Bible Prophecy Research
Signs in the Sky Studies
Submitted by: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: May, 1998
Double Occultation of Venus and Jupiter
Thursday, May 14, 1998 Published at 03:23 GMT 04:23 UK
Once-in-a-millennium sky event captured
Astronomers have observed an event that has not been witnessed from earth for more than
1,000 years - the Moon simultaneously passing in front of Venus and Jupiter.
The occurrence was photographed by Erich Karkoschka, of the University of Arizona, and
four Brazilian amateur astronomers on Brazil's east coast, near the most eastern point of
the American continent.
"This event was visible in the night sky of the southern Atlantic Ocean, including
a few islands and a small part of Brazil," Dr Karkoschka said.
"At no other time duting this millennium was such an event visible in the night
sky anywhere on Earth."
During the last millennium there was only one other so-called double occultation of
Venus and Jupiter by the moon.
It is believed to have happened on August 18, 567 AD and was visible visible from the
north-west corner of the Indian Ocean. Though as it occurred closer to the sun it could
not be observed from Earth as well as this year's event, Dr Karkoschka said.
"It is not known if anybody observed the A.D. 567 occultation," he said.
"Given the rarity of such an event and the small zone of visibility, there may be
no record that such an event has been observed before in the history of mankind."
"When prehistoric people saw such a close gathering of the three brightest objects
in the night sky, they must have been taken by awe."
"Only very few people saw this year's event since most people within the zone of
visibility were asleep at that time," he added.
Venus - Queen of Heaven - Ishtar, Aprhodite
Jupiter - King of Heaven - Zeus, Marduk, Thor, Bel
Moon - Israel
From Palmyra, midway between Rome and Parthia, deep in the desert, we move to
Heliopolis, the modern Baalbek. Baalbek is in the center of the Beqaa valley, one of the
leading agricultural regions of geographical Syria. A part of the Rift Valley, between the
Lebanon and Antilebanon mountain ranges, and close to the Mediterranean, it is the
Biblical Aram-Zobah (Psalm 60: 1; II Samuel 10: 6-8) and the classical Coelesyria. Both
the Litani and the Orontes, two of Syria's most important rivers, have their sources near
Baalbek. It was a stopping point on a major north-south route between Damascus and Hama,
but Baalbek was most famous and important for the temple of Jupiter Heliopolitanus. This
was one of the most important shrines of one of the most important gods in Syria. The
temple itself is one of the largest of Classical Antiquity. As we shall see, Jupiter
Heliopolitanus was portrayed as a cosmocrator in the same way as Bel of Palmyra and as the
gods of Edessa and Harran.
Almost nothing is known of Baalbek's history before the Roman period. A German
expedition studied the site of the temple 1900-1904, and found that the Roman period
temple does stand on top of a tell. The Germans were largely interested in restoring the
Roman remains, but they did find potsherds from the Early Bronze and Middle Bronze
periods. Likewise, there have been a variety of unsuccessful attempts to identify Baalbek
with sites mentioned in Ancient Near Eastern writings. For example, it may, or may not, be
the Tunip of the Amarna Tablets, or the Biq`at Aven of Amos 1: 5. The modern name
"Baalbek" is probably also the original name. Its exact etymology is uncertain,
but the first syllable, "Baal," means "Lord," and probably refers to
the local god later identified with Zeus and Jupiter. The Greek name of the city,
Heliopolis, is first mentioned in accounts of Pompey's conquest of Syria, although it was
probably bestowed earlier. The region had been quite important to the rival Seleucid and
Ptolemaic empires. Heliopolis means "City of the Sun," but exactly why the name
was given is quite unknown. There is no evidence that Syrians identified the chief god of
Baalbek with the sun, and inscriptions usually call him Zeus, not Helios. Perhaps the
usual iconography of the god, with a whip raised, reminded Greek settlers of Helios, who
was often shown as a charioteer.
Pompey added Heliopolis to the Roman empire, along with the rest of Syria, in 63 BCE.
It was probably during the time of Augustus that Heliopolis became one the first Roman
colonies in Syria, as Iulia Augusta Felix. From that time the god was identified with
Jupiter as well as with Zeus, and his priests were all Roman citizens, many of them
legionary veterans. The region was already quite hellenized, with the result that all the
dedications to the Heliopolitan gods are in Greek or Latin.
The temple complex was built over a long period of time, probably with Imperial funds.
The podium of the main temple was begun before Pompey, and some ornamental carvings were
left unfinished centuries later when Constantine stopped the work. Construction was
busiest under Antoninus Pius, which may explain why John Malalas credits the whole complex
to him. It was still largely finished under Caracalla.
Constantine not only stopped construction, but he also forbade cultic prostitution in
honor of Venus Heliopolitanus, Jupiter's partner. Theodosius closed the temples to
worshippers throughout the empire, and also built a sizeable church (dedicated to the
Virgin) at Heliopolis in the main courtyard of the temple complex. Nevertheless,
Heliopolis remained a stronghold of polytheism under the Christian emperors, much like
Harran. Rabbula of tried to vandalize the cult statues at Heliopolis early in his career
as a fanatic, but was beaten and thrown down the main staircase for his trouble. As late
as 579 CE John of Ephesus says that Christians were few and poor in Heliopolis, while the
local pagan aristocrats felt secure enough to mock Christianity openly. Anti-Christian
rioting in that year brought about a purge of upper class pagans throughout the empire,
beginning at Heliopolis. There are no references to these pagans when the Arab conquerors
arrived sixty years later.
Many pilgrims visited Heliopolis, perhaps because it was famous for oracles. The
emperor Trajan saw fit to consult Jupiter Heliopolitanus at the beginning of his Parthian
campaign. The cult of the Heliopolitan gods was carried throughout the empire by Syrian
soldiers and businessmen. Dedications to Jupiter, Venus and Mercury of Heliopolis have
been found from Britain to Palmyra. They were particularly popular throughout geographical
Syria. It is interesting to discover that the gods of Heliopolis were worshipped in many
of the pagan cities in Judaic Palestine. One of the best known examples is a votive foot
from Mt. Carmel, dedicated to Dii Heliopolitanei Karmel. This is probably the same deity
whom Elijah fought in I Kg 18, and whom Vespasian consulted when considering becoming
emperor. The god of Carmel was worshipped also in Akko/Ptolemais, near Mt. Carmel, and the
foot itself was dedicated by someone from Caesarea. It is curious that when Tacitus
discusses Vespasian and the god of Carmel, he emphasizes that the god was worshipped
without a temple or cultic images. Perhaps Tacitus thought the god of Carmel was the God
of the Jews.
Three gods were worshipped at Baalbek/Heliopolis, called Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury,
or Zeus, Aphrodite and Hermes. It is almost certain that they were the major Syrian gods,
Hadad or Baal, Atargatis, and a young god similar to Adonis, whose native name is unknown.
No inscriptions label them with their native names, although Macrobius does say that
"the god whom they revere as highest and greatest they have given the name of Adad .
. . ." He also says Atargatis was Adad's partner. The first two had dominated Syrian
religion for millennia, making the equation quite likely. Mercury's Semitic equivalent has
not been identified with certainty, but such family groups of father, mother and son were
common throughout geographical Syria. Jupiter was much the most important of the
Heliopolitan triad. Throughout Syria, in every historical period, Baal-Hadad was the god
of fresh water, especially of the winter storms, but also of fresh water springs. By
extension, he was the patron of agriculture, which was impossible without fresh water, and
ruler of the sky, whence the rains came. In the Hellenistic period Hadad filled many of
the same roles as Baal Shamin and Bel did at Palmyra and in northern Syria. Greeks and
Romans correctly saw all of them as equivalents of their own Zeus and Jupiter. Also, like
all his counterparts, Jupiter Heliopolitanus was cosmocrator, or ruler of the entire
universe, including the other gods. A Latin inscription from Beirut calls him: "Regi
deo[r(um)] I(ovi) O(ptimo) M(aximo) H(eliopolitano) . . . . ," "to the king of
the gods, Jupiter the Best and Greatest, of Heliopolis." Another, from Heliopolis
itself, says: "I(ovi) O(ptimo) M(aximo) H(eliopolitano) Regulo," "Jupiter
the Best and Greatest of Heliopolis, ruler." Regulo here is derived from the verb
rego, to rule. Astrological art was especially used to emphasize his role as cosmic
There are no astrological reliefs to be seen in the temples of Heliopolis. Instead
there is a large number of dedicatory reliefs and votive statuettes. These are found
throughout the Roman Empire, particularly in Syria, but as widely scattered as Palmyra and
Britain. Much the most common is what Hajjar calls the "Oriental" type. This
resembles an atlantid, a man-shaped column, more than it does an ordinary Greek statue. It
is tempting to assume that these votive statuettes copy the cult statue, the balanion, in
the main temple, but there is no certain proof of this. The god is portrayed standing at
attention, right hand raised and holding a whip, left hand at the waist, holding a
thunderbolt or a sheaf of grain. Often a bushel basket is on his head as he stands on a
socle. The socle often has an image of Tyche on it. He usually wears a gown with a variety
of astral symbols on it. Sometimes these are merely disks or rosettes, but often they are
busts of Helios and Selene or of all seven planet-gods, identified by their usual
attributes. In two examples, twelve busts for the twelve signs of the zodiac occur. In
another example, a statue of Jupiter Heliopolitanus from Sohne, near Palmyra, has the Bel
triad on its chest. Many examples have an eagle with wings outspread on the back. The
image of the god wearing the planets means the same thing as the cupola relief and the
eagle relief at Bel's temple in Palmyra: the chief god, the god of the sky, is supreme
over the universe and the other gods, ruling the world by means of the planets and
astrology. The image of Tyche on a socle says the same thing. Tyche here is a
personification of heimarmene, the power of the planets to compel. And, as elsewhere, the
eagle was used to symbolize the sky-god, spread out over the earth. The fact that this
iconography is found on dedications and ex votos implies that the ideas that it symbolized
were common, well-known to worshippers.
(Astrology and Judaism in Late Antiquity, A Dissertation, Lester J. Ness)
occultation: 1. the state of being hidden from view or lost to notice; 2. the interruption
of the light from a celestial body or of the signals from a spacecraft by the intervention
of a celestial body; esp. an eclipse of a star or planet by the moon.
eclipse: 1a. the total or partial obscuring of one celestial body by another; 1b. the
passing into the shadow of a celestial body; 2. a falling into obscurity or decline.
Ancient Mexican records [say]...The sun was attacked by Quetzal-cohuatl; after the
disappearance of this serpent-shaped heavenly body, the sun refused to shine, and during
four days the world was deprived of its light; a great many people died at that time.
Thereafter, the snakelike body transformed itself into a great star. The star retained the
name of Quetzal-cohuatl (Quetzal-coatl). This great and brilliant star appeared for the
first time in the east. Quetzal-cohuatl is the well-known name of the planet Venus.
[Quetzal-cohuatl means "a feathered serpent."]
It is written in a Samaritan chronicle that during the invasion of Palestine by the
Israelites under Joshua, a new star was born in the east: "A star arose out of the
east against which all magic is vain."
Chinese chronicles record that "a brilliant star appeared in the days of Yahu
...the comet Venus, after two contacts with the earth, eventually became a planet...
[Ancient Hindu and Babylonian tablets only show a four planet system (Saturn, Jupiter,
Sanchoniathon says that Astarte (Venus) had a bull's head [two long appendages--tails
of a comet]. The planet was even called Ashteroth-Karnaim, or Astarte of the Horns, a name
given to a city in Canaan in honor of this deity. The golden calf worshiped by Aaron and
the people at the foot of Sinai was the image of the star.
Cicero wrote: "Venus, called in Greek Phosphorus and in Latin Lucifer..."
The Egyptian Venus-Isis, the Babylonian Venus-Ishtar, the Greek Venus-Athene were
goddesses pictured with serpents, and sometimes represented as dragons. "Ishtar, the
fearful dragon," wrote Assurbanipal.
Since the latter part of the eighth century before the present era, Venus has followed
an orbit between Mercury and earth, which it has maintained ever since. It became the
Morning and Evening Star...The dreaded comet became a tame planet. It has the most nearly
circular orbit among the planets.
The end of the terror which Venus kept alive for eight centuries after the days of the
Exodus was the inspiration for Isaiah when he said:
"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!
how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the
nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into
heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God."
Septuagint and Vulgate both translate Morning Star or Lucifer. What does it mean, that
the Morning Star was assailing the heavens and rising high, and that it was cut down low
to the horizon, and would weaken no more the nations?
More than a hundred generations of commentators have occupied themselves with this
passage, but have met with failure.
Why, it is also asked, should the beautiful Morning Star, called Lucifer, the Light
Bearer, live in the imagination of peoples as an evil power, a fallen star? What is in
this lovely planet that makes her name an equivalent of Satan, or Seth of the Egyptians,
the dark power? In his confusion, Origen wrote this question to the quoted verses of
Isaiah: "Most evidently by these words is he shown to have fallen from heaven, who
formerly was Lucifer, and who used to arise in the morning. For if, as some think, he was
a nature of darkness, how is Lucifer said to have existed before? Or how could he arise in
the morning, who had in himself nothing of the light?"
Lucifer was a feared prodigy in the sky, and its origin, as illuminated in this book,
explains how it came to be regarded as a dark power and a fallen star.
After a great struggle, Venus achieved a circular orbit and a permanent place in the
family of planets. During the perturbations which brought about this metamorphosis, Venus
also lost its cometary tail.
In the valley of the Euphrates, "Venus then gives up her position as a great
stellar divinity, equal with sun and moon, and joins the ranks of the other planets."
A comet became a planet.
Venus was born as a comet in the second millennium before the present era. In the
middle of that millennium it twice made contact with the earth and changed its cometary