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Father Time and the Pagan New Year

Written by Gary North on December 31, 2013

Google supplies us with lots of images of Father Time. In most cases, he is carrying a scythe.


Have you ever thought about this? You should have, but you probably haven’t.

Who was Father Time? He was not the grim reaper. His scythe was not for reaping.

He was Chronos. Chronos was the ancient Greek god of time. His name is the basis of the word “chronology.” Wikipedia says:

Chronos was imagined as a god, serpentine in form, with three heads–those of a man, a bull, and a lion. He and his consort, serpentine Ananke (Inevitability), circled the primal world egg in their coils and split it apart to form the ordered universe of earth, sea, and sky. Chronos was confused with, or perhaps consciously identified with, due to the similarity in name, the Titan Cronus already in antiquity, the identification becoming more widespread during the Renaissance, giving rise to the allegory of “Father Time” wielding the harvesting scythe.

The titan Chronos was Zeus’s father. His father was Uranus (Sky).

What has this got to do with a scythe? A lot. We also read on Wikipedia:

In ancient myth recorded by Hesiod’s Theogony, Cronus envied the power of his father, the ruler of the universe, Uranus. Uranus drew the enmity of Cronus’ mother, Gaia, when he hid the gigantic youngest children of Gaia, the hundred-handed Hecatonchires and one-eyed Cyclopes, in the Tartarus, so that they would not see the light. Gaia created a great stone sickle and gathered together Cronus and his brothers to persuade them to castrate Uranus.Only Cronus was willing to do the deed, so Gaia gave him the sickle and placed him in ambush. When Uranus met with Gaia, Cronus attacked him with the sickle castrating him and casting his testicles into the sea. From the blood that spilled out from Uranus and fell upon the earth, the Gigantes, Erinyes, and Meliae were produced. The testicles produced a white foam from which the goddess Aphrodite emerged. For this, Uranus threatened vengeance and called his sons Titenes (according to Hesiod meaning “straining ones,” the source of the word “titan”, but this etymology is disputed) for overstepping their boundaries and daring to commit such an act.

Every time I see Father Time and his scythe, I think of the old saying: “A tool for every purpose, and every tool in its place.”


Time was the great enemy in the classical world. Time was seen as the destroyer. Time was what had to be overcome. The various Chronos festivals of the ancient world were periods of ritual debauchery. They were later called Saturnalia festivals, named after the Roman god of time, Saturn. The ancients believed that a structured ritual rejection of common morality would lead to social restoration: power from below. This is sometimes called the myth of the eternal return. (A good book on this is Roger Caillois’ Man and the Sacred. Another is Mircea Eliade’s The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History.)

New Year’s Eve is a legacy of this tradition. It is also a time of drunkenness. It is a ritual re-creation of the cosmos. It is a time of resolutions — resolutions that will break bad habits: a new creation.

The Israelites had no such celebration. Neither did the early church. They viewed the creation as exclusively God’s work. It was not creation out of chaos — the Greek view — but rather creation out of nothing. Man played no part in the creation. There is no lawful participation in such a ritual act.

For Jews and Christians, time is not the enemy. Time is a tool of production. Both groups look forward to the advent of the New Heaven and New Earth, which will have a down payment in history (Isaiah 65:17-20). Both groups see time as the arena in which ethical thought and action challenge moral rebellion in a battle for the hearts of men. Both see redemption as the overcoming of rebellion. Both reject the idea of the myth of the eternal return. Both see history as linear: creation, fall, redemption, and culmination — a one-way development. This outlook made possible the modern world, including science. (See Stanley Jaki’s books, especially Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe [1974], and The Road of Science and the Ways to God [1978].)

At midnight tonight, a new year will arrive. It should not be pictured as a child. It should be seen as a mature man without a scythe. He should be carrying a scale, the symbol of honest judgment. In the Bible, this is the meaning of “honest weights and measures.” Honest judgment, not the scythe, is the tool of dominion. Justice, not bloody revolution, is the means of progress. Justice, not the ritual overthrow of moral standards, is the means of restoration.

Stay sober. Avoid scythes.

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13 thoughts on “Father Time and the Pagan New Year

  1. I'm completely agree with you! Thanks for the good article!

  2. I agree. An excellent article. I learned a few things I did not know. Thanks.

  3. Maybe they got confused when they bandied the word Uranus around leading to the unfortunate incident of Uranus. Oops, sorry!

  4. I forgot "So much older then younger than that now"Dylan

  5. Bill Webb says:

    Throughout history people have celebrated the New Year, a new beginning, anticipation of springtime. Nothing pagan about it. History that is familiar to "us" seems to be centered around the Northern hemisphere where the seasons are the opposite of the Southern Hemisphere. There, history seems to have been more disconnected and unorganized like the land masses there.

  6. Poor Roy, so confused and still doing what satan wants you to do: question God's Word. He appears he has still not surrendered himself to the Lord. When he does his eyes will be opened to the heart and mind of God, and will then see the errors of his ways.

    Great article.

  7. Thanks for the new info and the non-judgemental, fact based presentation.

  8. Very well presented facts.

  9. I’m still waiting for the explanation of why the scythe, other than “a lot”. The article from Wikipedia immediately following talks about a sickle, but not a scythe.

  10. to bad the SDA don’t know about this. It could make a difference in their repeating saturday as the sabbath and understanding that the 1st sabbath of the new month is on the 8th day than the 15th, 22nd and 29th day of the month. The beginning of the month is new moon day which is the 1st dawn after the 1st sighting of the new moon after conjunction.

  11. Christmas New years Easter Saint Patrick Day Halloween are all Pagan the Bible tell us to follow in Jesus foot steps and keep the same festivals Jesus his self kept God's Annual Festivals Passover Unleavened Bread Pentecost Feast of Trumpets Day of Atonement Feast of Tabernacles Last Great Day and you all wonder why God who chooses all our leaders gave us barry .Many will say to me in that day Lord Lord have we not prophesied in your name,and done many wonders in your name ?And then I will declare to them .I NEVER NEW YOU; DEPARTFROM ME,YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS ! For what the Bible REALLY teaches us by every word from our Bibles go to lcg. org AKA (Living Church of God )

  12. victorbarney says:

    As I mentioned in another post, isn't it interesting that the Jews, who did not the accept the Jew born about 2,000 years ago are in Jerusalem, which is the city that Revelation 18:10 clearly states that our Jewish, not Greek, born savior is returning to begin his 1,000 year reign, but the 'Christian" Pope is in Rome Italy, where our Savior has no intention of returning? I'm just stating what's really written in the HEBREW(Zeph. 3:9, Acts 26:14, 1 Cor. 4:6) INSPIRED Scripture, confirmed in all additions, although a Greek name has been added to our savior by Rome in the 1300's? Again, really? Wow!

  13. victorbarney says:

    Well written, however the scriptural calendar is wrong. If one follows scripture for "time," the head of the year is February 15 and end of the year is October 26. Also "we the people"(Israel by Joseph, but including Judah) are in the 1st year of a seven year cycle & the 36th year of the Jubilee cycle. Also, the year begins in Spring, not the DEAD of winter…p.s. FYI: 3/31/14 actually scripturally begins the New Year, not the DEAD OF WINTER in January. I'm just stating what's really written in scripture…