Search Related Sites

Friday, November 30, 2012

Can the Pagan Customs of Christmas Really Be MADE Acceptable to God?

Many people today readily admit they already know that many origins of Christmas customs are often attributed to paganism. They know that pagans started some of these holidays and celebrations, and they may have corrupted some customs. (See: Christmas - It's Origins And Associations) But the standard reasoning seems to assume that a believer can make the holidays Christian.

It is just this kind of rationalization that prompts some to feel that, despite the pagan origins of Christmas, it is not wrong to heartily join in these celebrations. This holiday and it's traditions, they say, can be observed for the Lord. They may even point out, for example, that Paul wrote to the Romans, `He who regards one day as special does so to the Lord' (Romans 14:6). (Click HERE for a closer examination of this Scripture.)

They may reason that their perspective gives these holidays a godly purpose. Pagans may have offered these holidays to their idols, but if they offer them to their God then, therefore, they are God's days. After all, they may feel that they need celebration in their lives. So they become convinced that they need rituals, traditions and excuses to gather together.

Even though they may be totally unaware of it, these people are willing to accept any reasoning to keep these enjoyable traditions and will convince themselves with this emotional appeal. Most of these people will find a reason to keep on doing what their hearts desire no matter what evidence or Bible proofs are provided for them (Jer. 17:9; Mark 7:20-23; Prov. 28:26, KJV, NASB).

This article, however, is written for those few who are willing to examine both sides of an issue and (in spite of the inclination of their hearts to follow enjoyable traditions) truly desire to follow God's word as expressed in the Bible.

Can the Pagan Customs of Christmas Really Be Made Acceptable to God?

We must accept God's word over the desires of our hearts and the traditions of men. And we must learn from the lessons found in the Bible concerning the disastrous results of man following his heart's desire (and his own "reasoning") instead of obedience to God's word. For instance, Adam knew God's word concerning the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He knew absolutely that he was not to touch it at this time - this was God's command to him. And yet, the desires of his heart allowed false reasoning to convince him that this forbidden knowledge was in his best interests. (Gen. 2:15; 3:1-6)

Another example of "reasoned" disobedience to God's word: Moses was up on Mount Sinai for so many days that the Israelites feared that he must have died. So they made an idol in the shape of the golden calf that they had known all their lives during their Egyptian slavery. They made sacrifices to it and called it the very same God who had brought them out of Egypt. Even Aaron built an altar in front of the calf in order to have a festival to Jehovah.

(The highly-respected New Bible Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1984, Tyndale House Publ. tells us that this golden calf was intended to either actually represent Jehovah or, possibly, to act as "a pedestal over which he [Jehovah] was enthroned." - p. 504.)

Now God had commanded them to have only one God, Jehovah. So this festival and idol were really intended in His honor (or so they reasoned in their hearts). They were taking pagan religious customs and "making them clean and holy"! The only problem is, worshipers of the true God don't decide for themselves what is right or wrong in God's eyes. This is exactly the same terrible sin that Adam and Eve committed.

On the next day during the festival (to "Jehovah") God's wrath against such disobedient ones was partially fulfilled and thousands died. (Ex. 32.)

We may well understand the reasoning of the Israelites and their desire to fall back on customs and ceremonies that they had grown up with in Egypt and felt secure and comfortable with. But the whole point of this example is that they expressly disobeyed Jehovah's clear commandment (Ex. 20:4) and reasoned in their own self-deceiving hearts that they could make this action "clean and holy to God" by giving the pagan idol Jehovah's name and making the pagan celebration solely in HIS honor. Compromise, then, should have brought them the best of both worlds. Instead it brought the wrath of the only true God and death!

"The whole narrative of the golden calf (Ex. 32) reveals the extent of the contrast between the religion which stemmed from Mt. Sinai and the form of religion congenial to the unregenerate heart. These religions, we learn are incompatible .... it is a most significant thing that when Israel turned to idolatry it was always necessary to borrow the trappings from the pagan environment .... whenever the kings of Israel and Judah lapsed into idolatry, it was by means of borrowing and syncretism." - New Bible Dictionary, p. 504, Tyndale House Publ., 1984.

So Israelites didn't reject their God openly, but continued to "worship" him by adding (or reverting to) pagan customs in God's name. They "made" these customs, celebrations, etc. clean and holy to the one true God (or so they reasoned). But it was never acceptable to Jehovah who demanded pure, untainted worship.

Notice what the leaders of the only true religious organization on earth at the time of Jesus were doing. Jesus said to them:

"`Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men." You have let go the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.' And he [Jesus] said to them: `You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!'" - Mark 7:6-9, NIV.

How many times has it been heard how hundreds of millions of members of Christendom can "make" pagan celebrations and customs pleasing to God? The emotional attachment to celebrations and customs we have grown up with can be understandable. There can be a strong desire to keep observing such things that have delighted us for so long and have provided feelings of security and bonding to loved ones all our lives.

Certainly the Israelites in their terrible hour of need at Mt. Sinai, when all seemed lost, understandably yearned for such things. And yet their reasoning is identical to that of those who wish to "make" pagan Christmas celebrations and customs pleasing to God.

But the only real consideration must be: Is it pleasing to God? Is it truly in line with His Word? We can know only by examining His word, the Bible! Obviously the Israelites learned that such reasoning was terribly wrong and worthy of death. They learned the hard way what Jesus emphasized to those religious leaders of his time who were also "setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!" - These later Israelites would lose the opportunity for eternal life also, because of their reasoning and traditions of men.

Martin Luther wrote,

"Thus we, although having the right faith, fall into new disbeliefs. This is what the devil brought about in olden times when he misled the children of Israel from the temple at Jerusalem to innumerable other places. It was all done in God's name, and with every appearance of sanctity; all the prophets preached against it, and were martyred for doing so. But, nowadays, no one preaches against it...!" - p. 458, Martin Luther, Selections From His Writings, Dr. John Dillenberger, Anchor Books, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1961.

Moses concluded with this clear warning by Jehovah: "See that you do all that I command you; do not add to it or take away from it." - Deut. 12:32. In other words, we are not to decide what is good and evil in God's "food" for us! We must, unlike Adam, the Israelites, and those who wish to "make" pagan Christmas celebrations and customs pleasing to God, obey all of God's word in spite of what we want in our hearts or what seems "reasonable" to us.

"The pillars and the asherah were both forbidden to Israel [and they were both frequently returned to time and again by the Israelites] .... The asherah was wooden, as we learn from its usual destruction by burning (Deut. 12:3; 2 Ki. 23:6), and probably originated from the sacred evergreen, the symbol of life. The association of these with Canaanite fertility practice sufficed to make them abominable to Yahweh [Jehovah]." - New Bible Dictionary, p. 504.

Notice how exclusive the worship of God must be: "Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips." - Exodus 23:13, NIVSB.

Yes, idolatry includes anything even associated with pagan gods. This would even include merely speaking their names in a conciliatory manner or raising an asherah pole, symbol of the sacred evergreen, (even if you "cleansed" it by using it in a ceremony "honoring" Christ and calling it a "Christmas Pole," for example).

"In the New Testament the word ... (idololatria), afterwards shortened occasionally to ... (idolatria) [`idolatry'], occurs in all four times, viz., in 1 Cor. 10:14; Gal. 5:20; 1 Pet. 4:3; Col. 3:5. In the last of these passages it is used to describe the sin of covetousness or 'mammon-worship'. In the other places it indicates with the utmost generality all the rites and practices of those special forms of paganism with which Christianity first came into collision." - Encyclopedia Britannica, p.71, v.12, 14th ed.

Notice how strongly this idolatry (which includes "all the rites and practices of ... paganism") is condemned in the NT: Rev. 21:8; Gal. 5:20, 21.

Even in the first century of Christianity many of those who believed themselves to be Christians let their hearts and "reason" seduce them into making certain pagan practices "clean" for Christians. Notice this quote from the Roman Catholic Bible The New American Bible (1970), St. Joseph edition: footnote for Rev. 2:14-15 -

"Like Balaam, the biblical prototype of religious compromisers..., the Nicolaitans in Pergamum and Ephesus accommodated their Christian faith to paganism."

And notice how strongly this was condemned by Jesus: He would come and "fight against them with the sword of [his] mouth"! (Rev. 2:16)

Which View is Correct?

So are the few Christians who say "we must keep our religion unspotted from the world and worship God in truth with the pure worship He has commanded" correct in not mixing any paganisms into their religion? Or are the many who say "I can `make' pagan customs and ceremonies into acceptable Christian offerings on the altar of true worship" really correct?

Even Martin Luther tells us,

"The world and the masses are and always will be unChristian, although they are all baptized and are nominally Christian. [True] Christians, however, are few and far between, as the saying is. .... [True] Christians are always in the minority and are in the midst of non-Christians." - Martin Luther, p. 371.

"Wide is the gate and broad [easy-going, appealing] is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow [not so easy-going, not always appealing to the heart of many - Jer. 17:9] the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." - Matt. 7:13-14, NIVSB.

The `many' spoken of here are actually self-deceived "Christians":

"Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he [the `few' above] who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" - Matt. 7:21-22, NIVSB.

Yes, these are people who really believe they are Christians. They believe they have taught God's truth in Jesus' name to others. (Footnote for Matt. 7:22 in NIVSB: "prophesy. In the NT this verb primarily means to give a message from God, not necessarily to predict.") They call Jesus "Lord" and did many things in his name. But these many "Christians" have deceived themselves and have not truly done the will of Jesus' Father in heaven. They are rejected by Jesus Christ: "Away from me, you evildoers!"

Many rejected the pure religion of Jehovah in OT times by mixing in various paganisms and "making" them clean to Jehovah. Only a relative few of them kept their religion as pure as Jehovah had commanded.

The same thing has occurred, as predicted in the NT above, in the Christian religion down to today. In spite of the Bible's clear counsel, only a few of those who believe they are Christians are actually on the Narrow Road that leads to eternal life. Many others think they can do it their own way - they, like Adam and Eve, want to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil. The results must be, as for Adam and Eve, what is at the end of the Broad Road: Destruction.

"Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them [f.n. in NIVSB says `In spite of the remarkable privileges given to Israel, they failed to obey God, thus incurring his displeasure. Of the adults who came out of Egypt, only Caleb and Joshua were allowed to enter Canaan.']; their bodies were scattered over the desert. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: `The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.'" - 1 Cor. 10:5-7, NIVSB.

The NIVSB f.n. for 10:7 tells us the last sentence by Paul is a quote that refers to the golden calf incident of Ex. 32. So here the Apostle Paul also uses the example of the golden calf to warn Christians about mixing paganisms with true religion!

But Paul continues - "Therefore, my dear friends [Christians in the first century Corinth congregation] flee from idolatry." And the NIVSB adds in its footnote for this verse: "flee from idolatry. Like that described in Ex. 32:1-6." Paul concludes with, "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?" Footnote in NIVSB: "arouse the Lord's jealousy. By sharing in pagan idolatry and worship." - 1 Cor 10:14, 21-22.

And in his second letter to these Christian Corinthians Paul again warns against ANY compromise with pagans and paganisms:

"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial [`Satan' - f.n.] .... What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? .... `Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you...says the Lord Almighty.' Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." - 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1, NIVSB.

The footnote for 6:16 says,

"agreement ... between the temple of God and idols. There can be no reversion or compromise with the idolatry they have forsaken for the gospel."

So, how is it that the pure "unleavened" Christianity of Paul's time has deteriorated into the pagan-saturated religion of Christendom today?

"If Paganism was conquered by Christianity, it is equally true that Christianity was corrupted by paganism." - The History of Christianity, Eckler.

"Christianity did not destroy Paganism; it adopted it" - The Story of Civilization: Part III, Will Durant.

Yes, God has always demanded that our "sacrifice" to him, no matter how small, must be pure and untainted. The principal was laid down repeatedly in the OT. E.g., "Do not sacrifice to the LORD [Jehovah] your God an ox or a sheep that has any defect or flaw in it, for that would be detestable to him." - Deut. 17:1, NIVSB, (Cf. Lev. 1:3,10; 3:1). Even in "grain offerings" when the grain was made into flour and baked before it was offered, there was to be absolutely no leaven or "yeast" in that offering. The leaven, then, was figurative of an impurity, comparable to a defect or flaw found in an impure animal sacrifice, and made such a flawed sacrifice detestable to God.

So, can we get away with a tiny bit of "leaven" in our "sacrifices" to God today? No more than we can get away with a tiny drop of cyanide in a glass of pure drinking water. Paul tells us of a saying that makes that very point:

"Have you never heard the saying, `A little leaven leavens all the dough'? The old leaven of corruption is working among you. Purge it out, and then you will be bread of a new baking. As Christians you are unleavened Passover bread .... So we who observe the festival must not use the old leaven, the leaven of corruption and wickedness, but only the unleavened bread which is sincerity and truth." Further explaining, Paul says: "you must have nothing to do with any so-called Christian who leads a loose life, or is grasping, or idolatrous.... You should not even eat with any such person." - 1 Cor. 5:6-8, 11, New English Bible.

No, God still tolerates absolutely no "leaven" mixed into the Christian "sacrifice" of true worship. "I the LORD do not change." - Malachi 3:6, NIVSB.

Note the example of the golden calf. It was made from the gold jewelry of the Israelites themselves. Obviously the Israelites were not allowed to keep that pagan image of the calf no matter how they "cleansed" it or "gave it a Godly purpose"! But surely they could recast that extremely valuable gold back into jewelry or even into utensils properly used in the worship of Jehovah!! But no, in spite of its great material value, it must never be used again by God's people in any form, for any purpose! - Deut. 9:21. What could be a more obvious demonstration of the exclusive devotion required by God and the lengths God's people must go to to ensure pure worship? We must not knowingly "purify" and "reuse" anything that has been made for paganistic false worship!

So, if pagan ceremonies, customs, god names, etc. are really mixed in with ceremonies, customs, etc. that we use to honor God and Christ, they are not merely unacceptable - - - they are detestable to God! We must completely get away from these unclean things and not even "touch" them! "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." - 2 Cor. 6:17.

Those who "make" pagan celebrations and customs pleasing to God are clearly, tragically, terribly wrong when they say things like: "My perspective gives these holidays a godly purpose. Pagans may have offered these holidays to their idols, but I offer them to my God and, therefore, they are God's days." If a holiday or custom is being deliberately participated in by a Christian, it must have absolutely no known pagan religion associations!

Related Articles:
Christmas - It's Origins And Associations (Search For Bible Truths)

Christmas Customs—Are They Christian? (w00 12/15 pp. 3-7; Watchtower Online Library)

Can a Pagan Holiday Be Made Christian? (w07 12/15 pp. 8-9; Watchtower Online Library)

Why Do Some People Not Celebrate Christmas? (w12/12 (JW.ORG)

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Date of Jesus' Birth

Jesus' birth date not recorded in the Bible

M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia says: “The observance of Christmas is not of divine appointment, nor is it of N[ew] T[estament] origin. The day of Christ’s birth cannot be ascertained from the N[ew] T[estament], or, indeed, from any other source.” - (New York, 1871), Vol. II, p. 276.

The New Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges: “The date of Christ’s birth is not known. The Gospels indicate neither the day nor the month. - (1967), Vol. III, p. 656.

Jesus' birth was not in December

Though the specific date of Jesus' birth was not recorded in Scripture, it does give us sound reason to conclude that his birth did not take place in December.

The weather conditions at that time of the year in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born is cold and rainy.

The Bible writer Ezra reported that this particular month in Jerusalem is known for cold and rainy weather. He wrote that people were “shivering . . . on account of the showers of rain.” (Ezra 10:9) Concerning weather conditions at that time of the year, the congregated people themselves said: “It is the season of showers of rain, and it is not possible to stand outside.” (Jeremiah 36:22) So it is no wonder that shepherds living in that part of the world made sure that they and their flocks were no longer out of doors at night when December came around.

But when Jesus was born, the Bible says that shepherds were in the fields tending their flocks on the night of Jesus’ birth.

In fact, the Bible writer Luke shows that at that time, shepherds were “living out of doors and keeping watches in the night over their flocks” near Bethlehem. (Luke 2:8-12) Notice that the shepherds were actually living out of doors, not just strolling outside during the day. They had their flocks in the fields at night. Does that description of outdoor living fit the chilly and rainy weather conditions of Bethlehem in December? No, it does not. So the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth indicate that he was not born in December.

The book Daily Life in the Time of Jesus states: “The flocks . . . passed the winter under cover; and from this alone it may be seen that the traditional date for Christmas, in the winter, is unlikely to be right, since the Gospel says that the shepherds were in the fields.”—(New York, 1962), Henri Daniel-Rops, p. 228.

After mentioning that Jesus was born at a time when shepherds were out-of-doors at night watching their flocks, 19th-century Bible scholar Albert Barnes concluded: "It is clear from this that our Saviour was born before the 25th of December . . . At that time it is cold, and especially in the high and mountainous regions about Bethlehem. God has concealed the time of [Jesus'] birth. . . . Nor was it of consequence to know the time; if it had been, God would have preserved the record of it." - Barnes Notes on Luke 2:8

"Neither scripture nor secular history records the date of Jesus' birth; even the season of the year is not stipulated. Some evidence points to spring, but it is not conclusive. The only thing reasonably certain about the coming of the Christ Child is that his birth did not take place in winter. .... In A. D. 350 Pope Julius I formally designated December 25 as Christmas. He chose that date because it coincided with important pagan festivals. These, in turn, were linked with the winter solstice [the shortest day of the year]." - How it Started, p. 54.

"It was noted later that this date [Dec. 25] would fall within the rainy season in Palestine, so that the shepherds would hardly have been in the fields as they were when Jesus was born." - p. 1425, The World Book Encyclopedia, 1958.

"At that time, Christianity was locked in a great duel with the Mithraists for the hearts and minds of the people of the Roman Empire. .... Sometime after 300, Christianity managed the final coup of absorbing the Saturnalia, and with it scored its final victory over Mithraism. December 25 was established as the day of the birth of Jesus and the great festival was made Christian. There is absolutely no Biblical authority for Dec. 25 as having been the day of the Nativity." (Cf. "Sol Invictus", p. 725, An Encyclopedia of Religion, 1945 ed.)
Related Articles:
Christmas - It's Origins And Associations (SFBT)
Was Jesus Born in December? (WBTS.)
THE BIBLE’S VIEWPOINT - When Was Jesus Born? (WBTS.)

So Why is it Established That Jesus Was Born on December 25? 

The Encyclopedia Americana informs us: “The reason for establishing December 25 as Christmas is somewhat obscure, but it is usually held that the day was chosen to correspond to pagan festivals that took place around the time of the winter solstice, when the days begin to lengthen, to celebrate the ‘rebirth of the sun.’ . . . The Roman Saturnalia (a festival dedicated to Saturn, the god of agriculture, and to the renewed power of the sun), also took place at this time, and some Christmas customs are thought to be rooted in this ancient pagan celebration.”—(1977), Vol. 6, p. 666.

The New Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges: “The date of Christ’s birth is not known. The Gospels indicate neither the day nor the month . . . According to the hypothesis suggested by H. Usener . . . and accepted by most scholars today, the birth of Christ was assigned the date of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar, January 6 in the Egyptian), because on this day, as the sun began its return to northern skies, the pagan devotees of Mithra celebrated the dies natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the invincible sun). On Dec. 25, 274, Aurelian had proclaimed the sun-god principal patron of the empire and dedicated a temple to him in the Campus Martius. Christmas originated at a time when the cult of the sun was particularly strong at Rome.”—(1967), Vol. III, p. 656.

“December was the major month of pagan celebration, and Dec. 25 was the high point of the winter revelries…Some believe the bishop of Rome chose Dec. 25 as the birth date of Christ in order to ‘sanctify’ the pagan celebrations. What resulted was a strange mixture of the pagan and the Christian festivals that the world now calls Christmas…The word ‘Christmas’ does not appear in the Bible. And Scripture gives no mandate for celebrating Jesus’ birth.” (Church Christmas Tab Magazine)

On the Road to Civilization, page 164: “The feast of Saturn, the Saturnalia, was a winter festival which lasted a week beginning on the twenty-fifth day of December, and was celebrated with dancing, the exchanging of gifts, and the burning of candles. The Saturnalia was later taken over by the Christians as their Christmas, and given a new significance.”

New Americanized Encyclopedia Britannica, 1900, Vol. IX, page 5236, says: “Saturnalia . . . celebrated on the 19th . . . lasted seven days. The time was one of general joy and mirth. The woolen fetters were taken from the feet of the Image of Saturn, and each man offered a pig. During the festival schools were closed. . . . Gambling with dice, at other times illegal, was practiced. All classes exchanged gifts, the commonest being tapers and clay dolls. These dolls were especially given to children. Varro thought that these dolls represented original sacrifices of human beings (children to the ‘Infernal God’).”

“Rev.” A. E. Palmer of Holy Trinity Church was reported by the Examiner to have said: “‘Why choose December 25 as the date of the sacred festival? Wouldn’t any other public holiday do just as well for this jollification?’ There was no evidence, he said, that Jesus was born on December 25 but the Church took over a great many of the ancient pagan festivals and gave them Christian meaning. On December 25 was celebrated the return of the sun, with the days becoming longer, and the Church chose this as being symbolic of the light that shone through the darkness. Christmas without Christ, he said, was nothing but a pagan festival.”

“It is a well-known fact that the popes and councils in the early Church deliberately placed a Christian festival on or near the day of a previously existing pagan carnival, with the purpose of ousting the heathenish and generally licentious celebration.” (James M. Gillis, C. S. P., editor of the Catholic World. December 2, 1945)
Related Articles:
Christmas - It's Origins And Associations (SFBT)
Christmas Customs—Are They Christian? (WBTS.)
Can a Pagan Holiday Be Made Christian? (WBTS.)
How Should Jesus Christ Be Remembered? (WBTS.)

Wouldn't the Bible specifically mention what month and what day Jesus was born if Jesus' birthday was meant to be observed?

Jesus was the greatest man who ever lived and he is the Exemplar of all true Christians. So one would think that if he or his disciples or any of the early Christians ever celebrated his birth, the date would have been clearly recorded in the Bible so future Christians would always be able to celebrate it.

Yet the Bible never mentioned that Jesus nor his followers ever celebrated his birth. There is a very good reason for this -

The early Christians and Jews of Bible times did not celebrate birthdays at all

Historian Augustus Neander writes: “The notion of a birthday festival was far from the ideas of the Christians of this period.” (The History of the Christian Religion and Church, During the Three First Centuries, translated by H. J. Rose, 1848, p. 190)

The Jews "regarded birthday celebrations as parts of idolatrous worship . . . , and this probably on account of the idolatrous rites with which they were observed in honor of those who were regarded as the patron gods of the day on which the party was born." -M'Clintock and Strong's Cyclopaedia (1882, Vol. I, p. 817)

"Early Christians [from time of Christ until the 4th century] frowned on [celebrating anyone's birthday], which was too closely linked with pagan customs to be given the approval of the church." - How It Started, p. 213.

The Christian Book of Why, by Dr. John C. McCollister (Lutheran minister and university professor, graduate of Trinity Lutheran Seminary), Jonathan David Publishers, Inc., 1983, tells us on p. 205:

"Christians of the first century did not celebrate the festival honoring the birth of Jesus - for the same reason they honored no other birthday anniversary. It was the feeling at that time by ALL Christians that the celebration of all birthdays (even the Lord's) was a custom of the PAGANS. In an effort to divorce themselves from ALL pagan practices, the early Christians refused to set aside a date marking Jesus' birth. As a result, the first celebration of Christmas by Christians [?] did not take place until the fourth century."

Think about it for a moment. Exactly who were included in "ALL Christians of the first century" (1 A. D. - 100 A. D.)?

Yes, the Jews themselves never celebrated birthdays until long after the death of Jesus. They considered it a purely pagan custom and detestable to the God they worshiped. Jesus and his Apostles continued this belief and so did their followers for centuries!

"As late as 245 [A. D.] Origen [a writer of the third century C.E.] (hom. viii. on Leviticus) repudiated the idea of keeping the birthday of Christ, `as if he were a king Pharaoh [Gen. 4:19-22].'" - Encyclopedia Britannica, 14th ed., p. 642, Vol. 5.

“Origen . . . insists that ‘of all the holy people in the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born into this world below.’”—The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913, Vol. X, p. 709
Related Articles:
Birthdays (SFBT Category)

For More Related Articles Concerning Jesus' Birth, See:
Myth Versus Fact—The Truth About Jesus (WBTS.)
Jesus' Birth—How and Why It Happened (WBTS.)
Lessons From the Record of Jesus' Birth (WBTS.)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rev. 5:10 - rule upon (or 'over'?) the earth:

Rev. 5:10 - rule upon (or 'over'?) the earth:

The NT Greek word in question ("upon" or "over") is epi.

The Scripture is:

(Rotherham) Revelation 5:10 And didst make them, unto our God, a kingdom and priests,--and they reign on [epi] the earth.

(Darby) Revelation 5:10 and made them to our God kings and priests; and they shall reign over [epi] the earth.

The question is: what does epi mean?

Well, NT Greek dictionaries give the major meaning as "on" or "upon." However, a significant alternate is "over."

For example, of the 54 times that epi is rendered as "over" in the NASB, the following have to do with ruling over or having authority over:

Luke 1:33; 9:1; 19:14; 19:27; Acts 7:18; 7:27; Rom. 9:5; Eph. 4:6; Heb. 2:7; 3:6; 10:21; Rev. 2:26; 9:11; 13:7; 17:18.

It seems appropriate, therefore, to use "over" at Rev. 5:10 also.

Additionally, at Rev. 5:10, `earth' is in the genitive case. Acts 7:27, for example, uses the genitive emon in a parallel use: `ruler … over (epi) us (emon).

Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon notes specifically that epi "A. with the GENITIVE .... I. of Place; and 1. of the place on which; .... d. fig. used of things, affairs, persons, which one is set over, over which he exercises power .... Rev. v. 10;" - p. 231, Baker Book House, 1977.

More information on this subject can be found at the website, In Defense of the New World Translation: Revelation 5:10 and "EPI": "On" or "Over"?

SOURCE: Search For Bible Truths' Scripture Index

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why do Jehovah's Witnesses "Abstain From Blood"?

Jehovah's Witnesses do not consume, donate or transfuse blood, because God Himself consistently made it clear for humans to "abstain from blood". God began with commanding Noah and his family to abstain from blood. (Gen. 9:4) He repeated this through the Mosaic law (Lev. 7:26, 27; 17:10, 11, 13, 14) and He continued to remind us through the pages of the New Testament. (Acts 15:28, 29; Acts 15:19, 20) This is because God has obviously attached a highly important moral principle to blood. (Lev. 17:11)

Because this command went as far back as Noah, Andrew Fuller, viewed by some as "perhaps the most eminent and influential of Baptist theologians," wrote:

"This, being forbidden to Noah, appears also to have been forbidden to all mankind; nor ought this prohibition to be treated as belonging to the ceremonies of the Jewish dispensation. It was not only enjoined before that dispensation existed, but was enforced upon the Gentile Christians by the decrees of the apostles, Acts XV. 20. . . . Blood is the life, and God seems to claim it as sacred to himself." - The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller (1836), p. 751.

How Important is it to "Abstain From Blood"?

A close examination of the wording used at Acts 15:28, 29 shows how important it is for Christians to "abstain from blood":

"For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these ESSENTIALS ['these necessary things' - RSV]: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell." - Acts 15:28, 29 (NASB)

The wording of the Scriptures here does not indicate that this is a relatively unimportant commandment. It says it is "ESSENTIAL".

"Don't Jehovah's Witnesses Want to Live?"

The fact that Jehovah's Witnesses want to live is evidenced by their closely following the advances made in the field of bloodless medicine and surgery. There are endless examples and much documentation of their utilization of this.

Some critics of Jehovah's Witnesses have made false accusations concerning Jehovah's Witnesses' motivations in abstaining from blood. But would Jehovah's Witnesses REALLY be so eager to find quality, medical alternatives to blood transfusions for themselves and their children whom they deeply love if their refusal of blood was tantamount to a form of suicide or a "right to die" as some opposers falsely claim?

Christians who truly follow God's command to "abstain from blood" do not decline all therapies. They reject just one therapy, which even many experts admit come with dangers.

More Information From the Official Website of Jehovah's Witnesses:

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses accept any minor fractions of blood? (w04 6/15 pp. 29-31; Watchtower Online Library)

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses accept any medical products derived from blood? (w00 6/15 pp. 29-31; Watchtower Online Library)

In the light of Bible commands about the proper use of blood, how do Jehovah’s Witnesses view medical procedures using one’s own blood? (w00 10/15 pp. 30-31; Watchtower Online Library)

BLOOD (Insight-1 pp. 344-346; Watchtower Online Library)

Do You Value Life as God Does? (lv chap. 7 pp. 74-85; Watchtower Online Library)

I Accepted God’s View of Blood - A Physician Tells His Story g03 12/8 pp. 12-15; Watchtower Online Library)

Showing Respect For Blood (bh chap. 13 pp. 125-133; Watchtower Online Library)

The Growing Demand for Bloodless Medicine and Surgery - Blood and Jehovah’s Witnesses (g00 1/8 pp. 7-11; Watchtower Online Library)

Blood Transfusions—A Long History of Controversy (g00 1/8 pp. 4-6; Watchtower Online Library)

Blood Fractions and Surgical Procedures (lv pp. 215-218; Watchtower Online Library)

BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS (dx86-11; Watchtower Online Library)

BLOOD (dx86-11; Watchtower Online Library)

Blood (Reasoning From the Scriptures p. 70-p. 76; Watchtower Online Library)

Pages in Defense of Jehovah's Witnesses Stand on Blood

God's View of Blood

Jehovah's Witnesses - Setting the Record Straight

Search For Blood-Related Documents From Jehovah's Witnesses United

Links to Information About Bloodless Medicine

No Blood

Bloodless Medicine and Sugery Hospitals Directory

Network for the Advancement of Transfusion Alternatives
The University Hospital

Transfusion-Free Cardiothoracic Surgery - University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine

Transfusion-free Surgery is a Treatment Plan for All Patients

Swedish Services Bloodless Programs

Legal and Medical Resources Concerning Blood Transfusions

Legal and Medical Resources Concerning Blood Transfusions

Blood Transfusion And Outcomes

Articles Concerning Bloodless Surgery and Medicine

'Bloodless' surgery avoids risks of transfusion - Techniques first used for Jehovah's Witnesses gaining popularity

Blood Transfusions - Safe Medicine? (Addressing Myths Surrounding Blood Transfusions About Safety)

Blood Transfusions Harmful When Guidelines Ignored

Bloodless medicine and surgery in the OR and beyond

Evidence in favor of bloodless surgery mounts

Jehovah's Witnesses leading education drive as hospitals adjust to No Blood requests

Medicine in a Different Vein: Reducing and Eliminating the Need For Transfusions - University Hospital, Newark, NJ

Meeting Life's Challenges Head On - Krystie's Operation Without a Blood Transfusion

News Video- Bloodless Medicine Makes Doctors More Efficient

The Problem With Transfusions

Treating patients like Jehovah's Witnesses could save lives: expert

Why blood transfusions could be killing patients

Saturday, November 3, 2012

How do Jehovah’s Witnesses View Voting?

How do Jehovah’s Witnesses View Voting?

There are clear principles set out in the Bible that enable servants of God to take a proper view of this matter. However, there appears to be no principle against the practice of voting itself. For example, there is no reason why a board of directors should not take a vote in order to arrive at decisions affecting their corporation. Congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses often make decisions about meeting times and the use of congregation funds by voting with a show of hands.

What, though, of voting in political elections? Of course, in some democratic lands, as many as 50 percent of the population do not turn out to vote on election day. As for Jehovah’s Witnesses, they do not interfere with the right of others to vote; neither do they in any way campaign against political elections. They respect and cooperate with the authorities who are duly elected in such elections. (Romans 13:1-7) As to whether they will personally vote for someone running in an election, each one of Jehovah’s Witnesses makes a decision based on his Bible-trained conscience and an understanding of his responsibility to God and to the State. (Matthew 22:21; 1 Peter 3:16) In making this personal decision, the Witnesses consider a number of factors.

First, Jesus Christ said of his followers: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:14) Jehovah’s Witnesses take this principle seriously. Being “no part of the world,” they are neutral in the political affairs of the world.—John 18:36.

Second, the apostle Paul referred to himself as an “ambassador” representing Christ to the people of his day. (Ephesians 6:20; 2 Corinthians 5:20) Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Christ Jesus is now the enthroned King of God’s heavenly Kingdom, and they, like ambassadors, must announce this to the nations. (Matthew 24:14; Revelation 11:15) Ambassadors are expected to be neutral and not to interfere in the internal affairs of the countries to which they are sent. As representatives of God’s heavenly Kingdom, Jehovah’s Witnesses feel a similar obligation not to interfere in the politics of the countries where they reside.

A third factor to consider is that those who have a part in voting a person into office may become responsible for what he does. (Compare 1 Timothy 5:22, The New English Bible.) Christians have to consider carefully whether they want to shoulder that responsibility.

Fourth, Jehovah’s Witnesses greatly value their Christian unity. (Colossians 3:14) When religions get involved in politics, the result is often division among their members. In imitation of Jesus Christ, Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid becoming involved in politics and thus maintain their Christian unity.—Matthew 12:25; John 6:15; 18:36, 37.

Fifth and finally, their keeping out of politics gives Jehovah’s Witnesses freeness of speech to approach people of all political persuasions with the important message of the Kingdom.—Hebrews 10:35.

In view of the Scriptural principles outlined above, in many lands Jehovah’s Witnesses make a personal decision not to vote in political elections, and their freedom to make that decision is supported by the law of the land. What, though, if the law requires citizens to vote? In such a case, each Witness is responsible to make a conscientious, Bible-based decision about how to handle the situation. If someone decides to go to the polling booth, that is his decision. What he does in the polling booth is between him and his Creator.

The November 15, 1950, issue of The Watchtower, on pages 445 and 446, said: “Where Caesar makes it compulsory for citizens to vote . . . [Witnesses] can go to the polls and enter the voting booths. It is here that they are called upon to mark the ballot or write in what they stand for. The voters do what they will with their ballots. So here in the presence of God is where his witnesses must act in harmony with his commandments and in accordance with their faith. It is not our responsibility to instruct them what to do with the ballot.”

What if a Christian woman’s unbelieving husband insists that she present herself to vote? Well, she is subject to her husband, just as Christians are subject to the superior authorities. (Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 2:13-17) If she obeys her husband and goes to the polling booth, that is her personal decision. No one should criticize her.—Compare Romans 14:4.

What of a country where voting is not mandated by law but feelings run high against those who do not go to the voting booth—perhaps they are exposed to physical danger? Or what if individuals, while not legally obliged to vote, are severely penalized in some way if they do not go to the polling booth? In these and similar situations, a Christian has to make his own decision. “Each one will carry his own load.”—Galatians 6:5.

There may be people who are stumbled when they observe that during an election in their country, some Witnesses of Jehovah go to the polling booth and others do not. They may say, ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses are not consistent.’ People should recognize, though, that in matters of individual conscience such as this, each Christian has to make his own decision before Jehovah God.—Romans 14:12.

Whatever personal decisions Jehovah’s Witnesses make in the face of different situations, they take care to preserve their Christian neutrality and freeness of speech. In all things, they rely on Jehovah God to strengthen them, give them wisdom, and help them avoid compromising their faith in any way. Thus they show confidence in the words of the psalmist: “You are my crag and my stronghold; and for the sake of your name you will lead me and conduct me.”—Psalm 31:3. 11/1/99 Watchtower; Questions From Readers

Also see:
Voting in Political Elections (lv pp. 212-215; Watchtower Online Library)

Why Don't Jehovah's Witnesses Vote? (Slate article)

Why Don't Jehovah's Witnesses Vote, Pledge Allegiance Or Support The Military? (SFBT)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Only Assist Fellow Members Suffering From War, Natural Disasters, or Other Calamities?

For decades, Jehovah’s Witnesses have organized relief efforts to, not only help fellow members, but others who have suffered the effects of war, natural disasters, or other calamities. Often they are the first relief agency to appear on the scene.

(For numerous examples of this, see: Our Ministry - Contributions to the Community - Disaster Relief from the Jehovah’s Witnesses Official Media Web Site)

Jehovah’s Witnesses desire to extend human kindness and follow the Bible's formula found at Galatians 6:10:

"Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith." - NLT

So Jehovah's Witnesses take care of their brothers and sisters first, and others as they are able to do so.

Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) And the disciple James emphasized that true faith is accompanied by good deeds. (James 2:14-17) Jehovah’s Witnesses take those words to heart and endeavor to show such love by helping and supporting those in need. Jehovah’s Witnesses donate needed materials and volunteer their services without pay. Jehovah’s Witnesses do so in response to the Bible’s commands to love our neighbor and to have intense love for one another.—Matthew 22:39; 1 Peter 4:8

The video below shows just one more recent example of how Jehovah's Witnesses continue to provide practical help - in this case to earthquake survivors over one year after the disaster in Japan.

Japan Earthquake—Rebuilding Lives One Year Later