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Answering The Atheist
January 14, 2007 / Volume 7, Issue 2

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Should we look for signs in heaven? Luke 21:11 says yes, we should, but Jeremiah 10:2 says no, we shouldn't. Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
Let me begin by saying that neither Luke 21:11 nor Jeremiah 10:2 say that we should or should not look for signs in heaven. Jeremiah 10 was addressed by the prophet of God to the people of Judah, God's people in Old Testament times. It is not specific to us. Luke 21 is part of a prophecy which foretold the coming destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The signs that it speaks of, though we might focus intently upon the heavens, will not appear.

Jeremiah 10:2, as Leviticus 18:3; 20:23 and other texts, calls upon God's people to not "...learn the way of the Gentiles." Astrology was a practice of the Gentiles; God's people were told to refrain from such things. Such a warning was especially needed, as the Jews were to be captive among the Chaldeans for a period of time.

The Gentiles read into what might be considered relatively minute movements and changes in the heavenly bodies from their "normal" course and appearance. However, these "...fearful sights and great signs from heaven..." spoken of in Luke's gospel were not small constellation changes, but were events unknown to astrologers. The Jewish historian Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus supply a record of what took place.

Josephus describes the things which took place as follows:

"...There was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year... ...at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day time, which lasted for half an hour... At the same festival also, a heifer, as she was led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple... ...the eastern gate of the inner temple, which was brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men...was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the night..." (Josephus, The Wars Of The Jews, 18:5:3)
The same historian also recorded:
"...a few days after the feast...a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared... before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armour were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding the cities." (Josephus, The Wars Of The Jews, 6:5:3)
The Roman historian, Tacitus recorded,
"There had been seen hosts joining battle in the skies, the fiery gleam of arms, the temple illuminated by a sudden radiance from the clouds. The doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open, and a voice of more than mortal tone was heard to cry that the gods were departing." (Tacitus, The Histories, 5:13)
These "...fearful sights and great signs from heaven..." were in no way akin to the reading of the constellations practiced among the Gentiles. These signs were miraculous in nature, and served to pronounce the end of the temple and city of Jerusalem.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible