Church of God, New World Ministries

The Truth About Christmas

Why does this world celebrate Christmas, and where did it come from? Does Christmas come from the Bible, or from paganism? Was Jesus Christ born on December 25, or some other day? Just how much do you know about the origin of Christmas, the Christmas tree, of Santa Claus, of the mistletoe, the holly wreath, the custom of exchanging gifts?

When I was a little boy in the late 1940s and the 50s, I was taught to hang up my stocking over the fire place, and in the morning it would be filled with fruit and candy and nuts. Also in some part of the house, and next to a window, we had a Christmas tree decorated with lights and shiny tinsel with an angel on top of the tree, and of course presents were around the tree.

I was told that Santa Claus had come down the chimney during the night and left all these presents. But as a young boy I didn’t stop to question my parents about the origin of Christmas. I accepted it, took it for granted as the truth. Didn’t you? Stop and think for a moment! Very few have reflected on why they believe what they do, why they follow the customs they do, or from where these customs came. We just grew up accepting them without question. We live in a world filled with customs. By nature we do tend to follow the crowd, whether right or wrong.

We humans ought to check up where we are going, and why we observed the things we observed.

How and when did Christmas originate? Does it really celebrate the birth of Christ? Did the original Apostles, who knew Christ personally and were taught by Him, celebrate His birthday on December 25th? Did they celebrate it at all? If Christmas is the chief of the Christians holidays, who do so many non-Christians observe it? Do you know? Why do people exchange gifts with family members, friends, relatives, at Christmas time? Was it be-cause the wise men presented gifts to the Christ-child? The answer may sur-prise you. Most people have supposed a lot of things about Christmas that are not true. But it is time to quit supposing and get the true facts!

The word “Christmas” means “Mass of Christ,” or as it came to be shortened, “Christ-Mass.” It came to non-Christians and Protestants from the Roman Catholic Church. And where did they get it? Not from the New Testament, not from the Bible, not from the original apostles who were per-sonally instructed by Jesus Christ. It gravitated in the 4th century into the Roman Church from paganism. Since the celebration of Christmas has come to the world from the Roman Catholic Church, and has no authority but that of the Roman Catholic Church, let us examine the Catholic En-cyclopedia, 1911 edition, published by that church. Under the heading “Christmas,” you will find: “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church, the first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. Pagan customs centering around the January calends gravitated to Christmas.And in the same encyclopedia, under the heading “Natal Day,” we find that the early Catholic father, Origen, acknowledged this truth: “In the Scriptures, no one (who obeyed God) is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great rejoicings over the day in which they were born into this world.”

The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1946 edition, has this: “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church.” It was not instituted by Christ or the apostles, or by Bible authority. It was picked up afterward from paganism. The Encyclopedia Americana 1944 edition, says: “Christmas, it was, according to many authorities, not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian church, as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth.”

The Communion, which is instituted by New Testament Bible authority, is a memorial of the death of Jesus Christ.

A feast was established in memory of this Christ’s birth in the 4th century. In the 5th century the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol, as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ’s birth existed. Now notice! These recognized historical authorities show Christmas was not observed by Christians for the first 2 or 3 hundred years. It got into the Western, or Roman Church, by the 4th century A.D. It was not until the 5th century that the Roman Church ordered it to be celebrated as an official Christian festival!

Believe it or not, Jesus Christ was not even born in the winter season! When the Christ-child was born there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). This never could have occurred in Judea in the month of December. The shepherds always brought their flocks from the mountainsides and field and corralled them not later than October 15, to protect them from the cold, rainy, season that followed that date. Notice that the Bible itself proves, in Song of Solomon 2:11 and Ezra 10: 9-13 that winter was a rainy season not permitting shepherds to abide in open fields at night.

Notice what the Adam Clarke Commentary says about this period of time: It was an ancient custom among Jews of those days to send out their sheep to the fields and deserts about the Passover (early spring) and bring them home at commencement of the first rain. During the time they were out, the shepherds watched them night and day. As the first rain began early in the month of Marchesvan, which answers to part of our October and November (begins sometime in October), we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole summer. And, as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October has not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could He have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground, the nativity in December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact.”

Many encyclopedias and other authorities affirm that Jesus Christ was not born on December 25th. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia frankly states this fact. If God has wished for us to celebrate the birth of His Son, He would have told us in the pages of Bible.

Then how did this pagan custom creep into the Western Christian world? The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge explains it clearly, in its article on “Christmas”: How much the date of the festival depended upon the pagan Brumalia (Dec. 25TH) following the Saturnalia (Dec. 17-24), and celebrating the shortest day of the year and the ‘new sun’ cannot be accurately determined. The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence. The pagan festival with its riot and merrymak-ing was so popular that Christians were glad for an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and in manner. Christian preachers of the West and the Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ’s birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival.”

Remember, the Roman world had been pagan. Prior to the 4th century, Christians were few in number, though increasing, and were persecuted by the government and by pagans. But, with the advent of Constantine as emperor, who made his profession of Christianity in the 4th century, placing Christianity on an equal footing with paganism, people of the Roman world began to accept this now popular Christianity by the hundreds of thousands. But remember, these people had grown up in pagan customs, chief of which was this idolatrous festival of December 25th. It was a festival of merrymak-ing, with its special spirit. They enjoyed it! They didn’t want to give it up!

Now this same article in the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge explains how the recognition by Constantine of Sunday, which had been the day of pagan sun worship, and how the influence of the pagan Manichalesism, which identified the Son of God with the physical SUN, gave these pagans of the 4th century, now turning over wholesale to “Christianity,” their excuse for calling their pagan festival date of Dec. 25th (Birthday of the Sun-god), the birthday of the Son of God. And that is how Christmas became fastened on our Western world! We may call it by another name, but it’s the same old pagan sun-worshipping festival still!

The only change is in what we call it! You can call a horse a lion, but it’s still a horse, just the same. Again from the Encyclopedia Britannica: “Certain Latins, as early as 354, may have transferred the birthday from January 6th to December 25th, which was then a Mithraic feast, or birthday of the Unconquered SUN. The Syrians and Armenians, who clung to January 6th, accused the Romans of sun worship and idolatry, contending that the feast of December 25th, had been invented by disciples of Creinthus.”

If we got Christmas from the Roman Catholics, and they got it from paganism, where did the pagans get it? Where, when, and what was its real origin? Let’s understand! It originated in ancient Egypt in the days of King Osiris and Queen Isis, and their son Horus, about 3,000 B.C.

This pagan festival stems from roots whose beginning was long before the Flood! From many ancient writings, considerable is learned of this man, who started in Egypt a great organized worldly apostasy from God that has dominated this world until now.

After the untimely death of King Osiris, his wife, Isis, propagated the doct-rine of the survival of Osiris as a spirit being. She claimed a full-grown evergreen tree sprang up overnight from a dead tree stump, which sym-bolized the springing forth unto new life of the dead Osiris. On each an-niversary, of his birth, she claimed Osiris would visit the evergreen tree and leave gifts upon it. December 25th was the birthday of King Osiris reborn as the son Horus. This is the real origin of the Christmas tree. Through her scheming and designing, Isis became the “Queen of Heaven,” and Osiris under various names, became the reborn “divine son of heaven.” Through the generations, in this idolatrous worship, Osiris also became, among the later Phoeniceans, Baal the Sun-god. In this false system, reintroduced at Babylon, after the Flood, by Nimrod (Gen. 10 & 11), the “Mother and Child” ( Isis and Osiris reborn) became chief objects of worship. This worship of “Mother and Child” spread over the world.

The names varied in different countries and languages. In Asia the worship passed under the names of Cybele and Deoius. In Rome, Fortuna & Jupiterpuer. Even in Greece, China, Japan and Tibet is to be found the counterpart of the Madonna long before the birth of Christ! Thus, during the 4th and 5th centuries, when the pagans of the Roman world were accepting the new popular “Christianity” by the hundreds of thousands, carrying their old pagan customs and beliefs along with them, merely cloaking them with Christian-sounding names, the Madonna and “Mother and Child” idea also became popularized, especially at Christmas time. Every Christmas season you’ll hear sung and chanted dozens of times the hymn “Silent Night, Holy Night,” with its familiar “Mother and Child” theme.

We, who have been born in such a world, reared and steeped in these things all our lives, have been taught to revere these things as holy and sacred. We never questioned to see where they came from, whether they came from the Bible, or from pagan idolatry! We are shocked to learn the truth, some, un-fortunately, take offense at the plain truth! But God commands His faithful ministers, Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression!”

Shocking as these facts are, they are the plain facts of history and the Bible! The origin of Christmas goes back to ancient times. It is bound up in the apostasy which has gripped a deceived world these many centuries! In Egypt, it was always believed that the husband of Isis (Egyptian name for “Queen of Heaven”) was reborn as the son Horus on December 25th. Through the influence of Egypt and, later, Babylon, the nations celebrated this famous birthday over most of the known world for centuries before the birth of Christ. December 25th is not the birthday of Jesus the true Christ! The apostles and the early true Church never celebrated Christ’s birthday at any time. There is no command or instruction to celebrate it in the Bible, rather, the celebrating of birthdays is a pagan, not a Christian custom. Thus the ancient idolatrous “Mysteries,” have been handed down through the pagan religions under new Christian sounding names.

WHAT ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF HOLLY WREATH, MISTLETOE, YULE LOG?

Where did we get this mistletoe custom? Among the ancient pagans the mistletoe was used at this festival or the winter solstice because it was con-sidered sacred to the sun, because of its supposed miraculous healing power. The pagan custom of kissing under the mistletoe was an early step in the night of revelry and drunken debauchery, celebrating the death of the “old sun” and the birth of the new at the winter solstice. Mistletoe, sacred in pagan festivals, is a parasite! Holly berries were also considered sacred to the sun-god. The Yule Log is in reality the “sun-log.” “Yule” means “wheel,” a pagan symbol of the sun. Yet today professing Christians speak of the “scared Yule tide season”! Even encouraging the waning sun-god as he reached the lowest place in the southern skies! The Encyclopedia Americana says: The holly, the mistletoe, the Yule log, are relics of pre- Christian times.” Of paganism! The book 10,000 Answers and Questions, compiled by Frederic J. Haskins, says: The use of the Christmas wreath is believed by authorities to be traceable to the pagan custom of de-corating building and places of worship at the feast which took place at the same time as our Christmas.” Also: The Christmas tree is from Egypt, and its origin dates from a period long anterior to the Christian Era.” Someone may ask, what about Santa Claus, where does this custom come from, a fat man in a red suit?

Is Santa Claus benevolent and holy as many suppose? The name “Santa Claus” is a corruption of the name “St. Nicholas,” a Roman Catholic bishop who lived in the 4th century. Look in the Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 19, pages 648-649, 11th edition, where you’ll read: “St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, a saint honored by the Greeks and Latins on the 6th of December. A legend of his surreptitious bestowal of dowries on the three daughters of an impoverished citizen, is said to have originated the old custom of giving presents in secret on the Eve of St. Nicholas (Dec. 6th), subsequently transferred to Christmas day. Hence the association of Christmas with Santa Claus.”

Through the year, parents punish their children for telling falsehoods. Then, at Christmas time, they themselves tell their little children this “Santa Claus” lie! Is it any wonder many of them, when they grow up and learn the truth, begin to believe God is a myth, too?

Is it Christian to teach children myths and falsehoods? God says, Thou shalt not bear false witness!” It may seem right, and be justified by human reason, but God says, There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death!” “Old Nick” also is a term for the devil! Is there a connection? Satan appears as an “angel of light,” to deceive! (II Corth. 11:14 & Rev. 12:9). And so, when we examine the facts, we are astonished to learn that the practice of observing Christmas is not, after all, a true biblical practice, but a human custom, one of the ways of Babylon our people have fallen into! But when it comes to the most important part of all in this Christmas observance, the Christmas shopping season, the buying and exchanging of gifts, many will exclaim, Well, at least the Bible tells us to do that! Did not the wise men give gifts when Christ was born?” Again, we are due for some surprises, when we learn the truth. Let’s look at the historic origin of trading gifts, then see exactly what the Bible does say about it.

From the Bibliotheca Sacra, volume 12, pages 153-155, we quote: The interchange of presents between friends is alike characteristic of Christ-mas and the Saturnalia, and must have been adopted by Christians from the pagans, as the admonition of Tertullian plainly shows.” The fact is, this custom fastened upon people of exchanging gifts with friends and relatives at the Christmas season has not a single trace of Christianity about it, strange though that may seem! This does not celebrate Christ’s birthday nor honor it or Him! Lets say, someone you love has a birthday, and you want to honor that person on his or her birthday. Now, would you buy gifts for everyone else, trading gifts back and forth with all your other friends and loved ones, but ignore completely any gift for the one whose birthday you are honoring? Rather absurd, when you view it in that light, don’t you think? Yet this is exactly what people the world over are doing!

They honor a day that is not Christ’s birthday by spending money they probably don’t have by using a credit card buying presents to trade back and forth among friends and relatives. Now consider what the Bible says about the wise men giving gifts when Christ was born. It is in Matt. 2:1-11. “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? And when they were come into the house, they say the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts of gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”Notice, they inquired for the child Jesus, who was born King of the Jews! Now why did they present gifts to Him? Because it was His birthday? Not at all, because they came several days or weeks after the date of His birth! Are we to see in this an example for us, today, to trade gifts back and forth among ourselves? No, notice carefully! They did not exchange gifts among themselves, but they presented unto Him gifts.” They gave their gifts to Christ, not to their friends, relatives, or one another!

Why? Lets quote from the Adam Clarke Commentary, vol. 5, p. 46 “verse 11. (They presented unto him gifts). “The people of the east never approach the presence of kings and great personages, without a present in their hands. The custom is often noticed in the Old Testament. There it is! They were not instituting a new Christian custom of exchanging gifts with friends to honor Christ’s birthday. They were following an old and ancient eastern custom of presenting gifts to a king when they came into his presence. They were approaching Him, born King of the Jews, in person. Therefore the custom required they present gifts, even as the Queen of Sheba brought gifts to Solomon, even as many people today take a gift along when they visit, for example the White House for an appointment with the President.”

Does Christmas really honor Christ? Many will say or reason this way: “But, even though the exact date of Jesus’ birth is not known, should we not select some date to celebrate as His birthday? Of course the answer is no! Do you remember the statement by the Catholic Encyclopedia that sinners alone celebrated their birthdays? Some will reason that “even though Christmas was a pagan custom, honoring the false sun-god, we don’t observe it to honor the false god, we observe to honor Christ.”

But how does the Bible, God’s inspired Word respond: “Take heed to thy-self that thou be not snared by following them (pagan customs) that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? Even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods” (Deut. 12:30-31). God says very plainly in His Instruction Book to us, that He will not accept that kind of worship, even though it is intended to honor Him. To Him, He says, it is offering what is abominable to Him, and therefore it honors, not Him, but false pagan gods.

The Great God says we must not worship Him according to the “dictates of our own conscience.” Jesus Christ says very plainly, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Some will say, what is truth? Jesus Christ says the Holy Bible is truth, all the Bible (John 17:17).

God will not accept worship when people take a pagan custom or manner of worship and try to honor Christ with it. Again, Jesus said: “In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9). Christmas observance is a tradition of men, and the commandments of God as quoted, forbid it. Christ went on to say: full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” And this is precisely what millions of people are doing today. They ignore the com-mandment of God He commands, regarding taking the customs of the pagans and using them to honor or worship God: Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God.” Still, most people today take that command of God lightly, or as having no validity whatsoever, and follow the tradition of men in observing Christmas.

We, in the United States of America profess to be a Christian nation, but we are in Babylon, as Bible prophecy foretold, and we don’t know it!

“Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues,” soon to fall, is the warning of John in the book of Revelation 18:4. Make no mistake! God will allow you to defy sin. But He also says there is a day of reckoning coming. As you sow, so shall you reap!” Jesus Christ was the living Word of God in Person, and the Bible is the written Word of God. And we shall be judged, for eternity, by these words! They should not be taken lightly or ignored.

WHEN WAS CHRIST BORN?

Was Jesus Christ born in December? If not, when was he born? And in what year? Anyway, what difference does it make? These are questions often asked. This article will try to answer those questions.

On the day of Jesus’ birth “there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). Ask any biblical scholar, or any modern Israeli: This never could have occurred in Judea in the month of December, nor even in November, or late October for that matter! In ancient times as today, shepherds brought their flocks in from the fields and penned them in shelters not later than the mid-dle of October! This was necessary to protect them from the cold, rainy season that usually followed that date. The Bible itself makes it clear that winter in Palestine is a rainy season; see Ezra 10:9-13, Song of Solomon 2:11. Yet Luke 2:8 tells us that at the time of Christ’s birth, the shepherds were yet abiding in the fields, by night at that! They had not yet brought their flocks home to the sheepfolds. Cleary the cold, rainy season had not yet commenced. Thus, on the basis of Luke’s testimony alone, we see that Christ could have been born no later than mid-October, when the weather is still pleasant at Bethlehem. A December 25 nativity is too late!

Luke 1: 24-38 informs us that the virgin Mary miraculously became pre-gnant with Jesus when her cousin Elizabeth was six months pregnant with a child who would later be known as John the Baptist. Jesus, then, would have been born six months after John. Now, if we could know the time of John’s birth, we could then simply add six months and know the time of Jesus’ birth. Does the Bible reveal the general time of John’s birth? Notice: Elizabeth’s husband Zacharias was a priest at the temple in Jerusalem. Luke 1:5 records that Zacharias was “of the course of Abia.” In the days of King David of ancient Israel 10th century B.C., the number of priests had so in-creased that they had to be divided into 24 courses or shifts, which would take turns in performing the priestly duties (I Chron. 24). Each course served one week at a time, beginning and ending on a weekly Sabbath day (II Chron. 23:8). The course of Abijah was the 8th course or shift in the rotation ( I Chron. 24:10). The Talmud (collection of Jewish civil and rel-igious laws and commemtaries) records that the first course performed its duties in the first week of the first month of the Hebrew calendar. This month (called Abib or Nisan) begins about the start of the spring in the Northern Hemisphere. The second course worked the second week. The 3rd week being the annual festival season of Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread, found all 24 courses serving together, sharing the heavy duties of that special time. The 3rd shift then took its turn during the 4th week of the year.

Moving forward, the 8th shift, the course of Abijah, in which Zacharias served, worked the 9th week of the year. But Zacharias’ course stayed on at the temple to serve the 10th week also, the week of the annual Pentecost festival, along with all the other courses. It was during that two-week period of work, near the end of the spring, that the announcement by the archangel Gabriel came to Zacharias regarding his wife’s imminent conception (Luke 1:8-20). When his two weeks’ service was completed, Zacharias and Eliza-beth went back to their home and Elizabeth conceived (vs. 23-24), sometime late in June or early July. The rest is a matter of biology arithmetic.

Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy would have been in December. She would have given birth three months later in March or early April of the fol-lowing year. Six months after that, Jesus Christ would have been born, in the late September or early October ( probably on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles),before the sheep were brought in from the fields, as we have seen! Christ was not born in December. Late September or early October was also the time of year that taxes were customarily paid, in the fall, at the end of the harvest. Joseph and Mary, it will be remembered, had journeyed to Bethlehem to be taxed (Luke 2:3-5) The fact that there was “no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7) also suggest the time of the autumn harvest, because the annual fall festivals occurring at that time attracted multitudes of Jews to Jerusalem and nearby towns, filling all available accommodations.

How could Jesus Christ have been born in a year “B.C.”, Before Christ, as most authorities suggest? It would seem to be a contradiction in terms! First, understand that the manner of reckoning time according to B.C. and A.C. was devised hundreds of years after Jesus’ birth. It was invented in the 6th century A.D. by a monk in Italy name Dionysius Exiguus. This Dionysius misunderstood the time of the reign of Herod the Great, king of Judea. So he reckoned the birth of Jesus Christ to have occurred in December of the year 753 AUC ( ab urbe condita, “ from the foundation of the city of Rome”) In past ages, time was often reckoned using the founding of Rome as the starting point for counting. Thus, in Dionysius’ new system, January 1, 754 AUC, became January 1, A.D. 1 (anno Domini, “in the year of the Lord”). He assumed Jesus was born on December 25th, just a week before January 1, A.D. 1.

Later, it was discovered that Dionysius had been incorrect in his reckoning of the reign of Herod and hence of the commencement of the Christian era. Christ had been born some years earlier than Dionysius had thought. But by then, the chronology was in general use and it was too late to change! It has continued in use throughout most of the world to the present day.

With that understanding, we can now proceed to determine the year of Jesus’ birth. There are several ways of doing this. Notice, first, this ancient pro-phecy from the book of Daniel: Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build from Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and three-score and two weeks” (Dan. 9:25). The commandment or decree to restore and build Jerusalem was made in the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes I, king of ancient Persia (see Ezra 7:8), according to the autumn to autumn reckoning of the Jews, in 457 B.C. The archangel Gabriel told Daniel that there would be a total of 69 prophetic weeks from that time until the public appearance of the Messiah. Sixty-nine weeks is equivalent to 483 days (69 x 7). A day of prophetic fulfillment is a year in actual time (Num. 14:34 & Ezk. 4:6). So 483 prophetic days (69 prophetic weeks) is 483 years. Simple arithmetic now takes over. Four-hundred-eighty-three years from 457 B.C. (the year of the decree) brings us to A.D. 27, the year when Jesus Christ, the Messiah, began his public ministry, In calculating this, be aware that you must add 1 to compensate for the fact that there is no year zero. Now con-sider further: It is generally understood that Jesus entered his ministry in the autumn of the year, immediately after his baptism. His ministry lasted 3 ½ years, ending in the spring, at Passover time. In Luke 3:23 we learn that Jesus was “about thirty years of age” when he began his ministry. If he was about 30 years old in the autumn of A.D. 27, then he must have been born in the end of the summer or early autumn and in 4 B.C.! It thus stands clearly revealed from Daniel’s prophecy that Christ was born in 4 B.C.

People who are students of the Bible know that Jesus was born before the death of Herod the Great (Matt. 2:15-19). When did Herod die? The 1st century A.D. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews (book XV11, chapter vi) tells of an eclipse of the moon late in Herod’s reign. The Solar and Lunar Eclipses of the Ancient Near East by Kudlek and Mickler, its tables reveal that the lunar eclipse in question occurred on March 13, 4 B.C. Now continuing with Josephus’ account, we discover that sometime after the eclipse, Herod was afflicted with a painful and loathsome disease, went beyond the river Jordan to bathe himself in hot springs there. The cures he undertook were unsuccessful. His condition worsened and he returned to Jericho, There, in a wild rage, he plotted the deaths of many pro-minent Jews. He also ordered his own son, Antipater slain. All these events required some months, Josephus further reveals that Herod’s death occurred sometime before a spring Passover.

This Passover would have been 13 months after the eclipse, or the Passover of April 3 B.C. This confirms our previously calculated 4 B.C. birthdate for Jesus Christ. Further corroborating this, Josephus also records (XV11, Viii,) that at his death, Herod had reigned 37 years since he had been declared king by the Romans. That had occurred in 40 B.C.. a fact that Dionysius over-looked. Herod’s death therefore took place in 4 B.C., more specifically, ac-cording to a Jewish tradition, on the 7th day of the lunar month Kislev in the Hebrew calendar ( that would be equivalent to Nov/Dec on the Roman calendar), shortly after Jesus’ birth in the early autumn of 4 B.C.. This is the only date that is consistent with all the provable facts.

WHAT ABOUT THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM?

Scholars have tried to pinpoint the date of Jesus’ birth by means of astro-nomical calculations related to the appearance of this mysterious “star.” For centuries, theologians and astronomers have debated this perplexing question. Dozens of theories exist purporting to explain what this “star” act-ually was and when it appeared. Some hold it was a comet. Others claim it was a nova (exploding star). Still others say it was a meteor, or a planet, or a conjunction of two or more planets. ( A conjunction takes place when planets appear, from our earthly viewpoint, to briefly become a single bright object as their paths cross the sky). Dates for proposed celestial phenomena usually range from 7 B.C. to 2 B.C. But the heart and core of the star con-troversy goes beyond matters of astronomy.

To one who believes that the Bible is the Word of God and is to be taken at face value, the account of the star in Matthew’s gospel can have only one ex-planation. It was clearly and incontrovertibly a miracle of supernatural, not natural origin! What natural phenomenon in the heavens, whether comet, meteor, exploding star or planet, could go before Magi and stand overa specific house to precisely pinpoint it (Matt. 2: 9-11)? And if it was attri-butable to a nonmiraculous agency, how can we account that it appeared and reappeared to the Magi and apparently went generally unnoticed by others? Natural explanations are sheer foolishness! If the bibical account cannot be accepted in all its details, why should anyone believe it has any merit at all? The star was clearly a special miracle of God, of divine origin defying all the proposed natural explanations of liberal scholarship. It is quite possible that the Star of Bethlehemwas simply an angel sent to lead the Magi to Jesus, since the Bible often symbolically uses stars to signify angels (Job 38:7; Jude 13 Rev. 1:20; 9:1; 12:14; et al.).

From this article you have seen the proof that Jesus Christ was born in the early autumn, not in the winter. But, as usual, some will say, what dif-ference does it make? Is it not the thought that counts? What is wrong with celebrating a day, any day, in honor of the birth of Christ? What is so wrong with borrowing some of those early pagan customs and using them to honor Christ? May we not continue to celebrate December 25th, as long as we do it in Jesus’ name?

Can pagan customs and practices be “Christianized” in this way? More than 34 centuries ago, the rebellious House of Israel fashioned a pagan idol, a golden calf in the wilderness (Ex. 32). It was the god, the sacred Egyptian bull of deity worshipped at Memphis on the Nile. Aaron declared that the pagan, Egyptian rites by which the Israelites worshipped the calf were “a feast to the Lord” (v. 5). Did God feel honored? Did he approve of their using pagan customs to worship him? Absolutely not! It was a great sin (v. 21), and 3,000 paid with their lives (v.28)! They had deceived themselves that what they were doing was right. We are commanded not to seek to worship God with customs borrowed from other religions (Deut. 12:29-32). “Learn not the way of the heathen,” (Jer. 10:2). True Christians never meet paganism half way. Pagan worship, whether “in Jesus’ name” or not, remains pagan worship! Christianity mixed with paganism is not Christianity at all. Righteousness has no fellowship with unrighteousness (II Corth. 6:14). God simply will not accept that type of false worship. If God had wanted us to observe Christ’s birthday, he would have given us the exact date and specific instructions on how to observe it. But he has not! Christmas is an invention of man, issuing from a pagan worship

When someone begins to understand the teachings of the Bible, it is a totally new experience, unlike anything he or she has ever known, like new wine or an unused piece of cloth. Now, what most of us do is try to fit this new truth into our old way of life. That is only natural, because it is hard to change, and no one likes to admit having been wrong. The old way of life is familiar and comfortable, and we want to hang on to as much of it as possible. How about you? Perhaps you have fond memories of the Easter sunrise service, the fun of Halloween and those beautiful candlelight carol services down at the old family church. The truth comes smashing into inherited religious ideas and preconceived notions of right and wrong. It challenges comfort-able beliefs, making you question things you have always done. This new way, even if it is right, sometimes seems like an unwelcome intruder, and you find yourself resenting it. Jesus warned us that that could happen: And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, The old is better” (Luke 5:39). It is not surprising that so many people, even though they acknowledge the truth, still prefer to cling to their old beliefs. Or perhaps, maybe you think you can meet the truth halfway, with a sort of “unChristmas celebration.” You can never compromise with God’s truth. All you are doing is trying to put your new wine in the old bottle.

Don’t make that mistake. If you are beginning to understand what it means to be a real Christian, realize that it is going to demand positive action on your part. You can’t have it both ways, observing this world’s customs and still expecting the blessing of the world tomorrow. Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not the things which I say? ( Luke 6:46).

GOD ALMIGHTY EXPECTS TOTAL COMMITMENT. ARE YOU WILLING?

 
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