Wise Men HeaderStars.

By Rev. Phil Greetham. © Copyright 1996. This Version, 2012.

1: Stargazing, how it all started.
Lay back and look up at the stars. Forget your modern scientific knowledge. What do you see? A dome with countless numbers of stars hanging from it. It slowly turns from east to west. The stars make up shapes of every day objects like animals and tools. Other groups of stars remind you of heros you have heard told from stories. Bright wandering stars move against the background of dimmer stars. They dance and glide from one star group to another. Occasionally they meet for a while and then go their separate ways. You have seen the sky as the ancients saw it, full of meaning and movement, a heavenly reflection of earthly events. The fact that the canopy of heaven astounds us should not surprise us. It is huge, vast, moving & fascinating. With a little knowledge or experience it is occasionally predictable, but strange unexpected events can happen at any time
The First Stargazers The first stargazers would have been those who for some reason broke the rhythm of sleep during the night. Perhaps illness kept them awake. Perhaps they had to guard the group from attack or look after the animals. The nights can be long and lonely but the night's sky can fill a person's time like no other occupation. Later society generated individuals who because of their power, were able to make others support them and give them plenty of free time. These rich people and their families became the Kings, Priests and wise men. The celestial bodies became gods or they represented earthly kings or dynasties. By the 9th century BC, the Babylonians were worshipping Shamash the sun-god, Sin the crescent moon and the eight pointed star, Ishtar. Knowledge was all important. The night sky, once charted and measured could be used to construct a model of the solar system. Those same observations and charts could also be used as a calendar. Rainy seasons, time to plant crops, river flooding, could all be matched with the annual events in the sky. The question soon arose, 'could any other earthly events be matched with heavenly events?' With coincidence and imagination, the wise men of their day, produced complicated symbolisms of the objects in the night sky. For instance, a certain planet might be the planet of harvest. Certain constellations might indicate good or bad fortune. The harvest planet entering a certain constellation might enable the wise men to predict a good or bad harvest. The king might use such advice when considering taxation or the building of grain stores etc. The Babylonians were the masters of these kind of star event predictions at the time that Jesus was born. By matching every planet and every zodiacal constellation with important figures, countries and events, the Babylonian Magi could interpret any celestial event and explain what earthly event it reflected. By looking at the situation in the sky at the time of a person's birth it would be possible to predict the life of that person. Reversing this procedure, it would also be possible to work out a favourable combination, and then when it happened, claim that such and such a person has been born.
This system spread throughout the known world. It was accepted as a working way of gaining knowledge about the world. Any failures arising from it were seen as due entirely to human error on the part of the wise men themselves. Death was often the penalty for failure and not surprisingly the Magi did their best to make sure their predictions came true. The best way to do this is to be as vague as possible. Where it was necessary to be more specific, sticking to likely outcomes was the best course.
skymap1.gif - 2287 Bytes - Click here to return to the Index.
Go Back - Click here to return to the Homepage.