Jeremiah 10: A Christmas Tree or Not?

Thursday, December 19, 2013 (All day)

Is Jeremiah 10 really talking about a Christmas tree, or something else?

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[Darris McNeely] The question has come in from a Beyond Today viewer regarding Jeremiah chapter 10 and what it says about bringing a tree in and decorating it with gold and silver, and whether or not that is talking about a Christmas tree.

[Steve Myers] It says some interesting things when you actually read what it says there in Jeremiah chapter 10. And it starts out I think in an amazing way in verse 2 by saying, and this is God talking, "Thus says the Lord, 'Do not learn the way of the Gentiles.'" Some versions say heathens. And then He goes on to say, "The customs of the peoples are useless. They're futile. One cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman with an axe. They decorate it with silver and gold. They fasten it with nails, hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright like a palm tree. They cannot speak" (Jeremiah:10:2-5). So what exactly is it talking about? Some of those things, especially if you look at the holiday decorations start to sound pretty familiar.

[Darris McNeely] Matches up pretty closely, doesn't it, to what might, what is a Christmas tree and what Christmas decorations of gold and tinsel on a tree that's been cut down from the woods, at least in the traditional way, brought into a home, set up, and around which gifts are spread. It is very, very plain, and matches up with this. Now, some commentators on Jeremiah chapter 10 say that this is talking about a form of idolatry where a tree is cut, but then it is cut into a totem or an idol from that, and the axe is actually a skilled artisan carver that makes this into something different from and therefore cannot be applied to the idea of a modern Christmas tree. But I think that the fact that Jeremiah here is talking about avoiding the practices of the heathen that then become idolatry and a part of worship that replaces something that is truthful was something that is wrong and pagan in place of God. I think that it still refer to what is being described here.

[Steve Myers] Absolutely applies in the sense that if you look into some of the practices of the pagans during this day, they did worship trees. They worshipped all kinds of things. They had a god for just about everything you could imagine. So when you look at the trees, especially at this time of the year, they're looking at the life that a green tree would bring. And that was a common practice back in that day as well. 

[Darris McNeely] Yeah, they were cut. They were used in the middle of the winter time because they supposedly didn't die, still had life in them, and to represent the life that people wanted to gather around at this time of year in the darkest part of the winter. Those trees were a part of the practice of the ancient world, and yes they did migrate into other parts of the world including Northern Europe from which our modern customs in the United States and the Western world regarding a Christmas tree eventually were adopted. And yet they were still connected with pagan ideas and worship that did migrate from the exact part of the world Jeremiah is talking about where anciently green trees, evergreen trees, were even used in the winter time as a part of this type of worship.

[Steve Myers] And I think that's such an important point. Can you adopt a pagan principle? Can you adopt something from the Gentiles or heathens, those that don't know the true God, and somehow try to use that to honor God? Well, He says right here don't learn that way. Do not do that. That is not a way to honor God by adopting some other practice, and try to call it Christian. He says that's unacceptable. You can't do it.

[Darris McNeely] And so you're left with the question: does it really matter? And the answer is it does matter. And truth does matter and our worship and our relationship with God, we should worship Him in spirit and in truth and not according to the ways that are adopted from heathenism or paganism. That's what the scripture says. It does matter.

That's BT Daily . Join us next time.


Ricardo's picture

Very nice. I liked it. Thanks.

Malachi 3_16-18

Malachi 3_16-18's picture

Thank you, Mr. Myers and Mr. McNeely! I have long been aware of both sides of the Jeremiah 10 argument. Your discussion makes the most sense. At any rate, if there's any likelihood it refers to the Christmas tree, we should reject this custom, especially as we already know it has pagan origins.

Eric V. Snow

Eric V. Snow's picture

We should remember that pagan customs have enduring meanings over time. They can't be arbitrarily erased as millions of people used them for decades or centuries. Some defenders of Christmas reason that the evergreen tree, the holly, the mistletoe, the poinsettia, etc., didn't have pagan meanings when created on the third day of creation when God made them. Therefore, Christians can "reclaim" their original, non-pagan meanings by an arbitrary decree. But intuitively we know from other parts of our lives that this doesn't work. Consider the meaning of the swastika. Suppose someone claimed it now means enduring peace, racial harmony, and international brotherhood. Presumably we would say that's nuts. We know that the senses conveyed by this symbol as a result of the actions of Hitler's Nazi regime can't be changed. Consider also the high priest Aaron's actions in the infamous Golden Calf incident: He tried to relabel the worship of this idol as "a feast to the Lord" (Exodus:32:5). But God angrily rejected it. Likewise, Christians shouldn't think they can rebadge pagan customs as non-pagan when celebrating Christmas. God has a memory, so Christians should too.


Jennifer001's picture

It is quite interesting post.

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