Q. In Matthew, Chapter 2, weren't the Magi who came to see Jesus astrologers? Does this mean astrology is okay? What was the star of Bethlehem?
The Magi were probably a Persian caste of wise men who were experts in mathematics, interpreting dreams, and the study of the stars. They were advisers to kings and rulers. Astronomy, which is the scientific study of the stars (and planets, though they were not called planets then), and astrology, which is the occult interpretation of the position and movement of the stars (and planets), were one and the same at that time. The physical study of the stars, astronomy, had not been defined or developed and was combined with astrology, a divinatory art. Therefore, the Magi were probably practicing a mixture of astronomy and astrology.
The passage does not give much information on the star that was seen by the Magi. Contemporary astronomers have tried to figure out if there was a particular astronomical event in the time period when it is believed Jesus was born that would account for an unusual or bright configuration, but so far nothing satisfactory has been proposed although some books have been written on it. Verse 9 of Matthew, chapter 2, states that the star "rested" or "stood" over the house where Jesus was. This does not indicate the normal behavior of a natural star or planet since no heavenly body that far away could actually stand over a specific area as small as a house. Some Bible scholars believe that the star was an unusually bright light, the Shekinah, -- the light of the glory of God -- the same light that was the pillar of fire for the Israelites in the desert and the fire seen by Moses in the burning bush. Why did the Magi believe this was a star? We are not told. Perhaps the light appeared as an unusual star to them just as God's presence appeared as a pillar of fire in the wilderness. It is also possible that the star was a supernatural star created by God that He used to lead the Magi eventually to Christ.
The Magi went to Jerusalem, which is where a Jewish King would be reigning. They asked Herod, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?" Herod's chief priests and scribes indicated that the Jewish prophecy foretold the birth of a Ruler in Bethlehem. The Magi left for Bethlehem, and the text then says, "the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was." The star was apparently only for the Magi and led them directly to Christ after Herod was told of their mission. This was obviously a supernatural episode, involving a supernatural star or light.
In the context of passages before and after this, we see more supernatural events surrounding the birth of Jesus. The passage before the Magi story (Matthew chapter one, verses 18-25) tells about Mary's conception by the Holy Spirit, and God's angel visiting Joseph in a dream to confirm to him that Mary will give birth to Jesus, who "will save his people from their sins," (chapter 1, verse 21). In the passage following the Magi's visit to Jesus (chapter 2, verses 12-15), an angel warns the Magi in a dream not to return to Herod, and an angel again appears in Joseph's dream, warning him of Herod's plan to slay "the child" and telling him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt. Thus, the account of the Magi and the unusual star rests solidly between accounts of other supernatural events, showing God's hand in the birth of Jesus.
Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 9) and Bar-Jesus (Acts 13) were magicians, men who used powers and/or trickery to entertain and impress. The word "magician" is from "Magi" but the meaning is used more for the practice of occult arts for the display of power or for entertainment. There is no indication that astrology was used to find Jesus, although the Magi undoubtedly practiced the kind of astrology used then to counsel rulers. The Magi, who were royal advisers from a pagan culture, were the first people recorded to worship Jesus (verse 11).
Since God clearly condemns occult divination (astrology is a divinatory tool) in passages such as Deut. 18:10-12, and He condemns astrology in passages like Isaiah 47, there is no question that the use of astrology is always against God. God's use of the Magi does not endorse astrology.
Q. What about Genesis 1:14, where God says the lights will be as signs? Isn't this talking about astrological signs?
A. The word translated as "signs" in Genesis has nothing to do with the word used for astrological signs. The passage is talking about the creation of sun, moon, and stars as markers for time: "Let there be the lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for season, and for days and years." This passage, in both the NIV and New Living Translation, states that the lights will be signs "to mark off the seasons, days, and years." The word 'signs' is the Hebrew word 'Owth' which can mean mark, token, pledge, standard, symbol, miraculous sign, and proof. In Gen. 1:14, it has been historically interpreted as meaning to 'mark time.' If one wants to use the word 'signs' as meaning a miraculous sign, look at the sun being darkened as one of the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 10:21-23; Jeremiah 32: 7, 8 refers to this). There are also the passages predicting that in the day of the Lord, or the return of Christ, the sun will be darkened, the moon will turn into blood, and the stars will fall (Isaiah 13:10, 34:4; Joel 2:10, 31, 3:15; Amos 5:20; 8:9 Matthew 24:29; Acts 2:20 [which quotes Joel]; Rev. 6:12, 13).
Since God clearly condemns divination (in Deut. 18:10-12 among many other passages) and astrology is a form of divination, and since God condemns astrology and other occult practices in Isaiah 47, it is evident that God is not giving humanity astrological signs in Genesis 1:14. To try to read that meaning into it would be to torture the text and strip it of any reasonable interpretation, especially in context. All scripture is interpreted in context of the passage, the book, and the whole Bible.
Q. What about the Gospel in the Stars that claims the gospel is given in the zodiac signs of Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc.?
A. It should seem odd that the theory of Gospel in the Stars (GIS), first expounded in the 1800's, would be something missed by orthodox, Biblical Christianity for almost 2,000 years. The reason is simply that there is no Biblical evidence for God giving the gospel through the astrological zodiac signs and, therefore, the Church did not have this teaching. There are other good reasons as well to reject GIS. First, the names of the zodiac are not universal. The names used in Western Astrology (which come from the Greeks and Romans) have not been used in all other systems. Chinese astrology and Native American astrology, for example, not only do not use the same terms, but have completely different systems of astrology. Secondly, the general revelation in nature does not give the gospel. General revelation reveals the existence of a Creator (Romans 1:18ff), but the gospel is given in special revelation through Jesus Christ and God's word. The gospel is termed by God as a "secret" or a "mystery" before the coming of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3: 8-12; 6:19; and Colossians 4:3) which means that it was not known specifically before the incarnation of Jesus.
There is erroneous data in some of the original information that the GIS is based on, and Biblical passages used for GIS are taken out of context and meaning is read into them. The fact that the Bible names constellations does not indicate there is a meaning in them. When Psalms 147:4 (a passage used to "prove" GIS) says that God counts the stars and calls them by name, it just means God knows all the stars since He created them! This is a praise of God as Creator of the seemingly endless array of stars in space. There are too many for us to count (or even see) yet God knows each one of them!
To read some articles about Gospel in the Stars, see
Book review of Perpetuated in Righteousness by Daniel Kilawa (a GIS proponent) http://www.letusreason.org/current4%20.htm
Overview of the GIS Theory from the Christian Research Institute
"Gospel in the Stars? Astrology or Occultism?" http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/astrol.htm
"Is there A Gospel In the Stars?" by Danny Faulkner http://www.ldolphin.org/zodiac/faulkner.html
Q. If Daniel was made chief of the astrologers and wise men, doesn't that mean he studied astrology and other occult subjects?
If one reads the first chapter of Daniel carefully, it does not indicate that Daniel studied occultism. After Daniel and his companions refused to eat the King's food because it violated Jewish law (verse 8), they were secluded for 10 days and consumed only water and vegetables, after which they were examined. They were found to be healthier than the men who had eaten at the King's table, and were allowed to continue their diet (verse 15). In verse 17, it says that God gave Daniel and his friends "knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams." Note the word "all" used there. When the king interviewed them, they were found to be wiser than the wise men, and appointed to the King's service. If they were given wisdom and understanding by God, why would they need knowledge of the occult, something God explicitly condemns? And if God gave them "wisdom," one must assume that God would not consider anything he forbids as wisdom. Would God just make Daniel better at the occult than the other wise men? Of course not. God gave them abilities far beyond those of the court's wise men because He gave them wisdom and understanding that came from God. When Daniel interpreted the king's first dream, he did so by God-given ability and wisdom after praying for help, not from occult divination (Chapter 2, verses 17-19, and 30). Furthermore, if Daniel and his companions refused to violate God's law concerning food, and were willing to possibly risk their lives on this or the life of the king's chief official (see verse 9), why would they give in to a study of astrology or other occult arts? There is no indication in the text that Daniel ever used the occult arts to give advice to or interpret for the king. In fact, all indications from the text are the opposite: Daniel used only wisdom and abilities given him by God. Only God could get someone who had no occult knowledge to be head of all the wise men! It shows God's power and wisdom outshines what was supposed to be the best knowledge and wisdom at that time in that culture.