or, The Constellations
by Frances Rolleston
Philologos Religious Online Books
Previous | Contents
"Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season?"-Job 33:32
THE TWELVE GREAT GODS OF ASSYRIA
PRESIDED OVER BY ASHUR, THE KING OF THE CIRCLE OF THE GREAT GODS
Texts where the word or its root is used in this sense in the Hebrew Bible
||Ashur, the Prince. Suraya is a name of the sun in Sanscrit
||Anu, as Janus, resting, as the sun at the winter solstice, in Aquarius at the Deluge and the foundation of the Assyrian empire
||Uncertain, perhaps Dagon, as the multitudes of fish
||San, from the Semitic Se, a lamb
||Yav, shall come
||Bar, producing, as the multitude of cattle
||Nebo, sent forth, coming (Lord, Egyptian)
||Mylitta, or Alitta, called the mother of the great gods, bringing forth
||Uncertain, name not clearly read, 1853
||Bel, the lord, Ophiuchus
||Shamash, ministering, Egyptian, Chald.
||Ishtar, wounding, Arab. sense
||1 Sam 5:10
LAYARD'S NINEVEH, 1853, p. 351
"An inscription now in the British Museum commences with an invocation to the God Ashur, the supreme Lord, the King of the circle of the twelve gods. Then follow the names of these divinities. They are the same as those on the black obelisk belonging to the son of the king represented on this slab, although they are not placed in the same order. These divinities may preside over the twelve months, corresponding with the same circle in the Egyptian mythology, with which it is possible they may hereafter to a certain extent be identified. The first named is Anu (?), the last Ishtar, probably Astarte, or the moon; not Venus, as some have believed." The difference in the order may have been an accommodation to the birth of that prince and to his horoscope. From this authority the names are here given.
The Assyrians seem to have worshipped one Supreme God, whom they called Ashur, the prince or ruler, in which sense it was also applied to the Sun, as in the above table. This name, therefore, as Layard says, also enters into the names of the kings and even of private persons. Different nations had different names for the Supreme Deity; by the Babylonians called Nebo, the sent forth, or, who shall come forth.
"On cylinders the figures of the deities standing on animals are frequently seen in act of adoration before the Supreme God in the circle." "The Supreme God was sometimes represented under a Triune form." (Layard.)
Human figures with tails have been discovered among the sculptures of Nineveh, as in Egyptian remains. There are two Semitic words for tail, Zenab, which divided Ze-nab, would convey the idea this cometh, or shall be sent forth; and Alyah, having the same sense from a different root.
Dr. Grotefend says, "On the Assyrian cylinders every thing, as far as possible, is represented by stars." He derives the mythology of the Assyrians from a primaeval worship of the starry host. Layard also says, "Originally the Assyrian religion was a pure Sabeanism, worshipping the heavenly deities."
Many figures of divinities standing on a lion or a bull have a star on their cap. These are very early. Two human-headed lions, with human arms, have in one hand a goat or stag, in the other a branch. He frequently speaks of a sacred tree, and occasionally of a branch. In the fir-cone, so frequently held by the divinities, &c., The Seed may be recognized. Layard speaks of the Nineveh inscriptions as a dialect of the primitive tongue, thus authorizing the search for primitive roots in the names of the deities.
It seems from Biblical authority that the ancient name of Assyria was Ashur.* It is probable that the Cherubic names, Shur, the bull, and Nesir, the eagle, suggested the names of the empire as well as those of the images they venerated. It is observed that in Assyrian and Persepolitan remains, wherever the eagle is represented it is as victorious. In Persian remains the bull is always represented as subdued, about to be slain, sacrificed, by Mithra, as an incarnate deity, whose name may be from the ancient root, ar, to come, He who shall come, as from the tradition that He who was to come, the Mighty One in human nature, should offer himself as a sacrifice.
A "sacred tree" appears among the traces of Assyrian worship. It has been conjectured to be a traditional representation of the tree of life; but there is no fruit on it. It is more like "the branch," the universally preserved emblem of divinity, of Him who should come, the recognized emblem of the Messiah, and borne by the woman of the zodiac, with the ear of corn, the seed.
* Genesis 10. "Out of that land he went into Assyria." So Onkelos, and the Targum of Jonathan, saying, "He, Nimrod, reigned in Assyria." Assyria is called the land of Nimrod. But Josephus and Jarchi held it was Ashur went out, &c. Nineveh, a pleasant habitation. (Gill.) Dr. A. Clarke prefers he, Nimrod.
Layard gives representations of two slabs, on one of which "the sacred tree" appears in the middle, with on each side the figure of Nisroch, the eagle-headed human figure, the idol god before which Sennacherib was slain. He holds in his right hand the fir-cone, the symbolic seed, and in his left "the usual basket." The basket, that which carries, from a Semitic root sebil, one of the Oriental names of the woman in Virgo, appears to refer to that sign. On the other slab, the sacred tree again in the midst, has two kneeling bearded human figures, with eagle wings, and the cap with horns emblematizing power, these figures appear to be offering homage to the tree or branch. Layard thinks "the sacred tree" something of the honeysuckle kind, if so, it is a plant always rather a branch than a tree. These figures so placed may embody a tradition that the Cherubic forms represented the same person as the sacred tree, the branch, and the seed, carried, borne by the woman. Other similar human figures carry in one hand an antelope, the kid of sacrifice, in the other the branch, "the holy tree."
The name Nimrod has been derived from the Semitic root marad, to rebel, and it has also been said that his character in ancient tradition of being the first rebel and apostate thence originated. But of his rebellion the Scripture says nothing. He is there characterized as a mighty hunter, by which the derivation of Nimrod from Nimehar, swift, and Adah, to come or pass (Dan 4:28), seems authorized. In Habakkuk 1:6, Nimehar occurs as swift, hasty, and in verse 8, Nimar, as a leopard, a swift animal. Nimar is the word translated leopard in Daniel 7:6. The figure, said to be of Nimrod, in the Assyrian sculptures, holds an animal, which, but for the lion-like mane, would be a leopard, and thus by the name Nimar suggest both the name, Nimrod, and his character of swiftness as a hunter. The animal is evidently not struggling, as if in combat, nor dead, as if subdued, but is there as an attribute, a hieroglyph of the name of him who holds it.
Interesting indeed are the coincidences between the Assyrian records as now developing, and the historical and prophetic books of Scripture; but the traces of the early revelation, the faith of Adam and of Noah, furnished by the sculptures, are even more interesting and important. The discoverers are of opinion that the emblems, having such remarkable affinity with the Cherubic forms, were not originally idolatrously worshipped, but that upon mysterious veneration of the symbol was gradually engrafted that species of worship of the image forbidden in the second commandment. The bowing down there prohibited is that of Abraham in courtesy to the children of Heth (Gen 23:12), whom certainly he did not worship in the sense of the word understood as divine worship, but rather in the sense in which it is used in the Anglican marriage service, and as a title of certain English magistrates. The word rendered serve may include taking care of those images, burning lights before them, and similar acts of service.
This gradual falling into the sin of idolatry and its moral corruptions from the use of likenesses "made to themselves," even when in imitation of those symbols divinely ordained, the Cherubim, will show the reason of the awful chastisements inflicted on the first violators of the second commandment, even when they professed to intend to see in their image of the golden calf only a repetition of the divinely ordained Cherub. It may also enforce the wisdom of Protestant Reformers in banishing all "likenesses" from their temples.
NOTE ON CHERUBIC FORMS
At one time Layard conjectured that Ezekiel having seen these Assyrian figures, might from them describe the figures of his visions. But Ezekiel says of them, "I knew they were the Cherubim," and as a Jewish priest he must have been well acquainted with these forms, which had recently been in the temple of Solomon, and long before in the tabernacle of Moses. Ancient Jewish writers say that they were "in the tabernacle from the beginning," and so known to Noah, Abraham, and the children of Israel before they went into Egypt. Many modern commentators are of the same opinion. "They were held to be the same figures with those at the gate of Eden." Gill also observes, "They are always represented as vehicles on which He sits or rides." The Jews frequently speak of "the mystery of the Cherubim." "In the glory of them Christ will come a second time." Dr. A. Clarke says, "The word Cherub never being employed as a verb, it is justly supposed to be a word compounded of the particle of resemblance Ke (or Che), like to, or like as, and Rab, he was great," &c. The Teraphim are thought to have been of somewhat similar forms (Judg 17:3, &c.). As also the images stolen from Laban by Rachel, and the Penates of the ancients, images having faces, as the Hebrew, peni, faces.
NAMES OF THE STONES
ON THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE HOLY CITY,
IN THE ORDER IN WHICH THEY ARE GIVEN IN REVELATION 21:19, 20,
REFERRED TO THE HEBREW ROOTS
Texts where the word or its root is used in this sense in the Hebrew Bible
||Jasper, He shall bruise and be bruised
||Chalcedony, the affliction, poor, Klh, Psa 10:8
||of the Lord
||Emerald (Smaragdos), He that keepeth, rm# Psa 121 his people
||Sardonyx, the Prince, Isa 9:6, the Lord, Nd Psa 110:1
||Sardius, the Prince, as above, who goes forth
||Chrysolite, binding as a chain, Crx, Song 1:10, raising up
||Beryl, the son, rb, Psa 2:12
||Topaz, breaking, dashing in pieces
||Chrysoprasus, as who breaks, Crx, bruised
2 Sam 5:20
||Jacinth, He shall possess
||Amethyst, destroying, beat down
Christ is often figured as a stone (Gen 49:24; Isa 8:14, 28:16; 1 Peter 2:4,6,8; Psa 118:22; Matt 21:44), a precious stone; also as the foundation (1 Cor 3:11; Isa 28:16). In the names of these divinely-selected stones of the foundations (Isa 54:11) of the Holy City, if there are meanings expressing the same prophecies which suggested to the first astronomers the names of the twelve signs, shall we not here recognize the plan which gave the same colours to the rainbow of the sky and to the diamond of the mine, and adopted them equally as symbolizing Divine truth? The same graceful form belongs to the bell-polypus of the solar microscope and to the forest-canopying convolvulus of the South American wilderness. The gigantic fossil fern and the animalcule invisible to the human eye, the desert flower and the deep-sea shell, have harmony of form and beauty of colouring analogous with each other; and may we not expect the types and figures chosen by Divine direction, and revealing Divine purposes, to have similar harmony in diversity, similar marks of unity of design in variety of execution? In recognizing these correspondencies and following them out, shall we not find edification in developing the latent perfection, the manifold wisdom of the written Word?*
* Parkhurst gives a root in this form. Buxtorf gives Py#, to bruise. The Arabic sense is to bruise, as by biting. (See Lee's Lexicon.)
* These stones are "applicable to Jesus Christ, the one and only foundation." (Gill.) So says Matthew Henry; but neither of these commentators say in what manner. "The Jews speak of the tabernacle above being built on twelve precious stones." (Gill, from Zohar.) It will be remembered how the gold of Australia is found by breaking, crushing, bruising, and that in the Levitical Law gold is the frequent type of Christ or his attributes, as in Exodus 25:11, &c.
ON THE SIGN CAPRICORN
The figure of the Fish-goat and names appropriate to it are found in all ancient zodiacs. Indian, Egyptian, Assyrian remains all agree in so representing it. Idle fables of old, and still idler explanations in modern times, have confused but not obliterated this wonderful record of ancient prophecy. The kid of sacrifice is here united with the fish, the emblem of the Church. The fish, with its abundance of spawn, typifying the multitude of believers, inhabiting the waters, which typify time, swiftly coming, never staying, swiftly going by, is a most expressive emblem of "the great congregation." It has been erroneously applied to the Lord of that congregation, because the Greek word, IcquV, a fish, contains the initial letters of words applicable to Christ: but that Greek word is derived from the Hebrew twyx, living things, used as fishes in Psalm 104:25. The beasts typifying nations are so called in Daniel, chapter 7, &c. The noun is feminine (or neuter), and no where applied to an individual man.
This emblem has in modern times been supposed to indicate the winter solstice as happening in that sign; but it was not there till long after the fish-goat had been figured in ancient astronomy. What, then, did it signify? - like the other signs, it embodied a prophecy of Him whom the kid of sacrifice, from the fall of man downwards, had typified, and here shown as united to the Church, His body (1 Cor 10:17), whose nature He should take into union with Himself. It also indicated the time when He should assume it: when the solstice took place among those stars He should be born on earth. Born at the winter solstice, from that hour the days began to lengthen; light began to prevail over darkness when He, the true Light, came to enlighten the world.
Much confusion has prevailed on the subject of the day of our Lord's birth, particularly in the Eastern Church, which long continued to use the imperfect and bewildering Greek methods of computing time. But it was not so in the Western, where the calendar had been rectified by Julius Caesar, and the winter solstice shown to happen on the 25th of December. It has now receded to the 21st, the shortest day at this time.*
This sign is then to us a monument of prophecy fulfilled, of which the Western never had any doubt, but obscured by the uncertainties and miscalculations of the Eastern Churches.
* In China, an observation of the solstice when in Aquarius, is still preserved.
Commenting on Psalm 133, St. Augustine says, "The dispensation of man became less and less, which was signified in John; the dispensation of God in our Lord Jesus Christ increased. And this is shown even by their birthdays; for, as the Church hath delivered down, John was born when the days begin to diminish" (June 24th, the summer solstice), "but the Lord was born when now the days being to increase" (December 25th, he says). This date he frequently refers to as undoubted.
St. Augustine was fifty-seven years old, when the archives of Rome were destroyed by the Gothic invasion, previous to which he seems to have inspected them.
The doubt and ignorance of the Eastern Church on the true day of the birth of Christ is shown by the title of a homily of St. Chrysostom, preached in Antioch on the 25th of December, in the year of the common era 386. It is this: "Homily for the Birthday of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which was unknown until a few years since, when some persons coming from the West made it known, and publicly announced it." The Roman archives were still extant and might be consulted, and to them St. Chrysostom appeals; and in them the very day of Christ's birth was shown by the register.
NOTE I (ON LUKE II)
The Chronological Introduction to the History of the Church, by Dr. Samuel Farmer Jarvis, Historiographer to the Episcopal Church of the United States, is here referred to, in which work it is shown that the birth of Christ took place December 25th, Julian period 4707, on the 5th day of the 9th month, AUC 747, and in the year in which Augustus closed the temple of Janus for the third time.
"There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the Roman world should be written up, enrolled, as in the census of modern days; but it appears that the census of Syria was not sent up to Rome till Cyrenius was governor of Syria. It would then be entered into the Augustan register, which, though now lost, was undoubtedly seen by Justin, by Tertullian, by St. Augustine, who refer to it, as does Chrysostom, as extant in their time, and easily inspected. When Augustine was fifty-seven years of age, the city of Rome was sacked by the Goths under Alaric, after which this record was lost. In it was the name of Mary, and of the birth of Christ at Bethlehem, and it should seem as born on the 25th of December, as that day was always at Rome commemorated as the day of our Lord's birth; it was then more precisely the winter solstice than now, owing to the precession of the Equinoxes. At first, the Eastern Churches, whose method of reckoning time differed, and who had no such record as the Augustan register, were uncertain in their commemorations of it, but gradually conformed to Roman authority."
The early Eastern Church, which was in doubt about the time of our Lord's birth, had no means of ascertaining the date with precision. Clemens Alexandrinus mentions with great contempt the errors of those who place it in April or May. (AD 194.)
Justin Martyr, in the year 150, referred the whole Roman Senate to the census made at Bethlehem, as a sure proof of the date of Christ's birth, "which," he says, "ye can learn from the enrollments completed under Cyrenius, your first procurator in Judaea." Justin was at Rome; he could himself consult the archives, and must have done so, or he would not have so referred to them. Eastern Christians could have no such opportunity, but it was easy for any Christian of the Western Church to consult the archives; these were preserved in the Palatine and Ulpian Libraries, and the house of Tiberius, all of which in the fourth century were collected in the baths of Diocletian. They were destroyed when the city was sacked by the Goths under Alaric. During the period of their existence we have the testimony of Christian writers who appeal to them.
First, Tertullian, who against Marcion writes, "concerning the census or enrollment of Augustus, which the Roman archives preserve, as a faithful witness of the Lord's nativity." To the same archives he appeals for the narrative of our Lord's crucifixion sent by Pilate to Tiberius. Again he says, that being reckoned of the root of Jesse, He was therefore enregistered, privily, by Mary, for He was of the country of Bethlehem, and of the house of David, as among the Romans she is described in the census, "Mary, from whom Christ is born." Tertullian held that the 25th of December, then the winter solstice, was the day of our Lord's birth.
St. Ambrose argues that the census was designed by Infinite Wisdom as a solemn and indubitable record of the great event, the birth of Christ at Bethlehem, so fulfilling prophecy. St. Augustine has left thirteen sermons on the festival of the Nativity, in every one of which he calls it, as then observed on the 25th of December, our Lord's birthday; in one of them he says that our Lord Jesus Christ not only chose the virgin from whom He should be born, but also the day on which He should be born, the winter solstice.
He also asserts that Christ was conceived and suffered in the same month, as is shown by the day of His nativity, which is perfectly well known to the Churches, "being," he says, "the 25th of December."*
NOTE ON "CENSUS"
* Dr. Jarvis, Chron. Introd. to the History of the Church, on the true dates of the birth and death of our Lord.
In the Commentary of St. Ambrose on the Gospel of St. Luke the aim is to show that Augustus acted only as an agent of the Almighty; that the birth of Christ at Bethlehem was the important object to be accomplished, and that the Census itself was designed by Infinite Wisdom as a solemn and indubitable record of that great event.
Epiphanius speaks of "the cavern" at Bethlehem as the spot where it occurred.
Though the Eastern Church was uncertain as to the day of our Lord's birth, not so the Western Church. There the facility of examining the Roman record of the enrollment spoken of by St. Luke, chapter 3, seems to have held that Church to the 25th of December, which at the time of His birth was the winter solstice. When this testimony was brought before the Eastern Church, the Western date was quietly and universally adopted. It was generally observed throughout the Christian world before the council of Ephesus (AD 431), and since then by all parties, all churches.
Those of the Eastern Church who at first observed it on the 6th of January are thought to have done so as the Epiphany.
The Eastern Church having no such records to appeal to, as those kept at Rome, appealed to and consulted by the writers of the Western Church, fell into confusion as to dates.
Bianchini, 1716, has observed that the table of dates of Hippolytus AD 220, (found 1551,) fails from not noticing the precession of the equinoxes.
St. Augustine in his first sermon on the Nativity of John the Baptist, after observing that the Church keeps but two birthdays, those of St. John and of Christ, says that John was born on the day of the summer solstice, "on the 8th day before the calends of July, and from this day the days are diminished, but Christ was born on the 8th day before the calends of January, and from that day the days increase." In his comment on the 133rd Psalm, he repeats these assertions, saying, "as the Church hath delivered down," and adds, "hear John himself confessing, 'He must increase, but I must decrease.'"*
Pope Telesphorus, AD 127, at the suggestion of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, caused a scrutiny to be made as to the birth of Christ, and the 25th of December was fixed upon.
NOTE ON THE SIGN CAPRICORN
* Dr. Jarvis, p. 538, where it is also said, "In Tertullian's book against Marcion, he uses these words: 'Finally, concerning the census (or enrollment) of Augustus, which the Roman archives preserve as a faithful witness of our Lord's nativity.' Again he says, Christ 'was enregistered, namely by Mary (for He was of the country of Bethlehem, and of the house of David), as among the Romans she is described in the census, Mary from whom Christ is born.'"
At the winter solstice in this sign, figuring the fore part of the kid of sacrifice joined to the body of a fish, He who was to come, was symbolized in the figure attributed to the constellation, united to Himself by His human birth, in His body, the Church. Then the day, and it might be the very hour of the winter solstice saw the arising of the promised Sun of righteousness, even as the sun of this world then began to ascend in his course through the signs emblematizing the manifestations of his great prototype.
While all the positive evidence that can be collected is for this day being indeed the day of the birth of Christ, only guesses and conjectures, chiefly occasioned by the gradual recession of the equinoxes, are against it. How fine an emblem, how beautiful an analogy would they destroy, and for what? but that so many commentators and chronologists love darkness better than light!
The increasing light and warmth, the returning life attending the sun's arising from the winter solstice, ought every returning year to make us feel what with our lips we acknowledge, "Unto us a child is born, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
On the midnight of this day, not only did the constellation Virgo with the branch, the seed, arise, but it was followed by the Northern Crown,* the only constellation really resembling what it is called, passing vertically over Bethlehem.
NOTE ON SOLSTICE
* It is asserted by ancient writers that Nimrod caused a diadem to be made for himself in imitation of it.
In the early ages of astronomy the winter solstice did not take place in Capricorn, but when the solstice reached that sign He whom it typified was to be born. The Spirit of prophecy alone could declare this; but whether He had made it know to those holy men to whom tradition attributes the invention of the signs is not declared in Scripture. In the ancient emblem, the Kid or Lamb of sacrifice is united to the body of the fish, the type of the Church. When the sun, at the winter solstice in those stars, reached the point from whence he should begin to arise and commence a new and still brightening course, cheering and enlightening the world, then the promised Sun of righteousness began to rise on the earth. Ancient authorities having said the Incarnate Word was born on the day of the winter solstice, then called the 25th of December, on that day the Christian Church has long kept it. Though the solstice has now receded to the 21st, perhaps on the 25th the day first perceptibly increases; therefore the memorial is still applicable.
ON THE SIGN ARIES
From all antiquity this sign has been figured as the sacrificial Lamb or Ram, and names meaning wounded and slain have been annexed to its principal stars.* So it has been figured, and so named, by nations who never heard of the Jewish Passover, and long before that observance was ordained.
The Jewish, and apparently the patriarchal calendar, was kept regular by ocular demonstration of the new moons, and by reckoning twelve months to one year, and thirteen to the next. The twelfth moon was called Abib, supposed to be from the swelling of the grains of young corn; the thirteenth, Nishan, or second, reduplicated year or month. The first record of the reckoning by months is that of Noah, by number (Gen 7). By the time of Moses, the name Abib seems to have been in use; it is used by Moses, Exodus 13:4, as well known to those he addressed. The spring equinox had at that time receded into the sign Aries, but no allusion to it is made in the institution of the Passover; by the time of the coming of Him whom the Passover typified, it had receded to the spot where are still to be found the star named El Nath or Natik, the pierced, wounded, or slain, and the mansion of the moon, Al Sheratan, the bruised, wounded. The emblem and the names existing before what they indicate took place were prophetic, and are among the many proofs from prophecy that God is, and hath spoken. He commanded Moses so to fix the ordinance of the Passover, that during the darkness at the crucifixion, the star so named would be seen close to the sun and the whole of the constellation Aries, He who cometh, would appear around it. Man could not arrange this coincidence, man could not predict it, but God by Moses prefigured it; the lamb was yearly slain for 1500 years, when the sun was among those stars, but the equinox had not yet receded thither; season, months, and years may vary, but the solstice and the equinox never; different stars are behind the sun at those moments in the lapse of centuries, but man cannot mistake the day when the shadows no longer lengthen, but begin to contract, nor that when day and night are equal. These universally perceptible and unalterable anniversaries, by divine appointment marked, foreshowed the two great events in the history of man, the birth and death of the Messiah.
* In the ancient Egyptian circular zodiac of Dendera the sign is figured as the Lamb, being without the horns of the Ram.
The day appointed for His death had been the day when His incarnation was announced to the blessed Virgin. So the Western Church held for 400 years without hesitation, for during nearly that time the Roman records were preserved, and were open to that investigation which it is evident the early Latin Church, and by their own account Augustine and Tertullian had made in them. The Greek Church had no such facilities of examining the authentic records, and the Greek computation of time was all confusion till the Julian Calendar had been adopted; still the true date of the crucifixion was less disguised by the Greeks than that of the nativity, but the wish, almost the necessity, of so keeping Easter as to make the day of crucifixion Friday, and of the resurrection Sunday, caused differences of opinion that led to persecution and bloodshed.
It should seem that He who seeth the end from the beginning had ruled to the purposes of prophecy the placing of these emblems in the zodiac. The symbols themselves, and their ancient names, may be referred to mere human wisdom in their adaptations to the predictions they were intended to record, but the correspondence between their purport and the place of the sun in them when the events so typified should occur must be the work of the Spirit of prophecy, whether consciously or unconsciously guiding those who so arranged them. The sun was in Aries, where the Lamb of sacrifice was typified in the stars at the vernal equinox, when the Lamb of the Passover was killed for every family of Israel, and the Lamb of God hung on the cross, shedding the blood that speaketh better things than that of Abel. The witness in heaven of the Lamb of the Zodiac, corroborated, perpetuated in the intervening time by the corresponding types of the Mosaic law, yet stands in proof that God had spoken. To Him alone belongs the knowledge of the times and seasons of fulfillment, even when prophecy is most gloriously explicit. He only could so direct the observance of the Passover at the moment when the event it typified should take place. He only could have ruled the purpose of the inventors of astronomy, to place the emblematic sign where the sun should be when the event typified should arrive.
By divine command to Moses, the first ordinance of the Levitical law, the slaying of the Paschal Lamb, was to be when the sun was in Aries, in the figure of the Lamb, or young ram, in the time of Moses being in the month called Abib, when the firstfruits, the earliest ears of corn, were gathered; then the new moon, so called, was beginning to take place among the stars of Aries; fifteen hundred years afterwards, the sun's place was in the head of Aries at the full moon of that month. On the morning of the resurrection of our Lord, the firstfruits of earth's harvest were offered in the temple; and the bright star in Virgo called Spica, and Subilon the ear of corn, had shone on that solemn hour when the seed of the woman arose, the firstfruits from the dead. The star in Coma, then bright, though now long lost to view, which has been thought the star of the Magi, also shone on that accomplishment of prophecy; the moon, full among the stars of Libra, the sign typifying the now completed redemption, might dim, but not eclipse its radiance.
Wherever the zodiac is found, it always begins with Aries, even among those nations who have commenced their year at other parts of its circle, as the Chinese in 15o Aquarius, the Jews, their civil year in 1o Virgo. The lunar zodiac also invariably began in Aries. At the time when the Chinese made use of both these zodiacs, no natural epoch, neither solstice nor equinox, occurred in Aries; none such took place there when Moses appointed the sacred year of the Hebrews to begin with the new moon of the month Abib. 1490 years afterwards the spring equinox had receded from Taurus to the head of Aries, the sun was at or near the stars called El Nath and Natik, the wounded, the slain; the moon in the lunar mansion Al Sheratan, the bruised, the wounded, names transmitted by the Arabs, unconscious or careless of their meaning. Then the Lamb of God was slain, and the sun was darkened at noon-day, where the Lamb of the signs had so long prefigured the awful sacrifice.
The sun's place at the time of the crucifixion was undoubtedly in the head of Aries at any part of the time by which chronology varies. Whether exactly over, or only near the stars called Al Sheratan, El Nath, and Natik, they would be hid by his rays. The sign was adapted to the senses of mankind, rather than to the calculations of mathematicians.
We are not told in Scripture that it was by divine direction the inventors so placed that sign, but tradition names among them the prophet Enoch, by whose prevision a coincidence might be prepared, which no unassisted human intellect could have anticipated. If Abel's sacrifice gave the type, the position of the sign gave the time of its fulfillment; only the Spirit of prophecy which foretold by Enoch the coming of the Lord to execute judgment could so have indicated it.
Tertullian, addressing the Roman rulers, says, "you have in your archives the relation of that phenomenon," the darkness at the crucifixion. Also that Pilate had announced "all these things concerning Christ to Tiberius Caesar."* He says elsewhere, reasoning with the Jews concerning the seventy weeks of Daniel, that the Messiah had been cut off as had been foretold under Tiberius Caesar, Rubellius Geminus and Fufius Geminus being consuls, in the month of March, in the season of the Passover, on the eighth day before the calends of April (March 25), on the first day of unleavened bread, in which it had been commanded they should kill the Lamb.
Lactantius, writing about 312, confirms this testimony, saying that Christ was crucified "in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, the two Gemini being consuls."
* Phlegon on the Olympiads records the darkness, saying, "stars were seen in the heavens."
St. Augustine asserts that it was most certainly known that the annunciation and the crucifixion both took place on the 25th of March, also that He was born on the 25th of December, in the thirty-third year of the reign of Herod, Sabinus and Rufinus being consuls. he also says, that from the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to the ides of May in the consulship of Honorius and Eutydianus 365 years are found, by the enumeration of the consuls, to have been completed.
The list of consuls as corrected by Victorinus, a great mathematician, who was at Rome AD 455, gives the Gemini as the consuls under whom our Lord was crucified.
Dr. Jarvis gives these dates. In March, year of Rome, 747, Augustus shuts the temple of Janus. Birth of Christ, 747. Universal peace. Baptism, January 6, year of Rome, 777. Crucifixion, March 26, 780. Ascension, May 6, 780. Aged 33 and 3 months. Crucified on the anniversary of the Annunciation.
NOTE ON THE PASSOVER
"If it was said by the Gentile authorities that our Lord ate the Passover on Thursday evening, the Jews would say it was Friday evening. Evening came before morning." But it was the true time, astronomically.
When Victorinus and others say the Passion of our Lord commenced on the Thursday evening, they mean by His agony in the garden, when His sufferings began, and when the Jewish nation's day of preparation began with its evening. But it was the true Passover day, beginning with the evening.
The Greek Church held in opposition to the Latin, that the Passover was kept two days together in the year of our Lord's crucifixion. Many learned men have held the same opinion.* It is thus explained: Maimonides says the feasts of the Jews were sanctified not by a calendar, but by the heavens. In the Talmud of Babylon, and by Maimonides it is recorded that "the senate, on the 30th day of the month, sat in the outer court of the temple; if no approved witnesses came to say that they had seen the new moon, the next day was called the 31st of the preceding month, and the feast appointed accordingly. If afterwards credible witnesses reported having seen the new moon on the 30th, the senate was bound to alter the appointment. This they did not always do, and the nation** sometimes differed as to the time of keeping the Passover." Of course the new moon having been seen, the first day was astronomically correct; on that day, beginning with the evening (Gen 1), our Lord ate the Passover with His disciples. In its morning, He, the true Lamb of God, was nailed to the cross at the exact time when the lamb of the daily offering was slain in the temple, on the Passover day. The lamb of the evening sacrifice was slain when the sun began to decline; then the noon-day darkness fell on the nation who were slaying the lamb of the Passover, while the true Lamb of God was dying on the cross. At the ninth hour, when the evening sacrifice was wholly consumed, incense was burnt on the golden altar; then our Lord resigned His Spirit, His sacrifice was completed, and the veil of the temple, before which the priest was officiating, was rent in twain.
The difficulty here removed, the Jews and other objectors often bring forward in argument.
NOTE ON THE NAMES IN THE SIGN ARIES
* Munster, Scaliger, Casaubon, &c. In this case the Eastern Church on this point may be the best authority from the local traditions.
** Maimonides and the Gemara.
The Greek word, ars, a lamb, though not used for this sign, yet by the roots to which it may be referred, meaning coming quickly, connects the Latin Aries with the Semitic Taleh and Amroo by the similar sense of coming forth. The Egyptian name in this sign, Ammon, signifies true, faithful, the appointed, the established, the stedfast, as is shown by the Noetic or Hebrew root M). The hieroglyphic name for the first decan is set, appointed. The truthfulness of the lamb does not characterize the ram. The ancient oriental names are all the lamb, and the figure in the Dendera zodiac having no horns is also the lamb, but the Egyptian idol called Ammon had horns, which are found on medals of Alexander, as claiming a divine origin from Jupiter Ammon. The Greeks and Romans also fell into this corruption of the original emblem, giving the horns and the name of the ram to the lamb of ancient astronomy.
Ars and Aries, from the root ar, mean to come, or flowing forth as light or water; kir in krios, to come as in a circle. The termination es, os, or us, might be from the Semitic or Noetic root #x, to hasten, come quickly (Isa 8:3).
In words apparently synonymous it has often been shown that there are shades of meaning.
In Taleh the shade of meaning is coming forth from above as the dew; in Amroo and the Chaldee Emmer, it is coming forth as a branch; Amin, a branch, being especially a palm-branch, the well-known emblem of Him who was to come, recognized as such, when strewed before Him at His entry into Jerusalem. Amnos, another name of a lamb not found in the sign, meaning truthful, is the Lamb of the Gospel; while Arnion, who cometh, is the Lamb of the Apocalypse.
It is to be remarked that the Syriac name of the sign, Amroo, is the word used in the Syriac Gospel of St. John (John 1), being from the root Amar, to spring forth as a branch, a palm-branch.
Tametouris Ammon, the Coptic, supposed to be the ancient Egyptian, is translated by Montucla, the reign of Ammon; the S in the root Shur, dominion, being changed to T, as in Taurus, &c. Ammon, as is well known, was the Egyptian ram or lamb.
The English name lamb, contains a Noetic root lam, meaning mild, gentle. Ram is the root we find in Abram, high or great, whence were named Romulus and Rome.
Mesartim, the binding, the place of binding, or of those that are bound, refers to the fishes of Pisces, whose band is continued to and held by the forefoot of Aries, and Cetus the sea-monster, the band round whose neck is also so held.
El Nath is used by Chaucer as the name of a spring star.
El Natik, the pierced or slain, applies equally to the lamb of Abel's sacrifice and the Lamb of God, whom it prefigured.
Deltoton, the Triangle, was said by the ancient Greeks to contain the name of the Deity, and to be a most divine emblem.
Albumazer records that the first Decan of Aries in the ancient Persian and Indian spheres, was a throned woman called the daughter of splendour, evidently Cassiopeia.
Shedar, who sets free, is in Arabic peculiarly applied to a woman setting free her hair; such appears to be the action of the figure of Cassiopeia.
Dupuis says, "the Persians called the Sign Aries the Lamb; when the sun entered Aries they had a feast called Neurouz, a few days before they had the Feast of the Cross."*
NOTE ON THE DATE OF THE ANNUNCIATION
* Probably the constellation of the Southern Cross, visible at that time, in that latitude.
The great French astronomers of the eighteenth century wrote thus: "Le jour suivant la conjonction moyenne de la lune au soleil, annee de la naissance de Jesus Christ, 25 Mars, qui selon l'ancienne tradition de l'Eglise, rapporte par St. Augustine, fut le jour meme de l'incarnation de Jesus Christ, fut aussi le jour de la premiere phase de la lune, et par consequent il fut de 1 jour du mois selon l'usage des Hebreux, et le premier jour de l'annee sacree qui par l'institution divine devoit commencer par le premier mois du printems, et le 1 jour d'une grande annee don't l'epoque naturelle est le concours de l'equinoxe moyen et de la conjonction moyenne de la lune avec le soleil. Ce concours termina donc les periodes luni-solaires des siecles precedens et fut une époque d'ou commenca un nouvel ordre des siecles." (La Loubere.)
NOTE FROM DR. CUDWORTH'S "TRUE NOTION OF THE LORD'S SUPPER"
"The Greek Church held in opposition to the Latins that the passover was kept the year of our Saviour's death on two days together. Many learned men, as Munster, Scaliger, Casaubon, &c., have since closed with the Greeks. How might this legally be done? and the true answer must be derived from the manner of determining the beginning of their months in use at that time, which was according to the phasis of the moon, for they had then no calendar as a rule to sanctify their feasts, but they were sanctified by the heavens, as the Misnah speaks. This is clearly stated by Maimon (Kiddush Hacchodesh), who having spoken of the rules of observing the phases adds that these were never made use of since the Sanhedrim ceased in Israel after the destruction of the temple. Since that time they have used a calendar calculated according to the middle motion of the moon, except the Karaites, whom they abhor for giving it up. The manner of reckoning by the phasis is thus described in the Talmud of Babylon (500 AD), in Rosh Hashanah, and by Maimon in Koddsh Hachad. In the great or outer court of the temple, there was a house called Beth-jazek, where the senate sat all the 30th day of the month to receive the witnesses of the moon's appearance; if there came approved witnesses on the 30th day, then the chief men of the senate stood up and pronounced, Mokaddosh, it is sanctified, whereupon notice was given to all the country. But if when the consistory had sat all the 30th day there came no approved witnesses, then they made an intercalation of one day in the former month, and decreed the following 31st day to be the calends, and yet notwithstanding if afterwards witnesses credibly testified having seen the phasis in due time, the senate was bound to alter the beginning of the month and reckon it a day sooner, from the 30th: here we see how the difference of a day might arise about the calends of a month, on which the feasts depended. Now it was a custom among the Jews, in such doubtful cases, to permit the feasts to be solemnized, or passovers killed, on two several days together. Maimon affirms, that in the remoter parts of the land of Israel, they kept the feast of the new moon two days together, nay, in Jerusalem itself, they kept the new moon of Tisri, which was the beginning of the year, twice, lest they should be mistaken in it; and in the Atlmud (Gemarah Rosh Hashanah, c. i.) we have an instance of the passovers being kept two days together, because the new moon was doubtful, nay, the Rabbinical Jews themselves still keep the Passover two days together iisdem ceremoniis, as the learned author of the Jewish Synagogue reports, and Scaliger also, not only of that, but also of the other feasts; 'Judaei post institutionem hodierni computi eandem solenitatem celebrant biduo, propterea quod mensam incipient a medio motu lunae. Itaque propter dubium conjunctionis luminarium, Pascah celebrant 15 et 16 Nisam, Pentecosten 6 et 7 Sivan, scenopegia 15 et 16 Tisri, idque vocant festum secundum exsiliorum.'
"Thus our Saviour might eat the passover, and yet Himself be offered up at the very time when the Paschal lambs were sacrificed at the temple; the third hour, nine in the morning, the time of offering the lamb of the daily offering, He was nailed to the cross; at the sixth there was darkness until the ninth; on the passover day they anticipated the killing the evening sacrifice, which on other days was done at half-past two, and offered at half-past three, but now on account of the number of Paschal lambs to be slain, was done as soon as the sun began to decline, because the blood of the daily sacrifice must be sprinkled before that of the Paschal. The darkness therefore when the blood of the evening sacrifice and Paschal lambs was offering may be considered as a token that they were now rejected. At the ninth hour, when the incense was to be burnt on the golden altar, which was done when the sacrifice was wholly consumed, Jesus expired, and the veil of the temple was rent, before which stood the golden altar where the priest was officiating. The following Sabbath St. John calls a high day; the same word is used by the Septuagint, Isaiah 1:13, for the calling of assemblies, namely, on the first and last days of the solemn feasts, which plainly points out this Sabbath as being the first day of unleavened bread, and consequently that the passover had been eaten on the preceding night. The next day when our Lord rose from the grave was the second day of unleavened bread, sixteenth Nisam, on which the wave sheaf*, the firstfruits of the harvest, was to be presented before God. On the morrow of the seventh Sabbath, Pentecost, the wave loaves were offered. Exodus 23:16, 'firstfruits of thy labours.'
"The Jews have often with this difficulty perplexed the Christian opponent." - Christian Observer, 1803.
* Applied to the Resurrection by Kennedy, Astr. Chro., alluded to by St. Paul.
Previous | Contents
| Bible Prophecy Research | The
BPR Reference Guide | Jewish
Calendar | About Us