Skip to comments.Why December 25? The origin of Christmas had nothing to do with paganism
Posted on 12/07/2005 2:36:38 PM PST by Charles Henrickson
According to conventional wisdom, Christmas had its origin in a pagan winter solstice festival, which the church co-opted to promote the new religion. In doing so, many of the old pagan customs crept into the Christian celebration. But this view is apparently a historical mythlike the stories of a church council debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, or that medieval folks believed the earth is flatoften repeated, even in classrooms, but not true.
William J. Tighe, a history professor at Muhlenberg College, gives a different account in his article "Calculating Christmas," published in the December 2003 Touchstone Magazine. He points out that the ancient Roman religions had no winter solstice festival.
True, the Emperor Aurelian, in the five short years of his reign, tried to start one, "The Birth of the Unconquered Sun," on Dec. 25, 274. This festival, marking the time of year when the length of daylight began to increase, was designed to breathe new life into a declining paganism. But Aurelian's new festival was instituted after Christians had already been associating that day with the birth of Christ. According to Mr. Tighe, the Birth of the Unconquered Sun "was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians." Christians were not imitating the pagans. The pagans were imitating the Christians.
The early church tried to ascertain the actual time of Christ's birth. It was all tied up with the second-century controversies over setting the date of Easter, the commemoration of Christ's death and resurrection. That date should have been an easy one. Though Easter is also charged with having its origins in pagan equinox festivals, we know from Scripture that Christ's death was at the time of the Jewish Passover. That time of year is known with precision.
But differences in the Jewish, Greek, and Latin calendars and the inconsistency between lunar and solar date-keeping caused intense debate over when to observe Easter. Another question was whether to fix one date for the Feast of the Resurrection no matter what day it fell on or to ensure that it always fell on Sunday, "the first day of the week," as in the Gospels.
This discussion also had a bearing on fixing the day of Christ's birth. Mr. Tighe, drawing on the in-depth research of Thomas J. Talley's The Origins of the Liturgical Year, cites the ancient Jewish belief (not supported in Scripture) that God appointed for the great prophets an "integral age," meaning that they died on the same day as either their birth or their conception.
Jesus was certainly considered a great prophet, so those church fathers who wanted a Christmas holiday reasoned that He must have been either born or conceived on the same date as the first Easter. There are hints that some Christians originally celebrated the birth of Christ in March or April. But then a consensus arose to celebrate Christ's conception on March 25, as the Feast of the Annunciation, marking when the angel first appeared to Mary.
Note the pro-life point: According to both the ancient Jews and the early Christians, life begins at conception. So if Christ was conceived on March 25, nine months later, he would have been born on Dec. 25.
This celebrates Christ's birth in the darkest time of the year. The Celtic and Germanic tribes, who would be evangelized later, did mark this time in their "Yule" festivals, a frightening season when only the light from the Yule log kept the darkness at bay. Christianity swallowed up that season of depression with the opposite message of joy: "The light [Jesus] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5).
Regardless of whether this was Christ's actual birthday, the symbolism works. And Christ's birth is inextricably linked to His resurrection.
that will be news to Him...
bump for publicity
Deci means 10 so at some point December was the 10th month, Sep means 7, Oct means 8, Nov is 9. These days it's all messed up.
Please see my posts 114 and 116. Being glad that the Savior was born is what Christmas is all about. And we have a day to do just that, with special emphasis. That's a good thing!
I "son of God" equals God, then aren't Christians making themselves equal with God?
1 John 3:1-2 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
No. According to the Bible, any person can become a "son of God" via "spiritual adoption" by accepting Christ as Savior; however, when Christ was identified as the "Son of God", it meant LITERAL SON OF GOD. In other words, no human being was His father. GOD was His Father. If that claim is true, then Christ was fully God and fully man. This is what drove the Pharisees over the edge and had Christ crucified.
How is this distinguished in the text from the "regular" sons of God?
GOD was His Father. If that claim is true, then Christ was fully God and fully man.
The folks spoken of in John 8:44 were of their father, the devil. Could they then be fully the devil and fully man? How does an interpretation of fully God apply to one, but not fully the devil to the other?
This is what drove the Pharisees over the edge and had Christ crucified.
I don't see how these Pharisees could be considered credible interpreters. I am leery of their doctrines. After all, they were convinced he was violating the Sabbath.
Plus, there were those who needed correction, here:
29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
30 I and my Father are one.
31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.
32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
Looks more like he had to deal with yet another false accusation.
I think you are making this more complicated than necessary. Does the Bible say Christ was begotten of an earthly father? NO. He was born of a virgin, but I'm sure you know this. So who is His Father? GOD. The rest of us have an earthly father. The Bible clearly lays out that believers BECOME sons of God through "spiritual adoption". I'll be happy to find the verses for you if you need them. Would you suggest that Christ wasn't a Son of God until He become "spiritually adopted"? Of course not. My previous question to the last poster that didn't get a reply was "Christ was prophecied in the Old Testament saying his name would be Emmanuel. What does Immanuel mean?" GOD WITH US.
I don't see how these Pharisees could be considered credible interpreters. I am leery of their doctrines. After all, they were convinced he was violating the Sabbath.
And where did Christ say they were wrong about their accusation that He claimed to be God? He often answered them with riddles, scripture, and turned questions back on them, but HE NEVER SAID HE WASN'T GOD.
Let's see what you conveniently left out from the chapter of John that you quoted.
24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."
25 Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me,
26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.
Jesus entire life SHOWED that He was the Christ. Anyone can claim to be God. Jesus PROVED it by ACTION. It became obvious to His followers. It was the unbelievers who were saying "Gee, we can't take the suspense! Just TELL us!". Christ's response was "MY LIFE is the answer". They weren't really interested in His divinity. They were interested in trying to trap Him into saying something that they could use against Him. THAT is why He then used Scripture that they supposedly lived by to defend Himself.
WHO ELSE can give eternal life besides God? Christ claimed that ability. Again, we are back at square 1. He IS Lord, liar, or lunatic.
So, you only intended to use a couple of Patristic quotes to prove that some Church Fathers recognized some ritual similarities between Mithraism and Christianity? That's it? If so, then you are correct in that I misread your earlier post as a direct claim that the Early Church Fathers knowingly admitted to borrowing from Mithraism.
That there are certain similarities between Mithraism and Christianity is true, and is not something which I argue against. (That the two religions were also vastly different in many particulars should likewise go without debate.) That Tertullian and Justin's writings make some note of these similarities is also something with which I won't argue.
But the crux of our debate isn't about whether or not Church Fathers made such an admission, is it? The issue here is your repeated claim that Early Church history and a clear rational mind obviously support the assertion that the Early Church borrowed rituals (by implication, baptism and the Eucharistic sacrifice) specifically from Mithraism. And those who argue otherwise--whether it's me, Tertullian, or Justin Martyr--are simply in a state of regiously-inspired denial, factual ignorance or some combination of the two.
And while you argue that the truth of this matter is so clear to discern from obvious proofs, the sum of your case has till now relied upon: (1) the passionate and assured assertion that you've extensively studied this subject in non-biased scholarly resources (albeit offline resources, so you can't proffer those sources for verification); (2) complete dismissal of opposing arguments which come from "biased" "religious people" who happen to disagree with you; (3) that because Mithraism came first in history, and there existed acknowledged similarities between Mithraism and Christianity, it's therefore apparent that the Early Christians borrowed rites from the Mithra crowd; and (4) because some Church fathers noted theses similarities and argued that Mithraic rites were not the Christian ritual model but Apostolic succession, this is further solidifying evidence of Christian "borrowing".
Clearly, poor Justin Martyr--who ultimately gave his life, in part, as a defense of these obviously borrowed pagan rituals (beheaded for impiety to the Roman gods, such a gullible fool, huh)--and Tertullian, not to mention many other Church Fathers, were either deceivers or incredible dupes to argue that their rituals came from the Apostles and not Mithraism.
Your entire argument, as it stands is very weak and remarkably unsupported in the historical documents related to the Early Church. No matter how much you and others here huff and puff, the similarity and temporality of Mithraism are simply not the convincing proofs for causality you assert them to be.
I have one question for you "Was Christ born on December 25th and if not who made that day a Holiday?"
The Church doesn't claim that Christ was born on that day, nor do I. As to your second question: Emperor Aurelian officially established worship of a Roman version of a sun god, under the name of Sol Invictus, as the principal cult of the empire on December 25, 274, after his victory over Zenobia, queen of Palmyra.
I think given what Luke says that the conception was near or on the 25 of our December. That would then make the date of His birth in sometime during our month of September.
I agree with the range you describe.
Then either we'd move the date again, or we'd eschew the purchase of gifts. After all, we just got through the Xmas season, so there would be no need to enrich the Chinese military in the name of Christ.
In short, Xmas is not a Christian holiday anymore, and it is regrettable that we succumb to tradition in buying presents that don't mean anything, and exchange them in a festival of greed and secularity every year, while we fatten the pockets of those too embarrassed to even mention the name of the man in whose name they profit.
Odd you should say that. I'm just finishing up a biography of the Great Protector, and it mentions that his Parliament actually sat on Christmas Day in 1658.
Cromwell shunned all celebration of Christmas; I am merely suggesting that, since the date is arbitrary anyway, we steal it back from the secularists by creating a new one, replete with new traditions that don't include trading meaningless gifts purchased from godless thieves.
The order of the names of the days comes from astrology. Each of the planets controlled certain hours of the day, and they went in order as they thought the planets were further from the earth. Whichever planet controlled the first hour of the day, the day was named for it. It ended up with the moon for Monday, Mars for Tuesday, Mercury for Wednesday, Jupiter for Thursday, Venus for Friday, Saturn for Saturday, and the sun for Sunday. The connection is still obvious if you look at the Italian, French, or Spanish days of the week. In English they substituted the Germanic god which was considered to be the equivalent of the Roman god which was equated with the planet in question.
In the early days of Massachusetts Bay colony, it was illegal to observe Christmas...you were expected to go out and work on December 25, unless it was a Sunday. A law of 1670 imposed a fine of five shillings for not working or for feasting on Christmas. In 1686 Governor Andros arrived in Boston just before Christmas and insisted on celebrating Christmas (he was a mainstream Anglican), which caused a lot of conflict with the local Puritans.
The 7 day week is an invention of the Jews which passed out to the rest of the world by way of the Hellenic and Roman Empires. There is nothing celestially relevant about seven days. It is a completely arbitrary number for dividing time (unlike the month or the year, which have natural sources and which all people use).
The seven day week was not common to all cultures, and before a certain point didn't exist in ANY culture other than the Jews. They're the ones wot invented it.
It would be best to say that there is no record of it pre-existing the Jews. MIGHT the Babylonians have used a seven day week? Sure. But they didn't leave us any record of doing so. The oldest record of anybody making anything special out of Seven Days is the Jewish Genesis.
So, the comment about Sunday originally being the week-END, not the start, is almost certainly not true. The Jews invented the week. The Seven Day week originates in Genesis. The Sabbath was always the seventh day in Judaism, and there isn't any record of anybody else was using the seven day week before the Jews did.
So, other folks may have not stressed the importance of the seven days and its order the way the Jews did, but that there are these celestial names for the days in the West doesn't demonstrate anything. That there is a seven day calendar in the West at all came from the Jews of the East, and their original week was seven days.
In the Judaeo-Christian North, where Christianity has been the dominant philosophy since the dawn of literacy in those regions, the week has begun on Sunday and ended on Saturday, exactly as the Jews ordered it in their Bible.
The natural monthly cycle is about 12 1/2 months, although some years have 13 months and others, 11, or just about.
The Roman ten months had two added to them in honor of dictators and emperors. Specifically, July was named in honor of Julius Caesar, and August in honor of Caesar Augustus.
Yet we're supposed to believe that religion played no part in the founding of this country, and that a "wall of separation between church and state" has always existed.
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