I begin with VIRGO, which I take to be the first sign in the Zodiac, according to its original intent and reading. The Zodiac of Esne begins with this sign. The story has no right starting-point, continuity, or end except as we commence with this constellation. I also have the statement from the best authorities that the custom was universal among the ancients to reckon from Virgo round to Leo. And in this sign of Virgo, if anywhere among the starry groups, we find the primary idea in the evangelic presentations.
The foundation-doctrine of all religion – the existence of an eternal and almighty God, the Originator, Preserver, and great Father of all things – is assumed as belonging to the natural intuitions of a right man.
The presence of the universe is the invincible demonstration of eternal power and Godhead, so that those are without excuse who fail to see that there is a God or do not glorify Him as God. Revelation is something superadded to Nature, which Nature itself cannot reach. Assuming the majesty of God and the sinfulness of man as things evident to natural reason and observation, its main subject is the way of salvation through Jesus Christ, the Gospel of the grace of God through His only-begotten Son. This is the one great theme of the Bible and of the primeval astronomy.
As Christians, we believe in a virgin-born Saviour. We confess and hold that our Lord Jesus Christ “was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.” So He was preannounced in the text, and so the evangelists testify of the facts concerning Him. To deny this is to deny the fundamental features of the whole Christian system and to disable the whole doctrine of human salvation. It stands in the front of all the Gospel presentations. It is the foundation and beginning of the whole structure on which our redemption hangs.
It is therefore not a little striking that the very first sign that comes before us as we enter the grand gallery of the ancient constellations is the form and figure of a virgin.
The initiative sign of the Zodiac is called Virgo, THE VIRGIN. All the traditions, names, and mythologies connected with it recognize and emphasize the virginity of this woman. Astrea* and Athene of Greek story identify with her. In Hebrew and Syriac she is Bethulah, the maiden. In Arabic she is Adarah, the pure virgin. In Greek she is Parthenos, the maid of virgin pureness. Nor is there any authority in the world for regarding her as anything but a virgin.
*Astrea was regarded as the star-bright, good, and just goddess, the last to leave the earth as the Golden Age faded out, and then took her place among the stars. The four ages of Gold, Silver, Brass, and Iron were the periods of time in which the equinoctial point successively passed through so many signs of the Zodiac, each sign requiring about twenty-one hundred and forty-six years to pass. If the summer solstice was in Virgo in the first or Golden Age, her withdrawal over that point as the equinoxes proceeded would have been very slow, and everything else characteristic of that age would have passed away before she passed. The myth would hence well fit to the astronomical facts. Since passing that point she has never returned to her former place, and cannot until about twenty-five thousand years from the time she left it.
THE VIRGIN’S SON
But the greater wonder is, that motherhood attends this virginity, in the sign the same as in the text, and in the whole teaching of the Scriptures respecting the maternity of our Saviour. Krishna, the divine incarnation of the Hindoo mythology, was born of a virgin. A hundred years before Christ an altar was found in Gaul with this inscription: “To the virgin who is to bring forth.” And this maiden in the sign is the holder and bringer of an illustrious Seed. In her hand is the spica, the ear of wheat, the best of seed, and that spica, indicated by the brightest star in the whole constellation. He who was to bruise the Serpent’s head was to be peculiarly “the Seed of the woman,” involving virgin-motherhood, and hence one born of miracle, one begotten of divine power, the Son of God. And such is the exhibit in this first sign of the Zodiac. She is a virgin, and yet she produces and holds forth a Seed contemplated as far greater than herself. That seed of wheat Christ appropriates as a symbol of himself. When certain Greeks came to Philip wishing to see Jesus, He referred to Himself as the corn, or seed, of wheat, which needed to fall and die in order to its proper fruitfulness (John 12:21-24)**. Thus, according to the starry sign, as according to the Gospel, out of the seed of wheat, the good seed of the Virgin, the blessed harvest of salvation comes. A very significant figure of Christ, much employed by the prophets, was the branch, bough, or sprout of a plant or root. Hence He is described as the Rod from the stem of Jesse and the Branch out of his roots (Isa. 11:1)**, the Branch of Righteousness, the Branch of the Lord, God’s servant THE BRANCH (Isa. 4:2; Jer. 23:5; Zech. 3:8; 6:12)**.
And so this sign holds forth the Virgin’s Seed as The Branch. In addition to the spica in one hand, she bears a branch in the other. The ancient names of the stars in this constellation emphasize this showing, along with that of the Seed. Al Zimach, Al Azal, and Subilon mean the shoot, the branch, the ear of wheat. The language of the prophesies is thus identical with the symbols in this sign.
It is believed that without Christ, and the redemption wrought by Him, all humanity would be fallen and helpless in sin. There is none other name given among men whereby we can be saved. Even Mary herself needed the mediatorial achievements of her more glorious Son to lift her up to hope and standing before God. And this, too, is here signified. This woman of the Zodiac lies prostrate. She is fallen, and cannot of herself stand upright. Christ alone can lift up to spiritual life and standing. This woman accordingly holds forth the goodly Seed, the illustrious Branch, as the great embodiment of her hope and trust, the only adequate hope and trust of prostrate and fallen humanity.
And what is thus vividly signified in this constellation is still further expressed and defined by the Decans, or side-pieces, which go along with it.
So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. -John 12:21-24
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. -Isaiah 11:1
In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. -Isaiah 4:2
Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. -Jeremiah 23:5
Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. -Zechariah 3:8
And say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD. -Zechariah 6:12