Thursday, February 26, 2009

Finding Astrology in Romans 8

Romans 8: 38-39
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other creatures will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

While doing some digging around for Roman Catholic interpretations of these verses, I checked the footnotes of The New Catholic Answer Study Bible. Of course, if the magisterium would actually provide an infallible interpretation, it would save me a lot of time, and it would be a lot more accurate with what Rome actually says theses verses mean. But till then, I'm going to have to rely on the private interpretations of Rome's defenders.

Here were the commentary notes from page 1219 of the NCAB

8:38 Present things and future things may refer to astrological data. Paul appears to be saying that the gospel liberates believers from dependence on astrologers.

8:39 Height, depth may refer to positions in the zodiac, positions of heavenly bodies relative to the horizon. In astrological documents the term for "height" means "exaltation" or the position of greatest influence exerted by a planet. Since hostile spirits were associated with the planets and stars, Paul includes powers (38) in his list of malevolent forces.

Contrarily, Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology states,

There could possibly be a reference to the worship of angelic beings in some of Paul's writings, notably in Galatians 4:3 and Colossians 2:15, 20, where the veneration of celestial bodies, particularly among Colossian Christians, was being condemned. Less probably is the speculation that the depth (Gk. bathos [bavqo"]) and height (Gk. hypsoma [u&ywma]) as in Romans 8:39 can be interpreted astrologically. If anything, they are astronomical terms intended to denote space in relation to the earth. It would thus appear that the New Testament contains no explicit statements that would support the practice of astrology. [source]

Now, what concerns me is not the difference in opinion between the NCAB and Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Rather, I've been told recently that "Tradition" includes the way the Roman Catholic Church has interpreted a text. I would be interested in knowing if any Early Church Father supports the interpretation of the NCAB. If not, then why didn't the NCAB include the "consensus" as to what these verses mean? I skimmed through my Ancient Christian Commentary on Romans (vol. VI), and didn't see anything about astrology. Wouldn't it be more "Catholic" to actually tell us what Tradition says these verses mean?


Lvka said...

Well, Romans 8:38 does mention the angels, which were called in the Scriptures the hosts of heaven. (That's why we see no explicit mention of their creation in the first chapter of Genesis). This expression (heavenly hosts) has a two-fold poly-semantism, meaning both angels, as well as stars. The Jews, unlike the pagans, did not believe the two to be the same, but they did believe that the former guided the later in their orbit through the sky. There is for instance the parallelism between the seven branches of the Menorah, the seven planets of Antiquity, and the seven holy Arch-Angels. Such Angelic imagery filled the Meeting-Tent and the two Temples, but, again, unlike in paganism, they were not worshipped.

Matthew Bellisario said...

For one thing the text has to be read in context with the text before and after it. That is why the Catholic Church doesn't come out and define each verse for you. That is why you and others continue to misinterpret the Sacred Scriptures because you pluck out one verse and dissect it like you are examining a science project, rather than reading and digesting the living Holy Writ.

Maybe it illustrates that no one can be separated from God against their own will? Just a thought, I am not speaking infallibly here..(chuckle, chuckle) Saint Chrysostom said on this text among other things, (like the obedience of deeds and good works of charity), the following about God's love for us. "And what he means is nearly this, even if there were any other creation as great as the visible, and as great as the intelligible, none of them could part me from that love."

Also just because a Bible has the words Catholic stamped on it doesn't mean much. Any publisher can print off commentaries and their own opinions in it as far I know. Always check your sources people...

Ben Douglass said...

"But [the Catholic exegete] must not on that account consider that it is forbidden, when just cause exists, to push inquiry and exposition beyond what the Fathers have done; provided he carefully observes the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augustine-not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires; a rule to which it is the more necessary to adhere strictly in these times, when the thirst for novelty and unrestrained freedom of thought make the danger of error most real and proximate." (Providentissimus Deus, 15).