Categorized | Religion

How Jesus Stole Christmas

According to newly retired bishop Teodoro Bacani Santa Claus is stealing the true spirit of Christmas. He said Filipinos should remember that Christmas is meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

What?

Jesus wasn’t born on December 25, so why will it be his birthday?

According to Robert A. Sungenis , in the year 532 the monk Dionysius the Little stated that Christ was born on December 25, 1 BC. Other Catholic apologists connect Jesus’ death at Passover to his birthday. This view was first suggested by French scholar Louis Duchesne in the early 20th century and was fully developed by American Thomas Talley (Louis Duchesne, Origines du culte Chrétien, 5th ed. (Paris: Thorin et Fontemoing, 1925), pp. 275–279; and Talley, Origins.) According to this theory, somewhere in 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus died was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar. March 25 is of course, nine months before December 25. This was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation—the commemoration of Jesus’ conception. Thus, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year. Exactly nine months later, Jesus was born, on December 25.

Nevertheless they are Catholic apologetics. Most Christians don’t even agree with Roman Catholics that Jesus was born on December 25. For them, it was a way for Roman Catholics to connect pagan tradition to Christianity.

The Bible is silent over the issue of Jesus’ birthday. The only Gospels who recorded Jesus birth were Matthew and Luke, yet they did not give any specific date.

So when was it?

The Gospel of Matthew claimed that Jesus was born in Bethlehem during the reign of King Herod the Great (ca. 73 BCE – 4 BCE). You can find it on Matthew 2:1. Anyway, according to the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius Herod died after a lunar eclipse. That eclipse was said to occurred somewhere between 4BCE to 1 BCE. If that’s the case, then Jesus was born within those dates, according to Matthew.

The Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:1-3) said that on the time of Jesus’ birth, there was a world-wide census ordered by Ceasar Augustus (27 BCE – 14 CE). Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was then governor of Syria in that time (which is mentioned by Luke in Gamaliel’s speech recorded in Acts 5:37). Quirintus was governor from 6 to 7CE.

Now, Matthew said it was between 4 to 1 BCE while Luke says it is between 6 to 7 CE – That’s almost ten years apart!

And what month was Jesus born?

Reading the nativity stories from Matthew and Luke it is impossible to imagine that it took place in December. The Hebrew’s “Tevet” the ninth month of the ecclesiastical year on the Hebrew calendar which corresponded to November–December is subjected to windy cold weather and chilling rains. Reading the Old Testament can give us some evidence that the weather is chilly (Jeremiah 36:22) and rainy (Ezra 10:9, 13). So how can shepherds heard their sheep in a cold, rainy evening and do you think the Wise Men can see a bright star in a cloudy night?

Pagan Origin?

According to Werner Keller’s book The Bible as History, “December 25 is referred to in documents as Christmas Day in A.D. 324 for the first time. Under the Roman emperor Justinian [A.D. 527-565] it was recognized as an official holiday. An old Roman festival played a a major part in the choice of this particular day. December 25 in ancient Rome was the ‘Dies Natali Invictus,’ ‘the birthday of the unconquered,’ the day of the winter solstice and at the same time, in Rome, the last day of the Saturnalia, which had long since degenerated into a week of unbridled carnival…”(p. 331)

G.J. Whitrow said that the first mention of Christmas day in the Roman calendar was in 354 CE. December 25 was chosen to be the birthday of Jesus Christ to exorcise the festival of the solar solstice (Time in History pp. 69-70).

What ever the reason, that was the time when Rome has found the practical use of Christianity and started replacing paganism. Well, it’s really more like “just changing its clothes.” Most pagan traditions were copied by Christians and used them as their own. Tertullian (160 – 230 CE), one of the early Christian leader, even complained that too many fellow-Christians had copied the Pagan practice of adorning their houses with lamps and with wreathes of laurel at Christmas time.

Happy Birtday Mithras

Before Christians started celebrating Jesus “birthday” on December 25, another god was celebrating it on the same date. Mithras precedes the Christian Jesus by at least 600 years and his festival was celebrated every December 25.

Mithraism became very popular in Rome, especially to Roman soldiers. Roman worship of Mithras began sometime during the early Roman empire, perhaps during the late first century of the Common Era (hereafter CE), and flourished from the second through the fourth centuries CE. At the time of Emperor Hadrian (76 – 138 BCE), Mithraism was an important religion to the Romans.

According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, Mithraism was emphatically a soldier religion: Mithra, its hero, was especially a divinity of fidelity, manliness, and bravery; the stress it laid on good fellowship and brotherliness, its exclusion of women, and the secret bond amongst its members have suggested the idea that Mithraism was Masonry amongst the Roman soldiery (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10402a.htm).

Mithra is said to be the god of light and justice. Independently of the Zoroastrian reform, Mithra retained his place as foremost deity in the north-west of the Iranian highlands. After the conquest of Babylon this Persian cult came into contact with Chaldean astrology and with the national worship of Marduk. Mithra became the divinity of the Sun.

Here Comes The Sun.

December 25 also correspond to the Feast of the Natalis Solis Invicti – the Roman Sun festival.

In 274 CE, the Roman emperor Aurelian (215-275) adopted the Sun as the Supreme God of the Roman Empire and called it the Unconquered Sun – Sol Invictus.

The Philocalian calendar of 354 AD gives a festival of “Natalis Invicti” on 25 Dec. As the Sun travel south it reaches its lowest point in the sky. That’s winter solstice and it occur between December 21- 22. The ancient believed that the Sun dies in that time since they always notice that it “stop moving.” By December 25 the Sun will be returning northward thus it is again reborn – that’s the time when Romans celebrate the feast of Sol Invictus.

According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, article on Constantine the Great:
“Besides, the Sol Invictus had been adopted by the Christians in a Christian sense, as demonstrated in the Christ as Apollo-Helios in a mausoleum (c. 250) discovered beneath St. Peter’s in the Vatican.”

The date for Christmas may also bear a relation to the sun worship. According to the scholiast on the Syriac bishop Jacob Bar-Salibi, writing in the 12th century:
“It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day.” (Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries, Ramsay MacMullen. Yale:1997, p. 155)

So with this kind of a rap sheet about Christmas, I think Jesus and Bacani have a lot of explaining to do.

 
DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.

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