Pagan Names (Part 1)

The outline is attached below.


I. I was asked recently if we should not call the days of the week by the names that pagans gave them after the names of their gods over a thousand years ago. This sermon will answer that question. II. The names of the days of the week and of some of the months of the year are indeed pagan in origin and were named after false gods. 1. "The names of the days of the week in many languages are derived from the names of the classical planets in Hellenistic astrology, which were in turn named after contemporary deities, a system introduced by the Roman Empire during Late Antiquity [3rd-8th century AD]. In some other languages, the days are named after corresponding deities of the regional culture, either beginning with Sunday or with Monday." (Names of the days of the week, Wikipedia, 2-17-2021) 2. The Romans didn't start using a seven day week and naming the days after the planets until the late first century, and it was not commonplace until the 4th century. A. "Between the 1st and 3rd centuries, the Roman Empire gradually replaced the eight-day Roman nundinal cycle with the seven-day week. The earliest evidence for this new system is a Pompeiian graffito referring to 6 February (viii idus Februarius) of the year AD 60 as dies solis ("Sunday"). Another early witness is a reference to a lost treatise by Plutarch, written in about AD 100, which addressed the question of: "Why are the days named after the planets reckoned in a different order from the 'actual' order?". (The treatise is lost, but the answer to the question is known; see planetary hours). "The Ptolemaic system of planetary spheres asserts that the order of the heavenly bodies, from the farthest to the closest to the Earth is: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, or, objectively, the planets are ordered from slowest to fastest moving as they appear in the night sky. "The days were named after the planets of Hellenistic astrology, in the order: Sun, Moon, Mars (Ares), Mercury (Hermes), Jupiter (Zeus), Venus (Aphrodite) and Saturn (Cronos). "The seven-day week spread throughout the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity. By the 4th century, it was in wide use throughout the Empire, and it had also reached India and China." (Names of the days of the week, Wikipedia, 2-17-2021) B. As the above quote shows, the pagan names for the days of the week were not used during the time the New Testament was being written. C. So the fact that they are not used in the NT is not an argument against using them. 3. The names of the week that we use today came from the Germanic people sometime between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD. A. "The Germanic peoples adapted the system introduced by the Romans by substituting the Germanic deities for the Roman ones (with the exception of Saturday) in a process known as interpretatio germanica. The date of the introduction of this system is not known exactly, but it must have happened later than AD 200 but before the introduction of Christianity during the 6th to 7th centuries, i.e., during the final phase or soon after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. This period is later than the Common Germanic stage, but still during the phase of undifferentiated West Germanic. The names of the days of the week in North Germanic languages were not calqued from Latin directly, but taken from the West Germanic names." (Names of the days of the week, Wikipedia, 2-17-2021) 4. The etymology of the names of the days of the week A. Sunday i. "Old English Sunnandæg (pronounced [ˈsunnɑndæj]), meaning "sun's day". This is a translation of the Latin phrase diēs Sōlis. English, like most of the Germanic languages, preserves the day's association with the sun. Many other European languages, including all of the Romance languages, have changed its name to the equivalent of "the Lord's day" (based on Ecclesiastical Latin dies Dominica). In both West Germanic and North Germanic mythology, the Sun is personified as Sunna/Sól." (Names of the days of the week, Wikipedia, 2-17-2021) B. Monday i. "Old English Mōnandæg (pronounced [ˈmoːnɑndæj]), meaning "Moon's day". This is equivalent to the Latin name diēs Lūnae. In North Germanic mythology, the Moon is personified as Máni." (Ibid) C. Tuesday i. "Old English Tīwesdæg (pronounced [ˈtiːwezdæj]), meaning "Tiw's day". Tiw (Norse Týr) was a one-handed god associated with single combat and pledges in Norse mythology and also attested prominently in wider Germanic paganism. The name of the day is also related to the Latin name diēs Mārtis, "Day of Mars" (the Roman god of war)." (Ibid) D. Wednesday i. "Old English Wōdnesdæg (pronounced [ˈwoːdnezdæj]) meaning the day of the Germanic god Woden (known as Óðinn among the North Germanic peoples), and a prominent god of the Anglo-Saxons (and other Germanic peoples) in England until about the seventh century. This corresponds to the Latin counterpart diēs Mercuriī, "Day of Mercury", as both are deities of magic and knowledge. The German Mittwoch, the Low German Middeweek, the miðviku- in Icelandic miðvikudagur and the Finnish keskiviikko all mean "mid-week"." (Ibid) E. Thursday i. "Old English Þūnresdæg (pronounced [ˈθuːnrezdæj]), meaning 'Þunor's day'. Þunor means thunder or its personification, the Norse god known in Modern English as Thor. Similarly Dutch donderdag, German Donnerstag ('thunder's day'), Finnish torstai, and Scandinavian torsdag ('Thor's day'). "Thor's day" corresponds to Latin diēs Iovis, "day of Jupiter" (the Roman god of thunder)." (Ibid) F. Friday i. "Old English Frīgedæg (pronounced [ˈfriːjedæj]), meaning the day of the Anglo-Saxon goddess Fríge. The Norse name for the planet Venus was Friggjarstjarna, 'Frigg's star'. It is based on the Latin diēs Veneris, "Day of Venus."" (Ibid) G. Saturday i. "Named after the Roman god Saturn associated with the Titan Cronus, father of Zeus and many Olympians. Its original Anglo-Saxon rendering was Sæturnesdæg (pronounced [ˈsæturnezdæj]). In Latin, it was diēs Sāturnī, "Day of Saturn". The Nordic laugardagur, leygardagur, laurdag, etc. deviate significantly as they have no reference to either the Norse or the Roman pantheon; they derive from Old Nordic laugardagr, literally "washing-day". The German Sonnabend (mainly used in northern and eastern Germany) and the Low German Sünnavend mean "Sunday Eve"; the German word Samstag derives from the name for Shabbat." (Ibid) 5. The etymology of the names of the months of the year A. January i. "The month of January is named after Janus, the Roman god of gates and doorways. Janus is represented with two heads that are back to back, which signifies that he is looking back at the past for perspective, as well as forward to the future for hope. His duality perfectly coincides the end of one year and the start of the next." (This is Where the Names of the Months Come From, Alex Daniel -, 2-25-2019) B. February i. "The name February is derived from the Roman period of Februa, which was a festival of purification. Also called the festival of Lupercalia, it was named after the Roman God Februus, who represented purification. In fact, William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar begins during Lupercalia. Mark Antony is instructed by Caesar to strike his wife Calpurnia, in the hope that she'll be able to conceive. This festival took place on the 15th day of the month and involved some usual cleansing rituals to improve health and fertility." (Ibid) C. March i. "March, the third month of our calendar, was formerly the first month of the year in the Roman Calendar. It's named after Mars, the Roman god of war, and also identified with the Greek god Ares. This month was considered the time to resume war, once the winter thawed out. As the Romans viewed war and fighting as a means to gaining lasting peace, this idea can provide an alternative perspective to the quote, "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." (Ibid) D. April i. "April is the month of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. (In the Roman pantheon, she's known as Venus.) The word April comes from the Latin word apeire, which means to open, likely in connection with flower buds opening to bloom in the spring." (Ibid) E. May i. "May is derived from the French word Mai. It is named after Maia, the goddess of spring and growth. Maia is also the daughter of Faunus, one of the oldest Roman deities and the wife of Vulcan. Also, in Greek mythology, Maia is known as the mother of Hermes. The Greeks and Romans saw Maia as a nurturer filled with warmth and plenty—kind of like May." (Ibid) F. June i. "June is named after Juno, the Roman goddess of love and marriage, and also the de facto deity-counselor of the Roman state. (Hera is her Greek equivalent.) In Roman mythology, Juno watched over pregnant woman and children and insured safe births, which is why getting married in June is considered good luck." (Ibid) G. July i. "July was initially known as Quintilis, or "the fifth month," which it was on the Julian calendar. July was named in honor of Julius Caesar after his death in 44 B.C.E., as he was born during this month. In fact, July is the first month of the calendar which is named after a real person." (Ibid) H. August i. "The month of August was originally called Sextilis, from the Latin word sextus, meaning six. Its name was changed in honor of the Roman emperor Augustus, Julius Caesar's great-nephew. Augustus was an emperor who brought peace to a very conflicted area, and inspired growth, reform, and a stronger infrastructure within its cities. ... It became the eighth month in 700 B.C.E. when January and February were moved to the beginning of the year on the Gregorian system." (Ibid) I. September i. "Just like Quinitlis and Sextilis, September comes from the Latin term septem, meaning seven. September was originally the seventh month in the ancient Roman calendar—which was 10 months long—until 153 B.C.E. when it became the ninth month of the year. For the Romans, September was known for the celebration called Ludi Romani, which lasted several weeks and featured chariot races, gladiatorial contests, and lots of feasts." (Ibid) J. October i. "October is derived from the word octo, which means eight, as it was the eighth month of the Roman calendar, and later became the tenth month with the Gregorian calendar." (Ibid) K. November i. "November is derived from the Latin word novem, which means nine. Just like the others, its name stuck, even after January and February were added to the calendar, making November the eleventh month." (Ibid) L. December i. "December comes from the Latin word decem, meaning ten. It was the tenth month of the Julian calendar, and now the twelfth month of the Gregorian one. The Latin name is derived from Decima, the middle Goddess of the Three Fates, and the one who personifies the present." (Ibid) III. Is it wrong for Christians to use these pagan names? 1. There are numerous examples in the Bible of people and places that were named after pagan gods. 2. Their pagan names were used by the apostles through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the scriptures, even after the people bearing the names were converted. 3. Consider these examples: A. Belteshazzar (Dan 1:7) i. Belteshazzar - (bel-te-shazʹer; Akkad. ìBalaṭ-su-uṣur (Bel), protect his life”). The Babylonian name given to the prophet Daniel (Dan. 1:7). See Daniel. (Unger's Bible Dictionary) ii. King Nebuchadnezzar named Daniel Belteshazzar after the name of his pagan god (Dan 4:8). iii. Notice that Daniel refused to eat the king's meat (Dan 1:8) and to pray to the king (Dan 6:7-11), but he did not refuse to be called after the name of the king's pagan god (Dan 4:9, 18, 19). iv. Daniel, writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit, said that his name was Belteshazzar (Dan 4:19; Dan 10:1). a. If it was sinful to refer to Daniel by the name of a pagan god, the Holy Spirit would not have recorded it as his name. b. If it's not a sin for the scripture to call one of God's prophets by the name of a pagan god, then it follows that it is not a sin to call a day of the week or a month of the year after a pagan god. B. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan 1:7) i. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were all three given Babylonian names (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) which were names after pagan gods. a. Shadrach - (shaʹdrak; apparently Akkad. Shudur, “command of,” and Sumerian Aku, the moon god). The name, however, may be simply a corruption of Marduk, the city god of Babylon. It is the Babylonian name given to Hananiah, the chief of the three Hebrew youths. (Unger's Bible Dictionary) b. Meshach - Possibly means "who is what Aku is?" in Akkadian, Aku being the name of the Babylonian god of the moon. In the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament this is the Babylonian name of Mishael, one of the three men cast into a blazing furnace but saved from harm by God. ( c. Abednego - (a-bēdʹne-gō; “servant of Nego or Nebo”). The Babylonian god of wisdom, connected with the planet Mercury. Abednego was the Aram. name given by the king of Babylon’s officer to Azariah, one of the three Jewish youths who, with Daniel, were selected by Ashpenaz (master of the eunuchs) to be educated in the language and wisdom of the Chaldeans (Dan. 1:3–7). (Unger's Bible Dictionary) ii. Like Daniel, they refused to eat the king's meat (Dan 1:8), and they also refused to worship the image the king made (Dan 3:12), but they did not refuse to be called after the names of the king's pagan gods (Dan 3:14, 26, 28, 29). iii. Daniel, writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit called them by their pagan names (Dan 2:49; Dan 3:13, 16, 19, 20, 22, 23, 26, 30). a. If it was sinful to refer to the three children by the names of pagan gods, the Holy Spirit would have only called them by their Hebrew names. b. If it's not a sin for the scripture to call three of God's servants by the name of pagan gods, then it follows that it is not a sin to call a day of the week or a month of the year after a pagan god.
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