Many ask about Paul’s warning, in Galatians 4:10, against observing “days, and months, and times, and years.” Just what were these days against which Paul preached?
Here is what the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians: “Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years” (Gal 4:8-10).
What was Paul saying? Read these verses again. Did Paul say “Ye observe the Sabbath and annual Holy Days such as the Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles”?
Was he telling the Galatian Christians not to observe these Holy Days of God? NO! Paul said “days, and months, and times, and years something altogether different.
Notice this entire 4th chapter of Galatians. Paul begins the chapter by addressing the Jews not Gentiles. In verse 3 Paul addresses these Jews as “we,” because Paul was also a Jew. But beginning with verse 6, Paul ceases to speak to the Jews. Now he is speaking to the gentile converts. He does not say “we,” but “ye.”
Notice it: ‘Howbeit then, when ye knew not God” (v. 8) remember, the Jews knew God, but the gentiles had not known God before the preaching of the Gospel.
Jesus said to the gentile Samaritan woman “Ye” the gentiles - “worship ye know not what: we” the Jews “know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).
Continuing with Galatians 4:8-9:”When ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are not gods. But now, after that ye have known God how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, where unto ye desire again to be in bondage?”
These converts to whom Paul is now writing were not Jews. They were gentiles by birth. These gentile converts in times past did not know God were cut off from Him (Eph. 2:13).They were slaves to gods that were no gods at all. They had been serving demons and idols, not the Living God.
False teachers were coming among them, perverting the true Gospel, beguiling them to turn again to their former ways. Paul was alarmed. They were departing from the Gospel and returning to what? “Days, and months, and times, and years.” They couldn’t be returning to God’s festivals. They did not keep them before Paul preached about them.
Next, turn to Leviticus 19:26 and Deuteronomy 18:10. Here Moses, according to the command of God, ordered the people not to observe “times.” ‘Ye shall not eat anything with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observes times” (Lev. 19:26).
To observe “times” originally was a heathen practice often attached to the heavenly bodies, especially in determining the pagan calendar and the heathen religious seasons.
The Catholic bishop Chrysostom, who lived in the 4th century, admits that these superstitious times Paul forbids were pagan customs practiced by “Christians” in his day, as in the days of old. He says: “Many were superstitiously addicted to divination. In the celebration of these times (they) set up lamps in the marketplace, and crown their doors with garlands” (from Binghams’ Antiquities of the Christian Church pp. 1123-1124).
Beside times, the Greeks observed special days in honor of the dead. “The rites took place on the unlucky days accompanied by complete idleness and cessation of business” (Hutton Webster, Rest Days, p. 79). These gentile Galatians were returning to the customs of doing penance on the old pagan days.
Paul denounced this vain and abominable practice. We are not to learn the way of the heathen (Jer. 10:1-2, Deut. 12:29-32).
In connection with the old pagan idolatry were numerous days observed as idolatrous penitential festivals. These days were consecrated to deities of the state religious cults and were “unlucky” because of the supposed influence of the gods.
These religious holidays were set aside as periods of penance because they were “regarded as unsuitable for many purposes, both public and private: for battles, levies, sacred rites, journeys and marriages. We are told that they owed their unlucky quality to the pronouncement of the Senate and pontiffs” (Rest Days, p. 171). As many as one third of the days of the old Greek and Roman calendars were marked as “unlawful for judicial and political business on which the state expected the citizen to abstain, as far as possible from their private business and labour” (Rest Days pp. 304-305).
No wonder Paul spoke of “days.” And how many nonreligious as well as religious people still have similar beliefs today about certain days, such as unlucky Friday the 13th!
Certain months of the year were considered sacred to the Greek gods Apollo (April, October), Zeus (February, June), Artemis (April), Bacchus (January) and many others. Also, certain years were set aside every two years and every four years. During these special years, national idolatrous feasts were held and the Olympic, Isthmian, Nemean and Pythian games that were celebrated. Every one of these was connected with idolatrous worship and ceremony.
Paul was forbidding gentile concerts to return to these heathen practices of observing days, months, times and years.
Some claim there are verses in the Old Testament in which God says “my” Sabbaths and festivals “I hate.” This is not true. God said, “I hate, I despise your feast days, and your solemn assemblies” (Amos 5:21). Notice: “Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me” (Isa. 1:14). See also Hosea 2:11 and Amos 8:10.
These were not divine institutions, but man-appointed days observed in the ancient tribes of Israel. These days God despised.
Several chapters are devoted by the prophet Ezekiel to a condemnation of ancient Israel for breaking the Sabbaths God had given. Take special note of Ezekiel 20:12-26. The punishment inflicted upon the House of Israel was for desecrating the Sabbaths.
Ancient Israel did not continue to observe the Holy Days of God. They refused His judgments and statues (Ez. 20:18-21). They copied the heathen idolatrous feasts of surrounding nations.
The chronicler of ancient Israel preserved a record of just such a change in the laws of God, when the House of Israel separated from Judah: “And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the 8th month on the 15th day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar sacrificing unto the calves that he had made the 15th day of the 8th month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart” (I Kings 12:32-33).
Thereafter Israel altered the new moons and changed the sacred calendar. They exchanged the Sabbaths or idolatrous days for sun worship. Israel, taking over the feasts of the heathen Baal sun worship turned them into idolatrous rest days according to the statutes of the kings of Israel (II Kings 17:7-8). God never abolished His feasts and Holy Days. But He did hate the different days ancient Israel invented.
If you would like to learn more about God’s Holy Days, and their significance, send for our FREE booklet “God’s Master Plan of Salvation.” And also, to learn more about the pagan holidays God hates enroll in our series Traditional Christian Doctrines.