What is the authoritative Catholic explanation of why the Magi get a pass, yet Catholics are required to reject astrology?

Catechism of the Catholic Church | Divination and magic, 2116 has:

All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future [Cf. Deut 18:10; Jer 29:8]. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

The Magi utilizing their Magian astrology, were led Christ.

It appears that the stars have a knowledge, a science.

What made the Magian astrology acceptable, and would that type of Astrology be permissible to Catholics?

Please see this answer also: What types of signs are given by the “lights in the expanse of the heavens”?


3 Answers 3


The Magi used their Magian astrology to recognize what was happening now. But astrologers use astrology to find out what is going to happen in the future. Note that Magi's saw Jesus in a house (Mat 2:11) not in the birth place of Christ.

//It appears that the stars have a knowledge.//

Stars do not have knowledge on their own. But God uses nature to instruct gentiles to recognize the birth of the Messiah.

//Why would the Catholic Church require Catholics to reject astrology//

The answer to this is in CCC 2115:

God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it.

That is, future is in God's Hand and humans have no business in there.

  • Keep in mind that astrology and astronomy weren't very well separated until a few hundred years ago. The Magi said, "We saw his star at its rising"; they could have been doing simple observational astronomy. Jul 18, 2014 at 11:10
  • Good answer. But I'd add that your answer focuses mainly on the Catholic tradition's explanation as to why astrology is wrong. The Catholic reason for believing it is wrong in the first place is that God's revealed word condemns it.
    – galdre
    Jul 18, 2014 at 22:34
  • To @galdre: I agree. But the question seems to be asking why God's revealed word gave a pass for magis? Jul 19, 2014 at 1:43
  • @JayarathinaMadharasan May be the case of good religion vs. bad/corrupted religion (like in good science vs. bad science) cf. 'He seems to put his seal upon a certain lawful angelology, and at the same time to warn them against indulging superstition on the subject. We have a hint of such excesses in the Book of Enoch, wherein, as already stated, the angels play a quite disproportionate part. Similarly Josephus tells us (Bel. Jud., II, viii, 7) that the Essenes had to take a vow to preserve the names of the angels.' in Angels |New Advent
    – user13992
    Jul 20, 2014 at 0:52
  • i.e the ones with the superior religion, Israel + Church, forbidden, but the ones still not yet belonging to these, the purer their religion, the less likely the message of God will be confused. If agreeable, please augment answer to be more complete and more correct.
    – user13992
    Jul 20, 2014 at 0:56

It seems to me that the question is based on speculation. What is “Magian Astrology” supposed to be in the context of the Bible? The Google search engine returns no hits for this term. For the alternative term “Magi astrology”, Goggle returns a Wikipedia page about system of astrology introduced to the public by the Magi Society, its originator, through its three books published from 1995-1999.

As far as I am aware there is no explanation in the Gospels as to how the wise men of the East came to consider an astronomical event (the star in the East) as a sign of the birth of the king of the Jews in Bethlehem as prophesied by the prophet Micheas (Matt. 2:6, Mich 5:2). The only reference to the wise men is in the Gospel of St Matthew, Chapter 2:

[Mt 2:1]When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, [Mt 2:2]Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him. (Douay-Rheims Bible/Challoner Revisions)

The Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_Magi states that the English term “wise men” as used in the KJV and DRB is a translation from the Greek word “Magoi”, itself derived from the old Persian term “Magus”, describing a member of the priestly caste of Zoroastrianism. This caste was known for its knowledge of astrology, which at that time was the study of anything to do with the stars, and therefore included astronomy. It is likely that anybody who at that time engaged in what we would today regard as scientific investigation would have acquired whatever knowledge of astronomy existed at the time and been considered a wise man or magus. The Latin word “Magus” derived from the Greek later came to mean a wizard, sorcerer, or magician - hence the English word “magic”. Thus the meaning of the word "Magus" evolved over time. The fact that the Greek word "Magoi" is derived from the Persian word "Magus" does not necessarily mean that it had exactly the same meaning. It could have meant just “wise men” or “wise kings” as interpreted by the English translators of the Bible.

It seems likely that the wise men would have acted upon one or more prophesies in the Scriptures rather than on some astrological prediction in the modern sense of the term. One possibility is that they may have taken into consideration the so-called “Star prophesy”:

[Numb. 24:17] I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not near. A STAR SHALL RISE out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel: and shall strike the chiefs of Moab, and shall waste all the children of Seth.

In my opinion the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations should reject all forms of magic, divination, and witchcraft, because such “powers” conflict with the concept that only the one and only God, or prophets or saints filled with the Holy Spirit, could possibly possess such powers. In other words, forms of divination fall into the realm of activities inspired by the enemies of God.

More specifically, Catholics (and Christians in general) should reject astrology because sorcery, witchcraft and astrology are condemned in the Bible multiple times; as, for example, in the following Bible passages:


Isaiah 47:12-14

12 Stand now with thy enchanters, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, in which thou hast laboured from thy youth, if so be it may profit thee any thing, or if thou mayst become stronger.

13 Thou hast failed in the multitude or thy counsels: let now the astrologers stand and save thee, they that gazed at the stars, and counted the months, that from them they might tell the things that shall come to thee.

14 Behold they are as stubble, fire hath burnt them, they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flames: there are no coals wherewith they may be warmed, nor fire, that they may sit thereat.


Malachias 3:5

5 And I will come to you in judgment, and will be a speedy witness against sorcerers, and adulterers, and false swearers, and them that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widows, and the fatherless: and oppress the stranger, and have not feared me, saith the Lord of hosts.


Galatians 5:19-21 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, 20 Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, 21 Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God.


Apocalypse 9.21 Neither did they penance from their murders, nor from their sorceries, nor from their fornication, nor from their thefts.

  • It seems to me that the question is based on speculation. - please see the section Patristic evidence in the article Magi | New Advent.
    – user13992
    Jan 3, 2015 at 5:02

From Catholic Sources, who were the Magi?

Exactly who the magi were though remains somewhat of a mystery.

Oftentimes, the English translations of the Bible use the word astrologers for magi. In Greek, the original language of the Gospel' the word magos (magoi, plural) has four meanings:

(1) a member of the priestly class of ancient Persia, where astrology and astronomy were prominent in Biblical times;
(2) one who had occult knowledge and power, and was adept at dream
interpretation' astrology, fortune-telling, divination, and spiritual mediation;
(3) a magician; or
(4) a charlatan, who preyed upon people using the before mentioned practices.

From these possible definitions and the description provided in the gospel, the magi were probably Persian priest-astrologers who could interpret the stars, particularly the significance of the star that proclaimed the birth of the Messiah. (Even the ancient historian Herodotus (d. 5 century BC) would attest to the astrological prowess of the priestly class of Persia.) - Straight Answers: Who Were the Magi?, by Fr. William Saunders HERALD Columnist.

What is the difference between the condemned knowledge sought in CCC 2116 and the knowledge of the Magi?

The answer is God.

The condemned knowledge sought in CCC 2116 is knowledge sought apart from God and one which only God possesses, therefore seeking such knowledge is contrary to the first commandment, whilst the source of knowledge of the Magi is God himself through his prophets, prophecy, his creation or via a miracululous phenomenon.

To the Jews who used their reason, a rational creature, i.e. an Angel, ought to preach. But the Gentiles who knew not to use their reason are brought to the knowledge of the Lord, not by words, but by signs; to the one prophecy, as to the faithful; to the other signs, as to the unbelievers. One and the same Christ is preached, when of perfect age, by Apostles; when an infant, and not yet able to speak, is announced by a star to the Gentiles; for so the order of reason required; speaking preachers proclaimed a speaking Lord, mute signs proclaimed a mute infant. - St. Gregory the Great, Hom. in Ev. Lib. i. Hom. 10.

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