WorldNetDaily Resurrects Bullinger’s Bull

WorldNetDaily has another crackpot end-of-the-world theory to promote:

A Christian minister who uses NASA tracking of solar and lunar eclipses in his teaching of the great event is now explaining how at least one constellation is an outright declaration of the “Second Coming.”

…In his videotaped lectures, [Mark] Biltz focuses on a star called Arcturus, which is mentioned in the Old Testament Book of Job: “Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south.” (Job 9:9)

If one were to consult a map of the night sky, Arcturus could be found in the “left knee” of a constellation called Bo-otes (often spelled Bootes), meaning “the Coming One,” depicted as a warrior coming to harvest, according to Biltz, citing previous research by noted 19th century Bible scholar E.W. Bullinger who wrote “The Witness of the Stars.”

Biltz explains the Hebrew word translated as “Arcturus” in Job comes from the same root word found in the Book of Joel discussing the return of Jesus, but is rendered in Joel 3:11 as “assemble.”

“The word ‘assemble’ is the same word that is translated as ‘Arcturus’ in Job,” he said. “So it means the same thing, to assemble, to come. And if you’ll notice the word ‘come’ is ‘bo, which is the name of this constellation: ‘Bo-otes.’ So this constellation …. He’s got a sickle in one hand and a spear in the other. This is a sign of the Messiah who says ‘I’m coming.’ That’s what this constellation is all about, the Coming One. In Revelation it talks about He has a sickle in His hand.”

The Book of Revelation states from the apostle John’s perspective, “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. … And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.” (Revelation 14:14-16)

And, if that farrago doesn’t make you weep with despair, we reach a grand climax with this:

Interestingly, on March 19, 2008, a powerful gamma ray burst detected by NASA’s Swift satellite in the Bo-otes constellation shattered the record for the most distant object that could be seen with the naked eye.

A few points:

(1) The identification of the Hebrew “Ayish” in Job with “Arcturus” is uncertain – it may refer to Ursa Major (with which of course Arcturus is associated, as the “Bear Watcher”) or the Hyades.

(2) The etymology of “Bo-otes” as “the Coming One” is fanciful. Bullinger claimed that it was derived from the Hebrew “bo” via Egyptian:

The Greeks called him Bo-ö-tes, which is from the Hebrew root Bo,… meaning the coming… The ancient Egyptians called him Smat, which means one who rules, subdues, and governs. They also called him Bau (a reminiscence of the more ancient Bo), which means also the coming one. (Witness of the Stars p. 42)

This seems to be based on the belief that Hebrew culture was the originator of ideas that were later corrupted in other societies – an outdated view even in Bullinger’s time. There is no sensible reason to reject the standard etymology of the constellation as being related to the Greek for “herdsman”. What problem does Bullinger’s speculation solve? (According to Frances Rolleston, whose work inspired Bullinger, the identification of  Bo-otes with ”bau” by the Egyptians was noted by Ulugh Beg, the fifteenth-century Tartar astronomer. However, while his name is invoked as an authority, she doesn’t give any direct reference, and there’s no way to assess why he made the identification, supposing that he did).

(3) The Book of Joel does not discuss “the return of Jesus” – the section refered to is in fact describing post-Exile period in eschatological and triumphalist terms. The existence of Jesus hundreds of years later is not the author’s concern, let alone his “return” thousands of years after that.

(4) Even if the root for the Hebrew word “Ayish” means “assemble”, so what? It’s a bit of leap from that to the wild speculation that a constellation was given that name because Hebrew astronomers saw it as depicting a coming Messiah. There’s no Hebrew tradition of a Messiah being foreshadowed in Bo-otes or any other constellation.

(5) The author of Revelation does not represent Jesus as Bo-otes; the person on the cloud has a sickle because he’s about to start reaping symbolic grapes. If he’s Bo-otes, why doesn’t John give him a spear? And why don’t any of the other New Testament authors make such a link?

(6) The record for the gamma burst may have been “shattered”, but it seems to me reasonable that as the technology for noticing gamma ray bursts improves, so we will see more impressive gamma rays being observed. It’s unlikely that just three years after Swift was launched it would spot a phenomenon that is so rare as to be anomalous.

But don’t let that put you off; WND continues:

“I believe that this sign in the heavens points to the imminent return of Christ to judge His household,” wrote Joseph Herrin of the Georgia-based Heart4God website. “We do live at the end of the age. It has been 6,000 years since Adam and 2,000 years since Christ first appeared. … This sign in Bootes is another witness, and those who have set themselves apart to follow the Lord can anticipate what is to come.”

It’s fascinating to see the way fundamentalism can be impressed with one bit of scientifc discovery while repudiating the scientific paradigm – the “gamma burst” of 19 March 2008 actually occurred 7.5 billion years ago.

UPDATE: I’ve just seen that the late D. James Kennedy was an exponent of the “Gospel in the Stars” theory, and wrote a book entitled The Real Meaning Of The Zodiac.