The Birth-day Of Christ Jesus





Christmas--December the 25th--is a day which has been set apart by the

Christian church on which to celebrate the birth of their Lord and

Saviour, Christ Jesus, and is considered by the majority of persons to

be really the day on which he was born. This is altogether erroneous, as

will be seen upon examination of the subject.



There was no uniformity in the period of observing the Nativity among

the early Christian churches; some held the festival in the month of May

or April, others in January.[359:1]



The year in which he was born is also as uncertain as the month or

day. "The year in which it happened," says Mosheim, the ecclesiastical

historian, "has not hitherto been fixed with certainty, notwithstanding

the deep and laborious researches of the learned."[359:2]



According to IRENAEUS (A. D. 190), on the authority of "The Gospel," and

"all the elders who were conversant in Asia with John, the disciple of

the Lord," Christ Jesus lived to be nearly, if not quite, fifty years

of age. If this celebrated Christian father is correct, and who can say

he is not, Jesus was born some twenty years before the time which has

been assigned as that of his birth.[359:3]



The Rev. Dr. Giles says:



"Concerning the time of Christ's birth there are even

greater doubts than about the place; for, though the four

Evangelists have noticed several contemporary facts, which

would seem to settle this point, yet on comparing these dates

with the general history of the period, we meet with serious

discrepancies, which involve the subject in the greatest

uncertainty."[359:4]



Again he says:



"Not only do we date our time from the exact year in which

Christ is said to have been born, but our ecclesiastical

calendar has determined with scrupulous minuteness the day and

almost the hour at which every particular of Christ's

wonderful life is stated to have happened. All this is

implicitly believed by millions; yet all these things are

among the most uncertain and shadowy that history has

recorded. We have no clue to either the day or the time of

year, or even the year itself, in which Christ was

born."[360:1]



Some Christian writers fix the year 4 B. C., as the time when he was

born, others the year 5 B. C., and again others place his time of birth

at about 15 B. C. The Rev. Dr. Geikie, speaking of this, in his Life of

Christ, says:



"The whole subject is very uncertain. Ewald appears to fix

the date of the birth at five years earlier than our era.

Petavius and Usher fix it on the 25th of December, five

years before our era. Bengel on the 25th of December, four

years before our era; Anger and Winer, four years before our

era, in the Spring; Scaliger, three years before our era,

in October; St. Jerome, three years before our era, on

December 25th; Eusebius, two years before our era, on

January 6th; and Idler, seven years before our era, in

December."[360:2]



Albert Barnes writes in a manner which implies that he knew all about

the year (although he does not give any authorities), but knew nothing

about the month. He says:



"The birth of Christ took place four years before the common

era. That era began to be used about A. D. 526, being first

employed by Dionysius, and is supposed to have been placed

about four years too late. Some make the difference two,

others three, four, five, and even eight years. He was born at

the commencement of the last year of the reign of Herod, or at

the close of the year preceding."[360:3]



"The Jews sent out their flocks into the mountainous and

desert regions during the summer months, and took them up in

the latter part of October or the first of November, when the

cold weather commenced. . . . It is clear from this that our

Saviour was born before the 25th of December, or before what

we call Christmas. At that time it is cold, and especially

in the high and mountainous regions about Bethlehem. God has

concealed the time of his birth. There is no way to ascertain

it. By different learned men it has been fixed at each month

in the year."[360:4]



Canon Farrar writes with a little more caution, as follows:



"Although the date of Christ's birth cannot be fixed with

absolute certainty, there is at least a large amount of

evidence to render it probable that he was born four years

before our present era. It is universally admitted that our

received chronology, which is not older than Dionysius

Exignus, in the sixth century, is wrong. But all attempts to

discover the month and the day are useless. No data

whatever exists to enable us to determine them with even

approximate accuracy."[360:5]



Bunsen attempts to show (on the authority of Irenaeus, above quoted),

that Jesus was born some fifteen years before the time assigned, and

that he lived to be nearly, if not quite, fifty years of age.[361:1]



According to Basnage,[361:2] the Jews placed his birth near a century

sooner than the generally assumed epoch. Others have placed it even in

the third century B. C. This belief is founded on a passage in the

"Book of Wisdom,"[361:3] written about 250 B. C., which is supposed to

refer to Christ Jesus, and none other. In speaking of some individual

who lived at that time, it says:



"He professeth to have the knowledge of God, and he calleth

himself the child of the Lord. He was made to reprove our

thoughts. He is grievous unto us even to behold; for his life

is not like other men's, his ways are of another fashion. We

are esteemed of him as counterfeits; he abstaineth from our

ways as from filthiness; he pronounceth the end of the just to

be blessed, and maketh his boast that God is his father. Let

us see if his words be true; and let us prove what shall

happen in the end of him. For if the just man be the son of

God, he (God) will help him, and deliver him from the hand of

his enemies. Let us examine him with despitefulness and

torture, that we may know his meekness, and prove his

patience. Let us condemn him with a shameful death; for by his

own saying he shall be respected."



This is a very important passage. Of course, the church claim it to be a

prophecy of what Christ Jesus was to do and suffer, but this does not

explain it.



If the writer of the "Gospel according to Luke" is correct, Jesus was

not born until about A. D. 10, for he explicitly tells us that this

event did not happen until Cyrenius was governor of Syria.[361:4] Now it

is well known that Cyrenius was not appointed to this office until long

after the death of Herod (during whose reign the Matthew narrator

informs us Jesus was born[361:5]), and that the taxing spoken of by the

Luke narrator as having taken place at this time, did not take place

until about ten years after the time at which, according to the Matthew

narrator, Jesus was born.[361:6]



Eusebius, the first ecclesiastical historian,[361:7] places his birth at

the time Cyrenius was governor of Syria, and therefore at about A. D.

10. His words are as follows:



"It was the two and fortieth year after the reign of Augustus

the Emperor, and the eight and twentieth year after the

subduing of Egypt, and the death of Antonius and Cleopatra,

when last of all the Ptolemies in Egypt ceased to bear rule,

when our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ, at the time of the

first taxing--Cyrenius, then President of Syria--was born in

Bethlehem, a city of Judea, according unto the prophecies in

that behalf premised."[362:1]



Had the Luke narrator known anything about Jewish history, he never

would have made so gross a blunder as to place the taxing of Cyrenius in

the days of Herod, and would have saved the immense amount of labor that

it has taken in endeavoring to explain away the effects of his

ignorance. One explanation of this mistake is, that there were two

assessments, one about the time Jesus was born, and the other ten years

after; but this has entirely failed. Dr. Hooykaas, speaking of this,

says:



"The Evangelist (Luke) falls into the most extraordinary

mistakes throughout. In the first place, history is silent as

to a census of the whole (Roman) world ever having been made

at all. In the next place, though Quirinius certainly did make

such a register in Judea and Samaria, it did not extend to

Galilee; so that Joseph's household was not affected by it.

Besides, it did not take place until ten years after the

death of Herod, when his son Archelaus was deposed by the

emperor, and the districts of Judea and Samaria were thrown

into a Roman province. Under the reign of Herod, nothing of

the kind took place, nor was there any occasion for it.

Finally, at the time of the birth of Jesus, the Governor of

Syria was not Quirinius, but Quintus Sentius

Saturninus."[362:2]



The institution of the festival of the Nativity of Christ Jesus being

held on the 25th of December, among the Christians, is attributed to

Telesphorus, who flourished during the reign of Antonius Pius (A. D.

138-161), but the first certain traces of it are found about the time

of the Emperor Commodus (A. D. 180-192).[362:3]



For a long time the Christians had been trying to discover upon what

particular day Jesus had possibly or probably come into the world; and

conjectures and traditions that rested upon absolutely no foundation,

led one to the 20th of May, another to the 19th or 20th of April, and a

third to the 5th of January. At last the opinion of the community at

Rome gained the upper hand, and the 25th of December was fixed

upon.[362:4] It was not until the fifth century, however, that this

day had been generally agreed upon.[362:5] How it happened that this

day finally became fixed as the birthday of Christ Jesus, may be

inferred from what we shall now see.



On the first moment after midnight of the 24th of December (i. e., on

the morning of the 25th), nearly all the nations of the earth, as if by

common consent, celebrated the accouchement of the "Queen of Heaven,"

of the "Celestial Virgin" of the sphere, and the birth of the god

Sol.



In India this is a period of rejoicing everywhere.[363:1] It is a

great religious festival, and the people decorate their houses with

garlands, and make presents to friends and relatives. This custom is

of very great antiquity.[363:2]



In China, religious solemnities are celebrated at the time of the

winter solstice, the last week in December, when all shops are shut

up, and the courts are closed.[363:3]



Buddha, the son of the Virgin Maya, on whom, according to Chinese

tradition, "the Holy Ghost" had descended, was said to have been born on

Christmas day, December 25th.[363:4]



Among the ancient Persians their most splendid ceremonials were in

honor of their Lord and Saviour Mithras; they kept his birthday, with

many rejoicings, on the 25th of December.



The author of the "Celtic Druids" says:



"It was the custom of the heathen, long before the birth of

Christ, to celebrate the birth-day of their gods," and that,

"the 25th of December was a great festival with the

Persians, who, in very early times, celebrated the birth of

their god Mithras."[363:5]



The Rev. Joseph B. Gross, in his "Heathen Religion," also tells us

that:



"The ancient Persians celebrated a festival in honor of

Mithras on the first day succeeding the Winter Solstice,

the object of which was to commemorate the Birth of

Mithras."[363:6]



Among the ancient Egyptians, for centuries before the time of Christ

Jesus, the 25th of December was set aside as the birthday of their gods.

M. Le Clerk De Septchenes speaks of it as follows:



"The ancient Egyptians fixed the pregnancy of Isis (the

Queen of Heaven, and the Virgin Mother of the Saviour

Horus), on the last days of March, and towards the end of

December they placed the commemoration of her

delivery."[363:7]



Mr. Bonwick, in speaking of Horus, says:



"He is the great God-loved of Heaven. His birth was one of the

greatest mysteries of the Egyptian religion. Pictures

representing it appeared on the walls of temples. One passed

through the holy Adytum[364:1] to the still more sacred

quarter of the temple known as the birth-place of Horus. He

was presumably the child of Deity. At Christmas time, or

that answering to our festival, his image was brought out of

that sanctuary with peculiar ceremonies, as the image of the

infant Bambino[364:2] is still brought out and exhibited in

Rome."[364:3]



Rigord observes that the Egyptians not only worshiped a Virgin Mother

"prior to the birth of our Saviour, but exhibited the effigy of her son

lying in the manger, in the manner the infant Jesus was afterwards laid

in the cave at Bethlehem."[364:4]



The "Chronicles of Alexandria," an ancient Christian work, says:



"Watch how Egypt has constructed the childbirth of a Virgin,

and the birth of her son, who was exposed in a crib to the

adoration of the people."[364:5]



Osiris, son of the "Holy Virgin," as they called Ceres, or Neith,

his mother, was born on the 25th of December.[364:6]



This was also the time celebrated by the ancient Greeks as being the

birthday of Hercules. The author of "The Religion of the Ancient

Greeks" says:



"The night of the Winter Solstice, which the Greeks named

the triple night, was that which they thought gave birth to

Hercules."[364:7]



He further says:



"It has become an epoch of singular importance in the eyes of

the Christian, who has destined it to celebrate the birth of

the Saviour, the true Sun of Justice, who alone came to

dissipate the darkness of ignorance."[364:8]



Bacchus, also, was born at early dawn on the 25th of December. Mr.

Higgins says of him:



"The birth-place of Bacchus, called Sabizius or Sabaoth, was

claimed by several places in Greece; but on Mount Zelmissus,

in Thrace, his worship seems to have been chiefly celebrated.

He was born of a virgin on the 25th of December, and was

always called the SAVIOUR. In his Mysteries, he was shown to

the people, as an infant is by the Christians at this day, on

Christmas-day morning, in Rome."[364:9]



The birthday of Adonis was celebrated on the 25th of December. This

celebration is spoken of by Tertullian, Jerome, and other Fathers of

the Church,[365:1] who inform us that the ceremonies took place in a

cave, and that the cave in which they celebrated his mysteries in

Bethlehem, was that in which Christ Jesus was born.



This was also a great holy day in ancient Rome. The Rev. Mr. Gross says:



"In Rome, before the time of Christ, a festival was observed

on the 25th of December, under the name of 'Natalis Solis

Invicti' (Birthday of Sol the Invincible). It was a day of

universal rejoicings, illustrated by illuminations and public

games."[365:2] "All public business was suspended,

declarations of war and criminal executions were postponed,

friends made presents to one another, and the slaves were

indulged with great liberties."[365:3]



A few weeks before the winter solstice, the Calabrian shepherds came

into Rome to play on the pipes. Ovid alludes to this when he says:



"Ante Deum matrem cornu tibicen adunco

Cum canit, exiguae quis stipis aera neget."



--(Epist. i. l. ii.)



i. e., "When to the mighty mother pipes the swain,

Grudge not a trifle for his pious strain."



This practice is kept up to the present day.



The ancient Germans, for centuries before "the true Sun of Justice"

was ever heard of, celebrated annually, at the time of the Winter

solstice, what they called their Yule-feast. At this feast agreements

were renewed, the gods were consulted as to the future, sacrifices were

made to them, and the time was spent in jovial hospitality. Many

features of this festival, such as burning the yule-log on

Christmas-eve, still survive among us.[365:4]



Yule was the old name for Christmas. In French it is called Noel,

which is the Hebrew or Chaldee word Nule.[365:5]



The greatest festival of the year celebrated among the ancient

Scandinavians, was at the Winter solstice. They called the night

upon which it was observed, the "Mother-night." This feast was named

Jul--hence is derived the word Yule--and was celebrated in honor of

Freyr (son of the Supreme God Odin, and the goddess Frigga), who was

born on that day. Feasting, nocturnal assemblies, and all the

demonstrations of a most dissolute joy, were then authorized by the

general usage. At this festival the principal guests received

presents--generally horses, swords, battle-axes, and gold rings--at

their departure.[365:6]



The festival of the 25th of December was celebrated by the ancient

Druids, in Great Britain and Ireland, with great fires lighted on the

tops of hills.[366:1]



Godfrey Higgins says:



"Stuckley observes that the worship of Mithra was spread all

over Gaul and Britain. The Druids kept this night as a great

festival, and called the day following it Nolagh or Noel, or

the day of regeneration, and celebrated it with great fires on

the tops of their mountains, which they repeated on the day of

the Epiphany or twelfth night. The Mithraic monuments, which

are common in Britain, have been attributed to the Romans, but

this festival proves that the Mithraic worship was there prior

to their arrival."[366:2]



This was also a time of rejoicing in Ancient Mexico. Acosta says:



"In the first month, which in Peru they call Rayme, and

answering to our December, they made a solemn feast called

Capacrayme (the Winter Solstice), wherein they made many

sacrifices and ceremonies, which continued many days."[366:3]



The evergreens, and particularly the mistletoe, which are used all over

the Christian world at Christmas time, betray its heathen origin.

Tertullian, a Father of the Church, who flourished about A. D. 200,

writing to his brethren, affirms it to be "rank idolatry" to deck

their doors "with garlands or flowers, on festival days, according to

the custom of the heathen."[366:4]



This shows that the heathen in those days, did as the Christians do now.

What have evergreens, and garlands, and Christmas trees, to do with

Christianity? Simply nothing. It is the old Yule-feast which was held

by all the northern nations, from time immemorial, handed down to, and

observed at the present day. In the greenery with which Christians deck

their houses and temples of worship, and in the Christmas-trees laden

with gifts, we unquestionably see a relic of the symbols by which our

heathen forefathers signified their faith in the powers of the returning

sun to clothe the earth again with green, and hang new fruit on the

trees. Foliage, such as the laurel, myrtle, ivy, or oak, and in general,

all evergreens, were Dionysiac plants, that is, symbols of the

generative power, signifying perpetuity of youth and vigor.[366:5]



Among the causes, then, that co-operated in fixing this period--December

25th--as the birthday of Christ Jesus, was, as we have seen, that almost

every ancient nation of the earth held a festival on this day in

commemoration of the birth of their virgin-born god.



On this account the Christians adopted it as the time of the birth of

their God. Mr. Gibbon, speaking of this in his "Decline and Fall of

the Roman Empire," says:



"The Roman Christians, ignorant of the real date of his

(Christ's) birth, fixed the solemn festival to the 25th of

December, the Brumalia, or Winter Solstice, when the Pagans

annually celebrated the birth of Sol."[367:1]



And Mr. King, in his "Gnostics and their Remains," says:



"The ancient festival held on the 25th of December in honor of

the 'Birthday of the Invincible One,' and celebrated by the

'great games' at the circus, was afterwards transferred to the

commemoration of the birth of Christ, the precise day of which

many of the Fathers confess was then unknown."[367:2]



St. Chrysostom, who flourished about A. D. 390, referring to this Pagan

festival, says:



"On this day, also, the birth of Christ was lately fixed at

Rome, in order that whilst the heathen were busy with their

profane ceremonies, the Christians might perform their holy

rites undisturbed."[367:3]



Add to this the fact that St. Gregory, a Christian Father of the third

century, was instrumental in, and commended by other Fathers for,

changing Pagan festivals into Christian holidays, for the purpose,

as they said, of drawing the heathen to the religion of Christ.[367:4]



As Dr. Hooykaas remarks, the church was always anxious to meet the

heathen half way, by allowing them to retain the feasts they were

accustomed to, only giving them a Christian dress, or attaching a new

or Christian signification to them.[367:5]



In doing these, and many other such things, which we shall speak of in

our chapter on "Paganism in Christianity," the Christian Fathers,

instead of drawing the heathen to their religion, drew themselves into

Paganism.





FOOTNOTES:



[359:1] See Bible for Learners vol. iii. p. 66; Chambers's Encyclo.,

art. "Christmas."



[359:2] Eccl. Hist., vol. i. p. 53. Quoted in Taylor's Diegesis, p. 104.



[359:3] See Chapter XL., this work.



[359:4] Hebrew and Christian Records, vol. ii. p. 189.



[360:1] Hebrew and Christian Records, p. 194.



[360:2] Life of Christ, vol. i. p. 556.



[360:3] Barnes' Notes, vol. ii. p. 402.



[360:4] Ibid. p. 25.



[360:5] Farrar's Life of Christ, App., pp. 673, 4.



[361:1] Bible Chronology, pp. 73, 74.



[361:2] Hist. de Juif.



[361:3] Chap. ii. 13-20.



[361:4] Luke, ii. 1-7.



[361:5] Matt. ii. 1.



[361:6] See Josephus: Antiq., bk. xviii. ch. i. sec. i.



[361:7] Eusebius was Bishop of Cesarea from A. D. 315 to 340, in which

he died, in the 70th year of his age, thus playing his great part in

life chiefly under the reigns of Constantine the Great and his son

Constantine.



[362:1] Eusebius: Eccl. Hist., lib. 1, ch. vi.



[362:2] Bible for Learners, vol. iii. p. 56.



[362:3] See Chamber's Encyclo., art. "Christmas."



[362:4] See Bible for Learners, vol. iii. p. 66.



[362:5] "By the fifth century, however, whether from the influence of

some tradition, or from the desire to supplant Heathen Festivals of

that period of the year, such as the Saturnalia, the 25th of December

had been generally agreed upon." (Encyclopaedia Brit., art. "Christmas.")



[363:1] See Monier Williams: Hinduism, p. 181.



[363:2] See Prog. Relig. Ideas, vol. i. p. 126.



[363:3] Ibid. 216.



[363:4] See Bunsen: The Angel-Messiah, pp. x.-25, and 110, and Lillie:

Buddha and Buddhism, p. 73.



Some writers have asserted that Crishna is said to have been born on

December 25th, but this is not the case. His birthday is held in

July-August. (See Williams' Hinduism, p. 183, and Life and Religion of

the Hindoos, p. 134.)



[363:5] Celtic Druids, p. 163. See also, Prog. Relig. Ideas, vol. i. p.

272; Monumental Christianity, p. 167; Bible for Learners, iii. pp. 66,

67.



[363:6] The Heathen Religion, p. 287. See also, Dupuis: p. 246.



[363:7] Relig. of the Anct. Greeks, p. 214. See also, Higgins:

Anacalypsis, vol. ii. p. 99.



[364:1] "Adytum"--the interior or sacred part of a heathen temple.



[364:2] "Bambino"--a term used for representations of the infant

Saviour, Christ Jesus, in swaddlings.



[364:3] Bonwick's Egyptian Belief, p. 157. See also, Dupuis, p. 237.



[364:4] "Deinceps Egyptii PARITURAM VIRGINEM magno in honore habuerunt;

quin soliti sunt puerum effingere jacentem in praesepe, quali POSTEA in

Bethlehemetica spelunca natus est." (Quoted in Anacalypsis, p. 102, of

vol. ii.)



[364:5] Quoted by Bonwick, p. 143.



[364:6] Anacalypsis, vol. ii. p. 99.



[364:7] Relig. Anct. Greece, p. 215.



[364:8] Ibid.



[364:9] Anacalypsis, vol. ii. p. 102; Dupuis, p. 237, and Baring Gould:

Orig. Relig. Belief, vol. i. p. 322.



[365:1] Anacalypsis, vol. ii. p. 99.



[365:2] The Heathen Religion, p. 287; Dupuis, p. 283.



[365:3] Bulfinch, p. 21.



[365:4] See Bible for Learners, vol. iii. p. 67, and Chambers, art.

"Yule."



[365:5] See Chambers's, art. "Yule," and "Celtic Druids," p. 162.



[365:6] Mallet's Northern Antiquities, pp. 110 and 355. Knight: p. 87.



[366:1] Dupuis, 160; Celtic Druids, and Monumental Christianity, p. 167.



[366:2] Anacalypsis, vol. ii. p. 99.



[366:3] Hist. Indies, vol. ii. p. 354.



[366:4] See Middleton's Works, vol. i. p. 80.



[366:5] Knight: Anct. Art and Mytho., p. 82.



[367:1] Gibbon's Rome, vol. ii. p. 383.



[367:2] King's Gnostics, p. 49.



[367:3] Quoted in Ibid.



[367:4] See the chapter on "Paganism in Christianity."



[367:5] Bible for Learners, vol. iii. p. 67.





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