Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Quotes About Birthdays and a Reference

Since this subject arises from time to time:

The Jews "regarded birthday celebrations as parts of idolatrous worship . . . , and this probably on account of the idolatrous rites with which they were observed in honor of those who were regarded as the patron gods of the day on which the party was born."-M'Clintock and Strong's Cyclopaedia (1882, Vol. I, p. 817)

"The later Hebrews looked on the celebration of birthdays as a part of idolatrous worship, a view which would be abundantly confirmed by what they saw of the common observances associated with these days."—The Imperial Bible-Dictionary (London, 1874), edited by Patrick Fairbairn, Vol. I, p. 225

“Early Christians [from time of Christ until the 4th century] frowned on [celebrating anyone’s birthday], which was too closely linked with pagan customs to be given the approval of the church.” - How It Started, Garrison, copyright 1972 by Abingdon Press, p. 213

See http://searchforbibletruths.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-do-jehovahs-witnesses-not-celebrate.html


Anonymous said...

One Question:

If the apostle Paul did not even condemn eating meat sacrificed to idols, would he condemn a practice that has not been associated with paganism in over a thousand years?

Edgar Foster said...

Anonymous, that's where we would probably disagree. There's a reason why atheists, neopagans, and other non-Christians find so much joy (at least temporarily) in Christmas (the supposed day of Christ's birth). The secular elements of Christmas are still present in the holiday, here and now.

Anonymous said...

Edgar, my question dealt with birthdays, not Christmas.

My question still stands. If Paul did not believe that eating meat sacrificed to pagan gods was sinful, why would he believe that modern day birthday celebrations are sinful? If he would not condemn something overtly connected to paganism, why would he condemn something only tenuously connected to paganism through historical accident?
The only reason Paul advised the Corinthians to avoid eating meat sacrificed to idols was because "There were some in whose consciences false gods still played such a part that they took the food as though it had been dedicated to a god" (1 Corinthians 8:7). Using this reasoning, it is clear that Paul would not condemn modern day birthday celebrations because nobody thinks of the food as something dedicated to a god.
Surely you do not think that a person celebrating his or her birthday is unwittingly worshiping pagan gods?

Anonymous said...

Around Christmas people often become more open when it comes to talking about spiritual questions, more likely to attend church, more likely to spend time with family, and more likely to donate to charity.
The "secular" elements of Christmas are not bad. Increased consumption spending is good for the economy and helps people in service related industries who are often very poor.

Edgar Foster said...


Paul's view of eating meat sacrificed to idols is a little more nuanced that you suggest. He wasn't exactly urging Christians to engage in the practice. See the prohibitions issued in the NT too.

Secondly, I question your premise that birthdays are tenously associated with paganism. Read some of the early fathers and what historians have said about ancient Hebrews and early Christians not observing birthdays. What's more important is why the early ecclesia or the Hebrews did not observe birthdays: they knew the connection between pagan religious practices and birthday celebrations was far from tenuous.

The question is not whether I (the celebrant) do/do not consider myself to be worshiping a false god. More mimportantly, what objective significance does my act have in the sight of God and men?

You leave out the many unwholesome secular elements in Christmas, the falsehoods upon which it is built and the greedy aspects of consumerism. Even if the day is supposed to be about Christ--most people crowd him out. Many people observe Christmas without thinking of Christ or religion at all; they view the day as a time to spend with family and friends.

Anonymous said...

Romans 14 make it pretty clear that celebrating any particular day is a conscience matter, for it says the following:

"One man esteems one day as more important. Another esteems every day alike. Let each man be fully assured in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks. He who doesn’t eat, to the Lord he doesn’t eat, and gives God thanks." [verses 5,6]

Additional points in that same chapter support this: "God’s Kingdom is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." [vs 17]

Colossians 2 is also an excellent chapter to read in this regard. In verse 16 is specifically says, "Let no one therefore judge you in eating, or in drinking, or with respect to a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath day."