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

Page: 90

"So strong are the superstitious feelings of many, concerning the supposed influence of the stars on human affairs, that some days are lucky, and others again are unlucky, that no arguments or promises would induce them to deviate from the course which these stars, signs, &c., indicate, as the way of safety, prosperity, and happiness. The evils and inconveniences of these superstitions and prejudices are among the things that press heavily upon the people of India."[142:1]

The Nakshatias—twenty-seven constellations which in Indian astronomy separate the moon's path into twenty-seven divisions, as the signs of the Zodiac do that of the sun into twelve—are regarded as deities who exert a vast influence on the destiny of men, not only at the moment of their entrance into the world, but during their whole passage through it. These formidable constellations are consulted at births, marriages, and on all occasions of family rejoicing, distress or calamity. No one undertakes a journey or any important matter except on days which the aspect of the Nakshatias renders lucky and auspicious. If any constellation is unfavorable, it must by all means be propitiated by a ceremony called S'anti.

The Chinese were very superstitious concerning the stars. They annually published astronomical calculations of the motions of the planets, for every hour and minute of the year. They considered it important to be very exact, because the hours, and even the minutes, are lucky or unlucky, according to the aspect of the stars. Some days were considered peculiarly fortunate for marrying, or beginning to build a house; and the gods are better pleased with sacrifice offered at certain hours than they are with the same ceremony performed at other times.[142:2]

The ancient Persians were also great astrologers, and held the stars in great reverence. They believed and taught that the destinies of men were intimately connected with their motions, and therefore it was important to know under the influence of what star a human soul made its advent into this world. Astrologers swarmed throughout the country, and were consulted upon all important occasions.[142:3]

The ancient Egyptians were exactly the same in this respect. According to Champollion, the tomb of Ramses V., at Thebes, contains tables of the constellations, and of their influence on human beings, for every hour of every month of the year.[142:4]

[Pg 143]

The Buddhists' sacred books relate that the birth of Buddha was announced in the heavens by an asterism which was seen rising on the horizon. It is called the "Messianic star."[143:1]

The Fo-pen-hing says:

"The time of Bôdhisatwa's incarnation is, when the constellation Kwei is in conjunction with the Sun."[143:2]

"Wise men," known as "Holy Rishis," were informed by these celestial signs that the Messiah was born.[143:3]

In the Rāmāyana (one of the sacred books of the Hindoos) the horoscope of Rama's birth is given. He is said to have been born on the 9th Tithi of the month Caitra. The planet Jupiter figured at his birth; it being in Cancer at that time.[143:4] Rama was an incarnation of Vishnu. When Crishna was born "his stars" were to be seen in the heavens. They were pointed out by one Nared, a great prophet and astrologer.[143:5]

Without going through the list, we can say that the birth of every Indian Avatar was foretold by celestial signs.[143:6]

The same myth is to be found in the legends of China. Among others they relate that a star figured at the birth of Yu, the founder of the first dynasty which reigned in China,[143:7] who—as we saw in the last chapter—was of heavenly origin, having been born of a virgin. It is also said that a star figured at the birth of Laou-tsze, the Chinese sage.[143:8]

In the legends of the Jewish patriarchs and prophets, it is stated that a brilliant star shone at the time of the birth of Moses. It was seen by the Magi of Egypt, who immediately informed the king.[143:9]

When Abraham was born "his star" shone in the heavens, if we may believe the popular legends, and its brilliancy outshone all the other stars.[143:10] Rabbinic traditions relate the following:

"Abraham was the son of Terah, general of Nimrod's army. He was born at Ur of the Chaldees 1948 years after the Creation. On the night of his birth, Terah's friends—among whom were many of Nimrod's councillors and soothsayers—were feasting in his house. On leaving, late at night, they observed an unusual star in the east, it seemed to run from one quarter of the heavens to the other, and to devour four stars which were there. All amazed in astonishment [Pg 144]at this wondrous sight, 'Truly,' said they, 'this can signify nothing else but that Terah's new-born son will become great and powerful.'"[144:1]

It is also related that Nimrod, in a dream, saw a star rising above the horizon, which was very brilliant. The soothsayers being consulted in regard to it, foretold that a child was born who would become a great prince.[144:2]

A brilliant star, which eclipsed all the other stars, was also to be seen at the birth of the Cæsars; in fact, as Canon Farrar remarks, "The Greeks and Romans had always considered that the births and deaths of great men were symbolized by the appearance and disappearance of heavenly bodies, and the same belief has continued down to comparatively modern times."[144:3]

Tacitus, the Roman historian, speaking of the reign of the Emperor Nero, says:

"A comet having appeared, in this juncture, the phenomenon, according to the popular opinion, announced that governments were to be changed, and kings dethroned. In the imaginations of men, Nero was already dethroned, and who should be his successor was the question."[144:4]

According to Moslem authorities, the birth of Ali—Mohammed's great disciple, and the chief of one of the two principal sects into which Islam is divided—was foretold by celestial signs. "A light was distinctly visible, resembling a bright column, extending from the earth to the firmament."[144:5] Even during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian, a hundred years after the time assigned for the death of Jesus, a certain Jew who gave himself out as the "Messiah," and headed the last great insurrection of his country, assumed the name of Bar-Cochba—that is, "Son of a Star."[144:6]

This myth evidently extended to the New World, as we find that the symbol of Quetzalcoatle, the virgin-born Saviour, was the "Morning Star."[144:7]

We see, then, that among the ancients there seems to have been a very general idea that the birth of a great person would be announced by a star. The Rev. Dr. Geikie, who maintains to his utmost the truth of the Gospel narrative, is yet constrained to admit that:

"It was, indeed, universally believed, that extraordinary events, especially [Pg 145]the birth and death of great men, were heralded by appearances of stars, and still more of comets, or by conjunctions of the heavenly bodies."[145:1]