Tag Archives: Pagan

What was celebrated on December 25th before it became Christmas?

Sol

A Coin of Constantine the Great with “Sol Invictus” (Invincible Sun) on the reverse. The inscription reads “SOL INVICTO COMITI” which means “to the Invincible Sun, Companion (of the Emperor)”

Did you know that there was a long standing celebration that happened on December 25th before Christianity adopted it? The “Invincible Sun”, which was the official sun god of the Roman Empire was commemorated each year on the 25th of December just after the 7 day feast of Saturnalia done in honor of saturn. But where is the proof for such claims? Can we find solid evidence for such observances which are said to have happened on the 25th of December? Such a piece of evidence exists, and is known as the Chronography of 354.

Titlepg

Title page from the Chronography of 354

The ”Chronography of 354”, also known as the ”Calendar of 354”, was a Roman Calendar with illustrations alongside various texts and lists, which was produced in 354 AD. It is the earliest dated western codex(Papyrus/Parchment sheets in form of a book) to have full page illustrations. The term ”Calendar of Filocalus” is sometimes used to describe the whole collection, and sometimes just the sixth part, which is the Calendar itself. Other versions of the names (“Philocalus”, “Codex-Calendar of 354”) are also occasionally used.

The Calendar itself contains important Roman Dates and festivities such as “Birthdays of Emperors”,  “Birthdays of Popes”, “Games” & “Chariot Races”. Amongst these festivities are the celebration of “Saturnalia” and “Birthday of Invictus(Invincible Sun)”. Saturnalia being celebrated on 17th December (7 Days leading upto the 25th) and “Birthday of Invictus” celebrated on the 25th of December are marked on this Calendar which dates back to 354AD.

You can view the complete calendar here or by reading the book titled “On Roman Time: The Codex-Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity” by Michele Renee Salzman.(Some of the pages can be viewed on Amazon as well)

The below page (click image to see enlarged view) contains the main Illustration of December alongside the festivities of the said month. (I have highlighted “Saturnalia” and “Natatalis(Birthday) Invictus” on the image for easy reference)

The Month of December in the Calendar of 354

The Month of December in the Calendar of 354

Abbreviations on the above calendar page
CM = Circenses missus (‘games ordered’)
N = Natalis (‘birthday’)
LVDI = games

SENATUS LEGITIMUS = Senate allowed (days on which the senate could sit)
DIES AEGYPTIACUS = Egyptian days (unlucky days)

Description of Main Illustration – According to Salzman (pp. 75-6), the picture illustrates the “Saturnalia”, since gambling with dice (The dice are placed on the table) was allowed only during this holiday. The mask represents the custom of dressing in costumes (especially cross-dressing) that is characteristic of both Saturnalia and Carnival (Lawson 221-231). The fringed or tasseled mantle is a characteristic of shamans (Butterworth, Traces, 167-8), as is the tasseled Medusa mask (Butterworth, Traces, pp. 151-2, 164-7, plates IX, XV-XVII). The figure in the Calendar also wears the calliculae (or galliculae), which reflect evil, and are also standard accoutrements of priests (Mollet, s.v.) and of shamans (Butterworth, Traces, pp. 30n, 162-8, plates X, XV-XVII).

Conclusion
Ever told someone that December 25th is not Biblical? that it has Pagan Roots written all over it? Ever had people scoff at the fact that you do not celebrate Christmas? This post is a small piece of historical ammunition that you can use to show our friends and our families that the celebration of Christmas is nothing but tradition, and not only tradition, but connected to Pagan tradition as well.

Where did Christmas come from?

Considered “The most wonderful time of the year”, Christmas has become the most popular and widely celebrated holiday around the world among Christians and non-Christians, alike. Christmas Trees, Wreaths, Holly, Carols, Gift-giving, Santa Claus and various other traditions are among the highlights of this season, that all Christians get involved in. But few know the actual origins of these traditions, that are celebrated as “Christmas” today. Even few would even give ear to the fact that Pagan Festivals & Traditions are what gradually became “Christianized” and ended up as part of the Season of Christmas.

Please note that the point of this post is not to diverge anyone from being joyful of the fact that Christ was born on this earth. Rather, it is to point out where the “current celebration of Christmas” and its various traditions originate from.

December 25th was the day which was celebrated as the Birthday of “Mithra” (also known as Mithras) a god of the Persians and subsequently of the Romans. It was also the day when Romans celebrated “Sol Invictus” (Unconquered/Invincible Sun) the official sun god of Rome. Then there were the Egyptians who had Celebrations of their own, in honor of “Isis” and “Ra” on December 25th, which were later adapted into the Roman and Greek pantheon of gods. The celebration of Christmas was even banned in England and America at one time. In this study, I will provide a plethora of Historical facts from reliable sources such as The Encyclopedia Britannica, The History Channel & BBC, in validating these facts.

The information on this post is broken down into these sections
1. Was Christ born in December?
2. Why is December 25th a center-point in Pagan Festivities?
3. Historical facts on the connection of Paganism & Christmas
(Collated from the Encyclopedia Britannica, The History Channel & BBC)
4. The origins of the Christmas tree and Decorations
5. Gift giving and Saturnalia
6. What about Santa Claus?
7. What’s so wrong in celebrating Christmas?
8. Sun Worship and the Word of God
9. Why I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore
10. Can you worship God through the celebration of Christmas?
Conclusion

1. Was Christ born in December?
Most Christians know that Yeshua (Jesus’ true name) was not born on December 25th, and that this date was instituted by the early Roman Catholic Church. The Biblical account of Christ’s birth, points out that Shepherds kept their flock out grazing in the fields on that night (Luk 2:8). Most scholars believe that He could not have even been born in the Month of December as Shepherds could and would not have taken flocks out into the fields in the cold rainy climate of winter time in the Middle East.

Another point worth looking at, is the name “Emmanuel”(Mat 1:23). Emmanuel which means “God with us” was never used as a name for Christ. Rather, this prophecy written in Isa 7:14, leads us to believe, He might have been born around the days of “The Feast of Tabernacles“(Lev 23:33-43), which is celebrated with the central theme of “God tabernacling with us”. This would also explain the reason why there was no room for Mary & Joseph at the inn(Luk 2:7), as tens of thousands of people came to Jerusalem at the time of “Tabernacles”(known also as the feast of ingathering) according to the commandment(Exo 23:14-17). It would also be the perfect time for the Roman Government to call in a registration for taxation(Luk 2:1), as everyone would return to the land of Judea at this time.

There is no sure way to know the month of His birth, as the Gospels are silent on it. Whether it’s at the time of the “Feast of Tabernacles” or not, all historians and scholars agree on the fact that it could not have been the Winter months of December.

2. Why is December 25th a center-point in Pagan Festivities?
The reason was a phenomena called the “Winter Solstice”. The Winter Solstice is the time when the Sun is farthest from the Earth, making the environment colder, effectively bringing winter and snow to some countries in the world. The Winter Solstice happens every year on December 21st or 22nd, which means the Sun will be the farthest away from the earth on this day. The cold atmosphere will start to improve from thereon in. Most of the ancient cultures believed that the Sun was recovering at this time, and they worshiped the Sun at this time. (Sources of information given below in point 3)

3. Historical Facts on the connection of Paganism & Christmas
References for these facts have been collated from the Encyclopedia Britannica, History Channel and BBC. The information given below are excepts completely taken from those sites. Please note that links have been provided for each of these excerpts of Historical facts, so that you can check them for yourself. 

Saturnalia

“One of the best-known festivals of ancient Rome was “the Saturnalia”, a winter festival celebrated on December 17–24. Because it was a time of wild merrymaking and domestic celebrations, businesses, schools, and law courts were closed so that the public could feast, dance, gamble, and generally enjoy itself to the fullest. December 25—the birthday of Mithra, the Iranian god of light, and a day devoted to the invincible sun, as well as the day after the Saturnalia—was adopted by the church as Christmas, the nativity of Christ, to counteract the effects of these festivals”. From Encyclopedia Britannica

“Christmas is the most popular of all festivals among Christians and many non-Christians alike, and its observance combines many strands of tradition. From the ancient Roman pagan festivals of Saturnalia (December 17) and New Year’s come the merrymaking and exchange of presents”. From Encyclopedia Britannica

“The ecclesiastical calendar retains numerous remnants of pre-Christian festivals—notably Christmas, which blends elements including both the feast of the Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithra”. From Encyclopedia Britannica

Sol“During the later periods of Roman history, sun worship gained in importance and ultimately led to what has been called a “solar monotheism.” Nearly all the gods of the period were possessed of solar qualities, and both Christ and Mithra acquired the traits of solar deities. The feast of Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun) on December 25 was celebrated with great joy, and eventually this date was taken over by the Christians as Christmas, the birthday of Christ”. From Encyclopedia Britannica

iisis00001p1Isis2“In Roman times, important Isis festivals were held on December 25, January 6, and March 5″.
From Encyclopedia Britannica

“In the religion of Sol, the festivals were determined by astronomy. The greatest festival was held on December 24–25, at the time of the winter solstice. Because from this date the length of the day began to increase, it was regarded as the day of the rebirth of the god and of the renovation of life”. From Encyclopedia Britannica

Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime; it survived further in the custom, also observed in Germany, of placing a Yule tree at an entrance or inside the house during the midwinter holidays”.
From Encyclopedia Britannica

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“Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight”.

“In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days”.

Mithra2“In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year”.

“Although some evidence suggests that his(Jesus’) birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival”.

“The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston”.
Excerpts from History Channel Website

“Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness”.

“In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls on December 21 or December 22 and is called the winter solstice. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return”.

Ra of egypt“The ancient Egyptians worshiped a god called Ra, who had the head of a hawk and wore the sun as a blazing disk in his crown. At the solstice, when Ra began to recover from the illness, the Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes which symbolized for them the triumph of life over death”.

“Early Romans marked the solstice with a feast called the Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Romans knew that the solstice meant that soon farms and orchards would be green and fruitful. To mark the occasion, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs. In Northern Europe the mysterious Druids, the priests of the ancient Celts, also decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life. The fierce Vikings in Scandinavia thought that evergreens were the special plant of the sun god, Balder”.

220px-Oliver_Cromwell_by_Samuel_Cooper“The influential Oliver Cromwell preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event.” In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; people were fined for hanging decorations. That stern solemnity continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritan legacy”.
Excerpts from History Channel Website

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“It was not until the 4th century AD that Pope Julius I, set 25th December as the date for Christmas. This was an attempt to Christianize the Pagan celebrations that already took place at this time of year”.

“The Romans also held a festival to mark the Winter Solstice. Saturnalia (from the God Saturn) ran for seven days from 17th December. It was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down. Men dressed as women and masters dressed as servants. The festival also involved processions, decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles and giving presents”.

holly“Holly is one of the symbols most associated with Christmas. Its religious significance pre-dates Christianity. It was previously associated with the Sun God and was important in Pagan customs. Some ancient religions used holly for protection. They decorated doors and windows with it in the belief it would ward off evil spirits”.

“As the date of Christ’s birth is not in the Gospels the Puritans thought that Christmas was too strongly linked to the Pagan Roman festival and were opposed to all celebration of it, particularly the lively, boozy celebrations inherited from Saturnalia. In 1644 all Christmas activities were banned in England. This included decorating houses with evergreens and eating mince pies”. From BBC

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4. The origins of the Christmas tree and Decorations
Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans, and plants and trees that remained green all year round had a special meaning for people in the winter. Scandinavians had a custom of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at Winter time to scare away evil spirits. Similarly, the Germans placed a Yule tree at the entrance or inside the house during the midwinter holidays. In Northern Europe, the priests of the ancient Celts, decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life, while the Egyptians filled their homes with palm rushes symbolizing the triumph of life over death. (Sources of information given above in point 3)

5. Gift giving and Saturnalia
Saturnalia which was the most famous of Roman Festivals, was held from December 17th to the 24th, and was dedicated to “Saturn”. While feasting, gambling and wild merrymaking were all part of Saturnalia, “Gift giving” was also a key aspect of this Celebration, which was later incorporated into the Christmas festivities. (Sources of information given above in point 3)

It is important to note, that some point at the “Wise men and the bringing of gifts” as a reason for Gift Giving at Christmas time. The only issue with this point is that the Wise men were not present at Christ’s birth, as per the Gospel accounts. (Please read this post for more information on this subject)

6. What about Santa Claus?
Even good old Saint Nick, who brings gifts for Children on Christmas Eve, has deep rooted connections to Pagan traditions. The most solid connection is between Santa and Odin, the white bearded Norse god who rode a eight legged horse through the air in the winter time. Saint Nocholas’ story got mixed with Odin’s legend with a few creative touches along the way to create Santa Claus as we know him today. From a God riding an eight legged horse through the sky to a jolly old man riding on a sleigh with eight reindeer (and later 9 with rudolph added in 1939) through the night sky, Santa surely owns “Christmas” today.

Given below are excerpts from the book “St. Nicholas – his legend and his role in the Christmas Celebration and other Popular Customs” by George H.McKnight (Printed in 1917) Pg 24, 25, 138, 139
odin“There has been pointed out also the parallelism between the ”beste tabbaerd” of St. Nicholas sung about by children, and the magic robe which enabled Odin to pass from place to place; between the gray horse of St. Nicholas on which he rode over the roofs of houses, and Odin’s horse, Sleipnir, on which he took an autumn ride through the world; between the sheaf of grain in pagan days left in the field for Odin’s horse and the wisp of hay left by children in their shoes for their friend St. Nicholas”.

“The time of the St. Nicholas festival, December 6th, and of Christmas, where St. Nicholas has come to play an important part, coincides in part with the season of the year when Odin, as god of the air, made his nightly rides, or, as god of the dead led through the air the troops of spirits of departed ones. From Odin St. Nicholas inherited his gray horse, which in some Germanic countries he uses in his nightly rides, but which he traded for a reindeer before coming to America. For this horse of St. Nicholas children in parts of Europe leave the hay and oats once left for the horse of Odin. From Odin, too, Santa Claus inherited certain details of his appearance, most notably his long white beard as distinguished from the kind of beard familiar in pictures of the bishop-saint”.

7. What’s so wrong in celebrating Christmas?
All of us are engaged in a personal walk with God Almighty. We will all have to, someday, stand before His judgement seat and give account to Him personally. I cannot and do not attempt to judge anyone, but reprove, correct and instruct using Scripture.

God spoke to Israel saying “Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. (Deut 12:30,31).

God is specific in telling His people not to serve Him, in the ways that gentiles serve their Gods. When thousands of years pass, it is easy not to know what is Truth & what is Tradition. This is why we must put our trust in His Word alone. The fact is, that “Christmas” is not mentioned or celebrated by Yeshua (Jesus’ true name), His disciples or any other Biblical writers. It is a “Tradition” that appeared a long time after the first century church. And Historical facts prove that almost all of it is made up of Pagan Traditions. The question we need to ask ourselves is, whether we want to do the things that were done to other gods, on specific days which were separated for those gods, saying we are now doing it for our Heavenly Father. Isn’t this the very same thing He warned us about in Deut 12:30,31?

The difference today is that most Christians do not have any clue what “Truth” is, and what “Tradition” is. They practice these traditions, saying that they do it for God, not knowing the historical significances of the things they do. If “Mithra” was celebrated on December 25th, can we now use the same day to celebrate our Messiah’s Birth. And we must not forget the fact that celebration of His birth is not even a Biblical doctrine. We might be disconnected from these past traditions, so much so, that we do not even know or remember that these traditions were Pagan. But does God Forget? Is 2000 years a long time for Him, as it is for us? These are all valid questions that all Christians should answer for themselves, in their personal walk with God.

8. Sun Worship and the Word of God
Civilizations around the world worshiped gods that had connections to the Sun. And as we see above, December 25th was a day in which Most sun gods were venerated. Our Heavenly father had instructed us not to do these things in His Word:
Deu 4:19  And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.
Deu 17:3  And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded;

Israel worshiped the Sun against the Word of YHVH in the Old Testament accounts:
Eze 8:16  And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’S house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east.
2Ki 23:5  And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.
2Ki 23:11  And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathanmelech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire.

9. Why I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore
Reason no.1- It is not Biblical
Reason no.2- It is the day when various civilizations used to celebrate their own renditions of the Sun
Reason no.3- It is not even close to the real date of Christ’s actual birth
Reason no.4- The Christmas tree, wreaths, holly, gift giving, santa claus and most of the other traditions including the day of 25th December have strong connections with pagan festivities
Reason no.5- God has commanded us not to worship Him in ways other civilizations worshiped their gods
Reason no.6- I would rather keep Biblical feasts/appointed times(Lev 23) instead of man-made feasts and traditions

10. Can you worship God through the celebration of Christmas?
Some say that they do not worship other gods or the Sun by celebrating Christmas, and that God sees their hearts. God indeed sees our hearts. But If we do something wrong in “His sight”, thinking it is the right thing to do in “our hearts”, such as use pagan practices to worship Him and celebrate the birth of our Messiah, is it still right in His sight? Can we mix worship that should be Holy unto God with what is unholy pagan traditions? These are questions that needs to be answered by the individual, as we are all judged by what we do and not by what we believe(Rev 20:12).

Conclusion
In wrapping this up, I would like to point out that I am in no way ordering anyone to stop celebrating Christmas. Christmas is a tradition which all of us have grown up with, and as such, it is a tradition that has a deep connection with many of us. While some would read these facts and see it as informative, others may be infuriated at the connections made. In this study I have clearly shown the facts of how December 25th and other Christmas traditions are rooted deeply in paganism, and I ask everyone not to take offense at the information provided. If you still feel it is alright to continue a tradition that has been handed down to us from clear pagan roots, so be it. At least now you know where these traditions come from. If you feel it does not sound like a good idea to continue in the tradition, just know that there will be opposition towards your decision, mainly from your family and loved ones (if they do not agree with you). It is our duty to place God’s Word above Tradition, and to obey Him and His Word alone.

Why did God ask us not to wear Wool and Linen mixed clothing?

It is a fact that Mainline Christianity believes that God’s Law in some form or manner has been done away with. A common example brought forth to showcase the “archaic nature” and “absurdity” (as some would say) of the Law, is the statute of “Wool & Linen”. Why exactly did God ask His people not to where Wool & Linen mixed clothing? Let’s look at the verses in concern.

Lev 19:19  Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen(Shah-at-nez) come upon thee.

Deu 22:11  Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts(Shah-at-nez), as of woollen and linen together.

The Statute explained
It is important to note that the statute is not about mixing any type of thread. Rather, it is mixing of Wool & Linen(Shah-at-nez) specifically. The statute does not extend to other types of thread – hence silk, polyester, rayon, etc do not apply. Also, there is no prohibition against wearing one type of garment over another type of garment, even if they were Wool & Linen. The prohibition was to not weave wool and linen together into one garment for wearing.

stacks-of-wool-yarnPhysical or Spiritual?
Some receive this statute as one which has Spiritual significance, not to be confused with a physical requirement. While it is very likely that these Words from God have a spiritual significance, the call to do a physical act is undeniable. Reason being, that it is one of a long list of “you shall not’s”. In Lev 19:19 God reiterates “You shall keep” (Shema) My statutes. But why?

First of all, I believe it is not for us to question God, why He gave certain statutes for us to follow. We must follow Him without question, as He is our Creator & He knows what is best for us all.

But since we are curious souls who want to find meaning in things we do not understand, I will share with you what could be possible reasons for such a statute.

Physical Significance
1. Pagan Priests were known to have worn a certain type of garment made of vegetable(flax/linen) and animal(sheep/wool) materials. This could have been the main reason for this prohibition. As Maimonides, a prominent Jewish philosopher and Scholar wrote in “Moreh iii, 37” –  “the heathen priests adorned themselves with garments containing vegetable and animal materials, while they held in their hand a seal of mineral. This you will find written in their books”
2. From a hygienic point of view, Wool and Linen have opposing characteristics. Wool has an absorbing and shrinking nature, and retains Heat while linen is resistant, non-shrinkable and is a good conductor of Heat. Woolen clothes are naturally worn to keep oneself warm, while Linen is worn to keep oneself cool in warm weather. These conflicting tendencies neutralize each other and may cause disorder in connection with the outflow of perspiration from the body.

Spiritual Significance
1.Wool and Linen are products with opposing characteristics, which could represent the Law/Word of God & Law/Traditions of Men. Mixing such together could and certainly have been harmful for the Children of God.
2.Another interpretation has been that while Linen is a product of an Agriculture based Society such as Egypt, Wool is a product of a pastoral economy. Egypt seen as Sin, which the Children of Israel were fleeing from were not to mix again with the same sin they were redeemed from.\

Conclusion
God has asked us to not where clothing made of Wool & Linen mixed together. While there is no restriction against other materials or threads being mixed, or even for wool and linen clothes to be worn together, we must do our level best to keep an attentive eye on what we wear – so that we do not wear wool-linen mixed clothing according to God’s Word. Whatever the cause for the statute would be, God gave this command for a reason. It is not upto us to question Him. Even though some would make this statute an instance for ridicule, or an occasion to call His Law absurd or archaic, we must explain His word in love and stand away from pointless arguments. May He help us all to open the eyes of those who are around us.

 

Shaving the beard – A law that is illogical or misunderstood?

shave“Are you saying we can’t shave our beards?”, is the usual response one gets from a Christian who hears that “God’s Law is applicable to our lives today”. For some reason, Christians have been taught to counter any arguments made towards adherence to God’s Law, with this simple question, as if these words spoken by God, are illogical, irrelevant and even somewhat nonsensical in our eyes. Furthermore, it’s taken to simply prove that God’s Law as a whole is in fact inapplicable. I do not need to point fingers at anyone, as I would have asked the same question a few years ago! Lets admit it, it’s a fair question which needs to be answered. Is God’s Law illogical, or misunderstood?

The 2 key verses in question
Verse A. Lev 19:27
 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
Verse B. Lev 21:5  They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh.

A closer look at Verse A
It is important to note that Lev 19:27 should be read along with verse 28. Please refer the highlighted key words below:

Lev 19:27,28 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

A closer look at Verse B
Similarly, it is important to note that Lev 21:5 be read with the 4 preceding verses. Please refer the highlighted key words below:

Lev 21:1-5 And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto the priests the sons of Aaron, and say unto them, There shall none be defiled for the dead among his people: But for his kin, that is near unto him, that is, for his mother, and for his father, and for his son, and for his daughter, and for his brother, And for his sister a virgin, that is nigh unto him, which hath had no husband; for her may he be defiled. But he shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself. They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh.

Comparison of the two key verses
Both of the passages we are studying today, contain 4 key points that are repeated in each other. These are:
1. Making Baldness/rounding the corners of one’s head
2. Marring/Shaving off the corner of one’s beard
3. Making any sort of cutting in one’s flesh
4. Defilement or doing such acts for the dead

Some of you may be hesitant to believe all of these acts, including “shaving the corners of one’s beard” were done for the dead. We need more proof to be certain. Let’s continue!

Ancient acts of mourning
Reading the verses provided below, should give you a basic idea of the mourning rites done by nations neighboring Israel and sometimes adopted by some of the Israelites.

Deu 14:1  Ye are the children of the LORD your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.
Isa 15:2 He is gone up to Bajith, and to Dibon, the high places, to weep: Moab shall howl over Nebo, and over Medeba: on all their heads shall be baldness, and every beard cut off.
Jer 16:6  Both the great and the small shall die in this land: they shall not be buried, neither shall men lament for them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them:
Jer 41:5  That there came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even fourscore men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the LORD.
Jer 48:37,38  For every head shall be bald, and every beard clipped: upon all the hands shall be cuttings, and upon the loins sackcloth. There shall be lamentation generally upon all the housetops of Moab, and in the streets thereof: for I have broken Moab like a vessel wherein is no pleasure, saith the LORD.

The above verses make it abundantly clear that making oneself bald, cutting the corners of the beard & cutting the flesh were all done in mourning for the dead – especially by pagan nations. This is why the creator specifically said that “His people” were not to do such rituals. Deut 14:1 makes this differentiation very clear – the children of God were not to do such things.

Lamentation/weeping is directly connected to these acts in Isa 15:2, Jer 16:6 & 48:37,38.

Jer 41:5 needs to be highlighted here, as we see men who are participating in these rituals going to the temple in Jerusalem to offer incense, while disobeying God’s command against these rituals. No wonder prophets such as Hosea were led to proclaim “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hos 6:6).

Conclusion
Reading Lev 19:27 & 21:5 does sound like it contains a prohibition against shaving. But closer examination using context and comparison between the two verses does make it abundantly clear that these commandments were connected to mourning rituals. The Scriptures themselves shed light upon these rituals, connecting them to each other, as well as, lamentation and weeping specifically done for the dead by pagan nations. God’s commandment was not that His children could not shave or cut their beards, but that they should not take part in rituals done for the dead – with cutting flesh, making self bald and cutting the corners of the beard. God & His Word is never illogical, irrelevant or nonsensical. With proper context and understanding we can clearly see that there is a reason for every Word He spoke, and that it is misunderstandings such as this, which has led Christianity away from His instructions, to question the validity of His Words, using such questions as “Are you saying we can’t shave our beards?”