Some comments on Christmas

Discussion in 'Ancient History and Mythology' started by Thomas, May 25, 2017.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Inspired by a discussion with Juantoo3

    Easter is a Spring festival, common to many if not all traditions, globally. I see no contradiction in Revelation working according to the rhythms of nature.

    Passover is a Spring celebration — the Passion is explicitly linked to Passover?

    For Christmas, see below.

    Would not the Temple have been aligned with the solar calendar in mind? Also bear in mind that Judaism was not a sun cult per se. The Veil of the Temple, according to Josephus, was a cosmological diagram, and it was a given that when one entered the Holy and then the Holy of Holies, one was passing through the veils.

    Well that's an arboreal deity/fertility tradition. I've never seen any link between such ancient traditions and Christmas, other than those appearing much, much later — the last few centuries.

    I think you're quite wrong here. Franz Cumont (d1947) posited this connection, but later scholars dismiss it. Roger Beck calls it 'the hoarist of ideas'. "The (Mithraic) mysteries cannot be shown to have developed from Persian religious ideas, nor does it make sense to interpret them as a forerunner of Christianity.' (Manfred Claus "The Roman Cult of Mithras", p7).

    There is a link between Mithras and the Roman sun god Sol Invictus, and all the evidence suggests that the Mithraists took the date from the Sol Invictus cult.

    So where does the Christian Christmas come from?

    The celebration of Christmas as being appropriated from paganism has long been disposed of by sound scholarship. All the evidence shows that the early church was robust in separating itself from what it perceived as pagan practice. Not until the 6th century did the church begin to incorporate traditional festivals that they saw as corresponding to or at least not contradicting Christian teaching.

    By the 3rd century there were many and various dates bandied about as the birthdate of Christ. There still are. January 2, March 25, April 18-19, 20-21 or 24-25, May 20 and November 17 and 20 were all put up as dates. Contemporary literal readings add in dates around September.

    As for December 25, it's worth question why the Romans themselves came up with that date. It's the winter solstice on the Roman calendar.

    The winter solstice falls nine months after the vernal equinox, a date linked to the conception of Christ and His passion.

    The theory of cycles and the perfection of the Incarnation led early apologists to make certain assumptions. It is a traditional Jewish belief that great men lived a whole number of years, without fractions, so that Jesus was considered to have been conceived on March 25, as he died on March 25, which was calculated to have coincided with 14 Nisan.

    The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year. According to a semon of Augustine: "Hence it is that He was born on the day which is the shortest in our earthly reckoning and from which subsequent days begin to increase in length. He, therefore, who bent low and lifted us up chose the shortest day, yet the one whence light begins to increase."

    Linking Jesus to the Sun was supported by various Biblical passages. Jesus was considered to be the "Sun of righteousness" prophesied by Malachi. John's Gospel describes him as "the light of the world."

    An anonymous work known as De Pascha Computus (c243AD) linked the idea that creation began at the spring equinox (again, the idea of complete cycles), March 25, then the conception on March 28, the day of the creation of the sun in Genesis. One translation reads: "O the splendid and divine providence of the Lord, that on that day, the very day, on which the sun was made, the 28 March, a Wednesday, Christ should be born. For this reason Malachi the prophet, speaking about him to the people, fittingly said, 'Unto you shall the sun of righteousness arise, and healing is in his wings.'"

    A passage in Commentary on the Prophet Daniel (204AD) by Hippolytus of Rome identifies December 25 as the date of the nativity. This passage is generally considered a late interpollation. The manuscript includes another passage, one that is more likely to be authentic, that gives the passion as March 25.

    In 221AD, Sextus Julius Africanus gave March 25 as the day of creation and of the conception of Jesus in his universal history. This conclusion was based on solar symbolism, with March 25 the date of the equinox. As this implies a birth in December, it is sometimes claimed to be the earliest identification of December 25 as the nativity, and we know that December 25 was a date held by the Donatists in North Africa.

    Interestingly, the first mention of December 25 as the feast of Sol Invictus is not until 354AD. Emperor Aurelian gave the cult of Sol Invictus official status in 274AD, by which time the African Church at least had been using December 25 for 50 years!

    It's also worth noting this document, known as "The Chronography of 354", was written at the behest of a Roman Christian named Valentinus (not the gnostic of the same name).

    The original volume has not survived. It was thought to be in existence in the 7th-8th centuries. A number of copies were made at that time, with and without illustrations, which in turn were copied at the Renaissance.

    The most complete and faithful copies of the illustrations are the pen drawings in a 17th-century manuscript from the Barberini collection (Vatican Library, cod. Barberini lat. 2154).

    Various partial copies or adaptations survive from the Carolingian era and Renaissance periods.

    So who's to say that December 25 was not a later interpolation to bring Sol Invictus in line with Christmas?
     
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  2. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Indeed, and such Spring Festivals frequently included human sacrifice to insure fertility of the fields (The Golden Bough, -Sir James G Frazer). No doubt this is the connection Brian has made in the past on this subject, in that death and attendant resurrection were frequent themes in pagan agricultural religious practices, not only in Rome and Greece.

    A simple look at the timing shows that Jesus (Yashua) gave up the ghost at the same time in late afternoon when the Passover lambs were being slaughtered...so yes, the Passion *is* directly related to Passover. The Last Supper, was a "pre-Passover" meal Yashua prepared for his followers as a memorial, knowing He would not be present with them for the "real" meal.

    It wasn't until Nicea that this tie to Passover was officially broken and the Passion was moved onto the pagan Spring Festival instead as part of the bid to distance from Judaism.

    *What you have provided here are justifications (but not reasons) for moving the date in the case of Passover to Easter, and in the case of Christmas outright co-opting of a holiday. Yashua Himself said the birth is not important, it is the death that is important. My guess is this is why there is no firm connection in the Bible tying the birth of Yashua to any specific date.

    *see the next post to clarify

    Of course, any quick read of the construction instructions will explain that.

    I'm not seeing the bearing on the subject at hand. I also don't recall seeing this in Josephus, though admittedly I've only skimmed the History of the Jews.

    Even in the thread where we discussed this before it was shown how this practice dates back before the dawn of history, and showed the direct ties to the modern Sinder Claus. I haven't time at the moment to flesh this one out, I need to find the old thread and link it. The Old Testament Book of Jeremiah even speaks of the Yule Tide observance of the Winter Solstice, paraphrased from memory "What they do isn't bad, but neither is it any good." This predates Yashua by several hundred years.

    "Jeremiah 10
    1 Hear ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:

    2 Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.

    3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.

    4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

    5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good."

    Cumont is not the only to make this connection. It is the flippant dismissal, toss the baby with the bathwater type of scholarship that always leaves me scratching my head. I have seen this noted in many places, and will document at my earliest convenience, but the skinny is that while little is known about the secret, undocumented practices of the Mithraean Mystery Cult, what is documented (along with the Tauroctony) is that their Messiah was born of a Virgin on December 25 in a cave. (Ever seen the manger in Bethlehem where Jesus is said to have been born? It is a cave.) Now, the winter Solstice occurs a couple/few days before, and it is possible the Gregorian correction to the calendar messed that up, which I doubt but it isn't a deal breaker if so. Natalis Solis Invicti, the (Re)Birth of the Unconquerable Sun...is a totally unrelated event. That they share almost the same dates is irrelevant, and trying to tie them together is like tying a dog and a cat together by the tails because they are both housepets. It doesn't make them the same. Mithraism was a "cult" (western sense of the term here) among *some* soldiers, and it did get a lot of Roman spin (read that as "dilution" or "modification" to suit Roman sensibilities) as it entered from Persia sometime before the Nicean official sanction. I can look up the dates.

    Nicea did not officially authorize Christmas, which furthers supports my position that it was an insignificant observance (if at all!) among Christians at the time. However, as pagans were brought into the fold, "Christian spin" was layered onto established pagan traditions. December 25 was an established pagan tradition, and it was layered over with Christian symbolism during the period of transition.

    "Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

    Church of the Nativity is the oldest church in the Holy Land still in use, commemorating the birthplace of Jesus Christ (pbuh). Since St. Helena is believed to have built the Church of the Nativity, there are others who believe that it was the Emperor Constantine who ordered the construction of monumental churches to honor the three principal events of Jesus' life.
    [​IMG]
    The construction began in 326 AD, and with the aid of the locals' traditions who believed that the cave in which Jesus Christ (pbuh) was born was at the end of the village, the architects were able to construct the shape of the cave according to architectural and devotional requirements. The cave was encased by an octagonal structure forming the sanctuary of the basilica, which stretched away to the west in five aisles divided by four rows of monolithic columns."

    http://www.atlastours.net/holyland/church_of_the_nativity.html

    I have more but this will have to do for now. (Although the irony of returning again and again to "caves" is not lost on me...Prehistoric humans, Mithraeum, and the manger where Jesus was born....)
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2017
  3. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Sorry to quote myself, but the semantics here are too open to be meaningful. Your arguments in your first post are philosophical appeals to authority, to justify a political position. On the one hand the justifications have nothing to do with religion, and on the other hand they have everything to do with religion, how's that for irony? When one takes into account that at this particular day and time under discussion, religion and politics were synonymous, inseparable, and conjoined - which I know you will attempt to refute without demonstrating historic connection that cannot be denied - it makes it easier to understand what actually happened. You are attempting to use political, visceral, rhetorical justifications to validate the methods used, while overlooking what actually was done by denying why it was done. In the politest and loving chiding manner I can muster, it is whitewash.

    I do not deny anyone their traditions. But to suggest that tradition trumps history is a tragic position to hold, and one I cannot in good faith agree to, when we are talking history. (If we were talking faith and / or tradition, my argument would be more in agreement with you) I understand why these things were done, and I understand there are people who potentially benefit from these things having been done, but to suggest that not only were these things not done but that these things have always been when clearly history shows otherwise is an untenable position to hold...when discussing history.
     
  4. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Driving home from work tonight after writing this I was reminded of a short story by Rudyard Kipling. It has stuck with me these many years for the lesson it contained. I know I won't do his work justice, so all I ask is humor my memory...

    The condensed version of his story is that a young man was travelling home from India to England aboard a steam ship, when he witnessed a sea monster break the surface of the ocean, thrash about and die...and as the ship passed he watched the body sink into the deep.

    He knew the story was too incredible to be believed, and over a drink that night with an old man who also witnessed the event, explained how he wished to tell his tale but was concerned disbelief would ruin his reputation.

    And the old man explained to the young man, "Truth is like a naked lady. Sometimes it behooves a gentleman to look the other way and vow he did not see."

    That lesson has always stayed in the back of my mind. I see people denying truth all around me on a daily basis. I am every bit as guilty, but I like to think I see in myself what I also see in others, and try to understand why I do this when I do. For me it has been a sobering exercise.

    When it comes to religious or philosophical truth, I think this lesson is most accurate; for those who would defend such truths very often do so blindly and at all cost.
     
  5. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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  6. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Yes they are.

    The connection is universal because that's how nature is perceived — it is the underlying theme of the seasonal traditions.

    My contention throughout is that there is an intimate and immanent connection between the sublime and the mundane, because God is 'all in all'.

    Well I have demonstrated a clear and historical path. You simply insist otherwise, without presenting any evidence, other than circumstantial?

    In fact the material evidence of the Christian dating of Christmas as Dec 25 predates the Roman. If it were the other round, I'd be presented with that as a fait accompli.

    Well it does, if we're making claims about Jewish temple practice.
    Yes, the modern Santa stories are a European appropriation of the St Nicholas stories. And the St Nic stories got mixed in with all manner of local myth, folklore and latterly, consumer nonsense.

    Oh, this is disingenuous, juantoo3. The dismissal is not flippant. Rather it's founded on the issue that no materials actually support Cumont's thesis. His is all assumption.

    Evidence please.

    Please do. Please account why, in the Mithraic temples sites, are found plenty of examples of Roman syncretism, including the combination of Mithraic and Sol Invictus cults, if there is abolutely no connection between the two.

    Accordingly:
    Mithras Dec 25 :: Sol Invictus Dec 25 – totally unrelated.
    Sol Invictus Dec 25 :: Christmas Dec 25 – totally derivative.
    Yet all the evidence points the other way?

    I think your arguments are justifying your position.

    I will stay with the scholars on the matter. For my part, this conversation has reached its terminus.
     
  7. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    I'm sorry you feel the way you do, I thought we were having an insightful discussion. I hope you will reconsider.

    I will proceed just the same:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Mithraeum

    notably:
    "The site was excavated by W. F. Grimes, director of the Museum of London, in 1954.[1] The temple, initially hoped to have been an early Christian church, was built in the mid-3rd century[2] and dedicated to Mithras or perhaps jointly to several deities popular among Roman soldiers. Then it was rededicated, probably to Bacchus, in the early fourth century. Found within the temple, where they had been carefully buried at the time of its rededication, were finely detailed third-century white marble likenesses of Minerva, Mercury the guide of the souls of the dead, and the syncretic gods Mithras and Serapis, imported from Italy. There were several coarser locally-made clay figurines of Venus, combing her hair. The artefacts recovered were put on display in the Museum of London."

    -and-

    "An inscription dateable AD 307–310 at the site

    PRO SALVTE D N CCCC ET NOB CAES DEO MITHRAE ET SOLI INVICTO AB ORIENTE AD OCCIDENTEM
    may be translated "For the Salvation of our lords the four emperors and the noble Caesar, and to the god Mithras, the Invincible Sun from the east to the west" (Collingwood and Wright 1965, no. 4).[3]" -Such inscription would date to the time of Diocletian until Constantine abolished the Tetrarchy, some 20 years or so in and around the year 300 AD. The Tetrarchy was effectively abolished at the Milvian Bridge in 313, but it wasn't until the defeat of Licinius about 320 that the Emperorship was consolidated into one person once again.

    As for syncretism, did I not point out that Persian Mithraism was "diluted" (can't seem to find my original statement) that Mithraism was modified to suit Roman sensibilities? Actually, now that I think about it, syncretism in general was a widespread practice, even including Christianity in ongoing missionary outreach. I can agree there were "moments" when it may have been politically inappropriate, but the norm would appear, by examples around the world, to be that syncretism even among Christianity was a normative manner of dealing with missionary absorption. Even under Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire (slightly off topic but serves to illustrate my point), "heathens" were rounded up and marched through a stream while a priest stood upstream blessing the waters, baptizing the heathens whether they wanted it or not, rendering them tax paying subjects obligated to the King...and by extension, the Pope. Such people generally went back home to their hovels in the woods, and as long as they paid their taxes went otherwise unmolested.

    To continue...

    "The mithraeum was rebuilt soon after, but without the ante-room. Access was now directly into the shrine from the outside, and it is unusual that the community would not have wanted at least some form of ante-chamber, especially as they also reduced the free space within the shrine by extending the benches. The interior of the shrine was remodelled to include a stone podium in front of the apse (presumably for the tauroctony) and the lengthening of the benches. A new roof system was also put in with wooden posts standing in front of the benches. Five small uninscribed altars were found inside the nave, and the remains of a water-basin were recovered about two-thirds of the way along the northern bench.

    Gillam found two heads of Cautes and Cautopates, and speculated that this was the result of a deliberate decapitation of the statues. The lack of any trace of the tauroctony was also used to argue for a deliberate desecration of the shrine; however, in the absence of any single fragment of it and without knowing what the statue smashed in 1844 was of, it is hard to say for sure. Certainly pottery evidence spread over the temple shows that it was out of use by the mid-fourth century."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudchester_Mithraeum

    "Nearest to the fort, about 80 metres from its south-west corner, are the remains of an early 3rd century mithraeum, i.e. a temple of the mystery cult of the Roman god Mithras. Discovered in 1949 and excavated by I.A. Richmond and J.P. Gillam in 1950, it is the second-most northernly mithraeum discovered so far – only Bremenium (High Rochester), more than ten miles from Brocolitia, is further north.[7]:282[8]:77 The Brocolitia mithraeum is also the only sanctuary outside the Rhine provinces from which a monument of the goddess Vagdavercustis has been recovered. Like most other mithraea, the Brocolitia temple was built to resemble a cave, and also had the usual anteroom, and a nave with raised benches (podia) along the sides.

    At Brocolitia, the anteroom and nave were separated by a wattle-work screen, the base of which was found exceptionally well preserved. Excavations revealed three stages of development:[7]:292–293 the first stage was small, around 5.5 metres wide and 8 metres long.[8]:79 The building was expanded to 11 metres length in a second stage, at which time the temple also gained elaborate furnishings and extensive woodwork. This second stage existed for the entire 3rd century, and included at least two major renovations. The second stage was looted and the furnishings destroyed around 296–297 AD, but the sanctuary itself and the stone monuments remained intact, and the temple was re-equipped in a third stage shortly thereafter. The third stage includes three monuments by different cohort prefects, commanders of Cohors I Batavorum, a Roman Batavi unit of auxiliary cavalry stationed at Brocolitia.[8]:79 All three date to the 3rd century.[8]:79 The youngest coin found on the premises was a freshly-minted follis of Maximian (r. 296–308).[7]:296 This coincides with the third structural period on Hadrian's Wall (297–367), but the complete lack of coins from after 308 suggests that the temple did not remain in use for much of the 4th century.[7]:296 The temple was deliberately desecrated by the removal of the primary tauroctony scene, only a piece of which was found. Other than a collapsed roof, the temple was found almost exactly as the Romans had left it. The foundations of the temple are still visible, as are the wooden stakes on which the podia benches were raised. A reconstruction of the sanctuary is on display at the Great North Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrawburgh

    "The first phase of the temple[2] (and all subsequent temples on the site) was orientated on an alignment 30 degrees east of north at the foot of the western side of a small shallow valley. The building measured 14.6m by 6.55 and is tentatively dated to the third century AD, a period when the fort was occupied by the Cohors I Sunicorum. The shrine consisted of an anteroom (narthex) at the southern end, followed by the temple proper which consisted of a sunken central nave flanked by low benches. This is typical of mithraic temples and enabled the temple to be clearly identified despite no sculptural or epigraphic evidence being found. A rectangular alcove stood at the northern end and would have held the tauroctony. Untrimmed beach boulders were used for the walls, which must have given the structure a rustic look. No trace of the bonding mortar for the stones survived. Several fragments of purple Cambrian slate tiles were found belonging to the roof.

    The narthex, measuring 1.82m x 5.48m, was almost totally destroyed and no trace of any features survived, including the floor covering. The shrine measured 10.6m x 5.48m with a 2.43m wide niche at the northern end, 45 cm deep. The benches were 1.52m deep and 9.1 meters long. Steps must have led down into the nave, though this part was destroyed by the sewer trench. The bench tops were at ground level, the same level as the narthex. The only dating evidence came from a worn denarius coin of Faustina I (138-9 AD) found on top of one of the benches.
    ...

    The third and final phase[4] of the temple was preceded by the partial collapse of the roof. Broken slates were used to raise the level of the nave, maybe helping to avoid the waterlogging that may have affected the earlier two phases. This layer was sealed by a new cobbled floor throughout the nave. To compensate for the raising of the nave height, the benches and the area in front of the niche were raised. Small flights of two steps were now erected at the front of the benches near the entrance into the nave and steps were provided to lead up to the area in front of the niche. A stone platform 0.9m x 1.52m was built to the right of the niche, possible to serve as a statue base. The colonnade from Phase II was removed and at least five small pedestals were placed against the bench fronts.

    A layer of soil was found,[5] no more than 60 mm thick, between the Phase III floor and layer of burnt debris that sealed the site. This indicated a period of abandonment prior to the burning of the roof and also explains why no mithraic sculptures were found in the building as they had all been removed. This would equate well with the removal of the garrison of Segontium in c290 AD."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caernarfon_Mithraeum

    All of this so far lends great credence to my assertion that Mithraism was a religion that held some attraction among the Roman armies. The percentage has always been in dispute, I don't think any scholar that has examined the issue seriously believes that any great portion of the army was a devotee (there were too many other alternatives), but there obviously was a significant minority among the ranks.

    I would add that the devotees of Sol Invictus were a distinct alternate group, and gauging by the number of officers and emperors that claimed such I would suggest that the cult of Sol Invictus was largely a rich man's religion. That there were syncretic elements tying both Sol Invictus and Mithraism is little surprise, but it doesn't relieve the point that each were separate disciplines in and of themselves.

    "Numerous archaeological finds, including meeting places, monuments and artifacts, have contributed to modern knowledge about Mithraism throughout the Roman Empire.[5] The iconic scenes of Mithras show him being born from a rock, slaughtering a bull, and sharing a banquet with the god Sol (the Sun). About 420 sites have yielded materials related to the cult. Among the items found are about 1000 inscriptions, 700 examples of the bull-killing scene (tauroctony), and about 400 other monuments.[6] It has been estimated that there would have been at least 680 mithraea in Rome.[7] No written narratives or theology from the religion survive; limited information can be derived from the inscriptions and brief or passing references in Greek and Latin literature. Interpretation of the physical evidence remains problematic and contested.[8]

    The Romans regarded the mysteries as having Persian or Zoroastrian sources. Since the early 1970s the dominant scholarship has noted dissimilarities between Persian Mithra-worship and the Roman Mithraic mysteries. In this context, Mithraism has sometimes been viewed as a rival of early Christianity[9] with similarities such as liberator-saviour, hierarchy of adepts (bishops, presbyters, deacons), communal meal and a hard struggle of Good and Evil (bull-killing/crucifixion)."

    -and-

    "Much about the cult of Mithras is only known from reliefs and sculptures. There have been many attempts to interpret this material.

    Mithras-worship in the Roman Empire was characterized by images of the god slaughtering a bull. Other images of Mithras are found in the Roman temples, for instance Mithras banqueting with Sol, and depictions of the birth of Mithras from a rock. But the image of bull-slaying (tauroctony) is always in the central niche.[28] Textual sources for a reconstruction of the theology behind this iconography are very rare.[29] (See section Interpretations of the bull-slaying scene below.)

    The practice of depicting the god slaying a bull seems to be specific to Roman Mithraism. According to David Ulansey, this is "perhaps the most important example" of evident difference between Iranian and Roman traditions: "... there is no evidence that the Iranian god Mithra ever had anything to do with killing a bull."[30]"

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mithraism

    "Mithras stock epithet is sol invictus, "invincible sun". However, Mithras is distinct from both Sol and Sol Invictus, and they are separate entitites on Mithraic statuary and artwork such as the tauroctony scenes, in Mithras hunting scenes, and in the Mithraic banquet scenes in which Mithras dines with Sol.[9] Other scenes feature Mithras ascending behind Sol in the latter's chariot, the deities shaking hands and the two gods at an altar with pieces of meat on a spit or spits.[9] One peculiar scene shows Sol kneeling before Mithras, who holds an object, interpreted either as a Phrygian cap or the haunch of the bull, in his hand.[9]

    Different gods being each other is a feature of Hellenistic syncretism however and the distinct imagery sometimes is intended to convey such ideas. Mithras shaking hands with Helios affirms their identity as the same underlying deity.

    Unlike Helios/Sol, who was part of the traditional state-sponsored Roman religious system, and also unlike the Sol Invictus cult, which became an official state-sponsored cult in 274 under Aurelian, the Mithraic cult (as all other mystery cults) did not receive state sanction. Under Commodus rule (r. 180-192 AD), the title invictus became a standard part of imperial titulature, but this was an adoption from Hercules Invictus, not from either Sol or Mithras.[10]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mithras_in_comparison_with_other_belief_systems
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2017
  8. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    "In Indian mythology, Mithra is known as Mitra. He was originally a god of contracts and friendship and was a forerunner of the Graeco-Roman god Mithras. In Iran, he developed into the protector of truth. Before the time of Zoroaster, he was associated with Ahura Mazda, the principle of good. As a consequence of Zoroaster's reforms to Iranian religion, Mithra was ousted from power and Ahura Mazda became supreme.[27] In the more ancient Indian Vedas Mithra was the god of light, invoked under the name of Varuna, and was called "the Light of the World." He was the mediator between heaven and Earth.

    "The light bursting from the heavens, which were conceived as a solid vault, became, in the mythology of the Magi, Mithra born from the rock."[28]

    Mithraism absorbed astrology from the Chaldeans after the Chaldean conquest, and continued as an astronomical religion. In the Hellenistic period it took on its final form. Mithra was assimilated into Graeco-Roman beliefs in the 1st century BC as Mithras. He was an ancient and highly honored god of Roman Paganism, where he was worshipped for more than 300 years as "the soldier's god."[29]"

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miraculous_births

    "It is often stated that Mithras was thought to have been born on December 25. But Beck states that this is not the case. In fact he calls this assertion "that hoariest of 'facts'". He continues: "In truth, the only evidence for it is the celebration of the birthday of Invictus on that date in Calendar of Philocalus. Invictus is of course Sol Invictus, Aurelian's sun god. It does not follow that a different, earlier, and unofficial sun god, Sol Invictus Mithras, was necessarily or even probably, born on that day too."[19]

    Unusually amongst Roman mystery cults, the mysteries of Mithras had no 'public' face; worship of Mithras was confined to initiates, and they could only undertake such worship in the secrecy of the Mithraeum.[20] Clauss states: "the Mithraic Mysteries had no public ceremonies of its own. The festival of natalis Invicti [Birth of the Unconquerable (Sun)], held on 25 December, was a general festival of the Sun, and by no means specific to the Mysteries of Mithras.".[21]

    Steven Hijmans has discussed in detail whether the general natalis Invicti festival was related to Christmas but does not give Mithras as a possible source.[22]"

    -and-

    "It is said that the birth of Mithras was a virgin birth, like that of Jesus. David Ulansey speculates that this was a belief derived from the Perseus myths, which held he was born from an underground cavern.[18] In reality, Mithras was born from a rock as stated in miraculous birth article."

    -and-

    "A painted text on the wall of the St. Prisca Mithraeum (c A.D. 200)[23] in Rome contains the words: et nos servasti (?) . . . sanguine fuso (and you have saved us ... in the shed blood). The meaning of this text is unclear, although presumably it refers to the bull killed by Mithras, as no other source refers to a Mithraic salvation. However, the servasti is only a conjecture.[24] According to Robert Turcan,[25] Mithraic salvation had little to do with the other-worldly destiny of individual souls, but was on the Zoroastrian pattern of man's participation in the cosmic struggle of the good creation against the forces of evil.[26]"

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mithras_in_comparison_with_other_belief_systems

    All of which needs verification, but Wiki is at least someplace to start.

    In sum, it appears what I read in the past about virgin birth and December 25 *may* have been misleading, I am prepared to concede virgin birth as it appears there are numerous graphic examples of Mithras being born from a rock, so technically not born of a virgin but born without a mother. The December 25th date is not as uncontested, there appears to be some legwork still required. The syncretism you noted is pretty well established, as well as my point that the two, while often syncretized were in fact separate disciplines. In that instance we are both correct.

    Also note the date, Mithraism entered the Greco-Roman world in the first century before Christ.

    "The Chronography of 354, also known as the Calendar of 354, was a 4th-century illuminated manuscript, which was produced in 354 AD for a wealthy Roman Christian named Valentinus. It is the earliest dated codex to have full page illustrations. None of the original has survived. The term Calendar of Filocalus is sometimes used to describe the whole collection, and sometimes just the sixth part, which is the Calendar itself. Other versions of the names ("Philocalus", "Codex-Calendar of 354") are occasionally used. The text and illustrations are available online.[1] Amongst other historically significant information, the work contains the earliest reference to the celebration of Christmas as a holiday or feast." (emphasis mine, -jt3)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronography_of_354

    Stumbled on quite by accident, this shows the earliest recorded date of the observance of a Christian Christmas, dated at 354 AD, a full 29 years after Nicea, which would correspond well with my earlier assertions.
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2017
  9. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    OK ... so Mithraism and Invictus were two separate cults. Just like Mithraism and Christianity were two separate cults.

    The Christian-Mithraic thing stems from Cumont, and has been revised accordingly by his successors. Not a flippant dismissal at all.

    Same kind of assumption, really.

    Other than nothing corresponds to Christian praxis.

    No birth date. No Virgin Birth. No Eucharist. No Passion & Resurrection as far as I know.

    The links are tenuous at best (and indeed can be made between most traditions). The Mithraic hierarchy was more complex, with seven initiatic grades. And:
    So not really like the Christian model at all.

    The communal meal is between Mithras and Sol, not Mithras and his people.

    The crucifixion was never regarded as the 'struggle between Good and Evil'. This is just interpreting a tradition to fit the pattern.

    And nothing regarding a Virgin Birth on December25.

    Lastly:
    I'm not disputing Mithraism, just the unfounded assertions that there are direct correspondences between that and Christianity.
     
  10. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Granted, after further research I concede this point.

    After further research, including abundant evidence already presented showing widespread tendency for both Christian *and* Roman syncretization, showing the winter solstice holiday was already known in the time of Jeremiah some 600 years before Jesus lived (and probably ancient already before then), and showing the earliest known date recorded for a Christian celebration of Christmas being 354 AD, I would say my assertion is supported, not "totally derivative." Nicea did not address the issue of Christmas, yet spent time on Easter / Passover, Friday night to Saturday night Sabbath / Sunday Sabbath, and the question of ritual washing of hands...*all* in a bid to distinguish apart from Judaism. If Christmas was an issue, would it not have been addressed as well? Am I to believe the Nicean Council had problems with the Judeo-Christian Messiah's death, but not His birth?

    So all the evidence does actually point in this specific direction, i.e. that the winter solstice holiday was co-opted and syncretized (I believe you earlier said "baptized") by the Church.

    What material evidence? You have presented *none* that dates prior to that I showed, putting the first recorded instance at 354 AD. I can accept that after Nicea as things began to change, that some form of Christmas was created, layered onto the already long established Natilis Solis Invicti celebration...which actually by other names long predates the Romans. I might add that after a little more digging I realized that 354 was towards the end of Constantine's reign, but the Great Emperor and benefactor of the Catholic Church was still alive and in power to see the year of the first Christmas celebration. I will stop short of suggesting he ordered the syncretization of the winter solstice into the birth of Jesus as there is nothing to suggest that in the record at this time, but I will remind it was most certainly within his power to so do.

    I am beginning to see the complications of scholastically associating Mithraism and Christianity...OK, you got me there. But that doesn't in any way preclude other aspects of the discussion.

    And we have yet to seriously delve into Easter...

    p.s. It would be a huge help if you could post a link or something so I can double check your sources. "(J. A. Ezquerra and R. Gordon, Romanising oriental Gods: myth, salvation and ethics in the cults of Cybele, Isis and Mithras. Brill, 2008, p.202-3)" buried in one of your "evidences" hardly serves as proof unless I can find it too. I always provide a link to my quotes, both to credit the source and to allow others the opportunity to review as well. With due respect, I've long struggled with this in conversations with you. I did finally find the link buried in another quote, and it is proving quite useful, but it would have been very helpful to find the link much easier.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2017
  11. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    "Although the month and date of Jesus' birth are unknown, by the early-to-mid fourth century the Western Christian Church had placed Christmas on December 25,[23] a date that was later adopted in the East.[24][25] Today, most Christians celebrate on December 25 in the Gregorian calendar, which has been adopted almost universally in the civil calendars used in countries throughout the world. However, some Eastern Christian Churches celebrate Christmas on December 25 of the older Julian calendar, which currently corresponds to January 7 in the Gregorian calendar, the day after the Western Christian Church celebrates the Epiphany. This is not a disagreement over the date of Christmas as such, but rather a preference of which calendar should be used to determine the day that is December 25. In the Council of Tours of 567, the Church, with its desire to be universal, "declared the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany to be one unified festal cycle", thus giving significance to both the Western and Eastern dates of Christmas.[26][27][28][29][30] Moreover, for Christians, the belief that God came into the world in the form of man to atone for the sins of humanity, rather than the exact birth date, is considered to be the primary purpose in celebrating Christmas.[31][32][33][34]"

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas

    Worth including...
     
  12. Namaste Jesus

    Namaste Jesus Praise the Lord and Enjoy the Chai

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    Aussie said something interesting in another thread a while back regarding how he was taught to view December 25th.

     
    RJM Corbet and juantoo3 like this.
  13. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    ;) I've heard the same...
     
  14. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    OK...then why the need to separate the Passion from Passover?
     
  15. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    An upshot of the position.

    I've taken this from the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. This article covers the all the arguments I have seen elsewhere. Rather than repeat all the references, they're given in the above.

    I. THE HISTORY OF RELIGIONS THEORY
    The History of Religions Theory argues in sum that, in 274AD, following his victories in the east, the emperor Aurelian built a temple and instituted
    quadrennial games on behalf of Sol Invictus, a pagan sun god to whom he attributed his victories. An illuminated codex manuscript produced for a wealthy Christian named Valentinus contains in part six a calendar for the year AD 354 (the "Chronography of 354"). This calendar bears the following inscription for December 25th:
    "N INVICTI CM XXX."
    Natalis: 'birthday/nativity' INVICTI: 'of the Unconquered one' CM: (Circenses missus) 'games ordered' XXX: 30.
    Thus, for the birthday of the 'unconquered one' that year, thirty games were ordered.

    The same codex in part twelve, the Depositio Martirum, in a section set in calendrical order devoted to annual commemoration of the martyrs, contains reference to the birth of Christ:
    "VIII kal. Ian. natus Christus in Betleem Iudeae."
    Eight Kalends of January is December 25th. The birth of Christ, in Bethlehem, Judea.

    It is generally agreed that the Depositio Martirum originally dates to 336AD but was updated to 354AD for inclusion in the codex. The Depositio is arranged from December 25 to December 25, indicating that at Rome in 336AD the nativity of Christ marked the beginning of the ecclesiastical year. This is the earliest undisputed evidence we possess for celebration of Christ’s nativity on that date.

    Advocates of this theory infer from the coincidence that both the Natalis Solis Invicti and the Nativity of Christ appear in the same codex, shared the same date, and were both kept at Rome, that the latter was derived from the former. Moreover, dating as it does within the reign of Constantine, and considering his program to make Christianity the religion of the empire, it is argued that Christmas was instituted at Rome by Constantine. Finally, advocates also argue that use of sun symbolism vis-à-vis the Nativity and/or the winter solstice (celebrated 17-23 December) by patristic writers evidences a type of 'solar-syncretism', confirming Christmas was adopted from Sol Invictus. (Others claim adoption from Saturnalia, from Mithraism, or from all three.)

    The theory of syncretism tends to be accepted all too uncritically. There may be a hypothesis, but the hypothesis must be demonstrated by proof. And it is precisely here that the History of Religions Theory comes up short.

    There is no direct evidence — no epistle, historical account, decree by council, nothing — that has ever been produced indicating that Christmas was derived from these sources. The whole theory rests upon inference and the assumptions that religions in general – and Roman Catholicism in particular – practice widescale syncretism.

    To the contrary, the ample evidence of strong opposition of the early church toward any form of paganism, coupled with the complete absence of any hint by period writers that the Christmas date was received other than by tradition of the fathers, renders the theory improbable.

    That Christmas and Natalis sol invictus occur on the same day is just as capable of the opposite inference; that Aurelian chose 25 Dec because it was already popular with Christians.

    The erection of a temple and celebrations at Rome simply cannot account for the celebration of Christ's nativity in such diverse and remote places as Cadiz (Spain) and Thrace (Turkey) as testified by Chrysostom in 387AD. Moreover, the charge that Christmas began to be kept in the fourth century is refuted by the same author, who says that it was kept at Rome "from the beginning" by "ancient tradition", and regarding Constantine being responsible for the institution of Christmas at Rome — by then Constantine was rarely present in Rome, having moved east, and his instituting Christmas there cannot be reconciled with its absence in Constantinople during the whole of Constantine’s lifetime. If instituting Christmas was part of Constantine’s program to make Christianity the religion of the empire, we would certainly expect Christmas to have been celebrated in the city he made his home and which bears his name. Yet, Christmas was not celebrated in Constantinople until 380AD when it was introduced there by Gregory Nazianzus.

    Lastly, the festival of Sol Invictus that Aurelain instituted was only later tagged to Dec 25. In the Chronicle of 354 and elsewhere, there was other festivals, older festivals, and bigger festivals (more races). August 28 seems a more significant date than December 25.

    So it's an assumption that December 25 was the date Aurelian established for the feast of Sol Invictus.


    II. THE CALCULATION THEORY
    The calculation Theory works its date from the annunciation and conception, which in turn was obtained from the supposed date of Christ’s passion.

    Ancient Rabbinic tradition (as was almost universal in the ancient world) embraced the idea of time as cyclic. Working from this, they developed a theory referred to as 'integral age' which held that the great patriarchs and prophets of Israel died on the same day as their birth (typically Passover or Tabernacles) so that their lives encompassed a complete number of years. The early Christian writers believed Jesus died on March 25, so following the 'integral age' tradition would place the annunciation on March 25, which in turn would place Christ’s birth on December 25.

    Johannine chronology places Jesus’ death on the day the Passover lamb was slain. The first Jewish Christians would likely have observed the Pasch at the same time as their Gentile counterparts, on the evening of Nisan 14. (Rather than on the Sunday following as it is now.) These Jewish believers, dispersed during the Jewish war with Rome (66–70AD), resettled abroad, particularly in Asia. Since the fall of Jerusalem there was being no central authority to announce the Pasch, Asia eventually chose April 6 in their version of the Julian calendar as the equivalent of Nisan 14. Nine months from this date brings us to January 6, the date of Epiphany when the Nativity was originally celebrated in the East. In the West, where March 25 was identified with the passion of Christ, and the conception of Christ, the birth date of December 25 was adopted.

    Clement of Alexandria (150–215AD) reports that the followers of Basilides kept the Egyptian date Tybi 11th (January 6) as the date of Christ’s baptism. The association of January 6 with the nativity of Christ derives from a misreading of Luke 3:23, which was thought to teach that Jesus turned thirty
    on the very day of his baptism. In addition to Christ’s nativity and baptism, Epiphanius (315–403AD) reports that the arrival of the magi and the water miracle at Cana were also assigned to January 6.

    A flaw in the 'integral age' model supposedly underpinning patristic working is that the date/month of birth/death is the same: That if Christ was born on Dec 25 then the crucifixion would occur on Dec 25 or rather, if the date of the Passion was fixed as March 25 then that would be the date of His birth. The idea that the 'compleat year' runs from conception to death was a departure from the Rabbinic rule, but it would make sense in light of the pre-existing doctrine of Incarnation. God became man from the moment of the Annunciation, and Scripture testifies to this when in the sixth month of her pregnancy the child Elizabeth was carrying (John the Baptist) leapt in the womb at the proximity of the child Mary was carrying.

    III MY SYMBOLIST THEORY
    A better explanation for the March/December/March triad in patristic chronologies is that they are driven, not by the rabinnic concept of integral age or calculation (although possibly informed by that) but rather, as the Fathers were, almost to a man, philosophers in the Platonic tradition, the symbolic association between salvation history and the natural world — the solstices and equinoxes — would be far more of interest.

    The symbolic importance of the solstices and equinoxes to the early Fathers is seen in the fact that they uniformly attempt to make the various events of salvation history, including the first day of creation and the passion and resurrection of Christ, correspond with these natural astronomical events. Since in the mind of the early Fathers God would have divided light from darkness perfectly, which for them meant equally, they cause the first day of creation to coincide with the vernal equinox, where day and night are equal. And because they mark the new creation and triumph of light and life over darkness and death, the Fathers also assign Jesus’ passion and resurrection to the equinox.

    As (providentially?) John the Baptist was six months older than Jesus (based on Luke), then the Fathers also established that:
    Spring equinox: Incarnation and Passion
    Summer solstice: Birth of John the Baptist
    Autumn equinox: death of John the Baptist
    Winter solstice: Birth of Christ.

    Julius Africanus (160–240AD) is credited as the earliest Christian chronographer. Although his Chronographiae is now lost, fragments have come down to us culled from the manuscripts of later chronographers. Evidence from fragments and the statements of later writers indicate that Africanus believed the first day of creation was Sunday, March 22, and the sun and celestial bodies were made or arranged on the fourth day, March 25, the vernal equinox in the Roman calendar.

    Africanus equated March 25 with Passover day, the fifteenth day and full moon of the first lunar month. This is the date Africanus assigned for Jesus’
    resurrection.

    Scholars also believe that Africanus assigned Jesus’ conception and incarnation to March 25, and therefore should be numbered among those who date the nativity of Christ to December 25. Thus with Africanus we have the March–December–March triad marking the conception, birth, and resurrection of Christ.

    Gregory Thaumaturgus (205–265AD), a contemporary of Africanus, also places the annunciation at Passover.

    Like Africanus, Hippolytus (170–235AD) wrote his Chronicon which sets creation on March 25, Christ’s death on Nisan 14 and Christ’s birth on December 25.

    Thus, again we have the March/December/March triad. In all these and other cases it is the equinoxes and solstices that figure in the chronologies, not rabbinic notions of “integral age.”

    Appeal to astronomical phenomena was not a form of solar syncretism as advocates of the History of Religions Theory argue. The prophets symbolically associated the coming of Christ with natural phenomenon involving the increase of light. Malachi called Christ the “Sun of righteousness” (Mal 4:2); Luke called him the “Dayspring from on high” (Luke 1:78); Jesus referred to himself as the “bright and morning star” (Rev 22:16); others have found allusion to Christ’s resurrection in the Psalmist’s characterization of the sun as “bridegroom coming out of his chamber” (Ps 19:5). Taking their lead from these sources, the patristic writers applied events in salvation history to astronomical points in the calendar based upon assumptions about how things should have come about, often quite in opposition to how they actually did.

    However, they did not act purely arbitrarily or deliberately fictionalize their accounts. Rather, they were probably driven by the tradition of Christ’s birth at the winter solstice December 25, which would naturally place his conception on or near the vernal equinox. Believing the passion/resurrection occurred on the vernal equinox, the temptation to place the conception exactly on the equinox to achieve a type of symbolic symmetry simply proved too great. Add to this that John the Baptist was six months older than Christ, placing his conception near the autumnal equinox and his birth at or near the summer solstice (both marking the decrease of light), and the paradigm was complete: all four points in the astronomical year were represented. It was only a matter of time before these things found their way into the chronologies of early writers, not for the approximations they almost certainly were, but as dogmatic statements of fact they believed testified to the wisdom and providence of God.

    It is highly probable that the March/December/March triad was established in the church a hundred years before the Chronography of 354.

    Added to that, Augustine mentions the Donatists in North Africa refusing to accept the easterner's Jan 6 as the nativity of Christ. He does not say what day they did velebrate the birth, but we can assume that Christ's birth was celebrated by 311AD, when the Donatists separated from the wider church and their traditions became fixed.

    There is no evidence that patristic writers subscribed to the Rabbinic notion of 'integral age', or based their chronologies upon it.

    So neither the History nor Calculation theories can give an adequate account for the origin of the Christmas date. A Symbolist Theory which assumes God ordered the heavens according to His will and providence can be taken at the very least as a firm foundation on which the fathers might base their speculations.

    It is then a matter of logic: if the origin of the date cannot be shown to derive from other sources, then its reception by tradition as attested by the near universal agreement of the patristic sources cannot be ruled out and, according to Occam's Razor, is most probably the case.
     
  16. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    More from the above:

    Dating December 25 from Scripture.

    Christ is born. The law imposed a forty-day period of ritual impurity upon women following birth of a male child, and required a sacrifice in token of their purification at the period’s end (Lev 12:2–6). Luke tells us that following Mary’s forty-day period of ritual impurity, the holy family went to Jerusalem, where the required sacrifices were made for Mary and her firstborn son, then returned home to Nazareth (Luke 2:39).

    In Matthew, after Jesus was born, magi came to Jerusalem from the east, asking, “Where is he who is born king of the Jews?” (Matt 2:1–2). Word of this reached Herod, who called together the chief priests and scribes to ascertain where Christ would be born. Herod then called the magi, and inquired when the star they had seen in the east first appeared. Herod then sent them to Bethlehem, asking the magi to bring him word when they had found the Christ-child so he could worship him also (Matt 2:4–8).

    Matthew reports that when the magi departed, the star they had seen in the east went before them till it came and stood over where the child was (Matt 2:9). Popular assumption has it that the magi found the holy family at Bethlehem. However, Bethlehem is only about ten miles from Jerusalem. Since the magi hardly required the star to find Bethlehem and Herod had directed them there in any event, the better view is that the star was interposed by heaven to lead the magi to where the Christ-child had relocated; viz. Nazareth, about seventy miles north, where Luke tells us the holy family returned following the customary sacrifices at the temple. This may be alluded to by Matthew, when he says that the magi entered “the house,” not “an inn” as we would expect if they were still in Bethlehem, but “the house,” viz. the family home (Matt 2:11).

    That the magi found the holy family in Nazareth is confirmed by the flight to Egypt. Matthew informs us that after presenting their gifts, the magi were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and that they therefore departed home another way (Matt 2:11–12). Joseph, being warned in a dream that Herod would seek the child to destroy it, rose by night and fled to Egypt, where the holy family remained until Herod’s death (Matt 2:12–15). However, when Joseph heard that Archelaus reigned in Judea in place of his father Herod, he “was afraid to go there,” and being warned in a dream, “turned aside” into Galilee, avoiding Judea entirely (Matt 2:22).

    Taking the accounts of Matthew and Luke together, there are only two times when the presentment of the Christ-child could have occurred: either before the flight to Egypt or following the family’s return from exile. Since Matthew makes clear that Joseph bypassed Judea upon return from Egypt, the presentment of the Christ-child could not have occurred then. Therefore, it could only have occurred before the flight to Egypt, which means that the magi almost certainly found the holy family in Nazareth forty-odd days following the child’s birth and that the flight to Egypt originated from there, not Bethlehem as so often assumed.

    So Methodius (260–312AD):
    "Therefore the prophet brought the virgin from Nazareth, in order that she might give birth at Bethlehem to her salvation-bringing child, and brought her back again to Nazareth, in order to make manifest to the world the hope of life. Hence it was that the ark of God removed from the inn at Bethlehem, for there He paid to the law that debt of the forty days, due not to justice but to grace ... The holy mother goes up to the temple to exhibit to the law a new and strange wonder, even that child long expected."

    THE CENSUS PROBABLY HAPPENED
    From records we know Herod was dying. Antipater, Herod’s son, had been tried for treason before Quintilius Varus, who succeeded Saturninus as president of Syria. It was most likely under the presidency of Saturninus that the registration, which brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, had occurred, so that a complete set of accounts could be handed over to the incoming Quintilius.

    Antipater was held in the palace prison at Jericho, and Herod sent letters and ambassadors to Augustus Caesar to accuse Antipater and learn Caesar’s pleasure concerning his son. However, the trial and revelations about his son were apparently too much for Herod, who now fell gravely ill. This was the seventieth year of his life; despairing of recovery, Herod amended his will, temporarily settling the kingdom upon his youngest son, Herod Antipater. Hated by the Jews until the bitter end, sedition now broke out.

    Herod had placed a large Roman eagle above the gate of the temple. Taking the opportunity of Herod’s impending death, several prominent rabbis moved the young men to cut the eagle down. When rumor came that Herod was dead, the young men assaulted the temple and eagle in broad daylight. However, soldiers came upon them suddenly, capturing many of them. Herod then had the young men and rabbis sent to Jericho, where the leaders were burned alive. Josephus reports that the night of the rabbis’ execution there was an eclipse of the moon.

    This lunar eclipse is important for dating Herod’s death, and current scholarship now agrees that it was the full lunar eclipse of January 10, 1 BC.

    Herod’s final illness now grew worse; he thus travelled beyond the Jordan River to bathe in the mineral springs at Callirrhoe. However, when this failed to improve his health, Herod returned to Jericho, dying shortly thereafter, never to return to Jerusalem again.

    Matthew tells us that Herod was still at Jerusalem when the magi arrived (Matt 2:1). Therefore, the magi had to arrive before Herod left Jerusalem for the mineral springs beyond the Jordan, probably sometime after the rabbis’ execution, toward the middle of February, 1BC.

    THE SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS
    Matthew says that when Herod realized the magi were not going to return, he ordered the slaughter of all male children two years old and under in Bethlehem and the neighboring towns (Matt 2:16–18). John refers to it in Revelations. The witness of Matthew and John is also corroborated by a pagan writer named Macrobius. Macrobius held a very high position in one imperial administration — perhaps even praetorian prefect of Italy. he wrote an encyclopedic account of Roman culture entitled the Saturnalia, in which he records the legends and lore of the holidays marking the Roman calendar. In book two, Macrobius records some of the witty sayings of Augustus Caesar and there reports:
    "On hearing that the son of Herod, king of the Jews, had been slain when Herod ordered that all boys in Syria under the age of two be killed, Augustus said, “It’s better to be Herod’s pig than his son.”

    Macrobius indicates that Antipater was executed at the same time the slaughter of the innocents was being carried out, not that he died with or among them. The death of Antipater and slaughter of the innocents were contemporaneous events. The timing of Antipater’s death therefore allows us to establish the time of the slaughter of the innocents and the approximate time the magi arrived. Herod outlived the death of Antipater by only five days, dying shortly before Passover (April 8), 1BC. Hence, the slaughter of Bethlehem’s innocents, like the death of Antipater, would have been one of Herod’s last acts, the magi arriving a few weeks before.

    We know the magi arrived after the presentment of the Christ-child at the temple forty days following Jesus’ birth, but before Herod left Jerusalem and travelled to the mineral springs at Callirrhoe. Therefore, assuming there was no extended period between the return to Nazareth and the arrival of the magi, and the arrival the magi and Herod’s departure from Jerusalem, we should be able to reckon backward from Passover following Herod’s death to his departure from Jerusalem, and from there to find the approximate time of the nativity. Here are the events recorded by Josephus following the eclipse of January 10th until Herod’s death just before Passover, 1BC:
    Herod’s physicians tried many remedies, Journey from Jericho to Callirrhoe, Treatment at Callirrhoe, Return to Jericho, Jewish elders throughout Herod’s realm are summoned, Herod receives permission to execute Antipater and has him executed, Herod’s death five days later, Funeral arrangements and funeral, Seven days of mourning, Feast in Herod’s honor, Archelaus’ initial governance, The Passover ...

    Scholars have tried to construct a timeline of these events, ranging from 29 to 62 days. Using this latter figure, we find that sixty-two days from Passover, April 8th, brings us to February 5th. This would be the point at which Herod's final illness ostensibly worsened before departing Jerusalem for Callirrhoe. If we then reckon backward three days (the period needed for the holy family to travel from Jerusalem to Nazareth) we arrive at February 2nd, the traditional date of the presentation of Christ at the temple. If we reckon backward forty days more (the period of ritual impurity before the presentation of Christ at the temple) we arrive exactly at December 25, the traditional date of Christ’s birth.

    Very fortuitous, to say the least.

    Scholarship dating:
    Maier 29 days
    Martin 54 days
    Martin 70 days
    Steinmann 41 days
    Steinmann 62 days
    Total 256 days – An average 51.2 days

    The average of fifty-one days suggests Steinmann’s estimate of sixty-two days is quite sound. The shortest (twenty-nine days from Passover) would bring us to March 10th; this compresses the final illness of Herod into an implausibly narrow space, but leaves December 25 reasonably within reach. The longest (seventy days) would make January 29 the point at which Herod’s final illness ostensibly grew worse. If we allow a week during which his physicians treated him before quitting Jerusalem for Callirrhoe, this would bring us to February 4th, two days after the traditional date of the presentment of the Christ-child at the temple and the holy family’s return home—again leaving our general chronology intact. Thus, whether we adopt Steinmann’s estimate or one of the others, the December 25 birth of Christ is clearly plausible, if not probable.

    Birth of Christ – Presentment at temple – Return to Nazareth 43 days
    Arrival of Magi – Herod travels to Callirrhoe – Death – Passover 62 days
    Total 105 days
    Passover (April 8) 1 BC > 105 days > Dec. 25th, 2BC

    ... food for thought ...
     
  17. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet Deus Pascus Corvus

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    Neither Mark not John discuss Jesus' birth. To me it doesn't matter
     
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  18. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet Deus Pascus Corvus

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    Thomas, have you read: The Unauthorised Version: truth and fiction in the Bible, by Robin Lane Fox? He dates Herod's death at 4-6BC, and the census under Quintillius at 6AD, when Judea changed from being a client kingdom, to becoming a proper Roman province. The 6AD date comes from Josephus, who a is unlikely to have made an error on such an important point as Judeas' becoming a a province?

    Thus Lane Fox concludes that Herod died 10 yrs before the census. Which makes the massacre of innocents etc, impossible??

    I see you get around the problem firstly by bringing Herod's death forward to 1BC and next by proposing there must have been a preliminary census, under Saturnius, around 7yrs prior to Judea becoming a full province under Quintillius?

    This makes the timeline possible -- of the census, nativity, massacre if innocents, flight to Egypt, etc.

    Therefore, what is your opinion of Lane Fox' book as a whole?
     
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  19. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Nor to me, in the context of Mark and John's Gospels.

    I follow the thesis that Mark is a record of Peter's catechetical lectures when under house arrest awaiting execution, and that John's is a commentary on the Incarnation.
     
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  20. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    No.

    More recent scholarship applies here, although the whole thing is still under discussion.
     
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