So I was bumbling about, trying to find inspiration for writing something, and I somehow managed to bump into the following post. Now, I’m not trying to mean mean here, I’m actually laughing through most of this, but I just had do something with it. I give you Bridges to Ba’al: How Satan Uses the Canaanite Influenced Christmas and Easter to Ensnare the Children of the Houeshold from the blog Orthodox Messianic Judaism
Now before we start, full disclosure, I actually practiced Messianic Judaism for a couple years (well, my family did, I think I was 11-13/14ish at the time, we then went into Orthodox Judaism for another couple years). And before anyone asks, yes, it is a thing. Yes, it is a legitimate religion. And no, I am not making this up.
The beautiful tree, bedecked with silver and gold, warm glowing lights, beside a roaring hearth, a host of shiny presents–what’s not to like? Christmas is beloved especially by children because of all of the beautiful traditions, the celebration of family, the feeling of security with the hearth with the promise of food nearby (“visions of sugar plums”) and especially the presents!
Wait, hang on, we’re on an orthodox messianic jewish site…and they’re doing Christmas? Shouldn’t they be doing Hanuka? I mean, back when my family was MJ we did Hanuka and Christmas was verboten.
I guess different people do it different ways. Still, those are all wonderful reasons to love Christmas. Heck, I’m an adult and I love Yule for most of those reasons. Perhaps my Yule bounty shall not be as large this year for certain reasons, but still. It is the most wonderful time of the year. (Except for Hallowing, which is even more wonderful. Wonderfuler?)
And since, as Christians believe, the day of Christmas has been devoted to the G-d of Israel (i.e. Yeshua) then Christmas is all the more special, right?
I guess? I’ll have to ask my Christian co-workers. I thought it was devoted to the birth of the son of the god of israel, but it’s been over a decade for me. Also, I thought Yeshua was Jesus and the God of Israel was YHVH. This might be another one of those “one and the same things” monotheists like to do.
No. Here’s why:
No? Well, damn. I guess this makes Christmas less special then? Am I still getting the presents though? The presents are very important to me. I’m Germanic. Gifts are very important to us. I would hate to have to go a viking to get me some good things this year.
I mean, Paris has already suffered enough…
A BRIEF NOTE ABOUT CANAANITE FIRE [g]ODS:
You know, you can capitalize Gods. It’s okay. I don’t think anyone is going to strike you with lightning.
Allow me to briefly connect several dots showing the evolution of the Canaanite religion, it’s overt beginnings with child sacrifice to the fire gods Ba’al and Asherah, to the fire gods Jupiter and Vesta, to the modern vestigial remains as observed in certain customs of Christmas and Easter.
Okay, first off…what? Sure, Ba’al is recorded as having child sacrifices which were given in fire. But Asherah was an Akkadian Goddess and a quick look at her wikipedia page mentions no associations at all with fire. But I’m not an expert on Middle Eastern polytheism so I’m going to stop at that.
However, I know a bit more about Roman polytheism as I’ve started studying it, but any 1st grader could tell you that a) Jupiter and Vesta were not Canaanite Gods, B) Jupiter is the God of the Heavens and uses a lightning bolt, C) Vesta was the Goddess of the Hearth and Home, whose primary priestesses were the famous Vestal Virgins. Hardly connected to human sacrifices via giant bonfires.
And I know a lot about Norse/Germanic polytheism and can tell you that Christmas (originally Yule) and Easter (same name) were Germanic holy days…not Canaanite. Also, they didn’t have that much to do with fire either.
I’d say you just got burned, but we’re dealing with a surprising absence of flame here (or Canaanites).
Thanks to modern discoveries of Ugarit texts, Ugarit being one of the ancient city-states of Canaan, we now know a little bit about some of the major players in the Canaan pantheon:
Asherah, was the fertility goddess, the “Queen of Heaven” (now immortalized with fertility symbols on Easter), married to El, a senile god who was eventually replaced with Ba’al. The people believed that Asherah was best appeased with sexual rites, often symbolized with a pole (the “May pole” being a modern vestige of this phenonmenon) and that Ba’al was best appeased with a fire and a “green” tree.
I’m sure the Canaanite polytheists are happy to have these texts. Of course, I think we knew most of this stuff before, but again, I’m not an expert in Canaanite history.
But hold there a minute buster. The fertility symbols of Easter are not for Asherah, Goddess of Canaan, they’re for Easter, Goddess of Asgard. Look, I know there’s a lot of Gods and this stuff can get confusing, but Canaan is not Germania. I’m pretty sure the Canaanites had a different festival and symbols too. Same thing with the “May Pole” bit. That was for Easter and is a practice that can be traced in European traditions to way before any contact was made with Middle Eastern peoples.
Now I’m sure Asherah, like most fertility gods, got their orgies on (it’s kinda in their domain), but there are still differences here people.
Also, for anyone interested, El was one of the original names for YHVH. That’s why Elohim (mighty one) is used as a substitute for YHVH.
Here we see the association between Ba’al, his fire servant Molech, and the appeasement by fire:
“They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded–nor did it enter my mind–that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin,” Jeremiah 32:35
Uh, not to be a stickler, but didn’t you mention learning things from the Ugarit texts? Why are we going to the bible if we have valuable source materials from original sources rather than second hand ones written by the enemies of said culture?
But eh, whatever. Still, sounds more like Molek is the Fire God more than Ba’al (wasn’t he the lord of the flies anyways?).
And here we see the association of the green Ba’al trees with Asherah poles:
“That night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it,” Judges 6:25
Wait, so Ba’al is god of trees and fire (the natural enemy of trees)? Look, I’m not doubting your faith, whoever is writing this, but you’re kind of failing Divine Domains 101. Shit has to work in harmony with each other. Or maybe just confusing the fact that fire was used for offerings for being ruled over by said god. Also, the context makes the Asherah sound like an idol, not a “pole.” But that’s just me. And you’re only giving me a single verse to work with here.
Evidently it was common to pay homage to Ba’al by decorating the green tree with silver and gold and to pour him offerings of grain and wine:
“She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold– which they used for Baal….And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals,” Hosea 2:8,13
“This is what the LORD says: “Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, though the nations are terrified by them. For the customs of the peoples are delusion; Because it is wood cut from the forest, The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. They adorn it withsilver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter,” Jeremiah 10:4
Actually, it sounds less like “decorating the green tree” and more like making an idol, but meh. I’m being a pedantic dick I guess. Also, is this “She” supposed to be Asherah? This is why I quote things in their entirety, it really helps resolve confusion like this.
That being said, is the author really not noticing that his own god got offerings of grain and wine? Those are staple offerings to pretty much every deity, along with silver and gold. Not sure how this is proving any connection to Christmas though. In fact, I am in fear we have lost the thread entirely. Still, I suppose it is cool to get a look at Canaanite culture.
They also considered Ba’al to be not only a fire god but also a storm god, responsible for lightning. Here we see an ancient stele showing Ba’al holding a lightning bolt (much like his successors Zeus in Greece and Jupiter in Rome):
Sorry, I’m skipping the picture he has.
But okay, Ba’al is god of the sky (most heads of pantheons are) and he has a lightning bolt. But said author hasn’t proven that Ba’al is the God of fire (in fact, he seemed to say that was Molak) and I will kindly thank him to remember that Greek Culture is functionally as old as Canaanite culture. Zeus (Jupiter) is a contemporary of Ba’al, not his successor. Jupiter would only be Ba’al successor if he inherited his position in Canaanite religion from Ba’al, not by being another Sky god with a thunderbolt for a completely different peoples.
Does no one study the rites of succession anymore?
As the one deemed responsible for weather phenomenon, the Canaanites also believed Ba’al was behind seasons of heavy rainfall and seasons of drought. This fact sheds some light on the story of Elijah versus the prophets of Ba’al.
Well at least someone was showing some reasonable logic. XP
The story goes that Elijah explained to Ahab that, because Ahab had built a temple to Ba’al and married a woman who was associated with the priesthood of Asherah, the true G-d of Israel was going to show them who was real G-d of the weather. Elijah prophesied that there would be a drought.
The drought went on for three long years. Eventually Elijah proposed a challenge. 450 prophets of Ba’al and 450 prophets of Asherah would converge at Mount Carmel, several altars would be prepared and the gods or G-d who answered would be deemed the true G-d.
Unfortunately for the prophets of Ba’al and Asherah, their gods never answered. But the G-d of Israel responded with vigor and everyone saw the truth with their own eyes and the Canaanites eventually lost interest in their gods.
Because the Hebrew God is a dick, apparently. Really, three years of drought, in a dessert. Can I just ask how many people died? Off hand? Anyone know?
Oh what am I worrying about, it probably wasn’t anywhere near as much died from His stunts in Egypt. I mean, that killed thousands of people and economically devastated one of the greatest nations on the planet. A little drought? That’s nothing.
Yeah…The next time anyone tells you the Olympians are dicks (and they can be) just point out that despite the sting to their egos they are not the Dickus Optimus of the divine realms.
Also, yes, the Canaanites eventually lost interest in their Gods…after several hundred more years. You know, no big. Practically instant, that. I mean Elijah was in the 9th century BCE and Ba’al’s worship ended sometime around the Maccabees in 160 BCE. But hey, what’s over 800 years between friends?
However, these gods eventually got rebranded in Greece and Rome and a new fire cult was begun. The god being serviced was Zeus/Jupiter. The god in charge of the fire offerings was Vesta, god of the hearth. Back in those days, the house was a microcosm of the public cult. The head of the household was the pontifex maximus and the sons were the flamines (pontiffs). Fun fact: pontifice/pontiff means “bridge-builder”. The hearth was the altar. They would offer grain and wine to Vesta who presumably, in turn, brought these offerings to Jupiter. The Romans also offered food and wine to the Lares, the deceased ancestors of the particular household.
Okay, he’s getting some of the functions right in principle. The house was a microcosm of the public cultus. People did offer to the Lares (household gods and ancestors) and the altar was near the hearth. But the Potifex Maximus was the head priest of the Empire, not the head of households.
But that’s not my biggest gripe here. The author is clearly understanding the practices of the Cultus through his own lens and really, that’s fine. Cross culture miscommunication happens. No my biggest gripe is the fact that our author didn’t even bother to apparently look at a bloody timeline of the planet.
Greece and the Olympians can be traced back all the way to the Neolithic period circa 7,000 BCE, if not earlier. Hardly the successor to Canaanite culture or civilization. Secondly, the Greeks and Romans were a completely different peoples from the Canaanites and other Semitic peoples. Different Gods, different peoples.
That there were similarities in deity or offering does not make one following the other, nor one interchangeable with the other. Now I get it, OMJ is a monotheist, and doesn’t really get how polytheistic systems work, or even how larger theistic systems work, including their own. But the issue here isn’t theology. It’s bloody history. Time lines. I’ve pointed out all this stuff using things I found with google inside 30 second searches.
Correlation does not equal causation. The fact that the Canaanites, Romans, and Germanic peoples all offered things like wine, wheat, silver, and gold doesn’t mean that they worshiped the same Gods, or that the practices of one peoples went down the line to other peoples, each of whom existed as contemporaries to the Canaanites. Hell, YHVH liked his wine, wheat, silver, and gold. Does that mean YHVH is Ba’al?
So there you have it, I did something in regards to a monotheism. It does go to show, however, why I didn’t really fit in the Messianic Jewish community. Anyways that was fun. Bit of a break. Hope everyone enjoyed it, and I’m sure I’ve pissed off all the Messianic Jewish bloggers out there.