Church of God, New World Ministries

Friday, Fish, and the Spring Festival

The Bible contains certain reasons for questioning Friday as the day on which Jesus Christ was put to death, yet each Friday, many Catholics abstain from meat, substituting fish in its place, supposedly in remembrance of the Friday crucifixion.

It is true that Roman Catholics in the United States are no longer required by their church to abstain from meat on Fridays, except during Lent nevertheless many still follow the custom of fish on Friday.

Certainly there is no Biblical reference associating fish with Friday. On the other hand, the word “Friday” comes from the name of “Freya,” who was regarded as the goddess of peace, joy, and fertility, the symbol of her fertility being the fish. From very early times the fish was a symbol of fertility among the Chinese, Assyrians, Phoenicians, the Babylonians, and others. The word “fish” comes from “dag” which implies increase or fertility, and with good reason. A single cod fish annually spawns upward of 9,000,000 eggs; the flounder 1,000,000; and sturgeon 700,000; the perch 400,000; the mackerel 500,000; the herring 10,000, etc. Truly, fish are fertile!

The goddess of sexual fertility among the Romans was called Venus. It is from her name that our word “venereal” (as in venereal disease), has come. Friday was regarded as her sacred day because it was believed that the planet Venus ruled the first hour of Friday and thus was called dies Veneris. And to make the significance complete, the fish was also regarded as being sacred to her.

The fish was regarded as sacred to Ashtoreth, the name under which the Israelites worshipped the pagan goddess. In ancient Egypt, Isis was sometimes represented with a fish on her head. Considering that Friday was named after being her sacred day, and the fish her symbol, it seems like more than a mere coincidence that Catholics have been taught that Friday is a day of abstinence from meat, a day to eat fish!

Some Christians have rejected Friday as the day of the crucifixion and Easter Sunday morning as the time of the resurrection. From where did Easter observance come? Did the early Christians dye Easter eggs? Did Peter or Paul ever conduct an Easter sunrise service? The answers are, of course, obvious.

The word “Easter” appears once in the KJV: “intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people” (Acts 12:4). The word translated “Easter” here is Pascha which is, as all Biblical scholars know, the Greek word for Passover and has no connection with the English Easter. It is well known that Easter is not a Christian expression, not in its original meaning. The word comes from the name of a pagan goddess, the goddess of the rising light of day and spring. Easter is but a more modern form of Eostre, Ostera, Astarte, or Ishtar, the latter, according to Hislop, being pronounced as we pronounce Easter today.

Like the word Easter, many of our customs at this season had their beginnings among non-Christian religions. Easter eggs, for example, are colored, hid, hunted, and eaten, a custom done innocently today and often linked with a time of fun and frolic for children. But this custom did not originate in Christianity. The egg was, however, a sacred symbol among the Babylonians who believed an old fable about an egg of wondrous size which fell from heaven into the Euphrates River. From this marvelous egg, according to the ancient myth, the goddess Astarte (Easter) was hatched. The egg came to symbolize the goddess Easter.

The ancient Druids bore an egg as the sacred emblem of their idolatrous order. The procession of Ceres in Rome was preceded by an egg. In the mysteries of Bacchus an egg was consecrated. China used dyed or colored eggs in sacred festivals. In Japan, an ancient custom was to make the sacred egg a brazen color. In northern Europe, in pagan times, eggs were colored and used as symbols of the goddess of spring. Among the Egyptians the egg was associated with the sun, the “golden egg.” Their dyed eggs were used as sacred offering at the Easter season. These customs certainly give a vivid explanation to Revelation 12:9, don’t they?

Says the Encyclopedia Britannica: “The egg as a symbol of fertility and of renewed life goes back to the ancient Egyptians and Persians, who had also the custom of coloring and eating eggs during their spring festival. How, then, did this custom come to be associated with Christianity?

Apparently some sought to Christianize the egg by suggesting that as the chick comes out of the egg, so Christ came out of the tomb. Pope V (1605-1621) even appointed a prayer in this connection: “Bless, O Lord, we beseech thee, this thy creature of eggs, that it may become wholesome sustenance unto thy servants, eating it is remembrance of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The following quotations from the Catholic Encyclopedia are significant: “Because the use of eggs was forbidden during Lent, they were brought to the table of Easter Day, colored red to symbolize the Easter joy. The custom may have its origin in paganism, for a great many pagan customs celebrating the return of spring, gravitated to Easter”! Such was the case with a custom that was popular in Europe. “The Easter Fire is lit on the top of mountains from new fire, drawn from wood by friction; this is a custom of pagan origin in vogue all over Europe, signifying the victory of spring over winter. The bishops issued severe edicts against the sacrilegious Easter fires, but did not succeed in abolishing them everywhere.”

So what happened? Notice this carefully! “The Church adopted the observance of the Easter ceremonies, referring it to the fiery column in the desert and to the resurrection of Christ”! Were pagan customs mixed into the Romish church and given the appearance of Christianity? It is not necessary to take our word for it, in numerous places the Catholic Encyclopedia comes right out and says so. Finally, one more quote concerns the Easter rabbit: “The rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility.”

“Like the Easter egg, the Easter hare,” say the Encyclopedia Britannica “came to Christianity from antiquity (pagans). The hare is associated with the moon in the legends of ancient Egypt and other peoples. Through the fact that the Egyptian word for hare, um, means also ‘open’ and ‘period,’ the hare came to be associated with the idea of periodicity, both lunar and human, and with the beginning of new life in both the young man and young woman, and so a symbol of fertility and of the renewal of life. As such, the hare became linked with Easter eggs.” Both the Easter rabbit and Easter eggs were symbols of sexual significance, symbols of fertility.

At the Easter season it is not uncommon for Christians to attend sunrise services. It is assumed that they gather to honor Christ because he rose from the dead on Easter Sunday morning, just as the sun was coming up. But the resurrection did not actually occur at sunrise, for it was yet dark when Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and it was already empty! On the other hand, there was a type of sunrise service that was a part of ancient sun worship. We do not mean to imply, of course, that Christian people today worship the sun in their Easter sunrise services. Nor do we say that those who bow before the monstrance sun-image with its round, sun shaped host are worshipping the sun, But such practices being without scriptural example, do indicate that mixtures have been made. And, was not commanded or authorized by God.

In the time of Ezekiel, even people who had known the true God, fell into sun worship and made it a part of their worship. “And he brought me into the inner court of the Lord’s house, and, behold, as the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the East; and they worshipped the sun toward the East” (Ezk. 8:16). The fact that they worshipped the sun toward the east shows it was a sunrise service. The next verse says: “and, lo, they put the branch to their nose.” Fausset says this “alludes to the idolatrous usage of holding up a branch of tamarisk to the nose at daybreak whilst they sang hymns to the rising sun.”

It was also to the east that the prophets of Baal looked in the days of Elijah. Baal was the sun-god, and so god of fire. When Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal with the words, “The God that answers with fire, let him be God,” he was meeting Baal worship on its own grounds. What time of day was it when these prophets of Baal started calling on him? It was as Baal, the sun- made his first appearance over the eastern horizon. It was at “morning” (I Kings 18:26), that is, at dawn.

Rites connected with the dawning sun, in one form or another, has been known among many ancient nations. The Sphinx in Egypt was located so as to face the east. From Mount Fujiyama, Japan, prayers are made to the rising sun. “The pilgrims pray to their rising sun while climbing the mountain sides, sometimes one may see several hundreds of Shinto pilgrims in their white robes turning out from their shelters, and joining their chants to the rising sun.” The pagan Mithrists of Rome met together at dawn in honor of the sun-god.

The goddess of spring, from whose name our word Easter comes, was associated with the sun rising in the east, even as the word “Easter” would seem to imply. Thus the dawn of the sun in the east, the name Easter, and the spring season are all connected.

According to the old legends, after Tammuz was slain, he descended into the underworld. But through the weeping of his “mother,” Ishtar (Easter), he was mystically revived in spring. “The resurrection of Tammuz through Ishtar’s grief was dramatically represented annually in order to insure the success of the crops and the fertility of the people. Each year men and women had to grieve with Ishtar over the death of Tammuz and celebrate the god’s return in order to win anew her favor and her benefits!” When the new vegetation began to come forth, those ancient people believed their “savior” had come from the underworld, had ended winter, and caused spring to begin. Even the Israelites adopted the doctrines and rites of the annual pagan spring festival, for Ezekiel speaks of “women weeping for Tammuz” (Ezk. 8:14).

As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead in reality, not merely in nature or the new vegetation of spring. Because his resurrection was in the spring of the year, it was not too difficult for the church of the 4th century (now having departed from the original faith in a number of ways) to merge the pagan spring festival into Christianity. In speaking of this merger, the Encyclopedia Britannica says, “Christianity incorporated in its celebration of the great Christian feast days many of the heathen rites and customs of the spring festival”!

Legend has it that Tammuz was killed by a wild boar when he was 40 years old. Hislop points out that 40 days a day for each year Tammuz had lived on earth -- were set aside to “weep for Tammuz.” In olden times these 40 days were observed with weeping, fasting, and self-chastisement to gain anew his favor so he would come forth from the Underworld and cause spring to begin. This observance was not only known at Babylon, but also among the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Mexicans, and, for a time, even among the Israelites. “Among the pagans, says Hislop, “this Lent seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz.”

Having adopted other beliefs about the spring festival into the church, it was only another step in the development to also adopt the old “fast” that preceded the festival. The Catholic Encyclopedia very honestly points out that “writers in the 4th century were prone to describe many practices (the Lenten fast of 40 days) as of apostolic institution which certainly had no claim to be regarded.” It was not until the 6th century that the pope officially ordered the observance of Lent, calling it a “sacred fast” during which people were to abstain from meat and a few other foods.

Catholic scholars know and recognize that there are customs within their church which were borrowed from paganism. But they reason that many things, though originally pagan, can be Christianized. If some pagan tribe observed 40 days in honor to a pagan god, why should we not do the same only in honor of Christ? Though pagans worshipped the sun toward the east, could we not have sunrise services to honor the resurrection of Christ, even though this was not the time of day he arose? Even though the egg was used by pagans, can’t we continue its use and pretend it symbolizes the large rock that was in front of the tomb? In other words, why not adopt all kinds of popular customs, only instead of using them to honor pagan gods, as the heathen did, use them to honor Christ? It all sounds very logical, yet a much safer guideline is found in the Bible itself: “Take heed that thou inquire not after their gods? Even so will I do likewise, thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto” Deut. 12:30-32.

God did not give man the prerogative to worship Him as he sees fit. God through the Holy Word tells us how to worship Him, and that is through “spirit and truth”. Christ said it was possible to worship Him in vain while keeping traditions for doctrine and not observing God’s commandments. Make no mistake; there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end leads to death. (Prov. 14:12).

If you would like to learn more about the true gospel of Christ and how to worship Him in spirit and truth, enroll today in our Mini-Correspondence Course and our new series Traditional Christian Doctrines. There’s nothing fishy about the truth!

 
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