Astrology Christianity

ASTROLOGY. Discipline which presumes to deduce foreknowledge of human destiny from observation of the movements and relative positions of the heavenly bodies. The concept of the divine nature of the celestial bodies, which gives astrology a specifically religious connotation, can be traced to the Mesopotamian world and its notion of the relationship between some important divinities and the stars. In Greece it assumed a scientific character by the use of astronomical calculations using arithmetic and geometry. But the essence of astrology remains the certainty of the influence exercised on cosmic and human life by the heavenly bodies, in which divine personalities and wills operate. Besides Mesopotamia Chaldean astrology, astrology flourished in Egypt, giving rise to a rich literature during the Hellenistic period under the names of Nechepsos and Petosiris, or attributed to the revelation of the god Thoth, identified with the Greek Hermes, called Trismegistus. The notion of the divinity of the celestial bodies is present in ancient Pythagorean circles and was formalized in the Epinomis, a late work of Plato or of his disciple Philip of Opus. Prominent among authors of astrological works in Greek and Latin were Ptolemy Tetrabiblos and Manilius Astronomicon. Many sources indicate the importance that astrologers and mathematicians had assumed in the Roman Empire in the first centuries AD. Many went to them to consult their horoscope, i.e., a knowledge of the astral combinations which governed the person’s life. Christian writers sharply opposed and criticized the idea of astral influences determining human destiny which was often expressed as a genuine fatalism and the use of divination and magic to know this destiny. Tatian’s Address to the Greeks argued fiercely against astral fatalism, which he saw as the most characteristic expression of the devil’s dominion over humanity. Ignatius of Antioch Ep. ad Eph. 19 and later Tertullian De idol. 9 interpreted the gospel episode of the magi to mean that, with the birth of Jesus, astrology had been defeated. Even the gnostic Valentinians asserted that, with the new economy inaugurated by the Savior, destiny and the astral powers had lost all efficacy Exc. Theod. 68- 79. Yet despite the Fathers’ polemic against astrological and divinatory practices, these penetrated even Christian circles. Their considerable spread among the more popular classes led to the intervention of the imperial authorities, who issued several decrees condemning such practices. A. Bouch-Leclercq, L’Astrologie grecque, Paris 1899; F. Cumont, Astrology and Religion among the Greeks and the Romans, New York 1912; A.J. Festugi¨re, La Rvlation d’Herm¨s Trismgiste, I. L’Astrologie et les sciences occultes, Paris 3 1950; R. Caballero ed., Homo Mathematicus. Actas del Congreso Internacional sobre astr³logos griegos y romanos Benalmdena, 8-10 de octubre de 2001, Mlaga 2002. The new magazine MHNH. Revista Internacional de Investigaci³n sobre Magia y Astrolog­a Antiguas Mlaga, vols. 1-3 2000-2003, offers an updated overview of research on the theme of astrology; var. aus., Les P¨res et l’astrologie, coll. Les P¨res dans la foi, Paris 2003. 

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