Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning

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The first which we shall notice is the story of the star which is said to have heralded his birth, and which was designated "his star." It is related by the Matthew narrator as follows:[140:1]

"When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying: 'Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.'"

Herod the king, having heard these things, he privately called the wise men, and inquired of them what time the star appeared, at the same time sending them to Bethlehem to search diligently for the young child. The wise men, accordingly, departed and went on their way towards Bethlehem. "The star which they saw in the east went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was."

The general legendary character of this narrative—its similarity in style with those contained in the apocryphal gospels—and more especially its conformity with those astrological notions which, though prevalent in the time of the Matthew narrator, have been exploded by the sounder scientific knowledge of our days—all unite to stamp upon the story the impress of poetic or mythic fiction.

The fact that the writer of this story speaks not of a star but of his star, shows that it was the popular belief of the people among whom he lived, that each and every person was born under a star, and that this one which had been seen was his star.

All ancient nations were very superstitious in regard to the influence of the stars upon human affairs, and this ridiculous idea [Pg 141]has been handed down, in some places, even to the present day. Dr. Hooykaas, speaking on this subject, says:

"In ancient times the Jews, like other peoples, might very well believe that there was some immediate connection between the stars and the life of man—an idea which we still preserve in the forms of speech that so-and-so was born under a lucky or under an evil star. They might therefore suppose that the birth of great men, such as Abraham, for instance, was announced in the heavens. In our century, however, if not before, all serious belief in astrology has ceased, and it would be regarded as an act of the grossest superstition for any one to have his horoscope drawn; for the course, the appearance and the disappearance of the heavenly bodies have been long determined with mathematical precision by science."[141:1]

The Rev. Dr. Geikie says, in his Life of Christ:[141:2]

"The Jews had already, long before Christ's day, dabbled in astrology, and the various forms of magic which became connected with it. . . . They were much given to cast horoscopes from the numerical value of a name. Everywhere throughout the whole Roman Empire, Jewish magicians, dream expounders, and sorcerers, were found.

"'The life and portion of children,' says the Talmud, 'hang not on righteousness, but on their star.' 'The planet of the day has no virtue, but the planet of the hour (of nativity) has much.' 'When the Messiah is to be revealed,' says the book Sohar, 'a star will rise in the east, shining in great brightness, and seven other stars round it will fight against it on every side.' 'A star will rise in the east, which is the star of the Messiah, and will remain in the east fifteen days.'"

The moment of every man's birth being supposed to determine every circumstance in his life, it was only necessary to find out in what mode the celestial bodies—supposed to be the primary wheels to the universal machine—operated at that moment, in order to discover all that would happen to him afterward.

The regularity of the risings and settings of the fixed stars, though it announced the changes of the seasons and the orderly variations of nature, could not be adapted to the capricious mutability of human actions, fortunes, and adventures: wherefore the astrologers had recourse to the planets, whose more complicated revolutions offered more varied and more extended combinations. Their different returns to certain points of the Zodiac, their relative positions and conjunctions with each other, were supposed to influence the affairs of men; whence daring impostors presumed to foretell, not only the destinies of individuals, but also the rise and fall of empires, and the fate of the world itself.[141:3]

The inhabitants of India are, and have always been, very superstitious concerning the stars. The Rev. D. O. Allen, who resided [Pg 142]in India for twenty-five years, and who undoubtedly became thoroughly acquainted with the superstitions of the inhabitants, says on this subject: