Monday, January 9, 2012

Studying the Stars For Guidance Leads to Evil

Something we can learn from the Magi and Scripture.

It is not uncommon to hear we should follow the star to Christ. Yet, we should be careful to look to the stars for truth. The star of Bethlehem first led the Magi to the evil King Herod in Jerusalem, not to Jesus in Bethlehem.
"When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." -Matt 2: 1-3
In other words, studying the stars didn't lead to truth initially, but evil. This is because astrology is a search for truth in the wrong place. Only when the Magi studied the Sacred Scriptures did they realize where they should go. Once this was ascertained, then the star continued to guide them and rested over the place where they found Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
"Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way." -Matthew 2: 4-12
The truth is found in the Sacred Scriptures and then another truth is directly revealed to the Magi through a dream. Do not look to the stars for truth. Look to God in His Holy Church, the Holy Scriptures, and your conscience.


Chatto said...

Absolutely right, Marcel - astrology, and other occult practices, are looking for Truth in the wrong place entirely.

Still, we have to cautious about implying that what the Magi did in this instance was in anyway 'astrology', meaning trying to divine the future or fate by means of the stars. This is difficult to do because of the nature of the star (miraculous, rather than natural), and the Author of the information which guided them to Christ.

As for the nature of the star, Fr. Erlenbush has a great post about this on his blot (New Theological Movement). Regarding the Magi's stop in Jerusalem, Fr. Cornelius a'Lapide comments that this was no detour; it was right for them to go there, not to see the undoubtedly evil Herod, but to consult the scribes: "For it is God’s will that men should be taught by men, and by doctors appointed by Himself, the way of salvation."

Further, they hadn't determined that the Nativity had taken place by means of the star alone, but by prophecy. Ss. Jerome, Basil, Leo, and Cyprian all teach us that these Wise Men were the 'posterity' of Balaam, the Gentile prophet from the East who, in Numbers 24:17, prophesied "A star shall rise out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel." Scripture had taught them to expect a star!

We can see, then, that the Magi did exactly what you rightly remind us to do - look to Holy Church (the "chief priests and scribes" in this context), the Sacred Scriptures (they knew the prophecy revealed by the One True God to their only prophet), and their consciences (they set off after the light God had given them).

Again, astrology really is a dead-end, but we should think twice about connecting the faith of the Magi to this horrible practice.

KLC3 said...

Well obviously scripture and the church are of upmost importance because they are our clearest most direct image of reaching God. However it was our God who put those stars in their place and being made up of mostly water and seeing the moons own power over the tides we are bound under the law of gravity and the stars herald our births as well. The magi came to Jerusalem probably expecting people there to have been looking at the stars and readying themselves for the coming of the messiah. However the Lord comes like a thief in the night when we least expect it to save us in our lives. The stars were a lesser understanding of God, He is greater than them He created them and because He created them we can look to them and use them as tools because the Lord will show whomever He chooses signs in any way He chooses. All knowledge is sacred because God knows it all and made it all.

Noah Luck said...

Except, of course, that Scripture doesn't say the star lead the magi to Herod.

"magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem ... When King Herod heard this ..."

And it doesn't stop there.

"and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was."

The real thing that lead the magi to Herod was probably that, like everyone else, they misunderstood what kind of Kingdom Jesus was bringing.

Jon Wire said...

I take issue with stating this so boldly and simply. The star did not lead them TO evil, but through scripture. It isn't that the star contained no truth, or it would not have led them to scripture. It's that the truth present in the star was a call to a greater truth ...

Or should we assume that Satan, the Father of Evil and Opponent to Truth, put the star in place to lead the Magi to scripture?

Howard said...

This was not a strong argument. "Leads to evil?" Heck, by those standards, evangelization, which led to the murder of converts (and still does in places), "leads" to evil.

Condemn divination because it is evil, not because it tips off an evil dictator.

And don't be too hasty in condemning the Magi, either. We don't know exactly what they saw, and we don't know how they associated it with the birth of a new King of the Jews. It very plausibly was in response to a prophecy, perhaps one of which we are not now aware.

Certainly the response of the scribes to Herod was based on their study of prophecy. Without the scribes, Herod would not have known where the "threat to his throne" was born. Would you say that the study of prophecy "leads to evil"?

Marcel said...

I think a lot of people are inferring something that isn't in the text.

What the text says is what the text says.

Howard said...


If you want to defend what you have written, please defend it! Your statement of 9:51 AM is too vague. (Not to mention the fact that you probably don't really want to use the quote, "What I have written, I have written.")

Let me, then, be specific. Perhaps the Magi were astrologers. Probably they were, but since you do not introduce anything but Scripture, please note that Scripture only says they followed a star. Scripture also says that Moses followed a "pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night", which does not mean he was practicing divination based on cloud shapes.

If the Magi were *not* following astrology, nothing in the passage you cite indicates they were doing evil, the evil of Herod notwithstanding.

The Catechism clearly condemns astrology, but it does so because divination "conceal[s] a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers." This is a very different reason from the one you develop.

Marcel said...

I don't think I said the Magi were doing anything evil, though they might have been - we just don't know.

What we know is the result of their study of the star brought them to Herod and Jerusalem. This is as far as they could get without Scripture. Astrology will not lead us to the truth.

This is my argument, no more, no less.

I am not one for combox wars, so I will leave it at that.

See Isaiah 47:12-15 / Jer 10:1-3 for more or you can read Fr. Mitch Pacwa's book Catholics and the New Age for more on this subject.

Chatto said...

Marcel, I guess we're just confused by the wording you've chosen, rather than whatever your intent may have been. You do appear to be connecting the Magi following Christ's star (based on a prophecy from Scripture), with the evil of astrology. I'm not saying you are, only that this is how your post reads. By way of confirmation, the first five people to comment on the post all read it the same way.

Regarding the abstract of your argument (in the above comment):

"What we know is the result of their study of the star brought them to Herod and Jerusalem."
Actually, what the Bible says is they followed the star to Jerusalem. The text implies quite clearly that they were asking people as soon as they arrived, and Herod only heard about them later. The star did not lead them directly to Herod. If a star sent by God leads you to Jerusalem, that's where you go. After all, the star could have taken them straight to Bethlehem, but it didn't. God doesn't make mistakes, or lead people astray.

"This is as far as they could get without Scripture."
I address this in my initial comment above, but to recap - they were expecting a star to indicate the birth of "the newborn king of the Jews" because of Sacred Scripture. Fortunately, we don't believe in Sola Scriptura, and so we can see that Sacred Tradition, through the Saints and Doctors I mentioned (and more besides), clearly teach that they believed in Balaam's prophecy in Numbers 24. How else would they know that it was "his star"?

"Astrology will not lead us to the truth."
Agreed, though as Howard indicates, the reasons you've reached this conclusion (something to do with the Magi and Herod) aren't anything to do with the Church's reason for condemning it.

Still, at least you know that we're doing what you asked - following Scripture (what the text actually says), the Church (through her Sacred Tradition), and our consciences (we all want to get to the Truth of this high matter).