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Is Christmas Pagan? No! It's time to learn some real history.... ^ | December 2012 | CatholicKnight

Posted on 12/23/2012 1:28:36 PM PST by Salvation

Is Christmas Pagan?

A Jewish Star of David Tops This Christmas Tree
About this time every year we hear the usual misnomer that Christmas is a Pagan celebration whitewashed by the medieval Catholic Church. We hear this from all corners. Secularists just accept it as fact. Catholics, rather embarrassingly, often try to gloss over it. While Protestant Fundamentalists frequently rail against it, usually calling for either a boycott of the holiday, or else a return to the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. (For some ridiculous reason, some Fundamentalists subscribe to the notion that if a certain date happened to be used by Pagans, that automatically makes anything Christians celebrate on that same date a bow to Paganism.) It is so widely accepted that people fail to address the possibility that the scholarship behind this common assumption might be flawed -- seriously flawed.

I submit to you that everything you've heard about the supposed "Pagan origin" of Christmas is false.  It is much hyperventilation over nothing really. Not only is it false, but it is based on such poor scholarship that it ought to be embarrassing to anyone who embraces it.  Sadly, it would seem the whole modern world has embraced this error, a serious error, which ought to give us some pause.

It's time to learn some real history....

The idea that the celebration of Christmas originated from Pagan origin comes from two 18th century scholars. The first was a German Protestant named Paul Ernst Jablonski. He was the one who first put forward the notion that the celebration of December 25th was one of the many Pagan influences of the Church of Rome (Catholicism) on Christianity. The second was a Catholic Benedictine monk named Dom Jean Hardouin who, in response to Jablonski, tried to show that while the Church may have adopted a pagan celebration of December 25th, it did so without compromising the integrity of the gospel. Both men were wrong. Jablonski erred in his theory that the Pagan December 25 pre-dated Christian celebrations, and Hardouin erred in assuming Jablonski's date assumption was correct in the first place. From these two catastrophic errors, the whole modern world has come to believe that Christmas was originally a Pagan celebration co-opted by the medieval Church.

The controversy surrounds an event that happened in the late 3rd century (AD 274) when the Pagan Roman Caesar Aurelian decreed that December 25th would mark the celebration of the 'Feast of the Unconquered Sun' god (or 'Sol Invictus'), noting the rise of the sun's ecliptic after the winter solstice (December 21 - 23).  Now, the sun worshiping cult can be traced in Rome back to about AD 158.  However, the marking of the summer and winter solstices had no significant relevance to this Roman cult at that time. Instead, the dates of August 9th and August 28th held more relevance, depending on what clan of the cult one followed. The marking of equinoxes and solstices had little relevance to early Roman sun worship. That was a job for astrologers who operated from a completely different religious perspective that had nothing to do with sun worship. So according to the ancient records anyway, Roman sun worshipers had no particular interest in December 25th, or the winter solstice for that matter, before AD 274.

In contrast however, the date of December 25th did hold some religious significance to Jewish converts to Christianity during antiquity. While it is true that we are currently unable to find evidence of Roman Christians celebrating December 25th as the date of the Lord's nativity until AD 336, there is some evidence that Jewish Christians in Rome held that date in high significance as far back as the early 2nd century (AD 100's), and there were some minor celebrations going on for a different reason.

Let's begin with the ancient Christian community in Rome, which had a fairly sizable Jewish convert population for some time. These Jewish converts to the Christian faith were accustomed to celebrating the Jewish Feast of Dedication (or Hanukkah), which early Gentile Christians certainly would not have had any problem celebrating with them, since the Scriptures record that Jesus himself kept this feast (John 10:22-23). However, in the years following the forced separation of Christianity from Judaism and the fall of the Second Temple (AD 70), Jewish Christians would have found themselves increasingly isolated and alienated from the larger Jewish community, and many of these Jewish Christians were "put out of the synagogues" anyway. Jews used a complicated lunar calendar in which the months never coincided with the civil calendar commonly used in the Roman Empire during that time. So Jewish Christians living outside of the Holy Land, would have found themselves alienated from all Jewish times and seasons once they were "put out of the synagogues" (Jewish excommunication). Thus early Jewish Christians found themselves completely immersed in a civil culture that had no connection to the Jewish calendar whatsoever, and any attempt to calculate the times and seasons among themselves would have resulted in endless debates and disputes between them. So they did what any Jew would do in a similar situation. They assimilated into the prevailing culture, but kept their distinctively Jewish identity and customs. Because they were believers in Jesus Christ however, they did so in a Christian context.

Jews always marked the 25th day of the winter month of Kislev as the start of the eight-day Feast of Hanukkah. Because they no longer had access to the Jewish lunar calendar, having been "put out of the synagogue," they simply observed the 25th day of the month that most closely aligned with the winter month of Kislev. That month on the Roman (Julian) calendar is December.  So for Christians of Jewish ancestry in ancient Rome, December 25th became of significant importance as the beginning of the Festival of Dedication, in which Jews remember the light that came into the Second Temple after the Maccabean Revolution in BC 167 - 160.  From a Jewish Christian perspective, this would have taken on even more significance, marking the coming of The Light of God (Jesus Christ) into the Temple as well (John 10:22-23).  However, the Jewish Christians were about to get a surprise from the Gentile Christians that would make their celebration even more significant.

The early Church was preoccupied with debates and disputes over the proper time to celebrate not the birth, but the death and resurrection, of Jesus Christ.  Again, the problem goes back to the Jewish calendar.  Christianity had been forcibly ejected from Judaism.  This is not because Christians rejected Jews.  Quite the opposite really.  It was the Jewish leaders who rejected Christians, telling them that by following Jesus of Nazareth they had apostatized themselves from Judaism.  The acceptance of uncircumcised Gentiles into the Christian communities just exacerbated the situation.  Essentially, the early Christians were rejected by the larger Jewish population and told they no longer had any connection to the Jewish faith and religion whatsoever.  They were all "put out of the synagogue" so to speak, many of which having never been granted admission in the first place, in what amounted to a full scale mass excommunication from Judaism and all things Jewish.  It was this ejection from Judaism that led to the Roman persecution of Christians in the first place.  So long as Christianity was considered a Jewish sect, Christians were under an accommodation made between the Jewish leaders and the Roman Empire, that exempted them from having to participate in emperor worship.  (Jewish leaders had for centuries agreed to make sacrifices to the Jewish God Yahweh on behalf of Caesar, and pray for Yahweh to bless his rule, rather than actually worship Caesar as everyone else was required to.  Because such action guaranteed Jewish allegiance to Rome, there was no need to force the emperor worship cult on the Jews.)  However, as Christians were ejected from all things Jewish, the Pharisees made arguments before Roman authorities that Christians could no longer enjoy the exemptions afforded to Jews.  Thus, when Rome finally agreed that Christians were no longer Jewish (AD 67), the Christians were then required to worship Caesar.   When they refused, they were tortured and put to death in the circuses of Rome.  This Roman persecution of Christians continued from the late 1st century, until the Edict of Milan in AD 312. 

In addition to this ongoing Roman persecution, ancient Christians were confronted with a problem created by no longer having access to the Jewish calendar.  The date of the Passover could no longer be accurately projected, thus the dates marking the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ could not longer be accurately projected either.   No longer having reliable access to the Jewish calendar, ancient Christians set out to create their own method of calculating the time of the Passover, and thus projecting the dates of Good Friday and Easter (Pasch) Sunday.  Naturally there was a significant amount of dispute over this, especially between the Eastern and Western Christians, but in the 2nd to 3rd centuries (AD 100 through 300), there was a consensus among Roman Christians that March 25th marked the actual date of Christ's crucifixion according to the Roman (Julian) calendar.  Later research would reveal this to be impossible, but for those early days of the Church, that was the consensus among Christians living in and around Rome. 

There is another dimension we must add to this here.  It is called the 'integral age.'  Here we have yet another example of ancient Jewish influence on early Christianity.  While such a belief is found nowhere in the Scriptures, it was widely held by ancient Jews that great prophets died on the same date as either their birth or conception.  So according to this extra-biblical JEWISH TRADITION, which was accepted by early Christians (though it was never required as an article of faith), Jesus being the greatest of all Jewish prophets, must have died on the same date on which he was originally conceived in the womb of his mother -- Mary.  So March 25th came to be assigned not only as Good Friday (which rarely fell on a Friday actually) but also the date of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel announced the coming of Christ to the Virgin Mary, wherein she accepted her destiny and conceived Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.  March 25th is to this day marked as the Feast of the Annunciation in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church.  Even though this date was determined by flawed calendar calculations coupled with extra-biblical Jewish traditions, it should be taken as the historical reason for the selection of this date as the Feast of the Annunciation.   It should not be taken as the literal date in which it actually happened.   There is no way we can know the actual literal date of Christ's conception.  Every theory out there is just speculation.  Still, the early Christians in and around Rome were satisfied with this date, and there is evidence that many Christians accepted it as both the Annunciation and Good Friday throughout various regions of the Roman Empire.

Okay, so now we have the date of Christ's conception and death, which was accepted by many early Christians from the 2nd to 3rd centuries.  The actual date of Christ's death would be recalculated in later centuries much more accurately, but March 25th would remain as the accepted date of Christ's conception in later centuries, as by that time the Jewish tradition of the "integral age" had fallen into obscurity.  To this day, March 25th remains the commonly accepted date of Christ's conception, if for no other reason than tradition's sake, and that is why we celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th.  Just count exactly nine months from the traditional date observed as Christ's conception (March 25th) and you land on the 25th day of December, which from the fourth century (AD 300s) onward was marked as the traditional date observed as Christ's birth -- the Feast of the Nativity.  Of course, this worked out quite well for the Jewish Christians, particularly those living in Rome, because that date happened to coincide exactly (coincidence or providence?) with the beginning of the Jewish Christian observance of Hanukkah they had been celebrating on December 25th for a couple hundred years already.  Now the Jewish Christians living in Rome were not only celebrating the coming of the Light of God (Jesus Christ) into the Second Temple (John 10:22-23) along with remembrance of the light that entered during the Maccabean Revolution, but December 25th now marked the coming of the Light of God into the whole world at his birth!  Naturally, this added significance for this date to Gentile Christians as well, who were keen on celebrating birthdays, and in all likelihood the growing observance of December 25th among Christians in Rome was enough for the Pagan Caesar Aurelian to take notice of it in AD 274.  Thus, seeing how closely this celebration was in proximity to the winter solstice, he tried to trump it with his Pagan Feast of Sol Invictus.  The observance of December 25th was not a Pagan celebration hijacked by Christians as theorised by Jablonski and Hardouin in the 18th century, but rather the other way around.  It was a growing Christian celebration that the Pagan Emperor attempted to hijack instead, in his vain attempt to reunify the crumbling Pagan religions of Rome.  His attempted Feast of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), which marked the close of a winter solstice that Roman sun worshippers never cared about prior to his decree, was a miserable failure.  Basically, it was a flop!  The cult (and the empire) went extinct sometime in the 5th century.  By that time Christianity had spread throughout all the known world, and would soon come to power as Christendom, the prevailing governance of all Europe during the Middle Ages.

So that is how the date for Christmas (December 25th) came about.  The Octave of Christmas, on the Roman Catholic calendar, which spans from December 25th to January 1st, ends with the beginning of the civil new year, and is a tribute to the contribution made by the eight-day festival by early Jewish Christians.   In time the Jewish population of the early Church faded away, and with them the Jewish origins of Christmas fell into obscurity.  Hints and clues of this have remained with us to this day, but they are veiled by a general lack of historical knowledge.  Later, the Christmas festival was expanded to encompass a full twelve days, which came to be called Christmastide or the 'Season of Christmas,' marking the time between the Feast of the Nativity (December 25th) and the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th), commemorating the visit of the wise men (magi) from the East.  In the West, the emphasis for Christmastide has always been on the first day of the twelve-day festival -- the Feast of the Nativity (December 25th).  While in the East, the emphasis has always been on the last day of the twelve-day festival -- the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th).

In the Western world, other traditions and customs developed over the centuries.  Most of them are actually Protestant in origin, but equally enjoyed by Catholics.  The Christmas tree comes from Germany, particularly from the Protestant founder Martin Luther.  Yule logs and mistletoe likely come from northern European folk customs.  Some may perhaps be Pagan in origin, but have since lost their Pagan meaning.  These things have little significance in the modern celebration of Christmas anyway.  Of course the legends of Santa Claus originated with the Catholic Saint Nicholas, who is the patron saint of sailors and children.  The story of his life has been embellished with legends and myths from all over the world, resulting in the Santa Claus traditions we are familiar with today.  Much of that was commercialised in the United States in the early 20th century.

So in answer to the above question.  No, Christmas is not Pagan.  Far from it really, but it seems that some people are hell bent on finding something Pagan about it, regardless if it is true or historically accurate.  So have a Happy Advent and a Merry Christmas everyone!

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; christmas; churchhistory; tradition
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To: hecht
Correct, thank you. The feast of booths/tabernacles was in September when Jesus was born.

I should have said that some who have analyzed the scriptural references of Jesus put his birth in the spring, some say summer, most say fall, but all agree it wasn't winter.

There's a pretty good analysis of the scriptural references here.

61 posted on 12/24/2012 2:21:51 AM PST by uncommonsense (Conservatives believe what they see; Liberals see what they believe.)
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Thanks, September is what I should have said and I clarified the date issue in a later post - basically all biblical analysis agrees that Jesus WASN'T born during winter.

"And... when the truth confronts tradition - usually insane anger and rage accompany those who dare cause a slave to tradition - to look into why they believe what they do."

To your point, check out post # 20 saying people who favor scripture over traditions are "haters". That's about as externe and visceral as one can get.

62 posted on 12/24/2012 2:59:42 AM PST by uncommonsense (Conservatives believe what they see; Liberals see what they believe.)
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To: Yosemitest

I acknowledge the birth of Jesus Christ at Tabernacles. I completely ignore the 25th of December...just another day off. No tree, no shopping...blissful peace.

63 posted on 12/24/2012 3:43:32 AM PST by who knows what evil? (G-d saved more animals than people on the
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To: wesagain


64 posted on 12/24/2012 4:44:49 AM PST by antisocial (Texas SCV - Deo Vindice)
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To: Yosemitest; All

You act like a Muslim..

65 posted on 12/24/2012 4:55:28 AM PST by KevinDavis (And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.)
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To: aMorePerfectUnion
Jesus was born when Shepherds were keeping watch over their flock at night. The Jewish Temple kept sheep just outside Jerusalem for sacrifice year round.

I was just getting ready to psot this. I don't know how many times I have had to explain this, even to Catholics.

66 posted on 12/24/2012 5:28:40 AM PST by verga (A nation divided by Zero!)
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To: BipolarBob
The cross on the other hand is a cruel deadly instrument to inflict as much shame, pain and humiliation on a poor victim as possible. The Apostles knew about the cross but never wore it. They would have condemned anybody for this heinous jewelry.

Catholics (The original Christians) initially made the "sign of the cross" on themselves. Wearing a cross would have called undue attention to themselves during the time of the persecutions, as mentioned in the article. Further the cross is a reminder that we are linked to Christ through he suffering death and resurrection: Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,

Additional references: Romans 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

2 Corinthians 1:5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows

2 Timothy 1:8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God,

67 posted on 12/24/2012 5:46:27 AM PST by verga (A nation divided by Zero!)
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To: verga

Yeah, just like I said “They would have condemned anybody for this heinous jewelry.”.

68 posted on 12/24/2012 7:21:12 AM PST by BipolarBob (Bitter, clinging to my Bible and AR-15.)
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To: one Lord one faith one baptism
"It doesn’t happen often, so i couldn’t pass up the chance to agree 1000% with AMPU, WORTH CELEBRATING!!!!!"

The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step!

Merry Christmas as we remember and celebrate God's great gift of Christ!

69 posted on 12/24/2012 8:18:23 AM PST by aMorePerfectUnion (Gone rogue, gone Galt, gone international. Gone.)
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To: boatbums; Salvation

anyone who believes the celebration of Christmas, that is the birth of Jesus Christ, has “pagan roots” doesn’t understand the Scriptures. Mary, Joseph, the angels and shepards all celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, and i can assure you, paganism had nothing to do with it.
but it is interesting that someone who claims to be a member of the Body of Christ, would give aid and comfort to those who attack the Body of Christ with this false “pagan roots” charge. it is doubly interesting that someone who thumps their chest about following the Scriptures, is seemingly ignorant about the Biblical foundation of celebrating Jesus Christ being born of a woman in order to redeem mankind.
it is amazing that for many people the hatred of the Body of Christ outweighs everything else they believe, even when it contradicts what else they claim to profess.
and yes, i can hear the objections already, the Church, established by Jesus Christ Himself and spread all over the known world by the Apostles, that has been here continuously for 1,979 years and will be here until Jesus comes back at the end of the world, the Church is the Body of Christ.
if you doubt that attacking the Church is the same as attacking the Body of Christ, read Acts 9:3-5 to see how Jesus treats such attacks.

70 posted on 12/24/2012 9:47:49 AM PST by one Lord one faith one baptism
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To: BipolarBob
Bob I knew you would misunderstand, I was actually posting for those that care to know the truth, not the ones that willfully choose to remain in the dark.
71 posted on 12/24/2012 9:59:23 AM PST by verga (A nation divided by Zero!)
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To: KevinDavis
I don't think Muzzl'ems believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of our Heavenly Father, and died for OUR sins, and was resurrected,
and now sits at the right hand side of our Heavenly Father.
Do you not believe your own Bible?
72 posted on 12/24/2012 10:06:48 AM PST by Yosemitest (It's Simple ! Fight, ... or Die !)
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To: muawiyah
Look, it's axiomatic that God created all the days ~ they are all holy. He gave man free will to make decisions including naming everything in Creation.

That is not quite right - For example, YHWH himself named the stars... and I believe, The original constellations.

You are confounding a calendar with a religious rite. The solstice is a phenomenon that happens with or without religion ~

I am confusing nothing. The solstices are prevalent in pagan sun god worship - I can quite guarantee that YHWH would have *nothing* to do with those days. He tells us *not* to do what the pagans do and say it is for Him... It is an abomination. AN ABOMINATION.

YHWH does not change. If He didn't like it then, He doesn't like it now.

And I think that it is an 'abomination' because it distracts from what He is trying to tell us - Those days have significance, yet in all of Christianity, they are obscured to the point of insignificance.

Over and over again, the OT tells the story of the insidious incremental adoption of pagan rites and man made laws into what YHWH calls holy. Over and over again, it causes destruction.

You would do well to study the law as prophecy. Of course, adding to prophecy obliterates it's message... And as another point, as I said somewhere upthread:

The prophets describe the time of the Reign of the King, and there is not a single Christian holiday mentioned there - Yet (at least) three of YHWH's holy days are required practice for the whole world.

How do we get from here to there?

73 posted on 12/24/2012 10:54:59 AM PST by roamer_1 (Globalism is just socialism in a business suit.)
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To: one Lord one faith one baptism
anyone who believes the celebration of Christmas, that is the birth of Jesus Christ, has “pagan roots” doesn’t understand the Scriptures. Mary, Joseph, the angels and shepards all celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, and i can assure you, paganism had nothing to do with it.

It's too bad that some people, in an attempt to denigrate everyone but "their" group, will try to make a mountain out of a molehill just so they can pound their chests and pretend pious "holiness" and a "better than you" meme. They only look silly and petty. It seems you need to go back and actually read my responses before you come back on and spit out the negative and accusatory rhetoric. Go back and read the actual points about what it is about "Christmas" that comes from so-called pagan roots. OBVIOUSLY, it is NOT the birth of our Savior in Bethlehem around 4-6 B.C. Did the Wise Men set up evergreen trees and decorate them? Did they expect Mary and Joseph to exchange gifts with them? Did this all happen on December 25??? In other words, cool your jets!

As for "hatred of the Body of Christ", better look to your own attitude there. It isn't hatred to preach the Gospel. It isn't hatred that motivates others to present the clear message of the grace of God, who loved the world enough to send his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will have everlasting life. THAT is the reason for the season. Maybe your Christmas "spirit" will be calmed down enough to enjoy the special day. I hope so.

74 posted on 12/24/2012 11:26:25 AM PST by boatbums (God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.)
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To: roamer_1
God gets to do what He wishes ~ He created an entire universe ~ and may well have given everything a name ~ You folks who imagine God is commanded by a word have it backwards anyway.

If He inspired the pagans to notice the solstice, that's good. We also notice it. We notice atoms, and subatomic particles, and fields, and just all sorts of things that are otherwise invisible.

75 posted on 12/24/2012 1:17:14 PM PST by muawiyah
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To: roamer_1
God gets to do what He wishes ~ He created an entire universe ~ and may well have given everything a name ~ You folks who imagine God is commanded by a word have it backwards anyway.

If He inspired the pagans to notice the solstice, that's good. We also notice it. We notice atoms, and subatomic particles, and fields, and just all sorts of things that are otherwise invisible.

76 posted on 12/24/2012 1:18:07 PM PST by muawiyah
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To: muawiyah
You folks who imagine God is commanded by a word have it backwards anyway.

??? Where did you get that from?

If He inspired the pagans to notice the solstice, that's good. We also notice it. We notice atoms, and subatomic particles, and fields, and just all sorts of things that are otherwise invisible.

I don't think it is good - Not when it leads to abominations such as the pagans had. And I don't think it is good today either - we are on the cusp of losing our connection with the Creator and falling headlong right back into the same old pagan routines... with the thin veil of science and social justice religion for a covering.

It really doesn't matter, as we are instructed that the Torah is forever, and the instruction therein does not change. Those are the times and seasons of YHWH, and like the rest of the Torah, cannot be added to, or subtracted from.

If one starts from that bare fact, it changes the entire complexion of worshiping... And holds much of what has become 'Christianity' as false.

77 posted on 12/24/2012 2:49:28 PM PST by roamer_1 (Globalism is just socialism in a business suit.)
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To: roamer_1
hmm ~ where did I hear about making an oath and being able to bind God to it ~ must be the circles I associate with.

You'll find virtually no one who regularly follows FR believes in that concept.

78 posted on 12/24/2012 3:49:03 PM PST by muawiyah
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To: muawiyah
hmm ~ where did I hear about making an oath and being able to bind God to it ~ must be the circles I associate with.

I am sorry, but I have no idea what you are going on about.

79 posted on 12/24/2012 3:58:59 PM PST by roamer_1 (Globalism is just socialism in a business suit.)
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To: muawiyah
It took me all day to finally get to view your comment, with the problems at Free Republic.
No, I'm not a JW.
I got involved with Bible studies, after a "significant emotional event" in the late 80's.
While searching for "answers" I found I didn't really know what my religious values were, at least not enough to answer the questions I needed to answer.
To make a long story short, I got 5 different study and cross-referenced Bibles, and started reading, and searching.
As long as they run in parallel, I didn't do much.
But where one took off on a tangent, I dug in.
I'd build a decision tree with one side of an issue on one side of the paper with all the scripture references, and the other side of the issue on the other half of the paper.
All issues would turn out to be very one-sided.
Of all the referenced study material I found, anything that wasn't backed up with their references listed, I didn't trust.
I'm not really an establishment kind of a person, but I like to dig into the Bible.

I don't know if that answers your question.
But if I can't back it up with references or with scripture, I usually don't post it.
People are more deceived by Satan and his false churches than they know.
And they despise the truth.
80 posted on 12/24/2012 9:58:14 PM PST by Yosemitest (It's Simple ! Fight, ... or Die !)
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