Astrology in medieval Jewish thought (Twelfth–Fourteenth Centuries)

Shlomo Sela

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is to draw the main contours of what we may call the Hebrew astrological landscape. I briefly present the main figures and their works and point out the more general cultural tendencies within which they worked. My focus is on Jewish thought expressed in Hebrew between the twelfth and the fourteenth centuries and exclusively in the discipline of astrology, rather than the philosophical or other discussions of its implications. In the medieval period, Jewish adherents of astrology often invoked the Bible in support of their beliefs. However, there is no explicit mention of astrology in the Bible, although a few verses do refer to diviners, soothsayers, and the effects of the stars while discussing propitiatory rituals and omens of several types. Later, in the talmudic period, Jewish society accommodated Hellenistic astrology to some extent. The astrologer is known in talmudic sources as astrologos or kalday (i.e., Chaldean) and astrology as ʾiṣṭagninut or ʾastrologiyyah – all words with a Greek origin. The discussions related to astrology in the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, which bear on the relationship among the stars, human fate, and religious belief, also depend on astrological doctrines of Greek or Babylonian origin. From the transitional period between Classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages, we have two Hebrew texts in which astrological themes loom large – the Baraita de-Šemuʾel and the Baraita de-Mazzalot – both of which draw on Hellenistic astrology and use Greek terminology. Significant astrological contents are also included in two Hebrew works by Shabbetai Donnolo (913–ca. 982): Sefer Ḥaḵmoni and Sefer ha-Mazzalot.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScience in Medieval Jewish Cultures
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages292-300
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9780511976575
ISBN (Print)9781107001459
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2011.

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