I recently received an email that caused me to reexamine the matter of Easter eggs:
"Easter eggs are an important part of Easter and no celebration is possible without these beautifully crafted eggs. But, how did Easter eggs start? While there are claims that Easter eggs have a pagan origin, sufficient evidence has not been found to support these claims. It was in the eighteenth century when the pagan link between Easter eggs and a goddess named Ostara, or Eostre in German, was established through Jakob Grimm."
I wonder why he tried to link Easter eggs and a pagan goddess together?
This was my response:
The source of that quote is incorrect. I think some folks have gotten tired of having their noses rubbed in the facts and they are pushing back with counter claims to ease their consciences.
Jacob Grimm (of Grimms' Fairy Tales fame) is not the earliest source connecting Easter eggs to pagan origins. Although he is commonly quoted, the earliest source is "Saint" Bede, who lived in the 7th century. Bede is the only native of Great Britain to ever be recognized by a Pope as a "Doctor of the Church" (so he's kind of a big deal among Catholic academics). He had access to a number of earlier sources dating back to the 3rd and 4th centuries that are no longer available to us today. Bede describes Eostre (whose name gives us both Ostara and Easter in English) as a goddess with fertility associations, which connects her to both rabbits and eggs (pagan symbols of fertility).
Easter, from Old English eastre, Easter, from Germanic *austrōn (meaning "dawn") which derives from Indo-European root aus- (meaning "to shine")1 The modern English word "east" also derives from this root.
The name Ēostre has the same linguistic origins with numerous other dawn goddesses found among Indo-European peoples. These linguistic connections lead to the reconstruction of an Indo-European dawn goddess; the Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture details an Indo-European "goddess of the dawn" that is supported by the evidence of cognate names and the similarity of mythic representation of the dawn goddess among various Indo-European groups. All of this evidence permits us to posit an Indo-European *haéusōs 'goddess of dawn' who was characterized as a "reluctant" bringer of light for which she is punished. In three of the Indo-European language stocks (Baltic, Greek and Indo-Iranian), the existence of a Indo-European 'goddess of the dawn' is given additional linguistic support in that she is designated the 'daughter of heaven'".2
On painted eggs:
Noruz is the Persian New Year which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years and predates the reign of Cyrus the Great, whose rule marks the beginning of Persian history. Haft Seen is a traditional table setting for Noruz which includes greenery and decorated eggs (for fertility). In modern Persia (Iran), the colored eggs are placed on the Haft Seen table and mothers eat one egg for each child she has.
In some early cultures, the nocturnal hare was actually considered a symbol of the moon. In addition to feeding at night, the hare's gestation period is approximately 28 days -- the same as a full lunar cycle. In European folklore, the rabbit connection to eggs is one based on confusion. In the wild, hares birth their young in what is known as a "form" -- basically, a nest for bunnies. When the hares abandoned a form, it was sometimes taken over by plovers, who would then lay their eggs in it. The locals would then find eggs in the hare's form.3
The character of the "Easter bunny" first appeared in 16th-century German writings, which said that if well-behaved children built a nest out of their caps or bonnets, they would be rewarded with colored eggs. This legend became part of American folklore in the 18th century, when an influx of Germans emigrated to the U.S.4
Today, Easter is a huge commercial venture with Americans spending over $18 billion in 2017.5
And the last time I checked, Easter, Easter bunnies, and Easter eggs still aren't found anywhere in the Bible. :)
Recently, Merriam Webster's Word of the Day was circumlocution:
1: the use of an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea
2: evasion in speech
Although M-W's definition specifies "the use of an unnecessarily large number of words," there are some situations where it is helpful...or even holy.
A friend of mine recently asked if I had ever heard the claim that one of the Hebrew names of G-d (שַׁדָּי shaddai) meant "many-breasted one" or that this name revealed the female/goddess aspect of G-d. I had never heard anything like it, so I investigated this idea and (not surprisingly) discovered it has some severe flaws.
The substance of this claim is rooted in the idea that shaddai stems from the Hebrew word שַׁד (shad). While shad does mean "breast", shad is a masculine Hebrew noun that does not carry the same predominantly feminine connotation that it does in modern Western culture. For those unfamiliar with human anatomy, men have breasts, too, albeit of different form and function. But that's not even the problem.
The word shaddai doesn't stem from the root shad, it stems from shadad (שָׁדַד) which means to be burly and (in a figurative sense) powerful. How can we be sure? Let's examine history.
For the longest time I've avoided any expression that includes the word "fate" because I thought the concept of fate was tied to the pagan idea of “the fates”: the three robed women called "moirai" (apportioners) who wove the destiny of everyone.
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for March 8th was a related word, fatidic:
: of or relating to prophecy
Last month, we pondered life and death from a Biblical perspective… but there were some lingering questions about the "neshamah" G-d breathed into Adam.
The Hebrew language has two words (neshamah and nephesh) that are translated as "soul" in English and both of these are distinct from "spirit" (ruach).
A few weeks ago our Sabbath dinner conversation turned to deep questions: What is life? What is death?
I didn’t have a solid answer readily at hand. As a believer, I know we should have a Biblically-based understanding of such things, so I started at the beginning of Scripture… with Adam.
Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
Consider those unique moments of Creation when Adam was made. In the time between the formation of Adam’s flesh and when G-d breathed into his nostrils, his body was 100% human and 100% flawless, undefiled, and uncorrupted… and yet not fully alive. It was only after G-d breathed the breath of life ( נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים, nishemat chayyom in Hebrew) into Adam’s body that he became a living being ( לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה, l’nephesh chayah).
I think of it like a basic algebra equation: the body + the breath of life = a living being.
A+B=C… simple, right?
This past weekend the movie "War Room" was released and I greatly enjoyed watching it with my bride. It was our first "date night" since our kids moved to college.
This is an inspiring and encouraging movie that does credit to the Kendrick brothers' continuing legacy of family-friendly and faith-friendly films. I laughed, I cried, er, had some sinus trouble in the dusty theater. Two thumbs up!
Just because a movie is "faith-friendly", however, doesn't always mean it is 100% Biblically accurate. Before recommending it to others, I share a few items of concern that I think are worth mentioning.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. – Psalm 127:3
Last week a friend asked me what I thought about a recent CNN article entitled "I don’t own my child’s body".
In the article, author Katia Hetter explains that she does not require her daughter to hug or kiss anyone she doesn't want to. "I would like you to hug Grandma, but I won’t make you do it" says Hetter to her daughter.
A friend recently contacted me and asked about some information he had seen on Facebook:
For centuries, people have wondered why the Bible records that 153 fish were caught by the disciples after Jesus told them to throw their nets on the opposite side of the boat in John 21:4-12. As I have mentioned before, EVERYTHING in the Bible is there for a reason. People would have figured out the mystery long ago if they had bothered to learn Hebrew. In Hebrew, every letter has a number attached to it. The Hebrews used their alphabet as a numbering system. The numbers attached to the letters in a Hebrew word could be added together to give a numerical total. The number 153 is the numerical total for the Hebrew words "Ani Elohim"--I AM G-D. When Jesus caused the disciples to catch exactly 153 fish, He was declaring to them that not only was He the Son of G-d, but that He was G-d Himself. Tell your Muslim friends who say that Jesus never claimed to be G-d that yes, He most certainly did!
As we wrapped up last month, I said we would take a look at the promise that G-d causes all things to work together for good. Paul wrote about that in his letter to the Romans.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love G-d, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Backing up to Romans 8:22, Paul notes that the "the whole creation groans and suffers" and believers also "groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." (v23) He makes the point that such a redemption has not yet occurred, for if it had, we would have seen it and "who hopes for what he already sees"? (v 24)
It is in this context of the unseen-and-still-hoped-for redemption of our bodies that Paul says that G-d causes all things to work together for good to those who love G-d, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Does this mean G-d is going to cause us to have a good life... a happy life?
A great marriage?
A successful career?