Revisiting Lent

It's that time of the year again. Christians are asking me, "What are YOU giving up for Lent?" What a funny question.

Do you really want to know what I'm giving up for Lent? Let me tell you a little story first. Now I spoke this story for the first time last year, but I think it's worth mentioning again. Before you read it, let me make one thing very clear: I don't want to push out an attitude of superiority or arrogance of my own righteousness, which is infinitely small and broken. Still, humility is a trait our God is still teaching me and maturing me in, so I hope you take the post more as an enlightening history lesson than a "shame on you Christians" condemnation. The puprose isn't to condemn anyone, because if it were, I'd first have to condemn myself to hell for all the crap I've done. 'Nuff said there. We're all sinners and naturally gravitate towards sinful things. Fortunately for the enlightened few that know the Messiah, there is grace & forgiveness for that. I want this post to be an exhortation and strengthening of your faith firstly, by empowering you with a deeper knowledge of our faith and taking action on that knowledge, rather than continuing on with blindly repeating ritual simply because your church does it. As I mentioned to a blogger acquaintence of mine, we are supposed to be seekers of the truth, right? So let's seek this truth: without further ado, let me tell you my Lent story...

A few weeks back, my boss asked if I'd like to go to an Ash Wednesday service at his non-denominational Protestant church for the beginning of Lent. "Lent?" I thought to myself, "isn't that a Catholic holiday?" Apparently this isn't an observance limited to the Holy Roman Catholic religion.

For the sake of interest and learning, I decided to go to the service, see what rituals were done and what reasoning a Protestant church had for observing the Lent ritual.

Simply, the brief reason the pastor gave the congregation of 1,000+ folks was that Jesus had fasted for 40 days in the desert, and in doing so, we ought to join millions around to world and observe 40 days of Lent in remeberance of Christ's trials in the desert.

Most would say this sounds rather harmless, even God-honoring. Seeing us in our solemn state for 40 days in honor of his fast in the desert, one can only imagine that our beloved Greek Jesus must be, in addition to the Sun-worshipper's solar-disc around his head, sporting a big grin in heaven right now...

<-- Our westernized view of Jesus is a total bastardization of who the Messiah really was We view him as a Catholic Greek adonis peacenik with a halo; in reality he was a zealous, Law-observing Jew who radically rebuked the religious leaders of his time.

Yes, that's it, Jesus must be happy with the wonderful religion, festivals, and rituals we've set up in his name. Lent is just another one of those great festivals we've made, just for Jesus. Boy oh boy, how happy & proud Christ must be of us...

Or not.

A critical look at the Catholic observance of Lent will reveal that not only does Lent have no Biblical basis for observance, but in fact history tells us it is not a Christian festival at all, having its roots in the Babylonian Mystery religion. In particular, Lent was originally meant as a holiday in which Babylonians would mourn for 40 days in rememberance of the tragic death of a god named Tammuz. Let me prove it to you.

First off, what exactly is Lent? Why do some Christians celebrate it? An answer lies in The Catechism of the Catholic Church:
"By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert."

According to The Catholic Fact Book by John Deedy,
"Lent is the 40-day period (Sundays excluded) prior to Easter, which the church observes as a penitential season. It begins on Ash Wednesday (which can occur any time between February 4 and March 11,
depending upon the date of Easter), and it concludes with the passiontide, the two-week period during which the church's liturgy follows Christ's activity closely through the final stages of his life on earth. These two weeks are called Passion Week and Holy Week. It was once claimed that the Lenten practice was of apostolic origin, but historians fix its establishment at a later date, probably the 5th
century. Catholics are required to fast and are urged to adopt other
penitential modes during the season."

As stated earlier in my post, this ritual is not limited to Catholics; I personally visited a non-denominational Protestant Church a couple weeks ago for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. As a footnote, it would seem Protestants feel that the fasting part of this ritual isn't necessary, as the aforementioned church had a public luncheon immediately after the service, nor did anyone do anything silly like taping pieces of ash to their foreheads as many Catholics do.

<-- I hope that comes off with soap...

Now that you have some idea of what Lent is, let's have a quick overview of the early body of Christ, what did they observe, and whether they celebrated Lent.

Prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the followers of Christ were not necessarily known as 'Christians' (they were known as Nazarenes or Followers of the Way), nor did they meet in buildings topped with big steeples and crosses. During the time of Christ, in fact, believers met in the Temple & synagogues, hearing the Mosaic Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) tought to them every Sabbath (see Acts 15:19-21). This changed over time as followers of Christ were persecuted by the corrupt priesthood, the Rabbanites (Pharisees); believers then were forced to meet in homes in secret. The New Testament book of Hebrews addresses these same folks who were being persecuted and who had been booted from the Temple, rejected as heretics.

So the early 'church' was hardly a church at all, it was considered sect of Judaism for a time. After all, the believers were attending synagogues, hearing Torah taught in the Temple, observing Moses's words in the Torah, all while believing in the Messiah of Israel, Yeshua (Jesus).
To go off on a wild tangent, it is my personal belief that Jesus did not come to start a new religion; doing so would be to say the original belief, faith in the Lord God, was either false or flawed, which is contradictory to both Christian and Jewish faiths. That said, while Christ didn't come to start "Christianity", Christ certainly did not want to his followers to continue in Rabbinic Judaism. The corrupt Rabbanites (Pharisees) had extended the original faith in Yahweh into a man-made religion, polluting it with a flood of rituals and rites (for example, the Talmud & "oral Torah") that are not a prerequisite to grafting into the original faith. The Messiah did not come to start a new religion, nor to renew Rabbinic Judaism. The real reason was to bring Israel back to the ways of God (Law), back to following God with your heart rather than just your outward actions, and to give humanity a new faith & hope in the Him, the Messiah spoken of by the prophets.

Getting back on topic, the celebation of Jesus's trials in the desert is not mentioned in the Tenach (what Christians call the "Old Testament") obviously, nor in the New Testament, nor by any of the apostles, neither by Jesus, nor by any of the first century church heads, one can only presume that the early believers had no such celebration. At the very earliest, Lent was addressed by the church at Rome during the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, when Emperor Constantine officially recognized that church as the Roman Empire’s state religion. Any other brand of Christianity that held to doctrines contrary to the those of the Roman church was considered an heretical enemy of the state. It wasn't until A.D. 360 when the Council of Laodicea officially commanded Lent to be observed (see The True Meaning of Lent for more information).

During the 4th & 5th centuries, the Roman Catholic Church was trying to bring everyone under Roman control to the Catholic (dare I say, 'Christian') faith. A favorite means of the Church was to take the religion of the native pagan culture, and modify it so as to include Christ and the Christian story. While that by itself sounds harmless (at least for the Catholics), such integration has turned sour in the end for not only the poor pagans but also the mighty Church.

Let's have a look at the evolution of the 40 day fast period and how Lent came about as a global celebration for Catholics -- and apparently some Protestants as well -- in the present day.

The Babylonian mystery religion tells the tale of a man named Nimrod (yes, the same Nimrod found in Scripture). After his death, Nimrod's wife, Semeramis (also known as Ishtar), whom the Babylonians considered a deity as the "queen mother of heaven", through some miraculous conception, had a son named Tammuz. Because of this miraculous birth, Tammuz was considered the deific reincarnate of his father Nimrod. Reincarnated god. Alas, not all was well with our friendly false gods: when Tammuz was 40 years old, he was tragically killed by a wild boar in the wilderness. Tammuz, the god of heaven, dies the tragic death of a mortal! According to the myth, Tammuz was held captive in the underworld, unable to be set free until all the world wept for him. So his mother Ishtar weeps, fasts, humbles herself; she weeps until Tammuz is mystically resurrected (aha!), his resurrection symbolized by the budding of plants in the spring. Thus it became a ritual among the believers in this false religion to weep for Tammuz for 40 days, one day for each year Tammuz lived on this earth. After the 40 days of weeping for Tammuz, a pig would be slaughtered and eaten (the pig being significant as Tammuz was killed by a boar). Such weeping for Tammuz is mentioned in Scripture, interestingly enough. Sadly for Lent observers, God, while speaking to Ezekiel, says he doesn't take too kindly to these Tammuz observances (see Ezekiel 8:14).

This Babylonian belief became widespread among cultures influenced by Babylon during its heyday of power. It became so ubiquitous, in fact, that many different cultures had their own localized version of this story: The Babylonian "queen of heaven," Semeramis (Ishtar), the wife of Nimrod and mother of Tammuz, was the origination of the heathen goddesses, Aphrodite of the Greeks, Juno of the Latins, Isis of the Egyptians, Astarte of the Moabites, Ashtoreth of the Zidonians, Ishtar of the Babylonians, Ashtar of the Assyrians, and Eostre of the early Anglo-Saxons and Druids. (see this history lesson on Easter & Lent for more information). Additionally, even the Israelites -- God's own people -- gobbled up this same junk when they celebrated festivals in honor of the fertility goddess Ashtoreth, the Israelite version of Semeramis/Astarte/Ishtar/Eostre/Easter (see The fertility festivals being done in groves & high places for Ashtoreth in Isaiah 57:5-8, the sexual idol worship in Ezekiel 16:17, and Baal (husband god of Ashtoreth) worship in Ps. 106:28-39). From Biblical times up to the heyday of the Roman Empire, this Babylonian religion was well ingrained in the minds of virtually all the known known world, yes, and even into the minds of the Israelites.

Skip ahead to the common era. The Catholic Church of the 5th century, looking to convert as many cultures as it could to the Catholic faith, modified the Babylonian myth so as to include the Christian story. Doing this, the massive number of pagans who believed this myth could now easily convert to the now-idolatrous Catholic Church. To convert, you could keep celebrating your Semeramis fertility festivals, you could continue with your pagan rituals & observances, just pretend Jesus is the reason for the season.

<-- Christmas is a "whole 'nuther story", as they say, but for Lent & Easter, false Babylonian gods Tammuz and Ishtar are the reason for the season.

They changed the Christian calendar so that Christians, too, would weep and humble ourselves for 40 days, just like the pagans did for Tammuz. After the 40 days, we would, like the Babylonians, eat a pig at end of this 40 day period, on the day of Ishtar. In addition, the Catholic Church found it no difficult task to borrow the day of Ishtar and slap a Christian label on it ("Jesus resurrected on this day!"). To this day, of course, Christians fire up the oven and eat a pig on the 'holy' and 'Christian' holiday of Easter.

Above: Mmmm...mmm...freshly painted eggs for our fertility goddess Ishtar, complete with a big ol' whopping pig to eat. Christ must be grinning (cheek-to-cheek no doubt!) knowing we're celebrating his resurrection on a day named after a false fertility goddess! Oh and hey Christ? Mind if we eat some foods your Heavenly Father told us not to? We can? Gee thanks!

The mother of heaven, the queen of heaven herself, was now Mary, mother of Jesus, rather than Ishtar. Sadly, even to this day the Catholic church encouranges praying to Mary, 'queen of heaven'. Citing as an example of the Catholic deification of Mary, making her the "mother of heaven" just like Ishtar, I quote a Catholic vigil, in particular the Evening Prayer of Holy Saturday through Morning Prayer of the Vigil of the Most Holy Trinity:

"Rejoice Mary, Queen Mother of heaven, alleluia;
Christ whom meetly thou bearest is risen, alleluia;
His forsaying thus fulfilling, alleluia:
Offer to God thy praying, alleluia."

The miraculous birth of Christ replaced the miraculous birth of Tammuz. Instead of 40 days of weeping for Tammuz, we would now weep for Jesus (which has evolved into humbling ourselves for 40 days, though Protestants can't be bothered to humble themselves). To this day, Catholics place ashes on their head, even go as far as to tape a piece of ash to their foreheads, for this 40 day festival.

<-- Read from some sacred human text, repeat some human-written prayer, recite words spoken by some great ancient church father, do some more eating, drinking, & washing rituals, then call it a day...Why aren't we more concerned about the real fundamentals of our faith: mercy, forgiveness, loving God and loving others? What are we doing here, and why are we painting ash crosses on our heads? Is this what real faith in God is all about?

The Babylonian Mystery religion, being practiced in various forms among Teutonics, Saxons, middle eastern tribes, even peoples in the far east (see the writings of Cassianus the monk of Marseilles for more information) was merged into the Catholic church so as to convert these cultures to Catholicism. The Lent & Easter festivals were then proclaimed as holy by successive popes, borrowed by unwitting Protestants, and finally handed down to us as 'godly' by our apparently ignorant church leaders. This brings to the fore something God spoke to Jeremiah when he said,
"And when you tell these people all these words and they inquire of you, Why has the Lord decreed all this enormous evil against us? Or, What is our iniquity? Or, What is the sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?

You must say to the people, 'It is because your fathers have forsaken Me, says the Lord, and have walked after other gods and have served and worshiped them and have forsaken Me and have not kept My Law. But you! You have done even worse! You are stubborn, and instead of obeying me, you do whatever evil comes to your mind. Surely our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, emptiness, and futility, worthless things in which there is no profit!'

Therefore I will teach them about my power, and they will know that I am the true God."

God will teach us about his power. Wow. He's modernly saying, "I will show you a thing or two!" I don't even what to go there, I don't want to see a demo of the power of the living God. I don't, because I know of the punishments given to Israel shortly after this prophecy, and boy, God showed us His power alright: he scattered the Israelites to this day! He scattered my Jewish brothers until 1947, putting us through the Roman dominance, Assyrian captivity, Babylonian captivity, almost global persecution for the last millenia, oh, and let's not forget that recent little event called the Nazi Holocaust that killed off 6,000,000 of us... I can only wonder with a bit of fearful awe what this same God has in store for us today...a few hundred years of Islamic dhimmitude, perhaps? (Maybe that would be too light a punishment, relatively speaking) Maybe the downfall of the west and the temporary triumph of Islam over the rest of the world? Another Dark Age? Losing World War III to Islamic governments? Only God knows, I suppose, although it seems to me that God is using Islam today for part of His ultimate plan, strengthening it for something huge. For the sake of all the honestly righteous people out there, I hope I'm wrong, I hope we don't, by our actions, cause God to show us His power.

You know, we haven't changed much since the Catholic Church brought in the idolatry of pagans. In fact, we haven't changed much since the idolatry of Israel a few millenia back: we still humble ourselves for 40 days, we just pretend it's for Jesus' fast in the desert. We're still celebrating fertility festivals (eggs and rabbits!) named after false gods, we just pretend that Jesus resurrected on that day. We even eat the flesh of a pig on the day Tammuz was killed by a boar, we just pretend that God doesn't care if we disregard the commandments. And that's what our religion has degenerated into once again; Protestant and Catholic churches alike have become pretend houses of God, filled with the lies of human festivals and rituals not of God, a house of empty religion with no substance, a place for our worthless rites. But the worse bit isn't that we're now spiritually dead; if that was the only thing, we could just correct it an move on. God's grace is too good for judgement without ample warning and calls to turn. No, the worst part is that we have hardened our hearts and grasped tightly our religion, holding out hope that our religion and our rites will save us, rebelling in ignorance against any truth that speaks against our beloved religion, whichever flavor you adhere to. If we will be judged by God, it will not be because we're walking in idolatry or because we're spiritually dead or because we've embraced our religion. No, it will be because we've done those things and hardened our hearts despite hearing the truth. Once you know the truth, you're under obligation to take action. If no action is taken, sadly the last option is judgement in order that we be corrected.

I'd like to encourage you, when you've discovered some truth, to not turn away in stubborn ignorance or rebellion, as Israel did in Jeremiah's lifetime. What's more, don't be discouraged that your Christians friends and your church are off on something known to be godless. Instead, be encouraged that God has revealed to you what's behind the many veils that our culture and our religion has built -- knowingly or not -- keeping us from the truth. Be encouraged that you seeked the truth, even if you don't accept all of it. Finally, take comfort in knowing that God is ultimately in control and will preserve those who follow them with their hearts, leaving behind everyone who is doing rituals for religion's sake, just as the Pharisees have been left in the dark.

So let me answer that little question posed earlier, what AM I giving up for Lent? Now that you and I have the same knowledge of the same events, you can perhaps understand why I'm giving up Lent, for Lent. Given the festival's satanic origin, I think giving it up is more pleasing to God than getting a cross painted on my forehead. There are undoubtedly good things done by people celebrating Lent: prayers for peace, for orphans and widows, humbling one's self in hopes to honor God. I would say let those things continue, but let's throw off the worldy baggage and do a mini-Reformation within ourselves, turning to God with our hearts and our actions, no matter how unpopular they are with our culture or religion.

Jesus boldly rebuked the Pharisees of His time-- why? It was because they were practicing religion without substance. They were giving to the poor only when people were watching, tehy were saying lengthy prayers aloud in public so that they might be thought of as righteous, carefully following each tenant of their rituals and religion, yet they missed the crux of the issue: they were more concerned about following their religion than following God with their hearts. If they had seeked the truth beyond the superficial barriers of their religion, they would've found themselves out of line with even the Law of Moses, even the very intention of the Law. Jesus confronted them, rebuking them quite plainly, telling them they are like marble tombs: they are clean and white on the outside, but are full of human carcasses on the inside. Ouch. But the Pharisees refused to reform themselves, refused to accept correction,
they didn't want to change because they loved their religion more than God and truth. Let's not let ourselves be accused of the same, lest we become the Pharisees of the second coming.

Watchmen's Prayers
Hope of Israel
Early Christian Writings by Julius Cassianus
"The True Meaning of Lent" by the Restored Church of God
"Fertility Cults"
"Queen of Heaven" by Rabbi Yaakov Farber
"The Two Babylons" by Alexander Hislop
"Prove All Things" by Ed Stevens


  1. Ah yes, I actually remember you mentioning this before, seems like you expanded quite a bit, too. I'm not giving anything up, but more for the reason that I don't see the point, or have the patience. I have friends giving up all kinds of things, from cups of tea to eating meat, for no apparant reason. But hey, you didn't mention pancake day! Or, y'know, Shrove Tuesday. Whatever.
    Still, Ash Wednesday rocks!

  2. Hey, its Chris. Here are two posts that relate to your thoughts on Lent. The first is more or less apologetics, the second is reflective.

  3. Hey Chris, read your posts. I'm really...refreshed to see your attitude of seeking the Lord openly and honestly. I wrote a few posts back on your blog in reply.

    Talk to you later man, God bless.

    Oh and hey Ash, I guess as someone who's not religious this is probably a bunch of nonsense to you. But you know, it's not about being religious. One can believe in God without any attachment to religion. The key isn't going to church. There are people that go to church in hopes that religion will save them when they die...those people are worse off, because they're believing in religion and not God. The key is following God, getting out of the world and all the crap in it. For people looking for a way out of the world and its crap, its addictions and vices, there is a way out, and that way is Jesus.