The four “cornerstone” constellations, which date back to the Prophet Enoch, correspond to the four faces of the cherubim and the four principal tribes of Israel. Their symbols of the lion, eagle/serpent, man and wild ox (unicorn) are emblazoned on family coats of arms and the banners of nations. But most importantly, each testifies of a different aspect of the life of Jesus Christ. Last month’s article, “The Constellations Testify of Christ” was an introduction to understanding how the constellation figures revealed to the Prophet Enoch over 5,000 years ago testify of antediluvian knowledge of the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. References to the constellations found in the scriptures were reviewed, as well as how the same symbolic imagery was employed by many prophets. Now let us focus on four of the most important constellations, and their four bright “royal stars.”
The Four Royal StarsSeveral ancient cultures designated four bright stars in the zodiac as the “four corners of the earth” or the “four royal stars.” At the time the constellations were drawn by Enoch, these four stars were near the sun’s location in the heavens on the first day of autumn, winter, spring and summer, and were thus in four of the most important locations in the sky. The identity of these four stars is well known because there are, in fact, four bright stars which fit these requirements admirably. First, the star Antares is a bright red star, which anciently marked the autumnal equinox, that is, the place in the sky where the sun appears on the first day of autumn. The next star in the sequence is Fomalhaut, which is also a bright star, marking winter. The next star is Aldebaran, another very bright red star located 180.0° around the ecliptic (the apparent path of the sun through the stars) from Antares. Thus, it precisely marked the spring equinox when Antares marked the autumn. Finally, the bright star Regulus, located almost exactly on the ecliptic, marked summer. Regulus, meaning “the Prince,” was traditionally the leader of these four royal stars. 1 Each of the four royal stars is in one constellation of the zodiac, which is the circle of twelve constellations around the ecliptic. Antares is located at the heart of the Scorpion (Scorpius). Fomalhaut is located at the end of the rivers of water being poured out by the Water Bearer (Aquarius). Aldebaran is located at the eye of the Bull (Taurus). Finally, Regulus is located at the heart of the Lion (Leo), which is the king of the constellations, even as the lion is called the king of beasts. These are called the four cornerstone constellations in this article because they form the corners of a great square in the sky and also provide a foundation for understanding gospel symbolism. Two of the royal stars are listed by the ancients as being shared by two constellations. Antares is not only the heart of the scorpion, it is also the heel of the Serpent Bearer (Ophiuchus), 2 who was encircled by a great serpent (Serpens) and who is stepping on the body and head of the Scorpion. Fomalhaut is not only in the stream of the Water Bearer, it is also in the Head of the Southern Fish (Piscis Australis).3 In the case of the Scorpion/Serpent pair, there is a third constellation which is very closely associated with them. It is the Eagle (Aquila), which is located near the tail of the Serpent. The Eagle has been considered to typify the enemy of the serpent and is often shown holding the Serpent in its claws, even as the Serpent Bearer is crushing the Scorpion.
2. The Four Cornerstone Constellations2.1 Four Faces of the Cherubim. Both Ezekiel and John the Revelator describe creatures which correspond to the four cornerstone constellations. Ezekiel describes creatures with four faces: the face of a lion, of an ox, of a man and of an eagle, and later identifies them as cherubim (Ezek. 1:10, 10:14, 20-22). The first three of those forms correspond to the Lion, the Bull, and the Water Bearer constellations. The fourth apparently corresponds to the Eagle, the constellation which is often substituted for the serpent/scorpion when symbolizing the celestial aspect of the fourth cornerstone. John the Revelator also describes four creatures, each of which is found on one side of the throne of God. One was like a lion, one like a calf, one like a man, and one like a flying eagle (Rev. 4:7). Here again we find the same four creatures which correspond to those four constellations, in this case given in the reverse order as they are found in the zodiac, which puts the leader first. The fact that these four symbols are found in a heavenly vision of the throne of God is strong corroboration of the claim in the Book of Enoch that an angel revealed the figures of the constellations to the Prophet Enoch. 2.2 Four Principal Tribes of Israel. Jacob (Israel) had twelve sons, and each of them is associated in Hebrew tradition with one of the twelve constellations of the zodiac.4 Hebrew scholars are not sure of the correspondence of all twelve, but the identity of the four which refer to the royal constellations are clear from the scriptures. They are the four principal tribes: Reuben, Judah, Dan, and Joseph.
The British Coat of Arms with the Lion and Unicorn2.9 Four Hebrew Tabernacle Colors. The Lord commanded Moses to use four colors of cloth repeated throughout the tabernacle, especially for embroidering images of the cherubim. They were blue, purple, scarlet, and linen (white), nearly always mentioned in that order (Ex. 26:31, 36; 27:16; 28:5-15). Those are the same as the four colors of the cherubim, with purple substituted for black. That substitution could well be because purple was the color of Levi, and the tribe of Levi were the temple workers. Moreover, black is the least appropriate of the colors for a temple, which symbolizes spirituality (white). In support of this interpretation, note that in the Book of Revelation, the 144,000 temple workers include the tribe of Levi (purple), but not the tribe of Dan (black) (Rev. 7:4-8). 2.10 The Four Kinds of Flesh. The symbolism of the figures of the constellations also explain the “four kinds of flesh” as described in the scriptures. As already discussed, the Book of Revelation and Ezekiel both mention creatures having the faces of the lion, bull, man, and eagle. When the Prophet Joseph Smith inquired to know their meaning, the Lord explained:
“They are figurative expressions, used by the Revelator, John, in describing heaven, the paradise of God, the happiness of man, and of beasts, and of creeping things, and of the fowls of the air; that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal; and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual; the spirit of man in the likeness of his person, as also the spirit of the beast, and every other creature which God has created.” — D&C 77:2Here the Lord mentions four kinds of creatures: man, beasts, creeping things, and birds. The Hebrew word translated as “creeping things” in the Old Testament includes reptiles, amphibians, fish,5 and all invertebrates. Paul also mentions four kinds of flesh: ” All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds” (I Cor. 15:39). Here he used “fishes” to represent the “creeping things” category. The Lord gives modern day support to Paul’s usage by repeating his same four categories (D&C 29:24, 101:24). The four cornerstone constellations include representatives of each zoological category of animal by making use of double and triple constellations. First, the Scorpion, Serpent Bearer, and Eagle form a set represent invertebrates, reptiles, and birds. Second, the Water Bearer and the Southern Fish form a double constellation representing mankind and fish. The Bull represents beasts (mammals). The lion is the king of all the beasts and hence might well represent all creatures. 6
3. Roles of ChristEach of these four constellations also refers to a different role of the Savior, who personifies all the best traits of mankind combined. To understand them, let us consider each of these four constellations in more detail.
Then I saw that a snow-white bull was born, with huge horns; all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the sky feared him and made petition to him all the time. I went on seeing until all their kindred were transformed, and became snow white cattle; and the first among them became a wild ox, and that wild ox became a great beast with huge black horns on its head. The Lord of the sheep rejoiced over it and over all the cattle. I myself [Enoch] was in their midst.
— 1 Enoch 90:37-39 10(89:45-49 in Laurence translation).This symbolism precisely matches that of the constellations. The white bull, the Kingdom of God in the last days, breaks into pieces the other kingdoms and grows to fill the whole earth (Dan. 2:35, 44; D&C 65:2, 105:32). “All their kindred” being transformed into snow-white cattle matches the symbolism of the twelve snow-white oxen which hold up the baptismal font in L.D.S. temples, in which all the tribes of Israel are symbolized by the bull, the symbol of the tribe of Joseph. Note also that it prophesies that Enoch himself would be with the latter-day saints, which agrees with modern revelation (Moses 7:63). The Bull may represent Zion, the Kingdom of God in the western hemisphere, from which the law will go forth (Isa. 2:3, D&C 133:21). Moreover, because the Bull apparently represents the Kingdom of God and its great armies, another probable role of the Savior represented by the Bull is “the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45).
4. The Gospel StoryIt was proposed a century and a half ago that the set of all 48 of the original constellations tell the entire gospel story from the birth of Christ through his reign in the millennium. 11 That appears to be true, but will require much more research to be well understood. One feature of that story is that it appears to be in chronological order, beginning with the Virgin (Virgo) and ending with the Lion (Leo). The four cornerstone constellations only tell a small part of that story, but nevertheless form key points. The first two apparently refer to the first coming of Christ, and the second two to the second coming. The Serpent Bearer crushing the Scorpion, clearly refers to the promise that Adam and Eve heard in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15). It apparently refers to when Christ was wounded by the serpent (Satan) at his Crucifixion, but the Serpent was crushed when Christ overcame death. Next, the Water Bearer pouring living water onto the head of the Fish was begun during the Savior’s mortal ministry, but more fully fulfilled after the Resurrection when Christ spent forty days teaching deeper truths to his apostles and giving them further blessings. He did likewise with the Nephites and lost ten tribes. The third sign, the Bull, refers to the Kingdom of God in the last days which will prepare for the second coming of Christ by gathering the tribes of Israel from the four corners of the earth. It also refers to the restoration of his teachings through a great seer. It probably includes the symbolism of the Savior at his Second Coming at the beginning of the Millennium, trampling enemies underfoot. The fourth sign, the Lion, most likely refers to the Kingdom of God in the millennium, where all things are gathered into one, and Christ rules as King of Kings. It also seems to include the final overcoming of Satan at the end of the Millennium because the Lion is crushing the head of the Fleeing Serpent. Thus, the Lion may represent the Kingdom of God finally overcoming Satan forever at the end of the Millennium in the great war at that time. Next month we will discuss the four royal stars in more depth. As we begin to understand the depth of information contained in these constellations, we might exclaim with Enoch,
“I blessed the Lord of glory, who had made those great and splendid signs, that they might display the magnificence of his works to angels and to the souls of men; and that these might glorify all his works and operations; might see the effect of his power; might glorify the great labor of his hands; and bless him forever.” — Enoch 35:3
- Allen, Richard, Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, (New York: Dover, 1963), p. 256.
- Rolleston Frances, Mazzaroth; or the Constellations, (London: Rivingtons, 1862), p. II:15 quotes Dupuis who quotes Zoroaster in The Boundesh as stating that Antares is also in the heel of the Serpent Bearer. Aratus also states that the Serpent Bearer’s foot is firmly planted on the breast and eye of the scorpion.
- Today Fomalhaut is considered to be only in the Southern Fish, but Ptolemy lists it as in both constellations.
- For example, Josephus, when referring to the 12 stones on the breastplate of the high priest on which are inscribed the names of the 12 tribes of Israel (Ex. 28:21), states, “And as for the twelve stones, whether we understand by them the months, or whether we understand the like number of the signs of that circle which the Greeks call the Zodiac, we shall not be mistaken in their meaning.” (Antiquities III.vii.7, Whiston translation).
- The word is translated “moving creatures” in Gen. 1:20, which describes the creation of life in the waters.
- Another aspect of these scriptures is that D&C 77 mentions symbolism of degrees of happiness and I Cor. 15:40 mentions the three degrees of glory. There are indications that anciently the ecliptic represented the earth, which would mean the four cornerstone constellations were the four corners of the earth. The constellations found above the ecliptic represented beings in heaven and those below were in the underworld. If so, then the four vertical constellations might represent the celestial kingdom (eagle), terrestial (man, lion, bull, serpent), and telestial (scorpion). Or perhaps the scorpion represents the sons of perdition (D&C 88:102). More research is required.
- Most star maps do not show the encircling, which Aratus explicitly mentions.
- Allen, op. cit., p. 378.
- Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah, p. 202.
- Translation by E. Isaac in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth, (New York, Doubleday, 1983), vol I.
- Rolleston, op. cit.