JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN ASTROLOGY IN LATE ANTIQUITY - A NEW APPROACH

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Abstract

In late antiquity astrology held a key position among the accepted and well-reputed sciences. As ars mathematica closely connected with astronomy, it made its way into the highest political and philosophical orders of the Roman Empire and became the standard model of interpreting past, present, and future events. Although this is widely acknowledged by modern historians, most scholars assume that the application of astrological theories is limited to the 'pagan mind,' whereas Jewish and Christian theology is characterized by a harsh refutation of astrology's implications. As can easily be shown, this assumption is not the result of careful examination of the documentary evidence but of a preconceived and misleading opinion about the basic ideas of astrology, which led to an astonishing disregard of Jewish and Christian evidence for astrological concerns. This evidence has been either played down - if not neglected entirely - or labeled 'heretic,' thus prolonging the polemics of the 'church fathers' right into modernity. After having reviewed the biases of previous research into monotheistic astrology and its crucial methodological problems, I shall propose a different approach. Astrology has to be seen as a certain way of interpreting reality. In this regard it is the very backbone of esoteric tradition. I shall sketch the different discourses reflected in some late antiquity's Jewish and Christian documents. It will be shown that the astrological worldview of planetary and zodiacal correspondences was common to most of the sources. Examples will be presented for illustrating different adoptions of this attitude, namely the discourse of cult theology, the magical and mystical application of astrological knowledge, the debates concerning volition and determinism, and, finally, the use of astrology for political and religious legitimization.

JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN ASTROLOGY IN LATE ANTIQUITY - A NEW APPROACH

in Numen

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