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).

On Eostre/Eastre:

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.

On bunnies:

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. :)

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Footnotes

1. The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, Calvert Watkins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000, taken 4/15/2017 from https://books.google.com/books?id=4IHbQgz1nZYC  [back]
2. Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, J.P. Mallory, Douglas Q. Adams, Taylor & Francis, 1997, pages 148-149 [back]
3. Taken 4/15/2017 from ThoughtCo.com [back]
4. Taken 4/15/2017 from ThoughtCo.com [back]
5. Taken 4/15/2017 from http://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/americans-will-spend-how-much-easter-candy-year-n745956  [back]
12 October 2014

WFT- teleological

It's been a while since there has been a Word of the Day that has really caught my attention and connected with Scripture in a meaningful way but September 24th was just such a day.  The Merriam Webster word for that day was teleological.

: exhibiting or relating to design or purpose especially in nature

 

Along with this definition they provided the following explanation...

Teleological (which comes to us by way of New Latin from the Greek root tele-, telos, meaning "end or purpose") and its close relative teleology both entered English in the 18th century, followed by teleologist in the 19th century. Teleology has the basic meaning of "the study of ends or purposes." A teleologist attempts to understand the purpose of something by looking at its results. A teleological philosopher might argue that we should judge whether an act is good or bad by seeing if it produces a good or bad result, and a teleological explanation of evolutionary changes claims that all such changes occur for a definite purpose.

 

Did you notice the meaning of the Greek word telos?  It means "end or purpose" as in a goal or objective... not an ending or ceasing.

13 September 2014

Is the Tribulation Near?

A recent World Net Daily article shouts the question, "WILL TRIBULATION BEGIN A YEAR FROM NOW?"

Pastor Mark Biltz authored the article and I view him with great respect for his discovery of the "blood moons" phenomena back in 2008 well before anyone else was speaking about it.  In his tribulation article, Pastor Biltz makes note of several factors suggesting that the end is near and the tribulation is about to begin:

A friend of mine recently shared an astounding fact. 90% of children who grow up in evangelical homes make a decision to follow Christ but only 22% of that group are still following Christ by age 35.

Before they are 35 years old, 80% of children who grew up in evangelical homes are not following Christ.

EIGHTY percent.

I had to check this out.

In part 1 of this series, we noted that Ernst Haeckel's inaccurate sketches of embryos in various stages of development from 1847 were still being used in public school textbooks as late as the early 2000's.  In a similar fashion, certain ideas within Christianity that have been debunked by archaeologists, historians, and modern Biblical scholars also continue to be presented as truth to an unsuspecting audience.

The first error we addressed was an inaccurate view of first-century Judaism's teaching on salvation that was presented in a small booklet mentioned previously.  A second error also had me shaking my head in disbelief.

HAECKELS ANTHROPOGENIE 1874 In 1847, Ernst Haeckel created sketches of embryos in various states of development and used them in his biology textbook entitled Anthropogenie. Modern science has proven these images to be inaccurate at best and outright fraud at worst.

Although the images were debunked in the early 1900s, they were still being used in school textbooks as late as 2004 .

Christians who believe in the Biblical account of Creation point to continued use of Haeckel's images as proof that lies are being presented as evidence of evolution to unsuspecting public school students.  They are demanding that it stop and their common chant is "Truth above all!"

Unfortunately, certain ideas within Christianity that have been debunked by archaeologists, historians, and modern Biblical scholars also continue to be presented as truth to an unsuspecting audience. We should follow the exhortation of Paul from 1 Thessalonians 5:21, "Put everything to the test. Hold on to what is good."

As I've previously written, the question of Messiah's divinity has been asked and answered: yes, Yeshua is G-d's Word in the flesh.  As Scripture itself declares,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John 1:1, 14)

 

Earlier this week, HarperOne (which is owned by HarperCollins, the parent company of Zondervan) published a 416-page book by Bart Ehrman entitled "How Jesus Became God- The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee".  In his book, Ehrman expands upon many of the same arguments that critics have been exercising for the past century or more:

Movieguide.org recently released their 2014 annual report and made the observation that for the first time in their 22-years of reporting, religious, family-friendly, and patriotic movies made up nine of the top ten grossing movies in 2013. They found the top movies with faith-centered themes of redemption earned over 400% more on average than those with a non-Christian worldview. It would seem that Hollywood has taken note and they're beginning to deliver more of what Christians want.

Or are they?

November 19th, 1863.

In the chilly afternoon of an early winter, Abraham Lincoln delivered an address to those assembled at a field near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  His speech has become one of the most renowned in our nation's history.  It was the Gettysburg Address.

If a person has a fair amount of exposure to Mainstream Christianity, and a familiarity with the Bible, he may notice that Mainstream Christianity often de-emphasizes the Old Testament and puts a disproportionate amount of emphasis on Paul's epistles. I would hesitate to say that any part of the Scriptures can be overemphasized. However, if we give uncalled-for weight and emphasis to certain parts of the Bible, and neglect what the rest of the Scriptures teaches about an issue, we will probably develop and imbalanced view of that particular issue.

By volume, Paul's epistles make up approximately 5% of the Bible. Paul's writings are holy Scripture, but neither Paul nor the Holy Spirit expected us to give more weight and authority to these epistles than we do to the Old Testament or to the rest of the New Testament.

By putting a disproportionate amount of emphasis on these letters that Paul sent to various churches, we fail to follow the example of Paul, who told the Ephesians, "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (Ac.20:27). By neglecting certain parts of the Bible, we ignore Paul's declaration that "all Scripture is inspired and is useful." (2 Tim. 3:16).

Discover more in the full article, The Ghost of Marcion.

 

While Jesus was on earth, he and his disciples practiced the religion that God gave to the Israelites through Moses. The guidelines they followed were found primarily in the Torah*, which is the first five books of the Old Testament -- the writings of Moses. The Torah contains a variety of information including history, the Ten Commandments, and instructions pertaining to finance, government, family, health, farming, dress, feasts, and worship.

It was at some time after the death of Jesus that Christians stopped observing the Old Testament laws. Exactly when that change occurred is not clear in the Bible. Many people believe the change was made by Jesus himself immediately after the resurrection. However, there is compelling evidence in the book of Acts that the change did not occur until much later.

How much later?  Find out in the full article.

 

A hundred years after the church was founded in Jerusalem, a controversy raged within the congregation. The outcome was a doctrinal turnaround with far-reaching consequences. The losers in that debate were subsequently rejected by Christianity. The winning side passed down to us their slant on church history which has strongly influenced our understanding of the New Testament.

Few Christians are aware of the changes that occurred at that time. The traditional interpretations of events are seldom questioned. Like the author of the historical account below, we allow our presuppositions to blind us to the implications of those early changes to Christianity.

For an overview of the early development of Christianity, let's look at a classic text that was first published in 1776 and is still widely used and respected by historians. Although various scholars have disagreed with some of Edward Gibbon's interpretations of history, the accuracy of the historic facts he recorded has rarely been disputed.

 

Read more of Ron's article, How the Apostles were Expelled from Christianity on his site, Fogwhistle.ca.

22 January 2012

Is Mormonism a Cult?

Last October, after introducing Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit, Pastor Robert Jeffress told reporters that Republicans shouldn't vote for White House hopeful Mitt Romney because he's a Mormon and described the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a "cult".

At the time it caused a bit of a stir in the media but the question still remains: is Mormonism a cult?

Literal, linear, and analytical as always, let's begin with a definition from the American Heritage Cultural Dictionary:

cult definition
In anthropology, an organization for the conduct of ritual, magical, or other religious observances. Many so-called primitive tribes, for example, have ancestor cults, in which dead ancestors are considered divine and activities are organized to respect their memory and invoke their aid. A cult is also a religious group held together by a dominant, often charismatic individual, or by the worship of a divinity, an idol, or some other object. ( See animism, fetish, and totemism.)

Note : The term cult often suggests extreme beliefs and bizarre behavior.

Does Mormonism fit this definition?

Yes.

Mormonism is a "religious group held together by a dominant, often charismatic individual": Joseph Smith.

In a recent FoxNews.com article entitled "What the Bible Really Says About Sex", Pastor Mark Driscoll outlines several of our society's issues with sex and contrasts those with the Bible's position on the topic.  He does a fairly good job of expressing Scriptural truths and shares what he calls "seven essentials" about sex from the Bible.

Soon after his article appeared, another FoxNews.com opinion columnist, Shari Johnson, delivered a response entitled, "My Lesbian Daughter, the Bible and Sex".  In her article, she shares that her "world was rocked to its core the night my 37-year old daughter called to tell me she is gay.  Did I run out to find a gay parade to march in?  No.  It was a painful process for both of us."

She also expresses her concerns regarding two of Pastor Driscoll's seven points:

#3. Marriage is for one man and one woman by God’s design,  and

#5. Sex outside of marriage is a sin.

 

Ms. Johnson makes this statement in her article:

When I hear terms like “God’s design” and “Biblical marriage” I have to wonder who decides these things.

 

The answer, ma'am, is that G-d decides these things.  That's kind of the point of the Bible: to provide a source of instruction for all humanity regarding G-d's ways.

Have you ever met someone who had an immediate and positive impact on your outlook for life? In my life such meetings have been rare but they have happened. I was recently blessed when I met a friend of a friend while out at lunch. Our introduction began in a normal fashion:

“Kevin, meet my friend, Brady.”

“Kevin? Hi! Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too!”

 

We exchanged the normal pleasantries, asking each other how long we had known Chad, our mutual friend: are you married, have any kids, etc. Then the conversation turned to work.

“So, Kevin, what do you do?”

“I’m in the import business.”

 

Chad turned to him with a shocked look on his face. “Did you lose your job at the bank? You’ve been there for years! What happened?”

22 December 2009

The Songs of Christmas

The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) identified the most requested and most played Christmas songs of 2006 and listed them here: http://www.ascap.com/press/2006/112706_xmassongs.html

Out of curiosity, I performed some research on and analysis of the songs to determine their content.  The goal was to determine if Christ is really the focus of Christmas and the songs that are most often sung as part of the celebration.

In the first article of this two-part series on Debunking the Myths of Christmas we addressed the origins of Christmas itself.  This second article is dedicated to examining the origins of many of the traditional trappings of Christmas.

Part 2: Where do the traditional trappings of Christmas come from?

Christmas trees

Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion  to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn  with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree  for the birds during Christmastime; it survived further in the custom, also  observed in Germany, of placing a Yule tree at an entrance or inside the house  during the midwinter holidays.

Encyclopedia Brittanica on Christmas trees

Realizing that this may be a sensitive subject for some who are just beginning their Torah walk, Christmas is the next topic that is examined in the In Support of Torah Observance- Debunking the Myths series.  Christmas will be examined in two parts:

Part 1: What does Scripture and history say about Christmas? Part 2: Where do the traditional trappings of Christmas come from?

Part 1: What does Scripture and history say about Christmas?

Scripture

If  we search the whole of Scripture in English or the original languages we find no mention of "Christmas".  While the birth of Messiah is definitely described in Scripture, it is recorded in only one place: Luke 2:1-7.  Examining these verses we find that there is no mention of "Christmas", trees, holly, yule logs, gifts, tinsel, wreaths, Santa Claus, or reindeer.  Where did the traditional Christmas come from?

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently delivered their "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey" results online.  A Fox News analysis of the report indicated that almost half of the 35,000+ Americans surveyed had "left the faith tradition of their upbringing" to either switch to a different denomination or completely different religion (including no religious affiliation at all).

Part of the change has been attributed to the very mobile and fluid nature of our society.  Given that over 22 million Americans moved to a new home between March 1999 and March 2000 and over 8 million Americans moved to a new state in 2006 America is definitely mobile.

Torah Portion

ויגשׁ (Vayigash)

 

 

or view this week's triennial cycle reading.

Today is

Yom Rivi'i, 4 Tevet, 5779

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

 

Learn more about this date in history.