Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pleiades and Orion Plus Q&A

Coming across this little reading from Amos at Daytime Prayer today reminded me of this old post.
And since I have another article deadline coming up, it all fits into my present week.

It's weekly Q&A time--ask your Divine Office question here.

Here I am going back on my word about not posting until a magazine article was done. But I can't help commenting on a snippet from today's Daytime Prayer, the Midday reading from the book of Amos:

He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
  who turns darkness into dawn,
  and darkens day into night;
Who summons the waters of the sea,
  and pours them out upon the surface of the earth;
  whose name is Lord. (Thursday, week I)

Every time I read this, I visualize Amos looking at the stars, maybe with his children, pointing out the constellations, just as Bill and I have done with our own children. Then I get wondering: didn't the Israelites have their own names for the constellations? (Guess not) Wouldn't they have thought it borderline idolatry to use the names of these pagan goddesses and  demi-god?  (Guess not. Looks like ancient Israel was a little more tolerant and cosmopolitan than one would have thought. Or maybe they were at this period a little too cosmopolitan, and were worshiping Greek gods. Certainly idolatry is one of the many sins of Israel which God mentions to Amos.)

So, each time I get taken aback by reading about Orion and the Seven Sisters in the Old Testament, I remind myself not to fall into the mindset that Dorothy Sayers says she had as a child. That is, to think about "Bible Characters" as somehow separate and removed from the rest of history. They are real, they are history, and very much enmeshed with all the other history that was going on at the time.

Okay. Back to the article. 


  1. I always just assumed that the translator was replacing whatever the Hebrew names of those constellations is with the names we'd recognize. Now you've got me curious as to what the Hebrew really says.

  2. That's what I would have thought, but you'd think that, if that were so, there would be a footnote in a study bible, explaining what the Hebrew said? But I haven't found one in the New American Bible, at least. And if we had Hebrew names for them, I'd think the normal thing to do would be to use these names, and maybe add a foot note explaining that "these are the Hebrew names for Orion and Pleiades", don't you? Just like the words "Behemoth" and "Leviathan" are used in the text and there's a footnote explaining which animals biblical scholars think these are.

  3. Hi! So on Saturday here in England, it's the Optional Memoria of Ss. Chad and Cedd, Bishops, and they don't really have any propers apart from a collect. If I was to use the use their office instead of the ferial one, would I do Common of Holy Men or Common of Pastors?

  4. I bet the Israelites said "Pfft, they aren't gods. They're obviously created things, they're Right Up There, see?"

  5. The Blue Letter Bible site is useful for such questions, it provides the Hebrew, and also links to an astronomy in the Bible article. (I'd post links, but they don't take.) However part of the article says: "The word Kimah occurs in three passages, in each case in conjunction with Kecil (Am 5:8; Job 9:9; 38:31). It apparently means a "heap" or "cluster," and is hence especially applicable to the beautiful little group of the Pleiades, the most conspicuous star cluster visible to the naked eye. There is the less uncertainty about this identification since "kima" is the term generally used in Syriac literature to denote the Pleiades. "

    Several paragraphs farther down it discusses "Orion".

    1. Thanks, that was interesting. So if I understand this correctly, "pleiades" and "orion" are educated guesses on the part of the translators based on what the Hebrew terms probably mean.