Heidelminicast: Against Re-Enchantment

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  1. Is this one of the reasons that the reformed churches do not acknowledge epiphany? My pastor is of the opinion that it is not acknowledged because of the reformed churches participation in iconoclasm.

    • JP,

      Your question is on the ever-growing stack. I hope to do more work on it but here’s a thumbnail:

      Epiphany was a relatively late development (about the time of Advent; 4th century). It was a part of a growing church calendar. The only day observed by the early post-apostolic church was “pascha” (i.e., Easter).

      The Reformed Reformation radically simplified the church calendar generally. Most wanted to get rid of all holidays in favor of 52 holy days, i.e., the Christian Sabbath. Calvin went along with Christmas for the sake of the peace of the Genevan church but he complained about it rather bitterly. The Dutch Reformed had a somewhat more extensive church calendar. The Synod of Dort said:

      63. The Lord’s Supper shall be administered once every two months, as much as possible. It is also edifying, wherever the circumstances of the churches allow, that the same be done on Easter, Pentecost and Christmas. But in places where as yet there is no organized congregation, elders and deacons shall first be provisionally installed.


      67. The congregations shall observe, in addition to Sunday, also Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, with the following days. Since in most cities and Provinces of the Netherlands, besides these the days of the Circumcision and Ascension of Christ are also observed, all ministers, wherever this is still the custom, shall put forth effort with the authorities that they may conform with the others.

      The principle behind these days is that they were part of or stations in the life of Christ. It is interesting that Dort approved the traditional observance of Christ’s circumcision and Ascension Day. I would have to check the other church orders to see how long that persisted. Ascension Day lasted longer. On that principle, observance of Epiphany would seem possible.

      There are some challenges, however. Epiphany was originally associated in the E. Church (so the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church) with Christ’s baptism. In the W. it came to be associated with the revelation of Christ to the gentiles (e.g., the Magi). So, there was always some ambiguity about it.

      I don’t see any reference to Epiphany in any of the dozens of Reformed confessions.

      One other complication is that the earliest observance of Epiphany is associated with the Gnostics.

      The Anglicans retained it and it seems that the Lutherans did too but I don’t see any evidence that the Reformed did.

      Best I can do right now.

      • Thanks so much. I wasn’t aware that it also commemorated the baptism of Jesus, nor the connection to Gnosticism. The first revelation of Christ to the gentiles is a very worthy memorial for the Christian church.


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