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Chapter 6 : What Does A Bunny Have to Do With The Cross?

Chapter 6

What Does A Bunny Have to Do With The Cross?

asherah-pole

Easter is the most important holiday of the church, intending to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus.  Sadly, pre-Christian customs originating from paganism have been assimilated into the present day traditions and practices, polluting the significance of the resurrection of Jesus. The Layman’s Bible Encyclopedia gives the following information about Easter:

Modern observance of Easter represents a convergence of three traditions: (1) The Hebrew Passover, celebrated during Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew lunar calendar; (2) The Christian commemoration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, which took place at the feast of the Passover; and (3) The Norse Ostara or Eostra (from which the name, “Easter” is derived), a pagan festival of spring which fell at the vernal equinox, March 21.  Prominent symbols in this celebration of the resurrection of nature after the winter were rabbits, signifying fecundity, and eggs, colored like the rays of the “returning sun” and the northern lights, or aurora borealis (Martin 209).

 The King James Version is the only translation that has the word “Easter” in it (Acts 12:4).  All other translations have rendered the Greek pascha correctly as “Passover.”  A comment on this mistranslation in the much respected Barnes’ Notes states “There was never a more absurd or unhappy translation than this.”   The ancient Germanic calendar had a month called Eoasturmonath which got its name in honor of their ancient goddess Eostre (Chuvin 204-5).  Spring fertility festivals in honor of Eostre involved “Rites of Spring” celebrated at the time of the equinox, a time when pagan’s believed the earth mother was impregnated by the sun.  

The Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore, and Symbols, tells more about this Spring Festival:

“It incorporates some of the ancient Spring Equinos ceremonies of sun worship in which there were phallic rites and spring fires, and in which the deity or offering to the deity was eaten…The festivial is symbolzed by an ascension Lily…a chick breaking its shell, the colors white and green, the egg, spring flowers, and the Rabbit.  The name is related to Astarte, Ashtoreth, Eostre, and Ishtar, goddess who visited and rose from the underworld.  Easter yields ‘Enduring Eos’…’Enduring Dawn’ (487).”

The name of the goddess changed from culture to culture…

A thorough review of the literature reveals that goddess worship was very prevalent in the Mediterranean area, beginning in the Babylonian culture. The name of the goddess changed from culture to culture, however, the attributes,symbols and rituals remained very similar with her name varying.  The Norse knew her as Eostra, Eastre, Eostre, Eastra, or Ostara.  In the Greek Classics of Homer and Hesiod she was Eos, same as the Roman Aurora and the Assyrian Ishtar, and Astarte, and  recorded in the Old Testament as Astarth and Astoreth, or the queen of heaven.  In Hindu mythology the goddess was known as Ushas, daughter of heaven.  Eos was known by the Greeks as the sister of Helios, the Sun-deity, and was represented in sculpture with sun-rays radiating around her head (Koster 25).

The festivals associated with goddess worship involved phallic rites and temple prostitution.  It was expected for women in these cults to sacrifice their virginity on the feast day at the temples or to become temple prostitutes.  A description of a site of this type of worship can be seen in II Kings 23:4-8.  The significance of the temple prostitutes is evident in the following information taken from The Interpreter’s Dictionary of The Bible, Volume 3:

“The prostitute who was an offical of the cult in ancient Palestine and nearby lands of biblical times exercised an important function.  This religion was predicated upon the belief that the processes of nature were controlled by the the relations between the gods and goddesses.  Projecting their understanding of their own sexual activities, the worshipers of thse deities, through the use of imitative magic, engaged in sexual intercourse with devotees of the shrine, in the belief that this would encourage the gods and goddesses to do likewise.  Only by sexual relations among the deities could man’s desire for increase in herds and fields, as well as his own family, be realized.  In Palestine the gods Baal and Asherah were especially prominent…These competed with Yahwah the God of Israel and, in some cases, may have produced hybrid Yahwah-Baal cults.  Attached to the shrines of these cults were priests as well as prostitutes, both male and female.  Their chief service was sexual in nature-the offering of their bodies for ritual purposes (933-934).”

The Watson’s Biblical and Archaeological Disctionary connects this Phoenician-Canaanite goddess Ashtaroth (Greek), or Astarte (Hebrew) with the queen of heaven found in the Bible:

“The word Ashtaroth properly signifies flocks of sheep, or goats; and sometime the grove, or woods, because she was goddess of woods and groves were her temples…She was also called the queen of heaven…She is almost always joined with Baal, and is called a god, the scriptures having no particular word to express a goddess.  It is believed that the moon was adored in this idol.  Her temples generally accompanied those of the sun; and while bloody sacrifices or human victims were offered to Baal, bread, liquors, and perfumes were presented to Astarte.  Soloman, seduced by his foreign wives, introduced the worship of Ashtaroth into Israel; but Jezebel, daughter of the king of Tyre, and wife of Ahab, principally established her worship.  She caused altars to be erected to this idol in every part of Israel; and at one time four hundred priests attended the worship of Ashtaroth, I Kings 18 (7).”

There are several other Bible scriptures that are specific to these forms of idolatry.  I Kings 15:13 and II Kings 21:7 are specific to a cult object that must be cut down and was detestable to the faithful followers of Yahweh. This object was set up in the high places beside the altars if incense and the stone pillars.  In Judges 6:28 it appears that the male god is represented by the stone pillars, while this cult object of Ashera, most likely a tree or pole, constituted a symbol of the goddess.  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia gives a description of her symbol as follows:

“…the tree-trunk or cone of stone which symbolized Asherah was regarded as a Beth-el, or “house of the deity,”  wherein the goddess was immanent…The trunk of the tree was often provided with branches, and assumed the form of the tree of life.  It was as a trunk, however, that it was forbidden to be erected by the side of “the altar of Yahweh” (Duet 16:21; Judges 6:25,28,30; 2 Kings

The familiar symbols of the rabbit and eggs obviously represent fertility, which was a commonality in goddess all of the various goddess worship.  In the book, The Two Babylons, Hislop presents an interesting story from which the present day Easter egg has it’s roots:

From Egypt these sacred eggs can be distinctly traced to the banks of Euphrates.  The classic poets are full of the fable of the mystic egg of the Babylonians; and thus its tale is told by Hyginus, the Egyptian, the learned keeper of the Palatine library of Rome, in the time of Augustus, who was skilled in all the wisdom of his native country:  “An egg of wondrous size is said to have fallen from heaven into the river Euphrates.  The fishes rolled it to the bank, where the doves having settled upon it, hatched it, and out came Venus, who afterwards was called the Syrian Goddess”-that is, Astarte.  Hence the egg became one of the symbols of Astarte or Easter; and accordingly, in Cyprus, one of the chosen seats of the worship of Venus, or Astarte, the eff of wondrous size was represented on a grand scale (taken from an internet resource).

Paul records in chapter 19 of the Book of Acts about the people of “all Asia and the world”  worshipping the goddess Diana of the Ephesians.  He relates how she is the image that fell down from Zeus.  This compares to the myth of Astarte falling from heaven in an egg.

The worship of Cybele, also know as the “Mother of the Gods,” the Asiatic goddess of fertility, was adopted in Rome in 204 B.C.E.  Her beloved was Adonis, also know as Attes, Attis, or Atys. Their spring festivals were well know and lasted from March 22-25.  The last day, the vernal equinox, the mourning turned to joy for the resurrection of Attis, also a sun god (Koster 26)  A similar union is found in the Sumerian and Baylonian god of fertility and vegetation, Tammuz and the queen of heaven-Easter/Ishtar.  According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume 4  the  origin of the name Tammuz, which is dumuzi, literaly means “invigorator of the child.”   The festival for this pair was also observed at the time of the vernal equinox (725).  Tammuz is mentioned once in the Bible in the Book of Ezekiel 8:13-14:

And He said to me, “Turn again and you will see greaer abominations that they are  doing.”  So He brought me to the door of the north gate of the Lord’s house; and to my dismay, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz.  

This abomination was part of a fertility rite in which they wept for their dead vegetation god because the land had ceased to be fertile.  At the time of the Vernal Equinox, they would mourn and grieve with Ishtar over the death of Tammuz.  He would then be resurrected by the mother goddess Ishtar and reunited with her.  This sexual reunion of the gods would assure the success of the crops and cause the animals and people to be fertile the coming year.

The hot cross buns were also part of the worship of Ishtar/Easter and Tammuz worship.  The Bible also records this in Jeremiah 7:17-20:

Do you not see what they do in the cities of Jerusalem?  The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.  

The sunrise service observed each Easter morning can also be traced back to pagan worship of the sun gods at the time of the vernal equinox.  This practice was condemned by God as recorded in the book of Ezekiel 8:15-18 just after the abominational practice of  the followers of Tammuz are mentioned:

Then He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man?  Turn again, you will see greater abominations than these.”  So He brought me into the inner court of the Lord’s house; and there, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, and they were worshipping the sun toward the east.

God gave us a strong example in the Bible that should serve as a warning to His church today.  In I Kings 11:33 we see judgement prophecied regarding Israel because… “They have forsaken Me, and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians,..”   We also see judgement prophecied in the future in the book of Revelation 2:20-23.  Here we see a church that is committing fornication with “that woman Jezebel.”  The church was given time to repent but she did not, so God cast her into Jezebel’s sickbed and great tribulation because of her fornication.  The church is committing fornication with this spirit each time we mix the worship or our Lord with the polluted practices of paganism.  Revelation 18:4 says… “Come out of her, my people, least you share in her sins, and lest you  receive her plagues.”  

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Chapter 5 : What Agreement Has The Temple Of God With Idols?

Chapter 5
What Agreement Has The
Temple Of God With Idols?

The Druids on New Year's Day

Many of the rituals of the winter pagan holidays are the same customs that make up our modern-day Christmas (Crippen 13). One of these customs is the use of candles.    Centuries before the birth of Christ people lit torches at their pagan winter solstices.  The Persians kindled them in honor of Mithras, the god of light.  The Romans put lighted candles on small trees in respect for Saturn the sun god.  Also, the Druids lit them for their sun god Balder (Barth 33).  

 An American custom has always been to deck our houses with greenery. In early church councils it was considered unlawful to use greenery to decorate the home.  The early church believed it savored paganism and was therefore unlawful and forbidden  (Sandys 11). Christians were recognized by not adorning their houses at Saturnalia (Crippen 13; Hole 21).  Tertullian denounces this pagan ritual by speaking to the Christian, “But thou art a light of the world and a tree that is ever green; if though hast renounced temples, make not a temple of thy own house-door” (Miles, 269).  

Mistletoe was a sacred symbol for the sun. It was known as a sacred plant to the Norsemen, who believed it killed Balder the sun god, the Celtic Druids, and was possibly used in sacred religious ceremonies by the Greeks and Romans (Hole 22). In a ritual performed by the Druids, mistletoe was gathered on the sixth night of the moon.  A priest in a white robe would cut the sacred plant down with a golden sickle and catch it with a white cloth, never letting it touch the ground.  Then the priest would take the mistletoe and two white bulls and offer them as a sacrifice to the gods for peace and prosperity (Coffin 22).  They believed the mistletoe was a spirit or god of vegetation (Crippen 21).  The act of kissing under the mistletoe also came from a Druid practice.  It is thought to be a legacy of human sacrifice or of some form of sacred prostitution, or a sacred gesture of peace (Sansom 36).  

Laurel, also a plant you see around Christmas, came from the Roman Saturnalia.  During this festival the Romans would deck their homes with laurel, sacred to the sun god Apollo (Barth 30).  Ivy was a symbol of the god Bacchus and therefore usually banished to the outside of the house and also worn by the pagans to honor Bacchus (Crippen 15).  In Greece there is a myth that ivy got its name from a girl who danced with great joy at the feet of the god Dionysius until she died at his feet.  Dionysius in turn transformed her into ivy so that she could embrace whatever is around her to indulge her passionate nature (Coffin 20).

Holly, the male mate to the female ivy according to the customs of Saturnalia, was held sacred to the sun god Saturn.  Therefore, at Saturnalia the Romans gave each other holly wreaths and decked images of Saturn with it (Barth 28).  Holly symbolizes the male reproductive urge with its prickly leaves, white flowers and red berries (Coffin 20).  Also connected to the Druidical ceremonies, the Druids wore sprigs of holly in their hair while conducting the ceremony of cutting down the mistletoe (Barth 26-28).

The trademark of Christmas is the Christmas tree.  Trees have long been a symbolic of enduring life (Hole 21).   In pagan cultures trees and groves were an important part of their worship.  The Greeks and Romans “…often associated gods and especially goddesses with trees” (Chuvin 68).  There is an interesting story that took place during the mid 300’s, after the rule of Constantine.  St. Martin of Tours, with the blessing and protection of the government, set out to destroy the pagan groves and idols of the land that were still being worshipped even though it had been banned by the government. In one particular village he had demolished the pagan temple without much protest from the people.  However, when he started to cut down a certain pine tree the people rose up against him. Martin explained to them that because the tree had been dedicated to a demon, it had to be destroyed. The people challenged St. Martin and said “If you have any trust in thy God, whom you say you worship, we ourselves will cut down this tree, and be it your part to receive it when falling; for if, as you declare, your Lord is with you, you will escape all injury.” He accepted their challenge and stood where they requested, which was no doubt where the tree should fall considering its growth in the same direction.  His biographer, Sulpitius Severus, said the pagans joyfully cut down their own tree.  As the tree was falling, St. Martin raised his hand against it in the authority of Jesus Christ, and it began to spin like a top and swept around in the opposite direction (Severus 121-122).

During Saturnalia, the Romans trimmed trees with trinkets and small masks of Bacchus.  

During Saturnalia, the Romans trimmed trees with trinkets and small masks of Bacchus.  They put twelve candles on the trees in honor of the sun god Saturn and placed an image of the sun god on the tip of the tree. The greenery and trees trimmed with lighted candles would be carried in a parade in celebration of the return of the sun (Krythe 61, 45).  Evergreens were used at the Roman Saturnalia to offer winter hospitality to the fairies and spirits that were supposed to occupy the forest (Crippen 13).

 In the book, Chronicle of the Last Pagans, Pierre Chuvin quotes a letter written in 597 by Pope Gregory to Brunnhilda, Queen of the Franks, regarding schisms in the church,

“We equally encourage you to do this also, namely to restrain your other subjects under the control of discipline so that they do no sacrifice to idols, so that worshippers of trees should not exist, so that in the matter of the heads of animals they should not exhibit sacrilegious sacrifices, because it has reached our ears that many of the Christians also meet at churches and – an evil thing to report – do not refrain from instances of worship of demons.”

It is evident from this letter that offerings in trees that was mentioned did not stop because the government banned pagan practices.  The pagans would sacrifice an animal to the god that inhabited the tree and then hang the head of the sacrifice in the tree.  The groves were considered sacred and many could not be entered except by the priests or the sick. Some cultures allowed entrance only at particular times.  Branches removed for religious purposes or leaves made into garlands were considered powerful.  According to Pliny’s record from 50 AD, the druids did not perform any rites without oak leaves.  And Tacitus’ recorded in 98 AD the Germans preformed divination with a fruit bearing branch (Chuvin 108-109). Druid priests also decorated oak trees with apples in thanks to Odin (or Woden) for giving them fruits and with candles in honor of the sun god Balder during their winter solstice (Barth 16).  The Druids offered sacrifices at the sacred oak to their false gods (Krythe 62).

    In the book of Jeremiah this idolatrous custom is spoken of:

Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the heathen are dismayed at them.  For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.  They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not  (Jeremiah 10:2-4).

It is disheartening to think that each time we hang a picture of our children or other ornaments on a Christmas tree we are making offerings to a pagan God.  How this must break the heart of God as we vainly practice idolatrous customs in His name, deceived by Satan through the syncretism of our customs and practices.

Another icon of Christmas is Santa Claus.  Santa is a creature made up of part St. Nicholas and part ancient Yule god (Sansom 103).  Often this gift-bringer is thought of as coming in and out of the chimney, thus associated with fire.  Who else makes their arrival via the chimney?  Early hearth gods of the Yule log and witches, followers of the oldest religion of the horned god, are both associated with the hearth.  Witches used to absorb hallucinatory drugs by way of an ointment containing such drugs as belladonna that gave them the feeling that they were flying. They also carried broomsticks for props.  This accounts for the belief that they ‘flew’ on these broomsticks by way of the chimney, as we have seen, was no more than climbing through a small opening in the roof.  So, Santa comes flying too (Sansom 103).

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A pink carnelian seal from the Neo-Assyrian period in Northern Mesopotamia. It depicts a winged solar disk of Ashur over a sacred tree with worshippers, and the owners name “Belelmuranni,” meaning “Bel has seen me.”

 

He is believed to know the thoughts and the hearts of people just as the ancient pagan gods that he has descended from thousands of years before Christ’s birth it was thought that the Scandinavian god Odin brought gifts or punishment.  He rode on an eight-footed horse called Sleiphner (Hole 43-46).  His son Thor, god of farming, thunder, and war, made his home in the far north (hence the North Pole) and his color was red.  In the book, Holly, Reindeer, and Colored Lights, Edna Barth states “The Christian religion brought an end to such pagan gods, in form at least.  Later as St. Nicholas and Father Christmas, they reappeared in spirit”  (43).

Today’s Swedish children await Jultomter, a gnome whose sleigh is pulled by Julbocker, the goats of the thunder god Thor.  Jultomter comes dressed in red suit and hat and a sack on his back; he looks much like the American Santa (Barth 50). Woden, or Odin, was the chief god in Germany and is characterized as wearing a broad- rimmed hat and a blue cloak; sometimes he preferred to hike, so he carried along a wanderer’s staff (Count 59).  In Switzerland we find Santa Claus accompanied by, and sometimes married to St. Lucy, a uniting of ancient vegetation deities (Sansom 103).  In Holland, Santa comes with a band of strange-looking characters, a black servant, a train of demons and two masked men carrying birches, horned and with a demonic appearance (Hole 46).

A portion of Santa Claus’s character came from a bishop named St. Nicholas, who did good deeds, especially to the poor.  This turned into a worship of the bishop over time.  In the 1500’s when the people of England stopped worshipping St. Nicholas, they assigned the role of gift-bringer to Father Christmas (Giblin 32-33).  Father Christmas wore a holly wreath on his head, achieving an oddly mixed Druidical and Bacchic effect.  Father Christmas is derived from the sun god Saturn; he presided over the feast of Saturnalia and is symbolic of feasting, drinking, and merry making (Giblin 32-33).  Saturn, who ate his own children, is parallel to the Carthaginian god Baal-Hammon, a ram–horned male god who contained a furnace into which children were sacrificially fed. This is also where the custom of giving gifts at Saturnalia came from.  The custom was to give dolls, possibly symbolizing human sacrifice.  There seems to be a connection between children being the gift to these pagan gods and gradually over time the children became the recipients of gifts (Sansom 44, 104-105).

During Saturnalia the Romans used to also give good-luck presents to their friends (Krythe 37).  They also gave one another garlands of greenery from the groves of the goddess Strenia, which was a representation of the fertility of trees (Sansom 81-82).  Because gift giving was such a big part of the pagan celebrations, the early church looked down upon it (Hole 35-36).  However, now gift-giving has become a major part of Christmas.

 Understanding that Christmas has such connections with pagan idolatry should cause a Christian to examine his or her motives behind celebrating this holiday.  Is this holiday glorifying to God and His Son? Can Christians honor God through a pagan holiday?

Much of what is fostered during this holiday revolves around greed and satisfying the cravings of man’s flesh.  Our children are taught that it is okay to covet. They are confused with a Santa who is omniscient and omnipresent, clearly a counterfeit of God’s characteristics.  

Christians are instructed in II Corinthians to be a separate people:

And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?  for ye are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord… (6:16-17).

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Chapter 4 : What Does Santa have To Do With Yeshua’s Birth?

english-parliament-banned-christmas-in-1647

Chapter 4 What Does Santa have To Do With Yeshua’s Birth? I remember my own experiences growing up in a traditional Christian home at Christmas time.  My mother always let me set up the nativity scene as the house was being transformed with all … Click to continue reading...

Chapter 3 : Constantine I, Christian or Politician?

constantine

Chapter 3 Constantine I, Christian or Politician? Who was this emperor that Bishop Eusibius later wrote in his Ecclesiastical History of as “the most exalted person living” and “God’s dearly beloved”? The Bishop considered opposition to Constantine … Click to continue reading...

Chapter 2 : Early Christianity in An Empirical Cult

Chapter 2 Early Christianity in an Empirical Cult Before going into the historical roots of the current holiday customs I want to lay down some foundational information regarding the history of the Christian movement that I hope will shed some … Click to continue reading...

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