Arkiv

Easter is not pagan, and it’s PASSOVER in most countries

carry crossGood Friday (”Långfredag” in Swedish = ”Long Friday”) is connected to EASTER, but just because we choose to call one day of the week FRIDAY and the particular Friday connected to Easter ”Good Friday”,  it doesn’t mean that we  celebrate or worship the Norse god Freya by doing so. I feel so much joy to think about EASTER (and Christmas, and Pentecost), and the fact that so many secular countries still maintain an Easter celebration with so much focus on Jesus Christ, despite that our Lord is very much removed from secular homes most of the time. Easter provides a great opportunity to make even atheists think about Jesus Christ – who died on the cross one day for about 2000 years ago – because he is the reason for this particular day whether they like it or not.

After Good Friday we celebrate Påsk which is ”Easter” in English, and Påsk derives from the Hebrew name Pesach (in Greek it’s called Pascha) which means Passover. PASSOVER is something which is Biblical, is it not? Surely then, it’s not a sin to commemorate Jesus Christ through the Passover? The first Passover concerned the passover LAMB which had to shed its blood for the Israelites (who applied the blood on the door post) prior to the departure to the promised land – and it’s a picture/prophesy of Jesus Christ.

Ex. 12:3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.11 And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s passover.12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.14 And this day shall be unto you for a MEMORIAL; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. 

John 13:1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

John 18:39 But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

1 Cor. 5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

Hebr. 11:28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.

Every year there will be thousands of children asking their parents questions such as ”Why do we call this day Långfredag?” ”Why do we celebrate Påsk?” ”Why did this Jesus have to die for us on the cross?”, and their parents will try to answer their questions even if they are agnostics! What an excellent way to bring Jesus into our homes! You can even see Jesus-films on TV, and if you listen to the radio you will sooner or later hear someone talking about Påsk and why we celebrate it. This is actually free ”evangelism”poured out right into people’s living rooms, and to me it’s a puzzle why some christians would like to stop all this from happening.

Maybe this is not a big deal in countries like America where it’s still common to be confessing christians and where you talk about Jesus in Church or at home, but over here this particular holiday weekend (together with Christmas and Pentecost) might be the only chance some families have to hear about the gospel.

Every year there will be some well-meaning christians who warn others about Easter because it’s supposedly pagan, but they are confused about the name ”Easter” (it’s not called Easter in most countries) and they don’t seem to think about the negative outcome related to their fight to eliminate Påsk/Passover from people’s homes. Remove this Easter holiday (and Christmas and Pentecost), and Jesus will soon be a very forgotten person for even more people. Is this really what we want? Instead of spending time warning about Easter, try to spend your time spreading the gospel about Jesus Christ! It’s of course no obligation to celebrate Påsk together with decorations of chickens, hens, rabbits, eggs, or whatever the man-made traditions might be.

Easter is allegedly derived from the Babylonian goddess Astarte (equivalent to the Assyrian goddess Ishtar), and this idea comes from an oft-cited 19th-century book, The Two Babylons, by the Scots reverend Alexander Hislop. However, ”Easter” doesn’t derive from paganism.

Do read this article from Christianity Today about the background of Easter and this article from Jonathan Sarfati about yet more details concerning Easter.

Excerpts from the links:

Hislop’s research is very shoddy in many places (Hislop is refuted in A Case Study in Poor Methodology). He tries to see paganism everywhere, on even the flimsiest grounds. In this case, he imagines a connection between Easter and Astarte purely on the basis of sound similarity, with not the slightest trace of linguistic connection or any borrowing. By this spurious method, one could connect the Potomac river with the Greek ποταμός (potamos), although there is no connection between the native American and Greek words. In reality, the word Easter is really Anglo-Saxon (sometimes Ester), not Babylonian. It was the common word for both Passover and Easter.

An example of the word meaning the Jewish Passover comes from a 1563 homily: ‘Easter, a great, and solemne feast among the Jewes.’ Anglo-Saxon itself is a Germanic language, and this is the genuine origin of the term Easter. Germans likewise used the word Oster or Ostern for both Passover and our Easter. E.g. when the Reformer Martin Luther (1483–1546) first translated the Bible into German (1545), he used a number of German words relating to this, such as Osterfest (Passover/Easter), Osterlamm (Passover lamb). E.g. compare Luke 22:1, 7. Even in modern German, the ‘das jüdische Osterfest’ means the Jewish Passover. In turn, this word comes from Ost, or the sunrising, i.e. East. In turn, this is likely to come from the old German word auferstehen / auferstanden / Auferstehung meaning rising from the dead/resurrection. Luther used these words as well, e.g. throughout 1 Corinthians 15. So the pagan derivation of Easter is conspiratorial fantasy. The word is Anglo-Saxon, and derived from the Germanic Oster meaning Passover, and is related to the words for Resurrection.

Tyndale was also responsible for introducing the word ‘Ester’ into the English Bible. John Wycliffe, who produced the first English Bible in 1382, had translated from the Latin, and left the word pascha basically untranslated and called it pask or paske. Luther occasionally did likewise, using the transliterated form passah. For example, in Lev. 23:5, he rendered ‘the LORD’s Passover’ as ‘des Herrn Passah’, and in Ex. 12:27, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord’ was ‘Es ist das Passahopfer des Herrn’. But when Tyndale prepared the new Testament, he followed Luther’s more common practice and used the most common word in his native language. That is, while Luther most often used Oster and its cognates, Tyndale used Ester and its cognates. Note, if the Hislop pagan derivation theory were correct, it would imply that the godly Tyndale and Luther before him were really calling Jesus the ‘Astarte Lamb’ or ‘Ishtar Lamb’.

But when Tyndale translated the Old Testament, he thought that it was anachronistic to use the word Easter for the Jewish feast. This is because, as above, the derivation of Easter comes from the resurrection, which had yet to happen. So Tyndale went back to the root of pesach, i.e. pasach, meaning ‘to pass over’, and coined the new term Passover.

So it is due to Tyndale, not to paganism, that some English Bibles have two different words, Easter and Passover, to translate a single Hebrew/Greek term. As the KJV was essentially the 5th revision of the Tyndale Bible, and retains about 90% of its wording, it keeps this feature. But it more consistently applied Tyndale’s logic to retain Easter only for Acts 12:4, where the Christian resurrection celebration was in view not just the Jewish feast. For all other occurrences, the KJV translators used Tyndale’s new word ‘passover’. But this obscured the traditional meaning of Easter that included the Jewish Passover. Modern translations generally use only one word, Passover, to translate pesach/pascha.

Christmas – once pagan always pagan?

Is it wrong to turn a pagan holiday into a christian celebration where we make a special commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ? Would it really be better to view the day as an ordinary day, and skip all christmas carols, christmas food and meeting up with family and friends for the special occasion? You might say that it’s only the pagan parts of christmas that you’re against, but in that case the better option would be to avoid whatever christmas ingredients you dislike and celebrate christmas as per your own choice. Many people do just that, and the case is that most people celebrate christmas with Jesus Christ in mind and they truly believe he is the reason for the season. Also non-believers view christmas as a celebration for the birth of Jesus and that is what makes it so special. Every single year they are reminded of JESUS CHRIST. How else would a country where 90% are non-believers be exposed to Jesus Christ to the same extent? They certainly won’t come to church to find out.

There is a whole mixture of christmas traditions, and they differ world-wide, as well as within a country. Some celebrate it in a very secular way, and others with religious symbolism, and there really isn’t a ”right way” (but there are many wrong ways) since the Bible doesn’t even mention Jesus’ birthday. The Bible doesn’t mention any other birthdays at all, perhaps with the exception of Herodes’ birthday, and he was a pretty mean guy who had a birthday party where he cut off the head of John the Baptist who was the forerunner to JESUS. Despite of this horrible event, we all imitate Herodes’ practice and celebrate our own birthdays. So the only Biblical mention of a birthday is tied to a very wicked ruler who maybe even invented ”birthdays” and/or had a ”birthday” party to bring fame to his own big name (I’m only speculating), and yet people today celebrate their own birthdays without giving it second thoughts. Also those who are against christmas celebrate their own birthdays.

Some families mix in traditions into christmas which are questionable, and maybe this is  a bigger problem than the fact that it started out as pagan? We don’t have to take the same route as they though. The fact that certain things are not mentioned in the Bible is of course not a reason in itself to avoid them, or else I could list quite a few traditions which people are involved with which are not mentioned or encouraged to be carried out by christians. Where in the Bible does it say that christians should eat birthday cakes? Or use special wedding rings, celebrate Thanksgiving (with turkey and other traditions), arrange special funeral events, mark oneself with tattoos, etc? Some of those who are against christmas are engaged in all of the above. Tattoos are very much rooted in paganism, and even if some feel they can show that there is no Biblical law against them, they are certainly not encouraged. I can’t find any support for that jews or christians used tattoos.

How it all started in Europe

When Europe started to get christianised, the Germanics used the same word for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, as for their own pagan celebration. Later on during 1000 AD in England and 1100 AD in Germany, ”Cristes Mæsse” started to be used which became ”Christmas” in English, whereas ”wîhe nah” (the holy night) became ”Weihnachten” in German. The Scandinavian countries kept the word Jul and never used any references to a ”mass”. Noel entered English in the late 14th century and is from the Old French noel or nael, meaning ”Christmas season”, itself ultimately from the Latinnatalis (dies), ”birth (day)”.

The year 354 AD Liberius established the date for Christmas on December 25th (and a Holiday is considered to start at 18.00 the previous day which could explain why December 24th is celebrated in many countries). According to an old understanding of Genesis, the world was created during the vernal equinox and March 25th was considered as Mary’s Annunciation Day, so the birth of Jesus was calculated to 9 months thereafter – December 25th. The celebration of the birth of Jesus replaced, among other events, the Roman celebration of the sun-god Ra which was held during the winter solstice, but many other types of celebrations were held throughout Europe during the winter solstice. The transmission from the various types of celebrations that people were engaged in, to the new christian celebration, went smoothly since celebrations were already in practice during this time. The return of the light to earth after mid winter has symbolized the light of Jesus. The winter solstice occurs a few days before christmas nowadays due to changes in the calendar. It makes perfect sense for people who had not heard about Jesus to make a special event for the winter solstice.

The origin of ”Santa Clause” is uncertain as well, and even though we can trace him back to 300 AD and St. Nicholas, each culture has added its own flavor to this man. In the US he is always depicted as a man with a red and white suit, but he can wear other colors in other countries, and he has various assignments. In the 1800’s in Sweden, he was often depicted as a little midget (much like the dwarves in Snow white) who helped the land owners to guard barns and stables and to help feed the animals. He did not come with any presents but HE liked to get a bowl of porridge once in a while, why some had as a tradition to place this dish outside the door for him. The content sometimes disappeared so it could be Jultomten (The Santa Clause) who ate it – or perhaps a fox? For us today it’s possible to celebrate Christmas without this man if he is too much of a problem.

How it all started in Scandinavia

In Sweden and in some other countries in Europe, it’s December 24th which is the big day, and particularly in the evening, but the entire ”christmas season” is between December 24th to January 13th when the celebration is officially over. Many choose to get rid of their christmas tree on or around this final day (or a few days before if it’s shedding too many needles), and why the christmas tree is not referred to in Jeremiah 10 can be read here. The modern use of a tree inside the house for christmas is a tradition from Germany in the 1500´s, and candles started to be used in the trees in the 1600´s and 1700´s. Initially christmas trees, at least in Scandinavia, were used only among the more wealthy families.

It’s hard to know where ”Jul” first started to be used as a word but the first occasion seems to be from Codes Ambrosianus A of the Gothic calendar, which was written about 500-600 AD. The fragment describes the end of October and the beginning of November, and the month of November is overwritten with ”Naubaimbair: fruma Jiuleis” which could be translated as ”November, the month before Yule”. At around 730 Ad Beda venerabilis wrote that the Anglosaxians’ calendar has the month ”geola” or ”giuli” which can correspond to December and/or December and January. December 25th seems to be the first day of the pagan new year which was celebrated. By the time Scandinavia was christianised around 1000 AD, christmas celebrations started to involve mixed elements between pagan, christian, Nordic and Germanic traditions from the time of the vikings and onwards. Most of the present traditions derive from  the 1800’s and 1900’s so they are modern and not tied to any pagan gods.

Saint Lucia – Celebrated December 13th in major parts of Scandinavia, with start in Sweden. The most commonly used explanation for the origin of this celebration is that it concerns a young Italian woman from Syracuse on Sicily (Italy) who around 300 AD was forced to marry a man who did not share her faith, and in order to not having to marry him she took her eyes out. Before the new Gregorian Calendar, the Lucia day occurred during the day of the winter solstice but this later changed. Again, it’s common to make extra festivities during a winter solstice. The origin of the Lucia celebrations in Sicily differs entirely from the one in Sweden. The Swedish Lucia tradition actually seems to be separated from the saint altogether, and the name Lucia was tied to the winter solstice  festivities during a later stage. It wasn’t until around the year 1900 when the Lucia tradition was established and commonly celebrated in Sweden. The way it has been celebrated has changed since the year 1900, but in schools today the Lucia and her maids sing Lucia songs and christian christmas songs (and a few others) and that in itself is spectacular. Because ”forcing” a religion on someone is usually not acceptable in schools, so religious songs or teachings would normally not pass, BUT since the Lucia tradition is so old and so loved this tradition is an exception. Even if a parent in school would protest, all other parents would overrule the protest, and the tradition continues. This means students will continue to be affected by the glorious gospel about JESUS CHRIST who the Lucia sings about. The Lucia songs can be heard in public places all around the country and on TV, and it’s a great way to evangelize! Children often sing these christian songs to their grandparents or similar, when visiting them in their homes this special day. Lucia on youtube can be viewed here:

With this background in mind, is celebrating christmas wrong?

Maybe it’s harder for me to understand people’s disdain for christmas due to where I live – in a very secular country where people would raise their eyebrows and maybe even be shocked if you would ever say ”God bless you” to them. Religion is usually understood as something very private and politicians would therefore never say ”God bless you” or ”Let’s pray…” during any public circumstances. In the US you might feel that it’s not a big deal to skip christmas altogether and delete it as a Holiday since you will always be surrounded by people, even at work, who do NOT feel you’re odd for being a born again christian.

I am just SO pleased we have christmas celebrations! During the rest of the year (maybe apart from Easter, Pentecost and Christ’s Ascension day) any promotion of christianity seems to be prohibited from the public arena. You wouldn’t hear any songs about Jesus Christ on the radio or TV, unless there is a certain documentary or similar, but during the christmas season suddenly everything is allowed! JESUS CHRIST is promoted big time, and churches don’t pay a dime for this promotion! If you’re in a store, a bus or in a waiting room, you might be hearing christmas music in the background, and the same applies if you zap around among the TV channels. Just imagine; without the need of christians coming together and pay big money for spreading the gospel of Jesus, THIS IS DONE FOR FREE! And it’s done by SECULAR people who are helping out promoting our Savior even if they are not aware of it! For several days in a row you will be listening to christmas songs which keep reminding also atheists of:

A savior is born! In Bethlehem, by a virgin which would be a sign for the Messiah! The baby in the manger is MIGHTY GOD says Isaiah! The LORD OF LORDS! Shepherds came to see him! They were guided from the East by a star, expecting a NEW BORN KING. Angels spoke to them and assured them a Savior is come to earth! Herod was afraid!  This baby would be born just to save people from their sins! People were expecting the Messiah and there he was! Oh Holy night! Peace on earth!

WHY would I vote for deleting christmas as a holiday, now when the gospel of Jesus Christ is spread to so many atheists?

Radio and TV

If religious songs would be played during any other time of the year, people would complain and point out that they shouldn’t have to be forced to listen to religious propaganda and that the radio hosts favor one religion over another, and they will likely be reported. But during the christmas time no one would even think about complaining despite that these songs are so frequent on all radio stations! It’s possible that you in the US have christian radio stations where you could listen to christian songs also the rest of the year, and there must be a few over here too, but if you’re not a christian of course you wouldn’t even look for one. When it comes to christmas, people WILL hear the christian songs whether they like it or not because ALL the radio stations play them – which are the radio stations these people usually listen to!

If we succeeded to persuade the politicians to abolish christmas altogether, it would mean that the radio stations and the TV channels would have no reason to play such christmas songs any more. Then those christians who voted down christmas, might contact the radio stations and offer to pay for ”time slots” to play christians songs, but they would be turned down because the radio stations don’t play religious songs. Also TV-channels show many quality programs with christian christmas songs, and they are aired during the peak hours so loads of people can see them. They also make reruns of many programs. If you compare with other type of evangelization I can think of NO greater impact than broadcasting the Gospel right into people’s living rooms (for atheists) during the time when they will likely sit in front of the TV! These atheists might very well enjoy the music and sing along with the christian text. The Bible actually says that faith comes from hearing (the word of God) so this might be a start to peak their interest and a start on their salvation! And again, it doesn’t cost us christians anything! If we would try to make this on our own, it would cost us many millions to arrange a similar gospel campaign. Now, we don’t have to lift a finger, and still secular media will continue to spread the gospel by free will and no one is stopping them! The only ones who might interfere with this tradition and try to silence the christian christmas music might be those christians who oppose Christmas…

Changing dates?

The idea of changing dates for the Christmas holiday would of course not be achievable. I wouldn’t be able to make an impact on the leaders of this country to change Christmas from December 24th to September 24th even if many christians joined me in my efforts, and WHY would I even want to make an effort? It doesn’t matter when we celebrate christmas, but over here December 24th is perfect. It’s getting dark at 15.00 so we don’t have many hours of daylight, why a celebration which contain much Light comes in handy. IF christmas would be eliminated as a Holiday, it would likely result in LESS people who seek Jesus Christ and LESS people who get saved! If the politicians agreed to adhere to the christians’ call to eliminate christmas altogether since it’s pagan, and declared that the holiday would no longer be officially celebrated since it’s pagan and since it’s better to be neutral about religious holidays, then I’m rather sure atheists would take over this holiday and REALLY make it pagan. They might miss the Holiday of light and all the special events, so they might make their own traditions, and getting drunk might be one of the ingredients. Halloween started very recently in this country just from one year to another, so if Christmas was abolished something else will likely take its place.

Christian holidays will one day be abolished for the sake of neutrality

I believe that religious holidays will be abolished in the future anyway since the Antichrist is on his way and he won’t accept any public holidays where Jesus Christ is focused on, but why would we christians try to reach to this point sooner than we need? Jesus is coming soon and we need to spread the gospel! Not silence it! I read that in China also secular chinese people have started to pay attention to the christmas celebration. Particularly the youth and people who live on the coasts. When a lot of people celebrate christmas and tell the world WHY, also others might be affected and seek the Lord.

Even in schools they feel led to explain to their children WHY we celebrate christmas, and some even make a tradition to walk to a nearby church to see a nativity scene. Lately this has been questioned since the school education is supposed to be neutral, and it might start with one single parent who questions this tradition, with the result that school principal feels prone to agree and cancels a tradition which has been going on for many years. In reality there is room within the school laws to teach children about religions by making this type of excursions. Since this country has a christian history, why is it wrong to tell children about the reason for celebrating christmas? Where I live they solved the controversy (to single out christianity among other religions) by placing the nativity scene in the library instead of in the church (even though the church is just beside the library), and they explained the story of Joseph and Mary both from a christian point of view AND from the Islamic point of view! All for the sake of ”neutrality”.

You decide over your own traditions

I just feel, that if we dislike certain christmas traditions, like the focus on Santa, too many and too expensive gifts, mistletoe arrangements, etc, then we should just avoid them and keep other traditions and/or start new ones which are more appropriate. Why the desire to eliminate the entire holiday and make it plain just because there are people who focus on the wrong things during this season? If you celebrate your own birthday without letting the wicked man Herodes bother you who is the only Biblical person who is mentioned celebrating a birthday, why is it wrong to select a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and why is it wrong to choose a former pagan day for this event? By choosing a former pagan day, you would kill two birds with one stone since you would disarm Satan with his pagan traditions, at the same time as you replaced the wicked traditions with a focus on JESUS CHRIST. Now we don’t have two competing holidays. Plus it’s a bit late to change dates now anyway. This is not about trying to turn the ”pagan ship” around because it has already been turned around by people before us. We don’t celebrate December 25th to commemorate the sun-god any more, and even atheists can testify that the idea is to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. Seems like the angels,  shepherds and wise men found it natural to  react quite visibly on the birth of  Jesus Christ, and would they really be sinning if they commemorated the birth every year?

Christmas tree is not referred to in Jeremiah 10 in the Bible

JEREMIAH 10 AND THE “PAGAN” CHRISTMAS TREE?

A number or well-meaning readers of the “Origin and Meaning of the Christmas Tree” article have written me with questions or accusations based on Jeremiah 10. These readers state that Jeremiah 10 proves that the Christmas tree is a pagan custom and is forbidden by God. Therefore, they argue, all those who decorate a Christmas tree in their home are sinning in God’s sight. This is quite the serious charge.  Let us briefly examine Jeremiah 10 and the argument based upon it to see if there is any merit to this argument.

What exactly does Jeremiah 10 say? Below is Jeremiah 10:1-10:

This is what the LORD says: “Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them. 3 For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. 4 They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. 5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” 6 No one is like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. 7 Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you. 8 They are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols. 9 Hammered silver is brought from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz. What the craftsman and goldsmith have made is then dressed in blue and purple– all made by skilled workers. 10 But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath.

The verses that the concerned readers repeatedly cite are 10:2-4: “Do not learn the ways of the nations . . . For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. 4 They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter.” “Aha!” these readers say. “Jeremiah is talking about the Christmas tree!” But closer examination reveals that he certainly is not!

First, there is the immediate context of this passage. The very next verse, 10:5, goes on to say, “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” This passage and the passages that follow make it crystal clear that the “decorated tree” that Jeremiah was talking about in 10:3-4, was a tree that was cut down and made into an idol, a very common custom in the ancient world. 10:8-10 also confirms this, where the wooden idols are contrasted with the LORD, who is the true and living God. Keil and Delitsch, the well-respected Old Testament commentary, confirms this interpretation that the trees in question were idols that were then worshiped (C. F. Keil and F. Delitsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, “Jeremiah, Lamentations,” vol 8 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eeerdmans Publishing Company, 1980), 196-199).

Second, when we search the rest of the Old Testament, we find many other examples of trees being planted, cut down, or carved into idols. One of the most common examples of a tree idol was the Asherah, mentioned often in the Old Testament. Asherah was a pagan goddess that was worshiped throughout the Mediterranean world. She was considered to be the goddess of the sea, the consort of El, and the mother of Baal. She was always represented as a tree or pole, either planted or erected, then decorated. There are many warnings in the Old Testament about the Asherah tree. For example, in Exodus 34:12-14, we read, “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. 13 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. 14 Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” From a more thorough study we learn that the Asherah idol was sometimes planted (Deut. 16:21; Micah 5:14), sometimes erected at high places (1 Kings 14:23, 2 Kings 17:10), with altars and incense stands next to them where they would be worshiped (In Judges 6:25, Gideon is commanded by God to “Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.” See also Isaiah 17:8 and Jeremiah 17:2). The Asherah, along with other man-made idols, were often decorated with various cloth hangings (2 Kings 23:7), as well as gold and silver.

Isaiah 44:14-19 gives a detailed picture of how a tree was cut down and fashioned into an idol – and the absurdity of it all.

He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. 15 It is man’s fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. 16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” 17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me; you are my god.” 18 They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. 19 No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”

From the foregoing, it is abundantly clear that the “decorated tree” to which Jeremiah 10 refers is an idol, very likely the Asherah. Therefore, it is very superficial Bible interpretation and pure silliness to understand this passage as directly referring to the use of a fir tree for Christmas! If, and I repeat, if those who set up a Christmas tree fall down and worship it as a god or goddess, complete with altars and incense stands, then Jeremiah 10 applies here. Or if someone loves their Christmas tree more than God, then such a thing might also be considered spiritual idolatry. But apart from these exceptions, I think it is abundantly clear that Christians who erect Christmas trees are NOT worshiping them as gods or goddesses, nor are they loving them more than their Savior Jesus Christ. They are simply using the Christmas tree as a fun custom, one that can remind them of Jesus who is the branch of David (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15), the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1). One that can remind them of the tree that led Adam and Eve to sin, but more importantly, the tree on which Christ Jesus died to make atonement for the sins of the whole world (Acts 5:30; Gal. 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24).

Christians should know that they can use a Christmas tree with a good conscience. It is unfortunate and wrong when well-meaning Christians call something sin that is not sin, and enslave the consciences of their fellow believers with imaginary sin! Shame on such Christians! Those who continue to believe that the Christmas tree is pagan and sinful, even after having their conscience correctly informed, should not use them. For it is not right to sin against conscience. This is regrettable, however, since there is absolutely nothing wrong with using a Christmas tree.

Thanks to Richard P. Bucher

through SANDRA HOOPER