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EDITORS COMMENT: This new series is being offered in memoriam of Dr. Michael Heiser who’s truly groundbreaking research on the Divine Council and Enochian Worldview (based on the book of Enoch and its connection to Hebrew theology before and at the time of Jesus) opened the door for a richer understanding of the Life of Christ than previous generations could have imagined. This series reflects content from the leading-edge books published by Defender Publishing for Dr. Heiser—Reversing Hermon: Enoch, the Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ as well as his two volume book set titled, A Companion to the Book of Enoch: A Reader’s Commentary, Volume 1: The Book of the Watchers and Vol II: The Parables of Enoch. PLEASE NOTE: ALL PROFITS FROM THE SALE OF DR. MICHAEL HEISER’S BOOKS FROM SKYWATCHTVSTORE.COM WILL BE  DONATED TO HIS FAMILY DURING THIS SERIES.

The notion that the birth of Jesus is somehow conceptually and theologically linked to Genesis 6:1–4 and the sin of the Watchers in 1 Enoch no doubt sounds odd to the modern Christian ear. But instead of focusing on what’s familiar to us, the issue must be what was familiar to the Jews of the first century. Their intellectual and theological frame of reference can be quite foreign to our own. The right context for understanding the New Testament isn’t our Christian tradition (of any variety or period). Rather, the context that produced the New Testament must guide us.

The birth of Jesus would have alerted literate first-century Jews that the Messiah’s arrival would reverse the sin of the Watchers. Surprisingly, we will not discover how this was so in the birth narratives of the Gospels. This is perhaps why the connection between these two items seems so unlikely—we don’t read anything in the Gospels that makes any relationship transparent. The answers are to be found elsewhere, in other New Testament passages.

Paul, Psalm 19, and the Knowledge of the Messiah’s Coming

Our starting place is Romans 10, a passage familiar to most Bible students. Many have memorized the verse, which declares that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But few read what follows that famous declaration.

5For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. 18But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

Paul is clearly describing the necessity of believing in Jesus Christ for salvation (10:9–10). But in order to believe in Jesus people must hear about Jesus. Paul then raises the expected objection: Not everyone has heard about Jesus. Paul gives an unexpected, fascinating answer to this objection. He asserts that they have heard about Jesus (Romans 10:18). Naturally, his readers would wonder, Where? How? Here’s where things get interesting.

Paul’s proof-text from the Old Testament for suggesting that people everywhere had heard about Jesus is Psalm 19:4. His quotation of the verse in Romans 10:18 comes from the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.[i] For Paul, everyone had heard (or should have heard) about the coming of Jesus because “their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

Whose voice is Paul talking about? The heavens! Let’s look at the source of Paul’s quotation, Psalm 19:1–4:

1The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

2Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.

3There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.

4Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

There are a number of terms used in this passage to convey the idea that the heavens communicate information: The heavens “declare”; the sky “proclaims”; the cycle of days and nights “pours out speech” and “reveals knowledge”; the heavens have a “voice” and “speech” and “words” that can be heard since their message “goes out through all the earth.”

A full treatment of this passage (and others) with respect to these ideas and how they fit into the context of biblical theology must be reserved for a different time. For our purposes here, this passage is one of several in the New Testament that take us into the ancient concept of astral theology, a subset of which is astral prophecy.[ii] In briefest terms, and with respect to a biblical perspective (as opposed to pagan polytheism’s conception), astral theology was the idea that the One who made the celestial objects in the heavens (sun, moon, stars) to be for “signs and seasons” and to mark time (Genesis 1:14) could use those objects to communicate. There is a good deal of evidence (e.g., zodiac mosaics in ancient Jewish synagogues) that faithful, theologically conservative Jews believed that divine activity that would have an impact on earthly events could be discerned in the skies—activity they were careful to attribute to the true God and no other gods.[iii]

The key questions for the present chapter are, “How did Paul think the heavens communicated the coming of Jesus?” and “Is there evidence elsewhere in the New Testament that the heavens did anything like this?”



Revelation 12 as Astral Prophecy

Nearly all scholars who have tried to correlate the birth of the Messiah with astronomy share a crucial oversight: They start with the description of the star of Bethlehem in Matthew 2. This is a fatal flaw, one that not only overlooks Paul’s astral-theological use of Psalm 19, but one that cuts off any chance of understanding how first-century Jews would have connected the birth of Jesus with the sin of the Watchers.[iv]

I believe that the celestial messaging Paul had in mind in Romans 10:18 can be found in Revelation 12:1–7. This passage has several items that, if taken at face value, are astronomical signs associated with the birth of the Messiah. Considering the language of Revelation 12:1–7 in this way produces a real-time date for the birth of Jesus—a date that is laden with symbolism that first-century Jews would have understood as connecting the messianic birth to the sin of the Watchers. Revelation 12:1–7 reads as follows:

1And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

It is quite clear that the signs in the heavens—where John is specifically looking (Revelation 12:1)—are indisputably astronomical: sun, moon, and stars.[v] The specific signs require attention.

  1. The Woman

The key figure, and logical starting point, for interpreting Revelation 12 astronomically is the woman. Since the woman gives birth to the messianic figure (Jesus) and then is persecuted and has to flee into the desert, scholars agree that verses 2–6 “reveal that this woman is a picture of the faithful community (Israel), which existed both before and after the coming of Christ.”[vi] Israel of course is described as the virgin of Zion in the Old Testament and produces the Messiah in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.[vii] More specifically, of course, Mary comes to mind as the Jewish girl who gives birth to Jesus, but “Virgin Israel” best fits both parts of the description of the woman.[viii]

Additionally, the connection to Virgin Israel is important given that the signage would have to be decipherable to Jews at the time of Jesus’ birth. At that time, Mary’s circumstances would have been entirely unknown. The meaning of the virgin and the twelve stars around her head is evident in Second Temple Period Jewish literature, as well as later rabbinic thought.[ix]

What is John signifying when describing this woman? This much is certain: the woman in the first three verses is featured as being in heaven and both the sun and the moon are in association with her. Revelation 12:1 gives us clear details: the woman is “clothed” with the sun, there are twelve stars around her head, and the moon is at her feet. She is an astronomical (heavenly) sign.[x]

The idea that the woman is a constellation is made plausible when one looks closely at the text. The description that the woman was “clothed” with the sun is stock astronomical language for the sun being in the midst of a constellation. While the sun is in the woman, the moon is at her feet. For this situation to occur, the constellation of the woman must be, in astronomical language, on the ecliptic, the imaginary line in the sky that the sun and moon follow in their journey through the zodiac constellations.[xi] Martin writes:

The apostle John saw the scene when the Sun was “clothing” or “adorning” the woman. This surely indicates that the position of the Sun in the vision was located somewhere mid-bodied to the woman, between the neck and the knees. The Sun could hardly be said to clothe her if it were situated in her face or near her feet. The only time in the year that the Sun could be in a position to “clothe” the celestial woman called Virgo (that is, to be mid-bodied to her, in the region where a pregnant woman carries a child) is when the Sun is located between about 150 and 170 degrees along the ecliptic. This “clothing” of the woman by the Sun occurs for a 20-day period each year. This 20 degree spread could indicate the general time when Jesus was born.[xii]

The constellation of the Virgin giving birth to the Messiah would of course been viewed as quite coherent by the Magi, especially if they knew about Isaiah 7:14. But even if they were ignorant of this prophecy, this astro-theological linkage would still make sense to them since the sign we know as Virgo has strong associations with other ancient “mother goddess” figures who would produce divine kings.[xiii]

The detail that the moon was located under the feet of the woman (Virgo) must not be forgotten in all this. The sun must be in the Virgin constellation while the moon is simultaneously at her feet for John’s vision to be accurately interpreted astronomically. Because of the moon’s “behavior” relative to the ecliptic and Virgo in any given year, the twenty-day window narrows to a roughly ninety-minute period in which to astronomically pinpoint the birth of the child.

  1. The Child

Revelation 12:5 is very explicit that the child is Jesus, the promised Messiah: “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.” This description is an allusion to Psalm 2:7–9, which prophesied that the Messiah would defeat God’s enemies and be installed as ruler over all the nations. The Psalms allusion is coupled with a description of an ascent of the child up to God and His throne—a reference to the resurrection of the child. In short, John’s wording here and the immediate context is designed to create the impression that it appeared as if the devil had won the day—that the child would be killed (devoured)—but the resurrection resulted in victory (enthronement) for the Messiah. The dragon was defeated.

  1. The Dragon

Scholars of the book of Revelation have long noted the connection of the dragon to Old Testament terminology for the sea monster that symbolized chaos.[xiv] As Osborne notes:

Throughout the ancient Near East, the sea monster symbolized the war between good and evil, between the gods and chaos…. Obviously, in similar fashion to the meaning of “abyss” in 9:1–2, this builds on the fact that for the nations surrounding the Mediterranean basin, the sea meant unfathomable depths and the chaos of death. Thus, Leviathan or the “dragon” came to represent all the terrors of the sea and thus the presence of evil and death…. It also signified nations that stood against God and his people. The dragon or Leviathan is defeated both at the beginning of creation (Ps[alm] 74:13; 89:10 = Isa[iah] 51:9 [“Rahab”]; 2 Esdr. [4 Ezra] 6:49–52) and at the day of Yahweh (Isa[iah] 27:1; 2 Bar[uch] 29.4). First Enoch 60.7–10, 24 speak of the female sea monster Leviathan and the male Behemoth destroyed at the “great day of the Lord.”[xv]

There are two major candidates for the dragon with respect to constellations. Malina explains:

The second sign is the fire-colored Dragon. The color red locates it in the southern sky…. The fact that the Dragon’s tail sweeps (present tense) away a third of the stars of the sky further points to a location generally lacking in stars compared to other sky locations. This, again, is the south, in the region of the Abyss…. The question we might pose now is, which constellation does John label as the red Dragon, the Dragon in the south? Obviously it is not Draco, which is found at the North Pole. Boll opts for Hydra…. Immediately above Hydra and accompanying it are the constellations of Corax (Raven) and Crater, which have seven and ten stars respectively. Corax with seven, corresponding to the number of heads [in Revelation 12] lies closer to Virgo…. On the other hand, Lehmann-Nitsche argues that the prototypical Dragon of the sky is really ancient Scorpio, originally a larger set of stars than the present constellation. It was truly gigantic, even by celestial zodiac standards, since it originally consisted of two [modern] zodiacal signs (Libra/Claws and Scorpio). It was only relatively recently, that is, about 237 B.C., that it was divided by the Greeks.[xvi]

Hydra has the advantage of matching the description of the seven heads atop the Dragon in Revelation 12:3 (cf. 13:1; 17:3, 7, 9). Hydra was also conceived as a sea serpent, imagery that matches descriptions in Revelation (13:1), which in turn come from the Leviathan material of the Old Testament (Isaiah 27:1). However, Hydra is not precisely on the ecliptic; it is adjacent and only slightly below the woman. In other words, Hydra is not positioned directly under the feet of the woman, waiting to devour the child as soon as it emerges from the woman. The ecliptic problem is resolved if ancient Scorpio is John’s referent, but that said, the text of Revelation 12 only has the Dragon present (“stood before the woman”), not directly under her feet. Both options are possible correlations.

This combination of signs is not especially rare. But there are other celestial portents to consider that, although not mentioned by John in Revelation 12, were nevertheless present during the time of Jesus’ birth and would have been taken as indications of the birth of a divine king to both Jews and Gentiles.



Other Astronomical Events Occurring with the Signs in Revelation 12

The preceding signs are those described by John. Their occurrence together is not rare, though there were only a handful of dates in real time that can accommodate the events of New Testament chronology for the birth of Jesus. Those dates narrow to one date once other astronomical events that occurred at the same time—but which are not noted in Revelation 12—are added to the celestial profile. One of these extra events is the leading candidate for explaining the movement of the star seen by the Magi in Matthew 2.[xvii]

The constellation directly above the head of Virgo in the zodiac is Leo, the lion. The lion was the symbol associated with the tribe of Judah, from which the Messiah would come. The association arose from Genesis 49:9–10, where Jacob blessed him, referring to him in leonine terms while prophesying that a ruler would come from Judah’s lineage:

Judah is a lion’s cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.

He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?

The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,

until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

The lion-king association is confirmed in Revelation 5:5: “And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’” The constellation Leo, then, was a royal constellation for Jewish astro-theologians.

The constellation of Leo was also important in Gentile astrology. It was the chief or head sign of the zodiac and had special importance in astrological circles.[xviii] Leo was considered a royal constellation since it was dominated by the star Regulus, which was known by astrologers as the “King Star.”

The status of Regulus in Leo is important because on one of the possible dates for the messianic birth it came into conjunction with Jupiter. As the largest planet, Jupiter was considered the “King Planet” in astro-theological thinking of the first century. As a result, the constellation Leo, the messianic sign of the lion of Judah to Jews who “read” the heavens, had two conjoined signs of a royal birth within it.

This combination of astronomical signs produces a unique set of circumstances that can only be accounted for by one date (and in point of fact, a ninety-minute window on that date). This date, as we will see momentarily, has dramatic significance in the Jewish calendar. According to these signs in the heavens, the date of Jesus’ birth was September 11, 3 B.C.[xix]

Jupiter is also important because it is the best explanation for the “star” whose movement was tracked by the Magi. Jupiter is well known for “retrograde motion,” the appearance of movement back and forth in the night sky. Jupiter’s first conjunction with Regulus began on September 14, 3 B.C., and continued through September 11, 3 B.C. On December 1, 3 B.C., Jupiter stopped its normal course through the fixed stars and began its annual retrogression or “backward motion.” In doing so, it once again headed toward the star Regulus. Then on February 17, 2 B.C., the two were reunited. Jupiter continued on in its motion (still in retrogression) another forty days and then it reverted to its normal motion through the stars.[xx] The timing is right, as the Magi embarked on their journey a year or so after Jesus was actually born.[xxi]

UP NEXT: The Birth of Jesus on September 11, 3 B.C., the Day of Trumpets, and Noah’s Flood

[i] My view is not that Paul was arguing the story of the cross was in the starry heavens, but that the stars communicated the arrival of a divine king. In that sense, Paul believes it was possible for the news about Jesus’ coming to be known to everyone. His task in the Gospel was to explain what that coming meant (the “mystery” as Paul called the plan of salvation), particularly with respect to the cross. Several well-known Christian writers have attempted to argue that the starry sky, and specifically the zodiac, lays out every detail of the work of Christ and the Gospel. Those attempts, well-intentioned as they were, go too far. It is fallacious to presume that the starry heavens could actually explain the way of salvation to someone when Christ Himself sent the apostles into the world to preach the gospel. If looking at the heavens was sufficient for evangelism, why would Jesus send out the apostles? (The sky has far greater and more immediate coverage!) Moreover, the message of the traveling apostles was not how to read the heavens—it was the work of Christ on the cross. Finally, the notion that the gospel message could be understood through the stars conflicts with the fact that the disciples themselves didn’t understand the cross event until after the ascension (e.g., Luke 24:45–49). The most well-known efforts to argue that the plan of salvation is revealed in the stars are: E. W. Bullinger, The Witness of the Stars (reprint; Forgotten Books, 2009) and Joseph Augustus Seiss, The Gospel in the Stars (reprint; General Books, 2009). The famous evangelical preacher D. James Kennedy also espoused this idea (see

[ii] The major work in this regard is Bruce J. Malina, The Genre and Message of Revelation: Star Visions and Sky Journeys (Hendrickson, 1995). Malina overstates his case at times, and neglects the role of the Old Testament and Second Temple Jewish literature for interpreting Revelation, but he marshals a good deal of evidence that Revelation (at least major sections of it) should be considered part of the astral prophecy genre.

[iii] See for example these studies: Jodi Magness, “Helios and the Zodiac Cycle in Ancient Palestinian Synagogues,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 59 (2005): 1–52; Rachel Hachlili, “The Zodiac in Ancient Jewish Art: Representation and Significance,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 228 (Dec. 1977) 61–77; James H. Charlesworth, “Jewish Astrology in the Talmud, Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Early Palestinian Synagogues,” Harvard Theological Review 70:3/4 (July-October 1977) 183–200.

[iv] A noteworthy exception is the work of Dr. Ernest L. Martin, The Star That Astonished the World (2nd ed., 1996). (Martin’s book is available free at Readers are referred to Martin’s book for his far more detailed treatment of the astronomy associated with Revelation 12 and the birth of Jesus. The astronomical material in the present chapter follows Martin’s book closely (by permission), but only selectively. There are many more points of data that could be brought to bear. Martin’s view has been endorsed by leading experts on biblical chronology and many astronomers in the United States and abroad. While I find Martin’s view the most convincing and coherent explanation of the astronomical events associated with Jesus’ birth, that approval is not an endorsement of all that Martin says in the book or his other publications. I differ with several of Martin’s beliefs, disagreements that extend to those entrusted with disseminating his work and guarding his legacy.

[v] It is equally clear that this passage is not describing any sort of primeval angelic/demonic rebellion. The “third of the stars” reference follows the birth of the child, which is clearly Jesus. Despite its obvious nature, this passage is often referred to by Bible students in defense of some sort of angelic rebellion at the time of the creation preceding the creation of humankind. There actually is no such passage in the Bible for that idea.

[vi] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1999) 621. Beale’s commentary is one of the leading scholarly resources on Revelation. It is far and away the best commentary on Revelation with respect to interaction with Second Temple Jewish thinking.

[vii] See 2 Kings 19:21; Isa. 37:21; Jer. 14:17; 18:13; 31:4, 21; Amos 5:2; Lam. 1:15; 2:13.

[viii] Beale (The Book of Revelation, 642–643) describes the imagery: “Verse 6 is saturated with a rich diversity of OT, Jewish, and early Christian background. The woman flees from the dragon after the deliverance of her son. She flees so that the dragon will not annihilate her. This is not a mere literal escape, whether of Christians fleeing the Roman siege of Jerusalem in a.d. 66 and going to Pella (Eusebius, H.E. 3.5) or of a remnant of Christian Jews being protected from the future Great Tribulation. As in vv 1 and 2, the woman represents the community of faith, though now it is not that of the OT epoch, but the messianic community after Christ’s resurrection. The woman is now on earth and not in heaven because she now represents the true people of God on earth. She escapes into the wilderness for protection because ‘there she has a place prepared by (ἀπό) God’… She has not only protection but also ‘nourishment,’ which enables her to continue to exist…. The flight into the wilderness is a collective allusion primarily both to Israel’s exodus from Egypt and the anticipated end-time exodus, which was to occur during Israel’s latter-day restoration from captivity. First, it refers to the time when Israel fled from Egypt into the wilderness and was protected and nourished by Yahweh (Exod. 16:32; Deut. 2:7; 8:3, 15–16; 29:5; 32:10; Josh. 24:7; Neh. 9:19, 21; Pss. 78:5, 15, 19; 136:16; Hos. 13:5). The same pattern of flight into the wilderness is observable in the case of Elijah (1 Kings 17; 19:3–8) and Moses (Exod. 2:15; Josephus, Ant.2.256), who symbolize the church in Rev. 11:5–6. Similarly, Isaiah and other prophets ‘withdrew…to a desert place’ because ‘Israel went astray’ ‘in service to Satan’ (Asc. Isa. 2:7–11; cf. Assumption of Moses 9:1, 6). The OT faithful were those who ‘wandered in the wilderness’ (Heb. 11:38). Matt. 2:15 links the flight of Jesus’ parents from Herod and their return to Israel to the exodus. Together with the exodus, these other parallel desert pilgrimages could also be echoed in Revelation 12. Nevertheless, the parallel of Rev. 12:14 with v 6 makes the exodus background explicit. The ‘two wings of the eagle’ on which the woman is borne into the wilderness (v 14) allude to God’s care of Israel after the exodus during the wilderness sojourn. In Deuteronomy the ‘wilderness’ (ἔρημος) is the avenue on which God guides Israel to the ‘place’ (τόπος) of the Promised Land, where the divine presence is to dwell (Deut. 1:31; 9:7; 11:5).”

[ix] Beale (The Book of Revelation, 625–626) has devoted considerable attention to the ancient Jewish and Old Testament context for the woman. He writes in part: “Verses 2–6 reveal that this woman is a picture of the faithful community, which existed both before and after the coming of Christ. This identification is based on the OT precedent in which the sun, the moon, and eleven stars represent Jacob, his wife, and the eleven tribes of Israel (Gen. 37:9; cf. Testament of Naphtali 5:3ff.), who bow down to Joseph, who represents the twelfth tribe. The depiction could also reflect the portrayal in Jewish writings of Abraham, Sarah, and their progeny as sun, moon, and stars (Test. Abr. B 7:4–16)…. Jewish exegetes believed that the sons of Jacob were likened to stars in Genesis 37 to connote the indestructible nature of Israel: as stars appear far from earth and immune from destruction by any earthly force, so also (true?) Israel was ultimately indestructible (Midr. Rab. Gen. 9; Targ Neof. Gen. 50:19–21)…. The twelve stars represent the twelve tribes of Israel. The woman’s appearance may also connote Israel’s priestly character (cf. 1:6; 5:10), since Philo’s and Josephus’s explanations of Exodus 28 and 39 use the imagery of a crown, the sun, the moon, and twelve stars to describe the vestments of the Israelite high priests, since the priests represented the twelve tribes before Yahweh in the temple service (Josephus, Ant. 3.164–72, 179–87; Philo, Vit. Mos. 2.111–12, 122–24; Spec. Leg. 1.84–95). In fact, in these same texts the parts of the priestly garment represented by the heavenly bodies are explicitly said to symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel. Such dual imagery was meant to indicate that Israel on earth also had a heavenly identity. Indeed, later Jewish writings interpreted the twelve signs of the zodiac as representing the twelve tribes of Israel (Midr. Rab. Exod. 15.6; Midr. Rab. Num. 2.14; cf. b. Berakoth 32b). Therefore, the twelve stars surrounding the woman call to mind the twelve constellations, which connote the Israel of God viewed from the perspective of Israel’s heavenly life or calling.”

[x] Martin notes that, “Interpreting astronomical signs dominated the thinking of most people in the 1st century, whether the people were Jews or Gentiles. Indeed, the word “sign” used by the author of the book of Revelation to describe this celestial display was the same one frequently used by the ancients to denote the zodiacal constellations.” Cited from the text at: The Greek lemma translated “sign” is sēmeion. Martin’s source is a solid one: Henry George Liddell et al., A Greek-English Lexicon (With a revised supplement, 1996; Rev. and augm. throughout; Oxford; New York: Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press, 1996), 1593. The entry in part reads: “Sign from the gods, omen, S.OC 94; τὰ ἀπὸ τῶν θεῶν σ. γενόμενα Antipho 5.81, cf. Pl.Phdr.244c, Ap.40b, X.Cyr.1.6.1; wonder, portent, Lxx Ex.4.8, al.; σ. καὶ τέρατα Plb.3.112.8, Ev.Matt.24.24, Ev.Jo.4.48, cf. IPE l.c., D.S.17.114; φόβηθρα καὶ σ. ἀπʼ οὐρανοῦ Ev.Luc.21.11; esp. of the constellations, regarded as signs, δύεται σημεῖα E.Rh.529 (lyr.), cf. Ion.1157.”

[xi] While the symbolism we will discuss in this chapter communicates, and is thus consistent with Paul’s quotation of Psalm 19:4 from the Septuagint (“their voice goes out”), the Masoretic Text reading of Psalm 19:4 actually aligns much better with the notion of a constellation following the ecliptic. The Masoretic Text of Psalm 19:4 reads: “their line goes out”). The stars communicating via a “line” that goes out in the heavens is quite descriptive of the astronomical notion of a path or ecliptic.

[xii] Martin, chapter 5, cited from the text at:

[xiii] See Malina, 155–160, for a brief sketch of those mother goddess figures.

[xiv] For a good summary of chaos and the imagery of the sea monster, see the entries for “Dragon” and “Sea” in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, as well as F. J. Mabie, “Chaos and Death,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (Edited by Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008) 41–54.

[xv] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2002) 459.

[xvi] Malina, 160–161.

[xvii] There are other astronomical events besides the additional ones shared here. They can be discovered in Martin’s book.

[xviii] “Sun, Moon, and Stars (Introductory),” The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, XII (ed. James Hastings; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1921), 51. See also Martin’s text at:

[xix] As Martin details in chapter 5 of his book, reading Revelation 12 this way correlates precisely with the chronological testimony of Luke concerning the timing of the birth of John the Baptist and his father’s (Zechariah) priestly duties at the temple, where the angel met him to announce John’s birth. The primary objection to this date is that it violates the accepted date for Herod’s death (4 B.C.), requiring that Herod die in 1 B.C. Despite the objections of many to the September 11, 3 B.C. date on these grounds, a 1 B.C. date for Herod’s death is indeed possible—and actually quite plausible. For recent research into how a 1 B.C. date for the death of Herod is historically coherent, see Ormond Edwards, “Herodian Chronology,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 114:1 (1982): 29–42; Andrew Steinmann, “When Did Herod the Great Reign?” Novum Testamentum 51 (2009):1–29. The former article focuses on numismatic (coins) evidence for reconsidering how Herod’s dates are calculated and understood. The latter casts a wider net for data leading to a 1 B.C. death while also chronicling problems with the 4 B.C. consensus.

[xx] See Martin, chapter 5 (at for the details on these other conjunctions.

[xxi] See Matthew 2:11, where the child Jesus is referred to with the Greek term paidion, as opposed to brephos in Luke 1:41. While the former can be used of an infant or toddler, the latter is only used of newborn infants or children in utero. See G. Braumann, and C. Brown, “Παῖς,” New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), vol. 1: 283. Martin (ch. 5) points out that the account in the New Testament said the magi saw the star rising above the eastern horizon. And in August 12, 3 B.C., Jupiter rose as a morning star which soon came into conjunction with Venus. If the Magi began their own journey toward Jerusalem near this time, this apparent westward motion of Jupiter each day could have indicated to the Magi to proceed in the same westward direction toward Jerusalem. Martin follows this by noting that the Magi could have been “following” Jupiter in the example it was setting. The Bible says the star “went ahead of them.” Upon reaching Jerusalem the Magi were told to look toward Bethlehem for the newborn king. This occurred when the New Testament says the “star” came to a halt in the heavens (Matt. 2:9). Jupiter stopped its motion and “stood over where the young child was.” In a word, the celestial body became stationary. Martin references Kittel’s theological dictionary for this point. In commenting on the passive form of the Greek word for the star’s behavior (ἐστάθη) Kittel quotes from A. Schlatter’s Kommentar z. Matthäusev (1929): “In distinction from ἔστη, ἐστάθη implies that the star is halted” (see Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich (eds.), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–], vol. 7:648). Martin also references the scholarly article by F. Steinmetzer at this point (“The Star of the Wise Men,” Irish Theological Quarterly, VII [1912], 61.). Martin comments: “The theologian F. Steinmetzer, back in 1912, wrote an article stating his belief that Matthew was referring to one of these normal ‘stationary’ positions of the planets. Indeed, Steinmetzer suggested that the planet that suited Matthew’s account the best was Jupiter. This is true.”

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