In the Image of God

Genesis 1:27: In the image of God created he him. 

Adam was created first and was the only human being besides Yeshua to have been created in God’s image. All others bear God’s image, but are created in Adam’s. Moses made no mistakes in his choice of words. He did not write, “In the image of God created he them,” but he wrote, “In the image of God created he him,” adding the creation of them (plural) as male and female as a distinct thought.

So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Tom Shipley points out that, while mankind may be collectively referred to as Adam, only the first man is ever called Adam as an individual.1 Throughout Genesis 1 and 2, when Moses referred to the individual characters, he referred to the man as Adam and to the woman as Ishshaw.

While all of mankind bears the image of God, woman is the image of man in the same way that a child is the image of his parents. Together, in their procreative capacity they image the creative nature of God. Separately, in their spiritual and familial roles they image other aspects of God. In 1 Corinthians 11:7-9 Paul told us that, although God is the source of us all and that mankind as a whole bears the image of God, men more specifically are that image:

“…he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”

The Hebrew words used for male and female in v27 are somewhat illustrative. According to Strong’s, zakar, the Hebrew for male, means “remembered,” which one could suppose might refer to Adam being reminiscent of God. Nekebah, the Hebrew for female, is derived from nekeb or nakab, and is a more functionally oriented word and describes more of who the woman is rather than who she resembles.

God has no physical gender other than that of the Messiah’s human form, but his superior authority requires that he almost always be referred to in the masculine. He promised the Messiah and he gave the Torah. He died and he rose again. He guides us and he comforts us. God is neither female nor feminine, yet he still has something of the feminine within him; else how could Eve have been created from Adam, who was created in the image of God? While he has no sex and it is certainly incorrect to refer to him as “she,” the roles of wife and mother can be discerned in certain aspects of God. When the first part of the substance of Eve was extracted from Adam, most of the feminine and something of the masculine, both of which he had inherited from God, were put into Eve. Both men and women have masculine and feminine attributes, and in this they both bear God’s image, but men more directly.

This is not a statement of the intrinsic worth of men over women or of women over men.2 They both bear the image of God, and they are both essential to God’s plan. Would it make any sense to ask whether the sergeant or the lieutenant is more important to the plans of the general? Of course not. One has authority over the other, but they are both essential to victory. The lieutenant who believes he can effectively perform the sergeant’s duties in addition to his own is a fool, and so is the sergeant who believes that he can do the same in reverse. The woman is subordinate to the man the way the heart and lungs are subordinate to the head. Without the heart and lungs, the head is of very little use. The subordination of one to the other is of function and not of worth.

<1> Tom Shipley, Man and Woman in Biblical Law (Baltimore, Maryland: Institute for Christian Patriarchy, 2001, 2004.) 19.
<2> Stephen B. Clark points out that subordinates are very often more valuable to the success of a venture than are their superiors. Stephen B. Clark, Man and Woman in Christ. (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Books, 1980.) 23-24.

“If you love me, keep my commandments.”

Numbers 20:10-12 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said to them, Hear now you rebels. Must we bring water for you out of this rock? (11) And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he struck the rock twice. And the water came out plentifully, and the congregation and their animals drank. (12) And Jehovah spoke to Moses and Aaron, Because you did not believe Me, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a lance, and instantly there came out blood and water.

We are meant to see a parallel between this rock and the Messiah, and Paul points it out in 1 Corinthians 10:4.

…they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

There are several traditions concerning this rock that may or may not be true. For example, some say that the rock actually followed the Israelites around the desert and that it really was a pre-incarnate appearance of the Messiah. Others say that Moses’ first strike drew blood from the rock. Only his second strike drew water. Make of that what you will.

I had another thought while reading this passage. There are two ways in which Yeshua’s people strike him: legalism and licentiousness. Both attack him through disobedience. Legalism replaces God’s commands with man’s or elevates the words above the one who gave them through Moses (which is essentially the same thing since the greatest commandment of all is to love the Lawgiver with all your being). Licentiousness simply dismisses God’s commands as irrelevant, elevating the subject above both the words and the master.

In one way or another, we are all probably guilty of both. Some say that anyone who works on Sunday or drinks alcohol or smokes cigarettes is a degenerate sinner destined to burn in hell. Others say that Jesus set us free from all the old rules, that now it’s all about following your conscience. Consider what Yeshua and Paul had to say about these two nomological errors:

Mark 7:7-9 However, they worship Me in vain, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (8) For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, the dippings of pots and cups. And many other such things you do. (9) And He said to them, Do you do well to set aside the commandment of God, so that you may keep your own tradition?

Romans 6:1-4 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound? (2) Let it not be! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (3) Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? (4) Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father; even so we also should walk in newness of life.

It doesn’t matter if you wander too far to the left or to the right. Either way, you will still end up in a ditch. Whether we replace God’s laws with man’s traditions or with rules of our own making, we still sin. Yeshua told us plainly what he expects of us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” At another time he said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

If we love God, we will obey his commandments. That is not just a commandment on it’s own. It’s a statement of fact: If you love God, you will obey God.

Matthew 5:19 Therefore whoever shall relax one of these commandments, the least, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven. But whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven.

Yeshua’s words should send chills down the spine of today’s Christians and Jews. They have good reason to be afraid. Fortunately, God is merciful and forgives those who repent. Obeying God’s Law (aka Torah) isn’t very complicated, but it can take a long time to learn it and to break old habits. Fortunately, Yeshua gave us a very good starting point: The second greatest commandment is very like the first. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” John wrote some very practical advice along these lines:

1 John 4:20-21 If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if he does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? (21) And we have this commandment from Him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.

To learn how to love your brother (Don’t presume that you already know! Our culture hides many hateful things under the guise of love.), I suggest you first read the Letter that James wrote to the exiles of Israel. (James 1:1-5:20) After that, go back to Moses. He wrote several books on the subject.

Legalism replaced God's Law with man's. Obedience to God's Law is not legalism.
Legalism replaces God’s Law with man’s, while licentiousness ignores God’s Law. Reject both. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

Update July 1, 2009: As the rock gave water even when Moses disobeyed God’s instructions, to an extent, so too does God give his Spirit to both legalists and antinomians. Yeshua said that those who do not keep Torah or do not teach others to do likewise will be called the least in Heaven, implying that they would at least still be there. Walking in a roadside ditch will still get you to the right place. It will just be a slower and more difficult journey.

I’ll Take That Texas

Texas Longhorn

I always enjoyed my visits to Texas because of how friendly everyone was. Everyone smiles, says hello, and is very polite.

Then I moved here, started a computer support business from nothing, and relearned that people everywhere can be rude, conniving, and generally unpleasant.

This morning on my way into town I noticed a stray cow–a big Texas longhorn–that was standing on the shoulder of the highway with cars passing by at 70 to 80 mph. Sensing disaster not too far in the future, I grabbed my phone to call the police. Before I could flip the phone open, I remembered Deuteronomy 22:1-4.

(1) You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep go astray and hide yourself from them. You shall surely bring them again to your brother. (2) And if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know him [i.e. do not know to whom the animal belongs], then you shall bring it into your own house, and it shall be with you until your brother seeks after it, and you shall give it back to him again. (3) In the same way you shall do with his ass. And so shall you do with his clothing. And with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he has lost and you have found, you shall do the same. You may not hide yourself. (4) You shall not see your brother’s ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide yourself from them. You shall surely help him to lift it up again.

It’s not the police’s job to return lost animals. It’s mine.

I could see where the cow had broken through the fence, so I knew which ranch it was. I drove through the gate and kept driving until I found a house. The rancher, Dan, was awake, of course, but wasn’t exactly expecting company and spilled coffee all over the floor when I knocked. I told him about the cow and asked if he needed help. Dan accepted the offer, and we drove around to the highway in his truck.

When we arrived back at the break, a patrol car was there and officer Brad was attempting to keep ole Bessie away from the road. The three of us together successfully chased her back across the fence. (Have you ever seen a cow jump!?) After introductions and a suitable few minutes of small talk, the policeman left the scene of the crime, and the rancher asked me to stand there and make sure the cow didn’t jump the fence again while he retrieved the materials to repair that section.

Longhorns are big, sturdy animals, and although they might seem like the bison’s retarded cousin, this one was no stranger to scheming. She stood there for at least five minutes staring me down, inching closer to the fence, as if daring me to stop her. And really, if she decided to jump, what was I going to do? Those horns are sharp, and they’re attached to a whole lot of steak. The fence was weighed down with years worth of vine growth, and when I climbed on top of the pile and put my hands on my hips, she finally backed down and walked away.

Dan arrived a few minutes later with a fence panel and a roll of barbed wire, and we got to closing the gap. Just then a man named Scotty, driving a large, black F250, pulls over and asks if we need help. It turns out he’s a vice president at a local bank and knows who to call to get some workers. He said he could have someone there in thirty minutes, but Dan told him we’d have it done by then. (It actually took a little over an hour more to clear out the underbrush enough to get the new panel in, but who’s counting?) Then another car pulls over. An elderly woman wearing pink and carrying an umbrella asked Scotty if he was having car trouble. She started a bit when she spotted Dan and I over in the weeds. Seeing that everything was under control, she wished everyone a good day and both she and Scotty went about their respective businesses.

When everything was done, Dan’s arms were bleeding from a dozen small wounds caused by thorns and barbs, but he invited me to join him for lunch anyway. He introduced me to his dogs and herd of donkeys at the house, then he cleaned up before we went out for cheeseburgers. (He wanted steak, probably just as a gesture of goodwill toward Bessie the bullheaded cow, but his favorite steakhouse wasn’t open.) We chatted about the ranching and computer businesses over lunch, and Dan told me I should be sure to visit Scotty at his office. “He’s a good man to know around here.” He said the locals can be a very tight-knit community, and Scotty knows everybody. He also told me about how well they all look out for each other.

When I first decided to find that cow’s owner, I was a little irritated at the animal for disrupting my schedule, but I’m glad she did. It was a good morning, even if I did have to change my clothes and take another shower. Brad and Dan and Scotty and the unknown Good Samaritan lady restored my faith in Texas. There are two worlds here just like everywhere else. There’s the world of McDonalds and Walmart where people don’t know each other and don’t want to. Then there’s the world of communities and neighbors looking out for each other.

I’ll take that second Texas. China probably owns the other one anyway.

Fear Is Contageous

Deuteronomy 31:1-8  And Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel.  And he said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in: also the LORD hath said unto me, Thou shalt not go over this Jordan. The LORD thy God, he will go over before thee, and he will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them: and Joshua, he shall go over before thee, as the LORD hath said. And the LORD shall do unto them as he did to Sihon and to Og, kings of the Amorites, and unto the land of them, whom he destroyed. And the LORD shall give them up before your face, that ye may do unto them according unto all the commandments which I have commanded you. Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.

Moses told the entire nation of Israel not to fear, to know that God would be fighting with them. Then he took Joshua aside and told him the same thing.

God does not allow a fearful man to fight in his army because fear is contagious. If one man runs, the man next to him might run as well. And if the fear a soldier on the line is dangerous, how much more is the fear of a general? If Joshua showed fear after hearing God’s promises, it would sweep through the ranks like wind.

Fortunately, faith is also contagious. It is doubly important that leaders lead in faith and not in fear. If he stands strong, his men will stand strong. If he runs, then his men will run.

Fear not, neither be dismayed. Do what is right, and God will take care of the consequences. He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.

Feminism and Islam Are Partners in the War on Western Civilization

Feminism and Islam are natural partners in the destruction of Western Civilization.

Numbers 16:5
…even him whom he hath chosen…
God constructed the world to function in a certain manner. Like any complex machine, Creation’s functionality degrades as its components cease to function according to design. The extent of the dysfunction can be difficult to measure. For example, an automobile without brakes might travel along an uncrowded highway without incident. The driver only realizes his trouble when it becomes necessary to slow or stop. So it is with family structure, church organization, and civil government. As Western nations become more and more feminized, they are beginning to come apart at the seams.

As backwards as the Muslim nations appear, they have a very distinct advantage in that feminism has not taken a significant hold within their borders or cultures. As these two civilizations clash, the conclusion appears to be foregone. The superior technology and wealth of Europe and North America enable them to win many battles even as their borders are flooded with Muslims and other immigrants who have no interest in adapting themselves to the existing cultures. Instead they bring their own culture with them and destroy Western Civilization by forfeiture.

Our politicians say that we are fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here. Anyone with eyes to see can tell that they have no need to fight us anywhere. Until we excise the cancer of feminism from within our own people, we will go on committing cultural suicide.

The military adventures of the Bush-Clinton-Obama cabal are the death throws of a very broken machine and the Muslims need only bide their time to win.

Does a Husband “Own” His Wife?

Does a husband own his wife? No authority but God's is absolute.

Webster’s 1828.

Authority. 1. Legal power, or a right to command or to act; as the authority of a prince over subjects, and of parents over children. Power; rule; sway.

Property. 4. The exclusive right of possessing, enjoying and disposing of a thing; ownership. In the beginning of the world, the Creator gave to man dominion over the earth, over the fish of the sea and the fowls of the air, and over every living thing. This is the foundation of man’s property in the earth and in all its productions. Prior occupancy of land and of wild animals gives to the possessor the property of them. The labor of inventing, making or producing any thing constitutes one of the highest and most indefeasible titles to property. Property is also acquired by inheritance, by gift or by purchase. Property is sometimes held in common, yet each man’s right to his share in common land or stock is exclusively his own. One man may have the property of the soil,and another the right of use, by prescription or by purchase.

“Ownership” and “authority” are near synonyms. Authority is the right to use or dispose of something. Every single authority relationship is also one of property ownership. My employer owns a certain amount of my time in exchange for modest pay and benefits. I have granted them some authority over me for certain purposes. Every parent has some ownership of their children. Every husband has some ownership of his wife.

Note that I did not say ownership is the absolute right to do whatever you want with something. No authority but God’s is absolute. Therefore, no property interest but God’s is absolute. The Bible is very clear that if you abuse the things God has given you, he will take them away. That includes land, objects, people, and nations. All people have God-given rights and responsibilities. Like King George (whichever one you care to name), if you try to deny them, you forfeit your authority.

So when people, who otherwise accept the Bible’s teachings concerning a husband’s authority over his wife, get upset about a husband owning his wife, they’re actually conceding the point to the opposition. If a husband has no property interest in his wife, then he has no authority over her either. Otherwise the concept of “property” has no real meaning. There is no shame in being under authority. Everyone is under someone else’s authority in some way.

So does a husband own his wife? Not in the way we Americans normally talk about ownership, but possibly in the way that the Scriptures talk about it.

If you don’t accept the Bible’s teachings on patriarchy, then that’s another argument altogether. It still doesn’t change the definitions of property or authority.

A Late Tashlikh

Tashlikh is supposed to be done on Rosh Hashanah, but I think Yom Kippur is really a much better time for it. The idea is that you take stones that represent your sins, and you throw them into the sea or whatever body of water you can find, preferably water that is moving toward the sea. Yom Kippur is the day of atonement, and while we can do little things to make our wrongs right, only God can really make them go away.

He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

Like Egypt’s chariots and like the army of locusts before them. Beyond reach, beyond memory.

I have two stones on my desk, and I have written something on each of them. Maybe they won’t seem like much to you. However, to me they represent the two sins which have dominated my life over the past year. On one stone I have written, “Jonah,” and on the other, “Pharaoh.”

Jonah ran from his calling. While I haven’t been running from mine, I haven’t exactly embraced it either. I have some writing to do, and I have neglected it all this year.

Pharaoh raged against God. I allowed anger and hatred to set the tempo and the terms for this past year. I made some difficult and harsh decisions. I made the right decisions–I don’t think there was any way to avoid it–but I could have done it with more grace and civility.

So now I’m going to go throw my good buddies, Jonah and Pharaoh, into the pond a few blocks away. Then I’m going to try to set some past wrongs aside and concentrate on turning some very unpopular thoughts into electronic bits.

Heaven and Earth Hear and Speak

Deu 32:1-3 [Moses sang,] “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain; my speech shall drop down as the dew, as the small rain on the tender plant, and as the showers on the grass; because I will proclaim the name of Yahweh, ascribe greatness to our God.”

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the expanse proclaims His handiwork.

Luk 19:37-40 And when He had come near, even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives, all the multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works which they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King coming in the name of the Lord! Peace in Heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” And He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should be silent, the stones would cry out.”

(MKJV, more or less.)

God speaks first to the leaders. If they don’t listen, he speaks directly to the people. If the people don’t listen, God speaks to the whole creation, and it always responds. God wants to have a relationship with his creation through us, but he does not need to work through us. To God we are a luxury, something he goes out of his way to enjoy. He relates to us only because he so chooses.

God will have a relationship with his creation with or without us. His Word will always be proclaimed by someone or something and will always be heard. No objection, no legislation, no denial can ever change that. The question is, will we hear? Will we speak?

Because He Said So

And it will be, if you shall listen carefully to the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe and to do all His commandments which I command you today, Yahweh your God will set you on high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come on you and overtake you, if you will listen to the voice of Yahweh your God….(Deuteronomy 28:1-2)

If you will not observe to do all the words of this Law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and fearful name, Yahweh Elohim, then Yahweh will make your plagues remarkable, and the plagues of your seed great and persistent plagues; with evil and long-lasting sicknesses….(Deuteronomy 28:58-59)

These are the words of the covenant which Yahweh commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb…. (Deuteronomy 29:1)

Therefore, keep the words of this covenant and do them, so that you may act wisely in all that you do. You stand today, all of you, before Yahweh your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and your stranger that is in your camp, from the cutter of your wood to the drawer of your water… (Deuteronomy 29:9-11)

Nor do I make this covenant and this oath with you only, but with him who stands here with us today before Yahweh our God, and also with him that is not here with us today. (Deuteronomy 29:14)

(Quotes from the MKJV.)

The Law of God applies to all men in all times who would please him by their lives: civil, religious, military, and familial leaders; men, women, and children; foreign laborers; everyone near and far, and more; all who have left the world to be called by God’s name. Once we have come out of the world (aka Egypt) to serve him, he expects us to follow his rules.

We do not obey for salvation from the final death, because Israel was saved from death in Egypt by the blood of the Passover lamb and baptized by their passage through the Red Sea before ever receiving this Covenant. Their faith in God’s promise saved them, not circumcision or observance of the Sabbath.

God wants us to obey his rules, because they are his rules. Although the Law was given for our own prosperity, it is not optional. How can we call him Lord and then act as if his commands are merely helpful suggestions?

Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to Yahweh our God, but the revealed things belong to us and to our sons forever, so that we may do all the words of this Law.”

Among the “secret things” are many whys.

  • Why should we worship this way and not that way?
  • Why does it matter if a pig doesn’t chew its cud or if a rabbit doesn’t have split hooves?
  • What difference does it make if the ashes are of a red heifer or of a Holstein?

I’ve heard two interpretations of “secret things.”

  1. Deep mysteries that are irrelevant to us, are beyond our comprehension, or that might harm us if revealed. The revealed things are those which we can sense or examine.
  2. Secret sins–victimless crimes–that God deals with privately so long as they are not flaunted. The revealed things are those which are made public and have identifiably direct victims, such as murder, theft, and adultery.

In this post I dealt with the first interpretation, but I think they are probably both correct in different contexts.

We can speculate about the things God hasn’t told us, but when push comes to shove, what matters is obedience. If we really have faith in God, we will obey his Word, especially when we don’t understand it.

About Christmas…

Is Christmas, along with all of its traditions, pagan?Deuteronomy 12:29-32:

When the LORD your God shall cut off the nations before you, where you go to possess them, and you take their place and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you do not become snared by following them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not ask about their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods, that I too may do likewise? You shall not do so to the LORD your God. For every abomination to the LORD, which He hates, they have done to their gods; even their sons and their daughters they have burned in the fire to their gods. All the things I command you, be careful to do it. You shall not add to it, nor take away from it.

(See also Deuteronomy 18:9-14.)

Regarding Christmas, there are good things and bad things, but the most important consideration for me is what pleases God. In Deuteronomy 12:29-32, God said not to learn how the former pagans used to worship their gods and then do the same for him. He told us how he is to be worshiped, and we are forbidden from adding to it or taking away from it.

Christmas is to holidays as English is to languages. They are cultural borgs, assimilating everything they touch. Some Christmas traditions are clearly biblical, while others are clearly pagan, and some are more difficult to pin down. Google the words “pagan” and “Christmas,” and you are sure to find plethora of sites declaring everything about Christmas to be purely pagan and evil. You will also find sites claiming that everything about Christmas is purely inspired by God with not a speck of yellow to mar the pristine snowy landscape. Who’s right?

I am no expert on the subject. In fact, I haven’t even read a single book on it. I’ve read a lot of articles, listened to speeches, and sat in on debates, though. So, for whatever it’s worth, I’m going to give you my thoughts on it.

December 25th

From what I’ve read, December 25th was decided on as the birthdate of Yeshua relatively early on in Church history. Unfortunately, it was still decided at least a century after the fact, and it was decided by Greeks and Romans who wouldn’t necessarily understand all the nuances of the Jewish Gospel writers. Matthew, Mark, and John were all native Jews, and Luke was a proselyte at a fairly young age.

There are some people who seriously believe that Yeshua was actually born on December 25th, but they are a minority. Most believe he was actually born on some other date, either in the late spring or early fall. Competing modern traditions point to the pagan holidays of Saturnalia and the many other winter solstice celebrations to explain how December 25th earned the title.

One tradition says that most of the cultures encompassed by the Roman Empire had some kind of winter solstice celebration, which generally fell very close to December 25th. That tradition is undoubtedly correct on that point, but it goes further. It says that Roman Christians didn’t want to appear to Jewish, so instead of celebrating a new holiday at a different time of year, they melded the new ideas into their existing celebrations. In that way, they would be celebrating Christmas at the same time everyone else was celebrating Saturnalia, and they wouldn’t stand out from the crowd. This sounds like a reasonable explanation, but as far as I can tell, it is only speculation. The solstice celebrations were certainly real, but I have never heard of any solid evidence that this was the motivation for selecting this date for Christmas.

A competing tradition says that the Roman Empire instituted the formal holiday of Saturnalia in order to compete with the growing popularity of the Christian holiday. I have at least heard of some documentary evidence that Saturnalia was not officially recognized by the Emperor until after Christians had already adopted the 25th for Christmas. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Saturnalia had not already been celebrated unofficially, so it doesn’t disprove the previous argument.

Another argument against December 25th is the fact of shepherds tending their flocks in the hills at night. I have heard it argued that no shepherd in Judea would have been tending flocks outdoors at night on December 25th. The shepherds supposedly drove their flocks into barns or warmer climes, I’m not sure which. This sounds like something invented by people with no actual knowledge of sheep or shepherding.

The counter argument is that it rarely gets below freezing in that region even in December, and that shepherds routinely tend their flocks under those conditions. I have no way of knowing which is right. I know that in modern times the temperature does occasionally fall below freezing, but that it averages something closer to forty degrees Fahrenheit, but climates can change dramatically over two thousand years. Maybe it was ten degrees every night or maybe it was sixty. I have never seen any documentation of either claim.

There is also the faint possibility that December 25th was chosen because it is possible that Yeshua was conceived sometime near Hanukkah, which is celebrated beginning on Kislev 25 and is always within a few weeks of December 25th. Kislev, being a month on a foreign calendar, was changed to December and the day came to be celebrated as a birthdate instead of as a conception date. More speculation.

Absent proof of one hypothesis or the other, I’m not going to raise a stink about it. If everyone wants to celebrate Yeshua’s birth on December 25th, then I’m OK with that.

Christmas Trees

Every report I have heard says that Christmas trees were adopted from a Germanic solstice tradition. One such report said that some Germanic tribes would bring a tree inside their house as some sort of talisman against the symbolic death of the shortest day of the year. The living tree within their home helped preserve their own lives and ensured another prosperous year. I have no clue if that is correct.

Also consider the prophecy of Jeremiah 10:2-5:

So says the LORD, Do not learn the way of the nations, and do not be terrified at the signs of the heavens; for the nations are terrified at them. For the customs of the people are vain; for one cuts a tree out of the forest with the axe, the work of the hands of the workman. They adorn it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers, so that it will not wobble. They are like a rounded post, and they cannot speak. They must surely be lifted, because they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them; for they cannot do evil nor good, for it is not in them.

I doubt that Jeremiah was thinking of Christmas trees when he copied these words from God, but the parallel is too striking to ignore. The pagans are terrified of the signs of the heavens, signs like the winter solstice, in response to which they cut a tree out of the forest, bring it back to their house, and decorate it. Perhaps Jeremiah had never heard of the German people or their Yuletide traditions. Perhaps he thought he was only writing about carved idols inlaid with gold and silver.

But then again, perhaps God had a wider perspective than Jeremiah.

It seems obvious that, despite many efforts to apply Christian meaning to the Christmas tree, it is not of biblical origin. It was almost certainly adopted from some pagan religious rite. However harmless it might seem, I can’t see any way that it does not violate God’s command to not adopt pagan religious practices. Justifying it by saying we are doing it in his honor adds insult to injury. Does it help the adulteress’ case to claim she was thinking of her husband at the time?

Yule

The Twelve Days of Christmas, Yule logs, Yule Tide, and Yule everything else is unquestionably pagan. There is nothing biblical about it, and claiming otherwise is pointless.

Candles

I suspect the tradition of candles placed in the windows was adopted from Hanukkah, in which an 8 or 9 candle menorah is lit and placed where it can be seen through the house’s windows. While this tradition is not included in the Scriptures of the canon, it is not done in honor of any pagan gods. It is done solely in honor of a miracle that God performed in fulfillment of prophecies in Daniel and in preparation for greater fulfillments to come. I say light ’em up.

Gift Giving

One tradition says that gift giving was adopted from Saturnalia. Another says that it was instituted in honor of the gifts brought to Yeshua by the magi. Either one seems like speculation to me. I have never seen evidence either way.

Mistletoe

Wherever the mistletoe tradition came from, it wasn’t from the Bible or anything else surrounding the birth of Yeshua. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with a pagan religious practice either. It might be a superstition related to fertility, but not necessarily a fertility rite performed as part of any kind of worship. It could be something akin to Jacob’s striped sticks or Rachel’s mandrake.

Red and Green

Once again, I have never heard of documentation for claims of pagan origins for the colors red and green. On the other hand, I can’t imagine how it might be derived from Scripture. I suspect it is a harmless tradition based on one of the most hopeful denizens of winter: evergreen hollies.

Lest anyone think I might be turning into the Grinch, I am not interested in making anyone else conform to my opinions on Christmas. There will be no Christmas trees or Yule logs in my house, but you need to make your own decisions about it. I am not going to complain about nativity scenes or Christmas trees on public property, and I am not going to tell you you’re going to hell for your cheese log. These are just some rambling thoughts relevant to the day. They might even be wrong. As always, I reserve the right to change my mind.

Have fun. Enjoy yourself. But consider giving your traditions a little more thought as to whether or not they please God. He is, after all, the reason for this and all other seasons. Is he not?

Add your thoughts if you want. I might disagree, but I’ll try not to call you any bad names. 😉