Christmas tree mentioned in Jeremiah?


#1

Take another look.
Jeremiah 10
1Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
2Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
3For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
4They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
5They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.

I wanted to share some findings that I have made concerning Jeremiah chapter 10, the first five verses. One critical thing to remember when studying scripture is, that you must pay attention to paragraph marks! A good study bible will have paragraph marks (looks like the mathematical symbol for pi), this is very important, it will prevent you from injecting scripture from other topics into your specific verses of study. When we look at the first five verses of Jeremiah chapter 10, note that the paragraph ends after verse five. I’ve seen where folks will take a verse from later in the text, and try to use it in the interpretation of these five verses, very dangerous.

  • In verse one, we are told to listen, because the Lord is speaking to us. (pay attention! The Lord is telling us something important!)
  • In verse two, the Lord gives us a commandment, “learn not…”, don’t practice this heathen custom. In this same sentence is a key clue! The heathen are doing this because of a certain sign in the heavens, winter solstice. The winter solstice festival started on the solstice and ended on New Year’s day, what we now call the twelve days of Christmas.
  • In verse three, we begin the description, a custom where a tree is cut from the forest.
  • In verse four, they fasten the tree upright so that it will not fall over, and it’s lavishly decorated. (When you watch the TV special “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer”, look for the part where they decorate the tree, Burl Ives sings “Silver & gold”!)
  • In verse five, we are told that it is upright and can not speak and can not walk, its needs must be met (you better water it!) And we are told not to be afraid of it, it is a false god and has no power.

It’s easy to see how the Christian tradition of celebrating the birth of Christ on December 25th, and the traditions of winter solstice merged together over time. Because Christmas took place right in the middle of the twelve day festival, people began to associate the tree, the celebration of Christ’s birth, and the twelve days all as one holiday.

Why these verses are not describing a wooden carving, as some have suggested.

  1. No wooden carving that I’m aware of is linked with the signs in the heavens (winter solstice).
  2. The original Hebrew text uses the word “ets” (found in a Hebrew-Chaldee dictionary as #6086), which means “a tree from it’s firmness”. Clearly this is not a post or plank, but a tree from the forest. (roots give a tree it’s firmness, so we know it’s a tree). Some translations use the words “chisel” and “forming”, this is describing tree trimming, once a very popular part of the tree tradition.
  3. Wooden carvings aren’t typically fastened upright, they usually sit on their own.
  4. It’s needs must be met, what ‘needs’ does a wooden carving have? You have to add water to the tree.

More info on heathen tree customs: askelm.com/doctrine/d911101.htm
12 day winter solstice festival: candlegrove.com/solstice.html
Setting the date of Christmas in the middle of a pagan festival: wilstar.com/xmas/xmassymb.htm
Hebrew word for tree: htmlbible.com/sacrednamebiblecom/kjvstrongs/STRHEB60.htm
Questions?


#2

[quote=fatherx]Take another look.
Jeremiah 10
1Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
2Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
3For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
4They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
5They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
[/quote]

  1. The mistake made, is that it is assumed that Jeremiah was predicting - this passage is not a prediction; it is a denunciation. Prophecy is seldom if ever foretelling - it is almost always, or always, forth-telling. That it is not predictive, does not in the least mean that it is not fully a word from God.

  2. Jeremiah is denouncing the use of cult-images. In Mesopotamia, there was a rite called the “opening of the mouth” - first an image would be made, then it would become a god. The gods remained in Heaven; the god of whose presence the image was a manifestation, was regarded as born in heaven, and the material of the image was, of course earthly; the “opening of the mouth” made the material image into the god it manifested. The image was therefore both a god, and the material medium in which the god was present.

So an image of (say) the god Marduk (the patron god of Babylon) was both Marduk himself, and a material object which would from time to time need repair, and could be damaged, or taken by a invader. Marduk himself was not confined to any single image of him - they manifested him; they received divine worship, including sacrifice; but he, in the heavens, was not affected by what happened to them; his worshippers would be affected however.

So there was a sophisticated theology here - but not one which Jeremiah would be likely to have much time for; it is this that he is ridiculing, as Ezekiel & the prophet called Second Isaiah do a little later. But Christmas trees are not involved at all. The Christmas-tree interpretation is possible only if people don’t know anything of things such as the rite of the “opening of the mouth”.

Some texts for the rite have been edited recently - [/FONT]https://www.eisenbrauns.com/ECOM/_1XR17FYZF.HTM

“The introduction begins by discussing the cult statue and the deity. The authors point out that in Mesopotamian thought, the statue was the deity (illustrated, for example, by offerings being made to the deity, but [not] to the statues of kings). The authors point out the close relationship between “mouth opening” and “mouth washing,” with apparently the “mouth washing” done on the first day and the “mouth opening” on the second. “Mouth opening” is never performed on humans or animals, however. “Washing the mouth” apparently purified the cult image from any human contamination; the “mouth opening” then allowed the statue to function as a deity (p. 14)…”

  1. “Needs” ? Gods needed clothing, food, entertainment, travel, housing - just like any other high-ranking human being. So they got them. Sacrifice = god’s meals; temple = house; priests = household staff; etc.

For more, go to [/FONT]http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=117881

[FONT=Arial Black]The “signs of the heavens” are not relevant to the cult-statue directly - indirectly they are, because astrology was a means by which the purposes of the gods, as revealed by the appearance of the skies, was made known - the same gods whose statues are ridiculed by Jeremiah (who says nothing about the solstices)


#3

Paragraph marks may offer some assistance when studying Sacred Scripture but their placement is as fallible as the human authority who inserted them into the inspired text. Remember that the division of the inspired text into verses, paragraphs, and chapters is a recent, human innovation and, consequently, not deserving of the uncritical trust you propose.


#4

timberwindtrees.com/origin.htm


#5

of course it is, that is why you hear the theme from Charlie Brown’s Christmas playing softly in the background on an angelic piano when you contemplate this verse. duplicate thread. this inane discussion is already in progress on another thread.


#6

You mention the reasoning of authors, man’s word. Not interested.
It’s this simple, the Lord says don’t practice the tradition of the decorated winter solstice tree.
God’s instruction vs. man’ reasoning. Which will you choose?


#7

You maintain that Jeremiah is talking about a winter solstice tree. Yet most scholars of biblical history would link that tree to Asherah or Astarte, godesses that were supposed to be the wives of the god EL a name which simply means god, which is also a name used for the God of the old testament. . They were represented by either a carved pole, or a grove of trees.

I think that what Jeremiah was speaking out against, was the confusing of El, the God of Israel, with El, the god of the pagans. You would have to admit that this would be a great sin.

Can you show me where Jeremiah is talking specifically about a winter solstice tree.

A lone Raven

p.s.- this subject already has several pages in the apologetics forum.


#8

#9

But the signs in the heaven of the winter solstice is that day is returning. You could also say it was the summer solstice, or meteors, or comets, or anything. It makes no mention of winter time, nor is there a reason to presume it is the winter solstice.

In addition to this, you claim that everything pagan is like a bowl of sewage. That is not the case. I believe that the pagans before Christ were trying to reach God, and thus, looking into their beliefs may help us understand our own. Perhaps some of the Pagan stories were actually God reaching out to them to try and bring them to the truth.

In addition to this, some things that the pagans used can be used for the same reason. For example, the pagans used incense because it smelled sweet, and because it rose into the air. Now, we can use incense for the same reason. Surely it is not offensive to God to offer up sweet smelling incense that represents our prayers to Him.

Just because it was pagan does not make it evil.
If it represents or teaches something contrary to the Faith, yes it is evil, if it does not, then it is not evil.

A lone Raven


#10

I think there are four threads discussing the Jeremiah passage - including this one :slight_smile:

There have been a good few others as well. I wouldn’t mind knowing why it is so important for Jeremiah (in 626-586 BC) to have interested himself in the activities of Christians in Europe & the USA in 2006 AD.

What would his contemporaries have known about Christmas trees ? So what possible good would it have done them to hear him denounce things that would not exist for 2500 years ?

Besides, if the oracle in chapter 10 referred to what for Jeremiah would have been the distant future (a supposition for which there is not the slightest foundation) - why should it not refer to the blorj-trees grown on the planet Zuntp ? Yes, I know none of us have heard of Zuntp (let alone its blorj-trees) but that’s because Zuntp won’t be discovered until 5000 AD - then it will be realised that Jeremiah really meant to condemn the Zuntpian blorj-trees; not earthling Christmas trees at all.

But people see Christmas trees - & so, they completely ignore the possibility that Jeremiah 10 could be unfilled at present; that it may be fulfilled, not in 2006 (which they know) but in 5000 or 90,000 or…(which they cannot know anything about, any more than anyone else in 2006 can). Quite apart from the fact that Jeremiah is not talking about Christmas-trees (let alone blorj-trees, which have no existence outside this poster’s imagination - AFAIK :)); but about cult statues (which there is every reason to suppose would have been known to Jeremiah)

Identifications of Antichrist are worthless for the same reason - they proceed on the basis that today’s tyrant of whom people know, must be the one intended by St. John. ##


#11

That’s an excellent reason to ignore every word you say :slight_smile: - unless you claim to be God, of course. Or are we to accept the rightness of this ridiculous (because demonstrably false) interpretation as Gospel truth, because you say so ? Why should anyone do that ? And for what reason ? There is no reason to think your favoured interpretation is correct - and many reasons to think it is wrong.

Unless you are a prophet; but even prophets are men; & there is no reason to suppose that you’re a prophet. In his own time, that is what Jeremiah was - a man, who could easily be mistaken for nothing more.

IOW, your reference to his text takes for granted that he was something more - but if you had been plonked down beside him in the year 586 (or whenever), he would not have been the prophet Jeremiah to whom we must listen because his oracles are part of the Bible; he would have been as easily discountable as any poster on this thread. Only with hindsight do we know that he was more.

“[T]he Lord says don’t practice the tradition of the decorated winter solstice tree”. That is going far beyond the text. There is no reference whatever to the Christmas tree in that passage, for reasons already explained. Christmas trees can be got out of the text of Jeremiah 10 only if they are first of all put into it by the reader - and there is nothing in the
[LIST]
*]text
*]book as a whole
*]notion of prophecy
*]religious background of the book or any part of it[/LIST]to justify, require, or even render plausible such an interpretation. I could play the same game as you, & “prove” that the events of the Bible really took place in Scotland :slight_smile: It’s surprisingly easy - all one needs, is ingenuity & the ability to ignore inconvenient details. But no amount of ingenuity can justify an absurd interpretation. That’s why context is so important; historical, religious, linguistic, textual, etc; if we know the context in which a text was formed, we are protected from a great many blunders.

FWIW, if you can use reasoning to say why my reasons deserve no attention, certainly we can use it. :slight_smile: Otherwise, anyone can put forword any half-baked nonsense as the meaning of a text. Asserting that Jeremiah 10 is a condemnation of X or Y or Z is easy - but assertion without reasons to support it is of no value. My interpretation of the passage has reasons to support it - if it’s wrong, you should show how it is. Airy dismissals of replies are just not convincing.


#12

Let’s look at this from a different angle. Let’s ignore Jeremiah 10:1-5. Do a web search on “Christmas tree origin”. You will find many, many web pages that spell out the heathen / pagan tradition of today’s Christmas tree. This can not be argued, the world agrees about it’s origin.
Now here are a few verses from 1 Kings, where Solomon asks for wisdom from God to rule his people, inquires about getting married to heathen women, God warns him about their heathen customs (remember the story?), and Solomons downfall. Even though Solomon knew the one true God was God, and that the heathen practices of these women were false/wrong, he joined in himself.

1 Kings 3:9-12
9 Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?

10 And the speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing.

11 And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;

12 Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.

1 Kings 4:29
29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.

1 Kings 11:7-10
7 Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.

8 And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.

9 And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice,

10 And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded.

The world recognizes the tree tradition is a pagan practice, you can understand this and know that God is God, and if you go through the motions of this pagan custom… haven’t you made the same error as Solomon?
(please, no hateful responses, keep it kind-hearted)


#13

Just going through the motions of ANYTHING doesn’t make it a sin or wrong at all. If a one-year-old child goes through the motion of picking up a bottle of poison and drinking from it are they guilty of the same error as a 28-year-old suicidal man who does the same?

No, intent is a critical factor in regard to sin. And intent to sin also has to be there.

Compare three women. The first has an operation to prevent her having children purely because she doesn’t want to have them, even though she knows it is contrary to God’s law and the Church’s. The second woman has exactly the same operation - with the same effect of sterility mind you - but does so purely because it is the ONLY way to save her life from a malignant cancer in the reproductive organs. The third woman also has the operation, also with the intent of avoiding having children, but she knows and cares absolutely nothing of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the matter. She’s Buddhist or atheist or whatever. Three women, same action, three different spiritual outcomes.

The first woman commits a grave sin, probably mortal, the second, doing precisely the same thing to the same effect, commits no sin at all. The third - well, it can be argued that sterilisation is against the natural moral law but it really depends on her own views and her state of knowledge as to what level of guilt, if any, she may carry.


#14

Certainly, there were pagan practices focused on trees, but at the same time there were pagan practices in which they clothed the homeless, fed the hungry, took care of the widows and orphans, etc.

So, what is this pagan practice referenced in Jeremiah 10?

Jeremiah 10.5 – They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.

It seems clear these pagan practices that Jeremiah is referring to, be they trees or carved statues, were thought by the pagans to have the ability to do something, specifically speak. Jeremiah points out that they are lifeless, and should be of no concern to the Israelites. Christmas trees do not talk, people who have them don’t expect them to, and they don’t fear their evil nor look forward to their good. (Incidentally, I did see a tree this past weekend that sang carols and played music, but as it was plastic I don’t think it applies here. And honestly, people should stay away from a tacky thing like that purely out of good taste. :smiley: ) I guess my point is that intent is crucial, and that any practice must be seen within the specific context.


#15

Ok, it says that Solomon built these places and sacraficed at them, and burnt incense at them, as though they were gods. So, yes, Solomon committed idolotry.

Also, if I remember right, molech is a particularly horrible deity, in which live children would be burnt up in fire as an offering to molech.

Now, I think that condoning this, whether you were actively worshipping molech or not would be a sin.

I would say that there is a difference between Solomon’s sin and christmas trees. Namely Christmas trees may have a pagan origin, but if they did or did not, it was chosen for the symbolism that fits with the Christmas day.

Soloman actively participated in pagan worship, and built idols, intending that they be idols, and led many astray. I would even say that he actively worshipped the idols.

There is a difference between a symbol and an idol.

A lone Raven


#16

OP, can you summarize your objection to Christmas trees in one or two sentences? “It is wrong for Catholics to have Christmas trees because…”

Thanks.


#17

Oh, look…:yawn: another http://bestsmileys.com/yawning/2.gifChristmas tree thread…http://bestsmileys.com/yawning/3.gif
Such http://bestsmileys.com/sleeping/5.gifexcitement…must:sleep: subscribe…must…
http://bestsmileys.com/yawning/1.gifhttp://bestsmileys.com/sleeping/10.gifhttp://bestsmileys.com/sleeping/2.gif


#18

smileys.smileycentral.com/cat/4/4_17_11.gif

%between%smileys.smileycentral.com/cat/36/36_16_18.gif


#19

LilyM, Papaspicy, Corvidae, VociMike,
Thanks for the posts, I’ll try to reply do each point.
I believe that King Solomon was ‘going through the motions’ when he broke down and joined his wives in their heathen customs, because Solomon had a very close relationship with God. He was only doing it to please his wives. No question about it, he knew that God was the one true God, and I don’t believe he was worshipping the idols in mind but physically, just to appease the wives. One could argue this but I think a review of 1 Kings would support that.
Verse 5 of chapter ten (Jeremiah) tells us that the heathen tradition (an idol to some) can not walk or speak. This certainly fits the Christmas tree, God seems to be reassuring us that it is a false god and has no power.
We know it is not a statue or carving of a man-like figure because the Hebrew word used here is “ets”, found as 6086 in a Hebrew-Chaldee dictionary. The primary definition is “a tree in it’s firmness”, and we know what makes a tree firm, it’s roots. Secondly, the way the word is used in the sentance, ‘tree out of the forest’.
As far the the tree being chosen as a Christmas symbol, God didn’t choose the tree, man did. God’s symbol for Christmas is the Christ child, the Virgin birth. I will celebrate with God’s symbol, can’t go wrong there.
To summarize, even if you’re not convinced that Jeremiah is descibing the Christmas tree, it is still a heathen tradition. (do a search on “Christmas tree origin”) Would Christ participate in a heathen custom? Can’t find an example where he did, he met with heathens, ate with heathens, but didn’t practice their heathen traditions.
A note on my experience with this. Sometimes I’ve found it awkward to witness to others, unless God’s hand is in it, it can be difficult. But for about five weeks each year, people come to me! They’ll say, “Got your tree up yet?”, and I’ll politely answer “No, we put up a manger instead.” This almost always leads into a conversation about Christ!


#20

that’s it, no more mesquite in the grill, from now on I’m using briquets, don’t want none of that pagan nonsense about my fajitas.


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