<< With that said, how does the Church respond to such claims that this “jesus thing” has happened over and over again through the ages and zodiac signs represent the apostles and the sun is the Son, etc.? >>
See my article All About Horus: An Egyptian Copy of Christ?
I spent a day at U.S.F. library, then spent a couple days compiling the best material on Horus, responding to Zeitgeist, and summarizing Ben Witherington’s blog post which covers some of the astrological material. His better points:
– it is partially true that cultures have always personified/anthropomorphized the sun/stars, but this doesn’t explain the origins of Hebrew religion, which critiqued sun- and moon-god worship, denied there were multiple deities in the heavens, and ridiculed the notion that stars were gods who controlled one’s fate; in the OT the sun and moon are seen as controlled by Yahweh;
– there is no reason to associate the word “sun” with the word “son,” and simply blending together all ideas about both in antiquity, a syncretistic thinking, leads to massive distortions of religious history;
– the Hebrews already long since had a religion when they went to Egypt (e.g. Joseph, Moses); experts in ancient Hebrew religion will tell you (e.g. Ancient Israel by Roland DeVaux) that the differences between a monotheistic/henotheistic religion grounded in historical persons and actions, and Egyptian mythology grounded in the cycles of nature, the rising/setting of the sun, motions of the stars, are considerable;
– see Psalm 8 : the sun, moon, and stars are the works of God’s fingers; a God of creation who made all things that exist; human beings are the crown of God’s creation, created in God’s image;
– notice the anti-anthropomorphic theology : God is not the sun, he does not have a son that is the sun, creation is what the one true God has made which desacralizes nature; Nature is not a god or gods or divine (Romans 1:20-25), neither are human beings as human beings.
– the scholarly work on the star in the east: if historical it centers on the conjunction of planets, specifically Jupiter and Venus (e.g. the Nativity); it does not center on Sirius, the dog star;
– Bethlehem certainly does mean “house of bread” but it has nothing to do with the constellation Virgo, which indeed is short for virgin; it has to do with this region being fertile enough to support both grass and wheat; hence shepherds and farmers (i.e. The “Fertile Crescent” along the Nile);
– the origins of the death and resurrrection of Jesus based of the Winter Solstice / Dec 22-25 is laughable; the Gospels are clear that Jesus was not in the tomb for three whole days, only parts of Fri-Sat-Sun (he rose “on the third day”); an attempt by the Evangelists to conform this to some astrological phenomena makes the above inexplicable;
– the notion of bodily resurrection had long existed in Judaism before the time of Jesus (see e.g. N.T. Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God), and was not concocted in light of astrology or any other nature religion;
– the twelve disciples are not the 12 constellations of the Zodiac; they represent the 12 tribes of Israel, going back to Jacob and his 12 sons; the Genesis stories are not astrological in character at all, but rather explanations of a historical origins of a people; the 12 disciples are chosen not because Jesus was a stargazer; he was attempting to reform, and indeed re-form Israel;
– consider the most basic ancient zodiac pattern we have, e.g. the floor of the synagogue at Sepphoris; Jews, like every other group of agrarian peoples were interested in the weather and the seasons. Do we find a cross pattern? No.
– supposedly on 1 AD a new “age” or astrological cycle begins, after the age of the Ram: but Jesus was born somewhere between 2-6 BC, not in 1 AD; and we know this because Herod the Great was king of the Holy land and according to the records Herod died about 2 BC; ergo: Jesus had to be born before then.