Bishop of Antioch (ca. A.D. 160), wrote in "To Autolycus,"
Consider, O man,
His works -- the timely rotation of the seasons, and the changes of
temperature; the regular march of the stars; the well-ordered course of
days and nights, and months, and years; the various beauty of seeds,
and plants, and fruits; and the divers species of quadrupeds, and
birds, and reptiles, and fishes, both of the rivers and of the sea; or
consider the instinct implanted in these animals to beget and rear
offspring, not for their own profit, but for the use of man; and the
providence with which God provides nourishment for all flesh, or the
subjection in which He has ordained that all things subserve mankind.
Consider, too, the flowing of sweet fountains and never-failing rivers,
and the seasonable supply of dews, and showers, and rains; the manifold
movement of the heavenly bodies, the morning star rising and heralding
the approach of the perfect luminary; and the constellation of
Pleiades, and Orion, and Arcturus, and the orbit of the other stars
that circle through the heavens, all of which the manifold wisdom of
God has called by names of their own.
Yes, do consider
these things! Consider, too, how St. Clement of Alexandria (d. ca. A.D.
215) intimated much about the wondrousness of the heavens when he
posited that God made the stars so that the heathens might have some
sense of His existence. St. Clement's writings can be very problematic,
but he puts forth an interesting idea in Book VI of his "Stromata,"
when he wrote,
... even the
heathen, is judged most righteously. For since God knew in virtue of
His prescience that he would not believe, He nevertheless, in order
that he might receive his own perfection gave him philosophy, but gave
it him previous to faith. And He gave the sun, and the moon, and the
stars to be worshipped; "which God," the Law says, made for the
nations, that they might not become altogether atheistical, and so
Whether St. Clement got that right or not -- and that bit of
writing is certainly not a matter of dogma or doctrine in any way
-- it's obvious that the stars are awesome indeed! And in
considering how beautifully these heavenly creatures reflect the
glory of their Maker, make note of the following three points...
Point One: The stars were made, in part, for
Genesis 1:14 says "...Let there be lights made in the firmament of
heaven...and let them be for signs." A "sign," just like the signs we
see around us all the time in everyday life, points to something; it
reveals and gives us information.
Luke 21:25 tells us clearly that "there shall be signs in the sun, and
in the moon, and in the stars" at the end of the age; surely it is not
un-Christian to see them when they happen, just as the Magi saw the the Star of Bethlehem as
a sign and followed it to adore the Divine
Child. As Origen (b. 185) wrote when speaking of that great and
wondrous star that signalled the Nativity of Our Lord,
It has been
observed that, on the occurrence of great events, and of mighty changes
in terrestrial things, such stars are wont to appear, indicating either
the removal of dynasties or the breaking out of wars, or the happening
of such circumstances as may cause commotions upon the earth. But we
have read in the Treatise an Comets by Chaeremon the Stoic, that on
some occasions also, when good was to happen, comets made their
appearance; and he gives an account of such instances.
If, then, at the commencement of new dynasties, or on the occasion of
other important events, there arises a comet so called, or any similar
celestial body, why should it be a matter of wonder that at the birth
of Him Who was to introduce a new doctrine to the human race, and to
make known His teaching not only to Jews, but also to Greeks, and to
many of the barbarous nations besides, a star should have arisen?
Point two: God named the stars
Why believe that God named the stars? Because the Psalms tell us it is
(147:1-4 in Bibles with Masoretic numbering):
Alleluia. Praise ye the Lord, because psalm is good: to our God be
joyful and comely praise. The Lord buildeth up Jerusalem: He will
gather together the dispersed of Israel. Who healeth the broken of
heart, and bindeth up their bruises. Who telleth the number of the
stars: and calleth them all by their names.
The Fathers, of
course, agree. Note in particular what Theophilus wrote above:
manifold movement of the heavenly bodies, the morning star rising and
heralding the approach of the perfect luminary; and the constellation
of Pleiades, and Orion, and Arcturus, and the orbit of the other stars
that circle through the heavens, all of which the manifold wisdom of God
has called by names of their own.
Point three: St. Paul, quoting David, says something
From Scripture, it is clear that God not only created and has complete
control over the stars, but named them and gave them not only for
seasons, days and years, but, as said, "for signs."
Shalt thou be able to join together the shining stars the Pleiades, or
canst thou stop the turning about of Arcturus? 1 Canst thou bring forth the day star in its time,
and make the evening star to rise upon the children of the earth? Dost
thou know the order of heaven, and canst thou set down the
reason thereof on the earth?
King David, in
his 18th Psalm (or the 19th in Bibles with Masoretic numbering),
asserts that the Heavens "shew forth," "declare," and "uttereth" --
that their "voices" go unto the ends of the earth and can be "heard" by
The heavens shew forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth
the work of his hands. Day to day uttereth speech, and night to night
sheweth knowledge. There are no speeches nor languages, where their
voices are not heard. Their sound hath gone forth into all the
earth: and their words unto the ends of the world.
And here is the
most fascinating thing: according to St. Paul, it seems that King David
wasn't merely being poetic; when speaking about the potential for
salvation of those who have never heard the Gospel from the Church, he
says, in Romans 10:11-18:
Scripture saith: Whosoever believeth in Him shall not be confounded.
For there is no distinction of the Jew and the Greek: for the same is
Lord over all, rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall
call upon the Name of the Lord shall be
How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? Or how
shall they believe Him of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they
hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they be sent,
as it is written: How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the
gospel of peace, of them that bring glad tidings of good things? But
all do not obey the gospel. For Isaias saith: Lord, who hath believed
our report? Faith then cometh by hearing; and hearing by the word of
But I say: Have they not heard? Yes, verily: Their sound hath
gone forth into all the earth: and their words unto the ends of the
Who is the
"they" whose sound has gone forth into all the earth, and words unto
the ends of the whole world, said words being the same as having heard
word of Christ? It seems to be the "they" of the Psalm which St.
Paul was quoting very precisely: "they" are the stars of Psalm 18:2-5,
which I urge
you to read again since St. Paul uses those exact words:
The heavens shew
forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his
hands. Day to day uttereth speech, and night to night sheweth
knowledge. There are no speeches nor languages, where their voices are
not heard. Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth: and
their words unto the ends of the world.
Could St. Paul
possibly have meant to say that all one has to do is look to the stars
to see not just the glory of God's creation, but the Gospel message
itself? Could the original names of these stars, given by God
to Adam in Eden, have been designed to tell a story?
I believe, though it is certainly not explicit doctrine of the Church,
that the answer to those questions is "absolutely."
Could the names God assigned to the stars have been passed down through
the millennia and preserved, in terms of their meanings, by the great
civilizations -- i.e., are the
Hebrew and Babylonian names for the Zodiacal constellations the same
names given by God?
This is where things get tricky. Books have been written about this
possibility -- the scholarship of which I find highly suspect, whose
linguistic translations are often entirely bogus, whose
assertions of fact I've been unable to verify, and whose
interpretations of some of those assertions I often see as too
of the books I've seen of this nature limit themselves to those stars
whose "sound hath gone forth into all the earth" (the stars of the
Zodiac, which are visible in all populated areas because their course
is along the ecliptic), but also include the stars more toward the
In the end, though our present-day names for the Zodiacal
constellations are extremely ancient, their original names
given to them by God simply can't be proved.
But it is a fascinating idea, and even without such proof, we can most
certainly at least look poetically at the Zodiacal constellations,
keeping in mind the possibility that our imaging of the twelve
great constellations has been consistent since Eden.
At least we can see the Zodiacal constellations as great
Christian symbols and use them to tell the story of Christ in the same
manner that St. Patrick used a
shamrock in his attempt to describe the Most Holy Trinity.
And at the very least, reading this section can help people
learn about God's beautiful Zodiac and will perhaps inspire them to
have a new
appreciation for the jewels that adorn our night skies.
1 "Arcturus" refers
"Ursa Major," the constellation that includes the Big Dipper asterism
(or the Plough, to Englishmen). This likely applies, too, in Amos 5:8
-- a verse in which "Orion" is sometimes translated as "Bootes."