July 20th, 2008


Is it written in the stars?

An idea that I came across recently has to do with the story of Jesus being simply a representation of the Sun's journey through the zodiac. I feel that this is a stretch, taking the admittedly interesting parallels with Aquarius and Pisces, and then really having to reach for the others. Pontius Pilate as Sagittarius seems particularly suspect, using translations of his name to make him "the man with the spear," even though Sagittarius is supposed to be an archer. Besides, this implies that the crucifixion symbolizes the coming of winter, but the Gospels are quite explicit in the fact that Jesus died in the spring. Shouldn't an interpretation that relies on times of the year pay more attention to actual mentions of the time of year in the story itself?

I don't doubt that some aspects of solar mythology were later added on to the tales of Jesus. The date for Christmas was most likely chosen because it was already the day of the Sol Invictus (i.e., Unconquered Sun) festival. But this date most likely wasn't chosen until the fourth century, long after the Gospels were written, so using it to support the solar myth theory is rather ridiculous. Isn't it more likely that some mythical elements were added to the stories of an actual person, rather than the whole thing being made up by secret sun-worshipers?

A more likely theory from that same page is that the names of the constellations are based on the time of year in which they appear in the sky. Even if that's true for the zodiac, however, what about all of the other constellations? The Greco-Roman names that we currently use include a lot of references to Greek mythology, particularly the stories of Perseus and Hercules. This other page supporting the solar myth idea proposes that the story of Hercules is also based on the Sun and the zodiac. It's a stronger argument than for the Jesus one, I suppose (and note the similarity between Hercules and Samson, who is also often interpreted to have been a solar deity appropriated and humanized by the compilers of the Bible), but it still seems more likely to me that the stories came first, and the constellations named to reflect these tales. Besides, wasn't the whole idea of exactly twelve labors a somewhat later addition to the myth anyway?

I think astrology in general works on much the same principle as theories like the solar Jesus one, because it relies on people being so amazed by what it gets right that they ignore the rest. I'm a Scorpio, and there is indeed quite a bit that's relevant to me in the description of my sign, especially in terms of hyper-sensitivity and strong likes and dislikes. But I wouldn't say I'm self-confident at all, and that's supposed to be a Scorpio trait. Besides, these long descriptions often come off as internally contradictory. We're supposed to dislike flattery and flattering, yet a Scorpio who gives in to his or her negative side can become "the man or woman who is capable of so much that they do nothing and become indolent and self-indulgent, requiring extravagant praise and flattery from those whom they make their cronies." Um...yeah, okay.