Pagan holidays vs Christmas and Easter?


#1

I have been havning this discussion with a friend that has fallen away from the Church., and for the first time I am stumped. I was hoping you could help me. This question perstains Imostly to his question below (3) in regards to what I answered( below):

I said:
the 7th day Adventists came out of the 1856 prophecy that Christ was to return to planet earth. Out of that prophecy came the 7th day adventists and many others.
The Sabbath issue is a big one for them since they see the practice of ceelbrating the Lords day on Sunday as an indefensible deviation of the express command God gave Moses in Exodus 20: 8-11. Being Catholic you know that the Church established by Christ and granted authority to bind and loose (Matt 18:18) and teach with his authority (Lk 10:16 Matt28:18-29) does have the authority.
In the first several decades after the death and Resurrection of Christ, the Church rapidly shifted its practice of abserving the Sabbath on Sunday, the day Christ rose from the dead (JN 20:1) It appears that the reasons were twofold; first the early Christians recogonized that thier weekly, communial celebration of the Mass- the ongoing re-presentation of Christs passion and death and ressurection was more appropriatly carried out on Sunday. Secondly the early Christians also recognized the necessity of diferentiating themselves from the Jews, begining with immediate abandonment of Judaism’s system of ritual animal sacrifices and the gradual abandonment of circumcision, Jewish ceremonial rituals and preceps and observance of the passover and other Jewish feast days (Col 2:16-23)
Matthew 12:18 “For the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath”

He asked

I have a couple of questions concerning your answers:

  1. The third commandment deals with the Sabbath. Why would most Christian churchs not keep the Sabbath as Jesus did? I know you site Mark 2:23-28 as validation, but it seems away of justifying changing God’s actual commandment. I thought these commandments were binding for all time? I believe the Roman’s where sun worshipers and it seems to be a compromise with pagan sun worshipers.

  2. Likewise, the 1st commandment says, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Catholic and most Protestant churchs I’ve been have statues and that seems to violate the first commandment. Since the Romans were also big on idol worshipping, doesn’t this seem to go against this commandment. God seems to be pretty straight forward on His feelings about this.

  3. My questions above would also include questions on celebrating Christmas and Easter. These holidays also conincide with pagan festivals. do you think the early churchs dovetailed these holy days in with the pagan festivals in an attempt to spread the Gospel?

  4. What is you feeling on displaying the 10 Commandments in public schools?


#2
  1. As St. Paul writes to us many times, we are not bound by the law. This creates a lot of confusion, especially with Protestants. Many of them believe that we needn’t follow and morality at all because of this. It’s a very, very long exercise to go through Paul’s writings and show his meaning, but I will sum up the answer:

A sin is a sin not just because God said so, but because it is intrinsically wrong. At the beginning of time, Adam and Eve couldn’t even imagine sin. The only thoughts that came to them were righteousness. They didn’t know sin existed. They only knew to sin against God because the serpent tempted them and told them what a sin was. As a result of original sin, humans became disordered such that we now know all sorts of sinful thoughts too. We still know naturally in our hearts what is really morally wrong (big things, like murder or rape), but out of our fallen nature we choose to do them anyways. However, there’s also a lot of other thoughts floating around that we have that are sin that we don’t know. One of the more important types of these thoughts are the ones that involve God and whether we ought to worship Him.

To help us along, God gave us the law. The law did not make anything sinful, but instead it pointed out to us what sin was/what we ought to do. This is why Paul writes in Romans that “if it were not for the law I would not know sin.” In other words, he wouldn’t know what was right or wrong. (With Christ and baptism, we have the law written on our hearts so we are closer to just naturally knowing again).

Now, the 10 commandments were given by God as laws for the Jews to follow so that they would not violate the intrisic moral principles of the world we live in. They were specific laws that were written to get people to avoid general principles. For instance, in today’s society, we have the specific law that says you can’t scam people so that we will not break the intrinsic moral principle that stealing is wrong.

The commandment to honor the Sabbath was given to man as a law so that we would follow the intrinsic moral principle that we need to take time out of our lives to honor God and to worship Him. Now, as Paul explains, we are no longer bound by the law. However we are still bound by the principle that we need to take time out of our lives to honor God. This is why Christ said, “Man is not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath is made for man.” The Sabbath was made for man to help man follow that principle of honoring God. Nowadays, we still have to follow the principle, but it doesn’t matter when. The Church made it (in the early centuries as you explained) Sunday. The Church used its authority to say that all Christians must go on Sunday, making Sunday observance an act of obedience to the authority that God has decalred on earth - the Church - just as Saturday observance was an act of obedience to the authority God put on earth at that time - the Ten Commandments. In BOTH cases it is more importantly a fulfillment of the intrinsic moral principle that we nee to honor God.


#3
  1. No, the statues are not sinful. Your friend nearly answered his own question. Look what God said in the commandment:

“You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them

The point is that we not bow down and serve these images. In fact, what your friend may not know is that the term “graven image” is really quite a bad translation of the actual text. Nearly all scholars, Catholic, Protestant, and more importantly the unbiased secular scholars, now hold relatively clearly that the proper translation would read, “You shall not make for yourself an idol…” The term graven image originally appeared in the KJV in 1611, which also has a number of other… dubious translations. That helped lead to a lot of the anti-statue stuff that developed over the past few hundred years. If not for that mistranslation, folks would have read it as what it said: don’t make idols. That’s something we will all readily agree on. You may also want to point out to your friend that the Hebrews had all sorts of different words that we translate as “heavens.” There are about 7 if I am not mistaken. In any event, the word used in this passage refers to the sky. It doesn’t mean Heaven, like where God lives, it means the heavens, like where Superman flies when he “flies through the heavens.” The whol passage means you can’t make an idol of anything on earth (like a calf) or in the sky (like a bird) or under the sea (like a fish). If I’m not mistaken there are other passages which point out the same thing.

But if your friend needs more convincing, turn to Exodus 25:18 and show him where God commands Moses to “make two cherubim of beaten gold for the two ends of the propitiatory, fastening them so that one cherub springs direct from each end. The cherubim shall have their wings spread out above, covering the propitiatory with them; they shall be turned toward each other, but with their faces turned toward the propitiatory.” Here we see God telling Moses to put two statues on the Ark of the Covenant, which is possibly the single most Holy object every created. You will also find God commanding similar things in other places, such as when He commands Solomon to make a whole bunch of statues around the temple in Jerusalem (THE temple, the Holy of Holies).

By looking at A) what the commandment actually means, and B) seeing how it is applied elsewhere in Scripture, you ought to be able to see what God does and doesn’t mean by this.


#4
  1. To the best of my knowledge the Church did in fact place these holidays on/close to pagan celebrations intentionally. The idea was this:

The Church was trying to exist in a rather pagan culture. This was difficult. At the same time, She was trying to evangelize the pagans and bring them to Christ. She was also trying to protect her members from falling back into paganism. It just so happened that the biggest pagan holidays were around Dec. 25th and around April. The Church put their holidays there for two reasons. One, it made it easier to celebrate them without suffering some sort of persecution. Two, it made it easier to evangelize pagans, because it was a bridge between the two cultures. It gave them something in common, and common ground is always a good thing when it comes to evangelization (why is it easier to convert a Jew than an atheist? common ground.) Most importantly, it gave the Christians of the time something to celebrate on that day so they did not get drawn in to the pagan hype and start celebrating the pagan festivals and worshipping pagan gods on those days.

  1. I don’t know lol.

#5

First I commend you on your desire to follow the bible.

I have a question…would fashioning two golden creatures with wings be considered idol worship? What if I placed them around the alter? Well, in Exodus 25: 17-22 that is exactly what God wants the Jewish people to do, but to place the golden statues on the lid of his Ark. So, God must not have meant to start a prohibition against religious images and artwork.

Notice that God instructs his people not to serve any graven image. Well, Catholics are not worshipping statues, nor do they believe that the statues are actual Gods or Goddesses. In fact a statue is only an artistic depiction of a person. It is a bit like the photographs of loved ones. You carry them to remind you of someone special not because you actually believe that the special person is the photograph. That is the purpose of religous icons, statues and crucifixes, simply to remind us of some holy event or person.


#6

[snip]

[quote=Hudsonite] He asked

I have a couple of questions concerning your answers:

  1. The third commandment deals with the Sabbath. Why would most Christian churchs not keep the Sabbath as Jesus did? I know you site Mark 2:23-28 as validation, but it seems away of justifying changing God’s actual commandment. I thought these commandments were binding for all time? I believe the Roman’s where sun worshipers
    [/quote]

Only in part - they worshipped many gods. “Solar monotheism” only took off in the 200s AD.

and it seems to be a compromise with pagan sun worshipers.

Jesus “is the end of the Law” (Romans 5) - He is what the Law was for: the whole purpose of it, its goal; its destination, & its fulfilment. He fulfilled it perfectly, so it has no further purpose or justification. It is the shadow, He is the Reality foreshadowed. So when He comes, it goes. One might as well complain of people for not using torches in midsummer. He is “the brightness of the Father’s glory” (Hebrews 1) in comparison with Whom the sun gives no light; Who has made the sun and moon “ashamed” because of the glory of His brightness. So He is like those sun-gods - in a sense: because He is far more glorious than they are. He is what they are - but far better.

The Fathers paid great attention to the symbolism of light in the Bible - so, superficially, they can look like heathens. Since light and the sun are appropriate realities for symbolising the glory of Christ, they occur in the Gospels. What is the alternative - to represent the splendour of Christ by utter darkness ? It’s not what the narratives of the Transfiguration, or the authors of Hebrews 1 and Rev. 1 do, or St. Paul. If light-symbolism is “heathen”, parts of the Bible are “heathen” too.

People (Fundamentalists, usually) who say the Church was paganised almost always do so on the strength of a few similarities - what they don’t do, is notice the differences between sun-gods and Christ (say). So they are one step away from making Him nothing more than another of many such. Far too many of these comparisons are superficial; and they never explain, ever, why “paganism” is “bad” - they never define their terms, but stop short at saying something is pagan.

Are Christians never to have the names, use the same words, have the same symbols, as non-Christians ? Are they held to such a standard by US Fundamentalists ? Of course not - Fundamentalists eat the same food, do the same jobs, travel, use the same coinage (even though it is forbidden by Exodus 20 !), and, in general, live the same lives as everybody else.

It is we heathen idolatrous Catholics who have distinctive ways of behaviour: that issue is what much of this business is about. Such as going to confession, going on monastic retreats, sanctifying the day by the Prayer of the Church. If their complaint is that we are not different enough from our fellow-men - what more do they expect ?Let them stop using money forbidden by the Commandments, and stop singing hymns to the flag - then their objection will sound vaguely credible.

And they never notice that the Bible is full of the kind of thing they object to - as though the Israelites, left to themselves, did not worship just what their neighbours did; or as though Judea in the NT was not influenced in the slightest by non-Jewish ideas. This idea of the Bible and Israel as somehow an influence-free zone bears no relation to the contents of the Bible. ##

[snip of orig. post]

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3. Bear in mind Paul’s words (repeating the Prophets) - “An idol is nothing”. These gods are nothing. Why treat them as though they had power to act ? There is nothing inherently pagan about days on which such gods are honoured - so Christians can, with a good conscience, use these times to honour the Lord Who really is something: Jesus Christ.

Times & seasons should be used for the real God - not for phantoms; after all, He, not they, made those days. so they should be used for His service, not for that of gods who are nothing.

By occupying the time used for those feasts, the the Christian feasts were crowding them out of the calendar, out of the heart, and out of the memory. The Church was not falling into paganism.

People who worry about the pre-Christian feasts risk overlooking the paganism of their own times: such as the worship of the USA as though it were a goddess, like Roma - the civic religion of the USA, is the USA; the USA is very like pre-Christian Rome in some ways. The USA is nothing too - all states are nothing in comparison with God. Do people today never let the family, or money, or their jobs, take the place that is due to God alone ? These idols may not be carved or molten, they may not be visible to the eye: but they can still be idols. Anything that is not God can be an idol, whether it is before our eyes or in our hearts. ##


#7

I’ll put the answer to number 3 very simply: the Church used pagan days and supplanted them with feasts concerning Christ to highlight the victory of Christ over paganism. We say Jesus is King and Lord of history; then why not give Him the days as His own, since it is but fitting for a King to have His own days? And since He is Lord of all, then the days are His as well. The Church is only giving back what actually belongs to Him then. As for question one, see Acts 20:7. It speaks of the early Christians breaking bread on the first day of the week–the first day after Sabbath.


#8

There are many conflicting theories as to why the date was chosen. You can read more here:
CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Christmas
CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Easter


#9

[quote=Milliardo]I’ll put the answer to number 3 very simply: the Church used pagan days and supplanted them with feasts concerning Christ to highlight the victory of Christ over paganism. We say Jesus is King and Lord of history; then why not give Him the days as His own, since it is but fitting for a King to have His own days? And since He is Lord of all, then the days are His as well. The Church is only giving back what actually belongs to Him then. As for question one, see Acts 20:7. It speaks of the early Christians breaking bread on the first day of the week–the first day after Sabbath.
[/quote]

Thank you for your response but it doesn’t say the first day after the sabbath it says on the first day of the week and the first day is Saturday.


#10

[quote=Hudsonite]Thank you for your response but it doesn’t say the first day after the sabbath it says on the first day of the week and the first day is Saturday.
[/quote]

Uh, no, the first day of the week would logically be Sunday, after the Sabbath, since the Sabbath is the day God rested, the last day of Creation. Hence the last day would naturally be Saturday, the Sabbath.


#11

[quote=Lazerlike42]3. To the best of my knowledge the Church did in fact place these holidays on/close to pagan celebrations intentionally. The idea was this:

The Church was trying to exist in a rather pagan culture. This was difficult. At the same time, She was trying to evangelize the pagans and bring them to Christ. She was also trying to protect her members from falling back into paganism. It just so happened that the biggest pagan holidays were around Dec. 25th and around April. The Church put their holidays there for two reasons. One, it made it easier to celebrate them without suffering some sort of persecution. Two, it made it easier to evangelize pagans, because it was a bridge between the two cultures. It gave them something in common, and common ground is always a good thing when it comes to evangelization (why is it easier to convert a Jew than an atheist? common ground.) Most importantly, it gave the Christians of the time something to celebrate on that day so they did not get drawn in to the pagan hype and start celebrating the pagan festivals and worshipping pagan gods on those days.
.
[/quote]

I would quarrel with this. Most of what you have described above tends to be **supposition ** that has become “accepted” in many quarters without much in the way of evidence.

**Christmas ** is the festival where a pagan feast is most likely to have been transformed. But the main pagan feast of the Solstice was not on December 25th, but December 21st! If Christmas was really to replace the Solstice, why make such a mistake about the day? Of course we do see a similar thing happening today with other religions, who want to “counter” the powerful Christian festival of Christmas, and so emphasise **existing ** festivals in their own religions that occur at approximately the same time, such as Hannukah and various Hindu or African festivals.

For Easter, however, we have even firmer evidence against. Easter is the festival of the resurrection which occurred after Passover. And we know that Passover occurred in the Spring, and the date is calculated from the cycles of the moon. The fact that Easter and certain pagan spring festivals are in the same time frame is pure coincidence.

The fact is that there are so many pagan holidays that whenever a christian holy day occurrs, it’s likely to be close to one of them.


closed #12

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