Is the Bible Opposed to Celebration of Birthdays?

by Kenneson 21 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Kenneson

    Yes, says the Watchtower Society. Why? Because, they inform us, only pagans celebrated birthdays per the Bible and in each case a death occurs. Let us examine the two passages they use to support their conclusions. And then we can make our own decision.

    Genesis 40:20-21 "Now on the third day it turned out to be Pharaoh's birthday, and he proceeded to make a feast for all his servants and to lift up the head of the chief of the cupbearers and the head of the chief of the bakers in the midst of his servants. Accordingly he returned the chief of the cupbearers to his post of cupbearers, and he continued to give the cup into Pharaoh's hand. But the chief of the bakers he hung up, just as Joseph had given them the interpretation."

    Please notice that God used the occasion of Pharaoh's birthday to spare the cupbearer, who was to later report to Pharaoh that there was indeed an interpreter of dreams in Egypt, a Hebrew by the name of Joseph, who was in prison. Pharaoh ordered Joseph's release and had him brought up to interpret--which Joseph did. Gen. 41:8-40. As a result Joseph was used to save Egypt from famine which saved the family of Jacob and all of Jacob's sons, which resulted in the birth of the nation of Israel Gen. 42 and 45 and 47. So, while one life was lost, the cupbearer's life was spared, and later because of the cupbearer, those of Joseph's family. It is unfair to link the birthday of Pharaoh with only death. As a matter of fact, Pharaoh was to later receive a blessing from Jacob. Gen. 47:7-10 So Pharaoh was not an evil man at all; he provided Joseph's family with protection and plenty of land (Goshen) and when Jacob (Israel) died he was mourned by the Egyptians for 70 days. Gen. 50:3-4. The Watchtower Society's view of Pharaoh is indeed one-sided.

    The next birthday the W.T. cites is that of Herod at Matt. 14:1-13. A careful reading of the text will show that Herod did not want to kill John (Vs. 5), but that everything that happened to John was done at the instigation of Herodias (vs.3 and 8). She had planned it all along and seized this opportunity to fulfill it at a birthday celebration. See Mark 6:19, 21.

    Now there is mention of birthday celebrations by Jews in the Bible also, but JWs are quiet about that. See Job 1:4 Now it is possible that Job didn't wholeheartedly concur with these banquets, but he did not prevent them. Vs. 5 And it is also true that at one of these birthday parties all his children died in a tornado (vs. 18-19).

    If the strongest "proof" that birthday celebrations are wrong is the argument that death took place at each occasion, than why do Jehovah's Witnesses observe the Lord's Supper (Memorial)--the occasion of Christ's death?

    Why are JW's allowed to give gifts at anniversaries, weddings, baby showers, when one moves into a new house, etc.--but somehow it's evil to do so on one's birthday?

    The occasion of Jesus' birth was not an ordinary day. Even the angels celebrated his birth. See Luke 1:13-14. And the astrologers came with birthday gifts Matt. 2:1-2 It is possible, however, that they did not reach Jesus immediately after his birth because when they do find him, he is in a house. (Matt. 2:11-12). But the point is, they were intended as birthday gifts.

    If the anniversary of one's birth is absolutely pagan, unimportant, something we might as well forget, why does the Bible go through such lengths to preserve exact ages (see for example Gen. 5:1-32 and Gen. 11:11-32 and Numbers 4:3, 23, 30, 35, 39, 43, 47); and even certain important years of Jesus' life (see Luke 2:41-52 and Luke 3:23)?

    In conclusion I quote from Rom. 14:5-6 "One man judges one day as above another; another man judges one day as all others; let each man be fully convinced in his own mind;" and Col. 2:16 "Therefore let no man judge you in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath..."

  • Beans

    Awesome, yeah bringing a gift to a newborn is a birthday present!

  • evergreen

    I am in agreement with you there, even the angels sang in heaven at the rejoicing of jesus birth. I often think that although birthdays are mentioned in the bible ,they are not specifically condemned by God neither in the hebrew scriptures ,the mosaic law or new testament.The governing body of the first century didnt ban birthdays simply because one wicked individual killed john the baptist on a birthday celebration.

    What is remembered there is that Herod and Herodias committed this terrible act even on what should have normally been a joyous occasion thus emphasising how bad they really were , not that there was anything wrong with celebrating a birthday in itself.

    The very fact that whether it was 4000 years ago or 2000 years ago ,birthdays seemed to be and were part of everyday life .

  • AlmostAtheist

    Amazing timing! I just had this same conversation with a dub and I typed up our notes from the conversation today: (Note that I don't recommend the site, I only included it because the dub used the guy's birthday essay. That guy must be a serious whack-job)

    Birthdays ? Disapproved by Jehovah?

    Since the Society disallows baptism for those that are currently celebrating birthdays, it is considered an important matter. Does the Bible actually support this position? Following are several lines of reasoning, and why those lines of reasoning are in question. If it can be shown that birthday celebrations are not condemned by the Bible, would it not be ?going beyond what is written? to forbid them? (1 Cor. 4:6)

    1. There are only 2 birthday celebrations mentioned in the Bible. Both were for wicked people, and murder took place at both of them. (Gen 40:20; Mark 6:21; Matt 14:6)
      1. Jezebel and apostate Israel (both guilty of murder) are the only individuals in the Bible said to use eye paint, making themselves beautiful. (2Kings 9:30; Jer 4:30) The same reasoning that forbids birthdays should also forbid eye makeup, but it doesn?t.
        1. It can?t be reasonably argued that their use of ?eye paint? was excessive, since God?s own word admits they were ?beautiful? after so adorning themselves.
    2. There is no record that the Jews or 1 st century Christians celebrated their birthdays
      1. There is also no record that they held bridal showers, baby showers, or called their houses of worship "Kingdom Halls". The fact that they did not perform a certain act doesn?t in itself preclude our doing so.
    3. The date of Jesus birth is not recorded in the Bible. If we were expected to celebrate birthdays, surely this would be the most important birthday of all.
      1. As shown in point 2, the Jews did not celebrate birthdays, so it is not surprising that Jesus continued that custom. But the point is not to establish whether we "should" celebrate birthdays ("Is it a command?") but to determine if we should not do so ("Is it forbidden?") There is no record that Mary received a baby shower for Jesus or any of her other children, but that has not caused the Society to forbid us from hosting such events.
    4. Birthdays are of Pagan origin, rooted in astrology and showing undue prominence to ruling monarchs. (See
      1. Many things originated with people that did not serve Jehovah. This is to be expected, since down through history most people have not followed the path of true worship of God. Is it necessary to reject all things that did not originate with Jehovah?s people?
        1. The use of eye makeup is tied to false beliefs about evil spirits. Should it be forbidden? (see
        2. The practice of dressing the bride and brides maids and the groom and his attendants in similar clothing has pagan origins. Should it be forbidden? (see
        3. The practice of cremating a body rather than burying it has pagan roots. Is this practice disapproved by God? (see
        4. Also consider the pagan origins of the calendar, the names of the planets, wedding rings, wedding veils, and the use of perfume. None of these are forbidden, despite their pagan origins.
      2. Some have said they feel rule for determining if a custom with pagan origins was still acceptable was if the custom was accepted by the world in general (such as the names of the days of the week) and if continuing in the custom did not violate any of Jehovah?s laws from the Bible. By that measure, makeup, cremation, and birthdays would all be acceptable.
    5. Jeremiah 10:1-3 warns us not to ?adopt the customs of the heathens?
      1. The fact that another nation did something does not in and of itself make it wrong. The context of these verses (and similar ones throughout the Bible) make it clear that it is the unclean, scripturally disapproved customs that are in question. As an example, the heathens may have known of a certain construction technique that worked well with the raw materials at hand in the land of Canaan. The Israelites would not have thought it improper to adopt those building methods, since they did not conflict with Jehovah?s laws.
    6. Birthdays direct undue prominence to one person, elevating that one improperly
      1. A wedding feast, such as the one attended by Jesus, would have the same elevating effect on the newly married couple. A baby shower puts the new mother and her child in the spotlight. Even a simple announcement at the Kingdom Hall that a certain individual is pioneering that month tends to draw prominence to that one. But this is not considered wrong under any of these other circumstances. Why single out birthdays?
    7. Solomon warned at Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 that ?the day of one?s death is better than the day of one?s birth?, presumably because at death the individual has run the course of faith successfully and has established his name. The celebrating of one?s birth runs counter to this admonishment.
      1. Solomon said a name is better than good oil, but this does not forbid the accumulating of oil. He said being sad is better than being happy, but this doesn?t forbid being happy. The entire run of verses makes the point that there is a need to spend some time seriously working on one?s character, becoming a genuinely good person. A life spent in sheer frivolity would not result in a good name, but enduring the pain and sadness, along with the comforts and joys, leads to a full life. Solomon was not expressing an opinion about birthday celebrations any more than he was forbidding obtaining good oil, or laughing.
      2. Baby showers are held to celebrate the birth of a baby. Would these not also violate any supposed "rule" of Solomon? While it may be true that the shower provides items for the family, the fact is that the reason the shower is held is because a child was born.
    8. We have no need to celebrate birthdays. We can give gifts all year long, there is no need to wait for a certain day.
      1. While that?s true, the point is to determine if such celebrations are displeasing to God. For instance, there is no real need to drink caffeinated drinks such as coffee or tea, but it isn?t forbidden. We wouldn?t use that same logic to try to forbid any other unnecessary aspects of our lives (pet ownership, home decorating, drinking alcohol), so why would we single out birthdays?
  • Badger

    You know, it's really as simple as this:

    If birthdays were SO HORRIBLE, how come God NEVER told Moses to put it into Mosaic Law? How come Christ NEVER said how bad it was?

  • Leolaia

    Jesus celebrated Hannukah (John 10:22-26). Does that mean that Witnesses can celebrate it, since it is not pagan and since it is in the Bible??????

  • Kenneson


    Jesus also went to the feast of tabernacles (John 7:10). Do JW's celebrate it? What about the feast of unleavened bread? Matt. 26:17 The early followers of Jesus celebrated the feast of Pentecost (Acts. 1:1). Do JW's? Moreover, Jesus was circumcised and purified(Luke 2:21, 22). No, JWs do not observe everything Jesus did.

  • Mary
    There is no record that the Jews or 1 st century Christians celebrated their birthdays

    Ya, well there's no record of the Jews or 1st century Christians taking a dump either but chances are they did..........there's also no record of Adam and Eve eating any food before the "forbidden fruit": are we to conclude that just because it's not written in the bible that it didn't happen?

    Weddings rings are also from "pagan origin"; why don't they get all the Dubs to get rid of them? Or better yet, they can throw them all in a pot, melt the gold down and someone can fashion an idol of the GB members for everyone to worship..........

  • BluesBrother

    Nice posting, Kenneson and Almost Atheist. Of course , the Wt used in the beginning to allow the celebration of was introduced later.

    Most witnesses I know say how happy they are not to have to buy gifts and remember birthdays. "imagine a congregation of 120 people, it would always be someones birthday" I guess that is the real reason. Starting probably at Bethel , they decided it was inconvenient and found a doctrinal excuse to ban it.

    Basically, they do not want to have buy gifts .(IMHO of course)

    Incidendally I still have dificulty recalling my d.o.b. when asked and that gets awkward in these days of security questions at banks etc. As for the wife's d.o.b., well??? [ the bank clerk thought I must be a fraudster!]

  • candidlynuts

    i'm personally opposed to birthdays this year..

    <------------------------- note age thingy over there.


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