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Ancient Jewish Views on Astrology

Ancient Jewish Views on Astrology

Episode 310 features an interview with Dr. Justin Sledge about ancient Jewish views on astrology, and the complicated relationship between astrology and early Judaism.

Our starting point is the geographical location of the Jewish people being situated between Mesopotamia and Egypt, which were two cultures that had very old traditions of astrology dating back to 2000 BCE.

We then talk about the role that monotheism played in creating some tensions with early forms of astrology, which were often practiced in a polytheistic context.

Later we get into some positive views on astrology held by Jews during the time of the Roman Empire, including the Essenes at Qumran, and a text on Lots and zodiacal releasing attributed to Abraham that was drawn on by Vettius Valens and Firmicus Maternus.

We also discuss some of the early zodiac mosaics that feature prominently in synagogues in the first seven centuries CE.

Eventually we touch on some of the earliest Jewish astrologers who are known by name and who made major contributions to astrology, such as Masha’allah and Abraham ibn Ezra.

Justin is a professor of philosophy and religion who focuses on the western esoteric tradition, and the host of the Esoterica Youtube channel:


This episode is available in both audio and video versions below.

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A full transcript of this episode is available: Episode 310 transcript

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  • I don’t know if this comes up later (I’m not too far into this) but I believe the attribution of astrology to Abraham comes vis a vis the ancient Kabbalistic Work – Sepher Yetzirah (the Book of Creation). That book is attributed to Abraham by the Jewish mystics and in it there are references to astrology.

  • Chris and Justin, really enjoyed this interview. Fascinated by the secret origins of Yahweh. In followup I discovered He has a comprehensive Wikipedia site for those of us who know and fear him and want to know his real ancient identity. Best was the information on overlapping calendars. And I will never hear the classic Hebrew well wishing exclamation the same way again. Seems Mazel Tov is closer to what we say in the south: Let the good times roll.!