Well this is not what I expected to be writing about this week. “Pagan Origins of the Days of the Week Summary”. Yes, the names of the days of the week are based on pagan gods for the most part. I did not expect it to be considered worthy of writing a whole article on it and how it is a sign of the Church being influenced by the world on that account. Anyway, this is written by a fellow who calls himself Reverend Bruce, who is apparently involved in something called “Life Path Ministries”. The main reason I am responding to it is because I am cited in it and in my mind, misused. Let us dive into it.
The World vs the Word
Take any day of the week and look at where its name originated. See how paganism has influenced it over time. Look at your weekly and monthly calendar. It’s an array of homages to pagan gods from mythology. If we’re truly honest about it, the Roman Empire still has its influence on modern day culture and society through its mythological gods and the names of days and months as well as planetary and celestial names.
That is mostly true in English. However, in other languages, that is not always the case. For instance, in Spanish, Galician, Portuguese, and Mirandese, the word for “Saturday” is literally sabado, which is derived from the Hebrew name “Sabbath”. The modern Spanish word for Sunday, domingo, literally means “day of the Lord” as Sunday is the day our Lord rose from the Dead. Also, I would note that not all of these things are Roman as Reverend Bruce seems to say. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are all from Germanic gods, namely Tiu, Woden, Thor, and Frigu. The only language which clearly comes from a Greek god is Saturday, which is derived from Saturn. Sunday and Monday’s names may be related to pagan feasts, but all their names reference is “sun” and “moon”. These are only natural, as English is a Germanic language with many Latin derivatives. However, any religious or pagan aspects to these names are now all but forgotten by modern culture so it does not bother me much.
Out of all of these days of the week, Saturday and Sunday seem to be linked to the Word. This is not by their names by any means. This is due to the significance of the days. Saturday is connected to the sabbath and the day of rest, while Sunday is the celebration of Christ risen. Albeit very loose connections, the two days are still linked to the Word in some form of reverence for the people of God.
For those unaware, “the Word” is the name of Jesus Christ used in the first chapter of John’s Gospel. I would note that Friday also has a very important significance to many Christians, as that is the day upon which our Lord died on the cross, for which reason at least among Catholics it is traditionally a day of penance. Also, I am unclear why these connections are “very loose”. The Hebrews celebrated the Sabbath as the final day of the week in Old Testament times and the Jews do now. Meanwhile almost all those who call themselves Christians consider Sunday to be the Day of Rest because Christ rose again on a Sunday (see Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1), so regardless of the English name, it is still the day of our Lord’s resurrection. Also, in Catholic tradition, every day has some Christian significance. Monday is the day of the Most Holy Trinity. Tuesday celebrates the Holy Angels. Wednesday is the day of St. Joseph. Thursday is for the Holy Eucharist (because Jesus instituted the Eucharist on Thursday). Friday is the day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Saturday is the day of the Virgin Mary. None of these have any bearing on the pagan origin of the names in English, but the seven-day week is older than the English language anyway. If I were in charge of changing all the names of the week, however, I would probably call them Christday (Christ-day), Thrinesday (Trinity-day), Engleday (Angel-day), Joesday (St. Joseph’s day), Husleday (Eucharist’s day), Throwungday (Passion-day), and Mariday (Mary’s day). But unfortunately, I am not the emperor of Earth, so for better or worse, we will have to live with the pagan-origin names.
Sadly, when we step back and see the big picture, the world seems to dominate this realm of daily life. The world has made its decree and dictated how these names have remained in place for ages.
Our educational systems have served to support it. In my own upbringing, I was taught both English and Spanish in Southern California. We learned the days of the week and the months of the year in both languages. Our educational system solidifies the continual practice of keeping these names from generation to generation. Imagine what business and other institutions are upholding and affirming day by day without any consideration of its spiritual impact on others.
This is true, and I agree. In this society, we are allowed to kill babies on the altar of convenience in many places (or on the altar of Moloch, depending on your point of view), and we are not allowed to call men men and women women. I am not sure the names of the days of the week have much to do with it since days like “Wednesday” and “Thursday” are just words now and I do not think they will lead anyone to worship Woden and Thor. Also, as I said, since he says he learned the days of the week in Spanish, the word domingo, “Sunday”, comes from the Latin word dominus, meaning “Lord”, so the Spaniards call Sunday “day of the Lord”.
The church as a whole has been complicit. We’ve seen how Constantine, the Council of Nicaea and even the papal authority have all played a role in maintaining the infusion of paganism into Christian conversion. The intent was to influence the world by the Word, but what really happened was that the world’s ways influenced how the church handled some things.
This is where he misuses something I said, but I will get to that in a moment. Reverend Bruce claims that Constantine, the Council of Nicaea, and the Popes have played a role in maintaining the infusion of paganism into Christianity. The reverend links an article called Constantine Converted to Christianity . . . Didn’t He?, written by someone called Steve Ruis, an atheist who fairly openly mocks Christianity and Scripture on his blog. Nowhere in this article, however, does Mr. Ruis mention Constantine infusing paganism into Christianity but only calls into question Constantine’s deathbed baptism (for reasons wholly unconvincing to me). Likewise, to back up the claim that the Council of Nicaea played a role in maintaining paganism (in spite of the fact that it also declared Christ’s divinity as dogma for the first time) is written by someone who in the same article claims St. Paul invented Christianity, which, considering he quotes Ephesians later on in this article, is probably a claim Reverend Bruce would reject. The argument about Paul is actually the main point of that article, so if Reverend Bruce trusts this article’s word on Nicaea, he should also trust it on Paul—and I really hope he does not.
However, as for Nicaea, the only dogmatic statement it made is the following:
“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten (γεννηθέντα), not made, being of one substance (ὁμοούσιον, consubstantialem) with the Father. By whom all things were made, both which be in heaven and in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down [from heaven] and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended into heaven. And he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead. And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost. And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not (ἤν ποτε ὅτε οὐκ ἦν), or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion [τρεπτὸν in Greek; convertibilem in Latin] — all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.”
So, most Protestants would agree with everything here, so I imagine Reverend Bruce does as well.
Reverend Bruce gives no citation as to how the Popes are responsible, but in the phrase “Christian conversion” (which I suppose is probably supposed to back up the claim that Constantine infused Christianity with paganism), he links an article called A Brief Look at the First ‘Christian’ Emperor by David Ettinger where Ettinger questions whether Constantine was actually a Christian or “saved” as he calls it. I am unclear what point Reverend Bruce is making by citing it, however. Maybe Constantine was not a good person. He is long dead and therefore in my mind that is between him and God. Ettinger actually admits good things came out of Constantine’s reign in his article, saying, “Constantine’s Christianizing of the Roman Empire took a big step forward when in 313 he published an “edict of toleration,” which extended freedom to all religious cults. It also mandated the return of all Christian property which had been confiscated during the recent persecution, and gave Christians access to public office.”
And as for the final citation… that is where the thing I wrote comes in. Reverend Bruce claims that the world’s ways influenced how the church handled some things and cites my article, Is Easter Pagan? The point I was making there was that it was not pagan. Granted, it is about as pagan as Wednesday is, and I admitted in the article that the English word Easter (not reflected in most other languages) comes from the name Ēostre, who appears to have been a localized goddess of the Spring about which barely anything is actually known. I also admitted that eggs and rabbits may or may not have had vaguely pagan origins (not that those have much to do with the point of Easter). However, the feast of Easter, as I argued there, is not pagan, and in most languages, the name is some variant of the word Pasch, as in the Hebrew word “Passover”. According to Bede, who, as I mentioned in the article, is the main source of all we know about Easter, the name was simply chosen because Ēostre’s time of celebration was around the same time as Easter, and so as the Anglo-Saxons converted, they kept the same name. Besides the word Easter, ultimately comes from the Anglo-Saxon ēast, meaning east, and there is nothing pagan about that. After all, Christ rose in the East.
Therefore my people go into exile
for lack of knowledge;
their honored men go hungry,
and their multitude is parched with thirst.
Isaiah 5:13 (ESV)
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
because you have rejected knowledge,
I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.
The results have never been good for God’s people when they turn away from the knowledge of God. It’s never turned out that well for anyone in the biblical canon who turned away from the Word and what it can provide. That doesn’t even work well for us today. Destruction and doom are the inevitable end to such folks in the text.
This doesn’t have to be the case.
I agree with everything said here, but I think there are more important things to worry about than words descended distantly from the names of pagan gods in the English vocabulary when most people do not associate them anymore anyway.
With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused.
Ephesians 4:17 (NLT)
Note my point earlier that Reverend Bruce probably does not think St. Paul founded Christianity.
Cut out the confusion. Cut through all of the complications that man has added to your faith. Come to know God through His Word. Daily devote time to spend in communion with Him as search His Holy Word.
Once again, I agree. However, I would also contend that more people nowadays associate Sunday with worshipping our Lord than with worshipping the Sun.
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1:2-3 (ESV)
Modern day Christians have to remain rooted in the source of their strength and supply. Stay in your Word. Seek the truth. Test everything by the Spirit of Truth.
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
John 8:32 (NLT)
Yes, but I am once again confused how that relates to English words distantly descended from pagan gods. When I reference Tuesday, I rarely think of a god who sacrificed his hand to a gigantic wolf. On Saturday, I am more likely to think of the Mother of God or even of the Jewish Sabbath than of a Titan who swallowed his children whole lest they challenge his reign (as if that were not a recipe to be challenged) and apparently could not tell the difference between a child and a rock.
Bonum Certamen Certemus
I am the Chivalric Apologist