Some comments on Christmas

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

  1. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Thank you. Published 1994. One needs an open mind to read it.

    He speaks of Quirinius not Quintillius. He does not deny the historical existence of Jesus. He believes that John's gospel is historically most accurate, that John actually knew Jesus, and wrote his gospel in hindsight, as an old man.

    He investigates several historical myths in the Bible, but without taking away the essential truth of it, for believers. He is not very kind towards the writer of Chronicles, for instance, but in general allows Kings to pass, although with a number of historical corrections.

    He is often a bit flip and superior in his style, and he sometimes draws rather dubious conclusions from his own guesses. So there is always room to allow that he might be wrong.

    As I say, one needs an open mind, but eventually I feel it has enhanced my awe of the power of the Bible.

    I would really like to hear what you think, after reading it.

    Regards.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2017
  2. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    The problem seems to be that in 6AD Quirinius was appointed to govern Judea as a direct Roman province, after 10yrs of inefficient governance as a client kingdom by Herod's son, after Herod's death in 4BC -- both dates and events taken from Josephus. So even if Herod died 3 years later, in 1BC, he and Quirinius cannot a be placed together?

    'In 6 CE Publius Sulpicius Quirinius (51 BCE-21 CE), a distinguished soldier and former Consul, was appointed Imperial Legate (governor) of the province of Roman Syria. In the same year Judea was declared a Roman province, and Quirinius was tasked to carry out a census of the new territory for tax purposes. The new territory was one of the three portions into which the kingdom of Herod the Great had been divided on his death in 4 BCE; his son Herod Archelaus was given Judea but complaints of misrule prompted his removal and Judea and Samaria were placed under direct Roman rule, although Galilee and other areas remained autonomous.' (Wikipaedia)

    It seems unlikely that Augustus would have required a tax census at least 7yrs previously before the transfer to direct Roman rule (using your 1BC date)while Herod was still alive, though dying.

    Not impossible, but unlikely. Client kings were responsible for collection of tax payable to Rome -- which may have been the problem with Archelus? And Luke clearly labels the census in question as 'The first under Quirinius.'

    Microbius report about Augustus's comment concerning Herod's son is interesting, and it has a ring of authenticity. It would definitely give a lot of credence to the slaughter of innocents. Therefore it has to be correct. Are you sure of it?

    Herod's tomb was discovered in 2007.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2017
  3. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Alright, I have done more research, following the line you take, above. You are obviously quite aware of all the points I've made, and there is obviously room for debate about it all.

    Which is good. Because I WANT to believe the nativity story.

    So please accept my apology for misjudging the depth of your own research and knowledge. Thanks. I feel a bit stupid about it, as usual ...
     
  4. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    However, I do suspect someone has attached the reference to the massacre of innocents to MACROBIUS report of Augustus' comment. Antipater was not under 2yrs old, he was an adult. The below quote says nothing of the massacre;

    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/macrobius-ambrosius-x00b0

    MACROBIUS, AMBROSIUS
    ° (c. 400), Roman grammarian. He credits *Augustus with a grim pun reflecting Jewish abstinence from swine flesh. On hearing that *Herod had ordered his own son to be killed, Augustus remarked: "I would rather be Herod's pig [Gr. hus] than his son [Gr. huios]" (Saturnalia 2:4, 11).
     
  5. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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  6. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    So, it is there;

    ://www.snhell.gr/references/synaxaristis/search.asp?id=2202&search=3

    Τhe original Latin is:
    Cum audisset inter pueros quos in Syria Herodes rex Iudaeorum intra bimatum iussit interfici filium quoque eius occisum, ait: Melius est Herodis porcum esse quam filium (Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius, Saturnalia, book II, chapter IV:11): "When Augustus heard this, that among the infants under two whom Herod, king of the Jews, had ordered to be killed, Herod's own son had also been slaughtered, he said, 'Better to be Herod's pig than his son!' " (Since the Torah forbade the slaughter and consumption of pork.)

    I'm very glad.

    It took a while to run it down, to a direct translation.

    Herod had his (adult) son (Antipater) executed at the same time as he ordered the massacre of male children under two. This would have been very close to the end of his own life.

    It's about the best confirmation possible of the massacre of innocents as a historical fact, and so also the nativity story.

    Thanks again Thomas.
    Nice one!
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2017
  7. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    You do realize the failing of the logic presented, yes?

    While it is a noble attempt to cram much into a timeline to validate December 25 (blatantly bypassing the textual emphasis that the shepherd's were with their flocks in the field...which in snow season is not a wise thing for a shepherd to do), it says *nothing* about pushing the date of the birth up further. The only qualifier I see is the timeline of the wisemen coming and going, but would still entertain a range of some months for an earlier date. Indeed, in keeping with your philosophical approach of agreeing with established HOLY days, the birth would likely have taken place during the Feast of Tabernacles, which again is something the official Christian church would have set aside in lieu of some other holiday in the ongoing effort to distinguish apart from Judaism.

    (emphasis mine, -jt3)

    This is not only questionable, but borderline insensitive. I have heard the quote before, many times, as "Better to be Herod's dog than his child."

    This is a strong point of contention...what Jew in that part of the world would have anything to do with a pig, up to and including Herod?

    I've asked in the past with no answer regarding the Jewish position surrounding dogs and horses / asses, since technically they too are unclean...but people in that region generally do not eat dog or horse, and those that do eat pig are not Jewish. Dogs do serve a purpose, as do horses and camels, so I suspect (borne out by the passage the woman "with issue" spoke to Messiah "even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the Master's table," that dogs were kept in some capacity. And since Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the colt of an ass...then I suspect there is some accommodation again for pack animals. Pigs on the other hand, serve no valid purpose in the Jewish world.

    I accept that the Roman world encroached just outside of Galilee, and infiltrated throughout Jerusalem, and it would make sense that some enterprising individuals would raise swine to sell to the Romans...but I strongly contest that person *directly* would be Jewish. I would not contest an enterprising Jew to bankroll or otherwise partner in such endeavor, but to physically involve themselves with swine would be a HUGE taboo. That fires of that taboo would be stoked rather than suppressed during this period of political upheaval...so the comment about Herod's "pig" makes no sense. If the statement is made as a form of irony, it is in extremely poor taste.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2017
  8. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Sorry, but there above is the original Latin. Microbius Saturnalia 2: 4-11.

    It confirms the slaughter of innocents, and hence confirms at least most of the nativity story. Perhaps shepherds in the snow do raise a question.

    I found the Latin, after making a noob of myself by not paying proper attention to what Thomas wrote.

    It is certainly a pig, not a dog. Augustus was saying that because Herod (as a Jew) would not slaughter a pig, that it was safer to be his pig than his son. It's not saying Herod really owned a pig.

    Augustus was obviously far from fond of Herod, and obviously wasn't too concerned with sensitity and political correctness, lol.

    It will teach me not to disturb the perhaps fragile faith of others by publishing so-called proof of Biblical inaccuracy, without doing enough research before publishing -- or even then -- and of course not to cross swords with Thomas without being cast-iron sure of my facts.

    And I'm also thanking Thomas for 'restoring my faith' by giving the best possible historical justification for a historical event -- an unrelated written snippet by a first-hand source -- with no axe to grind on the subject in question.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2017
  9. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Well there's a broad span of possibility across the timeline, scholars allowing a wide spread, so I don't think it's necessarily crammed. And scholars are happy with it.

    I'm not sure where this idea originated but I think US citizens used to hot climates have got a wrong impression. If one checks online weather sites for the month and region (http://www.accuweather.com/, www.worldweatheronline.com), from what I can see the average night-time temperature is 42F. In the eyes of this UK national, that's uncomforably hot! In fact, I've never, ever experienced anything over mid 30s in full daylight. 42F at night would be unbearable for us. The average for rain is one day in three, and the average for snow is one day per month. In the UK hill farms keep sheep out all year, and often on the news we see farmers hauling them out of snowdrifts, and usually they're OK (the sheep, that is).

    Not really, the symbolism doesn't fit that which is evident in the Gospels. Remeber Christ was already seen as the Paschal Lamb within the church before anyone started talking about birthdays.

    I'm sure it was ironical, and blatantly racist!

    You're misinterpreting, I think. No Jew would have anything to do with pigs, a pig would not be touched, hence Augustus' comment.

    But this is all by-the-by.

    I think, as scholarship stands now, the situation is the History of Relgion theory stands on increasingly shaking grounds. The whole Mithras thing has been shown to be a false reading, and there is no evidence to say that the Romans did not try and subvert a Christian feast-day – the assumption that the Christians took the feast off the Mithraists, the Romans or whoever is just an argument that suits an a priori critique of Christianity as such.

    I'm sorry, juantoo3, but your readiness to accept Mithraism (that's been disproved), the sheep in the field critique, 'the Constantine effect', when there is no evidence that Constantine had anything at all to do with Christian doctrine, and certainly not Christmas, all indicates to me a readiness of acceptance with a lot less critical examination than you apply to the contra arguments.

    The History theory stands and falls on one argument — syncretism — and it just can't be proved. In fact it looks increasingly more unlikely as we go on. Scholars agree that the church in the first centuries was anything but accomodating to anything that smacked of snycretism — look at the disputes with the Jews, the Greeks, the Gnostics. (OK, everyone was ridiculing the Gnostics, I rather think they were the 'cults' of their day.)

    The Calculation Theory looks the more credible by a long margin, and from a number of different directions:
    — as much as you dislike it, the timeline from Luke is well within the bounds of the possible, and archaeology is proving Luke to be a more credible source than once assumed.
    — the ease with which the nativity can be dated, based on the certainty of the Jewish Pasch.
    — the symbolist interpretation that points to the date, a universal symbology which (providentially) happens to tie in nicely with Scripture.
    — clear evidence that Christian (Hippolytus and Africanus) data existed to point to a December nativity before the issue became a question.
    — that a Feast of the Nativity was celebrated from at least and before 311AD and it was not the Eastern January 6 date.
    — the ease with which the East accepted the date as being an Apostolic Tradition without any serious contention.

    To my mind, it's weight of evidence, really.
     
  10. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    @RJMCorbet: Thank you, sincerely, for the clarification. I hadn't considered the comment as an intentional slur.

    @Thomas, my good friend, with whom I have had many spirited conversations through the years.

    History is no theory...it happened, or it did not.

    What religion does with history, for political expedience (remember, the two are one and the same in this period of time, politics *does* influence religion and religion *does* influence politics) is quite a different matter. Does life imitate art? Or does art imitate life? Is it live, or is it Memorex? The Romans developed "political spin" to an art even before the Christian Messiah was born.

    The "weight" of your evidence is about as ponderous as a feather.

    I had conceded the position regarding Mithraism, yet that still bears on the discussion? I had the misfortune of reading some ill informed or ill intended scholar, but I am equally capable of setting such aside as it is not the crux of my position at all...indeed, it is you attempting at cost to defend the date of December 25 (and I noted your aversion to Jan 6...quite comical actually, considering both are actually the same date whether according the Julian or Gregorian calendar...which I already understood but you included in your own defense earlier yet seem to have so quickly forgotten). I have yet to see your claims of December celebration earlier than Nicea shown, I must as usual take your claim at face value or trundle through ancient tomes of sometimes spurious authorship, and even those that are granted a position just short of canon seem to be picked over at convenience...where this agrees, good, where this doesn't agree, bad. But that's the nature of Apocryphal documents, no?

    Even Constantine's biographers have to be taken with a grain of salt, their language is far too flowery and congratulatory to be taken simply at face value, yet they are about all we have. With the biographers we know to read between the lines, that the story didn't happen exactly as stated, but pretty close once you unravel all the layers of pomp. Politics, nevermind the point Eusebius was a priest.

    I *could* get all conspiratorial and note the vast underground library the Vatican keeps, of records no doubt dating back to the time of Constantine, records no mere mortals shall ever see, and no mere mortal has been allowed to see for over 1500 years. That aside...

    What I see, clearly, in what "evidence" you have provided, is a politically driven attempt to validate the established norm, established not in BC3 +/-, but closer to AD350. First, by Messiah's own words, since we are waxing philosophical and using religion to "trump" reality, "the birth is not important, the death is important." Since the date of Messiah's birth is not recorded in the text, we really don't know. For emphasis, we *don't* know.

    That the Roman Church, indeed Roman religion in the broad sense of the word, as a matter of pragmatism, were and still are in the case of the Catholic Church *very* syncretic in their approach particularly when it came to proselytizing and expansion is not a point of contention. Evidence exists all around the world and throughout the period of time we are discussing. I've shown but a few, I have read of *many* more and will be happy to share should the need arise.

    The Church *beginning* at Nicea made it a political matter of course to distance themselves from Judaism, by whatever means necessary. Seriously, washing? Ablution was ritual washing, and why even now the Catholic Church "sprinkles" baptism. Ablution was discarded at Nicea, for no other reason than that it was a Jewish custom.

    If, as you said, Messiah was the Pascal Lamb, a point I do not contend with...why did the Catholic Church then distance itself from the High Holy Day of Passover, and attach that significant point of our Faith to a longstanding pagan holiday? Syncretism at its finest. No doubt we will yet hear multiple syncretic arguments in defense of this, but the reality is it was solidified and institutionalized at Nicea...again, the bid to distance from Judaism.

    The Messiah, a Jew, was executed by the Romans on charges brought by the Sanhedrin who were in collusion with the Romans governing over them, who brought plausible deniability by offering the power of clemency to the people. Messiah was then executed in a Roman fashion reserved for criminals.

    Years later, a new Emperor with some tolerance for Christianity, who abolished the persecutions of Diocletian and others, who served as benefactor financing the construction and repair of Christian places of worship, whose mother was sainted for her contributions finding so many of the important places to Christianity and having edifices built around them to accommodate pilgrims, and which Emperor was baptized on his deathbed as an Aryan Christian in accord with tradition as he then understood it, and in turn who was sainted for his efforts to validate the Christian faith...was a known and oft quoted anti-Semite. I agree, there is no direct "fact" to point to Constantine calling certain church leaders into a little office and telling them how it was going to be. However, Constantine called to order the Council at Nicea, and presided over it.

    And the fact remains, that a Jewish Rabbi was elevated in Roman fashion to Messiahship. That the process was well underway is not in question, but Nicea made it a point of political necessity, first to convert this Jewish Messiah into someone more palatable to a pagan audience, and second to exonerate and expunge any culpability of Rome directly. Can't have the Emperor by extension being culpable of the murder of a Messiah, soon to be *the* Messiah. A tangent, but not wholly unrelated, is that by Roman convention Constantine essentially was a god himself at this time, though he was the first Emperor to seriously downplay this role and appears to have never been comfortable with that aspect of his leadership.

    Constantine, to whom all of these Church fathers in attendance owed a debt of gratitude not only financially, but politically, was an avowed anti-Semite. And the conclusions of the Council were for the newly formed and officially sanctioned Church to distance itself from Judaism at cost! I think the connection is more than mere inference, and far too convenient to be coincidence.

    What they did was no less than convert an executed Jewish Rabbi into a resurrected pagan Messiah. Regardless of whether the Rabbi was Divine in nature or not which is a point irrelevant to this discussion, the newly formed Church made the Rabbi un-Jewish. *ALL* connections to Judaism were severed during that period or shortly after, well within Constantine's long lifetime.

    With all of these facts I don't see where it is in any way unreasonable to believe Christmas is a syncretic conversion, "baptism" as you said, of the pagan winter solstice holiday.

    (And to preclude the Aryan-Athanasian controversy...the matter was not fully settled, the Aryans went on for some time after, and Constantine himself was baptized by an Aryan priest named Eusebius. So it would seem this "controversy" that gets all the hype from this Council is smokescreen to hide all of the other points about severing any connection to Judaism. Aryanism continued well into the 7th century before being put down by force of arms)

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

    That you can produce scholars (with no references) that can condense points of history to validate a December date is inconsequential. I've learned long ago that if I look hard enough I can find scholars who support anything, particularly in a soft science such as history which is written by the victors telling half of the story, and even that is often embellished and not to be taken at face value without validation. What you, or your chosen scholars (I'm not certain which), failed to note is that while so much effort was put into condensing history in an effort to validate one specific date, there was no effort to point out a sooner date, that is, a range of possible dates...which clearly shows me an open bias...which itself is unscholarly. Scholarship, in the truest sense that I was taught, does not begin with the conclusion and fit the evidence to validate the point. True scholarship begins at the beginning and chases the evidence to where it leads...even if that lead goes in a direction completely contrary to established normative tradition. What you are doing is attempting to mold history to conform to religion...religion trumps history. What I am doing is chasing the history to understand the religion...history trumps religion. If G-d is real, then He doesn't mind someone pursuing that reality. It is only men, consumed with their ponderous edifice that must be politically defended, that circumvent reality and bend it to their needs.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2017
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  11. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    We have no clue...

    It was the day that was picked

    Odds are high it is not the day he was born

    But it is the traditional day that has been used for nearly two this and years and we are leaving it that way so yet a more exasperating Intl kerfuffle is not waged

    How hard is that?

    I don't know....3 hard words for so many.
     
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  12. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    For the sake of discussion...why the need to even celebrate the birth of Messiah?

    Seems to me there is a lot more general emphasis in the Christian parts of the world on the birth than there is to honor the death. The child (and in some cases his "virgin" mother) is more important than the man. We love the little baby laying in the hay, we don't want to look at the man hanging from the cross.
     
  13. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Odds are high...if he is looking down watching the fiasco that would not be his preferred icon either. Speaking to the people, feeding thousands, resurrection, healing sick, enjoying the children...

    But no...the church picked that as their icon, and Madison avenue and coca cola picked Christmas... Beyond lilies, and ham we haven't done well to monetize Easter.
     
  14. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    I agree. Mark and John don't discuss Jesus' birth. Until the Augustus comment I was prepared to regard the nativity story as a myth, with no loss to my broad understanding of the incarnation. But I'm still very happy to have encountered real hard historical evidence for it.

    I quite understand this thread is about the date for Christmas, not the broad truth of the nativity story. But it would be a bit pointless talking about shepherds etc, unless for it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2017
  15. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    I'm sorry. I meant no offence.

    From the tone of his comment, Augustus despised Herod, probably not Jews in general. Herod was a most unpleasant character, by Josephus's accounts, which is all we have, together with Matthew and Luke. Also a great king.

    But a lot of history IS theory. It's a probability and a guess by someone close to the subject, and so many of us just accept that person's expert judgement as fact?
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2017
  16. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    History...when done right, updates itself as new info comes aboard....rewrites its books.

    Of course victors writing history and others books being burned presents issues.

    When you say a lot of history is theory...

    Can you finish these sentences with the same sentiment?

    A lot of the bible is _____________

    A lot of religion is _____________

    A lot of Christianity is _____________

    A lot of my belief system is _________
     
  17. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    My own direct experience of God has to be real. Or there's no point believing. There must be a direct reality, a real contact from God. It has to come from the higher. If God makes no contact with me, I won't carry on. No-one would.

    Then you can call it what you like: the universal subconscious, synchronisity -- it doesn't matter?
     
  18. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Coincidence causation and correlation are tricky concepts for most people.

    Your direct experience with G!d is that which what most for are asking...(give me a sign)

    And the common response is "have faith"
    . Then why are believers shocked at any nonbelievers?
     
  19. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    Perhaps scripture quietens the mind, to allow the quiet, humble spirit to work in the soul. It's just a verbal attempt to describe the actual experience of the divine?

    It should then become totally at odds to go around telling other people what God commands them to do, with their sex-lives, etc.

    Great yogis quietly speak to those who come to them.

    Scripture can be used as a material for evil. It is used that way a lot.

    Satan is real, imo.

    Sorry Will. It's just a few words. It makes me feel uncomfortable.
     
  20. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    I track with all but the last two paragraphs.
     
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