The Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus/Appendix
In the course of the work we have many times drawn attention to the remarkable details which Psalm xxii supplies in connection with the crucifixion of Jesus. The psalm is one of those that have presented very great difficulties to interpreters. It is obvious that it deals with the lament of one who is in dire straits. Hitzig connects the psalm with Jeremiah xxxvii, 11-21, and the story narrated there of the captivity of the prophet. According to Olshausen the situation it describes fits best with the Maccabaean period, and it pictures the prayers and plaints of the sufferers according to the experience of the poet and the other faithful. More recent scholars despair of determining the age, and would see in the words of the psalm only the general sufferings and laments of the great mass of the despised and maltreated “pious or quiet of the land.”
Whatever one may think, the enumeration of the animals that surround the sufferer is in any case striking and curious. The composition and peculiar choice of surroundings for the ill-treated, and the minute description of his sufferings and the threats made to him, suggest that we have here a very unusual case. The original Hebrew text seems to say nothing of fetters on the sufferer. In verse 14, however, it is said: “All my bones are out of joint”; and verse 16 is translated in the Septuagint: “They pierced my hands and my feet”; and the early Christians, who applied the psalm to their saviour, had in mind a crucifixion, and, like Justin and Tertullian, saw in the “horns of the unicorns [wild oxen]” (verse 21) the arms of the martyr's stake.
If we now glance at the globe of the heavens, at the spot where Orion is found, we see at once that all the details of the psalm agree and are intelligible, if an astral interpretation is put on it.
On the “world-tree,” the Milky Way, which plays the part of a tree elsewhere in the astral myth, hangs Orion with arms and legs outstretched in the form of a cross. Above his head he is threatened by the Bull with gaping jaws, the Hyades, which are in the corner on his left; we may also recall the lion's jaws in the constellation Leo, which is distant ninety degrees from the Hyades, and is therefore astrally related to them. Behind Orion are the “wild oxen,” the herd of re'ems, which on the celestial globe take the form of the Unicorn, which seems about to pierce the hanging figure with its horn. In harmony with this are the words of the psalm: “Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round” (verse 12).
“I am poured out like water,” says the sufferer. Does not the river Eridanus flow beneath the feet of Orion? It seems to flow from his raised left foot; and the Milky Way also may be taken as water. See also Psalm lxix, 2 and 15.
“Dogs have compassed me” (Sirius and Procyon).
“The assembly of the wicked have inclosed me”—the Bulls, the Dogs, the Hare, the Heavenly Twins, who are described as “wicked” (criminals, robbers) in the astral myth. (Cf. Gen. xlix, where they are related to the twins Simeon and Levi and are called “bull-slayers,” because they drive the Zodiacal bull before them and push him out of the heavens.)
“Like the lion are my hands and feet,” the original Hebrew text of verse 16 continues. The phrase has hitherto eluded explanation. It may mean that the “wicked” surround the hands and feet of the sufferer in the fashion of the lion (sicut leo), as is usually understood by interpreters. But the words may possibly contain a cryptic reference to the constellation Leo: whether because the chief stars of that constellation are distributed as in Orion, and represent a lying Orion, or because of the astral relation of Orion to the Lion which we have previously mentioned, or with reference to the lion's-skin which Orion carries on his left arm and which recalls the lion's-skin of Hercules. The Septuagint substituted the words: “They pierced my hands and my feet.” Now the hand of Orion which carries the lion's skin goes with the arrow of one of the Twins (Castor), piercing the hand; and in the period of Taurus the constellation of the Arrow is in opposition to the arrow of Castor, the arrow rising in the east when the former sets in the west.
The sword in verse 20 is the sword of Orion, which is drawn up against his body. The dogs are Sirius and Procyon once more. The lion's mouth (verse 21) refers again to the Hyades or to the constellation Leo, which seems to be coming on from a distance, while the “wild oxen” indicate the herd of re'ems.
We may even go further, and explain other details of the psalm with reference to its fundamentally astral character. Thus, when we read in verse 17, “I may tell all my bones,” we recall that no other constellation shows as plainly as Orion, on account of the number and distribution of its stars, the shape of a human being with extended limbs. At the same time the shape may be regarded as a cup, with the three stars of the belt as dice in it. In this sense we may read verse 18: “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” The vesture of Orion is the heavens, which are often conceived as a starry mantle,” and seem to be divided among the various constellations. Or we may take the Milky Way as his garment, the “seamless robe,” because it runs continuously across the sky, which is divided at the Twins into two halves by the passage of the sun.
We are now in a position to understand the real meaning of the psalm. The constellation Orion is in astral mythology an astral representative both of the sun and the moon. In it their fate is symbolised or vicariously represented. Orion, says Fuhrmann, has many names in astral mythology. Like the moon, he is the “many-shaped” (Proteus), giving to all the gods their particular harmonic form, and astrology sees the most diverse forms of the myth in the constellation Orion. Thus we have already recognised in it John the Baptist at the Jordan, about whom the “people” gather (p. 192), and the water-wheel (p. 211). It is Noah coming with his animals out of the ark (Argo), and stretching his hands gratefully to heaven, while the Milky Way (rainbow) arches over the earth as a sign of the new covenant (year). It is Phaeton sinking with uplifted arms in the waters of Eridanus, the Hyades and Pleiades hastening in flight at his fall, and lamenting his death, while his “chariot” runs, wheelless and uncontrolled, round the pole of the heavens. It is Jason landing in Colchis with the Argo, fighting the bronze oxen of Ætes and hurrying after the Earn (“golden fleece”=the sun at the vernal point). It is Prometheus fastened cross-wise to the rocks. It is also Mithra fighting the Bull, which the Scorpion makes harmless by biting its organs of generation, as the Bull disappears when the sun enters the sign of the Scorpion.
In these cases there is question of the sun and the moon when they are distressed and need help; that is to say, of the lowest altitude of the sun during the year, or of the moon before its temporary disappearance.
The sun is far away; it is in the winter half of the ecliptic. Orion seems to cry for help with raised arms: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man.” Orion, the most human-looking of all the constellations, is the sun, which in the winter-time, pale and despised, creeps over the earth like a worm. “A reproach of men and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” Thus also it is said of the scoffing “wicked”: “They gaze on me, and show their pleasure in me.” In point of fact, they look down on Orion from the higher point of the ecliptic.
Why should not the Twins at the highest point of the ecliptic “mock” the sun, as it moves heavy and dull on the lowest stretch of its annual path? Compare also Psalm lxix, 7-16. Now it crosses the equator, and rises higher and higher. The situation changes. God has heard the cry of the abandoned. The better season begins: “The meek shall eat and be satisfied.” In fervent strains of praise the delivered sings, amid the chorus of stars (“in the great congregation”), the grace of the Lord. Jahveh resumes the lordship of the world, and all peoples gladly praise his name.
Thus the interaction of earth and heaven, man and God, which was so familiar to the whole of antiquity, is reflected in the heavens, both the enchained and enfeebled sun (moon) and Orion corresponding to “the son of man,” who cries for help against the dangers of the winter that threaten him. From this point of view the twenty- second psalm may, as I pointed out in The Christ Myth, be a song of the cult to the suffering and rising son-god—Gressman sees a similar song in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah—whether the movements described are taken to be purely celestial or whether they had an earthly counterpart in a corresponding cult-action after the manner of the festivals of Attis, Tammuz, Adonis, Osiris, etc. If we substitute for the “crucified” Orion of the twenty-second psalm the two other important celestial crosses the vernal cross with the Earn (Lamb) and the autumnal cross with the Cup (skull) below it, the Virgin, Berenice's Hair (megaddela=Mary Magdalene), etc.—we have all the astral elements of what Niemojewski calls the “astral via dolorosa” (p. 413). May we suppose, in fine, that Orion itself plays the part of the crucified Saviour? In that case the (weeping) women at the cross are represented by the Pleiades (the “rainsisters”), one of which bears the name of Maja (Maria). The Pleiades also are hair-dressers (megaddela), as they are represented in medieval manuscripts on the basis of an old tradition, and they culminate when Berenice's Hair rises above the eastern horizon. Electra is supposed to be the centre of the Pleiades. She is the mother of Jasios (Jesus), and is represented as a mourner with a cloth over her head, just in the same way as the Christian Mary. But as Jasios was also regarded, according to another genealogy, as the son of Maja, the mourning Pleiad may also stand for her. As is known, the mother of Jesus also is a dove (peleids, Pleiad) in the early Christian conception.
According to Niemojewski, the cup (gulguleth= skull) represents the heavenly Golgotha. But we may refer it to the skull of the Bull and the head of Medusa, and regard “the place of skulls” as the region of the heavens where Orion is found. On this supposition the two evil-doers are recognised in the Twins, which wehave already ascertained to be the astral criminals. Castor is regarded as evil on account of his relation to winter, and Pollux good on account of his relation to summer. Niemojewski sees the two evil-doers in the Dogs (Sirius and Procyon). The difference is not great, as the Dogs culminate at the same time as the Twins, and may therefore be substituted for them.
Here we have firm ground on which to establish the originally astral and mythical character of the remainder of the story of Jesus, and we seem to have a very strong proof that there was a cult of “the crucified” before the time of Jesus, and that the nucleus of the figure of Jesus is in reality purely astral.
All the oriental religions, including Judaism, are essentially astral religions. We have previously (p. 223) shown that Revelation is a Jewish-Gnostic work, the Jesus of which is more primitive than the Jesus of the gospels. But Revelation is entirely and certainly of an astral character. It is a further proof that Christianity is no exception to the rule.
- Die Psalmen (1836), p. 60.
- Die Psalmen (1853), p. 121.
- Also Job xxxviii, 31. Orion is represented as a giant fastened to the heavens with chains. (Cf. Jeremias, Das Alte Testament im Lichte des alien Orients, 560.)
- The Septuagint translates re'ems as monokeros, and this is translated “unicorn” in the German [and English] versions; in point of fact, our celestial globes have, instead of the “wild oxen,” the constellation of the “Unicorn,” the remarkable beast of which Ktesias (about 400 B.C.) writes. This must, as Eberhard Schrader has shown, be due to a misunderstanding, the Greek writer having mistaken the figure of a buffalo with one horn on the forehead in the ruins of Persepolis for a peculiar animal, whereas the one horn is really due to the inability of the artists of that people to draw with perspective. See details in P. Delitsch's second lecture on Babel and Bible (1904). In view of the astral significance of the psalm, Luther was right in inserting “unicorn,” and the real meaning of the passage is lost when people learned in philology insist that the “unicorn” was really a buffalo.
- Compare the identity of Orion with the sun and moon-god Osiris among the Egyptians. Boll, Sphaera, 1903, p. 164.
- It has also been pointed out that the Milky Way, in which Orion is, stretches like a worm across the sky when Orion sets in the beginning of winter. In the Babylonian myth the Milky Way was a worm (Tiâmat), which the sun (Marduk) split into two halves.
- The Twins are the little boys who in 2 Kings ii, 23, scoffed at Elisha, when he had divided the “Jordan” with the “mantle” of Elijah, crossed it dry-shod, reached the “city of the moon,” Jericho, at the “source of the waters” (watery region of winter, the vessel of Aquarius), and is now rising again. They cry to him: “Go up, thou bald head,” because the sun has lost its hair at the lowest part of its path (Samson and Hercules, see p. 165). In this connection also we must take the “fifty men” who sought the vanished Elijah (Helios) in vain for three days (months), and the “miscarriage” that is supposed to cause the water of the city. The men refer to the weeks of the year (compare the fifty sons of Danaus, the waterman), and the latter to the sterile season which is ended by the sun.
- It is admitted that verse 21 (“They gave me gall for my meat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink”) has been taken literally from the psalm and applied to the crucifixion of Jesus, like the second verse of the twenty-second psalm. In view of the affinity of the psalms this is a fresh proof that the sentence, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” is not historical. (See also lxix, 9.)
- I would ask the reader not to pass judgment on all this until he has studied the constellations. There are too many who shrug their shoulders at astral mythology and never glance at the heavens or have the least idea about the corresponding speculations of the ancients.
- Boll, Spaera, p. 380. Compare the drawing in Thiele's Antike Himmelsbilder (1898), p. 112.