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. :)
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
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.
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!
Good Friday? If we look closely, the Bible tells us it was actually Good Wednesday. Psalm11918.org has created two resources that share our examination of the Gospels and our search for the truth.
Our When Yeshua was Crucified article asks the question "when was Messiah crucified?" and systematically goes through Scripture to uncover the answer. Step by step and verse by verse, we build the list of Biblically-based requirements for the correct date.
When it was originally published, this article prompted so much discussion among our readers that we created an entirely new interactive website devoted to examining Good Friday, Good Thursday, and Good Wednesday options and see which fit bet with the Word of G-d. MessiahsPassoverWeek.info is full of colorful insight that reveals the truth of Scripture.
As the time draws near for Passover, may we all draw near to our Lord and Savior who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!
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.
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.
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.
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."
The Hebrew word for "atonement" (kippur) literally means "a covering" but in the context of the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices it has to do with ritual cleansing. The root word, kopher, means "a ransom". The "kippur"/atonement offerings are literally the ransom or price of ritual cleansing... and that ransom involves blood.
In Leviticus 14:52 the blood of a bird is used to cleanse a house with "leprosy":
My precious daughter (a senior attending a local high school) came home one day with tears in her eyes.
"Sweetheart, what’s wrong?", I asked and gave her a hug.
"Nothing," she sniffled.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"Okay. I love you and I want to help in any way I can. Just let me know," I said with another brief hug.
I began to turn away but was immediately engulfed in a 30-minute, non-stop, emotionally-charged account of a heated conversation between three of her close friends that resulted in all three of them being mad at her and each other. It all stemmed from a single question one of the girls had asked about someone completely unrelated to their group.
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?
The Atlantic ran an incredible 28-photo presentation of the 2013 Powerhouse Fire in California's Angeles National Forest. The article, entitled The Terrible Beauty of California's Powerhouse Fire, included this image:
Without these powerful reminders from the creation, we can really lose sight of the significance and weight of the words of Scripture that describe the Creator:
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.
Messiah Yeshua is prophet (Matthew 21:11), priest (Hebrews 3:1), and king (Matthew 2:2).
The book of Hebrews tells us that He served as our great high priest in the order of Melchizedek to "offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins" (Hebrews 5:1). We know He is a priest because He offered up one sacrifice for sins for all time (Hebrews 10:12) and intercedes with G-d on behalf of humanity (1 Timothy 2:5). That is the very definition of a priest.
The Gospels (e.g. Matthew 27:11, 27:37) tell us that Messiah is the King of the Jews. We know He is their King because He laid down His life for them... and for all who belong to Him. (John 10:11, 15, Matthew 27:11) When He returns, He will reign over all the world. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess He is Lord. (Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10)
But in what way is Messiah a prophet?
April 22 is Earth Day. According to the EarthDay.org website, "Earth Day broadens the base of support for environmental programs, rekindles public commitment and builds community activism around the world through a broad range of events and activities. Earth Day is the largest civic event in the world, celebrated simultaneously around the globe by people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities. More than a billion people participate in our campaigns every year."
Sometimes people confuse Earth Day and the environmental movement with tikkun olam [תיקון עולם]. Tikkun olam is a Hebrew phrase that means "repairing the world" or "healing the world". While it can potentially include environmental considerations, Judaism primarily teaches this concept as a shared responsibility to take social action and pursue social justice.
So... Earth Day... Tikkun Olam... social justice...
How should a believer understand these ideas and act on them? What did Messiah say about these things? Let's start at the beginning:
"Fourteen hundred dollars?!? Where am I going to get fourteen hundred dollars? This stupid software was supposed to make sure you got a big fat refund on your taxes not a giant bill!"
"What if I just... fudged some of the numbers a bit?", he thought out loud. Jerry glanced around to see if his wife or kids had heard him. No? Good. They usually avoided him while he was doing taxes or paying the bills because he got so irritable.
Hmmm... lower the income levels or raise the taxes paid? No, too obvious. The numbers wouldn't match the W-2. How about his deductions? Hmmm. Maybe the wife had dropped some extra money in the collection tray at church when he wasn't looking. Yeah... that would shift things in his favor a bit.
With a few clicks Jerry adjusted various numbers in his return until he was receiving a small refund. A few more clicks and he was on the "transmit to the IRS" page.
Jerry sat staring at his laptop screen. He was about to lie on his taxes. "It's only a few hundred dollars." he thought to himself. "The Feds will never notice it. It's not like I'm Bernie Madoff ripping off people for millions."
Jerry sat thinking for another few moments and then reached for the mouse...
As part of my day job, I read articles about business, innovation, and technology. Recently I read this rather insightful article on TheAtlanticCities.com that contained this pithy observation:
If you ask most people, they’ll tell you facts are facts. But the reality of the matter, as Samuel Arbesman points out in his brilliant new book, The Half-Life of Facts, is "[f]acts change all the time." To cite just a few of Arbesman’s most compelling examples: We used to think that the earth was the center of the universe, that Pluto was a planet, and that brontosaurus was a real dinosaur.
I don't fault Mr. Arbesman for overlooking one caveat to his statement. I think most people would have done the same thing.
"Facts change all the time" is a true statement for facts that are uncovered and related by humanity.
The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
The truth revealed by our eternal, unchanging G-d is eternal and unchanging because the Word of G-d is G-d (John 1:1).
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 definitionIn 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?
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.
"Shop for today's most coveted fashion and luxury brands at up to 60% off retail."
Earlier this year FoxNews.com delivered this headline:
"That's terrible!", I thought to myself. "What's happening to everyone?"
As I read the article, though, I found cause for hope:
My day job has recently taken me into the world of marketing and all of the fascinating concepts involved with it. One marketing approach that recently got me to thinking was "branded merchandise". You know... a baseball cap with the name of your favorite sports team on it; a pen with the name of your insurance company; a coffee mug with the name of your favorite veterinary clinic.
Branded merchandise is everywhere:
Pens, pencils, and erasers, water jugs, coffee mugs, and baby bottles, caps, hats, and umbrellas, t-shirts, sweat pants, and jackets, gym bags, tote bags, and book bags, lions, tigers, and bears... oh, my!
In 2008 shock and sadness accompanied the death of 3-year old Caylee Anthony, as indeed it should for the senseless death of any child. For some individuals that sense of sadness and the desire for justice appears to have turned into bitterness, anger, and the pursuit of vengeance. The trial of Caylee's mother, Casey Anthony, has captured the attention of many Americans and left some believers confused and conflicted.
As always, believers should turn to the Living Word of G-d for guidance, strength, and encouragement in these situations.
With the launch of the site in mid-December, holidays, travelling to visit family, and getting back into the swing of work I have been slow to catch up on my "Words For Thought" articles. Monday, January 18th had a rather interesting word so I decided to write on it before catching up on the other 50+ words in the queue. So here is the MW word of the day:
noetic (noh ET ik)
of, relating to, or based on the intellect