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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    I'm not really here to discuss opinions, I am looking for the material evidence.

    The idea of 'control' is largely a post-modern, liberal critique of institutions, so you can't really retro-fit that to cover history, although its appeal to contemporary western liberalism is almost irresistable. Really it's a more discreet version of Orwell's 'Ministry of Truth', recasting history according to a given political stance.

    The Crusades? An attempt to win back Christian lands lost to the Moslem invader. No plan for world domination as far as I can see, just the recovery of the Holy Land?

    Regarding the inquisition, I offer this from Writers associated with this project share the view of Edward Peters, a prominent historian in the field, who states: "The Inquisition was an image assembled from a body of legends and myths which, between the sixteenth and the twentieth centuries, established the perceived character of inquisitorial tribunals and influenced all ensuing efforts to recover their historical reality." (Michael P Iarocci, "Properties of Modernity", (2006), Vanderbilt University Press. p. 218)

    Google them. A number of sites debunk the popular notions about the inquisition.

    Oh, and you forgot Galileo, another bete noire that critics like to trot out like a royal flush, one in fact that's long been busted.
     
  2. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Hi juantoo3 —

    What you're failing to do is show any relevance to the point under discussion — that Christianity's election of Dec 25 as the Feast of the Nativity was not a snycretic adoption of the Roman festival.


    Every point you put up I counter, and you simply fall back on another point that's increasingly less relevant to the discussion.

    You inferred Christians copied their practices from Mithraism, that's wrong.
    You inferred ditto from the Roman Sol Invictus — nothing to affirm it. I could equally declare Sol Invictus copied Christianity — with more supportive evidence.
    You inferred no evidence to support an internal process that led to Dec 25 — that's wrong — quite the opposite.
    You inferred Constantine had a significant say in shaping Christian doctrine — yet there's not one shred of evidence to show, and plenty to the contrary.

    You can bang on about Roman syncretism, I'm in complete agreement, but I'm not arguing about Roman syncretism, but Christian syncretism.


    OK. How is the Church post-Nicea is dogmatically and doctrinally different to the Church pre-Nicea?
     
  3. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    1: Christmas
    2: Easter
    3: Sunday Sabbath
    4: the results of the Aryan controversy
    5: the results of the Meletian Schism

    The whole point of calling the Council, by Constantine!, was to get everybody on the same page, precisely because there were so many interpretations dogmatically and doctrinally! Constantine thought he was doing the Church a pragmatic favor, little realizing he was trying to herd cats.

    With words like "election," "fixed," etc., how can you possibly argue there is *no* syncretism? The December 25th holiday was in pagan use long predating the birth of Messiah...I showed this as noted by Jeremiah the prophet some 600 years prior to the birth of Christ. You appeal to authority routinely, yet deny the authority of your own religious text! And you and I covered this ground before, that the winter solstice was being observed before written language...this is known, how can you possibly say I haven't provided any proof?

    No, your scholarship is selective and convenient. You pick and choose what suits you, and discard out of hand without consideration anything that remotely challenges your preferred ideology. You string a list of names, as if that is supposed to mean anything, and say they are all in agreement with you without ever showing anything they actually wrote, and expect me to take you at your personally inerrant word...that is no proof, certainly not in any form of scholarship.

    The holiday season existed long into antiquity. Along comes Nicea (because Messiah's birth had *no* coordinated celebration, indeed was likely not usually even celebrated), and *poof* out of nowhere we suddenly get an untextual feast pop up on the calendar that happens to coincide with an ancient established holiday...and you wish me to turn my head and say there is no syncretism...oops, sorry, the preferred verbiage now is "assimilation." I rather liked it better thinking the syncretization was "baptized."
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2017
  4. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Still strange to me that this is argued...

    It isn't biblical, there is no date listed. Wasn't that important to the author...the story was.

    So who cares? And why? It is an arbitrary date co-opted by coco cola and the stores...

    But it is simply the date we CELEBRATE the birth of Jesus....a date when Christians can be reminded to act more Christlike...

    Hint, I don't care that Arabs invented our numerical system...I simply use it. We all enjoy pagan rituals at Christmas....if you don't (like JWs) then don't.. If you do, put up a tree, hang a wreath, light a log, hug your friends and wish them a wonderful holiday season.

    Love ya both, let your Christ Light Shine!
     
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  5. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Thomas is simply passionate about the subject, as am I, for very different reasons.
     
  6. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Sorry ... Nicea had nothing to do with Christmas. And there was a feast of the nativity before Nicea.

    Sorry ... "A question of no small importance arose at that time (circa 190AD under Pope Victor). The dioceses of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should always be observed as the feast of the life-giving pasch ... However it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world to end it at this point, as they observed the practice, which from Apostolic tradition has prevailed to the present time, of terminating the fast on no other day than on that of the Resurrection of our Saviour." Eusebius, Church History V.23, citing a letter from Irenaeus, who's letter goes on to indicate that the dioceses followed their own traditions, and that diversity between east and West had existed since at least 120AD, but was never a point of contention.

    Nope. Mentioned by the Didache (c100AD): "On the Lord's Day come together and break bread. And give thanks (offer the Eucharist), after confessing your sins that your sacrifice may be pure"; St. Ignatius (Ep. ad Magnes. ix): "(Christians) no longer observing the (Jewish) Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also Our Life rose again"; Epistle of Barnabas (xv): "Wherefore, also, we keep the eight day (i.e. the first of the week) with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead".

    Nope. The response to the Arian controversy was a confirmation of the Trinitarian faith of the community, not a change of dogma or doctrine. The Creed of Nicea affirmed what the church believed, it didn't invent something new.

    Nope.

    No there were no dogmatically and doctrinal differences, just local customs.

    Of course, it's a universal. It predates the appearance of man.

    I know. But the Church did not pick that day because of Jeremiah, as I've demonstrated.

    Because no-one calls the observance of the Winter Solstice 'syncretic', it's universal.

    So again, you assert a number of points, but they are wrong.
     
  7. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    I'm simply saying that December 25 is not an example of syncretism. It would came about regardless of Sol Invictus/Mithraism/whatever. It's computed from the Crucifixion.
     
  8. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Agreed, it is no longer being considered syncretism, it is now being considered assimilation.

    I would think most would consider it a matter of semantics, either way.
     
  9. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    A point you continue to hammer with no proof. Show me. One example does not make "doctrine and dogma," if you produce three legitimate examples from across the region prior to Nicea, I will concede. Until then this is opinion and hearsay.


    First, THANK YOU, for something that qualifies as a reference.

    Now, by re-examining the statement without the emphasis that unduly creates a false impression, notice that the dioceses of Asia and the churches in the rest of the world were keeping different rituals. As I have always said, all along, that Nicea was an effort to consolidate and distinguish a set of rituals for all across the board, to establish doctrine and dogma. You want to show that doctrine and dogma has been unified consistently prior to Nicea, but only show those that agree with your position while conveniently glossing over those that don't. This is an evident example of this very behavior. Doctrine and dogma were not yet settled, indeed Nicea was a big step in that direction but even then much was left to be reconciled. Suggesting doctrine and dogma were firmly established prior to Nicea can only be done by ignoring, as here in this example, any of the dioceses that practiced differently than what came after Nicea.


    Oy...so St. Ignatius speaks for all Christians of the era? There was no consideration whatsoever for the G-d Commanded Jewish Sabbath? I find that incredibly difficult to believe, and certainly not universal across all churches at the time, particularly when the New Testament wasn't even solidified in AD 100, which infers the only Bible they had in complete form remained the Jewish Bible at this time. I have no doubt that certain letters were read in the various churches, but it is clear among scholarship, as I know you are well aware, that not all churches had access at this early date to all of the letters that would become the New Testament.

    Consolidation of the New Testament didn't occur until sometime late in the 3rd century, with most of the major works deemed canon by the mid-third century. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Testament#Development_of_the_New_Testament_canon

    And specifically, "the Lord's Day" was Saturday, as it had been for the Jews from the beginning.

    The fact there was a controversy at all means there was no uniform and universally accepted point of view on the matter prior to Nicea, ergo no established doctrine or dogma.

    You are mincing semantics. Local customs of wide enough difference to warrant settling of controversy and schism.

    Oy, so does going to the bathroom. What does this have to do with the price of tea in China?

    You've demonstrated the Church elected that date, that is absconded, took over, acquired, assimilated, appropriated, or whatever verbiage you wish to justify that assimilation, but you have yet to demonstrate once, let alone universal, observance prior to Nicea.

    No, it's the passing of the shortest day of the year, and a happy celebration that the Earth isn't plunging into perpetual darkness....for people who did not understand the solar system.

    Not wrong. Perhaps not appreciated, not wanted, not convenient...but not wrong. Just an alternate way of looking at the universe, one where truth equates directly with reality.

    As for unsupported assertions, methinks there's a LOT of pot calling the kettle.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2017
  10. Namaste Jesus

    Namaste Jesus Praise the Lord and Enjoy the Chai

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  11. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Awwww...care to tell us how you *really* feel?
     
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  12. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    1: Clement of Alexandria (150-215AD) (Stromata 1:21)
    Using the Roman calendar, this works out to November 18, 3BC. Using the Egyptian calendar, yields January 6, 2BC, the date commonly practiced in the East.

    2: Hippolytus of Rome (170-235AD) (Commentary on Daniel 4,23,3)
    3 Julius Africanus (160-240AD) Chronicle
    This work has been lost, but substantial fragments have been found across a number of sources, especially in Eusebius of Caesarea and later the chronicle of George Syncellus, from which scholars have reconstructed some of its content.

    Syncellus quotes Africanus as dating the birth of Christ as 5500 years after the Creation. From internal references, scholars reckon 5500 corresponds to 3BC and that Africanus dated the birth of Christ either to that year or to the year 5501 (2BC), and that he dated the Incarnation (conception) to March of that year and the Nativity either to 25 December 2BC, or following the Alexandrian tradition, to 6 January of 1BC.

    The above three are considered legitimate by scholars.

    Yes, I have made that point all along, but they were rituals of the Feast of the nativity of Our Lord.

    Evidently.

    I think I've demonstrated that about three times now.

    Of course, all this would be easier for you if you could provide just one piece of evidence that shows the Church appropriated December 25 from pagan practice.

    No, factually wrong. As I've demonstrated.

    +++

    As for Nicea —
    I will accept Nicea established doctrine and dogma if you will accept that what was established was the pre-existing faith of the church. Not without struggle, not without contention ... but there was nothing in Nicea that was 'new' or 'novel' or 'alien' to the faith of the church as a whole.

    The bishops were uncertain about some of the language used in the Creed, because there was no Scriptural precedent, but the principle was not in question — the Divinity of the Son was a foundational belief. Arius' interpretation of the Son's relation to the Father however, was rejected by his congregation. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see it owes too much to Plato and his idea of emanationism.

    At core however, the Creed was drawn together from the various baptismal confessions then in use.
     
  13. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments#Sabbath_day

    Council of Laodicea 363-364 AD
    Canon 16
    Canons 29, 36 and 37
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3806.htm

    Hmmmm...lumping the Jews with heretics. No wonder I am in such good company! :D No wonder Jesus couldn't be Jewish anymore, that would make Him an heretic, can't have an heretic for a Messiah.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2017
  14. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    I have tried to convey very firmly that what was settled on was not invented at Nicea, I do accept and understand that what was settled on was in process already, just not uniformly, and there were some strong differences of opinion and ritual...I know I tried earlier to convey that, perhaps my verbiage wasn't sufficient? I understand you, I am *not* implying Constantine told the clergy what to think, he only wanted them to think the same and provided the opportunity for them to settle their differences. His goal was peace in the Empire among his citizens, and having bickering going on between the various factions was a distraction. I truly do understand his motivation and intent.

    The only caveat is that it seems much more than mere coincidence that beginning at Nicea, and apparently rather blatantly at Laodicea about 40 years later the separation from anything at all to do with Judaism was codified and institutionalized. Constantine, being the benefactor and simultaneously being openly and vocally anti-Semetic would appear, rightly or wrongly, to have some degree of influence on the decision to separate the newly minted religion from its Judaic roots.

    But to suggest all was well in the Christian world prior to Nicea is to be wearing rose colored glasses, when we both know full well the bickering yet continued, frankly to this very day!

    As for the rest, I'm not even going to validate this juggling of calendars with a response. I'm waiting to hear back from Captain Kirk and what star date he thinks applies. Seriously? Bouncing back and forth to the Egyptian, then the Gregorian and over to the Julian...did we leave out the Mayan and the Chinese calendars? Come on, you can do better. The quest was for celebratory "feast" as you put it, recognizing the birth of Messiah prior to Nicea. I'll loosen it up a bit, 3 examples of the "holiday" prior to 350 AD., that should add another 15 years you can play with since you bristle at using Nicea as the cutoff date. I don't want you thinking I am implying Nicea established Christmas, that isn't the point. The point is Nicea *began* the official, dogmatic, doctrinal separation from Messiah's native Judaism, and Christmas is a token example of that separation.

    To be clear, I am aware there was friction going back to the Bar Kochba revolt between Jews and Christians, but not sufficient to completely separate the two as began at Nicea and appears to have been mostly completed 40 years later at Laodicea.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2017
  15. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Sorry, can't let this slide without response...another favorite trick of yours I've noted on more than one occasion. I've left the emphasis you placed to hopefully help jog your memory as this is a specific point.

    Following is your response to my response to your quote above:

    SHOW ME, please, in the most respectful manner I can muster, where in the first quote is *anything*, at all, to do with any Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord??? I'm open to being corrected, I don't always at all times in all situations catch everything, the Good Lord knows I can be dense....I don't see it.

    Please, please I implore you, do not disregard this request, it is imperative I understand where you are coming from....where in the first quote is anything to do with any Feast of the Nativity?
     
  16. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    OK. It's me then, drawing the wrong conclusion.

    Maybe. The roots certainly go back though, it's not all his fault. There were running street-fights between Jews and Christians in Rome in 60AD. And then the Christians were banned from attending synagogue in 70AD.

    I read somewhere that when Jerusalem got wind of the Roman decision to flatten the place, the Christians got out, so the Jews would see that in a poor light, too.

    So whether Constantine's anti-semitism played into it or not I don't know, but there was certainly enough of it going round anyway, I think. Give it a few generations, by which time the gentile percentage of Christians was well into the ascendant, and tribalism will rear its head.

    Oh sure ... and in hindsight, in responding to you I was probably unloading on all those who insist Constantine invented Christianity, wrote the NT, wrote the Creed, told the ftahers what to think, etc., etc ... so apologies for that. I do get a bit 'patristic' in my arguments sometimes :oops: Thank God it's just me ... Tertullian, a skilled rhetoritician, would not desist until he had destroyed his opponent's argument, his character, his family, his friends :eek: And Athanasius was not unknown for popping round with some of the brawnier brothers to sort out a dispute ...

    I had a long conversation with a Dominican theologian once, who's line was, 'go easy on Arius, he wasn't all bad, and just did what he thought was right'.

    Don't have to, it's not 'juggling', it's seemly accounting for what calendars were being used by whom.

    Well we have the dates, I have no idea what kind of feast was celebrated, although the tradition of Jan 6 seems stronger in the East, tied in with the Birth, the Baptism, the coming of the Magi, everything seems to have got lumped in.

    My contention has only ever been twofold:
    1: There is no evidence nor reason to suppose the Dec 25 date was arrived at through syncretism or assimilation.

    A hard claim to make stick, I would have thought, on the basis that none of the Nicean documents say anything about Judaism, nor was Judaism discussed, as far as we know.

    Personally I think the Church was a long way from its Jewish roots by 325.

    The Lord's Day is mentioned in Ignatius' Letter to the Magnesians mentions observing the Lord's day rather than the Sabbath in 110AD and The Letter of Barnabas mentions the first day of the week in opposition to the Jewish Sabbath around 130AD, so there's a marked distance between Jewish and Christian custom centuries before Nicea, and Gentile converts were not obliged to observe any Jewish customs as we can see in Acts.

    A couple of points of interest in the Canons:

    Canon 5:
    "... And let these synods be held, the one before Lent ..."
    Lent was a very early practice. Irenaeus mentions differences in various churches over how long they fasted prior to Passover in 185AD (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History V:24). So there's a church calendar in place.

    Canon 6:
    "... the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these (local area), since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges..."
    The emergence of Rome, Alexandra and Antioch as principle Patriarchies.

    Canon 7:
    "Since custom and ancient tradition have prevailed that the Bishop of Ælia (Jerusalem) should be honoured, let him, saving its due dignity to the Metropolis, have the next place of honour."
    So Jerusalem has an 'honoured' position for historical reasons, but not equal to the above three. That can be read as marking the separation from its Jewish roots, to be sure.

    In the years that followed, Constantinople assumed a Patriarch status, being the seat of Constantine. It usurped the authority of Jerusalem, challenged Alexandra and Antioch, and was obviously intent on seeing itself at least as the equal of Rome. This politicking sometimes played into theological discussion.

    Canon 11:
    "Concerning those who have fallen ... As many as were communicants, if they heartily repent, shall pass three years among the hearers; for seven years they shall be prostrators; and for two years they shall communicate with the people in prayers, but without oblation."
    Church discipline: In 4th century congregations, there were those admitted to communion; there were those learning the basics of the faith in preparation for baptism (catechumen) there were hearers, and there were prostrators (penitents), who were forbidden from communion in penance for something they did.

    This canon requires those who lapsed had to wait 12 years before they could receive the Eucharist again!

    Canon 12:
    "As many as were called by grace, and displayed the first zeal, having cast aside their military belts, but afterwards returned, like dogs, to their own vomit ... "
    By Nicea, Christians were forbidden to serve in the military — interesting, as many did serve, and suffered for their faith — just a few years before. I wonder what Constantine thought of this. Also that he, as overseeing sacrifices to the Roman gods, could not be admitted into the Church, which was perhaps why, despite his support for all things Christian, he was not baptized until he retired as emperor on his deathbed.

    Canon 20:
    "Forasmuch as there are certain persons who kneel on the Lord's Day and in the days of Pentecost, therefore, to the intent that all things may be uniformly observed everywhere (in every parish), it seems good to the holy Synod that prayer be made to God standing."
    In De Corona (ch. 3) Tertullian (c200AD) says that the practice of praying while standing on Sunday and between Passover and Pentecost was a long-standing tradition. So this tradition predates Nicea by around two centuries, at least.

    I think the separation began in 70AD when Jewish converts were forbidden to attend the synagogue.

    If you have any evidence of anti-semitism prevalent at Nicea, I'd be interested.
     
  17. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    This is not what I'm looking for, but it's a start. I knew if I didn't pull it right then I would forget, it is not one of the more pleasant points of this period.

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

    I will continue to look...

    Still not that I'm looking for, but this comes mighty close:

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf203.iv.viii.i.x.html

    I quote this as relevance to all we've spoken of to this point in this thread, what follows in the second paragraph points vigorously in the direction I have been intimating regarding Constantine and anti-Semitism. This is from Theodoret, listed as Constantine's letter to those Bishops unable to attend the Council at Nicea, posted on a Catholic scholarship site.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2017
  18. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Yep, you got me there, my over-enthusiasm.

    The Nativity was not among the early festivals of the Church. Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists. Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday and Arnobius ridicules the "birthdays" of the gods.

    Mea culpa.

    The first evidence of a feast is in Clement in Egypt. He says (Stromata I.21) that certain Egyptian theologians 'over curiously' assign a date — 20 May. Clement, however, also tells us that the Basilidians celebrated the Nativity, on 6 January!

    Sadly, as they're all Heretics, I can't claim them ... it's just a point of interest.

    Where I'm coming from is that I think we can rule out the church celebrating the birth of Christ to assimilate or otherwise a pagan festival. It simply didn't do that kind of thing in the timeframe involved, it was zealous in resisting pagan influence.

    We have discussions of a birth-date in the late second, early third centuries, but during the 3rd century we have a stance against birthdays. By the 4th century we have a feast-day recorded — the Chronicle of 354 commemorates the Bishops of Rome and the Martyrs — so we have a quasi-liturgical calendar. Who introduced the commemoration of the martyrs, and when, that's not Jewish practice?

    So in a 100 years at most, more like 50, we have an about face. What changed? I reckon it was driven by the grass-roots interest in the child Jesus. There's a market for 'childhood' stories and apocryphal gospels, we have writers 'filling in' the Scriptural gaps. We have public interest, plus the imagery of Luke, with shepherds, etc.

    If someone sought to introduce a nativity feast post-Nicea, there would have been some contention, surely, as it would have been a significant innovation? Especially if it looked like the wholesale incorporation of a pagan feast. The fact that it appears without comment suggests an organic development rather than an importation. The East evolved their own day — January 6 — without reference to any pagan festival, and yet they adopted December 25 with nigh-on no resistance, regarding it as a tradition that goes back to apostolic times.

    What we really don't have is a solid evidence of the development of the Liturgy and the Liturgical calendar. By Nicea we already have an organised church with bishops, metropolitans, presbyters, deacons, the faithful, the catechumen, the listeners, the penitent. We have a liturgy that's evolving away from Jewish temple tradition, although the Sabbath is still the Jewish Sabbath, Sunday being called the Lord's Day. So much comes out of this, and yet there is so little recorded — mainly, I think, because the Christian Mysteries were considered secret.
     
  19. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    You can see from the wiki quotes of the Fathers that antisemitism was widespread.

    I don't see how, if I may say?

    OK.
     
  20. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Back to the Christmas thing ...

    Constantine's mother paid for the building of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, completed 339AD. I think it was begun in 327AD.

    Justin Martyr (100–165AD):
    "But when the Child was born in Bethlehem, since Joseph could not find a lodging in that village, he took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger, and here the Magi who came from Arabia found Him." (Dialogue with Trypho: chapter 78).

    Origen of Alexandria (185-254):
    "In Bethlehem the cave is pointed out where He was born, and the manger in the cave where He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. And the rumour is in those places, and among foreigners of the Faith, that indeed Jesus was born in this cave who is worshipped and reverenced by the Christians." (Contra Celsum, book I, chapter 51).

    So we have a cult of the place of the nativity from the first century. And we have Helena sponsoring a basilica there, which rather implies the place was seen as significant in Rome ...
     

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