Easter was NOT based on a pagan holiday

(This is a re-run from this blog in 2011, but it still needs to be said.  For more on this topic go here and here. )

The charge is that the word “Easter” derives from the name of a pagan fertility goddess “Eostre.” It is said that Christians took over a spring festival devoted to this deity. But this article by British historian Anthony McRoy debunks that claim: Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday? | Christian History.

Briefly, the connection to Eostre was made by the Venerable Bede, the medieval church historian, but we can find no other mention of the goddess or any festival associated with her. Prof. McRoy accounts for what may have been Bede’s misunderstanding with some other etymological accounts of the origin of our word “Easter.”

Besides, English and the other Germanic languages are the only languages that calls the Festival of the Resurrection “Easter.” Everyone else calls it some version of “Pascha,” which derives from the Hebrew word for “Passover.” And the holiday was celebrated extremely early in the church’s history, evidently by the 2nd century. And its original celebration in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean sea shows no connection at all to any pagan festivals.

 

Why the Lord’s Supper

Some years ago, I, as a Lutheran, was invited to write about the Lord’s Supper in Tabletalk, a magazine with mostly Reformed readers, which was doing special issue on the sacraments.  I didn’t want to argue, just explain what Holy Communion means and can mean in the life of a Christian.  I offer it to you, whatever your theology, for Maundy Thursday:

As far as I know, I am the only Lutheran who writes regularly for Tabletalk, so please bear with me. Inviting a Lutheran to write about the Lord’s Supper is like asking a grandmother if she has any pictures of the new baby. So much affection for the subject matter can easily outpace other people’s interest. However, the Lord’s Supper is at the heart of a Lutheran’s piety. Calvinists too, as well as other Protestants, are rediscovering their own sacramental heritage, which has become somewhat forgotten. We Lutherans have never lost the Reformation’s emphasis on the sacrament, so perhaps this description of what it is like might prove helpful.

I do not intend here so much to argue for the Lutheran theological position on the sacrament, but rather to describe — in a way that I hope is helpful for non-Lutherans who are also trying to regain an evangelical sense of the sacrament — what it is like to believe in it. I will then make some cultural connections, showing why the Reformation emphasis on the sacrament is a bracing tonic against today’s highly-internalized pop-Christianity. [Read more…]

Jonathan Swift and the Jesus stompers

You have doubtless heard about the college that had students stomp on the name of Jesus as an exercise in a class on cultural understanding.  I noticed the parallel to something that happened in Gulliver’s Travels in which the satirist Jonathan Swift portrays Dutch traders as being willing to trod on a Crucifix as a way to convince the Japanese that they weren’t Christians so that they could trade with that country.  Of course, the Dutch, being Calvinists, considered the Crucifix to be an idol, so stepping on it didn’t bother them.

I wondered how much of that was true and how much was Swift’s lampoon.  The Dutch were the only Europeans the Japanese would trade with.  Whether that was because they would trod on the Crucifix because of their iconoclastic theology, I’m not sure, but Swift, an Anglican priest, lambastes them.  Anyway, I was glad to see that Anthony Sacramone, who has taken up blogging again, makes that same connection and tells us more about the requirement for blasphemy in the context of Christian persecution, now showing up in a college classroom.

(There was only one student who objected, by the way, and he was a Mormon.  Did the Christians in the room just go along with it?  Surely, desecrating the name of Jesus would bother even iconoclasts whose distaste for physical images never extended to the use of language.)  [Read more…]

Cost increases with Obamacare

More bad news for the coming Obamacare trainwreck.  From the Associated Press:

Medical claims costs — the biggest driver of health insurance premiums — will jump an average 32 percent for Americans’ individual policies under President Barack Obama’s overhaul, according to a study by the nation’s leading group of financial risk analysts.

The report could turn into a big headache for the Obama administration at a time when many parts of the country remain skeptical about the Affordable Care Act. The estimates were recently released by the Society of Actuaries to its members.

While some states will see medical claims costs per person decline, the report concluded the overwhelming majority will see double-digit increases in their individual health insurance markets, where people purchase coverage directly from insurers. [Read more…]

The woman who anointed the feet of Jesus

Thanks to Frank Sonnek for introducing me to this sonnet about the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50.  It’s by the son of the great Romantic poet Samuel T. Coleridge!  (Just as the great hymnwriter Christopher Wordsworth was the nephew of the Romantic poet William Wordsworth.  Both Romantic poets, who together penned the revolutionary Lyrical Ballads, would become conservative Christians.)   The title of this poem is Latin for “she loved much,” since, as Jesus said, “he is forgiven little, loves little,” and vice versa.  This makes a fine meditation for Holy Week.  (If you know of others, give a link in the comments.)

“Multum Dilexit”
Hartley Coleridge (1796–1849)
SHE sat and wept beside His feet; the weight
Of sin oppress’d her heart; for all the blame,
And the poor malice of the worldly shame,
To her was past, extinct, and out of date:
Only the sin remain’d,—the leprous state; 5
She would be melted by the heat of love,
By fires far fiercer than are blown to prove
And purge the silver are adulterate.
She sat and wept, and with her untress’d hair
Still wip’d the feet she was so bless’d to touch; 10
And He wip’d off the soiling of despair
From her sweet soul, because she lov’d so much.
I am a sinner, full of doubts and fears:
Make me a humble thing of love and tears.

Learning from gay activists

Homosexuals have pulled what may be the greatest public relations revolution in history, going from reviled to celebrated in the twinkling of an eye.  Illegal immigrants have also scored a public relations coup, as their cause is now ascendant.  Immigration activist Frank Sharry says that the success of his movement has been consciously modeled after the tactics of gay rights activists.

I’ll quote him after the jump, but Christians would do well to study these turnarounds.  Societies tend to project some of its members as “others,” scapegoating, marginalizing, and looking down on them as a way to achieve social solidarity, an “ingroup”  played off against an “outgroup.”  Christians should never play that game, but we have.   I wonder if  Christians will someday be put into that role.  Already, significant parts of the population regard conservative Christians with revulsion and fear, seeing Christians’ sexual ethics as unnatural and scaring themselves at the prospect of Christians taking over the country.  I can see a time when people will mirror the Calvinist/Arminian debates in discussing whether a person chooses to be a Christian (in which case there is no excuse) or is born that way (in which case there is a pathology that needs to be eradicated).  But maybe enough Christians will be bold enough to “out themselves” to their families and friends so as to present a human face to the movement. [Read more…]


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