(Editors note) Please check out the radio program “The case for 12/25″ (blogtalkradio) located on the right of the page. Just push play and follow along with John’s excellent show notes “The Case for December 25, 2 B.C.”
I have been asked by a number of people, rather, told by a number of people that the Catholic Church opened the doors to pagan influence beginning with the celebration of Christmas.
Some of them have developed wild imaginative developments showing some connection with the old Babylonian mystery religion with Christmas.
Sir Arthur Weigall, a noted Archeologist, said:
December 25th was really the date, not of the birth of Jesus, but of the sun-god Mithra. Horus, son of Isis, however, was in very early times identified with Ra, the Egyptian sun-god, and hence with Mithra…
Is he correct with this assessment? Anti-Catholics say the following:
“In the end the effect is the same: “Christmas” is the birth not of the “son of God” but of the sun. Indeed, there is much evidence—including many ancient monumental alignments—to demonstrate that this highly noticeable and cherished event of the winter solstice was celebrated beginning hundreds to thousands of years before the common era in numerous parts of the world. The observation was thus provably taken over by Christianity, not as biblical doctrine but as a later tradition in order to compete with the Pagan cults, a move we contend occurred with numerous other “Christian” motifs, including many that are in the New Testament”.
I know some Christians who have this mindset! John and I give what we believe strong evidence that Christ was born on Christmas Day. This is attested by what we want to show through science, the bible, Jewish tradition, and history. You can check out this radio program in the Archives and follow along with John’s Christmas story.
The following is a defense for the historic truth behind Christmas. The opponents of Christmas coming from various points of view have a deep bias against the Catholic Faith. They have a canned ready response to Christmas and we see this all the time from Atheists to Anti-Catholic Protestants.
Two things to consider that is happening almost simultaneously yet independent of each other that bares much into this discussion:
October 3 B.C. The Day of Atonement-Yom Kippur, the busiest Temple day of the Temple year (Luke 1:10) sometime late March early April. The Angel of the Lord appeared to Zachariah and announced the coming of John the Baptist.
September 3 B.C. The planet Jupiter was in conjunction with Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation of Leo-Leo the Lion. This would be the star the wise men would follow leading them to Bethlehem. They followed the star for about 16 months until the Star rested over Bethlehem for six days beginning on Dec 25, 2 B.C.
For many Catholics, it matters not the actual day, so they do not get into the arguments but are often stumped when pressed about the “pagan” roots of Christmas.
The following research points to reliable, historical facts taken from scripture, history, tradition, and science.
“The Case for December 25, 2 B.C”.
Year after year, I hear the same arguments against the traditional date of December 25th as the date of the birth of Christ. Many of these arguments are based on incorrect interpretations and flawed logic. Some are downright silly.
The purpose of this article (and the accompanying show) is to refute the nonsensical claims that Christmas is derived from paganism. That case we will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Misconception #1 December 25th was only chosen because it coincided with a Roman pagan feast.
Though it is true that December 25th was a pagan feast under the Roman calendar, the same is true of just about every other day on the calendar. It is also true that the early church made December 25th a Holy day of obligation, at the council of nicea in 325 AD, as a strategic move to prevent Christians from attending that pagan feast, but that does not mean the date was chosen for that purpose.
The truth is that the celebration of December 25th as the Nativity of Our Lord can be traced back at least to 125 AD and the institution of the Midnight Christmas Mass by Bishop Telesphorus of Rome. Early Church Fathers Tertullion, Hippolytus, Cyril of Alexandria, and John Chrysostom all identified either December 25th or January 6th as Christ’s date of birth. Pope Julius in the 4th century examined census documents brought by Titus to Rome to calculate the birth date of Christ and he, also, arrived at the date December 25.
In fact, as far back as we can go, only two dates were generally excepted- December 25th and January 6th, with the majority adhering to the December date. This is why the early church established this space of time as the Christmas season.
In the 2nd century, a massacre in the catacombs on December 25th was recorded as having occurred on the date of the Nativity.
Alfred Edersheim, a Messianic Jew, wrote, “There is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date. The objections generally made rest on grounds which seem to me historically untenable.”
Again, this does not prove that December 25th was in fact the birth date of Jesus Christ. however, it does prove- beyond a shadow of a doubt- that the celebration of Christmas on December 25th, predates the edict of Milan by at least 200 years and can be placed within less than a century from the death of the Savior.
Misconception #2 There is nothing in Scripture that suggests late December as the birth of Christ.
This misconception springs from the assumption mentioned above that the date was chosen out of thin air or specifically to compete with (or worse yet, to incorporate) the pagan feasts. The fact is that the Biblical case for a late December Nativity is very strong.
The biggest misconception occurs with Luke chapter 1 and Zachariah’s service in the Temple.
Abijah was one of the 24 Priestly courses established under King David. You can read about it in 1 Chronicles. The rotation began with the start of the Jewish year. Abijah would have served in the 8th and 32nd weeks of the regular rotations, excepting the three major feast days. This filled the 51 weeks of the Jewish Calendar.
The biggest mistake many people make is that they go by the Priestly schedule set forth in 1 Chronicles 24:7-10 and apply it to Jesus time. The problem is that after the Temple was destroyed on the 9th of Av, B.C. 586 (Tish’a B’ Av), and rebuilt, this day of destruction became a fast day and was established as the new beginning day of the rotation.
We know that this new rotation was still in effect in 70 AD because the first course was serving on the 9th of Av of that year when- incredibly- the Temple was destroyed on the same day. Historical records prove this.
This means that Zechariah’s course would have been serving their second go around about October 2nd- 9th, commencing with the day of Atonement- Yom Kippor. As the busiest Temple day of the Temple year, it certainly would explain why the whole multitude was in the Temple (Luke 1:10).
The Scriptures tell us that Elizabeth was in her sixth month when Mary conceived ( Luke 1:26-35). That put us to Late March/ Early April. Add 9 months for her pregnancy and bang- Late December, Early January.
Misconception #3 The shepherds could not have been tending their sheep in the dead of winter. So Jesus must have been born in the spring or summer.
Southern Israel’s weather in late December is actually quite mild and would have have actually been the very best time for grazing sheep. This argues for the second course of Abijah in the Temple. If it had been the first course, it would have occurred in about February. Not only is this inadequate to explain the large multitudes, it places the sheep in the fields in late spring during the dry season when the fields would be barren.
The second- and even stronger- argument is the area of Israel that is cold and snowy- the hill country. If we are to believe that Jesus was born in spring or summer, then we must believe that Mary traveled to the hill country by herself, in the dead of winter, to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
Misconception #4- Herod’s death Herod the Great died in the spring of 4 BC and this does not fit with a winter birth because the Scripture says that his death occurred soon after Jesus’ birth.
It was commonly believed that Herod the Great died following an eclipse in March of 4 BC. However, the Jewish writer Josephus doesn’t give the date per se. He simply mentions an eclipse and other events.
The late Father William Most, one of the preeminent Scripture scholars of our time has much to say on this.
For a Scripture scholar of Father Most’s stature to insist on the January, 1 BC date as the death of Herod lends great credence to this position.
Further, Father Most addresses 2 of the most common objections;
Misconception #5 The Census. The Census could not have occurred in the winter and Quirinius was not Governor until 6 AD.
Therefore, it is highly possible, even probable, that Quirinius would have been acting as Governor for the implementation of the census in late 2 BC.
Coinciding almost precisely with the time Zacharias would have been serving in the Temple, a mysterious star began rising over the middle east in what is now probably Iraq. This star was in fact the planet Jupiter. It would continue it’s rise for about 9 months.
What happens next is simply astounding. Again, Father Most;
The only thing that could add to this would be a neon sign saying Jesus Christ, born here December 25.
The June convergence of Jupiter and Saturn would have been so spectacular as to dwarf anything before or since. It also would have coincided with the birth of John the Baptist. The Magi would certainly have seen this as the sign and began their journey which would have led them to Jerusalem. As they arrive in Jerusalem and inquire about the child, Herod asks them when they first saw the star at it’s rising. This would have been about 15 months. It is not a stretch to say that Herod rounded this figure off to 2 years to determine which children to slaughter.
The star then went before the Magi and rested over Jerusalem on December 25th. It was about a 6-12 day journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. This does not take us beyond January 6th- the traditional day of the visit of the Magi.
It is less than a week to the eclipse that marks God’s judgment on the life of Herod for his abominable crimes.
After this, anyone who says there is no case for December 25th just isn’t being honest.
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