A New Sky

A New Sky January 22, 2016

In the ancient world, Aries was, Bruce Malina observes, “the first of all constellations, the first created celestial body marking the inauguration of the cosmos” (The New Jerusalem in the Revelation of John, 67).

He cites Cicero in support: “When the vault of the sky returns to the position it had at the time of creation, it will be with Aries at the point of preeminence, the head of the cosmos. And such a return to beginnings was expected. For people commonly measure the year by the circuit of the sun, that is, of a single star alone; and when all the stars return to the place from which they at first set forth, and, at long intervals, restore the original configuration of the whole heaven, then that can truly be called a revolving year.” This revolving year, Malina says, “refers to the so-called Great Year,” which Greeks believed to be equivalent to 36,000 solar years. At the beginning of a new great year, “events in the entire cosmos as well as on earth repeat themselves down to the minutest detail” (68-69).

On these premises, the cosmic Lamb can bring “a new order with a new sky and a new land [a] new beginning [that] does away with everything that preceded it.” Sins forgiven, the past wiped away: If that’s what you want done, you need Aries (69). This, Malina says, is what would be in the minds of astronomically astute hearers and readers of Revelation, the prophets to whom John sent his book.

In Revelation, Aries/the Lamb accomplishes this renewal in a wedding feast. That too has its astronomical connection, the “wedding of the gods.” As Malina explains it, the wedding of the Lamb and the celestial city is about to take place an d”portends the transformation of creation into a new sky and a new land. How and why? The fact is that the very mention of the wedding of the Lamb with its celestial bride would clue the astute astral reader to the advent of the new sky and the new land. Non-constellational weddings are quite common in the sky, since stars, like planets, have their conjunctions. ‘Conjunction’ . . . is the technical name of the overlapping or union of celestial bodies; it is equally a term for marital union, a ‘wedding. . . . a celestial conjunction of the cosmic Lamb and the celestial city would be labeled a wedding.” Since the city descends from heaven, the renewed sky comes to earth. The fact that this renewal is about to take place “is signaled by the presence of the Lamb at the proper celestial location: the conjunction of the Lamb and the opening in the vault in the sky leading to the other side” (74).

John’s visions are consistent with the astronomical lore of his world. Thus does the gospel fulfill the hopes and aspirations of Gentile astrologer as well as Jewish scribe.

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