Why 25 Dec?

From Me: The following are a series of snippets from a post by a theologian which should provide a course correction for any who are under any of the following delusions:

o Dec 25 is an actual birthday of part of the Christian god.

o and it is the “reason for the season.”

For the full post, see the link below.

from COGWriter:

Most who profess Christianity, as well as many who do not, now celebrate the holiday known as Christmas.

Since the date of Christ‘s birth is not mentioned in the Bible, it is not likely that the first century Christians could have celebrated it. Furthermore, the observance of Christmas is difficult to track to 2nd century Christians either, because there is no evidence that anyone kept Christmas that early. What is known, however, is that early Christians kept Passover, Pentecost, and other days considered to be of Jewish origin.

This is all taught, by the way, by the Roman Catholic Church, even though it now advocates the December 25th Christmas holiday.

Saturnalia and Christmas

The early Catholic Church did not celebrate Christmas. Furthermore, Tertullian (one of its leading 2nd/3rd century writers) warned that to participate in the winter celebrations made one beholding to pagan gods.

“…the modern Christmas celebration is at the same time as the old Gentile Saturnalia holiday (and with many of the same elements, like wreaths and gift-giving),”

“…those who teach “Jesus is the reason for the season” are in error. The reason for the season appears to be that those who professed wanted to have a party. And did not care if the party was related to pagan gods.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches that:

Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church (Martindale C. Transcribed by Susanti A. Suastika. Christmas. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

The above is true.

An Armenian scholar called Ananias of Shirak, circa 600 A.D., wrote:

The Festival of the holy Birth of Christ, on the 12th day before the feast of the Baptism, was not appointed by the holy apostles, nor by their successors either, as is clear from the canons of the holy apostles…which is 6th of January, according to the Romans.

But many years after their fixing the canons, this festival was invented, as some say, by the disciples of the heretic Cerinthus; and was accepted by the Greeks, because they were truly fond of festivals and most fervent in piety; and by them it was spread and diffused all over the world.

But in the days of the holy Constantine, in the holy Council of Nice, this festival was not received by the holy fathers (Ananias of Shirak, On Christmas, The Expositor, 5th series vol. 4 (1896) Translation. pp.323-337, as reported by ccel).

Twelve days before January 6th is December 25th (see also Conybeare F.C. The Key of Truth: A Manual of the Paulician Church of Armenia. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1898, pp. 185). Hence, the above report suggests that December 25th was originally developed by the heretic Cerinthus.

Why would Cerinthus pick December 25th?

Probably because that was the day of celebration of the birthday of the sun-god Mithra. December 25th also took place during the Saturnalia, hence it was acceptable to at least two groups of pagans. Followers of Mithra represented an influential group in the Roman Empire. Other practices associated with Mithraism have become part of the Roman and Orthodox Catholic churches (such as their communion services) (for more details, please check out the documented article Do You Practice Mithraism?).

Cerinthus was a heretic who the Apostle John publicly denounced towards the end of the first century. Notice that Irenaeus wrote that John detested Cerinthus so much that he would not even take a bath in the same building as him:

There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 3, Verse 4).

Why would anyone want to observe a holiday started by an “enemy of truth” that was denounced so strongly by the Apostle John?

Well, at least until the Council of Nicea, the December 25th Christmas holiday was not even accepted by the Roman Catholics.

The Roman Catholics have also condemned Cerinthus as a heretic:

Cerinthus A Gnostic-Ebionite heretic, contemporary with St. John…Cerinthus was an Egyptian, and if not by race a Jew…Cerinthus’s doctrines were a strange mixture of Gnosticism, Judaism, Chiliasm, and Ebionitism (Arendzen J.P. Transcribed by William D. Neville. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Yet, the Church in Rome did endorse Christmas, however, no later than by the latter half of the fourth century. Astoundingly the Roman Catholics adopted it when it essentially absorbed the followers of Mithraism (see also Do You Practice Mithraism?).

Notice the following:

Mithraism A pagan religion consisting mainly of the cult of the ancient Indo-Iranian Sun-god Mithra. It entered Europe from Asia Minor after Alexander’s conquest, spread rapidly over the whole Roman Empire at the beginning of our era, reached its zenith during the third century, and vanished under the repressive regulations of Theodosius at the end of the fourth century…Helios Mithras is one god…Sunday was kept holy in honour of Mithra, and the sixteenth of each month was sacred to him as mediator. The 25 December was observed as his birthday, the natalis invicti, the rebirth of the winter-sun, unconquered by the rigours of the season (Arendzen. J.P. Transcribed by John Looby. Mithraism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor.Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

The World Book Encyclopedia notes,

In 354 A.D., Bishop Liberius of Rome ordered the people to celebrate on December 25. He probably chose this date because the people of Rome already observed it as the Feast of Saturn, celebrating the birthday of the sun (Sechrist E.H. Christmas. World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 3. Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, Chicago, 1966, pp. 408-417).

It needs to be understood that some scholarly sources believe that the celebration in Rome of Christmas may have began 2-3 decades earlier (by Constantine), but none I am aware of suggest it was prior Constantine in the fourth century.

There have been scholars who believe that Constantine was involved as tradition claims a certain church in Rome as the first site of a December 25th “Christmas” celebration as the following 2007 news account indicates:

The church where the tradition of celebrating Christmas on Dec. 25 may have begun was built near a pagan shrine as part of an effort to spread Christianity, a leading Italian scholar says.

Italian archaeologists last month revealed an underground grotto that they believe ancient Romans revered as the place where a wolf nursed Rome’s legendary founder, Romulus, and his twin brother, Remus. A few feet from the grotto, or “Lupercale,” the Emperor Constantine built the Basilica of St. Anastasia, where some believe Christmas was first celebrated on Dec. 25…

It opted to mark Christmas, then celebrated at varying dates, on Dec. 25 to coincide with the Roman festival celebrating the birth of the sun god, Andrea Carandini, a professor of archaeology at Rome’s La Sapienza University, told reporters Friday. The Basilica of St. Anastasia was built as soon as a year after the Nicaean Council. It probably was where Christmas was first marked on Dec. 25, part of broader efforts to link pagan practices to Christian celebrations in the early days of the new religion, Mr. Carandini said. “The church was built to Christianize these pagan places of worship,” he said. “It was normal to put a church near these places to try to ‘save’ them.” Rome’s archaeological superintendent, Angelo Bottini, who did not take part in Mr. Carandini’s research, said that hypothesis was “evocative and coherent” and “helps us understand the mechanisms of the passage from paganism to Christianity.” (Scholars link 1st yule church to pagan shrine. Washington Times – Dec 23, 2007 ROME (AP). http://washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071223/FOREIGN/924350661/1001 viewed 12/24/07).

And the December 25th date was adopted apparently because the Greco-Roman church was filled with people who did not care that this was the Saturnalis/Mithra birthday (see also Do You Practice Mithraism?), so calling it by the name of Christ somehow was believed to make the sun rebirth activities more acceptable.

And the December 25th Christmas did not become part of the observations in Constantinople until the famous hater of Jews, John Chrysostum, introduced it there:

We may take it as certain that the feast of Christ’s Nativity was kept in Rome on 25 December…It was introduced by St. John Chrysostom into Constantinople and definitively adopted in 395 (Thurston. H. Transcribed by Rick McCarty. Christian Calendar. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York ).

Furthermore, here is even more that The Catholic Encyclopedia admits this about Christmas:

Christmas…Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts; Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday; Arnobius (VII, 32 in P.L., V, 1264) can still ridicule the “birthdays” of the gods.

Alexandria. The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. About A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria (Strom., I, xxi in P.G., VIII, 888) says that certain Egyptian theologians “over curiously” assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ’s birth, placing it on 25 Pachon (20 May) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus…

Cyprus, Mesopotamia, Armenia, Asia Minor. In Cyprus, at the end of the fourth century, Epiphanius asserts against the Alogi (Hær., li, 16, 24 in P. G., XLI, 919, 931) that Christ was born on 6 January…

Rome. At Rome the earliest evidence is in the Philocalian Calendar (P. L., XIII, 675; it can be seen as a whole in J. Strzygowski, Kalenderbilder des Chron. von Jahre 354, Berlin, 1888), compiled in 354, which contains three important entries. In the civil calendar 25 December is marked “Natalis Invicti”…

By the time of Jerome and Augustine, the December feast is established, though the latter (Epp., II, liv, 12, in P.L., XXXIII, 200) omits it from a list of first-class festivals. From the fourth century every Western calendar assigns it to 25 December…

The Gospels. Concerning the date of Christ’s birth the Gospels give no help; upon their data contradictory arguments are based. The census would have been impossible in winter: a whole population could not then be put in motion…

Natalis Invicti. The well-known solar feast, however, of Natalis Invicti, celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date. For the history of the solar cult, its position in the Roman Empire, and syncretism with Mithraism, see Cumont’s epoch-making “Textes et Monuments” etc., I, ii, 4, 6, p. 355…The earliest rapprochement of the births of Christ and the sun is in Cypr., “De pasch. Comp.”, xix, “O quam præclare providentia ut illo die quo natus est Sol . . . nasceretur Christus.” – “O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born . . . Christ should be born.”…

Cards and presents. Pagan customs centering round the January calends gravitated to Christmas…

The yule log. The calend fires were a scandal even to Rome, and St. Boniface obtained from Pope Zachary their abolition (Martindale C. Christmas, 1908).

Hence it is clear that even early Roman writers such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen did not endorse Christmas, nor did Augustine even list it as an important holiday. And that even later Catholic sources recognize that it is not likely that a census (as shown in Luke 2:1) would be done during the winter–making a December 25th date of birth unlikely (it was also too cold for shepherds to spend the night with their flocks out in an open field, as shown in Luke 2:8, making a December 25th birth basically impossible).

It appears that towards the beginning of the third century, there were some in Alexandria (not Asia Minor, or even Rome) who began to feel that Jesus’ birth should be celebrated, and that it would be on May 25th. But later, in the fourth century, Christmas began to be celebrated with January 6th or December 25 being the dates observed (and that is believed to be because the sun-worshiping Emperor Constantine, or one of his successors, wanted to have a Sun holiday at the time of Saturnalia and Brumalia to placate the Gentiles–it should be noted that while Catholic scholars admit the probable pagan origins of the date and celebrations associated with Christmas, they tend to not believe that it was derived from Saturnalia).

Although it contains certain errors, even the popular novel The Da Vinci Code understood some of the relationship between sun worship and Christmas when it stated:

In Constantine’s day, Rome’s official religion was sun worship–the cult of Sol Invictus, or the Invincible Sun–and Constantine was its high priest…By fusing pagan symbols, dates, and rituals into the growing Christian tradition, he created a type of hybrid religion…

The pre-Christian God Mithras – called the Son of God and the Light of the World – was born on December 25…By the way, December 25 is also the birthday of Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus (Brown D. The Da Vinci Code. Doubleday, New York, 2003, p. 232).

While some may wish to argue with The Da Vinci Code, the truth, as even all the Catholic scholars admit, is that Christmas was not observed in the second century by the post-apostolic New Testament Church.

They also admit that practices associated with Christmas are of pagan origin, and many of them were condemned by early Catholic leaders. And even the name Natalis Invicti, which the Catholics admit the date of the Christmas celebration probably came from is a pagan festival that literally means invincible birth and that is referring to the so-called invincible birth of the sun, not Christ.

Why would the Gospels not be of no help in determining the date?

Precisely because God did not have the date recorded. Nor is it likely that Jesus was born in the winter.

It is of interest to note that God said He did not let the children of Israel see Him, lest they try to make images of Him (Deuteronomy 4:15-19). Thus it is logical that God did not have the date of Christ’s birth clearly recorded as He did not want it to be observed.

Perhaps I should add that a book I bought at the Vatican in 2004 states the following about the eighth bishop of Rome (now called Pontiffs) and Christmas:

8. TELESPHORUS, ST. (125-136)…He prescribed fasting and penance in the seven weeks before Easter, thus initiating a practice that is still alive in the Christian world. He established that on Christmas eve priests could say three masses and he introduced the Gloria in excelsis Deo, which he himself may have composed, at the beginning of the mass (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, p.3).

That passage is clearly in error as there is no evidence that any in the second century celebrated Christmas.

More recently, a Roman Catholic author admitted the following:

So we don’t reject the use of trees at Christmas time because they were pagan, we continue to use them, because as symbols of life they now point to Christ. (Killian Brian. Halloween, as autumn celebration, reminder God’s name is hallowed. Catholic Online International News. 10/31/06. http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=21818).

Yet, the Catholic accepted English translation of the Bible, Douay Old Testament Of Anno Domini 1609 (DOT), teaches:

2 Thus saith our Lord: According to the ways of the Gentiles learn not: and (a) of the signs of heaven, which the heathen fear, be not afraid:
3 Because the laws of the people are vain: because the work of the hand of the artificer hath cut a tree out of the forest with an axe.
4 with silver and gold he hath decked it: with nails and hammers he hath compacted it, that it fall not asunder.. (Jerermie/Jeremiah 10:2-4, The Original And True Douay Old Testament Of Anno Domini 1609. Prepared and Edited by Dr. William von Peters, Ph.D. Copyright © 2005, Dr. William G. von Peters. Ph.D. 2005 copyright assigned to VSC Corp.).

29 When the Lord thy God shall have destroyed before thy face the nations, that thou enterest in to possess, and thou shalt possess them, and dwell in their land:
30 beware left thou imitate them, after they be subverted at thy entering in, and thou require their ceremonies, saying: As these nations have worshipped their Gods, so will I also worship.
31 Thou shalt not do in like manner to the Lord thy God. For all the abominations, that our Lord doeth abhor, have they done to their Gods, offering their sons and daughters, and burning them with fire (Deuteronomy 12:29-31, DOT).

God does not approve of trees that are decorated in worship or other practices associated with pagan worship. Such things should not be done by Christians. This is also shown in Protestant preferred translations of the Bible, like the King James Version as any one can check.

Furthermore, God warns that some even past their children through fire for these ceremonies. By the way, a substitute practice like that was associated with the Saturnalia, now renamed Christmas.

The Day for the God of the Sun Became the Day for the Son of God?

21st century non-Catholic historian Craig Harline wrote the following:

To begin with, Sun Day mattered more than even among Roman pagans, who still far outnumbered Christians and who may well have influenced how Christians worshiped on their special day…

More important in raising the status of Sun Day among pagans was Mithraism. This movement was related to the emperor’s Invincible Sun Cult but carried much broader appeal, especially among the empire’s multitude of soldiers. Followers of Mithra did emphasize Sun Day, and with greater impact than early Christians. In fact they may have influenced the Christian choice of the first day of the week for worship and some Christian forms of worship. Purification by baptism, the virtues of abstinence…setting aside heaven for the pure…and celebrating the birth of their God on December 25 are all allowable parallels.

Another was Mithraism’s treatment of Sun Day. Christians assigned their own meanings to such practices…Christ was the true Sun, and east was the direction in which Christ ascended into heaven…the similarities in worship, the new status of the first day among both groups at about the same time, the pagan assumption that Christians were fellow Sun-worshipers, and the emergence of the Christian metaphor “Christ the Sun” all suggest a connection of some sort (Harline C. Sunday: A History of the First Day from Babylonia to the Super Bowl. Doubleday, NY, 2007, pp. 5,9-10).

Is that not astounding? There is nothing in the Bible to suggest Jesus Christ is the Sun nor that east was the direction in which Christ ascended into heaven (to verify that latter point, simply read the account in Acts 19-11). Actually, the Bible is clear that humans are not to worship any celestrial bodies, which includes the sun (Deuteronomy 4:19).

Although in English, the terms “son” and “sun” sound exactly the same, that is not the case in either Greek nor Latin. In Greek they are phonetically pronounced hwee-os and hay-lee-osrespectively (Source: Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). In Latin, they are spelled filius and sol respectively.

Furthermore, the Greek for the expression Christ the Sun would be Χριστός τό Ηλiου. Ηλiου meant sun, but was also the name of the sun god (Helios). Wikipedia has this interesting statement:

In Late Antiquity a cult of Helios Megistos (“Great Helios”) drew to the image of Helios a number of syncretic elements, which have been analysed in detail by W. Fauth by means of a series of late Greek texts, namely: an Orphic Hymn to Helios; the so-called Mithras Liturgy. Notice that Helios is tied to Mithraism. And that the cult of Helios drew syncretic elements (Helios. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helios verified 09/10/07).

Combining “Christianity” was pagan elements is syncretic.

Were Birthdays Celebrated?

The first century Jewish historian Josephus, who was familiar with some aspects of Christianity, noted that Jewish families did not celebrate birthdays:

Nay, indeed, the law does not permit us to make festivals at the birth of our children, and thereby afford occasion of drinking to excess (JosephusTranslated by W. Whiston.Against Apion, Book II, Chapter 26. Extracted from Josephus Complete Works, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids (MI), 14th printing, 1977, p. 632).

Since nearly all of the first Christians were Jewish, this may partially explain why the non-celebration of Jesus’ birth would be consistent with that custom.

However, even as more and more Gentiles began to profess Christ (so much so that they outnumbered those of Jewish heritage that did), the early Gentile leaders also did not endorse the celebration of birthdays.

The writings of the early third century Catholic theologian Origen show that most Catholics were against the celebration of birthdays.  

What Did Early Christians Observe?

Unlike with Christmas, God did inspire the recording of the dates of all the festivals that He called “my appointed Feasts” in the Bible (Leviticus, Chapter 23).

While everyone knows that Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:10) and the Passover (Matthew 26:18), many do not realize that the first century Christians observed the all holy days listed in Leviticus Chapter 23. Specifically the New Testament shows that they observed the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread (1 Corinthians 5:7-8), Pentecost (Acts 2:10;20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8), the Day of Atonement (called the Fast, Acts 27:9) and the Feast of Tabernacles (called the Feast, Acts 18:21). And that the fulfillment’s of the Feast of Trumpets is also described in the New Testament (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18; Revelation 8-11).

Actually, the Bible shows that feast days that God hates are those who have idols:

21 I have hated, and have rejected your festivities: and I will not take the odor of your assemblies…
26 And you carried a tabernacle for your Moloch, and the image of your idols, the star of your God, which you made to yourselves. 27 And I will make you remove beyond Damascus, saith our Lord, the God of hosts is his name. (Amos 5:21,26-27).

What is Christmas if not a renamed holiday to pagan idols like the above was?”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.cogwriter.com/christmas.htm

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