Christ’s nativity: a solution

July 27, 2008 | 23 comments
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From Steven Vanden Broecke, The Limits of Influence: Pico, Louvain, and the Crisis of Renaissance Astrology (Brill: Leiden/Boston, 2003), p. 48 n. 87:

In his Elucidarium, d’Ailly had mentioned two opinions on Christ’s natal chart. One, reported by Albertus Magnus, stated that Christ was born with Virgo [in 8 degrees] in the ascendent, while the other preferred Libra [in 2 degrees]. Both charts agreed in having the moon in Taurus [in 4 degrees]. Afinius applied an astrological technique to rectify natal charts to these data, in order to determine the time between birth and conception. Although Joannes Angelus’ (d. 1512) Astrolabium planum contained the most common late medieval tools to do this, Afinius preferred to rely on the slightly different values of Leopold of Austria (fl. 1280) and Antonius de Montulmo’s (fl. 1390). This established that Christ was conceived on 6 April according to the first natal chart, and on 8 April in the second case.

Clearly, we have overlooked the potential of late medieval astrology to solve Mormon controversies for too long. What other questions might be resolved this way? I’m considering rearranging home teaching arrangements in my quorum according to sign of the Zodiac, although I wouldn’t tell people that until after we move.

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23 Responses to Christ’s nativity: a solution

  1. Adam Greenwood on July 27, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Or to create Mormon controversies. I’m expecting the better half of the Bloggernacle will join me in becoming a partisan for April 8th.

    Sixers are sinners, eighters are great!

    Anyway, its an odd coincidence. It reminds me of that odd guy over at meridian magazine who’s always talking about the zodiacal symbolism of ancient prophecy. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was something it it, as uncomfortable as it makes me.

  2. Ardis Parshall on July 27, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Well, we’ve never quite pinned down the date of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood — what do Leo and Aquarius have to say about that?

  3. Patricia Karamesines on July 27, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    “Sixers are sinners, eighters are greatER.”

    Unlike you, Adam, to miss an opportunity for form.

  4. queuno on July 27, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    This established that Christ was conceived on 6 April according to the first natal chart, and on 8 April in the second case.

    Conceived? Or born? If the former, then we’re waaaaaay off.

  5. Neal Davis on July 27, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    If we went back to a three-day General Conference, then some years we could celebrate both 06 April and 08 April with that most Mormon of phenomena–a meeting!

  6. Kevin Barney on July 27, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    For a different argument that Jesus was conceived on April 6, see here:

    http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2006/12/april-sixth-and-the-conception-of-jesus/

  7. Jonathan Green on July 27, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    If life begins at immaculate conception, then celebrating April 6 would work equally well by either theory, right?

    Ardis, a competent astrologer would not have had a hard time identifying what date was most propitious for restoring the priesthood, as the advent of a new prophet, ecclesiastical authority, and the sphere of higher ruling things are all part of the standard repertoire. There’s a reasonable chance that some edition somewhere makes a plausible-sounding prediction for 1829, if you cross your eyes and translate it loosely. Of course, if we moved Joseph Smith’s birthday back a few years, it coincides with one of the predicted advents of the Antichrist, which wouldn’t do at all. (Some people moved Luther’s birth date around for similar reasons, actually.)

  8. Jonathan Green on July 27, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    Kevin, if ancient rabbinic sources and medieval astrology agree, that should settle the issue once and for all, don’t you think? Should I start spreading the word in testimony meeting, or wait until I’m asked to give a talk about food storage?

  9. Adam Greenwood on July 27, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    PGK,
    being *greater* than a sixer is a pretty low bar. Eighters are great, period.

    Also the chant sounds better if it ends on a masculine stress–SIXers are SINners and EIGHTers are GREAT

  10. Patricia Karamesines on July 27, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    “being *greater* than a sixer is a pretty low bar. Eighters are great, period”

    Eighters are only two greater than sixers. But you’re limited here by the astrology.

    “Also the chant sounds better if it ends on a masculine stress.”

    Haha! Masculine stress always sounds better to men than it does to women.

  11. Ivan Wolfe on July 28, 2008 at 1:28 am

    But nines are sublime, I tell you.

  12. Ivan Wolfe on July 28, 2008 at 1:30 am

    I’m considering rearranging home teaching arrangements in my quorum according to sign of the Zodiac, although I wouldn’t tell people that until after we move.

    Makes about as much sense as several methods for determining routes that I’ve seen. As and Aquarius married to a Taurus, though, I think that chart would have problems determining who would teach us. Not that I’m any sort of expert.

  13. meems on July 28, 2008 at 2:17 am

    April 8 is Buddha’s birthday.

  14. Velska on July 28, 2008 at 4:49 am

    By now I’m sorry I started reading this. I thought that, for example, in Daniel, the astrologers were totally discredited?

    On the other hand, I have a book called Oedipus Judaicus, which deals, among other things, the influence of oriental astrology on Jewish traditions and writings. I wonder that would better help us understand the prophets of Old Testament?

    Other than that, I respectfully submit that astrology, along with numerology, is just so much hogwash.

  15. Jonathan Green on July 28, 2008 at 5:11 am

    Spoken like a true Aries, Velska. I suspect your humors are out of balance. Have you tried applying leeches?

    Hmm, leeches. Has anyone ever brought them up in a fireside on natural healing methods?

  16. Ray on July 28, 2008 at 10:19 am

    I’m speechless. That’s quite an accomplishment, Jonathan.

  17. Mark B. on July 28, 2008 at 11:49 am

    While the mysteries of Catholicism used to be hidden from the world, the advent of Google has broken down the walls, and there frankly is no, I repeat NO, excuse for the regular mistakes in referring to the immaculate conception.

    And, no, for you Steelers fans, it was not the idea that formed somewhere in the great Steeler oversoul just before the Immaculate Reception.

    The Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception has nothing to do with the conception of Christ, but everything to do with the conception of Mary. Because her conception was immaculate (don’t ask me–I don’t know the details), Mary was born free of original sin and was therefore a pure vessel to be the mother of the Lord.

  18. Julie M. Smith on July 28, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Jonathan, I dunno, but you can buy them online:

    http://www.leeches.biz/

  19. William Morris on July 28, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    One of the Romanian missionaries had an electronic calendar (this was back in 1993 — pre-PDA). I think it was even a Franklin one. We discovered that it could go back to 0 A.D. We also discovered that in the year the church was established and the year of Christ’s birth, April 6 fell on the same day of the week. I believe it was a Thursday. We then moved the calendar forward from 1993 and found the next time April 6 fell on a Thursday and decreed that that was would be the exact date of the Second Coming. That day and date has since passed. My testimony of FranklinCovey has been shaken by the experience.

    I’m also no longer a sixer.

    Sixers are sinners; eighters are sainted!

  20. larryco_ on July 28, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Surely the Lord will do nothing but he revealeth his secrets unto his servants the astrologers.

  21. Jonathan Green on July 29, 2008 at 1:54 am

    larryco_, you may mock (actually, you should mock), but some late medieval astrologers do cite Amos.

  22. Raymond Takashi Swenson on July 29, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    According to Church History in the Fulness of Times, on the lds.org web page, “Peter Whitmer, Sr., offered the use of his home for the organization meeting
    that was scheduled for Tuesday, 6 April, according to the revelation.”

    We in the West place more significance on individual birthdays than some other cultures. Traditionally in Japan everyone’s “birthday” was January 20, and everyone was considered “one year old” in the year of birth and “two years old” in the following year and so on. Japanese cities still celebrate Adulthood Day on January 20, with a civic meeting akin to a graduation ceremony for the new 20 year olds. My mother was born in December, so she was only one month old when she became officially 2 on January 20, so her dad recorded her birthday as being on January 20 instead. And that is the birthday we send her cards on.

    I’ve read non-Mormon literature that speculates that the actual season of Jesus’ birth was in the Spring, which could place the pilgrimage to Bethlehem into the context of the Passover feast.

    I have been inclined to think that, since the most significant and consequential event of Christ’s life on earth was his death and resurrection, and not his birth, if we were going to assume that God would use some rounded number of years to pick the date of the Second Coming, it should be from his death and resurrection, meaning that, taking into account the fact that to be born before Herod the Great died, he would have to be born circa 4 BC, and if his death was “in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month” (in the Nephite calendar counting from the sign of Christ’s birth), that gives us about (what we now call) 30 AD for the resurrection, so that 2000 years would put us in 2030 AD. So if we are going to worry about specific dates for the Second Coming, we should be preparing for Y2.030K. In other words, the special effects for the Church’s Bicentennial could be pretty spectacular.

    David Bednar is young enough to be the senior apostle on earth by then. The Church may have reached 25 to 30 million members, comparable to the current population of California. As developing nations grow their economies, the members worldwide may have the capacity to devote enormous resources to Church projects. At some point, a major difference in quantity becomes a qualitative difference.

    There could be, for example, a BYU-Sao Paolo and a BYU-Mexico City. The capacity for real-time computer translation (especially within the vocabulary of specific subject matters) could create internet-based virtual classrooms with students speaking different languages but hearing the discussion in their own tongue, extending the expertise of Mormon scholars world-wide to a world-wide student body. And not all the instructors would be speaking English.

  23. Marianne on July 31, 2008 at 12:41 am

    AWESOME! I think I’m going to suggest this at our next Enrichment committee planning meeting as an excellent mini-class: “medieval astrology and the scriptures”. If it goes well maybe it can become one of the ongoing groups, although I’m sure there will be those who will complain that it conflicts with scrapbooking and book club. But, honestly, it would be so much more fun to calculate and compare star charts than discuss “Tuesdays with Morrie” or some other very unobjectionable book?

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