Why Call Good Friday Good?


Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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25 Responses

  1. Avatar Alex Knapp says:

    Being an atheist, I’ve always preferred Neitzsche’s interpretation:

    This “bearer of glad tidings” died as he lived and taught—not to “save mankind,” but to show mankind how to live. It was a way of life that he bequeathed to man: his demeanour before the judges, before the officers, before his accusers—his demeanour on the cross. He does not resist; he does not defend his rights; he makes no effort to ward off the most extreme penalty—more, he invites it…. And he prays, suffers and loves with those, in those, who do him evil…. Not to defend one’s self, not to show anger, not to lay blames…. On the contrary, to submit even to the Evil One—to love him….


  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I don’t know… it seems more that Paul did exactly what he said in 1st Corinthians 9:22.

    If you want an Earth God who is thirsty for blood and sacrifice, we’ve got that.
    If you want a Sky God who could comprehend mankind as a man, to live, suffer, and die? We’ve got that.

    What are you looking for? Here it is… and, keep in mind, those people who want something else? They’ve missed the point.

    See you Sunday.Report

  3. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    Like any good corporation, Christianity did its best to destroy pagan religions by coopting their holidays and adding their own theme to the event.

    Easter is a pagan holiday celebrating the return of Spring.

    Christmas is a pagan holiday celebrating the Midwinter Feast.

    Many of the beliefs of Christians were taken (and slightly altered) from the beliefs of other religions. For example, the Cybele cult celebrated not only Cybele but her lover Attis. Attis was god of the ever-growing vegetation (just like Spring!). They believed that he was born of a virgin, and that he died and was reborn each year (even more like Spring!). The Cybele cult celebrated his death on a Friday, and then his resurrection three days later. Hmmm, where have I heard that before?Report

    • Avatar North in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

      In fairness though the Cybele cult probably stole their idea from an even earlier cult.Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin in reply to North says:

        Absolutely! Most likely, the story of Creation in Genesis came from the Enuma Elish (the Babylonian creation myth).

        The difference (to me) is that the Cybele cult didn’t work at destroying those other religions by coopting their holidays (even though they stole their ideas). That’s a big difference.

        Imagine the uproar if Scientologists tried to coopt Easter or Christmas!

        Beyond that, there is never any admission from Christianity that their “holy beliefs” are actually someone else’s “holy beliefs” that they stole and dressed up in Christian attire.Report

    • Avatar John Henry in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

      Amazing isn’t it, that everyone wasn’t more low-key about the whole thing at the time? I mean, on your account, this was the basic equivalent of a transition from the Mach-3 to the Quattro, and yet, people were freaking out about it then, and still are. Just goes to show you I guess, how much smarter we are now than people were back then.Report

      • Avatar John Henry in reply to John Henry says:

        Alright, I’ll put the snark away. I think the reductionistic account you offered above is facile and superficial. It’s like arguing that the Beatles and the Backstreet Boys are equivalent musically because they both had teenage girls for fans and sold a lot of records. In other words, you’ve hit on some superficial similarities, but missed the whole point (the quality of the music, or the revolutionary nature of Christian claims about the universe). You may not like the Beatles; you may not like Christianity; but either way it’s superficial and silly to say the Beatles are equivalent to the Backstreet Boys, or that Christianity was in its essentials a rip-off of the Cybele cults.Report

        • Avatar John Howard Griffin in reply to John Henry says:

          No, this would be like the Backstreet Boys stealing the lyrics, style, and guitar-riffs of the Beatles; then, changing their names to John, Paul, George and Ringo; then, changing their birthdays to the dates of John, Paul, George and Ringo; then, saying that “Beatles Day” is really “Backstreet Boys Day”; and then claiming that they – “in their essentials” – are unique and not at all like the Beatles.

          Sorry that you are offended, John Henry, but this is the truth, and the truth hurts sometimes. Even for Christians.Report

          • Avatar John Henry in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

            The point is that you’re begging the question. In other words, if you’re a Christian, the fact that resurrection myths etc. have long been part of the human experience of religion is confirmation rather than a refutation of the truth of Christianity. In other words, the divine is not completely hidden from anyone, and all people have at various times had glimpses of what was better expressed in Christianity. If you reject Christianity, then the existence of these other experiences of the numinous are just as mistaken as Christianity, and whatever your preferred worldview is correct.

            But, in either case, I would suggest the Christian claims about the world are radically different from the earlier pagan religions. Certainly, that was the universal opinion at the time, and it seems odd to me that these people wandered around the Roman empire getting crucified without ever once realizing that Christmas was the same thing as Saturnalias because they were celebrated on the same date.Report

            • Avatar John Howard Griffin in reply to John Henry says:

              That’s a great argument! (except for the fact that Christmas was declared as Jesus’ birth in 350 by Pope Julius I)

              So, all those people wandering around Rome getting crucified didn’t think about Christmas and Saturnalias because Christmas wasn’t Christmas yet!Report

              • Avatar John Henry in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

                Right. That’s the point. Celebrating Christ’s birth has nothing to do with Saturnalias. The fact that the celebration was at some point moved to the same date as Saturnalias gives the lie to your claim that “Christmas is a pagan holiday celebrating the Midwinter Feast.” People were celebrating (and being killed for celebrating) Christmas quite apart from the Midwinter Feast for hundreds of years.Report

              • Avatar Chris Dierkes in reply to John Henry says:


                Yes there are resonances at some level between pre-Christian Greco-Roman and Near Eastern myths, but the divergences are more significant I would say.

                The dying god never became fully human nor became born of a poor woman (certainly not a Jewish one at that), been the son of a carpenter. Nor suffered such a public, humiliating, shameful, and excruciating form of death.

                The more pertinent backdrop is not pagan religions but Judaism, since Jesus (and all his followers) were Jewish. In 2nd Temple Judaism, the righteous martyrs (like the woman and her sons in Maccabees) will be justified by God. They will be justified in the resurrection (see Update I, point #2).

                The difference with what became Christianity is they said that Jesus was raised and the new age/end times had already broken through whereas for (non Jesus following) Judaism, the resurrection hasn’t happened at all yet.

                Nor do the pagan myths of dying and rising gods talk about a new heaven and a new earth, redeemed flesh, and humans as the priests and servant rulers (as gardeners!!!) of the new liberated cosmos.

                The Jewish-Christian story might indeed be wrong, but it’s significantly different than things like cult of Demeter.Report

              • Avatar Rufus in reply to Chris Dierkes says:

                It’s funny- my wife has been actively studying the pagan mysteries in the last few months, while I’ve been translating the Summa Theologica and doing other studies in Catholicism, so we were talking about this subject last night. There are, of course, resonances, but one big difference that we saw is that the Hebrew God is a god of precepts. The idea with the mysteries- at least as I understand it- is you’re making offerings and generally trying to stay on the good side of the divine order. However, I’ve not heard of a whole code of laws as in Leviticus. At one point, Democritus says we’re supposed to honor our vows to the gods, but it’s not clear to me what that means. The Israelites, meanwhile, were given an entire body of laws and a covenant that applied to the whole group as a mystical body. As for Jesus, there’s one point at which Paul basically says, hey, you needn’t be a Jew to be saved; membership is now open to everybody. So, my understanding is that Christianity sort of universalizes and rewrites the covenant. As for remaking the texture of the universe, I sort of understand that idea, but am not at the point in my reading of it being crystal clear. So these posts have been pretty helpful for me.Report

  4. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    Chris, sometime I’d like you to expand on this: “Good Friday also evokes for too many (and thanks to too many horrible sermons) the notion of an angry god desiring blood in order to be appeased in his (always a his) wrath.” That is why do you think there was a Good Friday?

    Voegelin: “For a gospel is neither a poet’s work of dramatic art, nor an historian’s biography of Jesus but the symbolization of a divine movement that went through the person of Jesus into society and history.”
    Following FWC Von Schelling we are free, as God graciously intended, to embrace the truth of reality or to reject it. Even silly, amateur theologians who discuss concepts beyond their ken.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    There are people other than Christians and pagans, you know, and for some of us Good Friday symbolizes oppression almost as awful as what the Roman Catholic Church is currently enduring.Report

    • Avatar Chris Dierkes in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      see update I. Acknowledged. A truly sorrowful and shameful point.Report

    • Avatar historystudent in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      This quote from that linked news report about the comments during the homily is essential to keeping perspective:

      “Father Lombardi said the remarks should not be construed as equating recent criticism of the Catholic Church with anti-Semitism.

      “ ‘I don’t think it’s an appropriate comparison,” he said. “That’s why the letter should be read as a letter of solidarity by a Jew.’ ”Report