Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The "gospel" in the stars

I first encountered the spurious idea of "the gospel in the stars" several years ago on the Baptist Board. The presenter of the idea there was also co-author of the internet article Signs in the Stars. Once in awhile others mention the subject and question it. So I thought I'd post this statement on the matter.

After reading Signs in the Stars by Lambert Dolphin, Malcolm Bowden, Barry Setterfield and Helen Fryman, I felt strongly that this "Gospel in the Stars" idea is based on finding something outside the Bible and then looking for proof-texts in the Bible to prop it up. "Surely" we must know that since God named the stars and gave them for signs, since the constellations and Zodiac are mentioned in the Bible, and since the wise men followed a star, and so forth, then it follows that God has written the story of Jesus Christ in the Zodiac!? However you approach it, there is a long road of "ifs" to tread to reach the destination.

After looking over the totality of the references given, it is my understanding that the weight of their argument rests on Genesis 15 coupled with Galatians 3, and Psalm 19 coupled with Romans 10.

According to this theory, since Abram was told to count the stars, and Paul said the seed was Christ, then it "must" follow that God wrote the gospel in the stars.!?

Genesis 15:1-6 - After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

Galatians 3:5-18 - He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

There are several incorrect assumptions and some left out information. It is noted in the section "God’s Promise to Abraham" on the linked page that we must be very careful to separate two incidents where God speaks of the stars to Abraham (Gen. Chapters 15 & 22). Nevertheless, the author was not careful to address some other things (or was careful not to). It is mentioned that God preached the gospel to Abraham (Gal. 3:8), and then Gal. 3:6 is given to build the context for the star discussion being Genesis 15 only. Yet the reference of Galatians 3:8 to Genesis 12:3 (which stands between in the discussion) is skipped over: "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." [cf. Gen. 12:3 - " thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."] So God preaching the gospel to Abraham is not associated chronologically by Paul with Gen. 15, but with Gen. 12. Also, Paul does not bring up the fact that the seed is singular to address some imagined gospel in the stars, but to explain God’s covenant with Abraham and to explain how the promise is by faith and not law. The inheritance was by confirmed in Christ, some 400 years before the law was given, and the law cannot cancel it. The point of the promise to the seed (singular) Christ does not contradict the fact that Abraham would have an innumerable seed, but in fact shows how it is fulfilled spiritually. In the seed Christ there is a great multitude which no man can number, of all nations, tongues and people.

Galatians 3:26-29 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

When one plugs the gospel in the stars idea back into Genesis 15:5, it comes out something like this: "And God brought Abram outside and said, Look up in the sky and tell the story of the zodiac, if you’re able to tell it: and God said to him, So shall Christ be. And Abram believed what God told him about Christ in the stars; and God counted it to him for righteousness."

There are a number of problems with this. It is interesting that the "gospel in the stars" theorists point out that words for constellations and the zodiac are mentioned in the Bible, but fail to point out they are not used here. Here God told Abram to look at the stars (kokab). Constellations are stars, but stars are not necessarily constellations. There is a difference in the Hebrews words translated "count" (or "number" in the KJV). But any assumption that "caphar" cannot mean to number or count as in making a census is incorrect. And "manah" (used in Genesis 13) can mean "tell".

Genesis 12:3 - And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. 13:16 - And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. 15:5 - And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 17:16 - And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. 22:17 - That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

Hebrews 11:12 - Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

Psalm 19:1-6 - The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

Romans 10:12-21 - For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

While some may think the Psalm/Romans reference is so explicit that there is no getting around that this is a rather direct reference to the Gospel being written in the signs of the zodiac, that interpretation actually contradicts some obvious things about the passage.

The "gospel in the stars" is told or taught and passed down from generation to generation, therefore only available to those who have been taught it. But whatever the Psalmist and Paul speak of is universal.

It is universal geographically (through all the earth), but it is my understanding that all the constellations are not visible from all places in the world. Whether they are or not, the "gospel in the stars" has not been passed down to every single individual through all the earth who has ever lived. Such is historical nonsense.

It is universal chronologically (Day unto day...and night unto night), but the "gospel in the stars" is limited by time – the time it takes to tell it and pass it on chronologically from generation to generation (or fail to pass it on). [I would also note that the so-called "gospel in the stars" is only visible at night time.]

World Book @ Nasa states, "Some constellations can be seen only during certain seasons due to the earth's annual revolution around the sun. The part of the sky visible at night at a particular place gradually changes as the earth moves around the sun. Also, observers at different latitudes see different parts of the sky. An observer at the equator can view all the constellations during the course of a year, but an observer at the North or the South Pole can see only a single hemisphere of constellations."

It is universal, according to context, to all people of all times, while – even if true – the "gospel in the stars" is limited to only those of whatever time and geography who have been told it.

Anyone who believes the Genesis creation account will not be surprised that some forms of the truth have survived in different cultures, since we all descended from Adam (and later, Noah). Nevertheless, the "gospel in the stars" as presented on the above linked page neither came from Adam nor existed in all different cultures. I don't buy it.

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