When will the silly nonsense stop?
Once again this year we will hear from internet atheists about how “There is no evidence that Jesus ever existed. His “birthday” was simply the fact that the early Christians took over the Roman mid winter feast of Saturnalia and the birth of Sol Invictus -the unconquered Sun.”
First let’s use some common sense. The early Christians were Jews. They couldn’t stand the pagan Gentiles. The first Christians would rather die than offer even one grain of incense to the pagan gods. So we’re supposed to believe that they said, “I know! Those pagan feasts mid winter seem kind of fun. Let’s take them over and say Jesus was born then!” Hardly. It’s true that later missionary efforts “baptized” pagan sites and customs, but not during the early days.
Then let’s look at the evidence we do have. It’s called the New Testament, and far from the New Testament being a collection of far out fairy tales, it is rooted in something called “facts” and those facts can be put together to bring us to a conclusion which is true.
Here’s how it goes: We know that John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah was a priest who served in the temple at Jerusalem. While he was serving an angel appeared announcing that his wife Elizabeth would become pregnant and the boy’s name would be John. The Jewish priests were on a schedule according to their family lineage because the priesthood was hereditary. Zechariah was a priest of the class of Abijah. This is recorded in Luke 1:5. The class of Abijah was the eighth class of priests. This is recorded in Nehemiah 12:17. Each class served one week in the temple twice a year. The Abijah class took their turn during the second week of the Jewish month of Tishri. On our calendar that would fall between 22 and 30 September. Count ahead nine months. We celebrate the birth of John the Baptist on 24 June.
How does this connect with Jesus? When the angel comes to Mary to announce the conception of Jesus Christ after her assent, she goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s mother and wife of Zechariah) when Elizabeth was six months pregnant. This is recorded in Luke 1:36. If John the Baptist was conceived around 25 September, this means Jesus was conceived around March 25 –the date Christians celebrate the Annunciation–. Count forward nine more months and you get December 25 as the date for the birth of Jesus Christ.
If the early Christians were simply taking over the Saturnalia or the Feast of the birth of Sol Invictus they would have had to go back and fiddle with the details in Luke’s gospel–and not only that….they would also have had to somehow fiddle with the details of the Jewish schedule of priests serving in the temple.
Oh yes, the other detail is that there are records that Christmas was celebrated on December 25 from the time of St Telephorus–the seventh pope who was born in 115 AD. The cult of the birth of Sol Invictus was not established until 274 AD, so if anybody was copying celebrations, it is more likely that the Roman Emperor Aurelian was copying the already existing feast of Christmas–the birthday of Christ the Unconquered Son of God–than the other way around.
So, whether you are a Christian believer or not you will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25. A longer article about this topic is here. Taylor Marshall gives more detailed evidence and references in his article on the subject here.
HT to Gavin Ashenden writing at the Daily Telegraph for the reminder of these facts.