Biblical Basis for Ash Wednesday?

One of my readers asked me what the Biblical basis for Ash Wednesday is. I answer:

I don’t see any biblical basis either for Ash Wednesday or for Lent generally (Ash Wednesday marking the start of Lent). In fact, the practice of traipsing around throughout the day with ashes on one’s forehead is contrary to Jesus’ teaching:

Matthew 6:17-18

17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.


10 Responses to “Biblical Basis for Ash Wednesday?”

  1. TheoJunkie Says:

    Good point.

  2. Rhology Says:

    Haha, I never even thought of that.Thanks.

  3. natamllc Says:

    And seeing we are in a granduer of things, the RCC, I would note the following as well, for a good admonition to one’s flesh and soul:Col 2:20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations– Col 2:21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” Col 2:22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teachings? Col 2:23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.I’m free, I’m free, Thank God Almighty, Christ has risen and sits interceeding for idiots like me! Mat 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Mat 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Mat 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Now, lest one reader is offended by that “idiot” remark, let me say, that was a sincere reflection of the sort of being I became in the RCC. I can sincerely say I was an idiot as in utterly senseless and foolish. I was weighed down with such pious religion I grew in much anger, strife, shame and desparation, because I was failing, trying to do all to keep up with the rest of the “faithful” flock, but I was never free or happy or at peace to love God or man. It became for me a horrible bondage.It didn’t work. I grew worse in thought and deed and then one wonderful sunny, summer day I sat down in a lone house trailer my merciful dad allowed me to shelter in while I attempted to pick up the pieces of my failed, miserable life, and read from a Bible given to me to read, these words from Scripture:Mat 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Now I proclaim to the listener, the hearer, it is true. Jesus saves “His” people from their sins!

  4. Churchmouse Says:

    You know, I never thought about it this way, but it makes sense. Thanks.

  5. reflecting Says:

    I am not especially familiar with the teaching of Roman Catholicism. What does Roman Catholicism dogma say is the consequence of eating meat on Ash Wednesday or a Friday during Lent?

  6. Martin T. Says:

    So when Jonah called for the Ninevites to repent and they did so city wide with sackcloth and ashes they were sinning?There is a difference between public communal displays of penance and personal, private displays of penance thus the “contradiction” between your passage and Jonah.

  7. kelly Says:

    This is truly remarkable. I think I’ve mentioned the degree to wihch I hold Catholics apologists in esteem, but what do you gain from this constant attack (so void of any substance) of Catholicism?Surely you were aware that the exact passage you provided was the one read in Catholic Churches on that day. Surely you realize that the ashes represent repentance, and a desire to make our lives more congruent with the one Christ offered for us, as we reflect on his death.This language of being contrary to the Gospel is nonsense. The sad thing is I wanna presume good will on your part, and hope that you don’t see it as such. But at this point, I’m at a loss.

  8. Turretinfan Says:

    Kelly,To the extent that the “attack” was devoid of substance, the response had even less substance. Reading Jesus’ words about washing one’s face on Ash Wednesday would simply be heightened irony, not compliance with Jesus’ instruction as to how Christians are to fast.Yes, ashes were generally, in the Old Testament times, a symbol of repentance.Nevertheless, and this is the main point, the institution of Ash Wednesday is not Biblical.-TurretinFan

  9. Turretinfan Says:

    Martin asked: “So when Jonah called for the Ninevites to repent and they did so city wide with sackcloth and ashes they were sinning?”Answer: No. But they were not under the New Testament administration. If you were to sacrifix a lamb to God on a stone altar today, you’d be sinning, though they weren’t sinning in doing that in the Old Testament.Martin continued: “There is a difference between public communal displays of penance and personal, private displays of penance thus the “contradiction” between your passage and Jonah.”This is actually the second best argument I can think of in favor of the practice. The problem with the argument is that individual people did the same thing (sackloth and ashes) in the Old Testament time period.The better argument is that this should be considered like Jesus’ comment about praying in one’s closet. Still, there are no New Testament examples of the practice of the imposition (whether by oneself or by another) of ashes as a sign of repentence.-TurretinFan

  10. Turretinfan Says:

    Reflecting:My recollection is that eating meat on Ash Wednesday or any Friday during Lent is considered a mortal sin. -TurretinFan

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