neptunian image. (especially the crown of thorns, the piteous image of the suffering of Jesus).

In the Bible itself, we still find nuggets of astrology or what might be termed pre-astrology. Yoel 2:10 says that along with a belief in earthquakes and thunder as omens, they also observed solar and lunar eclipses. All these phenomenon were believed to be expressions of God’s will. Which leads me to wonder, when we cast an electional or horary chart, are we asking what God’s will is in the question under consideration? Do we still have some residual faith that what will be, will be, and is part of a grand design?

And let’s not forget that in Genesis, after the Creator made all the stars and planets, it adds the phrase, “and let them be for signs.”(7) For signs? You mean, like in astrology? You mean, really, you’re giving us permission to interpret the placement of the planets and stars??? Oh, THANK YOU!!!

Even the planetary rulers of the signs were pretty much the same as they are now although again, Jefferies gives his own views on why Mars ought to be the ruler of Scorpio, and not Pluto. Please see his article — http://www.factsbehindfaith.com/default.aspx?intContentID=56 — for a full discussion of the matter.

The Jewish traditions even mention a prominent astronomer and astrologer as well (and maybe even a physician) by the name of Shemuel. He lived in 3rd century CE Babylonia. While this is centuries after the Essenes or the birth of Christianity, the fact that his writings and sayings survive attest to the state of the art of the times. Shemuel said that Kima is a cold star compounded of some 100 stars (b. Berakhot 58b). Later Kima was identified with the Pleiades. Shemuel said that Kesil is a hot star without which the world would not survive (2).

An astronomer from the fifth or sixth century gave scholarly sources for a wealth of data. According to Astronomy in Ancient Judaism, “Baraita deMazalot is a unique astronomical and astrological tractate. It gives astronomical data in unprecedently scientific ways. The author describes two different systems, an Egyptian and a Babylonian one, regarding the position of the stars in the zodiacal signs at the moment of creation. The author gives the exact distances from the Earth to the Moon, from the Moon to Mercury and so forth in a manner resembling the Mesopotamian beru ina same, x heavenly units equal to y earthly units. The author quotes not only Rabbinic sources but states the opinions of “the sages of the Gentiles”, “the sages of Egypt, Chaldeans and the Babylonians”. There is no doubt that the writer drew some of his data from Ptolemy (2).” So it is clear that they knew and preserved a body of knowledge dating back to the Babylonians and Egyptians.

There is also a great deal of attention given to determining things like the moment of the New Moons, calculating the correct length of a solar and lunar year, inserting intercalary days to even out the year and keep it in sync with the solar year, and noting eclipses, equinoxes and solstices. They also give names to each of the decans of the 12 signs. In Chapter 18 of the apochryphal Testament of Solomon, the demons of the 36 decans appear with names that sometimes seem to be conscious distortions of the traditional names for the decans; each one is assigned ‘rulership’ over various ailments and pains. The testament lists magical cures; example: the thirty-third demon is Rhyx Phtheneoth who causes sore throat and tonsilitis and can be driven off by writing the word Leikourgos on ivy leaves and heaping them into a pile.

An ancient Jewish astrologer named Tanna gives the following rules for interpretations, which it is believed were borrowed from the Babylonians. He said: “When the sun is afflicted (solar-eclipse) – it is a bad omen for the Pagans, when the moon is afflicted – it is a bad omen for Israel, since Israel calculates according to the moon and the Pagans according to the sun. If the affliction is in the east – it is a bad omen for those who dwell in the east; in the west – it is a bad omen for those who dwell in the west; in the middle of the sky – it is a bad omen for the whole world. If the face (of the moon) looks like blood – war is coming to the world; if it looks like a sack – arrows of famine are coming to the world; if it looks like both – war and arrows of famine are coming to the world. If it was afflicted while rising – tribulation sojourns; while setting – (tribulation) comes fast. Some say the other way around” (t. Sukkah 2:6)(2).”

I might add by way of explanation that solar eclipses were believed to be punishments for any one of four ethical lapses. The eclipses were punishments rather than material for an interpretation or elective advice.

In Jubilees 12:16-17 Abraham is depicted as an astrologer who observed the stars on 1/7 (later known as Rosh Hashana), to know how rainy the coming year would be. This connection between stars and rain is part of the Mesopotamian omen heritage. (Jubilees is a Jewish apocrypha.) The verses 16-17 say: “And in the sixth week, in the fifth year thereof, Abram sat up throughout the night on the new moon of the seventh month to observe the stars from the evening to the morning, in order to see what would be the character of the year with regard to the rains, and he was alone as he sat and observed. And a word came into his heart and he said: All the signs of the stars, and the signs of the moon and of the sun are all in the hand of the Lord. Why do I search (them) out?”

Omens were read, or fortunes told, for individuals depending on what day of the week they were born or what hour was rising. “One who is born on a Monday will be a tartar, on a Tuesday – will be a wealthy man…under Venus – will be a wealthy man and adulterer, under Mercury – clever and smart” (2). Not for nothing did Jewish people wish each other ‘Mazel tov’ which translates literally as “good zodiacal sign” on family occasions; it is assumed to be invented in the 11th century at the latest (2).

Sid Jefferies quite rightly points out that the Kabbalah tradition incorporates a great deal of astrological knowledge. Kabbalah constantly refers to the eleven Sephiroth or Shining Ones which precisely describe the qualities of the ten planets (plus Earth, which does not shine). As Jefferies writes on his web site: “The Tree of Life is the central figure of the Kabbalah, the esoteric Tradition behind the Bible. It is entirely astrological, based on the ten planets and twelve Signs of the horoscope. It is mentioned in both Genesis and Revelation where it is clearly associated with the Sun’s annual cycle through the twelve zodiac Signs ‘the tree of life yields twelve crops of fruit, one for each month of the year. The leaves of the tree shall serve for the healing of the nations.’ Rev. 22. 2 This evidence shows the planets were all known in ancient times and even more shockingly, that astrology lies at the very heart of the biblical Tradition, from the Beginning to the End.”

Along the way, Jefferies provides an explanation for a puzzling aphorism made by Jesus. He said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. What does it mean, besides the obvious tendency for the wealthy to lose their moral compass? From Torah: The Hebrew letter for the Moon’s long path is Gimel, a camel, the ship of the desert, full of water, while Pluto’s is a tooth or a needle. The strange image that ‘it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven’ is pure Kabbalah. The path of the camel does go up to the heavenly heights of the Crown through Pluto, through the eye of a needle.

So let’s look at the Tree of Life a bit closer. See the illustration. It has all the planets we use now: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and even tiny Pluto which was not rediscovered in the modern era until 1930. How is this possible? I don’t know, I only know that they are there. Traditions also assign various personages from the Bible as archetypes of certain planet, or as the Kabbalah calls them, Sephiroth or Shining Ones.

Planets and O.T. Figures attributed to them:

Neptune = Abel

Saturn = Eve and Cain

Mars = Isaac

Mercury = Aaron

EARTH = Esau and David

Moon = Joseph, and Bathsheba

Sun = ISRAEL, Solomon, Jacob, God

Pluto = Serpent

Venus = Moses

Jupiter = Abraham, Jehovah, Our Father

Uranus = Adam, Holy Spirit, Sophia

So Mazel tov, Mazel tov to you all!

[The early Jews seem to have captured an observation of Halley’s Comet with this line from their books: “The Rabbis said that there is a star that rises once in 70 years and deceives sailors (b. Horayot 10a). It is assumed they meant the comet later named after Halley, a comet that appeared around 140 CE (and 70 is taken as a round number for a cycle of around 78 years) The book of Shemuel quotes him (Shemuel) saying: “the paths of the sky are known to me like the paths of Nehardea, except for a comet whose nature I do not know” (b. Berakhot 58b).]

SOURCES:

1 Albani, M., “Horoscopes in the Qumran Scrolls,” in The Dead Sea Scrolls after Fifty Years: A Comprehensive Assessment, edited by PW Flint and JC VanderKam, Vol. 2, 279-330, Leiden:Brill, 1999.

2 ‘Astrology in Ancient Judaism’, ‘Astronomy in Ancient Judaism’, J. Neusner, A. Avery-Peck and W. S. Green (eds.), The Encyclopaedia of Judaism, V, Supplement Two, Leiden – Boston: Brill, 2004, pp. 2031-2044.

3 Jefferies, Sid (aka Classical Astrologer), Facts Behind Faith, The Dead Sea Scrolls, undated. www.factsbehindfaith.com/default.aspx?intContentID=13

Jubilees – May be read at http://www.ccel.org/c/charles/otpseudepig/jubilee/12.htm

4 The Nazarenes of Mount Carmel, Cayce Readings on the Essenes, 1999-2006, www.essene.com/Bible/CayceReadingsOnMtCarmel.html

5 Religion in the Dead Sea Scrolls, J.J. Collins and R A. Kugler (eds), William B. Eerdmans, 2000.

6 The Star and the Magi, Essenes.com, undated.

7 And the Old Testament.

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