Tag Archives: astronomy

Who Were The Wise Men From the East?

Wise Men or Sorcerers?

The word for ‘wise men’ in the Greek is magian, [#3097]. It is translated ‘wise men’ in the KJV, RSV, and NKJV. In the NIV it is translated magi and in the Amplified it is translated ‘astrologers.’

This same Greek word is also found in Acts 8:9 and 13:6, speaking of sorcerers. We know that sorcery was strongly condemned by the Old Testament law, and was dealt with accordingly by Peter, Paul and Barnabas. Yet, do we have ‘sorcerers’ witnessing to Jesus and being led of God in Matthew 2? I think not!

Astronomers or Astrologers?

This confusion in translating the words here reflect the common error of equating ‘astrology’ with ‘astronomy.’ ‘Astronomy’ is the science of studying the patterns and movements of the heavenly bodies for the purpose of time-telling and for global positioning, whereas ‘astrology’ is the practice of witchcraft and sorcery, often using what they call the ‘zodiac’ to make predictions and false prophecies. They are as different as daylight and darkness.

When God created the sun, moon and stars He said:

“Genesis 1:14-18 KJV – 14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: [he made] the stars also.

17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that [it was] good.”

We can note that Herod “gathered all the chief priests and scribes together” to find out where the Christ should be born. From this we know that this knowledge was expected of them. Throughout the Old Testament, the priests and scribes were learned in time-telling for the purpose of keeping the Sabbaths, feasts, and holy days. This required a precise understanding and knowledge of the movements of the heavenly bodies; they were scientists, astronomers, not astrologers. This same knowledge of the time-telling heavens was also the means for global positioning in navigating the deserts and oceans.

Was Babylon ‘The East’?

So we see that these “wise men” from “the East” also were trained in this same priestly knowledge and knew the Biblical prophecies of the time of the arrival of the Christ Child. How did they know these things?

It seems clear that they were from the Jewish colony in Babylon. After the Babylonian captivity, a remnant of the Jews returned to rebuild Jerusalem and occupy the land until Christ should come. This remnant may have been only ten percent, and the ninety percent stayed in Babylon, among which, some were priests and scribes, often called “sages” or “wise men” by the Pharisees. These would have also been familiar with the Jewish Scriptures of the Old Testament and their prophesy of the coming of the Christ Child.

Babylon was “the East” in relation to Judea. It was approximately 500 miles east of Jerusalem. So the “wise men from the east” could well refer to those who came from Babylon. They were not astrologers, practicing some kind of occult sorcery, but rather were students of the Scriptures, worshipers of God, and astronomers, knowing how to read the time-telling and global positioning heavens. So they recognized from the stars that the Christ had come, and were able to navigate the desert by following that star. And they were able to evade Herod by hearing and obeying the directions of God.

Asia – The Heavenly Pattern and the Earthly Copy – Part One

Read: Revelation 1:4 through 1:11.

Revelation 1:4: “John to the seven churches which are in Asia.”
In Revelation 1:11 we also read: “What thou seest write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches…
The words “in Asia” are in the Greek text of verse four but are not in the Greek text of verse eleven. The KJV in verse eleven inserts “which are in Asia” at the translator’s privilege. This is an example of a translator assuming that the “in Asia” of verse four represented the same literal seven churches named in verse eleven. It is my belief that it did not.
The passage in 1:4 seems to describe the geographical setting of the addressees of the book, “in Asia.” Are these churches to be understood as merely seven literal churches, located in Asia Minor at that period of time? Much time, effort, and expense have been exerted to find the location of these churches. While some of their locations are quite well attested, others are vague. Some of these churches and their locations were so small and insignificant at the time that there is no certainty as to their location, if they existed at all in the natural sense.[i]This suggests that the Revelator used these seven churches symbolically.

Cosmic Geography

The ancients used the stars for telling time and for navigation and the intimate knowledge of the stars was extremely valuable for these purposes. While this use of the stars was not astrology neither was it the equivalent of our modern astronomy. Perhaps other writers have named it more appropriately Cosmic Geography. Today’s Global Positioning System uses this same concept.

Scholars now recognize that in ancient times there was a sense of Cosmic Geography or, as some call it Astrological Geography,[ii] or Zodiacal Geography, (Malina, pp. 103, 190).  This system likens certain geographical areas on earth to certain constellations or configurations of stars in the heavens.[iii]

The constellations are pictured as having been written, or engraved, by God upon the broad expanse of the heavens: “Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? (Isaiah 51:9). The word Rahab means “proud” as does its kindred word Rachab, meaning “proud” in the sense of pride in its broad expanse. The phrase cut in pieces means also “engraved.” In other words, God engraved the broad expanse of the heavens with the constellations. He “wounded, (pierced, or transfixed), the dragon,” a constellation sometimes called Draco or The Serpent. Compare Isaiah 27:1:

In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that [is] in the sea.

The great constellation called Draco, “the Serpent,” appears to be impaled by the pole star, so that point cannot move, although both ends of the Serpent move about the pole; he apparently is pierced, or transfixed, wounded.

So in the Book of Revelation we have two maps in view, one earthly, and one heavenly. These seven churches in their proper perspective are the earthly image of a heavenly reality, just as the Temple was intended to be an image of the heavens when rightly constructed and used.

John, a mortal man, speaks to the literal, earthly churches with a message that is intended to bring them into conformity to the spiritual heavenly Pattern which he is allowed to view and describe in the vision of Revelation 1:12-20. It is God’s will for the Churches to be like the seven candlesticks in the right hand of Christ in the heavens.

[i]Bruce J. Malina. On the Genre and Message of Revelation.  Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995, p. 73: “… socially insignificant communities.”  Hereafter cited in text.
[ii] Bruce M. Metzger, “Astrological Geography”, Chapter VII, Apostolic History and the Gospel: Biblical and Historical Essays presented to F. F. Bruce on his 60th Birthday, eds. W. Ward Gasque, and Ralpha P. Martin, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 1970. 123-133.
[iii] See Metzger, Apostolic History, 123-133.  Although Metzger discounts the connection between the list of nations given in Acts 2:9-11 with a certain astrological treatise by Paulus Alexandrinus who lived in the fourth century AD, he does not disprove the connection. He seems unaware that the ancient view of the cosmos and the Biblical use of the stars is not “astrology” but rather a unifying view of the universe.
   Metzger, however, cannot deny a connection between geography and astrology:  “It cannot be denied that in antiquity there may well have been some remote connexion between geography and astrology, revealed perhaps in the custom of beginning to enumerate a list of lands and countries starting in the East (at the rising of the sun). At the same time, however, it is doubtful whether the average cultured Greek and Roman writers were any more conscious of such a connexion than the modern Englishman is aware of the astrological matrix from which the word ‘disaster’ arose,” (Note 2, p. 132).
   Metzger seems to be unaware of the fact that the whole earth was mapped in relation to the heavens, that cartography and chronology depend upon a knowledge of the heavens, that in ancient times navigation by land or sea depended upon a knowledge of the heavens.
   Another fact of which many are unaware is that the Jews in the first century were scattered throughout the Roman Empire, and that there was a very strong, powerful and rich colony in Babylon. He says of the phrase “Judean Mesopotamian” that “Why Mesopotamia should deserve to be called ‘Judean’ is not easily explained.” This shows his total unawareness of the strength of the Babylonian community of Jews. As international merchants a working knowledge of the stars was indispensable to their trades.