Wednesday, April 06, 2016

What about those stars?

Now there is indeed a very interesting shift in emphasis in biblical literature, when it is compared with other ancient Near Eastern literature, away from a focus on their deity of astral bodies. We shall consider that in a moment. But this shift in emphasis is not a result, I suggest, of biblical authors rejecting the idea of the sun, moon, and stars as divine. What they unanimously and emphatically rejected was any idea that humans should serve and worship these astral gods. I suggest that it is this radical and decisive move that explains the theological shift in the biblical literature. The sun, moon, and stars may be gods, but they are created by Jehovah, are under his control, are appointed by him to serve humanity (giving light and overseeing the rhythms of time), and their glory serves to point to his greater glory. These are the things that interest the writers of the texts that became Scripture. Biblical writers have no interest in identifying specific stars with specific deities (except when condemning Israelites for worshipping stars as gods). The identification of stars with gods is, in biblical religion, generic rather than specific. Perhaps the worry was that an over-interest in the stars would lead to their being worshipped. And to worship the stars, in effect, upsets the order of creation and effectively makes them idols and even demons.— The Biblical Cosmos, page 109

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