Monday, October 26, 2015

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween And The True History Behind This Holiday

Psalm 101:3-4 “I will set no wicked before my eyes, I hate the work of them that turn aside; It shall not cleave to me”

Since Halloween is coming up this month I wanted to take the time analyze this holiday that is still quite controversial among the Christian community. There has been huge debate among Christians regarding the Halloween whether Christians should take part in its celebration or not. Whenever anyone normally thinks of Halloween, they think about people dressing up in scary costumes such as ghosts, witches, goblins etc., children going trick n’ treating in costumes at night and getting candy handed to them. Attending Halloween parties, or the haunted house to be scared, telling scary ghost stories or watching horror movies.  The fact remains, Halloween is just chance to do fun things like being scared, dressing in frightening costumes getting candy etc. 

Still for many Christians, they question if they should being participating in Halloween at all, with many rejecting the holiday altogether writing it off was ungodly and a devil’s holiday.  Others refuse to wear any costumes that they consider unsuitable like ghosts, witches, goblins or anything frightening. While others attend alternatives such as harvest parties or fall festivals.  For these Christians, Halloween such be avoided as it is dangerous and unholy and corrupts of Satan.  The Pope Francis himself has spoken out against Halloween as evil and anti-Christian and should be replaced with Holyween where children dress up as saints and pray. My own experience of Halloween growing up was nothing more than dressing up in costumes scary or non-scary and going around the neighborhood at night trick n’ treating and getting lots of candy.  I’ve even attended a Halloween party at a local church with friends and went enjoyed the haunted house where we got spooked by people dressed up in scary outfits trying to frighten us.  It was all fun and memorable so I can’t really comprehend why so many Christians are hung up on Halloween? 

Maybe it’s has with the fact many see it as a pagan holiday and therefore unbiblical.  I think maybe to get to the route of all of things I decided to research the origins and history behind Halloween.   Halloween’s roots goes way back in the ancient times 2,000 years ago in BC, as a Celtic holiday called Samhain celebrated that marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.  It was believed that the spirits of the dead returned to earth on this night to be among the living. A festival was held at sunset on October 31 until sunset on November 1 by the Celtic pagans called druids in Europe.  The druids would light bonfires on these nights where they would sacrifice animals, bring harvest food, tell each other’s fortune and guide the souls of the dead to the underworld.  They would dress up wearing animal skins and heads to keep the evil spirits away, while they also left their doors or windows open for their spirits of their departed kinsfolk.

By the eighth century when Christian missionaries converted many of the druids to Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church decided to Christianize the Celtic holiday. Pope Boniface IV established All Saints Day in honor of the Christian saints and martyrs on May 13 in 609 A.D.  Then somewhere in 800s A.D., Pope Gregory III moved the holiday to November 1, the same day of the Samhain holiday also known as All Hallows Day or Hallowmas.  October 31, the evening before All Saints day became All Hallows Eve, called Halloween by the 16th century.  Pope Gregory IV put all All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day in the church calendar making it a universal celebration in the Catholic Church.  All Souls Day was later added on November 2 in 998 A.D. This holiday celebrated the remembrance of departed loved ones who have not been cleansed of their sins and in which people would pray for them to pass from Purgatory onto Heaven. 

By the medieval times, Halloween, a Christian holiday preserved some of the Celtic traditions of the past, continuing holding bonfires.  Other customs came about including a practice called “souling” which consisted of poor people and children going out at night to the homes of the wealthier people praying dead relatives of the home owners in exchange for treats called soul cakes.  Another custom was called mumming where people dressed up in scary costumes of ghosts, demons, witches etc. and performed antics such as singing, chanting, play-acting and mischief in exchange for food and drinks. This later evolved to singing a song, reciting a poem, telling a joke or playing a trick for fruits, nuts or coins.  During the colonial America, Halloween took form from customs of various Europeans and Native Americans which included celebrations of the harvest, play parties, telling ghost stories, telling each other’s fortune, dancing and singing and mischief making.

By the 19th century, more Irish, Scottish and British folks emigrated to America taking more of their traditions and customs with them.  Halloween began to be celebrated where people dressed up in costumes going to homes asking for food or money. By the turn of the century, Halloween less about ghost, witches, goblins and other scary superstitions, and more about people getting to together to celebrate with costume parties, apple bobbing and other games.  By the 1920s, Halloween had moved away from its religious roots becoming a more secular celebration that consisted of parades, parties and other featured entertainment. It also became more geared towards children as the trick or treating custom became known having evolved from the old rituals of mumming souling.  By the 1950s, Halloween became widely known as it is today, with children dressing in costumes and going trick or treating as the annual custom. Today, Halloween doesn’t have any relations to its Celtic Druid origins nor its later Christian roots it’s just a holiday for trick n treating for kids or attending Costume parties for adults. 

Other practices include carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns, going to spooky haunted houses for fun, watching scary movies or telling scary stories etc.  Some churches have also participated in celebrating Halloween hosting costume parties or haunted houses and even a trick or treat alternative called trunk or treat where people park their cars with their trunk full of candy to pass out to children. Some churches continue to celebrate All Saints Day, the day after Halloween where children dress up as Christian Saints who where martyred at a party.  In Eastern Europe, candles are lit and placed on the graves of loved ones in honor of them. Some churches like the Catholic and Anglican Church also celebrate All Souls Day.  My personal conclusions, is that Halloween has nothing to do with the devil, spirits or anything evil. It is simply a holiday but mostly a tradition of fun where for children they go out dressed up for tricking n-treating and getting lots of candies and sweets and for adults it’s for costume parties and celebration.  Ghost stories, Haunted houses and scary movies are also part of the fun and there is nothing wrong with that. Children amd youths especially enjoy dressing up and spooky costumes getting scared in fact the scarier the more fun. 

Of course, there are downsides like those who use the holiday to justify destructive and criminal actions such as vandalism, harming others and any other destructive behavior. These are definitely reasonable concerns but for the most part Halloween can be an enjoyable experience for all people to enjoy. Christians can decide for themselves if they want to participate in the holiday but they shouldn’t be ashamed or condemned if they do as if it makes them less godly then ones who don’t.  It also doesn’t matter what type of costumes they wear whether they dress as witches, ghost, goblins or other scary costumes, whether they watch scary movies or not since they certainly don’t worship such things and children don’t take them seriously anyways and doesn’t necessarily interfere with their walk with Christ.   

Also, some can still choice to celebrate both Halloween and All Saints Day the following they day and teach their children about the martyred saints and honoring the departed loved ones.  Halloween comes only once a year and after it’s all over, people can get on with their lives with work, school, church, prayer and their devotion to Our Lord and then look forward to next year when they can enjoy Halloween again.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Who Really Wrote The Four Gospels of Jesus Christ?

John 1:17-18 “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God, but the one and only son, who himself is God and is in closet relationship with the Father, has made him known.”

This topic deals with the details and analysis of the four gospels of Jesus life, death, crucifixion and resurrection as the different visits to his tomb.  These four gospels consists of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with each giving slightly different accounts on certain details especially his resurrection and how many witnesses \who saw this miracle .  Because of this, there had been many speculations about the historical accuracy surrounding these events leaving some scholars confused.  Some scholars question who actually wrote these gospels, was it the name of the titles mentioned or was these gospels written some time later by other sources. 

The majority acknowledge that the gospels are not written in chronically order and because they’re written by different authors, that could play a role in why some of the accounts are different. The origins of the four gospels begin with 2nd century early church father and apologist Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul(now Lyon, France) who was a hearer of Polycarp, an actual disciple of the Apostle John.  According to Irenaeus, Papias of Hierapolis, another early church father and author who was also a companion of Polycarp and hearer of two of Jesus disciples, John the Presbyter and Ariston wrote down five books called “Expositions of the Oracles of the Lord”. 

These books contain reports on people he encountered who had known some of the members of the twelve apostles and of elders John the Presbyter and Ariston. The five books no longer exist but there are fragments preserved by Irenaneus and Eusebius, a Roman historian with citations taken by Eusebius on Papias’ report on what John the Presbyter recalled on both Matthew and Mark’s works.  First, Matthew, one of the twelve apostles had written a logia on Jesus’ teachings that Eusebius stated was written in a Hebrew dialect known as Aramaic. Eusesbius quoted “But concerning Matthew, he writes as follows ‘So then Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and everyone interpreted them as he was able”.  Some scholars believe Papias was claiming Matthew wrote two gospels the first one in Aramaic and the later one he translated in Greek since the Gospel of Matthew was written in the Greek language. Others believe Papias was referring to another author used some sources from Matthew’s logia and authorize the Gospel of Matthew. 

Eusebius also mentions Pantaenus, a 2nd century Greek theologian and leader of the Catechetical School of Alexandria who traveled to India as a missionary and found the Gospel of Matthew written in the Aramaic language which was left by Saint Bartholomew, another one of the twelve apostles who was also a missionary in India.  However, some scholars believe that Pantaenus had difficulty with the translation of the Saint Thomas Christians, a Christian community in India and confused the reference Mar Thoma(Bishop Thomas) with Bar Tolmai, which was the Hebrew name for Bartholomew.  It is believed that the Apostle Thomas traveled to India and was the one to spread the Christian faith there. Other scholars believe that Eusebius simply confused India with Arabia or Persia, however there is no clear certainly to that fact.  Regarding, Mark’s writings, it is claimed that he was a interpreter and traveling companion of Apostle Peter, who wrote down what he remembered about Peter’s teachings, although not necessary in order.

Ireneanus and other early Christian theologians and apologists including Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria also clamed Mark wrote down Peter’s teachings.  Mark is identified as Mark the Evangelist, who founded the Church of Alexandria, whom he became bishop, Coptic Orthodox Church and the Church of Africa.  Early Greek priest, theologian and historian St. Jerome also claimed he founded the Catechetical School.  Other sources identify Mark the Evangelist as also both John Mark who also traveled with Apostles Paul and Barnabas and assisted in their works and is mentioned several times in Acts of the Apostles, Acts 12:12, Acts 12:25, Acts 13:5, Acts 13:13-14 and Acts 15:37-40, and Mark cousin or nephew of Barnabas who is mentioned in Col. 4:10 and Philomon 24.  Mark is also mentioned in 1 Peter 5:13 as his son although more likely his spiritual son and 2 Timothy 4:11.  This is does become unclear as some sources also identify Mark cousin or nephew of Barnabas also as Mark of the Apollonias a Bishop of Apollonia. 

Furthur sources claim that Mark the Evangelist was also the naked man who ran during Jesus arrest mentioned in Mark 14:51-52, although other theories is he was Lazarus or Joseph of Arimathea.  He has also been claimed to be the man who carried water to where the Last Supper was taking place in Mark 14:13.  He is also thought to be one of the servants at the Wedding of Cana where Jesus transformed water into wine.  Another claim was that he was one of Jesus 70 disciples mentioned in the Gospel of Luke.  In fact, in 1854, two writings of Hippolytus of Rome a 3rd century theologian was discovered in the monastery in Mount Athos in Greece called “On The Twelve Apostles” and “On the 70 Disciples of Christ”.  The latter lists all the names of the 70 disciples including, Barnabas and Mark and the Evangelist, John Mark and Mark cousin or nephew of Barnabas.  

The problem with these theories, is that it would also contradict Papias’s report that Mark never heard or followed Jesus himself. They also list the three Marks as separate people.  These findings however, have been regarded as false and unreliable. There is no real evidence that Mark the Evangelist ever knew Jesus himself.  What is really interesting is the ending of the Gospel of Mark, Mark 16:9-16 wasn’t in the earlier manuscripts of the text and seemed to be added much later which would mean Mark the Evangelist didn’t write it. It isn’t known who wrote the longer version of the Gospel but its speculated the author/authors got there sources from the three other Gospels.  Regarding the Gospel of Luke, it is claimed the author is Luke the Evangelist, a Hellenistic gentile from the city of Antioch of Syria and the only gentile to have written one of the four gospels.  He was also physician as well as Paul’s disciple and companion who traveled with him on his missions.  He is also believed to have written the Acts of Apostles as well since in both these books, the author mentions Theophilus whom he’s writing the stories to.  

Irenaeus and Justin Martyr mentioned him in “The Apostolic Fathers” as a follower of Paul.  Others including Eusebius and St. Jerome also believe him to be the gospel’s author.  According to Epiphanus, a 4th century Bishop of Salamis, Cyprus, he was also one of Jesus 70 disciples.  Theophylact, a 11th century Greek Archbishop of Ohrid, named him one of the two disciples who meet a resurrected Jesus while traveling to Emmaus while 14th century Greek historian Nicephorus Kallistus claims him to be a painter who painted Jesus and his mother. Of course, there isn’t any evidence that any of these claims are true and in fact, it is very unlikely Luke ever met Jesus Christ himself.  It is claimed that he wrote down the gospel and the book of Acts from accounts of many eyewitnesses to Jesus ministry and from other documents including the gospel of Mark. 

The fourth gospel known as the Gospel of John, according to Irenaeus it is written by the Apostle John himself. It is also reported that the Apostle John wrote the gospel while he was in Ephesus some time after Paul’s death.  In his book “Against Hearsies”, Irenaeus refers to John as the disciple whom Jesus loved and also the disciple who leaned on Jesus breast.  This phrase is also mentioned in the Gospel of John in few verses, John 13:23, John 13:25 and John 21:20.  Irenaeus sends two letters one to the Florinus and another Victor the Bishop of Rome where he mentions Polycarp who knew John the Apostle and interacted with the other Apostles too and to whom Irenaeus received his sources.  Eusebius quotes passages from Irenaeus letters mentioning Polycarp.

However, there are some scholars who believe Irenaeus confused John the Apostle with John the Presbyter who was the true author of the Gospel of John but there isn’t any real evidence of this theory and many evidences point to the Apostle John. It also opens to debate by numerous scholars if the Apostle John also wrote the Epistles of John and the Book of Revelations.  Further discoveries of the four gospels lies within the reports of findings of ancient papyruses throughout history.   There was the discovery in 1901 in Luxor, Egypt of what is known as the Magdelen Papyrus three fragments of papyrus believed to be portions of the Gospel of Matthew, were written on both sides indicating they were written on codex rather than on scroll.  These fragments were purchased by a Rev. Charles Bousfield Huleatt who brought them to the Magdalen College Library, Oxford in England and classified as Papyrus 64.  In 1953, author Colin H. Roberts published the fragments.

Some years later, Roberts and other scholars discovered that these fragments were part of the same manuscripts of Papyrus 67, another fragment of the Gospel of Matthew located in Barcelona, Spain and Papyrus 4 a fragment that’s part of the Gospel of Luke located in Paris, France.  Another discovery was when a team of researchers found a papyrus wrapped as a mummy mask in Egypt though to a fragment of the Gospel of Mark made around 90 AD which will eventually be published. Then in 1952, was the discovery of an ancient Greek papyrus in Egypt at the headquarters of the Pachomian order of Monks known as the papyrus 75.  These writings were codex that consisted of part of the Gospel of Luke(Bodmer Papyri X1V) and the Gospel of John(Bodmer Papyri XV) possibly 3rd century old.  These writings were purchased by a Swiss Scholar Martin Bodmer and later sent to the Bodmer Foundation in Cologny, Switzerland and later published in 1954. 

Other ancient papyrus consists of the Rylands Papyri, a collection of thousands of Greek and North African fragments and documents in which includes the Rylands Papyrus 52 also known as the St. John’s fragment.  This first or second century fragment is a codex which contains small portions of the Gospel of John which is now located at the John Rylands University Library in Manchester, England.  This fragment was purchased in Egypt in 1920, and in 1934 it was translated by Colin H. Roberts.  Despite variations of the authors of the gospels, there are some who don’t believe that neither of the gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.  In fact, some debate that true authors were anonymous who wrote them some time in the second century. Their evidence, they claim is due to the fact that the Apostolic fathers including Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Hermas, Ignatius and Polycarp who wrote early Christian writings don’t mention any of the Four Gospels. 

Another evidence, is the claim that Justin Martyr who made 300 quotations from the books of the Old Testament and 100 from the Apocryphal books but he doesn’t mention any quotes from any of the Four Gospels, although other scholars have contradicted this.  They also believe the Gospel of Mark received its main sources from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and the fact that neither of Gospels were mentioned until the later part of the second Century.  Despite these claims, there isn’t any real basis for these speculations, and there is plenty of sources and documents to support the true authorship of the Four Gospels that I’ve mentioned. 

The fact remains is that the Four Gospels all varying accounts of Jesus life from his birth, his ministry, crucifixion and resurrection in which we Christians are familiar with throughout tradition.  What really matters is that we use these Gospels as our source about Jesus teachings, follow his example to grow more Christ-like and show honor the man who gave up his life for our sins.