or, The Constellations
by Frances Rolleston
Notes on Revelation Online Books
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"Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season?"-Job 33:32
Who was Job?
It is said in the epilogue to the Greek translation of Job that Jobab is Job. Two of the name are mentioned in Genesis. The second is said to reign as a king in Edom (Gen 36:33); but there is no trace of the kingly office in the book of Job; the manners and language lead to supposing him an Arab Sheik or Emir.
When did he live?
The first Jobab, mentioned in Genesis 10, was fourth in descent from Shem, Abraham being the eighth. If this were Job, he was before Abraham probably more than a hundred yeas, and living in the lifetime of Shem. In the book are allusions to the Deluge, though none to any subsequent event, and Job uses the very words of Genesis relative to the creation of man in several places. That history, whether traditional or written, was evidently well known to him, but there is no allusion to any later events.
Many learned men have considered the book of Job as the most ancient in the world. Those who think that part of the book of Genesis was arranged by Moses, under the guidance of inspiration, from previous records, also inspired, and left by the Prophets Enoch and Noah, in the four first chapters, from the authority of Adam, written by Enoch, and the five following to the twenty-eighth verse of the ninth chapter by Noah, would place the book of Job after this part of Genesis in point of antiquity.
The subsequent chapters, beginning with chapter 10, may have been by Abraham, those from chapter 25 to 37 by Jacob: the remainder either by Joseph or Levi, the immediate ancestor of Moses, always, however, subject to the guidance of that Holy Spirit who spake by Moses, and who enabled and authorized him to authenticate these ancient records. They became the first book of Moses without ceasing to be the early Scriptures of mankind, with which Job was evidently acquainted.
The opinion of many great authorities is, and has been, that when Moses resided for forty years in Midian he was divinely directed to give his sanction to the writing left by Job himself, and to prefix to it, what only revelation could make known, the part which Satan had in his affliction, adding that account of his death which concludes it. It has been said by competent judges that the narrative style of Moses may be recognized in the two first chapters and conclusion of the last, and that the intermediate part is too unlike the poetical style of Moses to be attributed to him.
How is it known that the book of Job is to rank with the other Scriptures as the inspired word of God?
It was part of the Jewish canon when our Lord gave His sanction to that canon.
What is the purpose of this book?
To record and make known a most wonderful miracle, the Voice from heaven, that God had spoken, magnificently, solemnly, as He spake from Mount Sinai; and again at the baptism of our Lord, at His transfiguration, at His manifestation to the Greek strangers, at His final entry into Jerusalem. When the Lord had spoken to Adam and Even and to Abraham, it appears to have been to them alone. His voice out of the whirlwind was the first heard openly and with witnesses.
Was not this the great patriarchal revelation, as that at Sinai was the Mosaic?
By the mouth of Job came the clearest prophecy of the Redeemer's standing in the after time upon the earth, and by the Voice from Heaven the declaration of the unfathomableness of the wisdom of God, and the unsearchableness of his providence.
When from the depth of heaven shone forth splendour from God in terrible majesty, and those who beheld it feared before Him, the Creator of the universe spake of the mysteries of its unfathomable antiquity, of its progressive developments, so tasking, baffling human science to follow even afar off. That divine voice named Chima and Chesil, Ash and Mazzaroth, as things that are, but beyond the reach of man, subject to the Creator's will; these are not the astronomy of Job, they are the astronomy of revelation. The same voice speaks of the "ordinances of heaven," "the dominion thereof upon the earth." Was there not here implied gravitation and motion, the centripetal and centrifugal force? By these "ordinances" it is now known that Chima,* the Pleiades, has "dominion" not only over the earth, but over the sun round which that earth revolves; not only over the sun, but over the galaxy of suns to which he belongs, as their centre, ruling them as a circle.
By these ordinances also are the bands of Orion fixed on the multitudes of associated suns that form his robe of light, their mutual attraction, their bands to each other so recently divined by modern science, and thus indicated in this ancient revelation. Leaving the early celestial grandeurs of pre-existent creation, from which human intellect shrinks dismayed, the divine Monitor descends to the familiar earthly objects* with which Job was surrounded, and asks, shall he who knows not these below presume to question the decrees of Him who formed and governs those above?
* Dr. Hales, in his Chronology, would deduce the age in which Job lived from the supposition that by the sweet influences of the Pleiades, "Chima," the spring equinox was meant. So supposing, he deduces from the precession of the equinoxes, that BC 2337, which he holds to be about 187 years before the birth of Abraham, the spring equinox took place in or near the Pleiades.
In the word Chima, the accumulation, as of stars, there is no relation to the equinox. In those climates the abundance, the multitude of the spring did not wait for the equinox; the corn in the time of Moses was in the ear at the Passover. Before the age of Noah the equinox had not reached the Pleiades; it is now far beyond them. The Hebrew word maedanoth, translated in the English "sweet influences," in the Greek "bonds," in the Latin rays or brightnesses, may be from the same root as Eden, pleasure, sweetness, or by a Chaldee usage from Adun, ruling, influencing; the English has given both senses. That the Pleiades have any influence on the spring is merely a poetical fable of after times, when their helialical rising, seen in the sweet morning dawn, announced the spring to Greece. They have no influence on it, though they accompanied it in the days of Greek poetry. While it is true, according to modern science, that the Pleiades, graciously, for good, influence the motion of our whole astral system, it is not true that they influence earth's seasons, nor has that influence any reference to chronology. The Divine voice spoke truth, a wonderful long-hidden truth, it could speak only truth - therein could be no allusion to fiction.
According to Buxtorf the early Hebrews understood maedanoth as bonds.
The astronomy of Job may be traced in the twenty-sixth chapter. He knew what modern science shows, that the omnipotent Creator "hangeth the earth upon nothing," and acknowledges that He by His Spirit hath garnished the heavens, and "His hand hath formed the crooked serpent," as in the stars of Draco winding round the Pole, that "north which He stretcheth over the empty space," a part of the heavens now perceived by telescopic examination to be comparatively void of stars, beyond the congregated orbs that crowd the Galactic Circle. To Job and his friends, Chima and Chesil, Ash and Mazzaroth, needed no more identification than the Lion and the Raven, the Horse and the Eagle, with which they are contrasted. To them these constellations were evidently known by name and by sight, and as much of their "ordinances" as is conveyed by the names was probably known by tradition. From the book of Job it may be inferred that the science of antediluvian astronomy was familiar in the land of Idumea, where the light of antediluvian revelation shone so clearly, testified to not only by the Prophet himself, but by the friends his acquiescing auditors.
* "Behemoth, whom I made with thee," one of the present creation, often understood to be the elephant. The Greek and Latin name, Elephas, exactly renders Job 40:19, "He is the chief of the ways of God," as it contains the Semitic root, Eleph, the chief, the leader. It has been difficult to apply to the elephant the expression "He moveth or setteth up his tail like the cedar"; Schultens renders it of the trunk, which moves majestically, as a cedar before the wind. The radical meaning of the word rendered tail is given as extremity, applying as well to the trunk as to the tail; and it may have a signification of enclosing or encompassing, also peculiarly suitable to the trunk.
Of the Leviathan* it is not said, "whom I made with thee." The description is too grand, too terrific for the crocodile as now existing. It has been thought to be of some extinct species: might it relate to one of those fossil monsters, the Ichthyosaurus for instance, to whom the description seems suitable? Might a knowledge of what these wonderful remains had been, form part of the science of those antediluvian sages whose astronomy astonishes their descendants?
The Lord had appealed to the marvels of creation above and around, the ordinances of heaven, the living inhabitants of earth, - did He now appeal to the stony relics of long-past ages to show what fearful creatures had preceded man on earth, and been swept away to give him dominion, asking, what could man have done had such been his contemporaries?
* A writer in Tait's Mag., May, 1857, on the Testimony of the Rocks, expresses the opinion that the Leviathan of Job "may have been one of those great formations of which happily only the bones remain."
There has been a frequent mistake as to the radical meaning of the word Goel,* Redeemer, used by Job in the great prophecy, chapter 19. It is thought to mean avenger. Avengers, as in Numbers 35:12, is a secondary sense of that word, its primary and general meaning being to restore, to bring back an original good condition. Job was not comforted by looking for vengeance on those who had destroyed his wealth; none came; but he knew and hoped in the great restoring Redeemer, who should stand upon the earth in the after time, fulfilling his hopes within his bosom.**
An objection* has been made against the great antiquity of the book of Job, from the similarity of some of its sentiments and expressions to others in the Psalms and Proverbs; but if this book were most ancient, the writers of the subsequent books must have been well acquainted with it; their minds would have been imbued, as ours ought to be, with the Scripture. If Moses indeed brought the history of the trials, the patience, and the happy end of Job to the Israelites, on the verge of their long wanderings in the wilderness, how precious it must have been in their sight, a spiritual manna for their daily food!
* See the use of it, as to redeem, in Leviticus 25:24, 25, and many places; also Leviticus 10:56.
** See "Immortality," &c.
Having long been the Scripture of the Arabs, by the sanction of their lawgiver it became such to the Hebrews. By the sanction of our Lord Himself it is such to us.
* Another objection has been urged as to the naming of Satan. But in this book he is always called the Satan, or adversary, while in the later books, the 1st of Chronicles and the 109th Psalm, he is named Satan, without the article, as if by long use Satan, the adversary, had come to be understood as a proper name.
What is Prophecy? It is the declaring beforehand what shall happen. Man may guess, but no more. Mere human intellect, the very highest, but guesses, and seldom guesses aright. Neither Socrates nor Plato foresaw that universal empire of Rome, as already prefigured in the visions of Daniel.
Does prophecy exist, and where? It exists in books proved to have been known long before facts occurred which are there described as in after times to happen. When those facts came to pass, these descriptions and annunciations were ascertained to be prophecy. Thus it is also proved that they must have come from a Being superior to man; from One knowing the end from the beginning. It is certain that the books of Moses were translated into Greek and paraphrased in Chaldee while the Jewish nation yet possessed Jerusalem. In those books, preserved by the Jews with reverential care, there will be found an exact picture of all that has befallen them since their lapse into idolatry under their later kings, madness and blindness, famine and pestilence, and failure of rain (Deut 28), their removal into all the kingdoms of the earth, where they should serve, not worship, but be made servants to gods of wood and stone (Deut 28:64). The Jew is at our door, we have but to say, Behold!
Our Lord's prediction, that not one stone of the edifice He looked on should be left on another, is similarly exact, similarly indisputable, and its fulfillment similarly conspicuous to the present time. Babylon and Nineveh are in their predicated desolation, while of them it is not, it might not be said, that not one stone should be left on another. But to this prophecy also we have but to say, Behold! The record of the prediction concerning Jerusalem, as given in the Gospel of St. Luke 21:6, was written and circulated some years before the events which prove its Divine origin. In these books, thus authenticated by the accomplishment of their announcements, are found the other prophecies with which the names and emblems of ancient astronomy correspond. Many of these are fulfilled in the first coming of our Lord and Saviour, to suffer, to die, and to arise. Others remain to be fulfilled when He shall come again, as the King who shall rule in righteousness (Gill, Alford, &c.).
When a prophecy has two sense, both fulfilled, it is seen to be more marvelous, more beyond human intellect, more certainly divine (Bp. Horsley). The first prophecy as recorded in these books, the chief theme of the emblems of astronomy, told that the Seed of the woman should be bruised in the heel, as He literally was by the nailing on the cross; also, as the word for heel sometimes signifies, that it should be in the after time (Psa 119:33,112). When four thousand years had elapsed it came to pass. When Noah foreshowed to his undutiful son the future destiny of his descendants, he only declared, he did not imprecate the curse on Canaan, "Cursed, Canaan.* Servant of servants shall he be to his brethren." And truly he has been, and woefully is he now: Canaan, the bought and sold, the human merchandise.** but the merciful alleviation is quickly announced: "Blessed the Lord God of Shem, and Canaan shall be His servant," the servant of the Jehovah Elohim of Shem. How eagerly, how affectionately the Negro race receive the Gospel, let our missionaries make known.***
"God shall enlarge, expand, persuade Japheth." He shall expand him over the dwellings of Shem, as the English in India. He shall persuade him, as He has persuaded him of the truth of the Gospel of Christ, of Him, the Lord God, who should dwell in the tents of Shem, when in the person of the Messiah He should take flesh of the lineage, and in the dwellings of Shem.* Again this wonderful prophecy, so doubly fulfilled and fulfilling, closes with the redoubling of the consolatory assurance, "Canaan shall be His servant." Though to Noah God thus revealed futurity, neither of the Deluge nor of this remarkable prophecy are there any traces in the emblems of astronomy. Thus it seems evident that they were constructed before that time: the Seed of the woman is their only subject, the salvation of the fallen race by faith in the promised Redeemer their only object. To their inventors the Lord has spoken, or they could not so have prefigured the great sacrifice of which the earth was to be the altar. To the whole earth their voice was to go out, their words to the ends of the world.
* If any verb be supplied, it should be is, or will be.
** The word Canaan means merchandise.
*** Townsend, the devoted missionary to the interior of Africa, whose acquaintance with the native language (Yoruba) is astonishing, related that meeting a party of Africans, strangers, they stopped him, and said, "We would be very glad if white men would come and tell us about God." The missionary pointed to the sky, saying, "There is God: ask Him." They all fell on their knees, raising their clasped hands towards heaven, and saying, "O God, send us white men to teach us about Thee!"
The Israelites were positively forbidden to make to themselves the likeness of any thing in heaven as well as on earth, to bow down to them and worship them, by the Divine voice in the thunder of Sinai.
* Onkelos, on this text, says, "God shall cause his Shechinah, or glorious majesty, to dwell in the tents of Shem." So Jarchi and many Christian writers.
"To themselves." The cherubic images were appointed for the people, not by them. By not observing this distinction the Jews so soon violated the commandment whose awful sound still hung upon the echoes of the fearful mountain. When they demanded Elohim, gods, to go before them, the cherubim of gold ordered for the tabernacle were not yet fashioned, yet the form of the cherubim was well known to them by tradition if not by sight. Aaron made one molten calf, apparently to represent those primeval consecrated symbols, and said of it, "These, thy Elohim, O Israel," and proclaimed a feast to Jehovah. For this sin, but for an Intercessor, the nation had been consumed. In the emblems of the sphere it is seen that the existence and future incarnation of that Intercessor were indicated and already traditionally known to those who so needed Him.
Thus do these emblems show that God hath spoken, and thus from of old "the heavens have declared the glory of God"; and of all succeeding generations may we not say with the great Apostle of the Gentiles, "Have they not heard? yea, verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world." From the sculptures of Babylon and Nineveh, as from those of Etruria, Egypt, Mexico, and India, we see that the nations had so heard, but also we see how soon they perverted the message of salvation to the fables of idolatry. Sacrifice was taken to authorize murder; the divinely appointed cherubic images became gods of wood and stone, of silver and of gold. So still in martyrdom for religious opinions, and the image and picture-worship of apostate Christendom, it is seen that even the revelations of God can be used as the occasion of sin and suffering to mankind. The cherubic emblems seem to have stood amid the ancient world, like the tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden, as a test of obedience. If they have been corrupted into idols, so have imaginary representations of the objects of Christian veneration, yea, even of Him who spake in the terrors of Sinai, forbidding us to bow down to the likeness of any thing, even of things in heaven, even of the human nature of Christ, the reality of which His disciples worshipped when on earth, and believers worship now in the heaven of heavens.
Thus did these emblems silently prophesy of the first coming, to make an atonement for sin, of Him whose yet future coming to reign they still set forth. If those who constructed them were uncertain of the time of His suffering, as we are of "the glory that should follow," still they knew, for they have prefigured, that He should come, should suffer, and should reign. These emblems are reflected in the traditions of all nations; all in their hour of midnight darkness saw these stars of dawn. Some might be led to look to the Sun of righteousness whose arising they announced; too many, alas! mistook the heralds of the King's approach for independent magnates, and fell down before them in forbidden worship.
After the fulfillment of one part of their message, their words, which had gone out to the ends of the earth, were lost in the echoes of earth's confusion, of persecution, heresy, and apostasy. They had prepared the nations to expect the first coming of the King Messiah, the Prince of Peace: half their mission was accomplished. May there not be an approaching revival of attention to their long-lost import, to those characters of light in which is written the speech where even yet "night unto night showeth knowledge"; again proclaiming, "Behold, He cometh?" "Surely I come quickly," was said eighteen centuries ago. Eighteen centuries has the Church in her weary wilderness trusted in that promise, looked confidingly for that coming, and to every one of her members it has been fulfilled. He has come to them in the hour of death; His presence has illuminated the shadowy valley, shining as really and as brightly as it will do when every eye shall see Him together, when His appearing shall be as the lightning which "cometh out of the East, and shineth even unto the West." Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.
Albumazer, in his enumeration of the Decans, says, that "they were known all over the world and had caused long speculation, and that many had attributed to them a divine and even a prophetic virtue."*
* Dr. A. Clarke quotes from Maimonides, that, according to Jewish tradition, the first man who introduced the worship of the stars asserted that it was derived from prophecy.
The philology of those who do not entirely and implicitly receive the Holy Scriptures as the revelation of God, appears, to those who do so receive them, as confused, as vain, and as baseless as their theology. Those who thus receive them appeal to those earliest records for vestiges of that original language in which Adam named the creatures brought before him, and in which he conversed with Eve and with their offspring. These vestiges remain in the names given in those first ages of the world, and in the reasons assigned for them. These words, or their roots, are found, in the sense there attributed to them, in all the Semitic dialects, and in many others derived through the children of Ham and Japheth; they may therefore be held to belong to that primitve language.* In the time of Noah this language appears in the names of his sons and the prophecy concerning them. Such roots pervade the subsequent books of the Old Testament, and more or less the dialects of all nations, consistently with what is written, that the confusion of Babel was in the lip, the pronunciation. Each wandering tribe of similar lip would deduce newer shades of meaning from old roots, and in some cases, by repeated changes of letters, "leave not a wreck behind" of the original word. Nevertheless many of these primitive roots have survived time and change, and appear in various dialects, ancient and modern, barbarous or polished, to attest a common source of the language and of the race. The verb "to be," Eheyeh, as in the Hebrew of the first verse of Genesis, with its many prefixes and terminations, is perhaps the most widely diffused. It is frequently to be found in the names of the Supreme Being; as in the Greek Theos, and the Mexican Teotl, He who is, the Eternal, transmitting the divine truth recognized by the elevated intellect of Plato, that God alone is:** a sublime revelation made a thousand years before by the voice of God Himself to the Jewish lawgiver, and previously to the early patriarchs; for "by His name Jehovah was He not know to them?" as according to many ancient Jewish and learned modern commentators He said to Moses, concerning His revelations to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.*** That name, so revered by the Lord's people in all ages, is translated for us by the Holy Spirit in the Apocalypse: "He which is, and was, and is to come," the word containing in itself the distinguishing letters by which the three times or tenses of the verb "to be" are denoted.
Where similar sounds in different dialects are found to express the same ideas, the word or root may be claimed as belonging to the primitive language.
* For instance, the names of Cain as "gain," and Seth as "set up," are in constant use, in English as well as in Hebrew and Arabic.
** Of other names given by the Greeks, Socrates said that Zeus and also Dis, meaning "living and giving life," was the offspring of some great intellect.
*** Exodus 6:2. Being read interrogatively by Maimonides, &c.
Such primitive and widely diffused roots are found in the names of the stars and the emblems that contain them. The most familiar examples are perhaps Arcturus, and Orion, from Arah, to come; Aldebaran, from Debar, to rule; and Sirius, from Sir, a prince, and to reign, as a title of dignity pervading both the East and the West.
Dr. Donaldson, in "The New Cratylus," says, "Language was originally one." Vowels and other servile letters have been, in the course of time, added or omitted; as in the Etruscan, Esl, peace, may be referred to Sala, peace, in Hebrew, &c., and Aesar, God, to Sur, Isur, who rules. Aesar is also used in Irish for God. In the Islandic, Aesae and Asar have the same meaning; also the Indian Eswara, the Scandinavian Aesa and Aesar, and the Egyptian Osar or Osiris, the prince, as in Isaiah 9, and in the name of Sarah, princess. Our familiar household word "sir" thus evidently belongs to the original language of mankind.
The Semitic tribes, long stationary, preserved their language nearly in its primitive form. The children of Japheth, who early commenced the migrations that were to place them in the tents of Shem, varied more in pronunciation and inflexions, but retained many of the original roots of two or three consonants, by which the long-lost languages of Babylon and Assyria are now interpreted.* These roots, though seldom if ever occurring in Arabic writers, are to be found in Arabic lexicons, and are considered to belong to the ancient Hamayaritic dialect.
In the Sinaitic inscriptions, which have of late excited much interest, a rough semblance of the square Hebrew character is evident. The words, as far as deciphered, are imperfect Hebrew, of which the roots are common to the Hebrew and Arabic. The figures of animals, the ass, the horse, and the goat, may represent the standards of Issachar, Asher, and Naphtali. The more frequent recurrence of that of the ass may indicate that there was encamped the tribe of Issachar. From the coarse writing and irregular spelling, it might seem that "the mixed multitude" who followed the Israelites were the carvers. Many of them would be Egyptians, and might have learnt in the quarries of their native land the methods of executing such works, which it baffles modern science to explain. These inscriptions, if so made, would not be early enough to throw light on the primeval language. The words given as names in Genesis, used in the sense there annexed to them, being recognized in all the dialects of mankind, are the true relics of that primitive language. The ancient names of the stars may also be considered as remains of the same, as fragments testifying to the origin, the intention, and the beauty of the once perfect but long dilapidated edifice, "whose maker and builder was God."
* "The language of Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions is not strictly Hebrew, Chaldee, or Syriac, but presents many points of analogy with those dialects both in its grammatical structure and in its elemental words." (Vaux on Nineveh, &c.)
Bunsen (Egypt) says, "Language and mythology are the two keys to the history of nations."
Lord Kingston, in his great work on Mexico, says, "Many Hebrew words may be found in the dialects of the Indians, among the rest, Abba, father."
Bel, or Belsus, meaning Lord or Ruler, is to be met with from India to Scandinavia as the name of a deity, in Irish and in Punic, in Babylon and Assyria.
Sir W. Jones traces Chaldaic roots in Persian, Zend, and Sanscrit.
Gin, the native Australian for woman, is nearly the same as the Greek Gune. Matar is said to be Taheitan for fill.
The original language of mankind should not be called Hebrew or Arabic, or by any other name of national dialect. These are, as it were, sisters, daughters of that given to Adam and transmitted by Noah. To that original language, by means of the roots preserved in the Semitic dialects, the names of astronomy are here referred.
To the consideration of Greek scholars, who are not also orientalists, it may be submitted that though in modern elementary books a tolerably consistent view may be afforded of the Greek mythology, yet, as has often been shown, the most contradictory accounts were given by the ancient writers themselves. The earlier the writer, the more unlike are those relations to the generally received notions. By Plato we are told that the Greeks adopted or translated the "barbarian names," and founded stories on the meaning in their own language. This assertion is sufficient to authorize the explanation of the Greek fables relative to the constellations from the import of the names in the oriental and to them "barbarous"* dialects. That Jupiter, the commonly called father of the gods, was a king of Crete, where his tomb was still recognized, and that Minerva was the mother of Prometheus, are extreme cases. To Cadmus, whose name means the man of the east, the Greeks themselves attributed their first literature; though it is said he came from Egypt, it does not follow that he was born there. His name refers him rather to that eastern race, the Phoenicians, that people to whom Homer, by the name of Phaeacians, ascribes such wonderful civilization in the days of the Trojan war. Their very name signifies exquisitely polished and educated.** From them the Greeks learnt arts and sciences, and from thence Pythagoras brought those correct notions of astronomy and even geology, which are the astonishment of modern times. To such an origin then let not the Greek scholar scorn to refer the names and consequent histories of the constellations.***
As popular instances of the light to be thrown on the difficulties of ancient classical literature by a reference to Semitic roots, may be mentioned the application by Sophocles of the epithet morian equally to Jupiter and to the olive tree. The word Morah occurs in Malachi 2:5, as reverence, reverential fear - both the deity and the consecrated olive were to be reverenced. The olive was held sacred, as may be seen from the use made of it in the East as a pledge of peace - a usage supposed to have been derived from the branch brought by Noah's dove.* From Nehemiah 8:15 we find that olive branches were among those commanded to be used in the Feast of Tabernacles, and of this tree Solomon made two cherubim before the oracle (1 Kings 6:23). It was also consecrated among divinely appointed emblems.
* The word barbarian in a Greek mouth meant simply foreign.
** As in Proverbs 29:21, and in the Arabic.
*** The Egyptian priests told Herodotus the Greeks were "people of yesterday."
There is another similar difficulty which has embarrassed commentators on the Greek tragedies - the epithet crocean blood, which some moderns interpret yellow, supposing blood to turn yellow by fear, with various other whimsical attempts at accommodation. The Greek word Krokos has no root in that language; of such Plato says they are derived from the barbarians. The Hebrew and Arabic Kerah or Kerach is bound together, involved, as the chives of the crocus flower, whence saffron is made, and as the flower itself is. The chives and the medicinal saffron made from them are certainly yellow, but the flower of the saffron crocus is purple, and in the East there are crocuses of a deep red, blood colour; such are mentioned in the letters from the Crimea in 1855.* These then are the crocuses to which Aeschylus likens the blood of Iphigenia.
* Genesis 8:10, hl(, sometimes rendered branch. (Ainsworth.)
The Targum of Jonathan adds, "which it had taken from the Mount of Olives"; olives being said not to grow in Armenia.
Ancient heathen authors make mention of birds sent out by Sisithres (Abyrenas); Plutarch saying that Deucalion sent a dove out of the ark, and Lucian speaks of a golden dove on the head of a statue at Hierapolis, supposed to be Deucalion's. (Dr. Gill.)
"The dove returned with an olive leaf plucked off, an emblem of peace between God and the earth; and from this circumstance the olive has been the emblem of peace among all civilized nations." (Dr. A. Clarke.)
Elah, the word used in Genesis 8:11, for leaf or branch, may have originated the Greek Elaia, and even the European olive.
"A dove distributing leaves was the hieroglyphic emblem of languages." (Prescott's Mexico.)
When Homer says the gods called the eagle Percnos, he gives the exact equivalent of one sense of the usual oriental name Nesr, the eagle, who rends asunder. Perek is to tear in pieces (Zech 11:16) in the Semitic dialects.
* In a line quoted in the "Amber Witch," and attributed to St. Augustine, the epithet red is attached to crocus. A lady in the south of England has now some such growing in the garden, brought from the Crimea. For "yellow blood," see notes to Conington's Agamemnon.
There is a famous Latin enigma, Lucus, a grove, a non lucendo, because there is no light in it, at which every schoolboy is amused. Luk or Luch is fresh, cool, moist, green, as may be seen by the use of the word in Deuteronomy 34:7, and Genesis 30:37; in Arabic it is applied to a stream of water fresh from the hill. Again, mosaic, as applied to works of art, has the meaning of Mosae, a work. The word occurs in 1 Kings 7:33, stone worked, made up, in opposition to the natural state. The much-disputed origin of the word Mass, the Roman Catholic service, may also be explained from the same root, a work done.*
It has been advised to seek assistance from the Scandinavian dialects in some Greek difficulties. What has been found there will have been from the primitive roots they contain, and would be more readily found in the Semitic, from which the Cadmean derived them, especially as the Ionic is said to afford such examples. To the Semitic dialects, therefore, let not the Greek scholar* refuse to resort for otherwise unattainable explanations of the perplexities of Greek mythology, or to refer for the antique and oriental appellations of the stars and constellations.**
* Polydore Virgil says Missa is a Hebrew word.
* "Ignorance of the Greek language is at this day highly injurious to the study of the Latin, without which the dogmas, either of the ancient Christians or Gentiles, cannot be comprehended. The same may be credibly supposed of the Arabic in many astronomical treatises, and of Hebrew in reading the Holy Bible. Clement V providently meets these defects; wherefore, we have taken care to provide for our scholars a Hebrew, as well as a Greek Grammar." (Philobiblion, a Treatise on the Love of Books, by Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham, AD 1344. Inglis' Translation, p. 72.)
"There (in books) we survey the Antarctic pole, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard; and with delectable pleasure we admire the luminous way of the galaxy, and the zodiac painted with celestial animals." (Ibid. p. 88.) A record of the tradition as to the Southern Cross is here indicated.
** Being told by Plato also that the Greeks founded fables on the meanings that these "barbarian" names might bear in the Greek language, thus is authorized the explanation of the traditions relative to the constellations from the sense the foreign names might convey to Grecian ears; for instance, Arcas, in the Semitic dialects, meaning coming, or who cometh, was taken as Arkos, a bear. Cynosura, the pole-star, from Cyn or Con, the centre, and Zar, to bind together, as the constellations, they whimsically interpreted a dog's tail, no dog being figured near that place among the stars. This name has been attempted to be accounted for by that of a promontory near Athens, above which the pole-star might be seen on entering the harbour. A promontory cannot easily be forced into a likeness to a dog's tail, but might well be named as a landmark from the fixed pole-star shining over it.
In the Cratylus is discussed the question, How and why were names given? Nothing can be more unsatisfactory than the answers. The Hebraist will reply, to express the nature of things. When the philosophers again ask who gave them, the Biblical student will say, Adam and his immediate descendants. Socrates then says, "The men who first founded names seem to have been no mean persons, but conversant with high subjects"; also, that "to the East we must look for the solution of many difficulties." Thus did these greatest of Greek authorities agree in referring "the Greek to the Semitic dialects."
"Rosenmuller, in his Scholia, is of opinion that the Cherubim described by Ezekiel 1, and as placed at the east of Eden, were adopted by the nations as symbols of sacred things and places which it was not lawful to approach; the sphinxes of the Egyptians, the dragons of the Greeks, and the griffins of the Indians and northern nations of Asia, being similar to the Cherubim of the Hebrews." (Blackburn's Nineveh.)
In the Cratylus Socrates says, "The barbarians are more ancient than we"; and from them he says the Greeks got many names not explicable by the Greek. He seems to find no difficulty in the insertion or change of a letter. Pur, fire; udor, water; and kunos, a dog, are instances he gives of these "barbarian" names, and as used by the Phrygians. As the Phrygians are supposed to have been a colony or dependency of the Assyrian empire, and as Semitic or fraternal Hamite roots are found to pervade and assist in deciphering the language of Assyria, Phrygian names may yield their meaning to the same system of interrogation. Phrygia would be fruitful, or flourishing offspring, as the root is used in Song of Solomon 7:12 (13); Ilion or Ilium, high, as in 1 Kings 9:8; Troy, high hill or mountain, as in Daniel 2:25; Priam, the parent, Paris, son or offspring, one of the progeny, as in Genesis 30:2; Hecuba, the female, as in Genesis 1:27; Hector, who smites and is smitten, as in Exodus 17:5.
Aeschylus is vindictively eloquent on the meaning of Helen, as destructive. One meaning of the Semitic root Hele is "to utterly confound," as in Job 12:17; but as another is "to be dazzlingly bright," it is probably from this she was named. This passage in Aeschylus, however, tends peculiarly to show the connexion of the Greek and Semitic dialects.
Some modern critics, ignoring the Hebrew origin of the writers of the New Testament and the acknowledged Semitic origin of the Greek language, speak of the Greek of the New Testament as "made up of barbarous and corrupt dialects," seeming to mean the Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic, &c., not taking into consideration that the sense of the original root of all these dialects is what those writers had in view and intended to convey.
It has been remarked, that a standing memorial of the miracle of the gift of tongues remains in the Greek of the first Epistle of St. Peter, so unanimously praised by scholars. It has also been said, "It needed inspiration to prevent faulty grammar in the herdsman of Tekoa and the fisherman of Galilee," and their writings prove they had it. What have been called by some solecisms in the Greek of St. John, are by others held to be intentional, to convey a doctrine, as in chapter 16:13, the personality of the Holy Spirit.
|THE NAMES OF THE TWELVE CHIEF GODS OF ROMAN AND GREEK MYTHOLOGY,
EXPLAINED FROM THEIR PRIMITIVE ROOTS, AND REFERRED TO THE CORRESPONDING SIGNS
|Texts where the root of the name is used in this sense in the Hebrew Bible||Hebrew Roots|
|ARIES,||Roman, Vulcan, who goes or comes forth||go||Gen 24:58||Klh|
|Greek, Hephaestus, who sets free||free||Job 3:19||#px|
|TAURUS,||R., Jove, a corruption of Jehovah, who was, and is, and is to come. (Etruscan)||Exo 6:3||hwhy|
| Jupiter he who is, Jah, Psa 68:4
Jupiter the creator or originator, Patar.
|the Lord |
|Exo 15:2 |
|Gr., Zeus, Theos, and Dis, who is*||be |
|Gen 18:24 |
|GEMINI,||R., Apollo, the Judge||Judge||Job 31:11||llp|
|Gr., Phoebus, the shining, Job 3:4; who cometh and goeth. Apollo and Diana were twins.||Hab 2:3||)b|
|CANCER,||R., Juno, gracious, Prov 11:16||Psa 77:9||Nx|
|Gr., Hera, who bears, Isa 7:14||Gen 16:11||hrx|
|LEO,||R., Mars, Mavors, Mamers, breaking, wounding||manslayer||Num 35:6||xcr|
|Gr., Ares, the same|
|VIRGO,||R., Minerva, who heals||Isa 30:26||)pr|
|Gr., Pallas set apart (as the Virgin), Exo 8:22
Gr., Pallas who considers, is wise, weighs
Gr., Pallas who judges
|Psa 4:3 |
| Athene, who gives (the branch)||gave||Gen 25:6||Ntn|
|LIBRA,||R., Vesta, salvation||Exo 14:13||h(w#y|
|Gr., Hesta, Hestia, or Hesia, the same|
|SCORPIO,||R., Ceres, the wounding (as ploughing)||Job 1:14||#rx|
|Gr., Demeter, wounding, Gen 37:26, of the coming or returning||Esth 2:15||rt|
|SAGITTARIUS,**||R., Diana, the feminine of Dan, ruler||Lord||Gen 42:33||Nd|
|Gr., Artemis, who cometh, 2 Sam 12:4||the twin||Song 4:5||M)h|
|CAPRICORNUS,||R., Mercury, from afar, Job 21:16; recurring, as in a circle (Arab.)|
|Gr., Hermes, cut off, or who cuts off||destroyed||Exo 22:20||Mrx|
| Cyllenius, pierced, slain||wounded||Isa 53:5||llx|
|AQUARIUS,||R., Neptune, expanded, spread out as water||open||Isa 41:18||xtp|
|Gr., Poseidon, diffused, spread out (Arab.)||spread||Hab 1:8||h#p|
|PISCES||R., Venus, gracious, Psa 77:9||full of grace||Psa 45:2||Nx|
|Gr., Aphrodite, who is fruitful, Gen 8:17; plentiful||much |
|Exo 36:5 |
* Plato, in Cratylus, pronounces that such is the meaning of these names, saying that the name "Zeus is the offspring of no mean intellect."The Latin names are given from Ennius as those of the twelve principal gods of Rome, called Dii Consentes,* consenting or agreeing, as in their relation to the twelve signs. The Crab was said to be sent by Juno to bite Hercules in the heel; the Scorpion to have been sent by Ceres to sting Orion. In the Indian zodiacs, a woman holds the scales of Libra, and Sagittarius is called the bow or the arrow, whence the archeress Diana might have been imagined in that sign. The figure of Andromeda in Pisces might suggest Venus, and Virgo was already there. Thus are accounted for the six female divinities of the twelve chief gods. The Greek names are from two lines by an unknown Greek poet. (Robinson's Archaeologia.)
** The arrow-bearing figure in Sagittarius has been by the ancients identified with the arrow-bearing twin in Gemini.
The Greeks and Romans, the Assyrians, and other ancient nations, had twelve principal objects of worship, gods and goddesses, apparently derived from the twelve signs; those of the Romans, as has been said, being called Dii Consentes, a name, though explained as consenting to the counsels of Jupiter, more probably given as coinciding in that origin, and in resemblance to those signs.
* The Roman explanation, that these gods consented in counsel with Jupiter, seems an afterthought. Ceres does not appear in the Homeric synod: Hestia is not even named by him.
The most remarkable agreement is perhaps in the stories concerning Minerva, the virgin daughter of Jupiter without a mother, so celebrated in Homeric verse. A tradition of the first created woman seems here mixed up with those derived from the sign Virgo. By authorities less familiar than that of Homer she is said to be also a mother, the mother of the conqueror of the serpent, the sun-god Apollo, as Isis of the Horus of Egypt; by some, of Prometheus, the divine and suffering benefactor of mankind. The aegis encircled by serpents, which she wore on her breast, was the trophy of a victory gained, not by herself, but by Perseus, a son of Jupiter by a human mother, over Medusa, whose name means "the bruised," "the trodden on." The olive-branch was another of her attributes, connecting her with the branch-bearing virgin of the zodiac, whose offspring was to bruise the serpent's head. Her name Minerva might convey the meaning of "who is to be reverenced," as well as "who heals"; but her Etruscan name Menefra would be "who is to bring forth." The signification, who heals, would account for her being called the goddess of medicine, among other things. These names were unknown to the Greeks, by whom she was called Pallas, "who judges," from the same root as Apollo; also Athene, "she who gives," and Parthenis, "who brings forth," a name equally applicable to the human female and the woman of the zodiac. From this root Parah, the Romans derived Virgo, a woman, and Virga, a branch, by the common Etruscan change of p to v. Minerva, then, is to be referred to the virgin mother of the zodiac.
Vesta, or Hestia, may be found in Libra,* the name signifying salvation, the Vestal Virgins dedicated to her service being probably derived from the preceding sign.
Ceres, drawn in a car by two dragons, the serpents of the sign Scorpio, under the name of Tellus, the earth, sent forth the scorpion to wound the heel of Orion, as in the sign it wounds that of Ophiuchus, one of whose names is Triptolemus, said to be taught by Ceres to plough the ground, the names Ceres and Demeter meaning to wound, bruise, crush.
* This sign seems to have been confounded with the preceding or that which follows, the Virgin of the zodiac being sometimes represented with a balance, and called Astraea, the goddess of justice. The Scholiast on Virgil says that anciently there were but eleven signs, the claws of Scorpio, called Chelae, taking the place of Libra. Cali being an implement of any kind, as the scales, might cause this confusion. Ovid and Virgil both adopt this notion, which obviated the difficulty which must have embarrassed those who held that Zodion or Zodiac meant a circle of living creatures. In the Indian zodiac the scales are held by a human figure; but the sign is called Tula, or Tolam, the balance, the suspended or held up. In Greek the sign is called Zugos, the yoke or beam of the balance, certainly not a living creature.
Diana, who rules, as the moon the night, Artemis, who cometh, the arrow-bearer, the twin-sister of Apollo, said to have taken refuge from the Titans in the form of a mare, corresponds with the equine form and bow and arrow of Sagittarius.
The ibis-headed Mercury in Egyptian zodiacs is found standing on Capricornus the fish-goat. He is sometimes imaged as sitting on a fish, sometimes with a goat at his feet. The Greek name Hermes is "who cuts off, or is cut off," agreeing with the idea of sacrifice, as does that of Cyllenius, which has nearly the same meaning. He was said to carry away the souls of the dead. Like Apollo, he was the son of Jupiter by a human mother. The Roman name Mercury, and the Etruscan Turm, returning from afar, as in a circle, were interpreted by them as the messenger of the gods, but had a higher reference: the Divine Messenger, the Son of the Supreme, should come, go, and return.
Neptune, the ruler of the water; Poseidon, spread out, as his ocean-realm. The constellation Pegasus, the horse, whose head joins that of Aquarius, the water-bearer, accounts for the fable that Neptune assumed the figure of a horse, and for horses being sacrificed to him, also for his presenting the war-horse to mankind, a gift held even by the heathen inferior to that of the olive of Minerva, the emblem of peace, derived from the branch in the hand of the virgin of the zodiac, symbolizing Him who is the Prince of Peace. The neighbouring constellation of the dolphin was said to be the dolphin who brought to Neptune his spouse Amphitrite.
Venus with her son Cupid in the Titan war took refuge in the form of fishes. The name Venus, kindness, graciousness, accords with the union of the two fishes in Pisces; Aphrodite, fruitful in offspring, with the meaning of the name of the sign, the multitudes.
Vulcan, the spouse of Venus, who comes forth, but is hurt in the foot, accords with Aries, He who comes, as also by his Greek name Hephaestus, the setter-free.
Jove, a corruption of the sacred name of the Jewish Scriptures, and Jupiter, He who is the Creator, or Originator, in Greek Zeus, Theos, Dis, He who is, the chief deity of the two nations, had, it was fabled, once borne the form of the bull; and to him bulls were sacrificed.
Apollo, the judge, and Phoebus, the shining, the conqueror of the serpent, and son of Jupiter, twin-born of a human mother, may be traced to the divine twin Pollux, the judge, the mighty one, of Gemini. He was sent down on earth to keep the sheep of King Admetus, to whom he granted life on the death of a substitute; this name Admetus is said to be the only trace of that of Adam in Greek fable. His wife Alcestis was rescued from death by Hercules, the suffering son of Jupiter, who in the sign Gemini was reckoned the twin with Apollo, and who died by the venom of the serpent he had conquered. Thus in this story are remarkably combined various traditions concerning the promised "seed of the woman." The king, a frequent epithet of Apollo, to whom no kingdom is assigned, may be from the tradition that this infant should be the "King who should rule in righteousness."
Juno may be traced to Cancer, the crab, which she was said to have sent to wound the foot of Hercules, afterwards placing it in the heavens as this constellation. As Cancer signified possession, typified by cattle, so she was the patroness of wealth and fecundity, and in the Titan war hid herself in the form of a cow. In Juno, the often disobedient but ever chaste spouse, we trace the Bride, the Church, bound in the chain as Andromeda, seated on the throne as Cassiopeia; so in the infant, the victim, and the conqueror, we trace the coming Saviour. Her Latin name is "the gracious, or loved"; her Greek name, "who bears."
Mars, born of Juno without a father, according to some, but of Jupiter, according to others, strong and unconquerable, has his attributes in common with the lion. His names, whether Mars, Mamers, or Ares, may all be derived from the same root, to break, wound, slay, whence his Homeric epithet, the homicide: also the fable of his being wounded in the Trojan war.
The tradition of a son of the Supreme God, born of a human mother, conquering the serpent, yet dying by its poison, pervades the stories of these twelve chief gods of Greece and Rome, as it is the theme of the twelve signs to which they are here referred.
Thus also we find the Dii Consentes, the twelve principal deities of the Romans, following out the circle of the signs, and consenting to the message of prophetic truth which these emblems had been formed to convey.
That six of those deities are feminine, while in only one of the signs a woman's figure appears, is a variation in accordance with the still prevalent tendency of human nature to set up a female divinity, a queen of heaven.
The Romans are considered to have adopted some of these names from the Etruscans, whom the colonists under Aeneas found an ancient and civilized people: others, as Jupiter, they appear to have brought with them from their Asian home. It is said that the Jupiter of Etruria was called Tinia, or Tinis, also that the Romans had learnt from them the names Jove and Jave. As is often the case in names, Tinis may only express one of the attributes of deity, from a primitive root, to endure, be lengthened out, as in Psalm 72:17, expressing eternity, or from another root might mean the giver, but Jave and Jove are evidently derived from Jah and Jehovah.
Among the Etruscan remains lately brought to light, there are figures like those found at Nineveh by Layard, combining three of the cherubic forms: a human head on the body of a lion with eagles' wings. Both these figures, Etruscan and Assyrian, are walking, coming.
Gems bearing Etruscan characters or emblems are mostly cut into the form of the Egyptian scarabaeus, the sacred beetle, equivalent to the figure of the crab in Cancer. This is one of the frequent resemblances of Etruscan to Egyptian remains: not that these nations descended from, or perhaps even borrowed from one another, but had all one common source, the family of Noah. The Etruscan Apollo holds a branch, as do many of the figures, divine or priestly, of the Assyrian sculptures. The branch and the cherubic emblems, received through that family, pervade all mythology, and point to that origin, to which the twelve great gods of Greece and Rome, as well as the twelve signs of the zodiac, are here referred.
Though not numbered among the twelve great gods, Castor and Pollux were peculiarly venerated Roman divinities. The Helen of the Iliad claims them for her brothers, but the Romans regarded them with superhuman awe. Both Greeks and Romans in some way connected them with the starry twins, their dazzling helms always crowned by a star. Both now immortal and divine; but one had been born mortal, and the divine twin had shared his immortality with him. There is tradition here far beyond the reach of astronomy. Nothing in the stars of Gemini could suggest it. Prophecy alone can account for it. There was to be a mysterious union of Divine and human nature in One who was to come, the theme of prophecy and the prototype of the emblems of those constellations that perpetuated it. One sense of the name of the branch-bearing twin, Pollux, is the wonderful, the strong. Such seemed to be the feelings with which the Romans regarded these Dioscuri, these divine youths. Their mother's name, Leda, is she who brings forth (Micah 5:3), the universal appellation of the woman of the zodiac.
Janus, also not included among the twelve chief gods, received especial Roman veneration. His temple was to be shut in universal peace; when the blessing was come there was no need to pray for it. His name signifies (Gen 50:17 [Arab. sense]) peace, rest, cessation; resting, as the sun at the winter solstice, ceasing, as the year, thence to recommence. Twelve altars, and altars of twelve stones were dedicated to him, referring evidently to the twelve signs. That temple was shut, for the last time, at the birth of Him "who is our peace," at that winter solstice with which Janus was associated He was born. That the Divine Word was then to take into communion with Himself a created nature seems symbolized in the figure of the sign where then was the winter solstice; the victim kid, the sacrifice for sin, typifying the Redeemer, is there united with the fish, the well-known symbol of "his body, the Church."
Another object of wide-spread worship, the Bacchus of the Romans, and Dionusos of the Greeks, was also not of the twelve. The name Bacchus is from the root Ba, he cometh, (as in Bootes,) and Acha, smitten, wounded. Dionusos from Dios, the divine, and Nusos, wounded. In the Syracusan dialect Nusos is said to have meant lame (Hederic. Lex.), wounded in the foot. Dire was the perversion of prophecy in the Bacchanalian and Dionysian festivals of abandoned profligacy. Women bearing branches, the well-known emblem of Him who was to come, the Desire of nations, attended the figure of the divinity, others carrying aloft the foreleg of an animal, kid or lamb. This unexplained symbol seems to have originated from the Oriental word Zeroah (Deut 4:34), the foreleg, suggesting the similar sound Zerah, the seed, the offspring. The serpents also, borne as in triumph by the Bacchantes, can only be accounted for by the tradition, that He who should come should be the conqueror of the serpent (Gen 3:15).
Hercules,* or Heraclas, though the most famous of the serpent-slayers, and said to be celebrated as such in every ancient mythology, does not appear in the circle of the twelve chief gods of Greece and Rome. A constellation is named after him, but it is not in the zodiac, though his name has there been applied to one of the twins. Whether there were one, two, four, or forty-four of the name was uncertain; and he was so extensively worshipped as to be called the god of many nations. Labouring and suffering for mankind, extirpating the seven heads of the abhorred, the hydra, he did yet more: bringing back from the tomb the faithful wife of King Admetus, and his friend Theseus from Tartarus itself, he was the conqueror of death and hell. The constellations of Perseus and Andromeda set forth the prophecy so early recorded in the name of Methuselah, and transmitted in the story of Hercules freeing Hesione, the saved one, from the sea-monster figured in Cetus, who like Andromeda becomes the bride of the deliverer, to be, as Cassiopeia, enthroned in glory by the side of Cepheus, the branch, there placed on high as the crowned king. If such gleams of divine truth still pervaded the darkening atmosphere of heathenism, shall they not be joyfully recognized as illuminating the dreary retrospect of those ages of idolatrous obscurity?
* The eight Dii Select of the Romans, deities of the next order, were Saturnus, Janus, Rhea, Pluto, Bacchus, Sol, Luna, Genius. They were not referred to any of the twelve signs, nor indeed to any of the other constellations.
The Dii Minorum Gentium included almost innumerable other objects of worship. They were apparently adopted from other nations. Among them were reckoned Hercules, and Castor and Pollux, which, however, were named as the twins in Gemini. Pan also, sometimes called the greatest of the gods, was among them. Pan, from its Greek signification, was often understood as universal, the god of all; but having the horns and legs of a goat, he might have originated from the sign Capricorn: if so, the name, from its Semitic root "to turn," might refer to the winter solstice passing into that sign about 2000 years BC, when the sun turned again, began to return.
* "The author of the Hymns of Orpheus seems to identify Hercules with the sun. Porphyry, who was born in Phoenicia, assures us that the name of Hercules was given to the sun, and that the fable of the twelve labours expresses the progress of the sun through the twelve signs of the zodiac. The Scholiast of Hesiod says, 'The zodiac in which the sun performs his annual course is the career of Hercules in the fable of the twelve labours; and by his marriage with Hebe, goddess of youth, whom he espouses, after having finished his career, must be understood the renewal of the year after every revolution.'" (Dupuis, Origine des Cultes, p. 108.) G. S. Faber quotes ancient authorities to prove that Hercules was sometimes represented as contending with a serpent, whose head is under his heel. Silius Italicus describes a temple of Hercules, very ancient in his days, at Gades in Spain, in which was no image or similitude of the gods, but on its door was sculptured that labour of Hercules in which he slew the serpent Hydra.
The mythological Hercules has been considered as a personification of the sun, and his twelve labours as denoting its progress through the signs in the annual course. It seems that the fables insensibly grew out of the traditionary explanations of the starry emblems, given to the wonder-loving Greeks by the Phoenician mariners, or transmitted to them from their Phoenician or Egyptian ancestors.
From this allegorical personage, the sun-god, may have been named that hero whose descendants, the Heraclidae, have a real historical existence. As in more recent ages Odin, the successful leader of northern invasion, has been confounded with the god Odin, of Scandinavian mythology, whose name he bore. So the human hero and the deified allegory may have been interwoven in the poetic traditions of Grecian antiquity.
The story of the divine Hercules, the son of the Supreme God, who came on earth to labour, to suffer, and to die, has too many points of resemblance to the great theme of prophecy, the promised Conqueror of the serpent, not to be at once referred to primeval revelation shedding a twilight ray on the darkness which covered the Gentile earth. The sun of this world, though its glorious image was too soon desecrated by idolatry, yet in some measure connected the perversion with the truth. The sun-god Hercules preserved many of the characteristics of the Sun of righteousness who was to arise.
He was said to have contended soon after his birth with two serpents, which he strangled. His subsequent victory over the one serpent, the Lernean hydra, at once carries us back to the original promise; but for the story of two enemies at once we must seek some other source. We may find it in the constellations of Hercules kneeling on one knee, as from the wound in the heel, while his foot is over the head of Draco, and the united emblem of Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer, sometimes called also Hercules, who not only holds the serpent with which he is in conflict, but has his foot on the head of another enemy, the scorpion, from whom he seems about to receive or to have received the predicted wound in the heel. Had the emblems been taken from the fable, these two human figures would have been infantine like those of Gemini; but the fable being derived from the emblems, finding them placed soon after the commencement of the ancient year, where Virgo holds in her arms the promised infant, might refer the struggle to the beginning of the hero's career. Two serpentine emblems accompanying the human ones in the constellations may be thus accounted for: that two periods of time, the wounding and the victory of the promised Deliverer, were to be represented in one symbol.
Other achievements attributed to Hercules refer to other of the constellations beyond the zodiac; but it is always asserted that there were twelve principal ones, called by way of distinction the twelve labours, though different authorities relate different stories to make up the number. It seems, however, by all agreed that the first labour was the conquest of a lion: the summer solstice, the commencement of the ancient year, having receded from Virgo into Leo, here the sun-god naturally began his progress. Did the fable more closely follow the order of the signs, the victory over the queen of the Amazons, corresponding with the sun's passage through the sign Virgo, should come next; for Libra there seems to be taken the adjacent constellation of the centaur piercing the victim, alluded to in the slaying of the boar of Erymanthus, and the victory over the centaurs said to occur in the course of that adventure. For Scorpio* we find the hydra, by whose venom the hero afterwards died, killed by Hercules with the assistance of his friend Iolas; in which may be traced the union of the two constellations, Hercules and Ophiuchus,** belonging to this sign. In Sagittarius, with the neighbouring constellations, Aquila*** and Sagitta, the hero is destroying with his arrows the ravenous birds of the lake Stymphalis. In Capricornus the stag or goat of Diana, which Hercules pursued for a whole year, has often been recognized; to which sign the winter solstice had early receded. In Aquarius is seen the origin of the story of the cleansing of the Augean stable by turning a river through it; but as the human figure was never, among its many names, called Hercules, it is evident the sign was not invented from the story. The seizing of the horses of Diomedes, and their consecration to Jupiter by the labouring hero, appears to take the constellation of Pegasus in the place of Pisces. In Aries we find Cetus, the sea-monster from which Hesione was said to be delivered by Hercules, her name meaning "saved from affliction," as that of Andromeda, from whence the story was probably derived. Aries was said to be the ram whose golden fleece Hercules went with the Argonauts to obtain. In the belly of that sea-monster Hercules was said to have remained "three days and three nights" by Lycophron,|* who, living at the court of Ptolemy Philadelphus, had access to the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures made for that sovereign, whence he might obtain the knowledge of the typical prophecy of Jonah. From the Jewish translators he might learn its application to Him who was to come, called in the same Scriptures the Sun of righteousness, and thus being by the poet connected with the sun-god Hercules. In Taurus is seen the bull of Crete. In Gemini the branch in the hand of that twin sometimes called Hercules seems to have connected with this sign the story of that garden of the Hesperides, so remarkably preserving the tradition of Eden and the forbidden fruit, the serpent and the Conqueror. In Gemini we also trace the reason why the divine Hercules was said to have a human twin-brother, called Iphiclus. This name never having been annexed to either twin of the constellation shows that the sign did not follow, however it might originate, the fable. The acquisition of the flocks and herds of the triple-headed king Geryon|** well corresponds with the interpretation of the sign Cancer, as setting forth the purchased possession, the flock of the good Shepherd, the peculiar people of the King who shall rule in righteousness, in whose person dwelleth the whole fullness of the Godhead bodily, in whom alone is declared the glory of the triune God.
Great authorities have observed that wherever in Greek mythology there is a fable concerning a son of Jupiter, there may be traced, as its foundation, a prophecy of the Messiah (Bp. Horsely, &c.). This observation is remarkably exemplified in the stories concerning Hercules, as may be seen in those relative to the twelve labours, here shown to correspond with the symbolizations of the signs and constellations belonging to the signs. Hercules and his labours are seldom thought of, except during the study of those ancient authors still made part of modern European education. In after life few remember and fewer care what he or they might signify, but the twelve signs of the zodiac are in the memory of all. Every elementary book with but a single page devoted to astronomy contains them. Surely a great step in the promotion of Christian knowledge will be gained, if these wide-spread, almost universal symbols can be shown, when rightly interpreted, to declare the glory of God in the work of redemption; if the fables derived from them of the labouring, suffering, dying, and deified sun-god of mythology are used as testifying to their original in revelation, even as the broken reflection on the descending current to the stedfast rays of the luminaries above it.
* It is possible that the scorpion was an early corruption of the serpent, from the name of the sign, the conflict, suggesting that of the scorpion; nevertheless the scorpion is a most suitable type in this place, and is perhaps alluded to in Psalm 91.
** In the name of his twin-brother Iphiclus, Ophiuchus may be traced.
*** The ascending and falling eagle will bring to mind the type in Leviticus 14:4.
|* Aeneas Gazeus, a writer less know, also says, "Hercules is reported to have been, when shipwrecked, swallowed up by a whale (khtoV)." Much has been said as to the species of fish by which Jonah was swallowed. The Hebrew merely says gd, a fish: the original meaning of Ketos is equally general, being merely the Greek writing of Chayith, an animal, used for a marine animal in Psalm 104:25. Many of the apparent difficulties in ancient literature, as well as in the Scriptures, would in like manner be removed by adverting to the Semitic root of the word.
|** Geryon may have had the first syllable from Kir, the last of Cancer, as his dog with two heads has probably been taken from the two dogs in the preceding sign, and its name, Orthos, from the usual root hr) who cometh.
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Notes on Revelation | Judeo-Christian Research