Were the magi who came to see Jesus astrologists because they were led by a star?


I have met people who claim that they are Christians yet at the same time have a passion for “astrology”. I felt the need to share with them the truth of what the Bible says about reading the stars (astrology, horoscopes, etc), that it is a sin and not allowed by God (at least that is what I have seen from the Bible). I heard a rebuttal to this that made me think. The question was about the birth of Jesus Christ. God used the “star” to lead the wise men to Jesus and protect Him as well. Some claim that this is a contradiction in the Bible because forbids reading the stars in one place and then uses reading the stars to lead people to Jesus. How do I respond to this type of question?

The magi were the wise men of their era who searched for Jesus

It is important that we understand the meaning of the word “magi” from the text where it is used in the Gospel according to Matthew. Here is the text:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews ? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea ; for this is what has been written by the prophet : ‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH ; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’ ” Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child ; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way ; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother ; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. (Matthew 12:1-12)

The word translated into English as “magi” (plural of magus) comes from the Greek word μάγος (magos). This was the name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and other Eastern Mediterranean and Western Asian countries to the wise men of their day; such as professors, priests, doctors, astrologers, fortune tellers, dream interpreters, clairvoyants, magicians, etc. In a general sense, this was the name given to the wise men, the philosophers of the day. We cannot generalize and say that the magi in the Gospel of Matthew were astrologers or readers of the stars as many often do (i.e. the writers at wikipedia)

From the text that we read earlier,there is one thing that is clear; these “magi” were seeking the true God. They lived in the midst of a pagan people, in the midst of idol worship, yet they wanted to know the true God and were seeking after Him. He met their desire by leading them to Jesus Christ via the star that shined brightly at the birth of Christ. When the Apostle Paul spoke to the Grecian pagans in Athens, he told them that God is not too far away from people and that each person should search for Him with all their might. This is exactly what the Magi were doing. They used all of their wisdom and put forth all of their efforts in order to find Him. Also, we must keep in mind that in the past, in antiquity, astrology and astronomy were not categorized as different practices. God has not forbidden astronomy (the study of the stars). He does not allow us to predict the future based on the stars. The text from Matthew also teaches two other important details:

  • The star remained ever before them because God was using it as a directional device to lead the Magi to Jesus Christ. The star was not a sign that was to be “read” and “interpreted” by the Magi. The star was an indicator (like a sign on a highway).
  • The star was not a revelation from God. It was just the device that led to the revelation from God. God’s message was communicated through the angel directly to the Magi. The angel was the one who told them to take a different road home avoiding king Herod.

Keep in mind that the Magi did not have the Scriptures to search in order to know where the Messiah would be born. If they would have had the Scriptures then they would have known not to go to Jerusalem. They would have known the exact location of the Messiah’s birth. The indicator (star) is what guided the way to the birth place of the Messiah. The same is true for dreams and visions. God does not allow us to interpret dreams and visions in order to predict the future except when He is the One who gives the interpretation, like with Joseph and Daniel. God forbids us to try and predict the future via the Zodiac but here in this text, God uses a single star to guide the Magi to the presence of Jesus Christ. There was no “reading the stars” in this case.

Reading the stars to predict the future is categorically condemned and forbidden by God

God gave this command in the Old Testament:

“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer,  or one who casts a spell, or a medium , or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.  “For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD ; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you.  “You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.  “For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do so. (Deuteronomy 18:10-14)

Those who know the Word of God understand the seriousness of God and His Word and they do not try to manipulate or distort the clear teachings of the Word. Instead, they receive the Word as It is, with a pure heart, fearing what is evil. They do not excuse themselves for bad behavior nor do they seek excuses for their sinful practices such as predicting the future through horoscopes, etc. They do not practice these things because they know that these sinful practices store up wrath for judgment day. Any person who has been deceived by the diabolical practice of fortune telling and horoscopes needs to repent of his or her sin quickly and believe in Jesus Christ so that he or she will be protected from the negative pagan influences of horoscopes and fortune telling.

Translation by: Erik Brewer