Accurate Christmas Information....

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Scarlett O., Nov 2, 2015.

  1. Scarlett O.

    Scarlett O.
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    I could use some help here with the origins of Christians celebrating Christmas.

    I began teaching a community-wide Bible study in September and we have about 10 or so people coming and it is wonderful beyond words what God is doing - that's another story.

    Anyway, my plans are to teach everything about the Christmas story beginning this Thursday (three nights in November and three night in December).

    I want to cover everything:
    1. Jesus is God's Son and Jesus is God.
    2. Why he had to come to earth in the first place and why he alone, was the only choice.
    3. All the Old Testament prophecies concerning his birth and how they came true.
    4. The 400 years between the Old and New Testament and what was going on leading up to the birth of Christ.
    5. The announcement to Zechariah and Elizabeth and the birth of John the Baptist and his purpose.
    6. The two lineages of Christ in Matthew and Luke.
    7. I want to go into explicit detail about Herod, the Wise Men, the shepherds, the angel, Mary, Joseph, Anna and Simeon and present them and their stories realistically.
    OK, I've got all of that down.

    But I need some help in finding accurate information about the church's first acknowledgement and celebration of Christmas. Why the 25th of December? Why the traditions attached?

    I've got the basics of all that, BUT everywhere I look give slightly conflicting information :mad: and I do not want to teach anything incorrectly.

    Does anybody know of any resources that to the best of your knowledge is 100% accurate about the origins of the Church and Christmas as a religious holiday?
     
  2. John of Japan

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    I'm currently reading an excellent book to help me with the Survey of Church History class I teach: Ancient Christian Worship, by Andrew B. McGowan. He has 11 pages on the history of the Christmas celebration and its date which look to be a great help in this area. He deals with ancient and scholarly sources.
     
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  3. Deacon

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    Kenneth E, Bailey has a very interesting take on the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus. He writes about it in the first chapter of his book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (IVP, 2008)

    The Story of Jesus Birth, Luke 2:1-20 [LINK]

    After reading it you will never hear the story the same way again.

    Rob
     
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  4. Rippon

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    The Puritan Fathers in early America condemned Christ Mass as a Saturnalia-type of sacrilege. There are parallels. It is largely a pagan event in the West like Easter.
     
  5. Deacon

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    One of the Logos Free Books of the Month for this month has something:

     
  6. Scarlett O.

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    I read that with much interest and this is exactly what I am looking for - the truth.

    The only sentence in his commentary that bothered me was this: "He [Joseph] does not appear as an inept and inadequate husband who cannot arrange for Mary’s needs."

    There was no need for him to defend Joseph here. I have never heard Joseph described with anything but admiration, obedience, and faith.
     
  7. Scarlett O.

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    I've read about that.

    Part of the conflicting information I was getting was that early Christians established the celebration of Christ's Mass to deter Christians from being swept up into that pagan celebration (like Christians are today with Mardi Gras). And yet other places said that the winter solstice was chosen because it was the winter solstice - and Saturnalia wasn't an influence.

    There's my quandary.
     
  8. MB

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    The best thing about the birth of Christ is the fact He came to save the world. Christmas as Rippon says is really a pagan holiday. There is no way we can figure out Just when Christ was born because scripture doesn't tell us. I've heard estimates of the actual dates but like I said there is no way of knowing for sure.

    This doesn't mean that I do not celebrate His coming because I do. He came to save a lost world. How thankful I am that He did.

    The Bible's account of His birth is the best and most accurate
    MB
     
  9. Scarlett O.

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    Yes, I've known all of that for years. I've taught it for years.

    I wasn't looking accounts of the birth. I use the Bible for that. I was just looking for accurate information on when and why Christians began celebrating it as a holiday and why they chose December 25th - and all the resources available that I had looked at online were not agreeing with each other.
     
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  10. TCassidy

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    Today it is popular for preachers and teachers to dispel the "myths" of Christmas. It makes for great sensationalism but not for great reason or accuracy. There are several aspects of the traditional Christmas story that are under fire. While no one can positively set the exact time and scene of the first Christmas there is no biblical necessity for ignoring the biggest majority of our traditional understanding of these events.

    I. Jesus could easily have been born on December 25.

    The traditional date of December 25 for Christmas may well be in the proper time frame even if it is not perfectly correct. It has been the date commemorated for almost 1800 years.

    Edersheim 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."

    "The subject has been fully discussed in an article by Cassel in Herzog's Real. Enc. xvii. pp.588-594. But a curious piece of evidence comes to us from a Jewish source. In the addition to the Megillath Taanith (ed. Warsh. p. 20) the 9th Tebheth is marked as a fast day, and it is added, but the reason for this addition is not stated. Now, Jewish chronologists have fixed on that day as that of Christ's birth, and it is remarkable that, between the years of 500 and 816 A.D. the 25th December fell no less than twelve times on the 9th Tebheth. If the 9th Tebheth, 25th December, was regarded as the birthday of Christ we can understand the concealment about it."

    II. The shepherds did stay in the fields in December.

    "Equally so was the belief that He (the birth of Messiah) was to be revealed from Migdal Eder, the 'tower of the flock.' This Migdal Eder was not the watch-tower for the ordinary flocks which pastured on the barren sheep ground beyond Bethlehem, but lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem. A passage in the Mishnah leads to the conclusion that the flocks, which pastured there, were destined for the temple-sacrifices, and, accordingly, that the shepherds, who watched over them, were not ordinary shepherds. The latter were under the ban of Rabbinism on account of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances, and their manner of life which rendered strict legal observance unlikely, if not impossible. The same Mishnic passage also leads us to infer that these flocks lay out all the year round, since they are spoken of as in the fields thirty days before the Passover--that is in the month of February when in Palestine the average rainfall is nearly greatest." Edersheim

    III. The wise men came while Jesus was still an infant.

    There are several time landmarks in the gospels by which we can ascertain the time of the wise men's visit to the infant Christ.

    1. The taxing of the world by Caesar Augustus while Cyrenius was governor of Syria.

    2. The death of Herod the Great.

    3. The fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar.

    4. Jesus's age at the beginning of his public ministry.

    Any time setting for the visit of the magi must be consistent with all four of these dates.

    Caesar Augustus reigned from 31 BC until 14 A.D. Cyrenius was governor of Syria in 8 BC and again in 7 AD. Augustus conducted censuses three times in Italy: 28 BC. 8 BC. and 14 AD. He taxed Gaul in 27 BC. Egypt was taxed every 14 years starting in 20 BC.

    While we have no direct local records of such taxing in Palestine there is no reason not to believe that Caesar ordered the census and taxation of Palestine during the first governorship of Cyrenius. This helps to validate the general history of the account but is not specific enough to help us in the actual time placement of events.

    Luke 3:1 tells us that John began his ministry in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar. The same chapter v. 23 says that Jesus was baptized and began his public ministry when he "began to be about thirty years old." Tiberius came to the royal purple in 14 A.D. Working forward, his fifteenth year (counting the year of ascendancy as a year) would be A.D. 27. Subtracting the 30 years of Jesus's age brings us to 4 BC. Jesus must have been born between August of 5 BC and April of 4 BC (the month in which Herod died.) Historically we know that Herod left Jerusalem a few months before he died so that February of 4 BC is the latest that the wise men could have found him in Jerusalem. Even if Jesus was born in late August of 5 BC he could not have been more than five months old when worshiped by the wise men.

    In Luke 1:5 we see additional evidence for the December 25th date for Christ's birth.

    John the Baptist's father was said to serve in the Temple and was of the course of Abia, one of the twenty-four classes or courses of priests according to 1 Chron 24.

    Each course served for one week, twice a year. During the special sabbaths all of the courses served.

    It was while he was serving in the Temple that the announcement of the birth of John was made to him. Elizabeth conceived after his course of duty in the Temple.

    John was six months older then the Lord.

    When did the course of Abiah serve? According to the Misna, from the third week to the fourth week of September. So, if John was conceived in late September, he would have been born 9 months later, in late June. If Christ was six months younger, He would have been born in late December!

    One other very important point. The Eastern and Western branches of the Catholic Church have traditionally fought over the date of Easter, and Christmas. But the date of Christmas was much closer. The Western Church said December 25 and the Eastern Church said January 6. That is a difference of only 13 days. "Tradition" is not always wrong.

    Think About It!
     
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  11. MB

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    I know what you mean .It's just that what you're asking for, is mostly speculation. Some say that Christ wasn't born on the 25th of December. Although the truth is, they are only guessing. I think the Catholic Church set the date we have because, they didn't know it either, and I'm not sure if this is true or not. Lot's of pagan holidays were transformed into Christian Holidays as I've read. Reading it and seeing the proof of the claims are two different things.
    Pagans Like I've said before on this subject do not own any day. God owns them all. I can tell you that I've prayed about it and it is a matter of the Heart of what day you want to celebrate any particular event, on any given day.

    I celebrate Christ everyday He is my Savior and I'm thankful. I celebrate on December 25th. God knows what in my heart and that I'm only celebrating Him, not some pagan ritual.

    The short of it is, all there is is speculation on the birth of Christ out side of scripture.
    MB
     
  12. Revmitchell

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    Christmas is only pagan if you make it pagan.
     
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  13. Bro. James

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    A short kibbitz: as long as there are many religious folk who insist that the traditions of men are equal to the Word of God, there can be no real resolution of the issue. It is interesting that the practice of Christmas was outlawed in England and the U.S. in the not so distant past. The Mass of Christ is considered an abomination by those who know the Truth. This has been a major bone of contention for over 1600 years. Most folk believe exactly what they want to believe--regardless of the facts.

    Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

    Bro. James
     
  14. Revmitchell

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    I know of no one who makes the traditions of men ie Christmas equal to the word of God.
     
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  15. Bro. James

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    Truth is based on Scripture, Tradition, and the Pope:

    "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together and communicate one with the other." Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) Para 80.

    And Holy Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. CCC Para 81.

    There is a lot more interesting information in the chart provided by Richard Bennett, a former Roman Catholic priest, founder of Berean Beacon Ministries.

    A closer study of this issue will show that when there is a disagreement between Scripture and Tradition, the Tradition through the infallible Pope are the final authority.

    Not much wiggle room here. Sola Scriptura.

    Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

    Bro. James
     
  16. John of Japan

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    "Julian the Apostate, the nephew of Constantine who sought to restore the 'old' ways of pagan religion, seems to be the first to claim (in 362...) that the December 25 festival was an ancient Roman observance--trying to gain leverage from an established Christmas feast, and inventing a past wherein the divine sun had the prominence he, and some modern scholars, thought it really should have" (Ancient Christian Worship, p. 255).

    So the supposed heathen festival never really existed. But even if it had, it is a good thing to replace heathen festivals with something Christian. Many churches in Japan do this in August at the Obon festival time, which is heathen idolatry. In doing so, the churches give the believers, especially the immature ones, a way to avoid the idolatry safely and graciously.

    Also, remember please that churches in the 4th century were not yet the Catholic Church we see today, but were pretty Biblical for the most part. Most of the heresies of the modern Catholics did not come about until Gregory the Great (540-604): penance, purgatory, the Mass, transubstantiation, a celibate clergy, etc. (Who Was Who in Church History, by Elgin Moyer, p. 172).
     
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  17. Scarlett O.

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    Thanks, John.
     
  18. Bro. James

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    Blending a little untruth with a little halftruth is still untruth squared. Apostasy cannot reform idolatry. Hence the present day religious confusion. How does one reform apostasy?

    The Mass of Christ is still an abomination or it is not. It cannot be all of the above.

    God is not the author of confusion.

    Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
     
  19. John of Japan

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    Please show me the untruth and halftruth in what I have written. And show me where I am apostate. That is an extremely serious charge. Perhaps you should define the term first.

    I have to go give a test to my church history class. Perhaps you need to take the test, too. ;)
     
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  20. Bro. James

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    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Nothing intended in a personal sort of way--sorry you have been offended.

    Apostasy: falling away from The Truth. The Roman Church, so called, has been apostasizing since before Constantine foisted a cross on his battle flags. The Great One was a pagan. That he was ever truly converted is highly questionable. The Pontifex Maximus system is pure paganism. The Pontiff system is still around--controlling by the power of Satan, the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air--there are many daughters and grand daughters.
    Now what?
    I would love to take the church history test. There are probably others. Could you make it available on the www?

    Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

    Bro. James
     

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