Why December 25th? Some Interesting Ideas

Cecilie1200

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I can't personally speak to the verification of all of the archaeological and historical assertions in this opinion piece, but he does raise some interesting notions about the choice of date for Christmas in contradiction to the popularly-believed kneejerk concepts.

I know many people here will dislike the possibility of having their criticisms of Christianity taken away from them, and will jump to blindly shout out their preferred theories and canards in the hopes of drowning out any contradictions, but I hope some people will view this as a chance for some thoughtful discussion on the subject.

"One of the most popular theories and commonly taught explanations for why Christmas is on Dec. 25th is because the early church placed Christian holidays at times of Roman celebration to co-opt the local pagan festivals.

Christians placed Christmas on Dec. 25th to co-opt Saturnalia, the mid-winter festival, or possibly the Festival of the Unconquered Sun — Sol Invictus. The theory went that Christians could get the heathen to convert by co-opting their own holidays.

There is one problem — it sounds more convincing than it is. These theories did not start growing until the 12th century and only became popular once comparative religion became trendy after the 18th century. Going back to the earliest Christian church finds evidence that Christmas, though not initially celebrated, had starting being commemorated well before the Feast of the Unconquered Sun’s creation for entirely Christian reasons.

In Egypt, less than 300 years after Christ’s death, some Christians celebrated his birth in the spring. As the Biblical Archeology Society has noted, the earliest references to Christmas come at about 200 A.D., at a time Christians were not incorporating other religious traditions into their own. By 300 A.D., many Christians were celebrating his birth around Dec. 25th. Within 100 years, Christmas was on the calendar record. Christians looked to December because the early church was far more interested in Jesus’s death. His death and resurrection is what matters to the Gospel, and that was the date the early church focused on.

“Around 200 A.D., Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan in the year Jesus died was the equivalent to March 25 in the Roman calendar,” said Andrew McGowan last year at the Biblical Archaeology Society. That would be the day of Crucifixion. The math from there is rather simple. Nine months later would be Dec. 25. Early church history held as fact that the prophets and martyrs of the church were conceived on the day they died. So if Christ died on March 25, it was also the anniversary of his conception."


I have actually heard before of this particular early belief, although until I read this article, I hadn't really thought much about the connection.

"Separately, and more directly from the Bible, Luke 1 tells us Zacharias, John the Baptist’s father, was in the priestly division of Abijah. Based on a calculation of this and the division of priest in the temple in 70 A.D. when the temple fell, a number of early Church historians presumed Zacharias would have been in the temple in early October. Later historians, however, speculate it would have been June. The Gospel of Luke tells us when Zacharias left the temple, his wife conceived. “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazaerth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David,” Luke 1:25-26 notes.

Six months after Zacharias left the temple would be March as Mary’s time of conception. Fast forward nine months and again we find ourselves in December. With the very earliest Church fathers settling on March 25th as Christ’s death and believing fully that Christ’s death would occur on the anniversary of his conception, the early church reinforced its belief well before there is any written accusation or evidence of the church incorporating Saturnalia or Sol Invictus into its celebrations. It is important to note, however, that most scholars reject setting Christ’s birth to Zacharias’s temple service because of problems related to really knowing when he was there.

But there are three final points. One can look at all of this and conclude the church fathers got it wrong. But the real question is whether they themselves thought they got it wrong. They were pretty sure they were right. The earliest Christians refused to celebrate birthdays, but by 300 A.D., there was growing evidence the Church had noted Christ’s birthday around December 25th.

Second, some of the earliest traditions of the early Church held that Christ was born on what would be a Wednesday. This year, we too will celebrate Christ’s birth on a Wednesday.

Finally, the date of Christ’s birth is not important. What is important is that he is."


http://www.humanevents.com/2013/12/24/why-december-25/
 
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Delta4Embassy

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Think given the general absence of Biblical figures' birthdates in Scripture, an overall de-emphasis of such things may be going on. In fact, we don't seem to have Scriptural dates for anything mentioned. Only dates we have for various events comes from outside Scriptures. Of course, most every original text the Bible consists of only survives as fragments. Better Bibles leave the empty space empty or at least bracket off the 'educated guess' parts. So perhaps dates were originally included but none survive now. Or, more likely, dates are omitted since including them would then serve only to discredit claims. If we knew the precise dates for things we could verify or dispute events by cross-checking with Roman records or other neutral sources.

And of course it's worth mentioning, the Jews of Yeshua's time would have been using their own Hebrew calendar, not the Roman's Pagan, or latter Gregorian one.

And if Yeshua never actually existed, his birthdate doesn't matter. I think he did exist though as too many non-Christian sources say as much. When the Jews, Romans, Christians, and Muslims all agree on something, you can take it to the bank. :) Bible isn't the only Scriptures in existence, just the official version. Apocyphal texts likely point to a more exact guesstimate for things like his birth since they detail his youth contrary to conspiracy claims the account of his youth are missing. They're not missing, they're just not in the Canon-version.
 

iamwhatiseem

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I sincerely wish they would make Christmas the last Friday in December.
Sure would make it better.
Christmas on Wednesday sucks.
 
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Cecilie1200

Cecilie1200

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Think given the general absence of Biblical figures' birthdates in Scripture, an overall de-emphasis of such things may be going on. In fact, we don't seem to have Scriptural dates for anything mentioned. Only dates we have for various events comes from outside Scriptures. Of course, most every original text the Bible consists of only survives as fragments. Better Bibles leave the empty space empty or at least bracket off the 'educated guess' parts. So perhaps dates were originally included but none survive now. Or, more likely, dates are omitted since including them would then serve only to discredit claims. If we knew the precise dates for things we could verify or dispute events by cross-checking with Roman records or other neutral sources.
Untrue. While the Bible is not replete with specific dates, we do know, for example, that Christ's crucifixion took place around the same time as the Jewish Passover, which is why Easter now commemorates His death and resurrection around that time every year.

Also, you will notice in the story that certain other general references do exist. And I suspect the main reason the Bible doesn't provide specific dates is because the people of the times in which it was written weren't as precise and anal-retentive on the subject as we are now. Any archaeologist can tell you what a problem that is with MOST ancient societies.

The point of the article, though, is not whether or not the date is precise and accurate. The point is that there are other, likelier reasons for that date being chosen.

And of course it's worth mentioning, the Jews of Yeshua's time would have been using their own Hebrew calendar, not the Roman's Pagan, or latter Gregorian one.
I believe the conversion to the Gregorian calendar is, in fact, mentioned.

And if Yeshua never actually existed, his birthdate doesn't matter. I think he did exist though as too many non-Christian sources say as much. When the Jews, Romans, Christians, and Muslims all agree on something, you can take it to the bank. :) Bible isn't the only Scriptures in existence, just the official version. Apocyphal texts likely point to a more exact guesstimate for things like his birth since they detail his youth contrary to conspiracy claims the account of his youth are missing. They're not missing, they're just not in the Canon-version.
It is my understanding that most historians agree that Jesus is a real historical figure, although obviously there is much disagreement about whether He was the Messiah, a lunatic, or a con man.

It is assumed that His actual, precise birthdate does not, in fact, really matter (unless you're a historian and get off on that sort of thing). The point is commemorating the fact that He was born. And the point of this article is highlighting other possible reasons for choosing the date of commemoration than the ones most commonly assumed, which I notice you didn't bother to comment on at all.
 

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