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The vast number of clay tablets referring to astrology suggest that astral religion preoccupied Assyrian (–612 BCE) and Babylonian (625–538 BCE) cultures. Following the pattern of the early Mesopotamians, these peoples immersed their astronomy in astrology, the belief in the occult influence of heavenly bodies in human affairs, and associated the stars and constellations with their pagan deities. Their commingling of astrological myth, propelled by religious superstition, and a rudimentary astronomy left an impression that these polytheistic peoples knew more about astronomy than their Hebrew contemporaries.

The prophet Jeremiah (writing just prior to the fall of Judah to the Babylonians and the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE) told the Jews not to fear the “signs of the heavens” even though these terrified the nations (Jeremiah 10:2). The signs of the heavens presumably consisted of the “signs of the zodiac” used by Babylonian priest-astrologers to decipher from the position of the stars in the heavens the future of individuals and nations.

These master astrologers, known as Chaldeans, were among the “wise men,” e.g., a retinue of conjurers, diviners, magicians, and master astrologers, serving at the courts of the Babylonian kings. Their followers believed that the pattern of the heavens at the time of one’s birth and the position of the sun, moon, and planets throughout one’s life determined one’s destiny.

For the Hebrews, who were monotheistic, there was but one God--a powerful, all knowing, loving invisible spirit being who created all things. This God, who existed apart from sin and the powers of darkness, created the heavens and the earth and the first man and woman.

Assyrian and Babylonian accounts of the creation, reshaped for people living in polytheism, faintly echoed the Hebrew oral tradition preserved in Genesis. Genesis 1:14–19, a polemic against sun and moon worship, reflects the Hebrew teaching that YHWH is God--the Creator of the hosts of heaven--and that the celestial bodies are there to serve God’s purposes. The sun and moon, and the stars as well, are creations of the one God of the universe--YHWH

The apostle Paul reflects this thinking in his reference to the gentiles worshipping the creation rather than the creator “since the creation of the world” (Romans 1:25).

Page last edited: 04/06/06 09:18 PM

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