Christians Versus Astrologers
Misunderstandings Abound and the Battle Wages On
by Joelle Steele
For many years while I practiced astrology professionally, I received dozens of letters and phone calls from people who feared for the salvation of my soul. Some letters were as long as ten pages in length and consisted of hand-written diatribes quoting various passages in the Bible and warning me that I must repent or burn in hell for practicing astrology. Some letters and calls were vicious and hateful. I never read more than a few words before I threw them away. I've been studying and practicing astrology since I was 14 years old, and I've practiced professionally for more than 40 years. I guess it's safe to say that I'm going to take my chances as far as the afterlife is concerned.
I know a lot of astrologers, professional and amateur alike. By my best estimate, at least 98% of them are devout, church-going Christians. This makes sense considering that the basic philosophical premise of astrology states that it is God-given as a means of obtaining insight into your life, and nothing about it could be construed as being counter to any kind of religious teachings, including those of the Bible, which came into existence after astrology had already been an established practice in several cultures for more than 2,000 years.
To fully understand the Bible and its attitudes toward astrology, it must be studied within the context of ancient history. The writings of Plato, Herodotus, Lucretius, Marcus Aurelius, Josephus, Manilius, Pliny, Firmicus Maternus, Sextus, and other contemporaries of the writers of the Bible, are incredibly revealing about what the world was like before and during the time of Christ, and what people were thinking and doing at the time. It is unfortunate that unless these subjects are studied in college, most people never get a true picture of what the ancient world was like. For the most part, ancient history is an "easy read" and can be a real eye-opener. As an added bonus, it is often rather entertaining because some of the things people believed back then are now quite humorous. For example, Aristotle believed that earthquakes were caused because the earth was hollow and that wind blew through the center of it and burst through openings in the surface causing quakes. The bigger the gust the bigger the opening and therefore the bigger the quake.
The Chaldeans are the "astrologers" cited in the Bible. Originally just a group of people who came from lower Mesopotamia, the term "Chaldean" was later used to refer to the Babylonian priesthood and to anyone who was a student in Babylonian schools. Even later, particularly during the heyday of the Roman Empire, it was used only in reference to astrologers who were then grouped together with anyone who practiced any form of divination — and ancient divinatory practices ranged from such popular and barbaric practices as slaughtering and then "interpreting" the entrails of a chicken, to something as benign as reading tea leaves.
During the time of Christ, the Romans were firm believers in the accuracy of astrological prediction. In fact, forecasting or prediction were the only parts of the astrological practice that they followed. Natal chart interpretations were virtually ignored by the Romans. About thirty years before the birth of Jesus, the emperor Augustus (Octavian), was such a firm believer in astrology that he expelled the Chaldeans from Rome because he believed that if their predictions about him became known, it might precipitate an insurrection against him. His successor, Tiberius, felt the same way and took his fear of insurrection one step further by executing anyone who practiced astrology or had an astrologer cast their horoscope for them. Nero (who was a few cards shy of a tarot deck to begin with) believed that you could avoid having astrological predictions come true if you simply ordered a mass human sacrifice, and he did so on more than one occasion even though the astrologers he consulted advised him against such actions as they would be fruitless. Clearly, astrology was highly controversial and its ultimate influence on Christianity was far more political than philosophical.
For many years during ancient times, the Christian church vacillated between tolerating and opposing astrology. The greatest influence on ancient and medieval Christian writings was an odd collection of writings called the "Clementine Recognitions" which are frequently quoted by Christian writers of the time and which contain (among other things) a series of accounts of discussions between the apostle Peter and Clement of Rome shortly after the death of Jesus. Astrology is mentioned in several of these works, and in the very beginning, there is a passage which says that God created the celestial bodies so that "they might be for an indication of things past, present, and future," and that Abraham "being an astrologer was able from the account and order of the stars to recognize the Creator." None of these writings made it into the Bible, at least not as we know the Bible today.
The ancient Christians didn't oppose astrology because they thought it was evil or that it was contrary to Christianity. They believed it was erroneous, that it was simply inaccurate and invalid. It wasn't until the Middle Ages that any evil was attributed to the practice. It was during those "Dark Ages" that the Christian church, which consisted in large part of the Roman Catholic church, took advantage of the widespread decline in education and increase in illiteracy to begin rewriting scripture to further their own political needs. This was at a time when churches autonomously ruled entire cities and city states by virtue of the fact that they literally owned the land (and the buildings, farms, mills, etc.) on which those cities and city states were built.
The Roman Catholic church leaned very heavily on the anti-astrology teachings of St. Augustine, and they spread those and other teachings to their parishioners to pull them into the church as sources of income. In Augustine's De Civitate Dei, his arguments about astrology are contradictory for the most part, but are ultimately summed up as saying that when astrological predictions are true it is due only to the intervention of demons. It is from this point on that people began to equate astrology with demonology and Satanism. It is also during the Middle Ages that the Christian Bible, then consisting solely of the Old Testament, underwent the greatest and most radical changes, with certain books being deleted from it entirely and at the sole discretion of the church leaders of the time. By the time of the King James translation in 1611, the Bible, including the New Testament, had been revised numerous times and had been derived from a variety of translations, many from the Greek and not from Hebrew.
Everything the Bible says about astrology must be interpreted with this historical information in mind. The Bible may be a great spiritual guide to its Christian followers, but to this day it is still riddled with errors. Some are very minor. For example, many Biblical plant references are erroneous: the Rose of Sharon was not a rose but a crocus; anise should actually be dill, etc. Knowing that there is room for these and possibly other inaccuracies after almost 100 translations, and knowing how questionable even some of the more recent twentieth century Bible translations are considered to be by many Biblical scholars, it is hard to determine the original intent with regard to astrological references.
History and Christian writings of the Middle Ages written by authors living at that time, lend support to the theory that many, if not most, of the things that are called "evil" in the Bible, became "evil" during the Middle Ages, not during the times when Jesus Christ walked the earth or even centuries later when the books of the Bible were first written
Astrology is a complex divinatory system requiring years of study and life experience in order to practice it competently and ethically. No Christian who takes that much time and effort to study astrology in depth would ever find anything to criticize in the practice. It certainly has nothing to do with Satanism, demonology, or Black Magic. The real "evil" behind astrology these days derives from the widespread publication of horoscope or "sun sign" columns in mainstream magazines and popular astrology books which, though for entertainment purposes only, still manage to perpetuate and compound inaccuracies about the practice. This modern-day misinformation has bred several generations of amateur astrologers who know precious little about the true practice of astrology and all the intricacies of the symbolism behind the interpretations. Based on such vague and wholly inaccurate modern-day writings, the worst that any twentieth century Christians should be able to say about astrology is just what their ancient Christian counterparts said, that astrology doesn't work.
But, astrology does work. I've read and studied more than 400 books on the subject, so I consider myself to be an expert on it. I'm also pretty well-read when it comes to the Bible and quoting scripture. So, while some members of the Christian community may fear for my soul, I'm content to guide my life with the help of the stars and planets so graciously provided by their Christian creator, the God of the Bible.
This article last updated: 10/11/2010.