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It has become common for Christians seeking to recover the Jewish roots of their faith to claim that the Church celebrations are on the wrong dates and therefore these Church dates are of pagan origin.
Christians holding to this view seek a return to "God's appointed feasts." (Lev. 23) I have generally found that Messianic Jews do not make these assertions as much as Christians who have attached themselves to Messianic congregations or to the Jewish people in general. Internet communication has made this claim very common. What a message is being given to most Christians - they are compromised by paganism! Easter and Pentecost are the wrong dates due to paganism, and Christmas is wholly rooted in paganism. This is such a divisive claim that we had better be sure that it is really grounded in factual evidence.
The evidence for this claim is not clear cut. In the past, we have argued that Christians in this age are not responsible for the Jewish calendar, which is part of a covenant made with the Jewish people. Acts 15, Romans 14, Colossians 2, and Galatians make this quite clear. However, the Church has embraced a yearly calendar cycle of celebration and gathering. The less traditional celebrate weekly on Sundays and yearly at Christmas (in early January in the Eastern Churches), Easter and Pentecost. More traditional churches include many more dates built around a year designed to recognize events in the life of Yeshua: His circumcision and dedication, Lent, Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Ascension Day, All Saints Day and more.
I believe that the problem with the Church days of celebration is not the dating, but that they are not anchored in their ancient roots. This has allowed some pagan symbolism and interpretation to be imposed upon the celebrations. It is not our part to criticize the Church for its dating. Rather, a return to Jewish roots is a return to Jewish contexts for understanding, an embrace of Jewish believers who obey their calling to remain within and witness to the Jewish community, and an affirmation of Jewish life. Let me suggest some reasons why I think that the claims against Church celebrations as pagan on the basis of incorrect dating are wrong.
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicted, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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Tikkun International, Inc. is not affiliated with TIKKUN magazine,
the Institute for Labor and Mental Health, or Rabbi Michael Lerner.
Tikkun International, Inc. is not affiliated with TIKKUN magazine, the Institute for Labor and Mental Health, or Rabbi Michael Lerner.