Where Did We Get Lent?

From the March-April 2004 Trumpet Print Edition

At the time of Jesus Christ and the apostles, no one had ever kept Lent—the 40 days of abstinence preceding Easter. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains, “Some of the Fathers as early as the fifth century supported the view that this 40-days’ fast was of apostolic institution. … But the best modern scholars are almost unanimous in rejecting this view, for in the existing remains of the first three centuries we find both considerable diversity of practice regarding the fast before Easter and also a gradual process of development in the matter of its duration. … We may … fairly conclude that Irenaeus about the year 190 knew nothing of any Easter fast of 40 days.”

Since we know this festival was not ordained by Christ, where did it come from? Much like Easter, it has pagan origins: It was “directly borrowed from the worshipers of the Babylonian goddess,” says Alexander Hislop. “Such a Lent of 40 days, ‘in the spring of the year,’ is still observed by the Yezidis or pagan devil worshipers of Kurdistan, who have inherited it from their early masters, the Babylonians” (The Two Babylons). The 40-days period was also observed anciently in Egypt—hardly the Christian roots most would expect.