Where and when did the custom of observing Lent get started?
Believe it or not, Lent was observed 4,000 years ago! The apostle Paul commanded the gentile-born Christians to cease observing it! Many have supposed Lent is taught in the Bible. But they have not looked into the Bible to see what the Bible really says. The Lenten season is a period of 40 days' penitence and abstinence, beginning on "Ash Wednesday." The word Lent comes from the old English word Lencten, referring to the spring of the year. The Lenten celebration was originally associated with the spring of the year, but today it begins in the winter. How did this confusion originate? Here is the answer: "As long as the perfection of the primitive church [the inspired New Testament Church] remained inviolable," wrote Cassian in the fifth century, "there was no observance of Lent; but when men began to decline from the apostolical fervor of devotion . . . then the priests in general agreed to recall them from secular cares by a canonical indiction of fasting" (Antiquities of the Christian Church, Book 21, chapter 1). Fasting, or abstinence from certain foods, was imposed after the days of the apostles by the authority of the priests. It did not originate with Christ. It entered the Christianity of the Roman world in the second century, at the same time that Easter did. Lent is always associated with the pagan Easter. Lent is mentioned in the Old Testament. Lent seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz, the pagan Babylonian messiah. The month of June was named in honor of this false being. Forty days preceding the feast of Tammuz, usually celebrated in June, the pagans held their Lenten season. Ezekiel describes it vividly in Ezekiel 8:13-14: "He" — God — "said to me, 'Turn again, and you will see greater abominations.'" Notice that God calls what the prophet Ezekiel is about to see an abomination. And what does Ezekiel see? "And to my dismay, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz." They wept for Tammuz, the false messiah of the pagans. That weeping preceded the pagan festival in honor of the supposed resurrection of Tammuz. Fasting was joined with weeping for a period of 40 days before the festival in honor of Tammuz. The period of weeping and semifasting fell during springtime. That is why the word Lent means "spring." Lent is a continuation of the pagan springtime custom of abstaining from certain foods just before celebrating a fake resurrection. And God calls Lent an abomination. That is why Jesus Christ and the true New Testament Church never observed it. Paul forbade Christians to observe any of these pagan days or seasons (Galatians 4:9-10). Surely, some will say, the people today are sincere — but so were the pagans! They didn't know better. Observe what the great God says He will do to those who refuse to repent of this abomination: "Is it a trivial thing ... to commit the abominations which they commit here? ... Therefore I also will act in fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice" — of course they pray to God — "I will not hear them" (Ezekiel 8:17-18). But what if Easter and Lent are ancient pagan festivals. Isn't it still all right, if we use them to honor Jesus Christ? That's the way people reason today. Let God answer that question. God warned His people not to follow these customs of the heathen: "Take heed ... that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods" (Deuteronomy 12:30-31). It doesn't matter what we think, but it does matter what God thinks. He calls these pagan Easter and Lenten customs abominations. No wonder the apostles did not teach the early Church to observe these traditions. Is it any wonder that Jeremiah was inspired to write: "Learn not the way of the heathen ... for the customs of the people are vain" (Jeremiah 10:2-3, Authorized Version)? Jesus left us an example of what we ought to do — and that example is not Easter or Lent! For more information, write for our free booklet The Plain Truth About Easter.
I have heard that Jesus Christ, between the ages of 12 and 30, was in a foreign nation. Where does the Bible say He lived during those years?
Jesus' home was in Nazareth until age 30. After Jesus' birth in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1), Joseph brought his family to Nazareth so that Jesus would be called a Nazarene — a resident of Nazareth (verse 23). If Jesus had spent most of His childhood years away from Nazareth, He would not most likely have been known as a Nazarene. In Luke 4:16 we read, "So He [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up." This scripture could not say He was brought up in Nazareth if He had lived there only until the age of 12, and had spent the next 18 years somewhere else.