In Edward Carpenter's, "Pagan & Christian Creeds : Their Origin and Meaning" one of the claims is made that the golden calf story in Exodus is allegorical due to the astrological turning of the age of taurus. There are also claims that the death, 3 days, and then subsequent resurrection coincides with a solar cycle at the winter solstice. These claims are also repeated in numerous other sources, such as the popular (but in all ways horrible and shoddy) movie Zeitgeist. The second source (due to its questionable conclusions) has led me to question if this is at all an accepted theory, or even matches actual timing.

However, there seems to be a lot of confusion about astrological signs, their naming, the history surrounding them, and how those symbols were used in other cultures (whether symbolic or allegorical).

Do other more reputable sources support Carpenter's assertions about the allegorical nature, as drawn from regular astronomical cycles, of the Abrahamic myths?

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    If the Exodus from Egypt was a historical event (rather than something invented later) then it probably took place in 1200 BC or before, several centuries before the Babylonians identified Taurus as a sign of the Zodiac.
    – Henry
    Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 20:32
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    @Henry The thing is though, there are some documents that indicate that they had astrology based on these constellations as early as 1800BCE, with other documents suggesting it was started during the reign of king Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 BCE). At least, that's what wikipedia suggests. Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 21:10
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    @Oddthinking but I am not specifically asking what the bible means, but rather if the conclusions from Carpenter are valid. Commented Oct 22, 2012 at 10:19
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    @LarianLeQuella But the claims are ABOUT what the Bible means. Commented Oct 22, 2012 at 13:14
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    The problem here is that astrology is not science and how it works is not even agreed upon throughout history. There have been many interpretations and the modern pagan Pantheon is just the most popular currently. These(pagan) writings were actively suppressed by the catholic, and islamic churches so that it is very difficult to track any contributions to christian mythos that popular paganism would have had from the first through the 3rd centuries when the original biblical accounts were collected and published.
    – Chad
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


According to the New York Times article Archeologists Unearth 'Golden Calf' in Israel 25 July 1990:

The early Israelites are believed to have been a breakaway Canaanite sect. They forged their own identity, Dr. Stager said, "by being in opposition to the Canaanite religious matrix" that prevailed in the region until it was swept out by the Philistines, who conquered the coastal area in about 1180 B.C. The golden calf is believed to have been the central object of worship for the Canaanites for 1,000 years or longer.

The article explains that calf figurines were literally used in worship by people of the region and that Israelites opposed such worship practices.

For more information, see pages 3 and 4 of the University of Chicago Oriental Institute spring 1995 newsletter.

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