The Bible and Pagan Holidays

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by Stephen Bedard

The subject of holidays with pagan origins came up recently in our discussion on Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I mentioned that I consider this a “Samaritan” issue, that is a nonessential.  However, I would like to pursue this a bit in that it has value in a lesson on applying biblical principles on a subject not directly mentioned in the Bible.  Not only that, this is not just a Jehovah’s Witness issue.  I know of Christians who feel uncomfortable with holidays because of their pagan origins and churches that are uncomfortable with Christmas trees for the same reason.  It is not the idea of holidays that are the issue, as Jesus celebrated both biblical (Passover, Tabernacles etc.) and nonbiblical (Hannukah) holidays (holy days).  It is the pagan origins that are the problem.

I already mentioned that pagan influence goes deep in our culture.  Even our days (Wednesday = Woden’s Day, Thursday = Thor’s Day) and months (January = Janus, March = Mars) are often named from the pagan gods.  But to make things even more complicated, the Bible itself is not afraid to borrow from the pagans.  A common word for the world of the dead in the New Testament is hades.  Not only is Hades the place of the dead in Greek mythology, it is also the name of the Greek god of the dead.  Paradise (a favourite term for the resurrection earth for Jehovah’s Witnesses) is a Persian word for garden that was used in Persian mythology to describe the hope of a blessed afterlife.  Obviously the biblical authors were not afraid to borrow from the pagans.  But I believe that there are two passages that are particularly applicable…

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