Did Early Gentile Christians Celebrate Birthdays?

History of Early  Christianity


It is a reasonably documented fact that Jews, including Christian ones, did not celebrate birthdays in the first and second centuries A.D.

Yet, what were the practices of the non-Jewish (Gentiles) converts to Christianity?

There is one birthday celebration mentioned in the New Testament, and it was not a good one.  And it was not one that involved Gentile Christians as it was before Jesus died.  And this celebration was so bad, that the one Jesus had called the greatest “among those born of women” (Matthew 11:11) was killed because of it:

But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.” And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother (Matthew 14:6-11).

(The same account is also described in Mark 6:21-28).

Originally, even as more and more Gentiles began to profess Christ (so much so that they outnumbered those of Jewish heritage that did), the early Gentile leaders also did not endorse the celebration of birthdays. No early church writer endorsed the observance of birthdays by Christians, nor are they ever listed in the early observances of the Christian church.

Therefore, the celebration of birthdays, was clearly not part of:

… the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

No early religious/church writing from the second century that I have seen (and I have read most that are available) seems to endorse (or even suggest) the celebration of birthdays by any who professed Christ.

Although he was not part of the Church of God, the writings of the early third century Catholic theologian Origen of Alexandria show that, even that late, Orthodox Catholics were against the celebration of birthdays. The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday (Martindale C. Christmas, 1908).

Here is some of what Origen wrote:

…of all the holy people in the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born into this world below (Origen, in Levit., Hom. VIII, in Migne P.G., XII, 495) (Thurston H. Natal Day. Transcribed by Thomas M. Barrett. Dedicated to Margaret Johanna Albertina Behling Barrett. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

The writings of the late third century Catholic theologian Arnobius show that, even that late, Catholics objected to the celebration of birthdays as he wrote:

…you worship with couches, altars, temples, and other service, and by celebrating their games and birthdays, those whom it was fitting that you should assail with keenest hatred. (Arnobius. Against the Heathen (Book I), Chapter 64. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 6. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Thus birthday celebrations, even of gods and leaders, were condemned as far as the late third century by even Roman Catholic leaders.

There is no biblical, nor historical, evidence that Gentile converts to true Christianity observed birthdays.

Since early Christian did not celebrate birthdays, should you?

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

Did Early Christians Celebrate Birthdays? Did biblical era Jews celebrate birthdays? Who originally celebrated birthdays? When did many that profess Christ begin birthday celebrations?
Do You Practice Mithraism? Many practices and doctrines that mainstream so-called Christian groups have are the same or similar to those of the sun-god Mithras. Do you follow Mithraism combined with the Bible or original Christianity?
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?

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