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.
Glad you recognize that the language usage of today in our society is not the same as the Jewish society of 1700+ years ago. It is very important that in English there is a very great difference between in or on the scripture uses versus after which appears to be your (mis)understanding of the timeframe. Jesus was buried day one on Friday before sabbath (dusk), sabbath (day two) and rose on Sunday (day 3). It is important to note that Jesus said he would rise again on the third day. Again see these versus:
Mt 16:21, 17:23, 20:19, 27:64 (understood by the Jewish leadership); Lk 9:22, 13:32, 18:33 (again, understood by the Jewish leadership), 24:7, 24:46
Thus Jesus' use of the term within the linguistic and cultural understanding of His day (MT 27:64 and Lk 18:33), His reminder to His followers and the day of the resurrection (Sunday) are in agreement.
Please read things a little more closely and you will avoid such embarrassing statements. Once again the word used here is epiphosko. Its definition is to grow light, dawn. There is no way this can be construed as being the equivalent of dusk or evening which is the opposite. It is a perversion of English and common sense to insist otherwise. Even in the Hebrew way of looking at things which mark the start of the day at sunset. Had they meant that time of day the word Opsios would have been used.
It isn't. He was crucified, died, and was buried on Friday. Saturday was the day of rest in the tomb. He rose early on Sunday--the third day, counting inclusively.
If Jesus is not God, and the passages you cited mean that, then the Trinity is a false doctrine, isn't it?
Query: in the Greek version of Exodus, when God says his name, how is that translated into the Greek?
Does Jesus not use the same term when he says "Before Abraham was, I AM"? Grammatically, one would expect "Before Abraham was, I was."
Of course, our English language bibles make a great deal of theatre capitalizing "I AM" in both Exodus and John, but what about the Greek.
And was Jesus speaking Greek?
Or was he speaking Aramaic at the time?
And when he said "I AM", did he pronounce the regular Aramaic "I am", or did he pronounce the Hebrew name of God, the Great I Am?
No way to know from the Greek text, since this is a distinction that cannot be made.
But from the content of the story we see that at that moment his hearers were astonished and infuriated and sought to stone him. What, precisely, is blasphemous about saying "Before Abraham was, I was"? or "Before Abraham was, I am?", mangling syntax?
Or was it that Jesus used the Great I Am, the word only pronounced by the High Priest on the High Holy Day, in the Holy of Holies?
Anyway, if Jesus wasn't really God, the Trinity falls apart.
The tension between John's Gospel and the synoptics on this point is perfectly awful.
Not necessarily. Matthew 2:16 states, "from two years old and under." Several possible variables: 1) how age is counted in a particular culture--is a newborn "one" or "zero"? 2); Herod could have been covering his bases and adding a little cushion, just to be sure; 3) how much time elapsed between the magi's initial appearance in Jerusalem and Herod's realization they weren't coming back; 4) "and under" includes all the younger ones.
Doesn't give a city either as I recall.
It does, several times. Bethlehem.
There's a lot of places to poke holes in all of these "theories". For one, Herod's death obviously happened after the Nativity, and that could've been anywhere from 4BC to 1AD, depending on whose records you believe. And that's if there's a rational explanation of the Star to begin with...
As I said, the symbolism of the players in the celestial events and the significance of their names was quite interesting.
We settled this back in the 4th and 5th centuries.
Are you an Arian perchance? Or the contemporary counterpart, a Mormon?
Almost certainly it does. It would be a very strange reading indeed of Matthew 2:1-11 to have several mentions of Bethlehem, including the magi receiving information to go to Bethlehem, and then have them go to some other unnamed place that is not Bethlehem.
He did grow up in Nazareth, so at some point the family went back to there.
Yes, but not until AFTER they fled Judea (where Bethlehem was), sojourned in Egypt for a while, and THEN returned, not to Judea, but to Galilee, to the city of Nazareth. See Matthew 2:22-23.
If Christ is not both true God and true man, we have no Savior and we are still lost in our sins.
Wake up. Your salvation is at stake.
Or, we were never lost in the first place and it's all been a millennia-long money-making scam.
Good luck with that.
That's sad. I hope some day you come to the end of yourself. Jesus will be waiting to take you in.