Many Christians are aware that the Bible takes a fairly uncompromising stance against astrology. However, for many other religions, astrology is an integral part of the belief system. Buddhism and Hinduism are two examples in which astrology plays an important role. However, there are other religions in which the use of astrology is something of a grey area, particularly those that have some links to Christianity. What about Judaism?
The Importance of Astrology and Astronomy
To outsiders, Judaism can appear to be a no-nonsense faith with little time for perceived fripperies like astrology! However, there is a school of though that suggests that astrology was at the centre of all religions for a long time, including Judaism. Planets, divination and references to the future are mentioned in a number of religious texts and the Kabbalah, on which large and major parts of the Jewish faith is founded, is no exception.
Some historians suggest that astrology and astronomy were once considered to be one and the same. As a result, it may well be that the earliest religious scholars where fluent in both. What made the position of the stars important to Jewish mystics was the biblical commandments that particular Jewish holidays should be celebrated at the correct times and that the New Moon was to be celebrated at certain times. Without a guiding knowledge of astronomy and, consequently, astrology, they would have no way to chart the alignments of certain stars, planets and heavenly bodies.
The Books of Genesis and Creation
There is other evidence to suggest that early Jewish wise men used astrology too. In the Book of Genesis, there is a passage that reads: “God said, “There shall be lights in the heavenly sky to divide between day and night. They shall serve as omens and define festivals, days and years.” Scholars interpreted this to mean that the positions of the stars could act as portents and that certain religious celebrations could be organised only when the stars were at certain points in the sky. Although this doesn’t fall completely into the bracket of astrology, there are hints that its influences were already being incorporated into the fundaments of Judaism.
The Book of Creation is attributed to Abraham, the first Patriarch of the Jewish faith. This text deals with the use of astrology in great detail. It offers a clearer parallel between the uses of the stars than the Book of Genesis and even details some of the constellations that we now recognise in Western astrology. These influences are applied to each of the months in the Hebrew calendar and suggest that, through studying the various meanings associated with each month, it is possible to define the spiritual potential for a person throughout the year.
However, rather than offering predictions for what would happen to an individual on a daily basis, these guidelines helped early Jewish scholars to suggest how a person might develop spiritually within a particular time-period. It was a method with which to reflect personal a spiritual growth, rather than to work out of there was new love or money on the horizon.
As an example of the information to be found in The Book of Creation, Tishrei, the first month of the Hebrew calendar, is associated with a number of astrological elements, such as:
● The planet Venus
● Attributes associated with the male gender
● A letter in the Hebrew alphabet, Llamed
● The element of Air. More specifically, this is mentioned as the Wind
● The constellation of Libra
● Sexuality, particularly within the sanctity of marriage
● The human trait of obsession
● The biblical tribe of Ephraim
● A part of the body; bile
The Argument Against
However, to try and predict an hourly or daily event went very much against biblical strictures. Leviticus demands that we “do not act on the basis of auspicious times.” In other words, to try and predict the future denies the idea that God is omnipresent and can alter events at any time, entirely at will. It is this that seems to have set up the Bible’s stance against astrology, for Jews believe that He is integral to every aspect of our lives. Although He may have designed Heaven and Earth, with all the influences that interact between them, He did not then leave us entirely to our own devices; God’s influence is what shapes our lives and he is present in everything that happens to us and around us.
Reconciling Faith and Astrology
Conversely, the Talmud, the central text of Rabbinic Judaism, suggests that astrology that the stars can influence human behaviour. The Talmud says that those born under Venus will become wealthy and immoral, while those born under the Sun will achieve greatness. Those born under the Moon are thought to suffer at the hands of others, while those born under Mercury will attain wisdom. Those born under Mars are thought to be destined to become either surgeons or slaughterers; those born under Saturn will suffer frustration, while those born under Jupiter will always err on the side of caution. In addition, birthdays are thought by Rabbis to be the times on which astrological forces will be most potent.
Within the Jewish religious text there appear to be conflicting ideas as to whether astrology is a force to be trusted. However, it is well documented that the faith – as with many others – has its roots in astrological belief. Many Jewish scholars have taken a stance that allows them to use these fundaments, without transgressing the perceived laws of their beliefs. Their philosophy seems to be that we must accept that our environment influences our thoughts, words and deeds. Nature and astrology – which is part of nature – present us with opportunities and misfortunes and has a profound effect on our characters, imbuing us with certain traits and tendencies. It is perfectly acceptable to embrace and accept these things as reality, as long as we recognise that the true power of influence and will lies not with nature, but with the creator of Heaven and Earth.