My last post was a fun one to me, where I explained how each of the planets got their name. This post is going to go a different direction. It will talk about all the planets mentioned in the Scriptures. You might be surprised at how astronomy (and astrology!) can help you understand what is going on in certain parts of Scripture.
The Planets Mentioned in Scripture
How many places are the planets mentioned in scripture? The first place you should look is in the book of Jude, where we read the following:
Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
Notice that when Jude says “wandering stars,” the Greek phrase he uses is ἀστέρες πλανῆται (asteres planetai). If that sounds familiar, that’s because this phrase is where we get the word “planet.” It means “wanderer” because as opposed to the “fixed” stars, the planets are “wandering stars.”
So in that sense, yes, the planets are mentioned in scripture, right there in Jude. But let’s get more specific. What about the SPECIFIC planet names? Not too many people would be able to think of any that are mentioned in scripture.
But broaden the scope of what you’re looking for. Instead of thinking of the planets as a body in the solar system, broaden it out to the corresponding deities that the planets are named after. Believe it or not, there are references to every single planet (or deity that the planet is named after) in Scripture. And we’re going to find them.
So….. in no particular order, here is where Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto are mentioned in Scripture.
The planet Neptune is not mentioned in the Bible as a planet. This is quite obvious, because it was discovered in the 1800s. Additionally, there is no mention of the god “Neptune” by name in scripture, either.
However…. …there is a round-about reference to Poseidon, which is the Greek version of Neptune. It comes in the book of Ezekiel. Here is what we read:
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord God:
“Because your heart is proud,
and you have said, ‘I am a god,
I sit in the seat of the gods,
in the heart of the seas,’
yet you are but a man, and no god,
though you make your heart like the heart of a god
Now, Ezekiel was writing in the 500s BC. However, there is an interesting thing to note about the ancient king of Tyre that Herodotus mentions, named Agenor. And here’s what we learn from “The Library” of Apollodorus: The father of Agenor was Poseidon. He also lived before 2000 B.C., at a time when many ancient rulers were claiming to have sexual relations with god-like beings. See this post for more on that subject.
So see what is going on here. In Ezekiel, the king of Tyre is saying “I am a god” and “I sit in the set of the gods.” Which seat is that? Why is he saying this? Well, if he is going through his ancestry and the “seat” in which he sits — note that Tyre was an island in the sea — then he is claiming to be the god Poseidon on Earth. And Poseidon is Neptune.
I know; I know. Pluto is not a planet. However, he used to be one. Pluto is the Roman version of the god of the dead. For the Greeks, his name was Hades, the ruler of the underworld. However, funny enough, he is a character in the Bible who meets a similar fate to the planet-that-is-no-longer-a-planet.
Notice what we read in the Psalms about certain “gods” that God made and then dethroned:
I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”
And now look at what we read about in Revelation about the supernatural character that is explicitly named “Hades”:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-14)
And so not only was Hades thrown into the lake of fire, it seems that his planet was also downgraded just to pour lemon-juice on that wound. Ouch.
Geez…. Jesus don’t play.
As we mentioned in the last post, the planet “Uranus” was found in 1781 by William Hershel. The decision was made to continue the naming scheme of the planets with the various Greek gods. Since Jupiter was the fifth planet from the Sun, and Saturn was the sixth planet from the Sun, it was decided that the father of Saturn should be the name of the seventh planet from the Sun.
But here’s where it gets tricky. Who is the father of Saturn? According to the Greek version of Hesiod’s Theogony (line 155-160), you can see that the father of Saturn is “Οὐρανός”. That is the Greek word that was turned into Latin letters with the word “Uranus.”
But here’s the key: Οὐρανός just menas “Heaven.” And οὐρανὸς (Ouranos) is ALL OVER THE PLACE in the Bible. But here’s the key: “Ouranos” just means “Heaven.” In Greek mythology, the father of Saturn is “Heaven.” Therefore, the Bible is mentioning “Uranus” whenever it says things like the following:
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)
Therefore, Uranus gets the most mentions in the Bible, being referenced in Greek 278 times in the New Testament.
We should also note how much this changes the telling of the Greek myths. Hesiod tells us that the crime of Saturn was that he “castrated Uranus.” Therefore “Uranus” could no longer bring children on the Earth. Does this mean that there was a single deity named “Heaven” that brought forward living beings? Maybe, but I’m not so sure that is the case. In Hesiod, we see that Οὐρανός is singular, but that just might be a personification function of the myth. Remember what a previous post explained about what is going on with myths. Things that are in “the form of a myth” are actually simplified stories to preserve real events in memory.
The thing to notice about “Heaven” is that most of the time that this word appears in scripture, it is PLURAL. So, what does this mean about the “castration of Uranus”? This means that there was a child of “the Heavens” who prevented “Heaven” from bringing forth children on Earth. If you look at this event in a different way, we should notice how this corresponds to what we read in Genesis:
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-24)
We should also remember that “the Garden of Eden” was a place were Heaven and Earth OVERLAPPED:
Next, let’s talk about “Saturn.” If we follow the logic of the section above on Uranus, we could say that the serpent in the garden and “Satan” is Saturn. Fair enough, but that would be pretty weak. Therefore, I’m not going to be that cheap.
Instead, we’re going to go to a much more direct reference to Saturn. The planet is actually named in the book of Amos. Notice what it says:
“Did you bring to me sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? You shall take up Sikkuth your king, and Kiyyun your star-god—your images that you made for yourselves, and I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,” says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts. (Amos 5:25-27)
Who are these characters Sikkuth and Kiyyun (sometimes rendered “Chiun”)? Well, as you can read in this encyclopedia entry, these are Assyrian deities associated with certain stars. However, the star-god of Kiyyun is a name of a particular planetary deity. The name means “the steady one.” And as we noted in the last post, there is a certain visible planet that is more “steady” than all the other planets. That’s Saturn.
So, believe it or not, in Amos 5, we have a direct mention of Saturn with its transliterated Assyrian name. That is Saturn named in Scripture!
The planet Mars is barely mentioned in the Bible. Depending on what translation of the Greek manuscript you use, you might find that Paul in Athens was taken the “Areopagus.” The Greek is Ἄρειον πάγον.
But here’s why that is important. The Greek Ἄρειον πάγον means “the hill of Ares,” who is the Greek version of Mars. This is why the Geneva Bible translates as “Mars Streete,” and many references to this speech of Paul is called “Mars Hill.”
So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. (Acts 17:22-23)
Jupiter and Mercury
We also get Jupiter and Mercury are also mentioned in the Bible. It happens when Paul and Barnabas were in Lystra. In Acts, we read the following:
Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them. (Acts 14:8-18)
Remember that “Zeus” is the Greek version of Jupiter and “Hermes” is the Greek versions of “Mercury.” That is why the King James Version says the following at this passage:
And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. (Acts 14:12, KJV)
A Little Bit More About Paul and “Mercury”
There’s another funny quirk that happens with Paul being called “Mercury.” That comes when he is traveling into Rome on a ship from Alexandria, Egypt. This is what we read about what is on that ship:
After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods [footnote: That is, the Greek gods Castor and Pollux] as a figurehead.
Here’s the funny thing about this. Paul is arriving in Rome on a ship. He has already prophesied that the previous ship they would be on would be shipwrecked. That happened. Then he was bitten by a venomous snake and everyone thought he was going to die. Note what happened:
He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. (Acts 28:5-6)
Next, Paul and the two Christian brothers (Luke and Aristarchus) that accompanied him just happened to get on a boat that RANDOMLY had Castor and Pollux –the Gemini twins — as a figurehead on the front.
Guess what astrological rule you can read about Gemini? Guess which planetary god rules Gemini? It’s Mercury.
Notice what Wikipedia says about the powers and associations of Mercury:
“He is the god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication (including divination), travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves; he also serves as the guide of souls to the underworld.”
Mercury is the “messenger of the gods” and same “god” that Paul was called in Lystra. Paul was held to be a god just days before he got on the boat to Rome. When Paul arrives and is not believed by the local Jews, we see that he says this:
Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”
Why will they listen? Is it because Paul is amazingly eloquent and he just wins everyone over? Well, maybe so. But I am willing to bet that a big contributing factor for all these pagan and superstitious Romans turning to Christianity had some help from God: COINCIDENTALLY, there are a bunch of REALLY WEIRD and “spooky” happenstances surrounding this guy Paul, who just happens to be a messenger for the kingdom of heaven.
Venus also gets mentioned by name in scripture, though I bet you missed it.
Venus is often called the “morning star.” Why? Well, Venus is closer to the Sun than the Earth is. Therefore, Venus is visible right after the Sun sets (to when it falls to the Western horizon) or right before the Sun rises, where it will disappear in the Sun’s light.
In the morning, Venus will be the LAST star to disappear because of how bright it is compared to the other stars in the sky.
Therefore, the following verses are probably referring to Venus:
The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. (Revelation 2:26-28)
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” (Revelation 22:16)
In these mentions, we get the Greek word for “morning” and then the Greek word for “star.” So, we could say that’s Venus if we want.
But it gets better than that. On one occasion, the Bible says the following:
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:16-21)
In this place, the word used is “phosphorus” (φωσφόρος), which is the proper name of Venus when it appears in the morning. (“Hesperus” is the proper name of Venus when it appears in the evening.) That is the place in scripture where Venus is mentioned BY NAME.
And what’s even cooler than this is that there is an astrological aspect to the thing that Peter is saying here.
The Astrological Metaphor of Venus
In this passage, we have a simile that Peter uses. This simile has astrological elements in it.
The Prophetic Word
Notice that Peter says they have the “prophetic word.” Then comes the simile to explain what this prophetic word is like and how it is to be used. It is “a lamp shining in a dark place.” He says we are to pay attention to this lamp of the “prophetic word” until “the day dawns.” In other words, the prophetic word is like a lamp in the night. You should use the “lamp” of prophesy so that you do not get lost in the darkness.
Use that lamp until the day dawns, and you can SEE. When are you able to see? When the day dawns. But strangely enough, that’s not where the simile ends. Instead, Peter says that you should continue going by Scripture until “the morning star rises in your hearts.” What does that mean? I’ll tell you want it doesn’t mean. it doesn’t mean that you have better vision. Venus is bright, but you can’t SEE by it.
Why is this the final crescendo of the passage? This is where the astrological part comes into play. It has to do with that phrase “and Venus rises in the hearts of you” — καὶ φωσφόρος ἀνατείλῃ ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν. There is an astrological meaning of Venus RISING in your heart.
First thing’s first. Venus does not rise in your heart. Venus rises in the sky. Because the Earth rotates, Venus and every other star that rises will rise in the eastern part of the sky. So what is the astrological meaning of Venus coming up over the Eastern horizon? There is an answer for that from the time period that Peter is writing.
The Rules of Astrology and “Rising”
Marcus Manilius was a Roman astrologer who wrote a work called Astronomica, which has been translated into English. It is a poem that explains the rules and principles of Astrology. The date of the long poem is uncertain, but appears to have been written sometime between 9 – 14 A.D. In other words, Peter lived in the same Roman Empire and era of astrology as Manilius.
I have a copy of this book and have used it in some of my research. The reason this is important is what he says about the “rising” part of the sky. The following excerpt is where Manilius notes how important the portion in the Eastern horizon is when it influences people. This eastern part of the sky is called the “ascendant,” and it is the part that is “rising.” In Greek, it is called the “Horoscope,” and it is so important that it gives the name to the entire astrological birth chart. Look what this person says writing in the same period as Peter the apostle:
The third cardinal, which on the same level as the Earth holds in position the shining dawn, where the stars first rise, where day returns and divides time into hours, is for this reason in the Greek world called the Horoscope, and it declines a foreign name, taking pleasure in its own. Within its domain lies the arbitrament of life and the formation of character; it will grant success to enterprises, open up the professions, and decide the early years that await men from their birth, the education they receive, and the station to which they are born, according as the planets approve and mingle their influences. (Marcus Manilius, Astronomica, 2.826-835)
In other words, the “rising” part of the sky determines the “formation of character.” At this point in the sky, the planets (such as Venus) will decide the the following things:
- what awaits men from their birth
- the education men receive
- the station to which men are born
Do you see how that can be related to the effect of Christ and scripture on a Christian?
The Relevance of Astrology to Peter’s Readers
But wait…. ….astrology in the Bible? Really? Yes, really. But let me explain.
The following picture is from an astrological birth chart in the first century BC. The 9 o’clock portion of this circle is the Ascendant of the Zodiac circle, which is the eastern horizon. The 3′ o’clock portion is the Descendant, which is the western horizon. The 12 o’clock spon is the mid-heaven, due south. The 6 o’clock spot, and everything between the Ascendant and Descendant is the portion of the sky that would be blocked by the Earth. This picture is from an academic book by Tasmyn Barton: Ancient Astrology (Sciences of Antiquity).
This is a hand-written papyrus horoscope, written in Greek, which is about 2000 years old. That alone makes this pretty cool. On it, you can see Greek names of the constellations and planets. To the right, notice the “Kronos” indicating the location of Saturn. Notice the triangles, which are the Greek letters delta. These spell ΔΙΔΥΜΟΙ or “twins.” that is underneath Taurus. Notice “καρκινος” which is “Cancer” and “ταϒρος” with an upper case upsilon, spelling “Taurus,” the bull. You can get an idea of all of the Zodiac signs here. And all the way to the left, at 9 o’clock, you can even make out the “orosko” indicating the location of the “horoscope,” just as Manilius described.
I provide this picture for a specific purpose. I don’t mean to say that astrology has any “biblical” backing. Not at all. Instead, I provide it to prove how perfectly NORMAL “astrology” was to those who would have read this letter from Peter.
For Peter, saying “Venus rises in your hearts” is drawing on an astrological metaphor. This would have been as natural for Peter and his readers as the electromagnetic metaphor “We Come Together Because Opposites Attract” was to those who listen to Paula Abdul. Paula Abdul does not believe that there is an electromagnetic force between people who “go to bed early” and “party all night.” And Peter isn’t expecting astrology to have an effect on those who read the scriptures. But that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that this metaphor MAKES SENSE to the readers (even if it is lost on us today).
So, with that in mind, notice what Peter is saying should happen to people when they read the prophetic words of scripture:
And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19)
In other words, Peter is saying “pay attention to the scriptures until the INFLUENCE OF VENUS has an effect ON YOUR HEARTS.” This is about more than mere sight that the light of day brings. Peter is making a point about how the heavens should affect you.
What is “the Influence of Venus”?
What is the effect of Venus? To the ancients, that would involve motherhood, fruitfulness, charity, fertility, laughter, kindness, gentleness, and (of course) love. Writing of the influence of Venus in The Discarded Image, C.S. Lewis notes the following:
In beneficence Venus stands second only to Jupiter; she is Fortuna Minor. Her metal is copper. The connection is not clear till we observe that Cyprus was once famed for its copper mines; that copper is cyprium, the Cyprian metal; and that Venus, or Aphrodite, especially worshipped in that island, was Κὺπρις, the Lady of Cyprus. In mortals she produces beauty and amorousness; in history, fortunate events. Dante makes her sphere the Heaven not, as we might expect from a more obvious poet, of the charitable, but of those, now penitent, who in this life loved greatly and lawlessly. Here he meets Cuizza, for times a wife and twice a mistress, and Rahab the harlot (Paradiso, IX) They are in swift, incessant flight (VIII, 19-27) — a likeness in unlikeness to the impenitent and storm-borne lovers of Inferno, V.
In Michael Ward’s book Planet Narnia, where he explores Lewis’s interests in the literary and astrological symbolism of the planets, he notes the following:
It is highly significant that Lewis should symbolise the human longing for heaven by means of the Morning Star, for the Morning Star (another of Venus’s names) is a Biblical title for Christ (2 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 22:16).
This is what is so rich and DEEP about the metaphor and simile that Peter uses here. How long should we pay attention to the “prophetic word”? Well, we should pay attention to it until we can see everything AND until we are INFLUENCED in our hearts by Charity and Love; by a longing for heaven; and by Christ himself.
This “influence” of Venus is important from what we notice in other parts of Scripture. Notice what Jesus says about how he will be manifested to the world:
Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. (John 14:22-24)
That’s what Peter means. He doesn’t want Venus to be SEEN, and the goal is not that the reader of the prophetic word SEES anything in particular. After all, the scribes and the priests saw everything that Jesus was doing, but it did not have an effect on them.
Instead, Peter wants the reader of the prophetic word to let it have an EFFECT on their hearts. That is what is important. To get this point across, Peter mentions the planet Venus by name and uses this astrological metaphor to note the new creation, the new birth, the first resurrection, and being born of water and spirit.
It’s like what Jesus says in the gospel of John:
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [Footnote: Or from above; the Greek is purposely ambiguous and can mean both again and from above] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
The only way to be “born from above” is to be born by the influence of the fertile female planet deity in the planets. As Peter explains, you are “born again” when “Venus rises in the hearts of you”– καὶ φωσφόρος ἀνατείλῃ ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν.
And that is what that passage means.
Next up, we’re going to talk about the Constellations mentioned in the book of Job.