or, The Constellations
by Frances Rolleston
Philologos Religious Online Books
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"Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season?"-Job 33:32
AS CONNECTED WITH THE SIGN VIRGO
There are typical actions recorded in Scripture, in which there is evident allusion to the sound of the name, as well as to the nature of the object employed: and sometimes the reference is to the sound alone; as, for instance, in the ancient usage recorded in the history of Ruth, when the man who refused to take the widow and the inheritance together pulled off his shoe, or sandal, in Hebrew Nayal, and gave it to Boaz in token of transferring to him his right to the inheritance, in Hebrew Nahal (or Nachal), of the deceased. It has been observed by the modern decipherers of Egyptian hieroglyphics that the figure of the sandal has some relation to the country of Egypt. As Nahal also signifies a valley down which the stream runs, and sometimes the stream itself, and as the great similarity of the ancient Egyptian to the Hebrew seems now acknowledged, this hieroglyphic may be thus accounted for. The ancient names of the river Nile, as Sihor, the dark; and Oceanus, stretched out, expanded, as the river in its overflowing; and Egyptus, covering (2 Sam 15:30), as the land by inundation, whence the country itself was called Egypt, the covered, and the Nile was represented as veiled. Ethiopia being inundated also, was called Cush, also meaning covered. This great peculiarity of Egypt, the inundation, has always been considered to be alluded to in the celebrated figure of the Sphinx, a human head with the lion's body. The name Sphinx in the ancient dialects means "the pouring out."* This figure has been said by different ancients to relate to the creation of the world,** to the inundation, and to the summer solstice, at which the Nile begins to rise, but how and why they say not. There is a tradition that the creation was at the summer solstice. Four thousand years before Christ this solstice took place where the junction of Leo and Virgo is marked by the bright star Denebola.*** By referring the figure of the Sphinx to the junction of the signs of Virgo and Leo, these three traditions are reconciled and explained. The Krio-Sphinx, or ram-headed lion, is common in the monuments of Egypt. The ram's head on the lion's body may be accounted for by the junction of Aries and Leo in one object of veneration, both typifying the same person in the intention of their inventor, though not in the mythology of Egypt, for there the ram Ammon was adored, while the lion was little known, except in their lion-headed idols and in the figures of
The lately found remains of Assyrian sculpture throw much greater light on this investigation than those of Egypt. In a purer style of art, they indicate a less corrupt state of morals and even of religion. The earlier of them seem to belong to the period of transition from Sabianism, the undue veneration for the host of heaven, to an idolatrous worship of images representing them. The images then becoming the idols of Assyria are the four principal constellations combined; these referring to the four faces of the divinely appointed emblems of the Cherubim.
* As in Deuteronomy 33:19, where it is translated "abundance," in the blessing of Zebulon, who bore Virgo upon his standard. The Sphinx of Egypt must have been familiar to the Israelites, and its relation to the inundation.
** Macrobius says that the Egyptian astronomers taught, that at the creation the sun rose in Leo and the moon in Cancer. Julius Africanus says that Petosiris and Necepsos, ancient Egyptian philosophers, also taught that at the creation the sun was in 15o Leo, and the moon in 15o Cancer. These signs are still in astrology called respectively the houses of the sun and moon.
*** A name meaning "the Lord who cometh quickly," where a figure of a youth bearing a branch may be seen in the Egyptian planisphere.
|* The Egyptian union of the ram and the lion in one image shows a tradition of Him at once the appointed victim and the future conqueror. In the book of Revelation He is at once "the Lamb as it had been slain," and "the Lion of the tribe of Judah." Not that St. John adverted to the hieroglyphic, but that the hieroglyphic was taken from the emblems of the zodiac embodying the earliest prophecies, with which the latest are in accordance.
The Andro-Sphinx, a man's head on a lion's body, coincides with the discovery that the great Sphinx of the desert holds in the fore paws a shrine containing the figure of a young man, representing, it should seem, the promised deliverer, the hoped-for progeny of the virgin. Some however have thought that the Sphinx was a youth, and not a woman.
The Sphinx of the pyramids, if female, would refer to the woman in the sign Virgo, as united in the starry emblems with that of Leo.* If male, as the Andro-Sphinx elsewhere met with, it still expresses the prophecy: it is there the seed, the infant, the son, who is emblematized in the man as the sacrifice, in the lion as the conqueror. He is so typified in the two-faced cherub of Ezekiel 41:18, 19, which is understood by Jewish authorities to have been the same as those of Divine ordination in Exodus 26 and 1 Kings 6 , on the curtains of the tabernacle and on the walls of the temple. According to Al Makrisi (who gives no explanation of it), the ancient name of the Sphinx is Bel-hit; it may be explained "the Lord who cometh" (Deut 33:21): the modern Abou-houl, father of sand, is also masculine.
By the Greeks the Sphinx was said to be born of Chimera, a monster formed of three of the starry emblems, the lion, the goat, and the serpent; whose name is taken from Chema, heat, of fire and of wrath; thus furnishing an additional instance of the derivation of the wildest and most incoherent of the Greek fables from the names and figures of the constellations.
* Layard thinks the figure of a female sphinx is sometimes met with in the Assyrian sculptures. It seems still undetermined whether the great sphinx of the desert represents a woman or a youth: in either case it is equally referable to the first revelation. As in the sign Virgo both the woman and the promised offspring are to be found, both aspects of the Sphinx may have had the same origin.
In the prophecies annexed to the multitude of sparkling orbs shining in their clear midnight sky, the Greeks perhaps found that the insolvable enigma* which they made it characteristic of the Sphinx to propound: this part of the story might arise from the tradition of the hidden meaning belonging to the mystic emblem of the Egyptian Sphinx. The Greek fables concerning it take no notice of the enshrined youth, perhaps then as now generally buried in the sand, the discovery of which however has strengthened the evidence connecting the Sphinx with the sign Virgo.
* This enigma is said to have been the question, What is the animal which goes on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three at night? Oedipus replied, "Man, crawling as an infant, walking erect in manhood, and in old age with a staff." It is possible that the infant of Virgo, the man in Ophiuchus, and the branch-bearing Hercules of the constellations might have given the hint of her riddle.
AS CONNECTED WITH THE SIGN VIRGO
The name Sibyl, for which no satisfactory derivation has otherwise been given, signifies in the Semitic dialects "who carries," "the bearer" (Isa 46:4,7). A nearly similar root is an ear of corn (Job 24:24), and also a branch (Isa 4:2; Zech 4:12), thus identifying this mythological personage, the bearer of the golden branch in the Aeneid, with the figure of Virgo, the seed-bearer in the zodiac. The Sibyl was always said to be a prophetic virgin: the Cumean may have been so called originally from Chimah, the desired, afterwards corrupted to Coma, one of the names of the infant borne by the virgin of the zodiac.
The story of the first acquisition of the Sibylline books in the early annals of Rome may be chiefly poetical fiction, but it is an historical fact that books called Sibylline were long preserved at Rome with the utmost veneration. Being destroyed by fire about a century before the Christian era, the Romans sent delegates to Asia, to the islands of the Archipelago, to Sicily, and to Africa, where it was understood that these prophecies were yet extant. They collected about a thousand verses, out of which the learned at Rome made a selection, probably of such as most agreed with their recollections of those that had perished.* The verses thus selected formed those Sibylline books to which Cicero, as an augur, had access, and of which he says "that they were rather calculated to extinguish than to propagate superstition": consequently their subject was not the idolatrous religion of Rome. Cicero also informs us that they predicted a king who was to arise about that time, whose sovereignty was to be universal, and under whose rule the world should be at peace. A farther insight into the subject of these ancient prophecies is gained from Virgil's celebrated poem called Pollio. The remarkable coincidence of some of its imagery with the prophecies of Isaiah has been beautifully developed in our English masterpiece of verse, Pope's Messiah. This resemblance may be accounted for by the researches of the Romans having been directed to Asia Minor, where these prophecies were first delivered and were well preserved. But there are other images introduced in the Pollio, also occurring in ancient prophecy, but of which Isaiah did not furnish the original. Isaiah does not speak of the time when the Prince of Peace shall be born. The other Hebrew prophecies which declare the time of the accomplishment of the great sacrifice do not fix that of the Messiah's birth; yet the expectation was prevalent all over the East that He should come about that time (perhaps from the seventy weeks of Daniel): and it seems that the Sibylline verses confirmed the general anticipation. After an introduction declaring that the age spoken of by the Cumean Sibyl was now arrived, the poet seems not merely to relate her predictions, but to speak in her person, saying, "The great order of ages is born again in its completeness." This assertion remarkably coincides with the circumstance stated as an astronomical fact, that "when the moon was new in Aries, in the year of the world usually considered as that of our Lord's incarnation, her conjunction with the sun took place at the time of the true equinox," thus completing one magnificent cycle of the heavenly movements, and commencing another not yet concluded.**
The Sibyl seems next to say, "The virgin comes who shall bear the promised progeny of heaven, who shall revive the worship of that Deity, long hid beneath the idolatries of the iron age, whose early reign, whose age of gold, he shall restore."
* Bp. Horsley on Prophecies of the Messiah among the heathen. In what language were the first Sibylline books written? It seems that the delegates translated into Latin the prophecies which they collected.
** In French astronomy of the last century, as La Loubere, &c.
The peace of Brundusium, concluded under the consulate of Pollio, gave occasion to the poet there to seek the commencement of the predicted reign of blessedness, and to express the hope that in the young Octavius, then for the first time assuming the title of Caesar, was to be found the promised pacificator. Again he takes up the Sibyl's strain, attributing to him that power of atoning for the sins of the world which had never been believed of any mere man, and that removal of human fears, which had been made a characteristic of Prometheus, the divine and suffering benefactor of the human race.
Astronomical emblems are then brought forward by their astronomical names: Capella, the she-goat; and Aries, the ram; and the fall of the serpent, in terms resembling those of the original promise to Adam.
There is then a clear distinction drawn between the early period of Messiah's reign, when there should be "wars and rumours of wars," and the happy completion of it, when "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more," when famine and pestilence shall cease, "when the earth shall bring forth her increase," when "instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree," "and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose."
The early Romans were little skilled in any language but their own; therefore the Sibylline books which they were accustomed to consult must have been translated at least into the ancient Latin tongue. May not the celebrated spondaic hexameter, that magnificent line, the marvel of Latin poetry, "Cara Deum soboles, magnun Jovis incrementum," have existed in those early records, preserved in the memory of those conversant with them, and retained by the exquisite taste of Virgil to give the dignity and authority of antiquity to his work? A corroboration of this conjecture offers itself in the word Soboles, an offspring, a shoot or branch, a word containing the same primitive root as the branch, the seed of prophecy, while Sibylla would be the seed or branch-bearer. It might be that the ancient Latin verses spoke of the promised infant by this name,* which occurs as an Arabic name in the sign Virgo, and amongst the fixed stars as Subilon, a name of Canopus.
As in the case of Hercules, so in that of the Sibyl, ancient authorities differ as to whether there were one or more. Plato spoke but of one, while the Romans enumerated ten, apparently supposing a separate prophetess to have lived in every place where they found the prophecies.
* When the Emperor Constantine delivered his oration to the Christian Church, to point out that the expected infant in this celebrated Eclogue was Christ Himself, it is supposed he only enlarged on what was then a prevalent idea. This opinion, long disregarded, Pope revived, Horsely advocated, and many have since adopted. Virgil seems to have been a good astronomer, and aware that the accomplishment of the great cycle was at hand. He also appears to have known that universal peace was to accompany the birth of the great one who was to come from the East, and was right in fixing its commencement with the peace of Brundusium, in the consulate of Pollio. As even Christian expositions of prophecy have too often done, he however mingles up the glory and blessedness of the second coming, with the humiliation and suffering accompanying the first.
One of these Sibyls was named from the ancient Sabine town of Tibur, where Hercules (a personification of the prophecies of the promised seed, the theme of the Sibylline verses) was peculiarly worshipped. If these verses contained any explicit assertion, that he who was to reign was also to suffer, it could not be expected to appear in the application to Octavius: but when Virgil in the sixth Aeneid again introduces the Sibyl, he represents her as applying to Aeneas predictions of sufferings that should precede and be merged in glory. These in the Pollio he brings forward as concerning the state of mankind. Here, carried by the Sibyl, may be recognized the branch, the sacred golden branch that had power over the infernal regions, when carried thither in the hand of Mercury, said to be a son of the Deity, procuring "liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." When in that of the pious hero, propitiating towards him the powers of the invisible world, this branch is likened by the poet to the mistletoe, whose name means the "sent forth," the self-springing "plant of renown," held in veneration by the northern nations, sought out and cut off by the Druids with mystic ceremonies, evidently derived from the universal tradition, that the Seed, the Branch, He who was to come, the Desire of nations, was to be cut off, but not for Himself, and should be born out of the common course of nature, as the mistletoe was long supposed to be produced. When the Spaniards met with that extraordinary tradition in the sacred records of Mexico, they were led to trace the Hebrew word Messiah in the name of the woman-born deity Mexitli, a derivation which, however possible in the strange and manifold corruptions to which unwritten languages are liable, must not be pressed here; for it will not bear the test by which all the accompanying derivations have been tried, which is, that when written in Hebrew letters they present the very word, or at least the root required, according to which they are interpreted. The name Deiphobe, given by Virgil to his Sibyl, would in Greek signify fearing God, and might give rise to the story of her fleeing from Apollo.* That of Amalthea, elsewhere attributed to her, would be from the Semitic root, she who labours or travails, who shall bring forth. From these circumstances of the story of the prophetic and long-lived Sibyl, we gather that among the nations there existed the memory of the revelation made to Adam, as it is figured by the seed-bearer of the zodiac, and in corresponding words by Isaiah and Micah. The branch, by which the promised seed is so often typified by the prophets, is by them no where spoken of in connexion with the woman, though in the name and history of the Sibyl, as in the figure of the constellation, we find it to be so. It is also met with in one of the names of the bright star in Virgo, Al Zimach, which is the very word used as branch by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah. Thus we find additional evidence, were such needed, that the virgin of the zodiac was intended and long understood to set forth the tradition so widely diffused among the descendants of him to whom it was first given, concerning the seed of the woman, the "Branch of the Lord's planting."
We learn from the researches of Layard, that the figure of a woman, which might be referred to the same origin as the story of the Sibyl, occurs among the later Assyrian remains: a woman with a star upon her head, a branch or flower, and sometimes a serpent in her hand, a lion under her feet. This figure seems plainly derived from the promise to Adam, and its record in the starry emblems. Among the earlier sculptures of Assyria no female figure has been met with; they present at first only the various combinations by which human perverseness corrupted to idolatry those divinely appointed emblems of the cherubim at the gate of Eden. As this corruption increased, they turned from Him who was to come, the Seed of the woman, to the woman herself, as we have seen even in Christian times, in the worship of the blessed mother of Christ and her images, in the "great apostasy." In the latter days of the Assyrian empire a female idol was worshipped, under the name Mylitta, or Alitta, meaning "she who brings forth," from the word used by Isaiah and Micah. The branch or seed may have been originally the chief emblem in the sign Virgo, the woman supporting it only an adjunct. That the early Assyrian worship of the host of heaven did not include the woman's figure, agrees with this supposition.
* If from a Semitic root, it would be "she who flees away, goes wandering."
The mistranslation in the Latin Vulgate, which would make the woman (ipsa) bruise the serpent's head, is wholly contrary to the Hebrew original, and to the Septuagint, as also to the figure in the sign, where are found the branch, the seed, and the woman, but not the enemy. There is no serpent here. He by whom Paradise was lost shall not enter that Paradise of God, regained by the victory of the promised Seed of the woman.
"An oracle which declared that nature was about to bring forth a king to the Roman people," as Suetonius records, "had become known in Italy sixty-three years before the Christian era." Faber adds, "It is probable the words, whether traditionary or in the Sibylline books, were 'a king to the world.'"
Virgil, agreeably to the feelings of the Romans, avoids the word "king," which might have existed without offending them in the original books brought to the king Tarquin. Bp. Horsley considers that Cicero admits that this prophecy was in the Sibylline books with which he was acquainted. Had it not existed in the ancient books, then not so long destroyed but that their contents must have been remembered, it would on that account have been rejected. The constellation Cepheus, with the accompanying fable, had long and widely testified to the same future event as the traditional prophecies scattered among the heathen. The first time the title "king" is found in the Scripture records in connexion with the expectation of the seed of the woman, the branch, is in the prophetic blessing of Jacob, where to Asher he speaks of the "sweet influences of the King." Then, in the prophecy of Balaam, the shout or proclamation of the King is said to be among Israel, and the exaltation of his King is predicted (Num 23:21, 24:7). Again, in the blessing of Moses, "He," the Lord, "was," or shall be, "King in Jeshurun" (Deut 33:5), among his upright people.
In the days of the prophetess Hannah, when as yet there was no other king in Israel, the title of king seems familiarly known as belonging to the Anointed, the Messiah (1 Sam 2:10). David repeatedly announces a higher King than himself (Psa 2, &c.). Isaiah and Jeremiah foretell Him, the King, the Branch, predicted and borne by the mythic Sibyl. That Sibyl, she who bears or carries, was evidently a personification of the virgin of the zodiac, of the woman of the primeval prophecy there recorded.
ON THE SIGN VIRGO
In this sign the woman bearing the seed is every where recognized; even where the prophecy was forgotten the emblem remained.
Our Lord at His solemn manifestation to the Gentiles, when the inquiry of the Greeks who came saying, "We would see Jesus," was answered by the voice from heaven, spoke of Himself as the corn* (or seed) of wheat, which dying should arise, and "bring forth much fruit." So highly sanctioned is the interpretation which explains this emblem as representing the seed held by the woman of the first prophecy. Thus understood it does indeed "declare the glory of God," His great glory in redemption.
It is evident that Eve supposed her firstborn to be the promised seed; for she said, "I have gotten a man, the Lord."* It is not said how or when she was undeceived; but it seems to have been before she called the next son Abel, vanity. Neither Sarah nor Rebekah fell into the error of Eve: the hope of the wives of Israel was to be the ancestress, not the mother of the Messiah. Such was the honour regretted by the daughter of Jephthah, when the maidens of Israel went yearly to lament with her over its renunciation. The affliction, almost to despair, of Hezekiah in the prospect of dying childless was from the same cause: he feared lest he should not be the ancestor of the Messiah, perhaps even lest the promise of "the seed of David" should therefore utterly fail (Josephus).
* The Hebrew New Testament translating "corn" by the same word used as "seed" in Genesis 3:13, this was probably the word our Lord here used, as no doubt the Greeks who came up to worship at the feast understood the language of the country.
In all tradition, in all mythology, the woman of the zodiac was always a virgin, and almost always a virgin-mother. Ethulah, the maiden, is her name in Hebrew, Adarah, the pure virgin, in Arabic. Such was the Astrea of Greece and Rome, and such the mother of Krishna in India. Isis, the "thousand-named" goddess of Egypt, identified by Eratosthenes with Virgo, might seem to be an exception: but by some of those names she is daughter or sister of Osiris, though always the mother of Horus, "He who cometh."
* It seems now admitted that the particle eth, here rendered from, is no more to be so translated in this place than where it occurs twice previously in the same, and twice again in the next verse. The Targum of Jonathan renders the words of Eve, "I have gotten a man, the angel of the Lord."
The figure of the woman in the zodiac did not represent the mother of mankind, neither did it prefigure Mary the daughter of Heli.* It is the virgin daughter of Zion, the Church, which Paul would present "as a chaste virgin unto Christ,"** re-appearing as the woman crowned with twelve stars in the Apocalypse. To that Church the Messiah was born, as the virgin of the sign bears the branch and the seed.
The woman holding an infant, below Virgo, in the Egyptian planisphere, is evidently that "first decan of Virgo" spoken of by Albumazer, corresponding with the prophecy of Isaiah, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son." Not till the end of the fourth century after the accomplishment of that prophecy was it ever imagined that the virgin-mother of the promised Messiah, the virgin* of prophecy, should be also the mother of any mere human offspring. That notion was then treated as a heresy, arising among Arians, and by the great body of the Church at once rejected. When the far greater error of the undue glorification of the blessed Mary was denounced by Protestants, that exploded notion was after ten centuries revived. But error should not be combated by error: the truth is strong, and shall prevail.
* Adam Clarke's Com., Bloomfield's Greek Test., Gill, &c. Mary is called the daughter of Heli in the Talmud. T. Hieros. Sanhedrim, fol. 25; Gill's Com.
** In the Douay Bible the woman in Revelation 12 is called the Church.
Great names in the Protestant Church have declared against that supposition. The apparent difficulties in the first chapter of Matthew are thus met: the Jews called the first offspring, whether of man or beast, firstborn , even if none followed, and it was holy to the Lord (Exo 13:2). The Greek word of which firstborn is the translation is rejected from the text by many Bible critics (Tischendorf, &c.): that rendered till does not exclude the time beyond, as may be seen where it occurs in Matthew 28:30, and where our Lord promises to be with His disciples unto , or till , the end of the world, and certainly His presence will not be then withdrawn. In the celebrated sermon "On the Lineal Descent of Jesus of Nazareth," Dr. South speaks of Joseph as the last male heir of the royal line of David. As such apparently the angel addressed him, "Thou son of David," an appellation after the death of Joseph given to our Lord Himself, by some perhaps as supposed the son of Joseph, and due to Him as the son of Mary; for by her father Heli Mary was the heiress* of the line of Rhesa, the younger son of Zorobabel, the line of the elder son Abiud having terminated in Joseph. All tradition agrees that Joseph was an aged man at the time of the angelic annunciation. According to the customs of the Jews, he must have been previously married; but he must have died childless, else his offspring, and not the son of Mary, would have been the rightful king of the Jews.** That title was given Him by friend and foe, by Pilate and Nathanael. If "brethren and sisters" are mentioned in connexion with Him, it is well known that then, as now (Layard, &c.), any near relations would be so called. Tradition has also said that the Virgin Mary had two sisters, of course younger than herself, and that James, "the brother of the Lord," was the son of one of them. If our Lord had been indeed dead, James might have been called the king of Israel: but the disciples knew their King was living, and those who believed it not put James to death, perhaps on account of that possibility.
* Dr. Own and Bp. Middleton point out the article as emphatic in Matthew 1:23.
Had James been, as some have suggested, a son of Joseph, he, and not the son of Mary, being indeed the rightful king of Israel, our Lord, who was "the Truth," could not have allowed that title to be given to Himself untruly. The Pharisees recognized His descent, when they expressed the fear lest if all believed on Him the Romans would take away their place and nation. It was the king, not the teacher, whom the Romans would oppose. By Divine pre-ordination those very Romans proclaimed His title on the cross, a spectacle to men and angels. When He, the King of the Jews, and of the universe, crowned with His first but not His only crown, was lifted up, according to the typical prophecy (Num 21:8), on the predicted hill of Zion, He said to His desolate and soul-pierced mother, "Woman, behold thy son"; and the beloved disciple took her to his own home. Is it not evident she had no other son? So said the voice of tradition, so the voice of nature when not made dumb by prejudice. Without such prejudice it might well be asked how any woman, above all any mother, could admit the possibility that the most highly honoured, the blessed among women, could have a thought, a feeling not devoted to Him whom she knew to be at once her son and her Saviour, that Holy One whose helpless infancy was nourished at her bosom and supported in her arms? Did He not need, would He not obtain, all that the most intense and exclusive maternal tenderness could give? What other might share it with Him? Will not every woman who looks to Him, whom not having seen she loves, believe that the blessed mother, who hourly saw Him in His infant dependence on her care, would find her love of Him an absorbing sentiment, devotion mingling with natural affection? So have spoken instinctive feelings in every age. When by the most Protestant of painters or poets has she been represented with another infant in her arms, another offspring at her knee? And Joseph, the venerable guardian of the highly favoured mother and the holy child, was it not the sufficing happiness of his old age to watch over that mysterious treasure, Incarnate God, committed to his charge, the long-announced and earnestly expected seed of the woman, who should bruise the serpent's head?
* It is supposed Mary went to Bethlehem, Luke 2:5, because she was an heiress. (Bloomfield's Greek Test.)
** "The Jews themselves say he was nearly allied to the kingdom" (Gill, from Sanhedr. fol. 43.)
The often-discussed word Almah, in Isaiah 7:14, is doubtless derived from Alam, hidden, as were oriental maidens, especially among the Jews in ancient times. Jerome appeals to the Punic usage of it as meaning a pure virgin. Lee also says that those who have disputed it have done so for party purposes. He points out the definite article in Isaiah 7:14 as emphatic: the virgin of prophecy. Had it not been so understood from very early times, even from the days of Noah, how could the whole heathen world have had the tradition of the Divine Deliverer, the Virgin-born, or the Son of the Supreme by a human mother? The sign Virgo has thus from the most remote antiquity witnessed to the miraculous birth as well as to the mission of the seed of the woman who should come "to make an offering for sin,"* and "to bring in everlasting righteousness."
* As figured in the accompanying constellation of the centaur piercing the victim, and the following sign Libra.
South's Sermon on the Lineal Descent of Jesus of Nazareth.
"The royal line of David by Solomon being extinct in Jeconiah, the crown and kingdom passed into the immediately younger line of Nathan (another son of David) in Salathiel and Zorobabel, which Zorobabel having two sons, Abiud and Rhesa, the royal dignity descended of right upon the line of Abiud, of which Joseph was the last, who marrying the Virgin Mary, which sprung from the line of Rhesa, the younger son of Zorobabel, and withal having no issue himself, his right passes into the line of Mary, being the next of kin, and by that means upon Jesus her son, hereupon He was both naturally the Son of David, and legally the King of the Jews, which latter is accounted to us by St. Matthew, as the former is by St. Luke, who delivers down the pedigree of Mary, the mother of Jesus and daughter of Heli, though Joseph her husband stands there named, according to the known way of the Jews computing their genealogies." (Vol. iii. 277.)
Dr. South thus shows that Joseph was the only surviving heir of the elder royal line of the house of David, through Abiud, the elder son of Zorobabel. He says, "From thence there arises this unanswerable argument, both against the opinion of those who affirm Joseph to have had children by a former wife, as also against that old heresy of Helvidius,* who against the general and constant sense of the Church denied the perpetual virginity of Mary, affirming that Joseph had other children by her, after the birth of Jesus."
NOTE ON LUKE
* Helvidius was the disciple of Auxentius, an Arian bishop in the East, excommunicated AD 368.
Gill says on Luke 3, "This is the genealogy of Mary, the daughter of Heli. The mother's family was not mentioned in the genealogies of the Jews."
Dr. Clarke is of the same opinion: "Jesus, son of Mary, reunited in Himself all the blood, privileges, and rights of the family of David, in consequence of which He is emphatically called 'the Son of David.' His lineal descent from David was not even by His enemies disputed." "The opinion of Julius Africanus preserved by Eusebius (Hist. Eccles.) was this: Jacob and Heli were brethren by the mother, so that Joseph and Mary were cousins; but according to Jewish usage Joseph was reckoned the heir of Heli. Africanus said he received his account from the relatives of our Lord." "When a family ended with a daughter, the Jews inserted her husband in the genealogy." (Clarke's Com.)
Matthew speaks of literal sons, Luke of heirs.
NOTE ON VIRGIN-BORN
A French Protestant writer says, "Among the Gauls 100 years BC an altar was found with the inscription 'To the virgin who is to bring forth.'"
Univ. Hist. - "The Taurians had human sacrifices to a virgin," the Diana of Euripides, Iphig. in Taur.
"It was said in the sacred books of the Chinese that a virgin should bring forth a son to the west of China." If, as Dupuis infers, the dogma was invented from the constellation, why was such an interpretation put upon the figure of a woman suckling an infant, by all mythology said to be virgin-born? how but by tradition of the prophecy? He has well shown that the mythologies of the Gentiles corresponded with the names and figures of the stars and constellations, but not why they were so named and figured.
The Ven. Bede, "in libro temporibus," says that "Easter, to whom the Saxons sacrificed, was Astarte." The name of this Saxon goddess is sometimes written Eostre, the starry, the bright, as Astarte, from the Hebrew and Arabic root found in Zoharah, the evening star. At Easter, so named from the Saxon festival, the stars of Virgo are bright in the evening sky.
Hyde, de Rel. Pers., quotes from Abulfaragius, that Zeradusht (or Zoroaster) taught the Persians that in the latter times a virgin should bring forth a son, and that when he should be born a star should appear, and should shine and be conspicuous in the midst of the figure of the virgin. It is then said that he commanded his disciples, the Magi, when they should see the star, that they should go forth where it directed them, and offer gifts to him that should be born.
Krishna, an Indian incarnation of the Divinity, is said in a Sanscrit dictionary compiled two thousand years ago, consequently before the birth of Christ, to have been born of a woman. He is frequently figured as wrestling with a serpent while it bites him in the heel, also sometimes triumphant, with his foot crushing its head. He is also said to have slain in his boyhood the serpent Caliya. Thus is proved the wide diffusion of the prophecy, that a Divine person, conflicting with and conquering the serpent, should be born of a woman, without a human father.
ANCIENT ARABIAN AND PERSIAN TRADITIONS
Sheik Sadi, the author of the celebrated Gulistan, says, "God gave to Adam the robe of honorary purity, to Edris (Enoch) pre-eminence in teaching, a victorious soul to Noah; he hung the toolsan of dignity from the head of Hud;* he girded Abraham, the friend of God, with the sword-belt of attachment; he wrote the diploma of sovereignty in the name of Ismael; put the seal of royalty on the finger of Solomon, the shoe of intimacy on the foot of Moses, the turban of pre-eminence on the head of Jesus." Sadi lived more than a hundred years, dying in 1296. He spent thirty years in study, thirty in travel, thirty in devotion and retirement.
This great poet's constant aim seems to have been the inculcation of true wisdom; for example, the following fable. "Young man, attach not thy heart to this world or its creatures, but to God, who is the supreme good. No son of Adam had a longer life than the sage Lokman. When the angel of death came to him, he found him weaving a basket in an osier-ground. He asked, 'O wise Lokman, why didst thou never build thyself a house?' 'Azrael,' replied the sage, 'he must be a fool who would do so while thou wert pursuing him.'"
* Hud, said to be an antediluvian prophet, is supposed to be Enoch. The name means dignified, glorious, happy. His history, mingled with fables, may be found in the Koran. By other authorities he has been supposed to be Eber or Heber, Genesis 11:15.
The great Persian poet Ferdusi, who was born in the year 916, studied the works of the Guebres, or fire-worshippers, whose lawgiver Zerdusht, or Zoroaster,* was by some supposed to be the prophet Daniel, or at least to have been one of his disciples. From Ferdusi's chief work, the Shah-nameh, or hero-book of Iran, a history in verse, collected from the ancient chronicles of Persia, this passage is given. "At this time," the reign of Gushtasp, or Darius Hystaspes, "sprang up in Iran a tree, of which the leaves were counsel, and the fruit was wisdom. An old man appeared on the earth, in his hand the staff of Aud (the same as Hud), and blessed was his footstep. His name was Zerdusht, and his arm smote the ill-working Ariman. To the shah of the world he spake thus: 'I am a messenger of heaven, and will show thee the way of the Lord. In Paradise I have kindled my fire-offering, and the Creator said to me, Take this flame with thee: behold the heaven above and the world beneath; I produced them without water and without earth. See man, whom I have made, and know that no one is like me, who am the preserver of all. Now that thou knowest all this to have come from me, honour me as the Creator of all. From him who speaketh with thee receive faith, and teach his ways and his laws, as the great Architect teaches thee. Choose wisdom, use all things earthly as trifling; and learn that faith is the true life, and without it majesty is worthless.' Gushtasp and Serir (Serir, Cyrus) listened to his words, also Zohrasp at Balk. The great and wise of all places came to the shah to seek conversion, the idol-worship was suppressed, and the worship of fire founded in its stead. The fire-temple at Bersin was erected, and worship and holy rites were there established. A holy cypress of Paradise he planted before the door of the fire-temple; and it was written on its high-sprouting branches how Gushtasp had declared for the true faith, and placed this tree in testimony that his soul was growing up in the right way."
In the sixth chapter of Ezra, Darius acknowledges "the true faith," ordering sacrifices to be offered to the God of heaven, and prayers to be made for the life of the king and of his sons. Confucius lived about the same time, and may have been one of "the great and wise who came to seek conversion" from the instructions of Zerdusht, whose words, as given by Ferdusi, retain a strong resemblance to the Hebrew prophets, especially to those prophecies of Isaiah relating to Cyrus, which it seems probable the prophet Daniel would expound to those princes, Cryus and Darius, whose prime minister he was (see Daniel 6:28). In the Zend Avesta, ascribed to Zoroaster, it is asserted that the ancient Persians divided the zodiac into twelve constellations with names corresponding to those now in use; they had also a division corresponding to the mansions of the moon.
* Syro-Egyptian Society, Feb. 8, 1853. Dr. Camps on the Zend Avesta: "According to the Dabistan, Zerdusht, or Zoroaster, appeared as a religious reformer in the reign of Gushtasp V., by most historians ancient and modern identified with Darius Hystaspes. This makes him cotemporary with Haggai and Zechariah, and a few years later than Ezekiel and Daniel."
It was said by the translator of the Zend Avesta, M. Anquetil Du Perron, that the Zend was the old language of Media, and that the books preserved in that very ancient language were the genuine works of Zerdusht, or Zoroaster, and written in the fifth or sixth century before Christ. So the learned Professor Rask.
Dr. Camps asserted his conviction that "Zerdusht, or Zoroaster, had earned for himself a fair and just title to the name and character of a reformer and philosopher." (Athenaeum, No. 1322.)
Was not Zoroaster merely an epithet, Zerdusht the name? Zoroaster would be the bright, glorious, or splendid stranger, and therefore might be applied to more than one eminent personage. Zoroaster is said to have taught the future incarnation of the Deity, a general resurrection, and the destruction of the world by fire.
NOTE ON ZOROASTER
Hyde De Vet. Rel. Pers., quoting from Abulfaragius, says that Zoroaster the Persian, in the time of Daniel the prophet, predicted to the Magi, or Astrologers of Persia, the future appearance of a star which would notify the birth of a mysterious child, the Almighty Word which created the heavens, whom He commands them to adore. "It is elsewhere said that Zoroaster predicted that this star should appear in the figure of a virgin," the Virgin, for the Arabic in which Abulfaragius wrote has no indefinite article. It has been by some supposed that the Zend Avesta, the books of Zoroaster here referred to, have been interpolated since his time; yet as these interpolations are confessedly very ancient, should this mention of the place where the star was to appear be supposed to be one of them, it would nevertheless tend to show that in the figure of the Virgin it did appear, supposing the interpolation to be subsequent to the event.
The great Arabian astronomer, Albumazar, in describing the signs and their decans, speaks of Virgo as having two parts and three forms, but does not specify what they were. He only goes on to say that "in the first decan, as the Persians and Egyptians, the two Hermes, and Ascalius and the first ages teach, a young maiden arose, whose Arabic name is Adrenedefa, a pure and immaculate virgin, holding in her hand two ears of corn, and seated on a throne, nevertheless nourishing an infant, who has a name in Hebrew, Thesus, signifying to save, which we in Greek call Christ, who rises with that Virgin and sits upon the same throne. If the seed, the ear of corn, was the original emblem of the sign, the woman and the infant may well have been the first decan. Their figures are now to be seen in the Egyptian planisphere, under that of the woman carrying the ear of corn, as Virgo. Koma, in Hebrew, corn in the ear, might be the original name in Coma, and marking the head of the Infant, the Desired. The very ancient name Awa, the Desired, seems to refer to it as the Desired, but several of the others, as the ear of corn, the seed, the desired seed of the woman."
Gaffarelli says, "of all the pictures of the signs on the Arabian sphere that of the Virgin is the most wonderful." The Arabs call Virgo and the infant the mother of Christ and her son.
Dupuis says, "In the Bibliotheque Nationale there is an Arabian MS which contains the Twelve Signs, with an infant by the side of Virgo."
In a criticism on the Dabistan, it is observed, "the ancient Persian religion," probably referring to the early Sabian, "was founded on transcendental notions of the Deity, rather acknowledging the influences of, than worshipping the stars," "then the seven planets as mediators." To this ancient creed Zoroaster added the belief in an evil principle, and in the promise of an incarnation of the Deity, he also foretold the destruction of the world by fire, and a general resurrection. These doctrines the second Zoroaster would hear from the prophet Daniel, while the first of the name, said to be cotemporary with Nimrod, would know them by immediate tradition from Noah, Daniel 7 and 12.
From what genuine remains we have of Zoroaster in the Greek are taken these, the very words of Zoroaster himself: "God is the first of all things, incorruptible, eternal, unmade, without parts, unlike any other being, perfect, wise." Univ. Hist.
Anquetil du Perron gives these words also as of Zoroaster: "Man shall one day be delivered from death; the resurrection of the body must be preceded by the conversion of the whole world to the faith of Zoroaster."
When Zoroaster is interpreted as saying, "God has the head of a hawk," he probably alluded to the eagle face of the cherubic images, and perhaps to the perversion of them which gave rise to the Oriental idol Nisroch, whose figure of a man with an eagle's head so often occurs in the Assyrian sculptures.
"The Magi among the ancient Persians held a good and an evil principle: the good they called Yezdan, or Ormusd, the Creator, the Eternal; the evil they called Ahriman." (Univ. Hist.) If these names are explained, according to the principles of Rawlinson, &c., from Oriental roots, Yez-dan is Yez, or Yeza, who causes to come forth, as in Genesis 1:12; Dan, the Lord, as in Psalm 110:11. Ormusd, Or, light, as in Psalm 104:2, &c.; and Masda, the shedder of blessings, as a form of Shadai, the name by which God revealed Himself to Jacob, Genesis 35:11, otherwise rendered Almighty. Ormusd was therefore the pourer-forth of light. Ahriman, from Ahram, to be subtile, the epithet of the serpent that tempted Eve, the evil one in Genesis 3:1. The names would accompany the tradition from Noah downwards, as would also the annexation of the truths of religion to the starry emblems, too soon perverted in Sabian worship, as afterwards to idolatry.
Trench, in the Hulsean Lectures, speaks of the ancient Persian religion as the noblest and least corrupted of those of the ancient world.
The ancient Arabs very early corrupted their ancestral astronomy into Sabaism, the worship of the host of heaven. The Hamayarites chiefly worshipped the Sun; the tribe Misam, Al Debaran, Tai, Soheil, or Canopus: it was said to bring happiness to all on whom it shone, probably from its name, the Desired. Mahomet's grandfather is said to have tried to persuade the Korish to leave their images and worship the star Sirius, adored by the tribe Kais. Some tribes worshipped Al Moshtari, the planet Jupiter; others, as Asad, worshipped Otared, or Mercury. The Arabs had seven celebrated temples dedicated to the seven planets. One in the chief city of Yemen to Al Zoharah, the planet Venus; the temple of Mecca, where Mahomet destroyed 365 idols in one day, was said to be dedicated to Saturn. These idols may have been one for each day in the year, from stars rising on those days. They however continued to acknowledge One Supreme God, Allah Taala, God Most High. They professed to worship in the stars, not the orbs, but angelic intelligences governing them, mediating between God and man. They attributed their religion to Noah, from whom, no doubt, they had the astronomical foundation of it. (Univ. Hist.)
THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM
About 125 BC a star so bright as to be visible in the daytime suddenly appeared; and this, it is said, induced Hipparchus to draw up his catalogue of stars, the earliest on record, which is supposed to be transmitted to us by Ptolemy.
Other stars have in like manner appeared and disappeared. Was that mentioned as being in Coma, the head of the infant accompanying Virgo, in the time of Ptolemy, and afterwards gradually disappearing, indeed the star which led the Magi to Bethlehem? Its peculiarity would be, that 1400 years before (Num 24), its place over the very centre of the future possessions of the descendants of Jacob had been predicted. The prediction of Balaam was double, and doubly fulfilled: that Messiah, the bright and morning Star, should come out of Jacob, from Jacob's posterity; and also that a literal star should come forth at or over the land of Jacob's inheritance, to announce as arrived the time of that greater coming, the first appearance of the Desire of all nations.
It is said in the Zend Avesta, that Zoroaster, who taught astronomy to the Persian Magi, had told them, when they should see a star appear in the figure of the virgin, they should go and worship the Great One, whose birth it announced. That they did so we know from the inspired Word. If Zoroaster were, as its supposed, the disciple of Daniel, he would be acquainted with Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks of years, which it appears fixed the time of the Messiah's ministry: he would know that at thirty years of age that ministry must be entered on. If he were acquainted with the traditions of antediluvian astronomy, he might know if the now invisible star in Coma was one of those which have appeared and disappeared from time to time, and he might have a record of its period. It has now been invisible some 1700 years: did it shine on Abraham when the Lord bade him look toward heaven, and said, "So shall thy seed be?" Had it shone on Seth and Enoch, when "the family" of Seth, dividing and naming the stars, had called this constellation "the head of the Desired," the promised seed of the woman? An awful question arises: if so, will it shine again? Will it be connected with the sign of the Son of Man, announcing His second coming? We must not inquire when: the times and the seasons are not for us to know.
The bright star which appeared between Cepheus and Cassiopeia in the years 945, 1264, and 1572, the last time being observed by Tycho, the great Danish astronomer, is considered to have probably been the same star at its periodical return of about three hundred years. That which appeared in 1604, in the constellation Ophiuchus, was observed by Kepler. He even conjectured that it might have been the star of Bethlehem; but it was not vertical over Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which the star in Coma was. The star of Kepler was near the ecliptic, being just over the planets Jupiter and Saturn, then in conjunction. The star of prophecy was to appear out of, over, or with* Jacob. The Magi knew it, and came to the metropolis of the inheritance of Israel to seek "the King of the Jews." Once in every twenty-four hours it was vertical over that spot; and the Magi knew at that hour it might appear to go before them, and "stand" over the place where the young child was. In the midnight of the winter solstice, at the time of the birth of Christ, the sign Virgo arose.** As the season advanced, it would be on the meridian at that time, and the star in Coma would be vertical, apparently standing over the predicted spot long enough to mark it during their visit of homage. As the fugitives from transatlantic bondage follow the north star without map or guide, and reach the shore of freedom, so the Magi might follow the predicted star by observing its position at midnight: when it became vertical,*** stood as it were over Jerusalem, they stopped. The slight difference in position between Jerusalem and
Bethlehem|* they are said by an Oriental tradition to have recognized by beholding the reflection of the star in a
well.|** By the reflection of the sun in the well of Syene it is known the line of the tropic was determined, and by its declension the lapse of years since the well was dug. Was this the well of which David retained such a loving remembrance, of which he longed to drink? The Scripture, however, says nothing for or against this possibility.
From the very ancient book of Job it is seen that the light of early revelation still shone clearly in the land of Idumea; for not only the great patriarch and prophet (Lee's Job) himself, but his three friends partook of it. In the neighbouring lands of Moab and Midian that primeval light was not yet wholly obscured, though idolatry had perverted the daughters of Moab. Balaam evidently knew and believed the immortality of the soul, and the blessedness of the righteous after the death of the body. The light so vivid in the time of Job still shone on him; and however unworthy the recipient, through the prophecy he was employed to utter its rays descended on the long current of ages, even to the time of the Magi, and brought to the feet of the infant Saviour those firstfruits of the Gentile world. Balaam needed not to announce His coming; all antiquity was looking for "the Desire of nations," the promised seed of the woman, the conqueror of the serpent, as foreshown by the constellations and the prophecy they figured: but he announced that the time and place of His manifestation should be declared by the arising of another star at the time of His birth, and over the locality of His future kingdom. Seth is said to have previously given forth the same prediction. Whether a new creation or the return of a periodical star, its time, as now that of comets, being calculated by those wonderful first astronomers, only Divine Wisdom could foretell as was foretold that at its appearance He should be born, the expected Messiah, "the King of the Jews."
* The preposition or prepository letter (m) is rendered "at" in Genesis 3:24; "at" or over the east of Eden.
** "It is a fact independent of all hypotheses, that at the precise hour of midnight on the 25th of December, in the ages when Christianity appeared, the celestial sign which mounted on the horizon was the virgin of the constellations." (Dupuis, Orig. des Cultes.)
*** The Magi, forewarned that the star must appear "over Jacob," over his inheritance, would see that the star in Coma passed over the centre of that inheritance: but as it would also appear to pass as vertically over every part of it that was nearly in the latitude of Jerusalem, they could not at once fix on the spot of the Messiah's birth, therefore they went to inquire; the latitude, as it were, being given by the star, the longitude by the prophecy.
|* "Bethlehem indeed became that which its name had promised from the first, 'the house of bread,' even 'the living bread which came down from heaven'; and 'Ephratah' was truly the fruit-bearing field." "We have too many of these significant names to have the right to suppose them merely accidental." (R. C. Trench, Star of the Wise Men.)
Trench speaks of this star as shining in "calm and silent splendour, a star, as we may well believe, larger, lovelier and brighter than any of the host of heaven." He adds, "We have many allusions," in ancient Christian writers, "to the surpassing brightness of this star"; and he quotes from Ignatius, "At the appearance of the Lord a star shone forth brighter than all the other stars." Ignatius may have so heard from those who had seen it.
From Prudentius it is also quoted, that not even the star of morning was so fair.
Trench adds, "This star, I conceive, as so many ancients and moderns have done, to have been a new star in the heavens."
|** They came to a well associated with a beautiful tradition. It is that the Magi, who had lost the guidance of the star, sat down beside this well to refresh themselves, when one of them saw the reflection of the star in the clear water of the well. He cried aloud to his companions, and "when they saw the star they rejoiced with exceeding joy." (Scotch Mission.)
The star that shone over Bethlehem in splendid reality had illuminated in prediction and in tradition the whole ancient world. A star is the symbol of divinity in the newly discovered Assyrian remains, as it has long been known to be in the mythology of Egypt,* Greece, and Rome.
Prophecy is the greatest of all miracles, an immortal, an everlasting miracle, a sign for all ages and all nations, given with the first revelation to the first of men, and with continually brightening and increasing evidence formed to close around the last.
* "Among the Egyptians a star was said to be the symbol of the Divine Being." (Adam Clarke.)
Gill, on Balaam: A star shall Krd walk its course from Jacob, or above or over the land of Israel.
"Magi was a Persian word, but the Hebrew root Gehe, high, of dignity, explains it. 'Wise concerning God,' is said of them by Porphyry: by Xenophon they were said to be appointed by Cyrus to sing hymns, and sacrifice at the dawn of day. Zerdusht, or Zoroaster, the author of the sect of the Magi, or wise men, and who appears to be a Jew by birth, and to be acquainted with the Old Testament, spoke of the birth of Christ to his followers, and told them when He should be born a star should appear and be seen in the day, and ordered them to go where that directed, and offer gifts and worship Him." Also "the prophecy of Balaam was known to them." Gill refers to Abulfaragius. Hyde quotes the same from Abulfaragius.
"It is said" (see Wolf. Bib. Heb. p. 1156) "that Seth the son of Adam gave out a prophecy that a star should appear at the birth of the Messiah." "Some have thought that Virgil, (Ecl. ix. 47) speaks of this star, as 'Caesaris astrum.' There is a star so called often on antique gems, &c., of Julius Caesar. That which Pliny mentions (Nat. Hist. lib. ii. c. 25) he calls a comet, and describes as dazzlingly bright, with a silver beard." "The Jews still expect a star to herald Messiah." "The Jews in an ancient book of theirs (Zohar) say more than once that 'when Messiah shall be revealed, a bright and shining star shall arise in the East.'" (Gill's Commentary.) "The Jews still expect a star to be seen at the coming of the Messiah." (Alford.)
Suetonius and Tacitus both mention an old and constant opinion prevailing in the East, that at this time Judea should prevail. Tacitus adds, that it was contained in ancient and sacred books. (Alford.)
Bloomfield's Greek Test. on Matthew 2: "We cannot doubt that the Magi were acquainted with the Hebrew prophecies." Benson, on the Chronology of the Life of Christ, would place the visit of the Magi about February 13, J.P. 4710.
Trench thinks their journey took about thee months. Their doctrines are said to have been derived from Abraham, to have become corrupted, and to have been again purified by Zoroaster, who derived his evident knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures from Daniel.
Ancient writers call the star 'exceedingly brilliant.'
Alford thinks "The narration does not imply any thing miraculous in the appearance of the star, but something in the course of nature." (If so, the miracle is in its being predicted.) He says, "A remarkable conjunction of the planets of our system took place a short time before the birth of our Lord, in the year of Rome 747." He then enumerates three conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn in that year: "at the two latter, in October and November, the two planets were seen so close as to appear but as one star." But there was no prediction of these conjunctions; and such have taken place before and after, as, for instance, the far more remarkable one from whence the Chinese annals were reckoned.* Such conjunctions have been much spoken of by astrologers, but no great events seem to have been marked by them; and unless prophesied of, as was the star of Bethlehem, they could not have signified the birth of the King of the Jews. One such in 1463 was by Abarbanel the Jew supposed to announce the coming birth of the Messiah. Kepler, however, says that while the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn took place in the year of Rome 747, yet in 748 another one happened of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, so weakening the argument; for if one announced the birth of Christ, the other did not.
"That the Jews understood this prophecy of Balaam to refer to the Christ they gave fearful witness. The false Christ who under Adrian took up arms for the last terrible struggle with Rome gave himself out as the Messiah whom Balaam had foretold, and assumed the name of Barchocab, or the son of the star." (R. C. Trench.)
* A conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and Venus with also the moon took place 2012, and was observed and recorded in China. (Martini, Hist. Sini.)
THE SOUTHERN FISH,
In the Greek word Ichthus has been found an anagram of "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour." It is well to see Christ wherever we can; but it is best to see Him where Scripture points Him out. No where in Scripture is He typified by a fish; but He himself applies the symbol to those who should believe, being, as it were, caught by the Gospel net: so, when in calling Peter and John He says, "I will make you fishers of men," and again, in Matthew 13:47, the net of the Gospel encloses good and bad fishes, in neither place can the figure possibly apply to Himself, but well typifies His Church.
In the Old Testament must primarily be sought the intention of the emblems of the constellations. There we find that to Adam was given dominion over the fishes of the sea, as to the second Adam over the inhabitants of the earth. In Ezekiel 47:9, 10, the type is unquestioned; the fish are the converts to the Gospel. Habakkuk also speaks of "men as the fishes of the sea."
Ichthus may well be derived from Chayith, the name used for marine creatures in Psalm 104:25. In the Southern Fish, in the name Fom al Haut, there is the same root, as also in the Arabic name Al Haut, or Hut, the fishes of Pisces. These are in Hebrew called Dagim, from multitudes of offspring, a meaning equally applicable to the symbol and to the Church as described in Isaiah 60 and in Revelation 7:9, &c., which it symbolizes.
The fish, then, "bringing forth abundantly" typifies the visible Church; the woman, the invisible, the true, the spiritual Church. The fishes "pass through the paths of the sea," as the Church through the water of baptism. The Church drinks in the influences of the Holy Spirit, as the fish of Aquarius the water poured into its mouth. The literal fish does not drink: this figure is therefore wholly typical, but surely of the recipients, not of the Giver of the water of life.
In the days of persecution the early Christians frequently made themselves known to each other by the fish engraven on their rings, signifying that they were baptized believers. It was also sometimes sculptured on their tombs, as is to be seen in the catacombs. So the beautiful token of their faith, the passion-flower, was worn by them for the same purpose, as representing the "instruments of cruelty," the crown of thorns, the nails, the cross itself: but they neither worshipped the flower nor the fish, nor with any "likenesses" of them hazarded the infringement of the second commandment. With them the fish was a symbol, but never was perverted to an idol, though in the fish-god Dagon the progressive corruption of the emblems of the constellations, first to Sabaism, and then to idolatry, has long been recognized. Dagon is now believed by Layard to have been one of the great gods of Assyria. It appears to have been a combination of the human form in Aquarius with the fish beneath.*
* Kwanghi, the goddess of mercy, is in China represented as riding on a fish. (Bingham's China.) She is called the Queen of Heaven, and has an infant in her arms. (Fortune's China.)
In the Mexican zodiac, a figure crowned with the sun, between a fish and a quadruped, is said to represent the first winter solstice; probably the southern fish in Aquarius and the kid in Capricornus.
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