Friday, July 16, 2010

Constellations and Christianity

Alma 30: 44 and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

While Holy Scripture commands us to avoid superstition and astrology, LDS understand that Satan does not create but only corrupts. Therefore, based on this logic, we can assume there must be some value and purpose for the constellations? While we know that righteous living makes a good day and not positive thinking alone or what house Venus is in, John P. Pratt at his website has written several articles explaining the possible true meanings and purposes of the constellations.

First John P. Pratt tells us that looking at the ancient original 48 constellations as described by Ptolemy tell us where and when the people who discovered them lived. It just so happens that there exists a 36o radius gap in the southern sky that does not contain any of the original 48 constellations. This means that the people who first described them had to have lived at about 36o north latitude because this part of the sky would have been invisible to them.

Because of the Precession of the Equinox, the center of that circle moves very slowly through the sky because of the wobble in the earth's axis. The location of the center of the empty part of the sky implies an origin date of about 2900 B.C. Also, many of the constellations are tipped at an angle to the natural directions of north, east, south and west. However, around 2900 B.C. Note the constellations would have aligned with the cardinal directions.

Using this reasoning, we can exclude the Egyptians as the source of the constellations because they live too far south. The Sumerian's lived at 36o latitude but too late at 2000 B.C. Therefore, most believe that the originators were anti-antediluvian. Others believe that Enoch could have been the first to define the constellations.

So, what do the constellations mean? John Pratt explains that all the 48 constellations teach about some aspect of Christ's life and mission. For instance: Virgo represents that Christ would be born of the Virgin Mary. The Centaur is man and horse meaning that Christ would be both man and God. Boots or the Herdsman represents that Christ would be the Good Shepherd. Libra represents that Christ would satisfy the demands of justice. Scorpio represents that Christ will suffer the sting of death. Ophiuchus or the serpent handler is a sign of healing and refers to Christ overcoming both sin and death. Orion or Hercules in kneeling and whose foot is crushing the head of the dragon represent the prophecy that although Satan would have power to bruise Christ's heal, he would have power to crush Satan's head. Sagittarius or the archer shooting at Scorpio refers to Christ overcoming death. Lyra and Ara the alter have Christ-centered meaning as well.

Aquarius represents that Christ is the source of living water or truth. Pisces or the fish represent that Christ would be a fisher of men. Aries the ram has the golden fleece for which Jason the the Argonauts seek representing the quest for Eternal Life. Cetus is the sea monster that represents hell and is holding the bands that bind the princess Cassiopeia. Perseus is the hero that saves Cassiopeia. Taurus the bull with the 7 sisters on his back represents the Millennial kingdom of Christ. Gemini represent the first and second coming of Christ. Leo the lion is devouring the hydra. And other constellations such as the cup and raven have Christ-centered meanings as well.

In addition to these Christ-centered meanings, John Pratt was of the opinion that the constellations told foretell the mission of the 7 angels who are referred to in the Book of Enoch and in the Book of Revelation. These 7 angels are Adam (Michael), Abel (Sariel), Enoch (Raphael), Noah (Gabriel), Moses (Raguel), Peter (Uriel), and Joseph Smith (Phanuel). If you count the twins (Gemini) as 2 then the constellations can be divided equally among these prophets of God and just as they foretell aspects of the life and mission of Christ they likewise foretell details of the lives of these servants of God.

For instance, Orion or Hercules or the hunter represents Adam. Like Hercules, Adam was given responsibility to kill several terrible beasts. First Orion slays the lion Leo and wears his skin as protection. Then Adam slays other beasts such as the Hydra, Scorpio, and the Giant Crab Cancer. Finally Adam overcomes the great enemy, Draco, the dragon. Joseph Smith is another interesting example. Perseus has been a popular story in movies this year with "Clash of the Titans" and "Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief". According to Bro. Pratt, he believes Joseph Smith is the real Perseus. Like Perseus, Joseph received his quest in a sacred grove. Joseph is given special weapons (breastplate and sword or scriptures) to kill Medusa who represent false religion.

Hugh Thurston's Early Astronomy, (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1994), p. 135-137.

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