Common Influences of Christianity in Our Culture

Author: Andrew Alleman


The influence of Christianity on western civilization is ingrained all around us in our original culture. Not only did it provide the fundamental bedrock of the United States Founding itself, but it also remains evident in many of our cultural customs. Some of these things are very common and hardly considered when it comes to their source of origination. They can include deeper things like how our western worldview was formed and the moral expectations of how we treat one another, to phrases we say in our everyday language, to even the names we grant our children. The majority of our population enjoys and partakes in these things, even those that would consider themselves completely secular. The deeper fundamentals of our worldview’s foundations have been covered at length in other articles (of which I encourage you to read) so here we shall examine a few examples of the latter.


The cultural custom that probably stands out the most regarding these are the holidays we celebrate. The term itself “holiday” originated in the Middle Ages and literally refers to “holy days”. What likely comes to mind immediately when we think of our holidays is of course Christmas, the most widely celebrated holiday here in the United States by Christans and non-Christians alike. The term Christmas refers to the “Christ Mass” or “Cristes Maesse”, two old english words from the 12th century. This was indeed the mass performed specifically to celebrate the birth of Christ. Evidence confirms that early Christians as far back as the 3rd century celebrated the birth of Christ on a specific day, even in places away from Europe such as North Africa and Egypt. The date chosen to celebrate Christmas, December 25th, primarily originates from the mid 4th century. Early Christians considered March 25th to be the date of Christ’s inception so nine months later the day was chosen for his birth celebration.


In recent years a popular trend has emerged among secularists proclaiming that Christmas is in fact a pagan holiday known as “Yule Tide”. Oddly enough, anti-religious groups that target any public display of connection between Christmas and Christ mention this as if to “water down” our nation’s biblical heritage and Christian influence. These groups tend to be anti-religious only when applied to Christianity but not when admiring ancient holidays with little historical context. Even if any mixing or overlap of holiday customs existed, the culture of Christmas in Western civilization developed by the birth of Christ. Though pop culture seeks to override or overwrite our Holy Day in a different image, since the inception of the USA and approximately 1000 years before it was the Christ Mass associated exclusively with Christ that can be traced throughout the ages culminating in our present day. Jesus Christ and the influence of his followers are at the center of the “most wonderful time of the year”.


Regarding the now standard work week, Saturday and Sunday established as days of rest originates from the concept of the Hebrew Sabbath. Sunday replaced Saturday as the new Sabbath for early Christians as they chose Sunday for assembly, recognizing that Christ rose and first met with his disciples on Sunday. This was noted as “The Lords Day” in the Didache, a Christian handbook written between 85-110 AD. Pliny the Younger wrote to Emperor Trajan observing that Christians assembled on a fixed day. Emperor Constantine in 321 AD first declared Sunday a legal holy day as a day of rest, giving official status and credence to the seven day week among the Romans. The pagan Mithras cult of the sun had a term known as “dies soli” (sun day) though this association came after the written Gospels and the Christian’s selection of Sunday, the first day of the week, to assemble. Not only that, Mithras is not associated with the evolution of western culture in the past nor the present. You likely did not even know this Mithras cult even existed before you read this article, though hundreds of millions of people are fully aware of the Christian association of Sunday as the day to assemble and a day of rest from work (literally a sabbath rest). Both the hyper-secular and extremist French Revolution and reign of communism in Soviet Russia tried to eliminate the seven day work week in anti-religious movements.


Regarding classical Christian names in the West, these began to emerge in popularity in the 3rd century during a transition away from pagan Roman names. These include names taken from mythology such as Baachylus, Aphrodisius, and Daphne. As noted by the church historian Eusebius, Christian parents began naming their children after biblical figures such as John, Peter, Timothy, Paul, and Mark. Today we see a wide range of Christian names taken from the New Testament used continually such as Andrew, Mark, Matthew, John, Timothy, Paul, Peter, and Stephen. Names directly derived from Jesus Christ include Christopher, Christian, Jesu, Christine, Kirsten, Kristen, Christie, and so forth. Female names include Mary, Martha, Rachel, Sarah, and Rebecca. Names from the Old Testament include David, Aaron, Michael, Daniel, Adam, Joseph, Jacob, Benjamin, and Samuel. Eventually of course the modern forms of these names took shape after Western culture developed later in Europe. Even great enemies of Christianity such as Joseph Stalin bore names directly derived from religious cultural influences they vehemently (and unsuccessfully) sought to eradicate.


How about common phrases that we frequently hear in our language, even in popular entertainment? “By the skin of my teeth” is a phrase from the book of Job 19:20: “I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth.” The phrase “going the extra mile” is inspired from Matthew 5:41: “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”. The famous concept of “an eye for an eye” is found directly in Matthew 5:38. In Luke 12:19 we find the phrase “eat, drink, and be merry”. The universally applied phrase of “fighting the good fight” is used by the Apostle Paul in his encouragement to “fight the good fight of faith” found in 1st Timothy 6:12. “The powers that be” first appears in Romans 13:1 of the Tyndale 1526 translation of the New Testament. The infamous “writing on the wall” comes from Daniel 5:5, the “11th hour” from Matthew 20:6, the sign of the times from Matthew 24 in reference to the Lord Jesus Christ’s return, “blind leading the blind” from Matthew 15:14, and the concept of a broken heart in reference to God’s healing in Psalm 147:3.


“Chivalry is not dead!” We have all heard this phrase and might have even received it or given it in thanks after an act of courtesy takes place. This common phrase and concept of romancing our beloved through an honorable attitude originated in the Chivalric code of medieval Christian knighthood between 1170 and 1220 AD. Medieval literature during that time regarding the Christian king Charlemagne and the legend of King Arthur helped popularize the idea. Within this came the image of the ideal Christian warrior ethos of knightly piety. It also grew forth as a result of the Crusades, in which many men forfeited their lives and property to travel thousands of miles on horseback to defend Israel from Islamic invasions. Many letters remain preserved from the wives of the Crusaders who described missing them dearly and have been studied by historians such as Dr. Thomas Madden. Efforts by hyper-secularists have been attempted to separate the history of the Christian warrior ethos from fact, or to paint the Christian knights as utterly villainous. In tandem with this is the contrast of complete romanticization and whitewash of every other warrior culture on Earth including that of the Vikings, the Samurai, Roman gladiators, and Islamic Jihadists. This is another topic altogether that I encourage the reader to explore!


Above is only a sampling- there is even more to mention! From everyday language, cultural customs, days of rest and holiday celebration, to social behavior, Christianity’s influence has been made evident in the fabric of our culture. The irony is that those openly hostile to Christianity enjoy the benefits of western civilization every day while simultaneously choosing to ignore the history of its roots. The roots, long and deep, can be traced back to origins long established by the culture that Christ and his followers made.

Self-Evident Ministries


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